The new Handcraft is here!

Adventures in integrating payment services as a Dutch business

We’d been developing and testing our PayPal subscription flow for Quplo for a month and had almost gotten it completely working when PayPal suddenly decided to change their user-facing checkout wizard. Our code was suddenly broken, and x.com‘s documentation hadn’t been updated to reflect any changes. Nor had the web service code. Even though we probably could have figured it out by looking around the internet and asking people, this entire experience gave us a queasy feeling: pulling the rug out from under developers’ feet, even if it’s just the Sandbox, doesn’t inspire confidence.

PayPal really kinda sucks

In fact, thinking about it now, everything about x.com feels off. The site design is unstable, which doesn’t feel very professional. Documentation – whenever we manage to find it, since the navigation is confusing at best – has been (poorly) ported from an older system, with grammatical errors and conjoined words dotted throughout. Several documents haven’t been updated, despite being inaccurate, in nearly two years. Developers complaining in the comments section or asking for corrections are getting ignored (“I’ll get back to you with an answer!” one PayPal community person said 8 months ago. This was the last comment on that page).

Don’t even get me started on the arbitrary rules they require you to follow in order to use the service: ugly “Check out with PayPal” buttons in your checkout process, and forced setting of PayPal as the default payment option. No thanks.

We decided to look around at alternatives again. But the results weren’t that much better.

ClickAndBuy

ClickAndBuy is a British-based payment platform that wraps credit card, debit and various country-specific services. Looking through the documentation, it seems well put together and clearly written. The site itself is a bit confusing (as a developer, I don’t expect to click on “Partners” in order to see API docs), but all in all it looks quite reliable.

Unfortunately, ClickAndBuy “only” has 13 million users worldwide. That’s not much if you consider there are 2 billion internet users.

Twyp

Twyp is a Dutch payment provider owned by ING that supports credit cards, the Dutch iDeal payment platform, and PayPal, as well as a couple of other international payment platforms. You pay a pretty hefty monthly rate but Twyp only gets € 0.35 off each transaction, which is relatively low given that most providers also require a 2.9% fee. At the same time, Twyp charges for ridiculous things like being able to display a logo on the payment page over SSL (2 cents per 20kb!).

And that’s before you start trying to implement it, which quickly turns into a huge mess. You know the feeling where you’re trying to implement a web service, but it feels like it was both overspecified and written in 1990? That’s sort of how Twyp feels.

Amazon Flexible Payment Service

Considering how well Amazon has handled transforming its business framework into scalable services with things like S3 and EC2, you’d imagine the Flexible Payment Service, or FPS, would be a great match for a little company in the Netherlands.

Well, despite having a great site, documentation, and feeling of community, there’s one problem:

Q: What countries and currencies are supported by Amazon FPS?
Amazon FPS allows U.S. as well as international customers to use major credit cards to make payments on Amazon FPS-powered websites. However, bank account and Amazon Payments account balance transfers are enabled only for US based customers. All transactions are in U.S. dollars.

It only supports USD and US based accounts. So much for that.

Google Checkout

Surely Google would have figured this out? We eagerly headed to the Google Checkout Merchants site, hoping to find a simple, straightforward, excellently documented, developer-friendly site just waiting for us to give them a cut of our income.

Instead we found that Checkout is only available to merchants in the US and the UK. Bummer.

It’s a jungle out there

So, if you’re in the Netherlands and you just want to charge your customers for the service you’re providing, it looks like you can go fish. Sure, you can settle for the apparently unstable PayPal platform. Or you can choose ClickAndBuy, and force a semi-unknown brand on your customers. Twyp wraps credit cards, but prior experience has taught us that implementing is an archaic nightmare. On top of all that, neither of the thought leaders, for developers anyway, support our country right now.

In other words, we’re shit out of luck.

Do you have any experience with integrating payment services for European countries other than the UK? Which services have worked for you? Are we misunderstanding something about the providers we already looked at? Let us know!

10 Comments

Ping RSS

  • What about payment service providers like Ogone, Buckaroo and the likes? Didn’t you integrate other payment services for customers of Q42?

    by Leon de Rijke • Aug 19th 2010 • 17:08

  • For small mobile phone payments often called micropayments, you can try Mollie.nl and Zaypay.com. They’ve got fully integratable APIs with simple documentation. Mollie provides iDEAL – a VERY popular payment method in the Netherlands – payments as well. We’re working on a creditcard billing implementation, to be beta-launched Q4 2010.

    by Rick • Aug 19th 2010 • 17:08

  • I don’t have any direct experience with it, but I have seen good feedback on Hacker News for FastSpring, and I plan to use them for my next projects.

    by Sebastiano Pilla • Aug 19th 2010 • 18:08

  • This January I was going mad looking for payment services for Romania.

    Turn out, all of the ones you listed above are a crap deal overall .

    The cheapest solution would be to get a merchant account from a local bank, and process cards like that. This is only about 4000 Euros upfront and they charge something like 0.5% commission per transaction.

    They however provide little to no help with their API, maybe things have changed since then :D .

    by urssur • Aug 19th 2010 • 18:08

  • I think you have to loosen your requirements for a well known service, because it cannot be met by definition: if there is any service that supports your country but you, the developer, haven’t heard about it – that’s probably because it’s not well known!

    by Nickolai Leschov • Aug 19th 2010 • 22:08

  • Sebastiano – thanks! Will take a look at FastSpring.

    There were some comments on Hacker News suggesting PayFacade and Cardgate as well. I’ll take those into account along with Ogone and Buckaroo.

    Nickolai – we don’t have requirements for a well-known service. We do have requirements for services where the customer has to create an account. If that service has very few users, it means that the likelihood of our customers having to create an account the first time they do business with us is high, and I’d like to avoid that because it’s not a great user experience. In the case of PayPal, for instance, much fewer will not have a PayPal account.

    by Rahul • Aug 20th 2010 • 10:08

  • I’ve built shops using MultiPay as a merchant. Easy to set up and rather flexible to.

    by Jorick • Aug 29th 2010 • 21:08

  • Hi Rahul
    We are looking at exactly same issue (NL based, in Amsterdam). Disappointed about Amazon – we host with them and it would be natural. Did you solve the issue? Would you care to team up and we can approach one of these together? (We also know others facing same problem…) Regards Adam

    by adam • Sep 16th 2010 • 12:09

  • Hey Adam,

    Recommendi looks cool! I might sign up and try it out.

    Right now we’re looking at FastSpring. Our experiences with them so far have been exactly what we want in terms of openness and communication: I have direct access via email to their lead developer who has enabled their private beta of subscriptions (a lightweight API and great dashboard) to try out. They’re launching that service within a few months, and right now (we haven’t fully implemented it yet) we’re feeling good about things and willing to hold out our payments launch until they’ve got theirs ready to go. FastSpring supports European accounts by offering to send money to your PayPal account, which is such a pragmatic solution I’m literally surprised no one else is doing it (I’m looking at you, Braintree).

    So that’s the status here. We’ll follow up with a blog post once we know more about FastSpring’s implementation, but right now I can recommend checking them out.

    Thanks for posting! If you’re ever in the Hague, drop by our offices: http://q42.nl/contact

    by Rahul • Sep 16th 2010 • 16:09

  • Hi Rahul,

    Could you tell me a little bit more about your experiences with FastSpring so far?

    We are considering to join them as a customer.

    Kind regards,

    Dick

    by Dick • May 10th 2012 • 12:05

  • Leave a reply