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14 best merchant service providers UK

A merchant account is your ticket to getting paid – online and off! Find the best merchant service for your business by comparing UK market leaders

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In today’s fast-paced, technology-focused market, we know how important it is for businesses to accept credit and debit card payments safely and securely.

Card payments now account for more than half of all retail purchases: whether you’re an online or high-street store, if you want to accept debit and credit card payments from your customers, you’ll need to set up a merchant account.

If this is a strange new world to you, we can help you out. Startups has been offering advice and guidance to small businesses for 20 years, and our team of experts are on hand to match you with top merchant account services. Simply complete our quick and easy form to tell us a bit about your business, and we'll send you tailored quotes based on your needs.

Our top picks for UK merchant services are:

  • Worldpay – the Nr.1 merchant service provider in the UK, a great all-rounder
  • PayPal – offers fast (instant!) settlement times and great for international payment
  • Barclaycard – high brand familiarity for earning trust of customers; fair prices
  • Elavon – has brilliant reporting and analytics functionality
  • RMS – boasts an outstanding customer score (best Trustpilot rating)

We'll also cover our top choices for the cheapest merchant services as well as the best high-risk merchant accounts for UK small businesses.

Best merchant services UK

The best merchant account providers offer a quality service, robust protection against fraudulent credit cards, easy integration with third party accounts, and above all, low, low costs.

In the comparative table below, you’ll see that we’ve helpfully listed the merchant account fees for each provider. Merchant fees refer to the money charged by the merchant service for processing credit card transactions.

Take a look at the table below to compare the best merchant services for UK small businesses:

Merchant service providerBest forMerchant service fees
WorldpayUK's number one processer1% for credit cards, 2% for debit cards +4p per transaction
PayPalInstant settlement timesFrom 1.9%
BarclaycardGreat service and fair prices0.85% + 3p
ElavonGreat reporting and analytics2.65% + 15p
RMSBest Truspilot rating2.65% +15p

Torn between providers? Or not sure which offers the best value for money? No stress. Our questionnaire has been tailor made to match your business with the best providers in minutes. Get started by giving us a few basic details.

Worldpay merchant services

Worldpay claims it’s the Number One payment processor in the UK. Given that it takes care of 42% of all card transactions in the UK (a whopping 400 per second), it is certainly one of the most popular merchant service providers that we’ve taken a look at.

Worldpay logoWorldpay offers some of the most flexible merchant services around.

Worldpay fees: 1% for credit cards, 2% for debit cards + 4p authorisation fee

Though it is the UK's most widely used merchant service providers, there are still both pros and cons to consider with Worldpay.


  • Some of the most flexible price plans for small business – including ‘pay-as-you-go'
  • Full merchant service provider: online payment, card machines and till systems
  • 24/7 customer support


  • £15 monthly minimum
  • 18 month contracts

PayPal merchant services

PayPal is probably the best known merchant service provider,  and that’s good news because it means your customers are likely to trust it as payment method.

PaypalPaypal is a trusted brand that offers instant settlement times.

PayPal fees: 1.9% +20p per transaction

Like any other merchant service provider, PayPal come with both pros and cons.


  • One of most well-known payment gateway brands
  • Comes with a robust PayPal Here card machine
  • Integrates well with third parties like Shopify and BigCommerce
  • Supports international payment


  • Higher transaction fees than some rivals


Barclaycard merchant services

Barclays merchant account includes a range of options to make taking payments quick and easy, so you can accept card payments in person, over the phone and online.

barclaycardBarclays Bank is one of the UK’s most reliable payment processors

Barclaycard fees: 0.85% + 3p

Find out about the pros and cons of Barclaycard's merchant services.


  • Mobile Barclaycard Anywhere card machine syncs with account
  • Barclaycard support a number of payment options


  • Bank transaction fees tend to be higher
  • Data security costs £2.40 + VAT each month


Elavon merchant services

Elavon has been supporting small business owners drive more sales through card payments for over 20 years now, and stands out for its comprehensive analytics to help you get squeeze more insight out of your numbers.

Elavon Merchant Services Logo

Elavon is a leading and trusted merchant service for UK small businesses

Elavon fees: 2.65%+ 15p

A trusted UK supplier, find out the pros and cons of Elavon's merchant service.


  • Next-day settlements available
  • All Elavon card readers can accept Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Decent reporting software


  • Fairly non-competitive transfer fees


Retail Merchant Services

As we write, over 45,000 small businesses in the UK and Ireland are processing card payments thanks to Retail Merchant Services. We like how transparent their fees are, with no nasty surprises (like early termination fees).

retail merchant servicesRetail Merchant Services has a Trustpilot rating of 9.7 out of 10

Retail Merchant Services fees: 2.65% + 19p

Retail Merchant Services have both pros and cons to consider.


  • Same-day fund transfer times
  • Card machines and virtual terminals on offer
  • Comprehensive payment gateway for ecommerce
  • Free legal advice


  • Software is less user-friendly than others
  • £4.95 monthly statement fee


So there you have it: our top 5 overall merchant service providers. And we still have lists of the cheapest, the best online, and the best high risk merchant account providers to go. Alternatively, save yourself the trouble and head over to our short questionnaire, and in a couple of minutes, our experts will match you with the best providers for your needs.

Tips for choosing a merchant service provider

  1. Type of merchant account
    You also need to keep in mind the type of merchant account you’ll need. For example, will you need to take card payments face-to-face, over the phone, by post, or online?Different merchant account services providers specialise in different types of accounts so it’s important to think about what you need before comparing who’s offering what.
  2. Extra services
    Another thing to look at is the additional services that each provider offers. Most merchant account providers also offer a range of other services, including everything from payment processing solutions and card terminals, through to virtual payments, and payment gateways. Consider which of these services will be beneficial to your business.
  3. Merchant account fees
    Finally, when you compare merchant accounts, one of the key things to consider is the fees associated with different accounts. Different providers offer different pricing structures, making comprehensive research essential.Look at whether providers charge set up and annual fees and, if they do, how much they charge. Some will charge these fees, whilst others won’t so it’s certainly worth checking.Other fees you need to look into include transaction fees, minimum monthly fees, chargeback fees, and early termination fees. We’ll look at the fees associated with merchant account services later on.

Do you have a merchant account?

Cheapest merchant service providers UK

The cheapest merchant services for small business are often aggregate merchant accounts, which tend to have no set-up or monthly costs and some of the lowest merchant fees. Aggregate accounts (or payment service providers) are a great way for small businesses to enjoy the cheaper merchant account fees that are usually only open to larger businesses.

They’re called aggregate because they pool the funds of several merchants (that’s you) with similar business types, so you can get a low fee even if your sales aren’t through the roof.

And don’t worry, payment service providers are completely safe – no one else’s credit score will ever affect yours.

Among the cheapest merchant services for small businesses are:

  • Payment Sense.
  • First Data
  • Payzone

Payment Sense is one of the most popular merchant service providers in Europe and offers capped card rates. First Data has a low monthly minimum of just £5 and is celebrated for its excellent customer service. Payzone can offer very low transaction fees and is very quick and easy for small businesses to set up.

Get more information on each below.

Interested in saving money? You’ve come to the right place. Our experts can match you with the merchant account provider that will offer you the best value for money, just as they did for more than 1,500 businesses in 2020. Just fill in a few details to get started.

Cheapest merchant services for small businesses

Merchant service providerBest forMerchant service fees
PaymentsensePopular European supplier0.96%
First DataCustomer service1.25%
PayzoneQuick and easy setup1.3%


Thanks to its tidy merchant account fees and decent customer service, Paymentsense is currently helping 600,000 of the UK’s small businesses get paid.

PaymentSense logoPaymentsense is one of Europe’s most popular merchant service providers

Paymentsense fees: 0.96% for debit cards, 0.75% for credit cards+ 3p authorisation fee

Interested in Payment sense merchant accounts? Find out about their pros and cons.


  • Some of the UK's lowest transaction fees: 0.96% for debit, 0.75% for credit
  • Well rated UK customer service
  • Capped card rates


  • £24.95 minimum monthly spend

First Data

With a £5 monthly minimum service charge, First Data is one of the cheapest merchant service providers for small businesses and start-ups.

First DataFirst Data is known for its top-notch customer service

First Data fees: 1.25% + 2p authorisation fee and 10p for credit cards

Read on below to find out about First Data's pros and cons.


  • Full merchant account solutions for ecommerce businesses
  • Low £5 monthly minimum
  • Till systems and card machines available
  • Hosted payment pages provided for ecommerce sites


  • 36 month contract
  • Limited customer support – not 24/7



For over 25 years, Payzone has been helping small businesses keep their merchant service fees low, without missing out on decent customer service.

Payzone logoPayzone is quick and easy to set up

Payzone fees: 1.3% for debit cards, 0.65% + 1p for credit cards, 3p authorisation fee

Discover Payzone's merchant service pros and cons.


  • 12 month contract – lower than most rivals
  • No setup or exit fees
  • UK customer service team
  • Low transaction fees


  • Customer support only available during working hours
  • No cash register rental options


Ready to begin comparing the  merchant services you've read about on this page? To get quotes today, simply complete our quick and easy form.

Best online merchant service providers UK

If you’re one of the UK’s growing number of entrepreneurs to set up shop online, you might just want an easy online payment system through a specific ecommerce merchant account.

This merchant account will work as your complete online payment processor, providing everything you need to start taking payments online via debit or credit card.

With the risk of card fraud, it’s important to choose a secure and reliable payment service provider that specialises in online merchant accounts, such as Stripe, Shopify or Amazon Pay.

Merchant service providerBest forMerchant service fees
StripeGreat for tech-savvy customers1.4% +20p for European cards, 2.9% +20p for international
ShopifyFull package offering1.6%
Amazon PayEasy and well-known3.4% +20p

Continue reading for more information on each of the online merchant service providers in the table above.

We have 20 years of experience helping businesses make good decisions. Let us help you make a great decision on your merchant account provider by filling in our quick and easy form. Doing so could save you time and money.

Stripe merchant services

Stripe is a leading merchant service provider and online payment solution for small businesses in ecommerce, SaaS (software as a service) and subscription services.

stripeStripe is great for tech gurus

Stripe fees: 1.4% + 20p (for European cards); 2.9% + 20p (for non-European cards)

Stripe's merchant services come with pros and cons like any other.


  • Stripe can protect you from charge-backs if you appeal
  • Stripe's Radar is a solid safeguarding system
  • 48-hour response time on customer service
  • Returning customers can save card details


  • You need some tech skills
  • High fees for non-European card transactions


Shopify merchant services

You may already be familiar with Shopify as one of the UK’s most popular ecommerce website builders, but Shopify now lets you accept card payments online as well as off.

shopifyShopify gives you the full package, including a Shopify card reader

Shopify fees: from 1.6%

Read on to discover a few of Shopify's pros and cons.



  • Pay extra to connect a third party processor to a Shopify website


Amazon Pay merchant services

Amazon Pay is Amazon’s online payment processing service, and lets customers pay with their Amazon accounts on external ecommerce websites (like yours).

With 122 million customers worldwide (and growing), this can be a hassle-free way of getting more customers through your checkout.

amazon payAmazon is nice and easy, but not the cheapest merchant service

Amazon Pay fees: from 3.4% + 20p

Discover the pros and cons of Amazon Pay's merchant services below.


  • It's easy to add Amazon Pay to a website
  • Free fraud protection included
  • A huge number of UK shoppers trust and shop with Amazon regularly


  • Amazon Pay chargers higher fees than rivals


How to pick an online merchant account

By opening your doors to customers all over the world, ecommerce merchant services often help businesses drive more sales than is possible from a bricks and mortar shop.

Here are three questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re a good match with your merchant account provider:

  1. Does this merchant service provider offer price plans and rates that suit my business’ size and likely revenue?
  2. Will I be able to accept most debit and credit cards my customers like to use (even if they’re international or contactless)?
  3. Is this merchant account compatible with my website’s shopping cart software?

Merchant accounts vs payment gateway providers

Perhaps you’ve also heard of payment gateway providers, but how are they different from merchant accounts?

A merchant account is really your contract with a credit card processing company – it lets you accept card payments in person (with card a machine) or online (with a payment gateway).

An online payment gateway is a specific type of card payment services for online businesses, and acts just like a virtual card machine, so your customers can pay by card on your website.

If you’re only in ecommerce, an online payment gateway like PayPal, SagePay or Paysafe might be all you need.

Read: The UK’s best payment gateways

Do you have a merchant account?

Best high risk merchant services

Many merchant service providers in the UK specialise in providing high risk merchant accounts to small businesses who have been turned down elsewhere.

If you’re a high risk business, you can apply to a specialist high risk merchant service. The most popular ones in the UK are: Allied Wallet, Instabill and Durango.

Here are the best high risk merchant accounts for small businesses.

Merchant service providerBest forMerchant service fees
Allied WalletSpecialises in online payments1.95%
InstabillHelps offshore small businessesTailored
DurangoSpecialised high risk providerTailored

To cover the risk they are accepting in letting you take card payments, merchant account providers look at many factors to decide whether to offer you an account, and what terms it’ll be on.

Businesses with a good credit rating, decent trading history, sunny future trading prospects that sit within a secure business sector often have an easier ride.

Just don’t be put off by the name high risk merchant accounts. There are a number of reasons why this might be the right type of merchant services for you:

  1. You have bad credit (or a history of bankruptcy), for whatever reason
  2. You can’t prove your credit history
  3. You work in an industry that’s considered high risk (including gambling, dating, travel and online healthcare)

Many start-ups also find they struggle to open a merchant account with a standard provider, merely due to a limited or absent credit card processing history. And this is where high risk merchant account providers come in.

Online? Cheap? High risk? Which is the most appropriate type of merchant account for your business? Give us a few basic details and we can help you answer that question in a matter of moments.

Allied wallet

As a global merchant account solution, Allied Wallet accepts payments in nearly 200 foreign currencies, and keeps merchants safe with robust fraud protection and PCI Level 1 Compliance.

allied walletAllied Wallet specialises in online payments and ecommerce businesses

Allied Wallet fees: from 1.95%


Ecommerce start-ups often enjoy quick approval from Instabill, and you can look forward international banking and international payment processing that adhere to standard merchant service procedures.

instabillInstabill comes to the rescue of small businesses trading offshore

Instabill fees: Tailored quotes only


With reasonable rates and decent support offered by dedicated account managers for customer service, Durango is a popular high risk merchant service provider for small businesses, and offers everything from card terminals to offshore accounts for global merchants.

Getting accepted by one of these merchant accounts can be a game-changer for small businesses.

But just be aware you’re likely to face higher merchant fees (such as set-ups fees, monthly minimum charges, higher transaction fees, longer settlement periods, rolling reserves, and annual fees), even if it’s just for the short term where you are building trust.

durangoDurango is a specialist high risk merchant account solution with fair fees

Durango fees: Contact for a quote

How to choose a merchant service provider

You’ll need a merchant account if you’re going to be accepting card payments for your business. And a good merchant service provider will help you process payments safely and affordably.

We spoke to small business owners around the UK, and here are the four key points to consider when choosing a merchant service provider:

  1. What’s in your business’ DNA? – What industry are you in? How big is your company? How long have you been in the game? All these factors determine your risk, and will affect your merchant service quote
  2. What type of payments will you be taking? – In person, over the phone or online? These factors can all determine which type of merchant account will be your best fit
  3. What services will you need? – Packages which include payment processing solutions, card machines, and even virtual payments are all possible (and combining them can save you money)
  4. What can you spend? – Taking card payments often more than pays for itself, but you’ll want to check you’re getting the best rate possible (keep an eye out for any of the fees above – not all may apply)

Read our reviews of all 14 merchant service providers and still don’t know which is the right one for you? Whittle down your choices with our tailor made questionnaire. It only takes a couple of minutes to be matched with the best providers for your needs.

Merchant account fees

Here are the main merchant account fees to expect:

  1. Set-up fees – You may face a set-up fee when you open a merchant account, just like joining a gym (but often not)
  2. Monthly charge – Some merchant account providers charge a monthly fee or even a minimum monthly fee for their services (but your card processing fees may cover this at no extra cost)
  3. Payment gateway fees – The payment gateway is the online payments system you use to take card payments (if you don’t use a third party, you may pay more tan with an all-inpackage)
  4. Credit card processing fees – You’re charged every time you process a card payment, usually between 1.7% and 3% of the sale (there isn’t really a way of getting round this, as it covers the risk taken on by your merchant service provider)
  5. Chargebacks – There are many reasons for a chargeback: perhaps the customer used a stolen card, or were unhappy and asked their issuing bank to cancel the transaction (luckily, these are rare)
  6. Deposit – If you’re new to the game, some merchant services want businesses to pay a deposit (sometimes as high as 10% of turnover) for the first six months (these are not common, and soon disappear)

Read: Our guide to credit card processing fees

Do you have a merchant account?

Merchant service providers: the FAQs

What do you need to open a merchant account in the UK?

If you’ve decided you need a merchant account, you’re probably wondering how to open one.

The good news is, it’s simple (though you will likely need to fill in a lengthy application to check everything is in order). Here are the six steps to getting up and running with a merchant account:

  1. Submit your application form – Usually online
  2. Provide any required information – Often details of your revenue and product or services (such as your current and projected turnover, business account details, and average transaction values)
  3. Supply proof of website – If you’re applying for an ecommerce merchant account, you may need to give your business website hosting and domain information
  4. Offer personal information – If applying as a new business (smaller businesses will sometimes need to undergo a credit check and give a personal guarantor to the account)
  5. Use your merchant ID (MID) – This code lets you identify transactions once you’re set up with a merchant account
  6. Install any equipment – Once you have an MID, you’re ready to start using any card payment processing devices such as credit card machines and electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems

How long will it take?

Opening a merchant account is easy, but the checks are comprehensive, since your merchant account provider will be taking on an element of risk in processing card payments for you.

In general, it takes between one and four weeks to go through, but in some cases it may be up to seven weeks.

The best thing you can do is get started as early as possible, so you can get on with taking card payments, and growing loyal customers.

What are merchant account fees?

Merchant account fees are charges made by a merchant service to the vendor when credit cards are processed. The fee itself is calculated as a percentage of each credit card sale.

Debit card transactions often come in at a discounted charge, and are oftentimes free.

How do you take payments online?

To take online payments, your business will require a Payments Service Provider (PSP): a system that allows you to receive online payments.

In other words, a PSP is a payment gateway that automatically processes card transactions – protecting both company and customer from fraud – and takes a small cut for itself in the process.

Popular payments service providers include the likes of Stripe and PayPal. Take a look at our Stripe payments review for a side-by-side comparison of the two.

Compare merchant services UK

Want to make sure you get the cheapest merchant service and best merchant account for your business? To get tailored quotes for you to compare, just use our free quote-finder.

Hopefully, this page has kitted you out with everything you need to make an informed decision. The best way to really decide which merchant account provider is right for you, though, is to speak to a supplier, and compare their best quotes in three easy steps:

  1. Fill in our form – Tell us what you’re looking for to get matched with the best merchant services for you
  2. Talk to leading merchant service providers – Save time by going directly to the suppliers, and see what quotes they can do for you
  3. Compare quotes – Shopping around is the best way to get a great deal

Merchant accounts can vary greatly from supplier to supplier, and it’s not always easy to decipher which provider represents the best value for your particular business. Our free quote-finder is designed to do just that. Just answer a few simple questions and we’ll find the best value merchant service providers for your business.

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Aimee Bradshaw
Aimee Bradshaw

Senior Writer and Researcher

Aimee is Startups' resident expert in business tech, products, and services. She loves a great story and enjoys chatting to the startups and small business community. Starting her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she has a healthy respect for self-starters and local services.

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