I received an email a few days ago, from one of the readers of this blog. I have reproduced the entire message below, and edited it a bit for the sake of clarity:
I have been looking for how to accept payment online in Nigeria, without necessarily going through Interswitch. I have been reading about Google Checkout accepting Nigerian cards. I would like to know if this means that they will accept Nigerian Mastercards and Visa cards? Do I need to have a Nigerian Naira or US Dollar or British Pounds account or would I have to have a foreign account? Can they pay with a Naira card for my services?
I would really appreciate any information I can get as I hear you are the leading authority in things like this.
For a start, I would need to clarify that there are two versions of Google Checkout – one for merchants (sellers) and another for buyers.
What is Google Checkout?
Google Checkout is an online payment processing service provided by Google aimed at simplifying the process of paying for online purchases. Users store their credit or debit card and shipping information in their Google Account, so that they can purchase at participating stores at the click of a button. Google Checkout also offers fraud protection, as well a unified page for tracking purchases and their status.
Google Checkout for merchants:
this is exactly what you are enquiring about. Unfortunately, it is available only to e-commerce merchants in the United States and the United Kingdom. Unless you own a registered business in either countries, you cannot accept credit/debit card payments from residents of Nigeria or any other country, using Google Checkout.
Google Checkout for buyers:
this is available in most countries. All it does is allows registered users to make purchases securely over the internet from any online store that is signed-up to the Google Checkout for merchants service.
What is the way out?
Whilst several credible alternatives to Google Checkout exist online, very few of them would accept e-commerce merchants based in Nigeria. Alternatives include: PayPal, Moneybookers, NoChex, Alertpay etc.
If your core marketplace is Nigeria, your best bet is still Interswitch. Interswitch is an electronic transaction switching and payment processing company. All 25 banks in Nigeria are connected to their payment gateway. The closest rival to Interswitch in Nigeria is eTranzact.
If you are targeting the global marketplace, then 2Checkout comes highly recommended. They not only accept merchants based in Nigeria but offer flexible means by which you can get paid when your earnings cross their $100 threshold for international merchants. In addition to bank wire (SWIFT transfer), the offer a Mastercard to merchants that would enable you withdraw your earnings from any Mastercard-enabled ATM.
2Checkout enables you to accept payment from the leading cards globally including Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. An added luxury is the ability to accept payment from PayPal users. 2Checkout charges a $49 fee for account opening.
2Checkout has some stringent policies and might ask for some documentation that would assist them in validating the legality of your business if they consider you “high-risk”. They also forbid some class of businesses like arms sales, financial services, adult services etc
An alternative to 2Checkout is Plimus. They offer similar services. I have not used Plimus before and would suggest you research before taking the giant leap.
Best wishes with your e-commerce endeavours.