Revolutionary payment request APIs have changed the way businesses accept online payments. Not to mention, it has created a secure and seamless customer experience. The right payment request API often makes the difference between a fast and efficient development cycle or one that falls behind schedule, plagued with problems.

APIs (application programming interfaces) are vital to software and app development and allow for various systems to communicate with each other in a predefined way. The communication protocols and methods are already established when using an API. This means easy implementation into various systems regardless of what those systems do outside of the API.

The goal of APIs is to speed up development for businesses. The handler of the data transmitted over an API may not know exactly what apps developers will build. An API provides a standardized method of data flow and is integrated into apps and development environments that are new or novel.

APIs transmit data between websites, apps, and other services. For example, an API would assist a website to display data from another service or site when a user logs in. The API would authenticate the user, then retrieve the appropriate data. If you’ve seen stock price information on a business website, it’s likely that an API designed for that purpose transmitted the data.

What is API payment?

Payment requests and credit card processing APIs for online payments can follow a similar data flow and this is why there are APIs specific to payments. This is due to the sensitive nature of the transmitted data to process the payment. So the APIs involved are often more complicated.

Below, we’ll dive deeper into payment request APIs and explain how they work and the different aspects you need to be aware of when working with payment APIs.

What Makes Payment Request APIs Different From Other APIs

Fundamentally, payment request APIs work the same as other APIs, the difference is mainly in the complexity and security involved. Typical APIs may only move information between one or two networks. In a payment scenario, there are far more systems along the route of the information.

Next, security is a main concern when transferring payment requests and this means that each stop along the way of the API flow needs to be secure and have various protocols in place. Each step must authorize the data and transmission, unlike a standard API which generally only authorizes once. These can each be a point of failure which means maintaining a payment request API can be much more difficult.

This also means that merchants often have fewer customization options when working with the API. Although merchants can customize these APIs, they require a high degree of technical knowledge to keep them secure and functioning within the requirements of card issuers and banks.

Payment Request Flow Of Information 

A credit card transaction API payment works like this:

The Front End 

When a customer initiates a payment request, the payment request API displays the list of items they are buying under the “display items” label. 

The customer can then select the method of payment they prefer by clicking on the payment method identifier. Such as a digital wallet or credit card. If the customer does not have their payment method registered, the payment request API will offer an invitation to register with their payment information.

After the customer selects of the payment method, they can manually type or select from a pre-populated list the payment amount. The payment request API will then display the “total label”. Which shows the total transaction cost, including any taxes and fees.

The customer can then either send money or request money. If they choose to request money, they can enter the amount they want and send the payment request to the second party. Conversely, if they are sending money, they can select the “send money” button to complete the payment.

Google Pay is a popular payment method that allows customers to securely send and receive money with ease. When a user initiates a Google Pay request money transaction, the payment request API will display the Google Pay payment method identifier. From here, the customer can then enter the total payment amount and send the funds to the recipient.

The Backend 

The merchant captures the customer information either via a website or a payment or POS terminal. The information first moves through the gateway and then on to the processor where the merchant holds their account.

The request then moves to the major credit card networks involved. After that, it travels to the network of the issuing bank for final approval.

When this is complete and each step along the way authorizes the transaction, the authorization is sent back via the same route, just in reverse.

If approved, the merchant account receives the approved funds and the payment process is complete.

This is a rather sophisticated path of data flow. Each node along the way must confirm the data before it moves along. This is why payment processing APIs are more complex than typical APIs for other web or online services.

Note: Behind the scenes, the payment request object facilitates the entire payment process. It manages the interactions between the cardholder, the payment processor, and the website owner. The payment request object sends the payment information to the payment processor, which returns the processed result to the API.

It is important to understand that not all browsers can support payment request APIs. However, it is likely that more will support this feature in the near future due to its increasing popularity.

Benefits Of Payment Request APIs

Despite the complexity of payment APIs, they make integration much simpler for developers and merchants alike. Below, we’ll look at the key benefits these APIs offer.

Better User Experience

APIs can pre-populate information across platforms, which makes the overall experience better for users. APIs also allow for innovative development so merchants can build systems tailored to their customer’s needs. Without APIs as the backbone of this communication, developing these would be much more difficult, if not impossible for most merchants.

Increased Security

By offering a framework for data transmission, payment APIs offer an inherent increased security benefit. Various APIs help to offload some of the security requirements to the processor instead of the merchant. This allows merchants with simple processing needs to bypass many of the security burdens which then the processor and API handle.

Even for complex scenarios where the API is being used for innovative custom processing, the core API allows for a foundation of security that can be easily built upon by developers.

Security Requirements

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) sets rules to protect credit card information. This group in conjunction with the card issuers has implemented compliance measures that all merchants and those involved in processing must adhere to.

Authenticating Payment APIs

You will first need to obtain a merchant account with a payment processor before accessing a payment request API. This means you will need to supply bank information, credit history, and personal information in order to be approved.

Once approved, you will receive a merchant identification number (MIN). This number will then allow you to apply for access to the payment APIs. This process works as a type of underwriting and ensures that those accessing the APIs have undergone a certain degree of scrutiny and can be trusted with access to the API.

12 Rules Of PCI DSS Compliance

Any merchant accessing a payment API or processing credit cards will need to follow the 12 rules and best practices to ensure security. These rules cover network security issues and data storage, including storage related to payment information.

Much of the concern here is the integrity of data transferred over the merchant’s private network en route to the gateway and API destination as well as for data storage.

The payment request API security will not be very useful if the merchant’s own security is lax and can easily be penetrated.

The Different Type Of Payment Request APIs

The processing industry has developed several main types of APIs to address the needs of different merchants and their individual processing needs.

Much of these differences come down to the amount of access the merchant has over the API and information. The more access the merchant has to customize the API the more responsibility that falls on the merchant. While simpler APIs are almost completely segregated from the merchant and the security is handled by the processing entities, leaving minimal security issues for the merchant to worry about.

However, these APIs also offer less customization. Below, we will explain the main types of payment request APIs in further detail.

A fully featured API gives the merchant or developer the most access and customization options. Of course, this also requires the highest degree of technical knowledge as well as security know-how. 

Some of these will use IP-based authentication, meaning the server sending the information must be white-listed and only requests coming from that IP address will be accepted.

There are also authentication-based APIs in this category. This means that any server or device can send a request. These are of course more complex and require advanced authentication methods beyond just the IP being whitelisted.

This second method offers the most flexibility for complex payment scenarios, but it is harder to integrate due to the advanced authentication that must take place.

Semi-Integrated APIs

These are the next offerings for merchants who want a simpler integration process. Essentially, these work by using the existing hardware within a POS terminal that has already been certified as compliant. The payment information is not held on the merchant’s servers, so this reduces their security burden in regard to PCI DSS compliance.

For simpler processing needs that don’t require customization, this type of API can work best for many merchants.

Gateway APIs

These are another scaled-down option and are popular with many merchants who don’t have complex processing needs. Gateway APIs run the middle road between fully featured APIs and more restrictive processing APIs or hosted pages.

These gateways offer integration with other software and tools that the merchant may want to consider, such as reporting or dashboards for terminal software. If the integration is supported, merchants can get up and running quickly with these APIs without the need for extensive development or security implementation and testing.

Hosted Payment Pages

These are the most restrictive for merchants but also the easiest to manage for online payments. A hosted page means the payment page is hosted by the processor, not the merchant. This means all the security concerns are handled by the processor.

For example, a merchant may have an eCommerce site where they sell goods. When a customer clicks to make the payment, they are brought to an external page hosted by the processor. The page may already have the customer’s shipping address from the business’s website that’s been transmitted via the API. The page will also generally automatically enter the total amount for the purchase. This all makes the process more seamless for the customer.

These hosted pages can be white-labeled to appear similar to the merchant’s website, but they are hosted on a separate server and network maintained by the processor.

Since the customer is entering payment information on the processor’s secure website, the merchant is not responsible for a majority of the security requirements involved other than maintaining their own site with a valid SSL certificate.

How to Choose an API

When deciding which API is right for your needs, there are a few things to consider. 

Strong Documentation

This is especially true if you are looking into a fully featured API or otherwise plan on customization. Documentation is critical so that developers can implement the features they need without running into problems.

However, even for simpler APIs or even hosted pages, it’s important that the technical documentation is available to make integration and setup as easy as possible.

Modern User Experience

An outdated API architecture slows down development and integration, something no company wants to deal with.

Make sure the API you choose uses modern design practices that work with the systems you are trying to design it around. It’s also important to research the integrations or features you may need before deciding on an API. The more integration and support that is already built in will make your development process much faster and pain-free.

Testing Environment

Your API and provider need to include a robust testing environment that allows you to experiment and troubleshoot your apps and development process. This is a crucial step that is necessary before going live with any API tool or website. 

The testing environment should include all options for the payment methods you plan on using and can use sample data that will return the same results and codes as true customer data

Advanced Security

Security always needs to be a top priority when dealing with sensitive customer billing information. Both from a customer satisfaction standpoint as well as to be in compliance with regulations and card issuer guidelines.

Your payment API should use the latest in P2PE encryption and tokenization.

If you have any questions about security and PCI compliance in regard to payment APIs, contact ECS Payments. We have an in-house team of support experts to help you understand this complex topic.

Multiple Gateway Integrations

Certain billing and payment scenarios require merchants to access different gateways. This can be due to different product categories being sold under one brand or for other reasons. But it’s not uncommon for merchants to use different payment gateways.

Your API needs to not only support this function but also support the different gateways you may plan on using in the future.

Third-party API Support

This is necessary to offer a seamless purchase experience for your customers. Many different APIs may all need to work together in modern payment situations. Information may need to be shared across different platforms and systems before the final purchase is made.

By allowing the right third-party support, your development can offer a seamless experience for all customers no matter how complex the process is behind the scenes.

Multiple Payment Options

A payment API needs to work with whatever supported payment methods your business offers or is developing. This may include things like ACH payments that certain outdated APIs may not easily integrate with.

By offering this sort of multichannel support, your development team can offer the payment methods customers want. It also allows for additional methods to be added in the future after the initial development is complete.

In-house Customer Support

When choosing a payment request API, your provider needs to have in-house technical support to answer complex questions that may arise during development. A processor that offloads support to foreign countries or call centers may not be able to answer your questions and the development process can fall behind schedule.

Ask about technical customer support when investigating or choosing a payment API for your business.

More Information About Choosing The Right Payment Request API For Your Business

Products and services need to come to market quickly and before competitors, this means choosing the right payment API is critical to keep things on schedule.

The payment solution experts at ECS Payments have all the tools your business needs to undertake any development project involving billing and payments.

Our team also has the in-house technical expertise to help your business at any stage of the payment process development cycle. From choosing an API or gateway to implementing it all into your current infrastructure.

Contact ECS Payments today to learn about our top-rated service and solutions for complex billing and payment needs.