Let's face it: From a retail perspective, paying for something on the Internet involves a credit card, directly or indirectly, almost all the time. In fact, as recent research from Gartner made clear, second place is so distant, it's off the radar screen.

On the business-to-business side of the equation, the situation is markedly different. There, cash payments still rule, Gartner's latest research indicates, mostly within existing "open accounts" between trading partners. And while the use of the Net for electronic invoicing is rising, currently only about 16% of B-to-B payments are made electronically; in other words, when it comes time to pay those invoices buyers received instantly over the Web, about 84% do so with paper checks, according to survey data compiled by Gartner last July.

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