Now you can GO BRAVE! The TT Dollar payment gateway is available, live, and working as we speak. Bona fide e-commerce like you know and love à la USA is now a reality at locally based online stores.
This was by far the biggest obstacle to e-commerce in Trinidad & Tobago and poof, it’s now gone. The last piece of the puzzle is still in limbo, and that’s the proclamation of the final five (5) sections of The Electronic Transactions Act (2011). More on its implications later.
So for all intents and purposes, ALL THE MOVING PARTS essential for a working ‘local online store’ are now fully available and ready to be put to work for you. To clarify, these moving parts are:
- The website- e-commerce platform, and I use Magento (shopping cart)
- Payment gateway- First Atlantic Commerce (online checkout in TTD)
- Shipping- TT Post, local courier, your own van (order delivery)
If I can go your site, browse products, add to cart, pay with my credit card and have them delivered to my door then my friends, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…then it must be er… e-commerce, right? Snort!
The FAC/FCB Payment Gateway in TT Dollars
Bear in mind that First Atlantic Commerce (FAC) and their gateway is not new to T&T, it’s been available through Scotiabank for a couple of years but not for everyone. They have added an additional partnership now with First Citizens Bank (FCB) and now it’s a little more accessible.
1. It’s locally based E-Commerce Solution
It’s a real local bank right here in Trinidad & Tobago and that’s something in itself. Compare that with communicating with Paypal or 2Checkout and the difference is clear.
It’s a little more reassuring to know you’re dealing with a local bank and fellow Trinis. Never mind that they might still frustrate you like Trini banks love to do (and I’m not saying FCB does or doesn’t…), but you understand where I’m coming from.
2. It’s currency is TT Dollars
Contrary to popular belief, there are no ‘local’ credit cards, just locally issued. As long as there’s the Visa or Mastercard logo you can use them anywhere in the world.
You may have noticed on occasion that you can’t use your card to shop online on certain US sites and that’s when you’re blocked by IP address or credit card billing address to prevent fraud. Technically, nothing should be wrong with making a purchase from Trinidad and shipping to a US address, but that’s the site’s prerogative to allow or disallow.
Anyway, the FAC payment gateway for our country is in TT Dollars and what that means is that settlement of funds, i.e. funds collected through FAC when customers pay online, are transferred to your FCB account denominated in TT Dollars.
In the website’s back-end, the base currency for your products will also be set as TTD. You may choose to add additional currencies as a convenience, say in the currencies of other Caribbean islands via a currency switcher button. But that doesn’t change a thing in the working of the gateway which will rely on the base currency as set.
3. FCB has to approve your Merchant Account
Yes the solution is available from FCB, but there is still an approval process. You still have to fill an application and submit your particulars to satisfy the bank’s requirements to be issued a Merchant ID (MID).
It’s this MID that’s used to integrate the payment gateway on your e-commerce site and this has to be done by your website developer.
4. FAC also has to approve
Generally FAC will approve anyone who’s issued the MID by FCB. However they have their own guidelines on the type of websites that they won’t approve, like say gambling and adult sites, or plain illegal sites.
5. Site needs to be secure- have SSL certificate
It’s mandatory that your site be secure but that’s obvious anyway. Any popular SSL Certificate that satisfies FAC’s minimum level of encryption would suffice. Personally for my clients I used Geo Trust’s Quick SSL which is their most affordable option.
6. Miscellaneous website requirements
There are the standard requirements for any e-commerce site for specific information to be clearly displayed, like:
- Terms & Conditions
- Return Policy
- Security Policy
How to get this payment gateway
Make contact yourself or via Forward Multimedia
If you choose not to go through Forward Multimedia you may approach either bank, Scotiabank or FCB directly. Since I’ve had more success with FCB (and no success with Scotiabank), I’ll recommend FCB, and the relevant department is the Electronic Banking Unit in Port of Spain.
If you want to go through Forward Multimedia to make the introductions that’s fine too. I don’t have any special ‘connections’ except a good working relationship and effective communication as I’ve been through the process twice already.
Cost of the FAC payment gateway via FCB
You’ll have to contact me directly for further details as I can’t disclose that information here.
Platforms the gateway integrates with
Magento is not the only e-commerce platform
I use the Magento e-commerce platform but you can choose whatever platform you wish as long as you can get a web developer to integrate the gateway, i.e. it’s not limited to Magento and can be integrated with most other open source platforms.
No integration with WordPress
My developer does not integrate the FAC gateway with WordPress citing potential headaches down the road with the version updates etc., that he prefers to leave well enough alone. Though I have the option of using another developer who may be more willing or have a different view, I prefer to leave well enough alone myself.
Payment gateway options for WordPress
I use the WordPress content management system (CMS) with an e-commerce plug-in that allows for a full working online store that can handle thousands of products. It’s a cheaper alternative to Magento. The only options available are 2Checkout and Paypal.
2Checkout is more viable and I cannot recommend Paypal as a standalone option as my recent attempts to use it revealed that Paypal now requires a Paypal account to pay using it, and forces the customer to create one without an option to pay with just a credit card.
Live sites using the FAC/FCB payment gateway/e-commerce solution
See the gateway in action in not only my first two sites but also first commercial sites for FCB as well as this e-commerce solution is brand new for them as well. You’ll also get the opportunity to see the Magento e-commerce platform in action as well.
1. The London Clothing Company
With five (5) retail stores in Trinidad they knew that online is the way of the future. The owners of this store have been unlike many clients I’ve encountered- absolutely 100% invested in their online venture and willing to do what it takes to make it work.
I see nothing but success for their online store and the site’s performance since it’s low-key launch (by design) has been stellar. Visit store.
2. Office Are Us
Their launch has also been low-key as well and promotion has been via Facebook ads and email marketing. They have an added advantage of having their own delivery vans to ship orders all over Trinidad. Visit store.
Well you’ve got what you wanted right? Albeit it’s a little expensive to set up a complete online store for many individuals or start-ups but established businesses should have no problems now as the overall pricing should be absolutely within their budgets. Trinis tend to take things more seriously when their money is actually ‘jumping up’.