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So you know what a domain name registrar is (if you don't, read the Webhosting 101 article on What Is a Domain Name Registrar? first), and you're ready to get your website domain registered. Now all you have to do is choose from one of the hundreds of domain name registrars worldwide - but how do you do that?
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing your domain name registrar. Take a look at our list, and don't forget to look into any specific issues that you have, as well.

Registrar Accreditation

Only consider a domain name registrar that is accredited with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). You can read more about ICANN in the Webhosting 101 article What Is a Domain Name Registrar?, but suffice it to say that it's not worth your time to bother with a registrar that isn't accredited.
Legitimate registrars should indicate their accreditation in their Domain Name Registration Agreement or terms and conditions documents. You can also check your registrar's status in ICANN's Accredited Registrar Directory.

Registration Process

Your domain registrar should make it as easy on you to register your domain as possible. After all, if registrars are making you jump through unnecessary hoops when they're courting your business, how difficult will they make things for you once they already have your money? Many domain name registrars, such as Freeservers.com, have a simple, two-step registration process: 1) What domain name do you want to register? and 2) How do you want to pay? It doesn't get much easier than that.

Payment Methods

Most registrars allow (and in fact, encourage) you to pay online at the time of registration by credit card, PayPal or a debit to your checking account, and this is what you want to do. Some domain registrars do allow you to submit payment through the mail, but in the time-sensitive world of the Web, that could be risky. Nearly all domain name registrars have a policy that your domain registration will not be effective until your registration fee has been paid and cleared. So while you're waiting for your check to reach the registrar and clear with the bank, someone else could scoop up your dream domain name by paying up-front through another registrar. Don't risk it; pay online at the time of registration.

Price & Length of the Contract

The majority of domain registrars will register your name for a period of one year for a given rate, which can range from $10 to $50, depending on the services offered and the size of the company. Many registrars will offer a discounted rate if you register for several years at once. This can be a great deal, but be aware that most registrars have a "no refunds" policy on your registration fees - only sign up for a multi-year contract if you're sure you want to be committed to that registrar for that amount of time.
It's usually more cost-effective (not to mention simpler) to register your domain with your web host, if they offer that service. If you register your domain with a registrar, and then choose a different web host, the web host will often charge you a domain transfer fee. Save time and money - do your best to find one provider that can handle both your domain registration and your web hosting needs.

Read the Fine Print

It may seem obvious, but many people don't realize that when they click "submit" at the bottom of a registration page, they are actually entering into a legally binding contract. Read the domain registrar's billing policies, domain registration policies and the terms and conditions of service carefully.
When you choose a domain registrar, you are, in fact, legally indicating that you accept all of the registrar's terms, conditions, policies and guidelines. If those are unfair or confusing, you don't want to find that out after you've electronically signed on the dotted line. Before you settle on any domain name registrar, read the policies of several registrars, so you have an idea of what terms and conditions are standard and which you may want to question.
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