Differences Between Online Payments and Offline Payments

These days, a lot of businesses start their journey online before they go off. It doesn’t need much capital. It’s $5 to $15 for a web hosting package, and while professional web design can cost from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or more, free templates are a good starting point. Then, you just need active social media accounts and perhaps even a small budget for digital ads. This type of business will soon come to be familiar with online payments, so it’s actually the offline ones that may offer a tougher learning curve for business owners.

The more customary path is for a traditional business to go online, which nudges them to learn online lingo. Either way, any business will require a merchant account to process credit cards and debit cards. Some merchant accounts can transact both online and offline, allowing you to accept credit cards in both your income streams. There are some differences between the two, and there are similarities as well. Both online and offline card payments are faster than cash or check, for example. And the initial steps are the same – open a merchant account and program your software.


In most scenarios, digital systems are significantly faster than analog ones. Credit card payments are instantaneous. A customer swipes their card, and they’re done. Any delays in the process would typically be caused only by the speed of the cashier or customer. The speed of digital card payments depends only upon how fast the customer can type, because they typically have to key in their details by hand. They’ll usually be asked for their name, address, account number, CVC, and expiration date. While that can take longer than just swiping a card, many browsers securely store that information, allowing it to be entered instantaneously, too.

It might seem counterintuitive to say that credit cards are faster than paying face-to-face with cash, but it’s true! For one thing, it eliminates the need to count out the payment and then count out the customer’s change, let alone the delay (or lost sale!) when a customer pats their pockets hunting for a few extra bills, when they actually do not have enough cash on them.  It also eliminates much larger potential delays while customers go to a cash machine and then (hopefully) come back to complete their transaction.  It also eliminates the need to go to the bank and make a deposit, since the money will automatically be digitally transferred to the business’s account.  This doesn’t just time—it also eliminates the risk of violent theft and embezzlement that is associated with handling large amounts of cash.


Online payments require a website or mobile app. The software tools that integrate with your site or app to accept payments should be secure and encrypted. Offline payments are often accomplished by using an electronic card reader, which means that the customer’s credit card needs to be physically present to make the payment. Online payments only need the credit card details. It doesn’t matter whether the card is physically in the customer’s possession or not.

For more information on telling the difference between online and offline payments, or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to Charge.com.


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