Considering an Association Payment Service? Start Here

Updated: Feb. 5, 2021  |  Categories: Revenues  

Considering an Association Payment Service? Start Here

Your association chapter agrees it’s time to take online payments, so your members can use credit cards for things like meetings, dues, training materials, chapter merchandise, etc. As you explore the requirements and the steps needed to make that transition, you begin to hear from other chapters that it’s more involved than just creating a web page and opening a business bank account.

Terms like Payment Gateway and Payment Processor are thrown around and you may begin to wonder if you’re in over your head. No reason to panic. The move, critical as you continue to look for association member engagement strategies, is straightforward once you have the information you need. Over the next few months we’ll give you the details you need to make the right decisions.

Let’s start with the basics.

There are four primary players in an online payment transaction:  you, the person paying and the technologies that connect you, i.e. the payment gateway and the payment processor.

The payment gateway links your shopping cart to the credit card processor (or payment processor), transmitting the financial data and letting you safely and securely take payments online. If you want to take payments online and allow people to pay from their desktop or mobile device, you need one to verify credit card information, process payments and finalize sales.

Just as you would use the security numbers on the back of the card if you were looking at the card at your registration table, the gateway helps ensure a payment is legitimate. In an almost immediate data transfer, the gateway forwards the credit card information to your bank and the issuing credit card company. Once the transaction is approved, the payment processor transfers the funds, manages the charges and collects the money. It then moves the transaction through the processing network, sends a statement, interacts with the bank, etc. (Often, but not always, your merchant bank is also your payment processor.)

Together, the payment gateway and the payment processor make up an association payment service.  

Classic or modern association payment gateway

Your chapter’s choice of payment gateway is driven by multiple factors, including your budget and your goals. What systems should the gateway be compatible with? Your association website? Invoicing software? Data management platform? Another decision is whether or not you’ll deposit the funds, once you collect them, in a direct merchant or another type of account.

A classic, i.e. more traditional, payment gateway transfers the money to a direct merchant account, while modern payment gateways do not require direct merchant accounts. Using a payment gateway different from your payment processor allows you to continue to work with your preferred bank.

The cost of an association payment gateway

You’ll want a clear understanding of the costs and fees involved in the different payment gateways you’re considering. Look for a company that’s transparent with its pricing, so there are no surprises, and you can better anticipate and plan for related expenses. 

Some gateways have more features than others, but as a result, they have higher costs. Some don’t charge a setup fee or have a monthly charge, but that may mean they charge more for things like chargebacks and may have higher per credit card transaction fees. And still there are others that charge a flat monthly fee, regardless of the features you use.  

Ease of use

You wouldn’t want association chapter members to reach the end of the checkout process to find they can’t use their preferred payment method, would you? Ask what cards they typically use to pay online, and make sure the gateway you choose lets you process payments from the ones at the top of their list. Another consideration is whether or not payments can be completed on a single web page or if it requires users to leave your association website to enter their credit card information and return to finish the transaction. Leaving can increase the chance they won’t return to the site to complete the purchase.

Just as important are the needs of the association chapter volunteers who will manage everything associated with your gateway. How easy to learn and manage are the platforms you’re considering? Will they integrate with your existing systems? Or will any of them require work arounds or addition of a manual process to your already burdened volunteers?

The StarChapter Payment Gateway

We recently launched StarChapter Pay, a classic payment gateway that integrates with the StarChapter association software platform. StarChapter Pay allows association chapters to accept credit card payments online, streamlines the purchasing processes and improves payment management. The gateway also provides a single source of support for StarChapter customers, eliminating the confusion that can accompany determining who to contact with questions.

The first step to helping your association chapter members and guests pay for more things online is choosing the right payment gateway. For some security may be the biggest priority, for others it may be cost or support. Watch for more posts that will help you make the best decision for your chapter, with topics including security, encryption, fraud detection and reporting.

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