What is a payment gateway and how does it work?

If you have ever bought anything online, clicked ‘add to cart’, or simply just renewed your online streaming subscription, you must have encountered what is known as a payment gateway. Payment gateways help these businesses accept both debit and credit card payments from customers. In this article, we will explain:

  • What a payment gateway is
  • How a payment gateway works
  • The key players in an online payment transaction
  • Getting started with payment gateway integration

What exactly is a payment gateway?

A payment gateway is a channel that helps you to accept online payments from your customers securely. Think of it as a digital bridge that links your businesses, your customers, and the banks together. 

When a customer clicks the pay now button on your website and enters their card details, the payment gateway sends a message to the payment processor to check that the customer has sufficient funds in their account to pay you. 

Payment gateway vs payment processor

Now that we mentioned a payment processor, you may be wondering what the difference between a gateway and a processor is, don't worry we'll explain.

When a transaction is initiated by a customer, the payment gateway collects the customer’s card information, verifies that the information is correct, and sends the information to the payment processor.   A payment processor on the other hand acts as an intermediary between the business, the customer's bank, and the business’ bank.

How does a payment gateway work?

It is important for you to understand how a payment gateway works as a business owner, but first, let us discuss the key players involved in a transaction. Then we will walk through a step-by-step process of what happens during an online transaction.

  • Merchant: This is the person who owns and operates the online business. 

  • Customer: This is the person who initiates the transaction by making a purchase from the merchant. 

  • Acquiring bank: An acquiring bank on the merchant end of the transaction. 

  • Issuing bank: This is the cardholder or the customer's bank.

  • Payment processor: Facilitates payment between issuing bank and acquiring bank

  • Payment gateway: Collects card information from customer 

Note: The terms "acquiring bank" and "issuing bank" do not describe the type of bank themselves, but where they are in the transaction flow.

Step-by-step process of an online transaction

Transaction Initiation

Once your customer has picked out the item they desire from your online store and they click on 'proceed to check out', they are redirected to the payment gateway for them to make their payment. The customer is then required to input their card details into the website via the payment gateway. 


Encryption and Data Security

After encrypting your customer's card information, the data submitted undergo a verification process to guarantee accuracy and eliminate any errors. Additionally, the payment gateway employs sophisticated fraud detection techniques to identify any potentially suspicious activities. Your customer's card information is then transferred securely to the payment processor.

How a payment gateway works

Authorisation Request

Next, the payment processor reviews the transaction request and seeks approval from the issuing bank (your customer's bank). This ensures that your customer can perform the transaction and that they have enough funds to proceed smoothly.

How a payment gateway works

Read more about payment authorisation and authentication

Response and Confirmation

The issuing bank reviews the transaction request and promptly sends a response to the payment gateway. This is the moment when your customer finds out if the transaction has been approved or declined.

This entire process happens in split seconds.

 why_do_you_need_a_payment_gateway_ (4) (1)


Once the payment has been approved, the payment gateway informs you (the merchant) about the status of the transaction and then proceeds to transfer funds to you.

why_do_you_need_a_payment_gateway_ (5)

Benefits of a payment gateway

Fast and seamless transactions

Online payments made through a payment gateway are incredibly fast, with transactions taking place in split seconds. This speed allows your customers to complete their payments seamlessly and quickly, reducing the chances of them giving up on the process.

Fraud prevention

Payment gateways are equipped with high-level security protocols that adhere to the strict standards set by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) and 3D Secure (3DS) guidelines. These measures ensure the protection of sensitive payment information, providing your business and customers with online payment security and reduce the risk of fraud

Real-time transaction processing

Payment gateways process transactions in real-time, reducing the chances of payment declines. The instant response from the gateway helps you to quickly identify and resolve any payment issues, ensuring smoother transactions for your customers.

Multiple payments methods

Payment gateways offer online businesses a wide range of payment methods, enhancing the shopping experience for customers. They also enable businesses to reach global markets, allowing anyone with internet access to shop and make payments from anywhere in the world.

Improved customer experience

Payment gateways offer multiple payment methods, making it easier for your business to cater to different customer preferences and reduce cart abandonment. This convenience enables customers to make online purchases with ease, leading to an improved overall shopping experience and a higher chance for customer retention.

Secure Online Payments

What to consider when choosing a payment gateway

There are many factors to consider when choosing a payment gateway for your business, some of these include; 

Choosing a payment gateway

Your customer's preferred payment methods

Make sure you understand your customers' preferred payment methods before choosing a payment gateway and align with their preferences to ensure seamless checkouts, higher conversions, and satisfied customers. Ignoring their preferences can lead to higher rates of cart abandonment and missed opportunities.

Compatible technology

When choosing a payment gateway, make sure it works well with your existing technology structure. A compatible gateway ensures a smooth payment experience for customers, while an incompatible one may cause friction and frustration. So, pick a payment gateway that integrates seamlessly with your technology setup for a successful payment process.


It is important to prioritize security when choosing a payment gateway. A secure gateway protects customer information and builds trust, while an insecure one can lead to risks and damage your reputation. Choose a payment gateway that has approved licenses from compliance and regulatory bodies necessary


Opting for a gateway with a bad reputation may lead to customers abandoning their shopping carts or seeking more trustworthy and secure alternatives. A gateway with a positive reputation builds customer confidence, encouraging them to complete transactions and stay loyal to your business.

Can you build your own payment gateway? 

Yes, it is possible to build your own payment gateway, but it requires a substantial investment of money, time, and expertise. Here's a simplified breakdown of the steps involved: 


You'll need a server to host your gateway, either your own or from a third-party provider. Considerations like auditing and maintenance for data centres should be considered.

Payment Processor

You’ll need to choose a payment processor to work with your gateway. This could be a bank, a card network, or an independent processor. You'll need their API documentation and to develop an external API to securely transfer payment data.

CRM System

You’ll need to create a custom tool to manage transactions and client data. A good CRM system keeps customer information and preferred payment details in one place.

Security Features

You’ll need to implement measures to protect cardholder data. Tokenization is important, which replaces credit card numbers with anonymous tokens. Adhere to PCI DSS standards for handling credit cards.

Licenses and Certifications

For fintech startups in Nigeria specifically, the regulators are the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS). 

All these processes could take between six months to one year. Then there’s the annual cost of maintenance, which could gulp up to a million dollars every year. 

Getting started with payment gateway integration for your business

Whether it's a small e-commerce store or a large enterprise, businesses can choose from a range of payment gateway options that suit their specific needs, allowing them to accept payments from customers through multiple channels such as credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, and more. Here’s a list of some of SeerBit’s popular payment gateways: 

Simple Checkout

 The Simple checkout integration is a smart online payment form that works seamlessly across all devices. If you’re using SeerBit as your payment gateway, you can use the JavaScript function that allows you to embed a payment form on your webpage. 

Standard Checkout:

The standard checkout is like the simple checkout. The SeerBit Standard Checkout allows you to accept payments securely by calling our payment initialisation endpoint from your server to generate a checkout link which redirects your users to the generated link for them to make payment. 

E-commerce Plugin

E-commerce integrations allow you to collect payments through your preferred e-commerce payment through your preferred payment gateway. For example, if you’re using WooCommerce, Magento, or Wix, you can collect payments using SeerBit.  

Wrapping Up 

By taking careful measures to choose the right payment gateway, your business will be better positioned to enhance the overall customer experience and boost revenue. With SeerBit, you can choose from 15+ integrated payment solutions, serving countries across Africa. Our top-notch solutions offer features and benefits that give your business a competitive edge in payment decisions. 


SeerBit Payment gateway