Ecommerce Payment Gateway Primer

Linkpoint API

LinkPoint International is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Data Corporation, the giant in the merchant services industry. The LinkPoint brand is the gateway arm of the First Data merchant services portfolio. Their LinkPoint gateway comes in two flavors: LinkPoint API and LinkPoint Connect. The LinkPoint API is the "advanced" way to process sales through LinkPoint.

Features

Recurring Billing
Just like the other major gateway providers, LinkPoint API provides recurring billing. Billing periods can be set to daily, weekly, monthly, and custom intervals.

Fraud Protection
LinkPoint's fraud protection service, called LinkShield, uses a feature called "risk rating" to determine if a sale is potentially fraudulent. There are three options for implementing it. Option 1 uses a behavioral approach. It learns from transactions and makes predictions based on what it has learned over time. Option 2 uses statistical data. It basically compares the sale against a database of previous successful and fraudulent sales and tries to determine which it looks most like. Option 3 uses a combination of both methods.

Note: At the time this article was written this service was only in a Beta testing phase.

Tax Calculation
An interesting feature of the LinkPoint API is its tax calculator. This calculator will calculate sales tax by state and municipality. It allows merchants to determine how or when customers are charged sales tax for products and services they have ordered.

Shipping Calculation A common need for merchants who ship tangible products is how to calculate the shipping costs for each order. This feature will calculate shipping costs based on zones or the type of shipping being used. It can be flat rate pricing or based on the total value of the sale.

eCheck
LinkPoint's version of eChecks, called VirtualCheck, is feature rich and should satisfy the vast majority of merchants. Funds are deposited directly into a merchant's business checking account within five to seven business days. Merchants are notified of returned checks within two to four business days and they are automatically resubmitted. Email notifications and real-time reporting are also included.

Cost

Just like Authorize.net, LinkPoint does not sell its services directly to merchants. A merchant who wishes to utilize the LinkPoint API payment gateway will need to contact one of its authorized resellers. As a result pricing will vary by reseller.

Since definitive pricing cannot be given, due to the fact that resellers can charge anything they want to, I'll give you the ranges that most pricing fall into with an average cost as well.

Setup Fee
Establishing a LinkPoint API gateway costs anywhere from $75 - $300 with $295 being average. It is possible to get a reduced setup fee by paying a higher monthly fee. This offer varies by reseller.

Monthly Fee
The LinkPoint API will run anywhere from $15 - $25 with $20 being average.

Transaction Fee
The LinkPoint API does not charge a transaction fee.

Recurring Billing
Unlike the other major gateway providers, the recurring billing feature is included with the LinkPoint API at no extra charge. There is no additional setup fee, monthly fee, or transaction fee.

Fraud Protection
When LinkShield goes gold it should cost approximately $25 per month.

eCheck
VirtualCheck has no setup fee, a $10.00 monthly fee, 2.00% discount rate and a 25 transaction rate.

Strengths

The LinkPoint API's greatest strength is clearly in its pricing. Although some resellers do charge a fairly high setup fee that money can be made up by never paying a transaction fee. That extra five or ten cents adds up quickly and can easily more then compensate for a high setup fee. If a merchant plans to use the recurring billing feature, the costs saved just in monthly fees alone can tip the scale for a price-conscious merchant.

With the exception of a recent move to a new datacenter the LinkPoint API has experienced virtually no downtime in recent years. Eventually LinkPoint plans to have a backup datacenter in place for redundancy.

Weaknesses

The biggest drawback to the Linkpoint API is it is proprietary to one processing platform: First Data. The best way to explain this is to compare it to computer operating systems. Software written for Windows won't work on Mac or Linux. They use different architectures and therefore communication with each OS is handled differently. The same concept applies to Visa and MasterCard processing networks. There are over a dozen of them in existence and they all have different APIs for which they communicate with gateways (and credit card terminals as well). Linkpoint, which is owned by First Data, only communicates with First Data's platforms. This means you must sign up with a merchant provider who has access to the First Data platforms. Many do, many don't. Limited choices means limited opportunity to find a program that best suits your business. It gets really ugly if you are currently using the Linkpoint API and try to leave your current provider. If you choose a new provider that doesn't have access to the First Data platform you will need to learn a new API for you new gateway and then reintegrate it into your shopping cart (not to mention you will have to learn your way around your new gateway). The purpose of this, like any proprietary software, is to "lock" a merchant in.

Another big drawback is the lack of a powerful anti-fraud offering. With fraud being a huge concern for every online merchant you would think fraud tools would be an essential feature for any gateway. Although an anti-fraud solution is in development it's still not here and will limited compared to the anti-fraud tools already in existence with other gateway providers.