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    There are now many payments types or channels available to both
    merchants and customers (cash, cheque, credit card, debit card, pre-paid card, direct debit, Internet direct bank transfer, e-wallet transfer etc).
    However, they all present different advantages
    and disadvantages, and these may be quite different for a consumer versus a merchant.

    However, by drawing together a range of international literature about payment systems and how they are used by people and organizations of all kinds,
    six attributes of payment products appear to be most relevant to the choices that are made of both
    merchants and their customers alike*. These six factors are:

    capability
    cost
    convenience
    coverage
    confidence and
    confidentiality
    Let's look at each of these in a little more detail.


    Capability

    Capability refers to the functional ability to actually use a particular
    payment type or channel. For example, capability in cash transactions (the oldest and most ubiquitous of payment types) relates
    to a person or an organization being in a position to hand over a payment (having cash
    in an acceptable denomination/currency) and then receive the payment (also
    in an acceptable denomination/currency of course). This becomes a threshold issue in non-cash payments, which often involve technical issues such as
    the establishment of a means of communicating over distance, ability to verify the parties
    in a payment transaction, and many other factors.


    Cost

    All payment systems involve some costs (including cash). Both consumers and merchants are likely
    to seek to use lower cost payments if they can. This is especially the case if they can readily know what the use of each payment
    will cost them (sometimes this is transparent and sometimes it is
    not of course). The cost of a payment is not always spread
    evenly between the parties. Vendors of payment products will often seek to make some approaches appear to be no-cost or low-cost to the customer-but this may or may not be true.

    The cost structures of payment methods also differ; some have a fixed transaction charge while others are proportional
    to the size of the transaction.

    Convenience

    Convenience refers to the ease of use or "user-friendliness" of a payment method.
    A need for registration before using the payment method, or the speed
    of payment (for example, the time taken to approve a
    payment) can be factors affecting convenience.
    Consumers generally view cash as convenient to carry for small purchases at the point-of-sale.
    This means that to be competitive with cash, electronic payments systems have to offer a high level
    of convenience (hence all the current interest in mobile phone usage
    for payments). Businesses however typically have a very different perspective on convenience to that of
    consumers. They are likely to seek payment products and services that fit reasonably well into their broader processes
    and systems.

    Coverage

    Coverage refers to how widely a payment method or system is accepted by merchants and other recipients of
    payments, such as businesses receiving payments from suppliers.
    An important objective for all payment types and channels is therefore clearly to be widely
    accessible to merchants, traders, consumers and other
    users without high-entry or ongoing costs. Similarly, consumers
    should encounter as few barriers as possible in undertaking
    transactions using the chosen system.

    Confidence

    This refers to a customer's belief that a payment will be successfully executed and completed, and that the value of a payment method will be respected.

    Confidence rises where arrangements are secure and value does not 'leak'.
    The confidence that consumers have in a payment method also depends
    on the associated payment channel. For example, online payments
    with credit cards differ from offline payments, in that the card is not physically provided by the
    customer and the merchant does not obtain a signed confirmation from the customer.
    Some card schemes provide a system of cardholder authentication, usually
    through provision of name, credit card number and expiration date.

    To prevent illegitimate interception, this information is
    typically encrypted so as to increase levels of confidence in the payment system.


    Confidentiality

    As a payment type only cash maintains payer and/or payee confidentiality.

    Non-cash payments often involve the collection of information that becomes valuable.
    Users of payment systems are often concerned about the collection and use of
    this often personal information, and its potential release to
    other parties, if not properly secured. For example, in general,
    credit card payments are made via an identifiable account, resulting in the loss of anonymity.

    This means that some individuals are uncomfortable
    or unhappy about using payment types or channels which cannot reasonably protect their personal information (and may increase the risk of theft or fraud).


    Summary

    Payment type or channel choices are complex for both
    a given consumer or merchant. However, in this article we have
    described six factors which seem to be most influential
    in the decision-making process. Although these factors
    all stand alone, they are not necessarily independent of
    one another of course. In other words, the boundaries between factors are often blurred of
    "fuzzy".

    In addition, it is also worth noting that any one of these factors
    can be primary, depending on a given individual
    or organizational perspective. For some consumers and/or merchants therefore, cost and convenience may be first and second (with other
    factors making little difference). However, for other consumers and/or merchants, capability, coverage and
    confidentiality may all have equal significance, for instance.

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