A consumer must have a credit card to purchase products from an ecommerce site, right?

Not necessarily. There are payment-processing options that allow ecommerce operators to deduct the purchase price directly from the bank account of a customer, without the customer having or providing a credit card number.  In fact, you likely pay many of your household bills online using such a system. These online processing options are becoming more popular, and are based on the automated clearing house (or, “ACH”) banking network, which is a long-established, federally regulated system that allows banks to send money back and forth to each other. Virtually every bank in the United States is a member of the ACH network.

Like credit card processing, you are still subject to PCI compliance, so it is a good idea for smaller companies to use a system that provides a “Managed Service” – that is, one that takes you from your site, processes the check, then returns you to your site. That way you don’t have to assume the risk for fraud. While some companies such as Authorize.Net also provide echeck processing, you typically have to create a form on your website. I recommend using a off-site approach instead to reduce your exposure, just make sure that you can maintain your brand experience. Here are 3 companies that provide such a service:

ElectraCash has a cool demo of how this works: You provide a link on your site that simply says something like:

Pay Now with eCheck (go ahead and click on this link to see it in action, then scroll to the bottom and click on “Authorize Payment”)

You need to understand that ACH processing is not the same as credit card processing – transactions do not happen in real time. As such, you should allow 3-5 business days before shipping any product that was paid for with this option. a great feature of echecks is that they can be set up for recurring billing, so if you are offering a monthly subscription fee, you can set this up to get paid automatically.