Pay me any way you want to!

Way back in my college days, at the end of the school year, a few of my fellow students and I would drive non-stop from our student housing in the west to get home back in the east. For any financial emergencies that should arise, my father had loaned me his American Express card. As we were just ‘starving students’, you can imagine how the junker we drove always had some kind of mechanical problem. On one trip, the car was burning or leaking through the oil so fast that, at every fill-up, we’d need to add a quart. This was not an expense we had planned for, so I decided to use my father’s credit card.

We received a nasty surprise the first time I tried to use the card (somewhere in Wyoming), when we found out that the gas station we had stopped at did not take American Express. No problem, I thought to myself, I’ll just use it at the next gas station. Unfortunately the same thing happened again! We eventually found out that Sunoco gas stations accepted my father’s credit card. Each time we needed gas, the search for a new Sunoco station began. It didn’t matter how far off the highway and into a town we had to travel, our only option was to find a Sunoco station. Of course, this was a major inconvenience for us!

I suppose that the American Express fees were a little higher than other credit cards, which might have lead some merchants to decide not to carry that card at all. In my particular case, that was a deal breaker. All of those other gas stations lost out on my business as a result.

I often see the same restrictions placed on eCommerce sites. Some major vendors will accept credit cards, but not PayPal. Many smaller merchants only accept PayPal but no credit cards (except through a PayPal account.) Even fewer will take checks.

If you don’t have any competitors, you can tell customers how to pay you. But, if your business is like most other businesses, you have competitors and need to remove any and all impediments to shoppers buying their products on your site. Now-a-days, people have their favorite credit cards to earn points or frequent flier miles on. Some, like me, may prefer to use American Express for business purposes and Visa for personal. Others may be more comfortable with PayPal. The point is, you can’t predict which method your customer will prefer to pay you with.

I can understand how merchants that are just starting out may only want to take PayPal, as there is no monthly fee – there are only transaction fees to worry about. But, as your business grows, you need to expand which payment options you provide. For us, customers can pay with just about any method they might desire, whether it is by PayPal, Google Checkout, Visa, MasterCard, Discover Card, American Express, or even check. I don’t care how our customers pay us as long as they pay us!

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