How do I sell merchandise on the Web?

Provided by the Good News Web Designers Association

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The following answers were provided by various members of the GNWDA, after one member asked this question in the discussion group. If you are a member who is not yet participating in this helpful network, sign up to share tips and questions on web designing ministry and tools, ideas and education.

Q: I have committed myself to helping a local business post merchandise on the Web. It started with just uploading pictures of T-shirts she designs and sells, and now it is “help me process online payments.” She wants a secure email purchasing form. A CGI form is not very secure. Would a shopping cart be preferable? She wants to do this without a merchant account! ~ DeA


If your client does not have a merchant account and does not want to get one, then the best way to provide online shopping is through Pay Pal or Yahoo! PayDirect. I use both and like both. Yahoo! PayDirect is an actual online bank; PayPal is not. The most popular one is Pay Pal, which is owned by EBay. (See links in column on right.)

A CGI sendmail form is definitely not secure enough. But your client can set up a secure form through PayPal or PayDirect. They make it easy, because people who are not webmasters use it all the time.


Some Web hosting companies provide a shopping cart with their regular services. For example, companies that utilize cPanel (for their control panel) normally have two to choose from: Red Hat's Interchange Cart and Agora Cart (see links to the demos in column on right). To use them, follow the instructions that come in the web host's documentation, and configure them to utilize your PayPal or Yahoo! PayDirect account.


The alternative is to use a merchant account through a bank that lets you use their secure servers for placing the orders. If your client sets up a merchant account with them, they will include a shopping cart on their server for your client. The bank provides instructions and a helping hand for setting it up.

I will use Bank of America as an example:

  • You can put your client's logo with the Bank of America logo; this branding will let the buyers know that credit card processing will be reliable and secure.
  • This merchant account will accept both Visa and Mastercard. Although you'd have to get a separate merchant account from American Express to accept their card, Bank of America will process it on their secure server and send it on to the American Express bank.
  • Bank of America's e-store gives you a report of transactions that you can view online at any time.
  • The bank will send you a CD with instructional PDF files to get started in setting up your "store."
  • Once the bank sets up your ID and password, you get your own shopping cart on the bank's site.
  • It takes a couple of weeks between the time you meet with a Bank of America e-store representative to sign the paperwork and the time you'd get the CD and ID.

Additional input from GNWDA members:
Posted by: Russ Broomell of


I have several clients using Mal's free service; the biggest has been running with them for almost three years. They have their own in-house merchant account, but they process dozens of orders each month without a hitch. They recently switched clerks who handle Internet orders, and even though they are no longer my client, they asked me to train the new person. Three emails later, it was done - it's that simple. Mal's has great documentation too.

As for merchant accounts, Mal's offers PayPal integration on their $6 per month "premium" account. With PayPal, you don't need a merchant account. But you should compare total monthly costs. PayPal charges you more per transaction, but no monthly fee, whereas most merchant accounts charge a monthly fee. Make sure you compare all of the fees at your planned transaction level.

My recommendation is Mal's Premium with PayPal. Why...?

  1. Low cost to get in: only $6 per month,which is great during testing and when if you have a few or no transactions.
  2. Upgradeable: when transaction level grows, you can upgrade to a new merchant account with a few quick changes
  3. You own the cart: Mal's is based on hyperlinks, not on a proprietary shopping cart setup. This way, if you move your web hosting, you don't have to re-enter your whole shopping cart or set up new databases; just upload the HTML pages and away you go!


How you can begin accepting credit cards:
ZDNet Reviews

Yahoo! PayDirect


Agora Shopping Cart

Interchange Cart

Mal's e-commerce

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