Remember the old days when you thumbed through a paper catalog, picked an item, filled out an order form and mailed a check in for payment? A mere four to six weeks later, your front porch was graced with a gift, as if by magic. Fast-forward to the current digital age, when you can purchase a good or service almost instantly via the Internet and receive it within days of the initial order. Some online stores take plain old credit or debit cards as payment, but plenty of others rely on e-commerce payment services, like PayPal, to complete the transaction.
It's an amazingly easy way to send money online, and after setting up an account, paying for items is as simple as signing in. Your account is linked directly to a credit or debit card or is debited directly from your bank itself. These services swear by their security and privacy, which is vital, since they store your payment information -- including credit card and bank account numbers -- all so you don't have to input the information each time you use the service.
E-commerce payments have helped companies like eBay thrive, thanks to their ease of use and security. Small business owners also enjoy the fact that they only have to fork over a small fee (typically less than 3 percent) to receive payments. There's no credit check, monthly fee or start-up costs, and because all payments go through a trusted third party, customers don't have to worry about their information being compromised or stolen.