The 7 Best Payment Gateways in 2021 (UK)

Startups reviews the most popular online payment gateways and their providers to help you choose a secure payment system that has a price to suit your small business.

About us

Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a multi-time entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. This article was co-authored by:

We think the best payment gateway for small businesses is WorldPay. Its payment plans are flexible, making it good for scalability, plus it has smart security features, so your customers can feel confident when purchasing from your website.

A payment gateway is a necessity for businesses wanting to sell and take payment online. But there are a lot of different brands to choose from, many of them shouting about being the lowest priced or most feature-rich. This can make finding the right provider a difficult task – particularly for small businesses, that often have a more limited supply of resources to work with.

To make this easier, our experts have developed a simple online cost comparison tool to give you a bespoke recommendation to which payment gateway is the best choice for you. All you need to do is answer a few questions. It's completely free, takes only a minute, and does all the work for you.

Or you can read on for detailed reviews of the top 7 payment gateways that we've identified as the best for small business merchants in the UK, based on a number of key considerations including cost, security and available customer support.

By the end, you'll know everything you need to make an informed decision about which is the best payment gateway for your business.

Take card payment online
Does your business need to take online payments?

We can help you find the best choice for your business in minutes

Use our comparison tool
 

With a range of payment gateway providers out there, it’s important to get to know the market to find the best fit for your small business. Our comparison tool is the simplest way for small businesses to find out which payment gateway provider they should trust with their online sales. 

It uses simple questions to pair business owners up with payment gateway providers, significantly reducing the amount of research they need to do. It even allows them to save money by comparing payment gateway fees from several payment providers.

Or, you can 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.

Top seven payment gateway providers at a glance

Payment gatewayBest forStarting price
WorldpayPopularity and familiarity£19/month
PayPalTransfers2.9%+ £0.30 (no monthly fee)
StripeFull service2.9% + £0.20 (no monthly fee)
Amazon PayEase of use2.7% + £0.30 (no monthly fee)
Shopify PaymentsSpecialist gateway provider2.2% + 20p (with basic Shopify package)
Opayo (formerly Sage Pay)Security£25/month for 350 transactions
CardstreamCustomisation£18/month for 350 transactions

Pricing is correct as of July 28th, 2021


1. Worldpay: The UK’s number one payment gateway

worldpay screenshot

Worldpay is the UK’s most popular payment processing company. It currently processes around half of all payments taking place in the UK – and has some of the most flexible plans for small businesses.

However, dealing with Worldpay is like dealing with any large provider. Customer service will be hit and miss, especially if you do have account issues… but its payment gateway product is solid.

Worldpay pros

Ultra-secure payments

Flexible price plans

All major cards accepted

Pay by link capabilities save time

Worldpay cons

Variable transaction fees

Not a complete ecommerce package

Hit and miss customer service


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 that 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?

PackagePrice
Pay as you go2.75% + £0.20
Fixed monthlyFrom £19/month, plus 2.75% (credit cards), or 0.75% (debit cards).

Pricing is correct as of July 28th, 2021 

Is Worldpay for me?

If you’re in the market for a flexible offering (with no joining fee), Worldpay could be for you. With advanced fraud protection, 24/7 customer support, and a prolific reputation, you, your business, and your customers should be in safe hands with this payment gateway.

Its commitment to security and its ability to integrate with a range of ecommerce website builders and invoicing software doesn’t make it cheap, but as a trusted brand with a fairly decent customer service reputation, it’s probably worth the investment. 

Just make sure you’re aware this isn’t an end-to-end ecommerce solution, and you may need to team up with a third party ecommerce platform like Wix or BigCommerce in order to get online.

Would you like to know more about Worldpay? Read our dedicated Worldpay review!


Need to build an online store for your business?

An online shop will also be necessary for making those online sales. Check out our review of the best free ecommerce website builders for small businesses.

2. PayPal: Best for fast transfers

payflow payment gateway

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. With variable transaction fees, this payment gateway is nice and budget-friendly for businesses with ambitious sales – though less so for those with smaller targets.

PayPal Payflow pros

It's easy to pay with PayPal

Simple setup

A reliable payments solution

Robust fraud protection

Mobile-optimised site

International cards accepted

PayPal Payflow cons

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 payment gateway 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?

Fee typeCost
PayPal’s transaction fees2.9% plus 20p per transaction

Pricing is correct as of 28th July, 2021

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 payment gateway

Stripe is a full service payment provider – that means it includes your payment gateway and your merchant account – and is the go-to for creating your own customised payment system. Despite being trusted by huge brands including Deliveroo, Booking.com, and ASOS, Stripe is designed for businesses of all sizes, and gives you the option of a hosted payments page or full website integration.

Stripe pros

Clear pricing with no hidden fees

Intuitive platform

Recurrent payment option

Live sales reporting

Great fees for EU cards

Some tech know-how needed

Stripe cons

Unfavourable rates 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. Take payments from over a 150 currencies and receive them in pound sterling

Safe – Stripe offers secure payment processing with added authentication to protect you from fraud or costly chargebacks

User-friendly – Stripe’s handy dashboard enables you to gain a 360 view of your payments. There's even a mobile dashboard so you can check sales performance on the go

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 methodFee per transaction
EU cards1.4% plus 20p
Non-EU cards2.9% plus 20p

Pricing is correct as of July 28th, 2021 

Is Stripe for me?

Stripe is a great online payment gateway for small to medium businesses that operate in a range of industries, especially across Europe – in addition to offering a full-stack pay-as-you-go solution, it offers favourable rates for European cards. 

Its ultra-clear pricing makes Stripe ideal for low-volume businesses who simply want to keep an eye on cash flow and avoid nasty surprises. Even better is the fact that Stripe pays out in two days – one of the quickest transfer times – making it even easier to manage your money. 

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, and offers a hosted payments page for those that aren't too tech-savvy, those that make full use of its API will get the most out of its platform. 

Want to learn more about Stripe? Read our dedicated Stripe review.


4. Amazon Pay: Best for ease of use

Amazon Pay

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

A trusted brand

Quick checkouts

Customer details are verified

Good integration with sites

Amazon Pay cons

High fees for low sales

Three to five-day settlement times

Doesn't accept PayPal


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:

Fee typeCost
Processing fee2.7% + 30p

Pricing is correct as of July 28th, 2021

Is Amazon Pay for me?

There's no doubt that Amazon Pay is a good option for small businesses. Riding on the back of Amazon's brand, you can instil an element of trust, ensuring more people make it to the end of the checkout process.

In addition to its traditional checkout, Amazon gives you the option to embed ‘buy now' buttons into your website, and set up recurring billing.

One thing to mention is Amazon won't allow customers to pay with PayPal, however, there are ways around this if your customer has a PayPal cash card.

But with Amazon Pay enabling customers to pay simply by logging into their Amazon account, it's certainly a way of ensuring customers check out before they've had the chance to change their mind!


5. Shopify Payments: Best specialist payment gateway

Shopify payment gateway

As well as providing a payment gateway, Shopify is a popular complete ecommerce system in the UK, offering everything you need to start selling online.

Just bear in mind that if you choose to move away from Shopify Payments and integrate a third party payment gateway provider into your Shopify website, payment gateway fees will be less favourable!

Shopify Payments pros

The full ecommerce package

Free 14-day trial

Very affordable prices

Over 100 customisable themes

Abandoned cart recovery

Shopify payments cons

Costs more to integrate your site with a third party payment provider


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 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.

Fee typeCost
Transaction fees2.2% 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)

Pricing is correct as of July 28th, 2021 

Is Shopify Payments for me?

Shopify was made for anyone who’s keen to take the hassle out of selling online.

Thanks to a combination of attractive templates, search engine optimisation tools, and – most importantly – its in-house payment gateway, Shopify offers an easy and cost-effective way for small businesses to expand their sales channels.

So, if you’re looking for a complete online payment gateway that includes everything you need to start selling and taking payments online, Shopify Payments is an ideal contender for small businesses. 

Want to learn more about Shopify? Check out our dedicated Shopify review. Or, give their two-week free trial a go.


6. Opayo (formerly Sage Pay): Best for security

Sage card processing

Opayo is an all-in-one merchant account and payment gateway service. It's recognised for offering exceptional levels of security, while providing small businesses right through to large corporations fair rates for processing transactions.

Its payment gateway is fully customisable, which means you can create a checkout system that suits the feel of your website, and you can even choose Opayo for your face-to-face sales to keep all of your payment data in one place.


Opayo pros

Leading reputation

Simple checkouts

Clear, flat fees

A trusted brand

Opayo cons

Some tech know-how needed

Support calls cost 2p per minute


What's Opayo like?

Flexible – Opayo 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)

Goes the extra mile – Opayo's virtual terminal enables you to take payments over the phone

Opayo fees: What'll it cost me?

PackagePrice
Opayo Flex£25 per month
Credit Card fee - 2.09%
Debit Card fee - 0.74%
Opayo Plus£45 per month
Credit Card fee - 2.09%
Debit Card fee - 0.74%

Pricing is correct as of July 28th, 2021 

Is Opayo for me?

Although Opayo, formerly Sage Pay, has grown over the years, it still remains favourable with small businesses. The payment gateway provider hasn't forgotten its roots, with its small business packages ideal for those getting their online business off the ground.

With its online flex package costing £25/month, Opayo is great for small businesses that don't take more than 350 transactions per month. If you upgrade to its Online Plus package, you pay £45/month for 500 transactions – this is more on par with WorldPay's offering.

The downside to Opayo is the provider usually ties businesses into a three-year contract. That said, the provider gives very little reason to leave, with package upgrades, reasonable rates, and decent customer service all part of the deal.


7. Cardstream: Best for customisation

Cardstream payment gateway

Cardstream is a fully customisable payment gateway provider, enabling you to make branded payment gateway screens and receipts.

Unlike Opayo, Cardstream doesn't tie you into a lengthy contract. And while bigger payment gateway providers like WorldPay struggle with customer service, Cardstream seems to excel in this area. 

Because it's not attached to an acquiring bank, and its solution is white-label, it means there's certainly more to do when getting it set up. So, those looking for convenience may wish to choose an all-in-one solution.

Cardstream pros

Create a customised payment gateway

Independent from acquiring banks

Doesn't cost anything to set up

Doesn't set a transaction limit

Cardstream cons

Fees aren't transparent

Ties you into a 12 month contract


What's Cardstream like?

Customisable – Create your own branded payment gateway

Independent – Choose Cardstream no matter your acquiring bank

Recurring payments – Set up and accept recurring card payments

Currencies – Supports multiple currencies

Alerts – Alerts on chargebacks

Cardstream fees: What'll it cost me?

Fee TypeCost
Monthly Fee £18/month

Pricing is correct as of July 28th, 2021 

Is Cardstream for me?

If you're looking to create a professional end-to-end purchasing experience for anyone visiting your site or social media pages, Cardstream could be a winner. As the only ‘white label' payment gateway provider, businesses can create branded payment pages and receipts, ensuring familiarity throughout the entire user-journey.

In addition to being a white-label supplier, Cardstream isn't attached to an acquiring bank. This means you're free to choose a merchant account provider that offers the best rates for your business. Thankfully, Cardstream has relationships with the likes of Barclays, Worldpay, PaySafe, and loads more, so the provider really does give you the best of both worlds.

Cardstream offers businesses heaps of features, including chargeback alerts and the option to set up repeat payments – all for £18/month. £18 includes 350 transactions. After 350, Cardstream charges businesses 9p per transaction. While these rates are pretty good, bear in mind that you have your separate merchant account fees to consider, too.


Which is the best payment gateway for me?

The best payment gateway will make it cheap, easy, and safe for your customers to pay you, from wherever they find your products.

It will be secure, allow you to control your customers’ data, as well as offer a seamless customer journey that accepts all major payment cards.

The best payment gateway will suit your budget and offer support when you need it.

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.

Security – 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 gatewayswhat’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. 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

Fees – Each payment gateway charges a different amount for credit, debit, and overseas transactions – so be sure to read 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


Finding it hard to weigh up all of the above? It's a lot to consider at once, and means thinking simultaneously from the business and customer perspective.

Save yourself some time and effort by using our merchant services comparison tool. Take two minutes to answer some questions about what you need, and our custom-built tool will do the legwork for you. In minutes you'll have quotes for payment gateway providers that make sense for your business. 100% free, and can be a big time 9and money!) saver.

The Cheapest Payment Gateways

If you're operating your business on a tight budget and need to keep costs to a minimum, the three cheapest providers – who offer exceptional value for money, are:

  • Paypal 
  • Amazon Pay
  • Stripe

These providers proudly sit on the cheapest payment gateway podium, because unlike their competitors you pay zero monthly fees.

All you are charged is a small transaction cost, which for each provider is less than 3%.

Next step: compare payment gateways

Now you know all about the best payment gateways, you're 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. 

You can receive quotes based on your business needs specifically, allowing you to compare options that are relevant to your requirements – without comparing quotes, you could miss out on the most suitable packages.

Try answering a few quick and easy questions using our payment gateways comparison tool to receive custom quotes from the top providers, many of whom are featured in this article. 

Ross has been writing for Startups since May 2021, specialising in sustainable business and telephone systems. He also runs the successful entrepreneur's section of the website.

He's previously written for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME and is passionate about music, sustainability, and travelling. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

Back to Top