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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

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We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.

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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).

So you want to take online card payments? You’ll know that you need a payment gateway, which allows you to quickly and easily enhance your business’ payment offering. 

A payment gateway allows you to increase the ways in which your business can accept payments, and so helps create the potential for more sales. By more efficiently managing the payments that come in through your website, this helps to improve your customers’ experience, as well as freeing up time for you to focus your efforts on other areas of your business that need your attention.

With a range of providers out there, offering a range of pricing options, it’s important to get to know the market to compare quotes and providers, with the aim of helping you to save money and find the best fit for your business. 

Top seven payment gateway providers at a glance:

Payment gatewayBest forStarting price
WorldpayPopularity and familiarity£19.95
StripeFull service£15
Amazon PayEase of use3.4% processing fee per transaction
Shopify PaymentsSpecialist gateway provider£23/month
Sage PaySecurity£20.90/month

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 our quick comparison form 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 go2.75% + £0.20
Fixed monthlyFrom £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.

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!

Want to get quotes directly from merchant account providers? Simply answer a few quick questions, and you'll receive bespoke quotes from the suppliers who can provide what your business needs.

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?

Fee typeCost
PayPal’s transaction fees1.9% 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 feesFree 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.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive payment service provider that can provide physical card machines and POS products for your brick-and-mortar shop – as well as stellar ecommerce solutions – why not check out our reviews of Payzone UK and First Data, as these could be great options for you.

Do you have a merchant account?

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 methodFee per transaction
EU cards1.4% plus 20p
Non-EU cards2.9% plus 20p
SEPA Direct DebitFree 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,, 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 pay

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 FeeAuthorisation Fee (GBP)
Less than 1,5003.4%0.20
Above 55,0001.4%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 Payments: 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:

Shopify cons:

  • Costs more than some other providers 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.

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)

Is Shopify Payments 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 Payments is a payment gateway provided by the number one specialist ecommerce solution for small businesses in the UK.

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

6. Sage Pay Best for security

sage pay

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.

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.

Cardstream pros and cons

  • Create a customised payment gateway
  • Independent from acquiring banks
  • Doesn't cost anything to set up
  • Doesn't set a transaction limit
  • 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?

Monthly fee£18/month

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.

Cardstream as a whole offers businesses heaps of features, including chargeback alerts and the option to set up repeat payments. While a great product, you'll need to get in touch with Cardstream directly for accurate pricing.

Which is the best payment gateway for me?

The best online payment system 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, 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
  • Fees
    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

Best online payment providers UK

Our research shows that the best online payment providers for UK businesses are:

  • WorldPay – has pay-by-link capabilities, flexible price plans, and accepts all major cards; good for popularity/familiarity
  • PayPal – simple to set up and use and offers robust fraud protection; best for fast online payment transfers
  • Stripe – offers live sales reporting, clear pricing and great fees for EU cards; best full service provider
  • Amazon Pay – allows for quick checkouts and is a familiar, trusted brand; best for ease of use
  • Shopify Payments– a full, low-cost ecommerce package that's customisation to over 100 themes; best specialist online payment gateway
  • Sage Pay has simple checkouts and has a leading, trusted reputation in the industry; best for security
  • Cardstream – offers a fully customisable payment gateway page, and lots of features, including recurring payments

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. 

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.

Now you know the kind of range on offer, would you like to filter out the merchant account options that best match your needs and budget? Try answering a few quick and easy questions using our payment gateways comparison tool to receive custom quotes from top providers.

Compare Card Payment Quotes Today. Compare and save.

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Bryn Glover
Bryn Glover


As Editor of Startups, Bryn runs content strategy and our annual campaigns. A lover of small business, you can find him writing about exciting entrepreneurs and UK industry trends.

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