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In our age of global connectivity and unlimited communications, online shopping and electronic payments have become an essential part of our everyday life. Not only does online shopping and bill payment save your time but with the latest boom in high technologies, it has also become undoubtedly save and secure. Also, the merchants who want to build a successful online business should make sure that they accept payments with a broad variety of different credit cards, as credit cards acceptance is the single and the most important step towards operating a sustainable business over the internet.

The text below examines some of the credit card processing companies and online payment solutions in Canada - one of the countries with the strongest and most stable banking and financial systems in the world.

To begin with, the concepts shopping cart, payment gateway and merchant account need some clarification. They are the corner stones of contemporary e-commerce.

Normally, when you enter the local supermarket, you take a hold of the first available shopping cart and start pushing it between the shelves. In the case of online shops, the shopping cart is actually the software that allows you to keep track of products that your customers would like to to purchase while they surf through your website. Merchants may choose among hundreds of popular shopping cart programs. Some are quite easy to use, while others are meant for advanced webmasters. To make things simpler, you may also compare the shopping cart with the cashier who rings through your groceries at the grocery store. It is their responsibility to figure out the amount of money you have to pay. The software does this job in an e-commerce website.

The payment gateway functions as an online POS terminal Ė it accepts the costumerís encrypted order and payment details (credit card number, billing address, quantity and quality of the ordered items, etc.) from the shopping cart software. Then, the payment gateway contacts the costumerís bank to check if there is enough money in his or her credit card to cover the purchase. If there is, the card issuer returns to the gateway an authorization and the funds are debited from credit card balance of the customer. Finally, the funds received from the costumerís bank through his credit card go into the sellerís merchant account.

2CheckOut is probably the second largest e-commerce services provider available in Canada. Established in 2000, the company is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, 2CO provides flexible e-commerce solutions to thousands of customers around the globe. 2COís innovative technology supports back-office functions including financial reporting, tracking, affiliate tracking, fraud prevention, customer service and sales tracking. It has been estimated that more than nine million people visit the companyís website each month.

Fast Transact is another provider which offers merchant accounts for internet and retail merchants, together with credit card processing accounts for large, medium, and small size business entities. In addition, the provider offers telephone and mail order, retail, wireless, and internet merchant accounts. The payments gate solution of Fast Transact allows the processing of credit and debit cards, electronic cheques, and debit cards. The service is available 24 hours a day as the virtual terminal doesnít close. The system processes all transactions in real time and clients have control over their payments as well as their card payment data. Customers can choose to stay with their current provider and at the same time, switch to the card processing system of Fast Transact.

The credit card processing system of PayPal allows merchants to accept credit cards directly on their websites. The service provider allows merchants to accept MasterCard, Discover, Visa, American Express, and PayPal through the Express Checkout. Clients have the opportunity to pay via mail, fax, and over the phone through the virtual terminal. In essence, this terminal is an equivalent of the credit card swipe terminal used in restaurants and retail stores.