For many companies looking to take payments over the internet, the easiest option is a payment bureau, such as Worldpay.
The bureau collects and process the card details on your behalf, without the need for a merchant service with an acquiring bank or separate payment service provider (PSP) to be set up.
The major drawbacks of using a payment bureau are higher commission rate or fee per transaction, and some may hold your cash for 30 days or more to cover charge-backs and fraud.
However, they generally have low set-up costs and it would give you a first step on the ladder.
If you already have offline card processing facilities, perhaps the quickest option is to get a merchant service from an acquiring bank. All you have to do is ask your bank for an additional merchant ID for use exclusively with internet transactions.
This will usually be a fairly speedy process, especially if your risk profile does not significantly change with the introduction of online sales.
If you don’t have any card processing facilities, the bank will be required to perform thorough credit checks, which can take anything up to two months.
This delay can often make it worthwhile to use a payment bureau that can be upgraded when the acquiring bank application is ready or when your internet turnover justifies the higher fixed costs.
You will also need to select a PSP to collect card details online. Some banks and ISPs, like BT, provide the PSP service as part of an e-commerce solution.