*Updated March 12, 2014
E-commerce in the MENA region is picking up, a great number of websites selling goods online have been appearing as of late but it still hasn’t reached its maximum potential a great article as to why can be found on Wamda. Anyone that has worked on an e-commerce website in the region (or at least in the UAE) knows that accepting payments online can quickly become a major pain. I have recently worked on a project Ripe and found out first hand what is like to go through all the hoops of setting up a merchant account and talking to acquiring banks.
Interestingly I couldn’t find much information online about payment gateways in the UAE or the MENA, there are two good articles on Mizalla about payment gateway alternatives and payment gateways in Lebanon, and two really informative articles written by Omar Kassim (Founder of JadoPado) one on his personal blog and the other on the JadoPado’s blog. If your planning on launching your own e-commerce website in the UAE or would just like to know more about the requirements of accepting credit cards online I would definitely read Omar’s articles including the entire comments, because he goes into great details about charges and acquiring banks in the UAE.
Or you can skip all that and just go directly with the big players such as Paypal, Alertpay, Google Checkout, 2checkout etc… But I’ll tell you the major problem with those:
- Paypal doesn’t let you withdraw your money to your local bank account in the UAE it has to be a US based account, or UAE issued credit/debit card only. You can see what Paypal offers in different countries here.
- And there is a 500 USD daily withdrawal limit.
- You can’t charge users in AED only in Dollars.
- Alertpay [Update: acquired and changed to Payza as of May 2012] is a good alternative and lets you withdraw your funds to your bank account in the UAE but only in Dollars, Pound or Euro.
- But the biggest issue when dealing with these companies is that you can’t pick up the phone and complain or have an actual relation with them especially from here in the UAE. When it comes to your money you want to be sure that in case anything happens you have someone to talk to.
So I have done some research and found the following payment gateways based here in the UAE:
- CPSP: Owned and operated by CashU (Jabbar Group), I have a personal experience with them and would recommend them because they’re PCI-DSS compliant (industry standards). They have good support staff and a long list of big clients as well as an easy to use backend system to view/export your money. [Update: This has been spunoff and rebranded as Payfort.]
- Innovate: I have been in touch with them and they seem to be very responsive and helpful, however I haven’t worked with them but they seem professional through all my communications with them. [Update: I’ve had a very good experience with them integrating Little Majlis with their services. I find their backend reporting tool is very neat and easy to use and their fees are much lower than CPSP]
- Prosum: If you can get a hold of the sales rep your my hero, I’ve managed to get a hold of him once and never again.
- Etisalat: They offer the service but I’m not sure I’d recommend them, I couldn’t find a contact page or a number to call, but I’d leave them as a last resort option.
- The Socially: I found these guys online and they seem to be based in Sharjah and the UK, but after communicating with them they made it clear that they work with partners in the UAE and then they stopped responding to my emails, so I would avoid them.
- ShopMarkaz: This is not really a payment gateway, but I came across it in my search and thought it could be helpful. Its more of a marketplace where you can setup your own shop and start selling online. I have no clue how they’ve managed to do this in the UAE and how they’ve managed to overcome the trade licensing issue required to setup a merchant account and so on.
- UAEnet: At first I wasn’t sure if they were based in the UAE because all the prices on their website is in USD, but a quick whois search revealed that they’re based in the UAE (or at least the contact person is). But I’ve sent several contact messages through the website and haven’t received anything back.
So there you have it, if you’re serious and would like to get more information I would start by contacting the first three providers they seem to be the most professional based here in the UAE. The pricing is almost similar with all of them, because they depend mostly on risk and monthly sales volume. And just a word of advice the prices with these guys are negotiable so make sure you don’t accept the first proposal.
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