While not every vacation rental owner accepts them yet, online reservations are gaining traction in the vacation rental industry. That means processing payments online is important, but choosing a vendor that fits your specific needs takes time and research.

PayPal has been a trailblazer in e-commerce for more than a decade, and for many businesses it’s the easy choice: a proven and familiar name in a space that’s new and still rapidly evolving.

Despite PayPal’s position as a leader, it’s a platform created to appeal to many different industries – and it may or may not be the right solution for your business. Over the past couple of years, the e-commerce space has been flooded with new options, and some might fit your needs better.

If you’re looking at online payment options, here are questions to ask a potential vendor.

What are their fees?

Fee structures and amounts range from one provider to another.

Processing fees of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction are common, but you could also charged be a monthly flat fee or a higher percentage – especially for international transactions. These fees could also be rolled in with a bundle of services (i.e. online reservation program).

Also ask about refunds and chargebacks (a fraudulent or disputed transaction).

  • What fees are involved in both situations, and what’s the process involved?
  • Will this have any impact on your existing vacation rental policies?

What forms of payment are accepted?

Credit card payments are standard when it comes to ecommerce, but other options are available. PayPal, for example, allows users to link their account directly to their bank account. Other services accepts electronic checks (e-checks).

Make sure the vendor’s service is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant – a requirement for businesses of any size that accept credit card payments. The PCI Compliance Guide recommends that you ask the following questions:

  • What is included in their incidence response plans?
  • Have they experienced any data breaches?
  • How many years have they been in service?
  • Are there available client recommendations?
  • Do they run background checks on employees? (This is required for PCI Compliance.)
  • Are there any complaints found through the Better Business Bureau?

How do they protect your data?

On the heels of the PCI-related questions, confirm that the vendor is actively protecting your data. For example, your data should be:

  • Backed up multiple times a day to ensure any new transactions are captured.
  • In a physically secure location, protected from other people as well as natural disasters.

Ask how – and how quickly – you will be alerted if there is a problem. Also, find out what reports you can download or print for your own records.

How will it fit your other systems?

If you accept reservations online and have other systems in place for things like marketing and customer service, figure out how this new system will fit.

  • Will it integrate with programs, websites or processes you’re already using? If yes, how easy is it to set up? If no, how much time will it take for you to manually keep your records in sync?
  • How will you send invoices, receipts, payment confirmations and reminders? How much of the process can be automated?
  • Is there anything you might need to adjust in your terms and conditions (i.e. cancellations or refunds)?

How do they reduce your risk of fraud?

There is no guarantee against fraud, but there are ways to identify red flags or increase levels of security. While you’re unlikely to get a detailed breakdown of the specific, ask:

  • What steps they have in place to reduce the risk to you and your business?
  • What options are available to help your guests feel that their transaction is secure?

How easy is it to set up?

Some payment solutions require little more than creating an account and following through on some basic setup; others can be more complicated, especially when it comes to integration.

  • How easy will it be to integrate the system with the specific programs you’re using?
  • Are there detailed instructions available?
  • Will customer service be easy to contact and available when you need help?

What about other features?

Depending on your specific needs and the guests you generally attract, you may also want to ask about:

  • Multiple currencies: what currencies are accepted, and are there additional fees?
  • Clearance timelines: how long will it take for fund to reach your bank account?
  • Volume: what will happen if you increase the number of transactions?
  • Other fees: are there any other potential fees you haven’t asked about?

Accepting payment online is increasingly easy to jump into; some systems are so simple that you can create an account in minutes. That said, taking time to find answers to these questions will help prepare you before problems come up, and save you the time and frustration of trying to make incompatible systems work together.

Have you researched online payment systems? What have your learned, and what system did you choose? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.