A Brief Introduction to Authorize.net

If you’re looking for a payment gateway, chances are you’ve encountered Authorize.net. It’s one of the most widely-used gateways, along with other stalwarts like NMI, PaylineData, and Cybersource. So what sets Auth.net apart from the others? That’s what we’re hoping to cover today.

If you’re looking for a payment gateway, chances are you’ve encountered Authorize.net. It’s one of the most widely-used gateways, along with other stalwarts like NMI, PaylineData, and Cybersource.

So what sets Auth.net apart from the others? That’s what we’re hoping to cover today.

What are payment gateways?

If you’re thinking “wait, hold on, am I looking for what?” then it’s probably best we start out by talking about what payment gateways are, and why you need (or don’t need) one. The list of platforms and software you need to get your small business up and running seems endless—and probably a little confusing—we know. However, it is better to know all your options so that you can choose the ones that fit your unique needs.

So, payment gateways. If you’ve ever paid for something via credit or debit card, you’ve actually interacted with them, even if you didn’t know it was happening. Payment gateways are like a mediator between your business and your payment processor. Basically, the gateway allows whatever software you use in-store to connect to systems used by your processor so they work smoothly together when completing transactions.

One large part of a gateway’s role is keeping your customer’s information confidential. When transactions are processed, payment gateways encrypt important information -- like card and account numbers -- to ensure that the transaction is safe for both sides.

How do you know if you need a payment gateway? Well it turns out that a lot of payment processors are integrated directly into POS systems, which means there’s no need. But, if you don’t have direct API integration, then it’s time to start the hunt for a gateway that works with your merchant account and payment processor.

What is Authorize.net?

Many small business owners who are just starting to accept card payments start that hunt with Authorize.net. With a wide variety of options, the platform offers some flexibility, which is a great asset to any business.

There are options for an all-in-one account that includes a gateway and a merchant account that will cost you $25/month plus 2.9%+ 30 cents per transaction. There’s also a gateway-only option that brings the cost down to $25/month plus 10 cents per transaction and 10 cents per daily batch. We recommend the gateway only option; it offers more autonomy in terms of processor choice and doesn’t tie you down to the (frankly overpriced) processing that Auth.net offers directly.

Pros

Authorize.net takes a lot of the heavy lifting out of searching for and finding a gateway. It is simple, and its variety of plans give you better odds for finding one that works for you.

There’s also an added security with advanced fraud protection on top of secured customer information. A transaction breach can end up costing you big time, but Authorize.net has proven to be a reliable transaction middle-man, so you can rest easier.

Cons

As is the case with every all-in-one, one-size-fits-all platform, you’re paying for the convenience. If you aren’t making many transactions a day—which is usually the case for new small businesses—the price is probably manageable. But the bigger you get the less cost effective it becomes.

Finding the right processor

We mentioned above that we prefer the Auth.net gateway-only plan. Here’s why: there are literally hundreds of processing options out there, and at least one is bound to offer you a better rate than Auth.net’s processing option can.

Our best tip for using Authorize.net? Don’t rely on their processor list. If you’ve seen it, you’ll find that there’s not much there, and it doesn’t include anything close to a comprehensive list of options. Your best bet is to shop for an Authorize.net processor the same way you would for any other:

1) Start with your POS

This is the biggest choice you will make, and it’s also the part of your processing setup that your customers will interact with the most, so it’s worth taking some extra time to thoroughly assess your options. But don’t worry, you don’t have to consider every POS systems. They are often industry specific, so that dramatically narrows your best options right off the bat. Whatever POS system you employ, just make sure it’s compatible with Auth.net.

2) Pick your processor

Now that your options are narrowed, it’s time to embark on arguably the hardest part of the process. However, since your customers are highly unlikely to ever interact with your payment processor directly, this decision can be all about you. Look at ratings, read reviews, get quotes, and read through contracts with fine-toothed comb. Don’t be afraid to negotiate either! It’s not a quick and easy process, but it’s a necessary one. In the end, if your processor is friendly with Authorize.net, offers competitive rates, and fills your business needs, you’ve succeeded.

What are my other options?

If Authorize.net doesn’t sound right for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of gateways to choose from, and there are even other options that are just as simple and all-inclusive as Authorize.net.

  • NMI: If you’re doing business through multiple channels, NMI is second to none.
  • Bluepay: If you’re looking for a tried-and-true, no-frills gateway, look no further than Bluepay.
  • CyberSource: If you’re looking for a build-your-own, mix-and-match option, CyberSource may fit your needs best.
  • PaylineData: If you’re looking to grow online, PaylineData has your interests in mind.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. There are countless payment gateway options out there, and plenty of them can suit your specific needs. What’s really important is that your gateway plays nice with your payment processor and POS system of choice.

This is a lot of work!

You could do all this on your own–more power to you!—or you could turn to us for help. SwipeSum can do all the work for you, finding the best solution for your unique business at the lowest possible cost. We’ll help you find a processor, a gateway, or even a POS, if you need it.  No stress, no regrets, and it won’t cost you a penny.

Sam Elkins

Sam Elkins is a Product Manager at Swipesum, and the former Solutions & Integrations Architect. A graduate of University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Sam is an expert in Logistics, Supply Chain Management, and Materials.

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