What is a Payment Gateway?

A payment gateway is a technology service that acts as an intermediary between online stores and the financial institutions involved in payment transaction processing: banks, card networks, and payment processors. It's essentially the digital equivalent of a physical point-of-sale terminal in physical retail locations.

July 02, 2024
What is a Payment Gateway?

What Does a Payment Gateway Do?

A payment gateway authorises and processes various forms of electronic payments, such as credit and debit card transactions. It acts as a conduit between merchant websites and financial institutions to ensure safe and swift transactions.

Essentially, a payment gateway performs the following functions:

  • Gathers and encrypts payment information (such as credit card numbers) provided by customers.
  • Securely transfers this encrypted payment data to the payment processor and card networks.
  • Receives approval or rejection responses regarding the transaction from the issuing bank.
  • Conveys the transaction outcome to both the merchant and the customer.
  • Facilitates the transfer of funds from the customer's account to the merchant's account.


To maintain transaction security, it encrypts sensitive information, like credit card numbers. This encryption helps prevent fraud and unauthorised access.

Functions of a payment gateway

Additionally, it provides mechanisms for transaction settlement, where funds are transferred from the customer's bank to the merchant's bank. Payment gateways also offer fraud detection tools to identify and mitigate fraudulent activities.

Key Responsibilities

Data Encryption and Security

A key responsibility of a payment gateway is to safeguard the transaction data. Payment gateways employ encryption methods such as SSL/TLS encryption or tokenization to shield details from online threats and fraudulent activities.

Transaction Authorization

Payment gateways play a role in facilitating transactions between customers and merchants. When a customer makes a payment the gateway authorises the transaction with the issuing bank to verify that the customer has funds and that the transaction is valid. This process includes validations such as fraud detection and checking card information to prevent fraudulent transactions and minimise chargeback risks.

Transaction Processing

After a transaction is authorised, the payment gateway swings into action routing over the transaction details to the financial institutions. This means reaching out to payment acquiring bank, card networks, and the issuing bank to make sure money moves smoothly from the customers account to the merchants account. 

Settlement and Fund Transfer

Once the transaction is completed, the payment gateway takes care of transferring the funds. This includes moving the payment sum from the customer's bank to the merchant's bank account.

Fraud Detection and Prevention

Payment processors use tools to detect and prevent fraudulent transactions. These tools analyse transaction patterns, monitor for suspicious activities, and utilise machine learning algorithms to spot potential fraud. 

Compliance with Regulatory Standards

Payment processors need to adhere to industry regulations to guarantee security and legality of each transaction. Important standards include the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and EMVCo 3D Secure protocols.

Main Differences Between Online and In-Store Payment Gateways

The way online and in store payment gateways work differs mainly. Online gateways manage payments through web interfaces needing integration with shopping platforms and checkout systems.

On the other hand, in-store gateways use point-of-sale (POS) systems that have card-reading hardware (terminals) for handling transactions at physical retail locations.

Security protocols also vary between the two; online gateways focus cybersecurity measures such as SSL certificates and tokenization. In-store gateways focus on physical security and compliance with industry standards like PCI-DSS for safeguarding cardholder data. Both aim for secure and efficient transaction processing, but their contextual implementations highlight functional differences.

Payment Gateways in Everyday Life

Payment gateways play a crucial role in our everyday online shopping. When customers use his card or digital wallets to buy something a payment gateway is there to facilitate the process.

When checking out on a  website, the payment gateway handles the transaction process. It gathers the customer's payment information and ensures its transfer safely while following the guidelines of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Global payments also benefit greatly from payment gateways. They assist in converting currencies and managing the intricacies of transactions simplifying things for businesses serving customers worldwide.

Moreover, payment gateways equip businesses with tools for handling refunds and disputes. They provide insights into transaction histories that help businesses maintain financial records and enhance customer service.

In the world of mobile commerce, payment gateways ensure that customers can make secure payments through their smartphones, enhancing the shopping experience. Whether it's a quick coffee purchase with a digital wallet or an online order for home delivery, payment gateways streamline and secure the transaction process.

Key Features of Payment Gateways

Payment gateways are essential in processing electronic payments securely and efficiently. Key features include:

Encryption: Protects sensitive payment data during the transaction process by converting it into a secure code.
Fraud Detection: Utilises various mechanisms to identify and prevent fraudulent activities, enhancing transaction security.
APIs: Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enable integration with different e-commerce platforms and services, aiding in seamless payment processing.
Payment Processors: Communicate with banks and credit card networks to authorise and complete transactions.
Geolocation: Helps verify the location of the transaction to reduce fraud and enable location-specific features.
Payment Information: Manages customer payment details securely, ensuring data integrity and compliance with security standards.
Transaction Details: Provides detailed data regarding each transaction, including timestamp, amount, and involved parties.
Payment Portals: Interfaces through which customers input their payment information, supporting a variety of payment methods.
Payment Data: Stores and manages the data related to processed transactions, offering insights for business analytics and reporting.

Stakeholders in the Payment Gateway Ecosystem

The payment gateway ecosystem is a dynamic network of various stakeholders, each contributing to the processing of electronic transactions. These key players are:

Merchants and Businesses

Merchants, from small businesses to large enterprises, depend on payment gateways to securely process customer payments:

  • E-commerce Websites: Online stores use payment gateways to accept payment methods and currencies, making it easier to sell globally.
  • Physical retail stores: In-person retail stores connect payment gateways to their point-of-sale systems for transactions conducted on-site
  • Service Providers: Companies offering professional services, subscription models, and other service-based businesses use payment gateways for recurring billing and one-time payments.



Customers greatly benefit from the security and convenience provided by payment gateways:

  • Improved Security: Payment gateways utilise encryption and tokenization to safeguard financial information reducing the chances of fraud and identity theft.
  • Improved Security: Payment gateways utilise encryption and tokenization to safeguard financial information reducing the chances of fraud and identity theft.
  • Effortless Checkout Process: integrated payment gateways simplify the buying experience, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and lower rates of abandoned carts.


Payment Processors

Payment processors work closely with payment gateways, handling the technical aspects of transaction processing:

  • Transaction Routing: Ensuring payment information is correctly routed between the merchant, issuing bank, and acquiring bank.
  • Fraud Detection: Utilising advanced algorithms to identify and prevent fraudulent transactions in real time.
  • Settlement: Facilitating the transfer of funds between accounts, ensuring timely payments to merchants.


Financial Institutions

Banks play multiple roles in the payment gateway ecosystem:

  • Issuing Banks: Issue payment cards to customers and approve transactions.
  • Acquiring Banks: Handle transactions for businesses. Transfer funds to their accounts by collaborating with payment gateways.
  • Banking Infrastructure: Provide infrastructure and networks required for the operation of payment gateways.


E-commerce Platforms and Online Marketplaces

E-commerce platforms and online marketplaces heavily rely on payment gateways for a seamless customer journey:

  • Integration Capabilities: e-retail platforms depend on payment gateways that seamlessly blend with their current systems.
  • Multi-currency Support: Essential for global marketplaces to process transactions in various currencies.
  • Scalability: As online businesses grow, payment gateways must handle rising transaction loads while maintaining performance.


Sellers on Digital Marketplaces

Individual vendors and small enterprises operating on platforms gain advantages from incorporating payment gateways:

  • Automated Transactions: Simplifying the payment procedure decreases the need for involvement and minimises errors.
  • Improved Cash Flow: Quick settlement durations enable sellers to handle their finances with efficiency.
  • Enhanced Credibility: Opting for known payment gateways can enhance buyer confidence potentially resulting in increased sales figures.

Payment Gateway Example

To illustrate how a payment gateway works in practice, let's examine DECTA's processing solutions and how they facilitate online transactions.

When a customer buys anything online through a business using DECTA's gateway, the following process occurs:

  1. The customer enters their payment information on the merchant's website.
  1. DECTA's gateway securely encrypts and transmits the payment data to the relevant financial institutions.
  1. The transaction is authorised or declined based on the customer's available funds and the validity of the payment information.
  1. DECTA's gateway communicates the transaction result back to the merchant and customer.
  1. If approved, the funds are transferred from the customer's account to the merchant's account.


Throughout this process, DECTA's payment gateway ensures the security of sensitive data, manages currency conversions if necessary, and provides both the merchant and customer with real-time transaction status updates.

Talk to DECTA's payment masters today and discover how our solutions can enhance your business operations.