Help! What’s a Payment Gateway? When Do I Need a Payment Gateway? How Do I Get a Gateway Account?

What exactly is a payment gateway? Why would I need one? How do I get one?”

These are questions we’re frequently asked — and I’m guessing you’ve wondered the same yourself. With that, I thought I’d provide some clarification on the elusive “payment gateway” you often hear about when talking payment processing.

What’s a Payment Gateway?

In a physical brick-and-mortar business, payments are taken with a cash register and a credit card reader. This cash register and credit card reader are typically referred to as a Point of Sale terminal.

A payment gateway is the online equivalent of a physical Point of Sale terminal.

A payment gateway is a secure portal that connects to your company’s software provider, online shopping cart, and/or terminal. The gateway transmits customer payment information to the payment processor for authorization and settlement.

Another visual for this abstract concept: If you had a physical storefront, you’d likely transport your cash to the bank yourself. You might even have so much cash that you’d transport the money to the bank in an armored car.

Think of a payment gateway as an armored car … a digital one a link that gets your money from your customers to your merchant account and then into your bank account through secure Internet connections.

What Types of Businesses Need a Payment Gateway?

If you want to set up and manage your own online store through your website, a software provider, or online shopping cart, you need a payment gateway. If you run an ecommerce business, you need a payment gateway. In other words, all INTERNET merchant accounts require a secure payment gateway in order to process transactions.

How Do I Go About Choosing and Getting a Gateway Account?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a gateway — cost, integration and support to name a few. Constellation Payments’ Business Development Executive, Rick Ellis, wrote a series of articles on payment gateways, how to choose one, what to consider and what to watch out for. I suggest taking a look at these articles when you can.

You should know that we can help! Constellation Payments provides an “all-in-one” solution, making us far different than other gateway and merchant service providers.

Typically, to accept credit card payments, you need two companies — one to provide the merchant account and one to provide the gateway account. We provide both at Constellation Payments.

Not only do we provide the gateway account, it’s our own proprietary gateway — meaning we have direct oversight and control of it, which means YOU, as a merchant customer or channel partner, get a higher level of support because we can trace problems more quickly. We can follow sales from either the POS or ecommerce site through to the gateway and ultimately the processor.

On top of direct control, our gateway is Level One Payment Card Industry (PCI) certified. Level One is the highest standing of PCI compliance that carries the most stringent certification requirements. All this ensures the highest level of data security available.

The Constellation Payments’ gateway is also robust in that it supports single transactions and recurring billing functions — allowing merchants to process sales (debits), refunds (credits), authorizations, funds capturing and verification.

Constellation Payments offers integrated EMV terminal solutions and connects to various processors in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European Union, Spain and more to provide both gateway and merchant services for software providers.

So while it’s important to consider cost when choosing a gateway, it’s also critical to choose a reputable and professional gateway provider that can deliver a high level of support, seamless integration, expertise, functionality and data security.

I hope this article has been helpful. If you have any questions on gateways or how Constellation Payments can assist, please call 888.244.2160 or send us an email at


Angela Summa is the Vice President of Constellation Payments. She is responsible for business development, implementation, channel partner support, and merchant support. Her goal is to ensure businesses offer the highest level of payment processing security and ease of processing to customers. You can reach Angela by sending an email to

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