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Payment processors

CiviCRM connects to a variety of different payment processors. Out-of-the-box, it comes with support for approximately 15 payment processors. Many other community contributed processors are available to download from the CiviCRM Extensions Directory.

Additional payment processors may also be available from third-party sites.

Community contributed processors are not supported by CiviCRM but there is no reason why they should not be just as reliable as the out-of-the-box processors. If you do use a community contributed processor, be sure that you have access to adequate technical support for that processor, either in house, from the author of the payment processor, or from a trusted third party.

Browse a comparison of the available payment processors in the System Administrator Guide.

Selecting a payment processor

Below is a list various things to think about when choosing a payment processor. Not all payment providers are created equal and there are significant differences between them in terms of cost, suitability for your use case, and availability. This is a quick guide to selecting a payment processor. If possible, you should talk to other similar and nearby organisations that use CiviCRM about their experiences with payment processors. You can also configure more than one payment processor, and give constituents the option to choose the one they prefer.

Onsite vs offsite processors

Payment processors can be split into those in which the user enters credit card details directly on your site, and those that transfer the user to another site to make the payment, and then return them to your site once the payment is made. You can typically brand the payment site to a limited extent – for example you might be able to add your organisation name, logo and colours – but the workflow is less seamless and a percentage of people tend to get lost along the way and not complete the payment.

As well as providing a more seamless experience for end users, onsite payment processors allow site admins to process card payments (contributions, membership fees, event payments, etc.) from CiviCRM admin pages.

The disadvantage of processing payments directly on your site is that you will need to have an SSL certificate to ensure the security of the users card details as they are transmitted over the internet. SSL certificates cost money (typically an annual fee) and they are not straight forward to set up. Your hosting provider or system administrator can help you here. You may also want to read the 'security' chapter in the initial set up section of this book.

It is worth noting at this point that CiviCRM never stores credit card details on your server. It only transmits them to the payment processor.

Regional Availability

For many countries there are no payment processors written that support their currencies. If you do not have payment processor support for the payment processor you want to use, consider writing your own processor or asking a third party to do so.

Merchant account vs built-in

Most organizations that accept credit card payments will have their own merchant account through a bank, however these usually have monthly charges which may not suit smaller organizations (though they generally have lower percentage payments). You can expect to pay a fee for the merchant account and to the payment processor, though these may be bundled together. Some, like World Pay & Paypal, do not require separate merchant accounts.

Support for recurring contributions

Support for recurring contributions and auto-renewing memberships is an important feature for many organizations. However not all of the payment processors available for CiviCRM support this feature. Many processors that allow you to manage recurring contributions from within CiviCRM but PayPal and require you to log into their own portals to manage recurring contributions. Some, like Moneris, have "incomplete" support.

If you have configured a payment processor that includes recurring payments as a feature, you can enable recurring contributions in your Contribution Page settings. For more details on page-specific configuration, refer to the Online Contributions chapter.

Managing recurring contributions

PayPal and allow users to set up a recurring contribution, which is then managed through the payment processor site. Each time a payment is made, the processor creates a contribution record in CiviCRM. You must log onto the processor's site to make changes to the payment amount, frequency, etc.

Other processors (e.g IATS, eway, Payment Express, SagePay, Paypal Commerce/Checkout), expect you to manage the recurring contributions directly in CiviCRM. The payment is triggered from within CiviCRM, which sends a request to the processor, and returns a completed contribution record to CiviCRM if it's successful.

You can manage a recurring contribution by going to the Contributions tab on a contact record. In a separate tab, there is a separate section for Recurring Contributions. In order to be able to recharge a card processors often store a payment token. This can be used to recharge a credit card, but only to put money into your account, not anyone elses. The rules around how these may be used vary and most processors only use them for regular recurring payments.


You have the option to View, Edit, or Cancel the recurring contribution here. You can edit the Recurring Contribution Amount, Number of Installments, Next Scheduled Contribution Date, Financial Type, Status, Start Date, and whether or not the donor receives an email notification on each payment installation. The donation frequency (e.g. weekly, monthly) cannot be changed from within CiviCRM.

If you View the recurring contribution, you will also be able to View, Edit, or Process the card on file. Viewing or editing will bring up the customer and card information.

For IATS users, there is an administrative page where you can view recent iATS transactions. On the menu, navigate to Contributions > iATS Payments Administration to see the report.


Determining which payment processor is least expensive depends on the number and average size of the transaction you process. So the question is not which processor is the cheapest, but which is the cheapest for you. Commission percentages, per-transaction charges, and fixed monthly charges vary along with set-up costs. In general, if you process many transactions, an account with a monthly fee but low commission might be a good option. On the other hand, if you expect infrequent transactions, it is best to avoid monthly fees and accept paying a higher commission.


If you do not collect the credit card information yourself on your own site, you need to consider whether the payment workflow is intuitive and easy to use. Paypal Standard is often confusing to end users because they are not sure whether or not they need to create a PayPal account. Such a barrier can result in decreased contributions.


CiviCRM supports the processors that are incorporated into the core codebase, to the extent that they ensure they do not break in upgrade - support and enhancements of community contributed processors are generally expected to come from the community.

Set up

You can configure one or more Payment Processors for your CiviCRM installation.

You will then need to assign an active Payment Processor to each Online Contribution Page and each paid Event. If no Payment Processors have been configured for your site,

  1. Go to Administer > System Settings > Payment Process and click on New Payment Processor .
  2. Choose the Payment Processor Type from the dropdown list.
  3. Assign a descriptive name to this processor configuration and an optional description. The name will show up when you want to select a payment processor for a Contribution Page or Event. A description can be useful if you are configuring multiple merchant accounts for different chapters or sub-organizations within your site with the same payment processor type.
  4. Select a Financial Account. You probably want to have a separate Financial Account for each payment processor, but your bookkeeper or accountant will be able to advise you best on this. The financial account you select records where the money gets deposited, not the sort of revenue you anticipate it receiving. The contribution, membership and event money you receive will also get recorded into different revenue financial accounts as well, based on the configuration of contribution pages and events. For a partial explanation of how this works, see Double Entry Accounting in Wikipedia.
  5. Make the processor active so that it is available for use with paid events and online contribution pages. If the processor allows you to collect credit card information on your website, your staff will also be able to use it to submit credit card contributions and payment for memberships and events.
  6. If you have multiple payment processors, the one you set as the default will be selected when you create a contribution or event page or process a credit card payment in the admin area, although you will be able to override that selection manually.
  7. Fill in the appropriate live payment and test payment details for your payment processor. Note that the fields in these sections vary according to the payment processor type selected.

You will need to do some further set up on the actual payment gateway but that is beyond the scope of this book and should be documented by your gateway.

Once done, the processor will be available in your paid events and contribution pages.

Test payments and dummy payment processors

For the purposed of testing, you can configure dummy payment processors.

If you do use a dummy payment processor, or are using any payment pages in test mode, the following card details should work:

  • Card type: Visa
  • Card number 4111 1111 1111 1111
  • CVV: any three digits
  • Expiry: any date in the future

Writing a new payment processor

If you cannot find a suitable payment processor, or want to use a specific payment provider that is not currently supported by CiviCRM, you can write a new payment processor integration, or pay someone else to do so.