The Best Merchant Account Providers for Ecommerce in 2021

Person buying goods from an ecommerce store

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 25 February 2021

Find the best online merchant account for your business and build an ecommerce empire


So, you want to start selling online. A wise decision – ecommerce is booming, and will account for a staggering 95% of all retail purchases by 2040. But before you go cutting yourself a slice of that pie, you’ll need the right tools in place to start selling. You’ve already built a website – but that’s only half the battle.

To start taking credit and debit card payments online, you’ll require a merchant account. And not just any old merchant account, either – you’ll need one built for the rigorous demands of ecommerce, from a provider that empowers you to accept payments in a variety of currencies, and with a range of card types. And of course, you’ll also want low fees, and quality customer support. But how do you find the right supplier?

Don’t worry – we’ve done the hard work for you. Read on for our breakdown of the top merchant account providers for ecommerce. And if you’re ready to start comparing quotes, get a head-start with our quick, simple (and free!) quote-finding form. More on how that works below.


The best merchant accounts for ecommerce in 2021

We compared the vast range of ecommerce merchant account providers for UK businesses. As it turns out, the best UK ecommerce merchant accounts come from Worldpay, Fiserv, 2Checkout, PayPal, and Shopify.

Let’s find out why.


Worldpay

Best for UK businesses

Worldpay offers an ecommerce merchant account that’s as straightforward as it is flexible. And its range of online payment services is a hit with businesses of all sizes – 300,000 of them in the UK alone, in fact. Worldpay also brings specific expertise in the retail and video game industries, as well as offering one of the best merchant accounts for travel businesses – so it understands the challenges faced by growings SMEs. Combine all this with simple pricing plans and 116 compatible currencies, and you’ve got a formula for ecommerce success.

Expert Rating:

Better still, Worldpay also offer high risk merchant accounts for UK-based businesses. This isn't something all providers do – so if your ecommerce business dabbles in online gambling, pharmaceuticals, or adult entertainment, our research suggests you should start here.

Pros:

  • 24/7 UK customer support
  • ‘Business Manager’ tool lets you monitor your transactions in real-time
  • Compatible across multiple platforms
  • No joining fee

X Cons:

  • Poor online customer approval ratings

Fiserv (formerly First Data)

Best for fast-growing businesses

With half a century of experience and a massive global reach, US-based Fiserv provides a scalable, reliable merchant account for ambitious ecommerce businesses. Sure, it's rates aren't the cheapest – so, while it's well-suited to more well established online businesses, it's not as ideal if you're only just starting out on your ecommerce odyssey.

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Oh, and – even if you’re already set up with another merchant account provider – Fiserv makes it easy to make the switch. And why wouldn’t you? Its security and fraud management tools are some of the best you’ll find, and its industry-leading payment gateway solutions – which include both hosted and API options, for flexibility – will help take the friction out of your customers’ shopping experience.

Pros:

  • Detailed real-time reporting and analytics
  • Processes transactions in less than two seconds

X Cons:

  • Lack of transparency in pricing plans
  • Poor online customer approval ratings

Both Worldpay and Fiserv, like many merchant account providers, aren't super transparent about their pricing online. And by their very nature, merchant account fees tend to differ based on the size and sales volume of your business.

However, getting quotes that are tailored to your business – from Fiserv, Worldpay, or another Expert Market-approved supplier – is something that we can help with. Simply provide us with some details about your business by selecting one of the options below.

Compare Quotes From Ecommerce Merchant Account Providers and Save
It takes just 30 seconds...
1. Do you already have a merchant account? YES NO

We'll ask about your industry, how long you've been in business, and which merchant services – if any – you've used before. We'll also need a bit of info around the amount of sales you're expecting to take with card per month. But don't worry – we use your responses only to help score you the best deal on an ecommerce merchant account.

When you've finished filling in the form, we'll try to match you with one or more merchant account suppliers that match you requirements. If we're successful, these companies will be in touch with you directly to offer ecommerce merchant services advice, as well as quotes tailored to your business.


2Checkout

Best for global businesses

US-based 2Checkout provides scalable ecommerce merchant accounts to businesses to over 50,000 merchants in 200 countries around the world. With several striking payment forms, its ecommerce gateway works with your website to give your customers a better buying experience. Setup is quick and easy, and you can start taking payments within 24 hours. And though they’re across the pond, don’t fret – 2Checkout’s customer service team is available around the clock to answer your questions.

Our only gripe? It's more than a little pricey. While the ‘2Sell' plan is, admittedly, quite reasonable, you could be paying up to 6% + 45p per transaction with 2Checkout's premium plan. Explore 2Checkout's rates below.

2Sell2Subscribe2Monetize
3.5% + 25p4.5% + 35p6% + 45p

Pros:

  • Range of pricing plans offers flexibility
  • No monthly fee
  • Integrates quickly with more than 120 shopping carts

X Cons:

  • One of the more expensive providers
  • Not as focussed on the unique demands of UK businesses
Compare Quotes From Ecommerce Merchant Account Providers and Save
It takes just 30 seconds...
1. Do you already have a merchant account? YES NO

PayPal

Best for large businesses

Though not a traditional merchant account provider, PayPal is still globally respected as an easy, secure way to accept card payments online. Its sliding price scale makes PayPal’s fees cheaper the more transactions you take, which means big benefits for bigger businesses. It’s also a great option if you already have a PayPal account set up, as you’ll receive instant payouts. It’s got 24/7 customer support, and comes with the knowledge and experience of a true payment industry goliath.

Check out PayPal's sliding fee structure below.

Your sales volumeWhat you’ll pay
Less than £1,5003.4% + 20p
£1,500.01 – £6,0002.9% + 20p
£6,000.01 – £15,0002.4% + 20p
£15,000.01 – £55,0001.9% + 20p
More than £55,000Available on enquiry

Pros:

  • Trusted by seven million businesses worldwide
  • Huge range of shopping cart integrations

X Cons:

  • Sliding pricing plan means it’s ill-suited to small businesses

Shopify

Best for new businesses and start-ups

Built for those who love to build, Shopify is perfect if you’re a hands-on type, and if you’re looking to add some pizzazz to your ecommerce website. Shopify lets you build a stunning website – then start selling through it.

Shopify integrates with well over 100 payment gateways, and comes with drag-and drop functionality – so it’s easier than ever to sell in style. Plus, you’ll get access to all the data about your customers, takings, and orders from your mobile – all displayed in a simple, good-looking dashboard. Shopi-fine!

Pros:

  • No hidden fees
  • 14-day free trial available
  • 24/7 support and access to online community ecommerce forums

X Cons:

  • Not the cheapest option on the market
  • Prices on website only offered in dollars

FAQs

What is an ecommerce merchant account?

Ecommerce businesses require merchant accounts to accept debit or credit card payments. You can get a merchant account from a major bank or by online payment processors, and you do not have to choose the bank you use for business banking to provide your merchant account.

How much does an ecommerce merchant account cost?

Ecommerce merchant account fees differ by the supplier. Generally, though, you’ll pay a transaction fee – usually a percentage of the value of each sale. Some merchant accounts also come with a monthly cost, and occasionally a setup fee – so make sure you read the small print before signing on the dotted line.

Is an ecommerce merchant account the same as a business bank account?

Nope – they’re two separate accounts. Your merchant account is what lets you accept card payments online (or face-to-face, if you’re planning on opening up a bricks and mortar store). It’s like a holding pen, where these payments dwell for a bit before being released into the green pastures of your business bank account.

Your business bank account is where the funds you take online (or at the till) go when they’ve been validated – and, of course, after your ecommerce merchant account provider has taken its cut.

What is a payment gateway?

payment gateway (also known as an ecommerce gateway) is the software that works with your website to process, validate, and secure online transactions. It usually comes with your ecommerce merchant account.

A payment gateway can be hosted on the website of your payment provider to ensure PCI compliance. Alternatively, it can be integrated into your own website, to make for a smoother customer experience. A payment gateway is a crucial part of the infrastructure of online payments – so crucial, in fact, that you can’t start selling without one.

To get a better idea of how much you can expect to pay for an ecommerce merchant account, take a minute to fill out our free quote-finding form and compare quotes today.


How we analyse and rate ecommerce merchant account providers

At Expert Market, it’s our aim to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date, and transparent product and service reviews possible. So, to help you better understand the best merchant account options out there, we’ve conducted in-depth, extensive research into the payments industry and its top companies.

Here’s how we did it:

Independent researchers

We worked with two independent researchers over 60+ hours to rate 13 different merchant services providers – eight traditional (dedicated) merchant account suppliers, and five payment facilitators.

Our project assessed four separate varieties of payment methods, as well as nine specific features. Using a bespoke, industry-style algorithm, we rated each provider across four key metrics.

Ratings

  • Help and support: we assessed the level of customer support (such as email, phone, or live chat), as well as its availability (24/7, or weekdays only?), to provide a weighted score for each merchant account supplier.
  • Affordability: our affordability algorithm took into account the specific transaction and monthly fees for various transaction types, as well as any one-off costs. Our analysis also included contract length, package type, the flexibility of each providers’ pricing structures, plus the price of any hardware required.
  • Features: we assessed each supplier on up to eight specific features. We then weighted these scores, and translated them into a point value system. This allowed us to form accurate ratings for each merchant account provider, and make specific recommendations to you.
  • Customer approval: we assigned each provider a ‘customer score’, which involved seeking opinions from within the community, as well as feeding data aggregated from online sources into a unique algorithm. This allowed us to calculate overall customer approval scores for each merchant account supplier, in real time.

survey

We take the integrity of our research seriously. If you’ve got any questions at all about our research process, feel free to get in touch with Rob, our financial services specialist, at rob.binns@expertmarket.co.uk.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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