When you want to accept payments online, there's more than one way to do it. There are various well known solutions such as Paypal and Google Checkout. These can be a great way to get started and are ideal for some businesses, both big and small. However, most quality online stores prefer to take credit card payments themselves. It is certainly a more professional way of taking payments - usually it looks better, presents a better image and often it provides for a smoother checkout experience.
So what do you need before you can accept credit card payments online?
Banks will not allow your website to communicate directly with their systems, so you need to use the services of a "payment gateway". Such payment gateways sit between the banks systems and your website and effectively process credit card payments for you. They also provide you with an interface to allow you to do refunds, check for fraud data and monitor settlements.
You also need a merchant account in order to receive the money from card payments. The payment gateway pays into your merchant account and then, after some delay, your bank pays this into your business bank account.
So, apart from a website, you need a payment gateway account, a merchant account and a business bank account. These can, and often do, come from different suppliers. There are a number of payment gateways but, in the UK at least, the choice is made easier by the dominance of Sagepay. They provide good value for money at £20 per month and work with all the UK merchant account providers as well as most popular shopping carts (including Drupal / Ubercart for which Infomagnet developed the integration).