The best payment gateways and online payment systems
Startups reviews the most popular online payment gateways and their providers to help you to compare and to choose a secure payment system that has a price to suit your small business
Last updated June 2019
This article will review each payment gateway in detail – (you can click on the name of each payment gateway provider to jump to the relevant section).
In order to assess the best payment gateways, it's worth remembering what they're designed to do. A payment gateway is an online payment system which accepts customers’ card details, transmits the charges and helps you manage the payments that come in through your website. Managed by an e-commerce service provider, a payment gateway will authorise credit card or direct payments online.
Functions of a payment gateway include:
– Encryption (of data)
– Authorisation (of payment)
– Filling and processing (of the order, via the merchant website)
– Delivery address verification
At-a-glance comparison of the top three payment gateways:
|Payment gateway||Best for||Starting price|
|Worldpay||Popularity and familiarity||£19.95|
Read on for a full run-down of the UK’s best payment gateway options for small businesses, including pros and cons, costs, and key features, to help you find the one that works best for you.
Or, if you’re ready to tuck right in, head to the form at the top of the page and we’ll find tailor-made payment gateway quotes for your business!
1. Worldpay: The UK’s number one payment gateway
Worldpay is the UK’s most popular payment processing company – currently processing around half of all payments taking place in the UK – and has some of the most flexible plans for small businesses.
Worldpay pros and cons:
- Ultra-secure payments
- Flexible price plans
- All major cards accepted
- Pay by link capabilities save time
- Variable transaction fees
- Not a complete ecommerce package
What's the Worldpay payment gateway like?
Flexible – Accepts over a hundred currencies as well as all major debit and credit cards, even PayPal
Comprehensive – Comes complete with an online merchant account which acts as a checking account for card payments
Secure – Worldpay takes your online security very seriously, and comprehensive fraud screening protects you and your customers
Pay by link – Worldpay enables you to send payment links to customers, meaning you don’t need a website to take online payments, and can save time on chasing invoices
Worldpay fees: What'll it cost me?
|Pay as you go||2.75% + £0.20|
|Fixed monthly||From £19.95 a fixed monthly payment, plus 2.75% (credit cards) & 0.75% (debit cards).|
Is Worldpay for me?
If you’re in the market for a flexible offering (with no joining fee), Worldpay could be for you. And with advanced fraud protection, 24/7 customer support and a prolific reputation, you and your business will likely be in safe hands with this payment gateway.
Would you like to know more about Worldpay? Read our dedicated Worldpay review!
2. PayPal: Best for fast transfers
You may remember PayPal from such hit ecommerce websites as eBay, where it made checking out more pain-free than we ever thought possible. But PayPal is just as user-friendly for businesses as it is for customers.
Today, its payment gateway – named Payflow Gateway – is widely trusted, with over 220 million users worldwide. Its online payment system is also nice and budget-friendly for businesses with ambitious sales – though less so for those with smaller targets.
PayPal’s Payflow Gateway pros and cons:
- It's easy to pay with PayPal
- Simple setup
- A reliable payments solution
- Robust fraud protection
- Mobile-optimised site
- International cards accepted
- High fees for low sales
- The free version comes across as basic
What’s PayPal’s Payflow Gateway like?
Easy to use – An easy to use and flexible payments service that lets you tailor your online checkout to create the best shopping experience for your customers, including tweaking the layout to your brand’s desire
International – Sell products abroad and get paid from all over the world
Safe – An extra secure online payment solution with encryption and strict PCI compliance
Flexible – Supports all the main credit cards (including Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and even American Express)
A team player – PayPal Payments Pro integrates well with all main e-commerce platforms
Super speedy – The question on everyone’s lips – when do I get my money? – is where PayPal really is head and shoulders above the rest. Once you make a sale, you’ll be able to see the funds in your PayPal account almost instantly. By contrast, with many other payment processing providers you can expect a settlement time of two to three days
PayPal fees: What'll it cost me?
|PayPal’s transaction fees||1.9% plus 20p per transaction (for sales of up to £55,000 a month), 3.4%plus 20p per transaction (for sales under £1,500 a month)|
|PayPal’s monthly fees||Free via Web Payments Standard or Express Checkout, £20 a month via Web Payments Pro|
Is PayPal for me?
PayPal’s online payments system is flexible and intuitive enough to work wonders for small businesses and start-ups, even first-timers.
And don’t worry, your customers don’t need a PayPal account to use PayPal Payments Pro – software you can integrate with Payflow Gateway to create a customisable online payment solution.
Payflow Gateway is especially perfect for international businesses (or any with their eyes set globally), as it accepts a whopping 26 currencies in over 200 markets.
Want to learn about some of PayPal’s other offerings? Check out our dedicated review of PayPal Here, the company’s card reader.
3. Stripe: The best full service payment provider
Stripe is one of the most popular full service payment providers – that means it includes your payment gateway and your merchant account – and is the go-to for creating your own customised payment system.
Stripe pros and cons:
- Clear pricing with no hidden fees
- Intuitive platform
- Recurrent payment option
- Live sales reporting
- Great fees for EU cards
- Some tech know-how needed
- High fees for non-EU cards
- Up to seven-day settlement delay
What's the Stripe Online Payment System like?
Extra speedy – Digital wallets, including Apple Pay and Google Pay, give customers an extra speedy way of paying with Stripe, and you can save time with automated dispute handling too
Powerful – Stripe supports handy features like mobile payments, subscription services and one-click checkouts
Robust – Billions of pounds pass through this platform each year, in hundreds of currencies
Safe – Stripe offers secure payment processing with added authentication to protect you from fraud or costly chargebacks
User-friendly – Stripe’s handy dashboard that enables you to gain a 360 view of your payments
Clear – Even the pricing structure is as flexible as the software: you can choose to pay for the stuff you really want – and cut out any fluff
Nearly complete – You’ll just need your own website and shopping cart to get selling online
Stripe fees: What'll it cost me?
|Payment method||Fee per transaction|
|EU cards||1.4% plus 20p|
|Non-EU cards||2.9% plus 20p|
|SEPA Direct Debit||Free via Web Payments Standard or Express Checkout, otherwise 1% plus 20p (minimum £5)|
Is Stripe for me?
Stripe is a great online payments solution for small businesses in a range of industries – it’s already trusted by brands as diverse as Deliveroo, ASOS, Made.com, Pinterest, and Under Armour, to name just a few.
But the ultra-clear prices also make Stripe the ideal payment gateway, even for low-volume businesses who simply want to keep an eye on cashflow and avoid nasty surprises.
Plus, if you run a subscription service (like a magazine), you’ll like Stripe’s recurrent payment features.
But beware – while this platform has plenty of helpful guides, it was really designed for techie business owners who are after a suite of tools to help them build an online payment system themselves; so if you’re a total beginner it may not be for you.
Want to learn more about Stripe? Read our dedicated Stripe review.
4. Amazon Pay: Best for ease of use
Amazon's payment gateway gives your customers a nice ride with a familiar name, and keeps you in control of your online payments.
Many of us will know how easy Amazon makes the whole checkout process – over 310 million of us to be exact. And if that’s what you have in mind for your own marketplace, Amazon Pay is a great option.
It cuts down on admin both for you and your customers by recycling the details you and your customers have already provided in Amazon accounts, so people can sail through the purchasing stage.
Amazon Pay pros and cons:
- A trusted brand
- Quick checkouts
- Customer details are verified
- Good integration with sites
- High fees for low sales
- three to five-day settlement times
What's Amazon Pay like?
Generous – Amazon Pay has bags of ecommerce tools to help you sell your goods
Open – Amazon Pay enables you to complete transactions on your own site
Fierce – Sophisticated fraud detection technology helps shield you from bad debt, while Amazon’s free A-to-Z guarantee protects your customers
Sales-boosting – You can also help grow loyal customers with recurring payment options
Secure – Because Amazon customers have a trusted login, it’s easy for you to verify their accounts
Custom-fit – It's easy to customise using free plugins
Amazon fees: What'll it cost me?
Amazon Pay comes with no hidden costs, lock-in or monthly fees. In fact, with this online payment system you only pay for the transactions you make:
|Monthly Payment Volume (GBP)||Processing Fee||Authorisation Fee (GBP)|
|Less than 1,500||3.4%||0.20|
Is Amazon Pay for me?
Familiar payment gateways like Amazon and PayPal are more trusted by customers, and offer a smoother shopping experience.
Plus, opting for Amazon's payment gateway can help get more people through your checkout thanks to its efficiency.
5. Shopify: Best specialist payment gateway
As well as providing a payment gateway, Shopify is the UK’s favourite complete ecommerce system, offering everything else you need to get started selling online.
Shopify pros and cons:
- The full ecommerce package
- Free 14-day trial
- Cheap prices
- Over 100 customisable themes
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Costs more to pair with third parties
What's Shopify like?
Free trial – Shopify is one of the only online payment gateways to offer a 14-day free trial, so you can try out this ecommerce platform before you buy
No credit card needed – You can join Shopify, even without a credit card
Full-fat – Shopify is an all-you-can-eat full ecommerce package, and has all you need to get up and running
Cheap – Shopify is one of the cheapest payment gateways, and ideal for small businesses on a shoestring
Shopify fees: What'll it cost me?
Shopify’s transaction fees are all you’ll pay – including for web hosting, a shopping cart, a blog and an SSL certificate.
|Transaction fees||2.2% plus 20p (with the basic package), 1.6% plus 20p (with the advanced package)|
|Monthly fees||£23 (basic),£234 (advanced)|
|Fee to use an external gateway (only applies if you don’t use Shopify Payments)||2% (basic), 0.5% (advanced)|
Is Shopify for me?
Shopify was made for anyone who’s keen to take the hassle out of selling online.
If you’re looking for a complete online payment system that includes everything you need to start selling and taking payments online, Shopify is the number one specialist ecommerce solution for small businesses in the UK.
Want to learn more about Shopify? Check out our dedicated Shopify review.
6. Sage Pay Best for security
Once upon a time, Sage Pay was a small but ambitious UK start-up – 15 years later, it’s one of the most highly-rated payment gateways the world over.
Sage Pay pros and cons:
- Leading reputation
- Simple checkouts
- Clear, flat fees
- A trusted brand
- Some tech know-how needed
- Support calls cost 2p per minute
What's Sage Pay like?
Flexible – Sage Pay puts a range of payment methods at your fingertips, including mobile and online payments
In-depth – It’s a full payment solution, from start to end
Supportive – Supports all payment methods in around 30 global currencies
Customisable – You’re free to tailor your pages to your specific needs
Fast – You should see your money in your bank within two working days
Protective – The auto-invoicing function helps keep you safe (and your books in check)
Analytical – MySagePay gives you a clear snapshot of how your payments are looking
Goes the extra mile – Sage Pay’s virtual terminal enables you to take payments over the phone
Sage Pay fees: What'll it cost me?
|Sage Pay Flex||£20.90,
Credit Card of 2.09% Debit Card of 0.74%
|Sage Pay Plus||£45 per month
Credit Card of 2.09% Debit Card of 0.74%
Is Sage Pay for me?
Sage Pay is a leading online payment system with no hidden charges, and a pain-free checkout for your customers.
If you have an online store as well as a high street presence, Sage Pay could be a good option as it can also kit you out with a card machine for cohesion between your online and offline payments.
Which is the best payment gateway for me?
Tips for choosing the right payment gateway for your business
When it comes to payment gateways, there’s a lot to consider and it can be hard to streamline your approach. To help with this, we’ve created a handy list of what to look out for when it comes to choosing the perfect payment gateway for your startup.
This is important for both you and your customers. Keep your eye out for PCI-compliance (crucial for accepting credit card payments)
- Data portability
Who owns your customer’s data if you choose to leave your gateway?Make sure you know how to download and move the data you need to sustain your merchant services without breaking GDPR
- Hosted/integrated gateways – what’s the difference?
– A hosted gateway will redirect your customers to the payment processor’s platform (they’re easy to set up and ideal for new businesses)
– An integrated gateway connects to your eCommerce website via the gateway’s provided API (meaning that your customers will never leave your site to input payment information)
- The customer journey
Customers will be looking for convenience, clarity and security – things to avoid include too many steps and too many details required from the customer, as this will take too much time and increase the chances of the customer abandoning the purchase
- Cards accepted
It’s standard for payment gateways to accept all major credit and debit cards, but double check (and if the gateway accepts American Express, that’s a bonus – be sure to check the processing fees though!)
- Mobile optimisation
Phones are the future of e-commerce, and if your payment gateway isn’t geared up for smartphones, then you’re probably missing out on some serious sales opportunities
Each payment gateway charges a different amount for credit, debit and overseas transactions – so be sure to swat up on what the charges are and make sure you’re not going over budget
- Customer support
If your gateway goes down, you won’t be able to accept payment for your products (which is bad news for business) so it’s important that your payment gateway provider has an efficient customer support network that can help out with any problems, any time
The best payment gateways: in summary
|Payment gateway:||Best for…|
|WorldPay||Popularity and familiarity|
|Amazon Pay||Ease of use|
Compare payment gateways
Ready to nail down the right merchant account service for you? Keen to talk through your options? The simplest way to find the best payment methods for your small business is to talk directly to the UK’s leading providers today.
If you’d like to filter out the merchant account options that best match your needs and budget, try filling in the form at the top of this page to receive custom quotes from top providers.