Optimal Payments has released a series of onboarding and developer options in an attempt to stay nimble amid the growing market of companies that use application programming interfaces (APIs) to offer transaction capabilities to retailers.

"The new companies have created competition in the market," said Daniel Kornitzer, chief product officer at Optimal Payments. "We're going to learn from that competition."

The company has launched what it calls a developer center, which provides one unified API key to test three sets of developer tools that can fit different types of payments, and provide different levels of hosting on Optimal Payments' part.

"The merchants can take a look at what's available, how it works and make a choice based on their needs," Kornitzer said.

A card payments API allows developers to implement transaction requests such as purchases and refunds. The customer vault API provides tools to manage customer profiles and use tokens to secure and process transactions. The cardholder data is stored in Optimal Payments' PCI-compliant environment. Another option, the hosted payments API, is aimed at merchants that wish to outsource payments to Optimal Payments' Netbanx hosted gateway.

"The choice here is the merchants can leverage our [compliance with the] PCI data security standard, or they can take care of it on their end in the case of the standard interface," Kornitzer said.

The new APIs also include a blog and chat system for developers who are testing the different options, and is part of a bundle that has an onboarding program that automates applications, merchant underwriting and account generation.

"We're trying to move everything in real time…the merchant applies and gets approved on the fly and the developer can get a test account to try the different APIs," Kornitzer said.

Optimal Payments did not disclose specific fees. Merchants are charged for the technology that they access via the API, such as third-party risk management, but there is not a tiered pricing structure for the actual APIs. The London-based company hopes to lure clients in the U.S., and has been adding technology through development and acquisition. It has also sought to provide gaming payments, and has entered into partnerships with Vantiv and MasterCard to reach more merchants. Optimal Payments is also planning to add languages and an Apple Pay interface to its API in 2015, Kornitzer said.

APIs are becoming a popular way for payment companies to quickly add merchant clients that want to build an interface to accept online payments. But payments are complex, making the choice of API difficult for merchants, said Tim Sloane, vice president of payments innovation for Mercator Advisory Group.

"There are so many API providers out there and they are becoming commoditized," Sloane said. "But at the same time, with all of the changes going on, with NFC and EMV, it's making payments more complex than ever before. I don't know how many API providers are thinking about if they are doing what is necessary to support customers in different market segments."

Merchants need to consider what types of payments they want to offer, as well as other services related to payments, before choosing an API, Sloane said.

"These questions are very hard. For example, do you expect to take other payment types such as recurring billing, which requires a different interface or presents different information to the consumer?" Sloane said, adding the merchant needs to ensure the API they are using can accommodate that complexity. "Or do you want to take checks? Or Bitcoin? And what about something like payroll?"

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