E-commerce question: best way to handle delayed charges to card

Discussion in 'General Web Coding' started by skypanther, Sep 28, 2006.

  1. skypanther

    skypanther Exalted Code Master!

    Hi all,

    I'm looking for advice on the best way to handle an e-commerce situation.

    One of my clients is a local merchants association who runs an annual arts and crafts festival. The event draws a few hundred artisans, food vendors, etc. who pay about $250 per booth at the show.

    With their current paper-based application process, the merchants assoc. requires artisans to submit a check to cover the booth cost. If the artisan is approved for the show, the merchants assoc. cashes the check. Otherwise, they return it uncashed to the applicant. The merchant assoc. is looking to move their application process online.

    I will be building them a web site to accept these online applications. The site will process credit card charges to cover the application fee. We'd like to have it also process the booth fee. But, we feel we should delay that charge until the applicant has been approved (in keeping with the "don't charge the card until you ship the merchandise" line of thinking).

    The merchants assoc. is very concerned that applicants won't return to pay later if they don't pay at application time. They don't want to have applicants failing to pay, showing up at the festival and having to collect checks or cash the day of the event.

    Our options seem to be:
    - Store their credit card numbers and charge when they are approved for the show.
    - Charge the applicants when they apply and then refund them if they're not approved.

    The first has many security and liability implications, particularly since the site is hosted in a shared server environment (here). So, we would like to avoid it. The second option will probably upset the card processing company (I've asked if it will affect rates and such, still waiting for an answer).

    Are there other options? How would you handle this type of situation?

    Thanks,
    Tim

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