I get asked this question quite a bit.  Here is the basic explanation of the differences:

  • Shopping cart
    Allow customers to choose one or more items for a single checkout.
  • Automatic billing
    Sign customers up for a billing agreement that allows you to charge them a variable amount – up to a mutually agreed upon maximum – each billing cycle. For example, utility bills.
  • Buy Now
    Let customers click once and quickly purchase one item at a time.
  • Donations
    Let customers choose a fixed or variable donation amount.
  • Gift certificates
    Sell gift certificates in predetermined amounts or allow customers to choose their own amount.
  • Installment Plan
    Let customers pay for items using flexible multiple payments.
  • Subscriptions
    Offer subscriptions or other recurring payments for items like magazine subscriptions or club memberships.