The Best Merchant Services for Hospitality in 2021

best merchant services for hospitality - featured image

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 22 February 2021

Dine out on our reviews of the finest merchant service providers for UK businesses


It doesn’t matter whether you’re in silver service, or running a food truck. If you want to start taking payments – and we assume you do – then you’ll need a merchant account. And you’re in luck – because there’s a whole buffet of companies offering merchant services for the hospitality industry.

Tuck into the list to your left to view the best merchant accounts for hospitality, sorted by business type. You can also pig out on our FAQs below, or skip straight to dessert with our free, no-obligation quote-finding webform.


The best merchant services for hospitality in 2021

Our team of in-house experts looked at the range of UK merchant services on offer, and what they can offer you.

Honing our focus to cater specifically to hospitality businesses, we spent over 60 hours researching 13 of the UK's top payment providers.

The results are in, and they show that the best restaurant merchant services come from takepayments, Fiserv, Retail Merchant Services, Handepay, Worldpay, and Zettle.

What you’ll find here are dependable, no-nonsense merchant account providers that are tailored to the unique demands of the hospitality industry – whether that's running a big bar, small cafe, or tiny market stall selling artesenal amaretto. Expect good value, great customer support, and a simpler approach to accepting card payments – shall we begin?

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1. Does your hospitality business already accept card payments? YES NO

takepayments

Best for restaurants

With the shortest contracts on the market and seven-day customer support, takepayments (formerly Payzone) offers merchant services that are both simple and honest. takepayments's small, lightweight PDQ machines are perfect for eateries of any size. Serving coffee and cake from the counter? Bustling around bringing bills to a room full of brunchers? However your restaurant operates, takepayments offers an easy – and good-looking – way of getting paid.

Pros:

  • Teamed up with UK-based EPOS Now to offer full Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) solutions
  • Excellent online reviews – it's literally rated 'Excellent' on Trustpilot
  • Has spent more than a quarter of a century working with UK businesses
  • Pays out the next day, to help small and medium-sized businesses receive their earnings quicker

X Cons:

  • Be careful of the auto-renewing contract!

Fiserv

Best for cafes

Fiserv (formerly First Data) is so much more than a merchant account. With its low fees and quick credit card processing, it'll help your business grow – and if you've always wanted to spruce up your counter with a beautiful EPOS system, then look no further. Fiserv (via the 2013 acquisition of Clover, one of the UK's best EPOS suppliers) to offer a dynamic solution that's fully tailored to cafes. What’s more, it makes switching from your current provider easy, and will shell out up to £150 to cover your costs. Tasty!

Pros:

  • Give your customers the opportunity to reserve tables and order takeaway online
  • Fiserv also offers bespoke packages for bars, pubs, restaurants, and salons

X Cons:

  • Online Trustpilot approvals are average
  • Customer support not as strong as some other providers

Retail Merchant Services

Best for pubs

The name might be a bit of a mouthful, but UK-based Retail Merchant Services (RMS) offers merchant services for hospitality that are anything but complicated. Expect hassle-free setup, cracking customer support, and some of the finest, most feature-rich card machines for small businesses. Speed up service, and get through more customers – crucial in a busy pub service environment. Plus, processing fees are low, and RMS offers same day settlement of funds– meaning you’ll get payouts days quicker than with some competitors.

Pros:

  • Award-winning customer service with strong online approval ratings
  • Experience in the industry

X Cons:

  • Lack of transparency regarding exact pricing

Retail Merchant Services has certainly earned plenty of stripes in the industry. Read about how the company helped a seaside gastropub boost its business. 


Handepay

Best for takeaways

We love Merseyside merchant services mainstay Handepay. It has glowing customer reviews, and zero hidden fees. On top of this, it’s dedicated to helping UK businesses not only grow, but save money, too. That’s right – you’ll get a thousand pounds if Handepay can’t save you money. It’s easy to switch to, with fees that are easy to understand. And if you get stuck, its 24/7 support centre means it’s easy to get a hold of someone, too! Why keep fish-ing around for a good deal, when Handepay's merchant services for takeaways are, well…cheap as chips!

Pros:

  • Tailored for businesses like takeaways and small restaurants
  • Fully PCI DSS compliant

X Cons:

  • You may have to sign up for a longer contract

Worldpay

Best for hotels

Working at a hotel, you’re not just taking payments at the front desk. You have to accept room and dinner bookings online and over the phone. That’s where UK giant Worldpay comes into its own. It lets you give your guests more ways to pay by card, while you benefit from the flexibility of its pricing plans. Plus, Worldpay understands the hotel industry; it’s a trusted partner of hotshot hotel chains Radisson and Park Inn. But it’s not just the big boys that Worldpay is boosting – with over 300,000 clients, it’s a boon for businesses of all sizes across Britain.

Pros:

  • Mobile-optimised payment pages help to maximise sales and bookings
  • ‘Worldpay Total’ brings together all the payment methods your hotel needs
  • 24/7 UK-based support

X Cons:

  • Doesn’t boast the best online customer approval ratings

Zettle

Best for popups

Quite literally made for small popup bars and restaurants, Zettle (formerly iZettle) offers a versatile card reader is as popular as it is practical. It pairs with your smartphone and connects to wifi or a 4G connection, making it perfect for ‘popping' up wherever you do. And for small businesses, it’s almost unbeatable for price. The reader itself can be bought for as little as £29, and all you need to fork out is a single, fixed fee per transaction. Better still, it won’t take up much space in your shop or stall – it’s small enough to fit in your trouser pocket.

Pros:

  • One of the cheapest merchant services for small businesses
  • Good customer support and online approval ratings
  • Takes payments in seconds
  • Great for ecommerce

X Cons:

  • No weekend phone support
  • Ecommerce transaction fee is high
  • Not as suitable for businesses with higher sales volume

Next steps

Looked at the menu, but still can’t decide which merchant account for hospitality is best for your business? We don’t blame you. The service you pick depends on all sorts of factors; your premises, your budget – even your wifi connection! Let’s sum up.

takepayments is great for ease of use, and with Handepay, you’ll get sterling support. Worldpay and Fiserv provide the backing of huge industry names, and are ideal for hotels and restaurants of all sizes. Mobile businesses, though, should plump for Zettle.

If you’re still not sure, why not give our form a go? It only takes a minute, and here’s what you can expect:

  1. We’ll ask a couple of questions about the kind of card payments you want to start accepting
  2. We’ll match you with the right merchant services providers for hospitality
  3. You’ll receive quotes from Expert Market-approved suppliers

To get started, hit one of the buttons below to answer the first question. Happy researching!

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1. Do you already have a merchant account? YES NO

FAQs

What do I need to take payments at my hospitality business?

We know that you need a merchant account to start taking payments at your bar, restaurant, or hotel.

When you sign up with a merchant account provider, you’ll get a card machine to accept payments. Depending on the package and provider, you’ll also get a payment gateway, for taking reservations online. And for an extra charge, you can purchase a virtual terminal – a browser-based tool, which allows your hospitality business to take payments over the phone – as an add-on.

But if you really want to grow your business – and give your customers the best possible service – you’ll need more. That’s right – you’ll need to grow your point of sale first, with the help of…

An Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system

If your card machine is like the simple spaghetti of your point of sale, then an EPOS system is like the meatballs.

An EPOS system includes everything your staff need to take quick, convenient payments. Think the cash register, the receipt printer, and the screen you use to clock up sales.

EPOS systems are often, but not always, provided as part of your restaurant merchant services package. You’ll need one, so make sure you know what deal you’re getting when choosing a provider.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

If the EPOS system is the meatballs, then a CRM system has to be the Bolognese sauce. CRM software lets you build up a database about your customers’ culinary likes and dislikes, which means you can reward your most frequent visitors with discounts – and run loyalty campaigns to keep them coming back for more.

What merchant account for hospitality fees can I expect to pay?

Merchant account fees in the hospitality industry come in several shapes and sizes. Expect to pay all, or a mixture of the following:

Transaction fees

Whether it’s a breadstick or a beefburger, you’ll pay a portion of every card transaction that takes place at your restaurant or bar. It’s usually a percentage, but can also be a flat rate – or a mixture of both.

Setup fee

This one is what it says on the tin – a one-off admin cost to get you started with the merchant account and card machine installation.

Monthly fees

Many card providers impose a minimum monthly service charge (MMSC). It’s basically a charge for not taking an agreed minimum amount in card payments every month. Restaurant merchant services will also typically charge a monthly PDQ rental fee, too – so read the small print carefully.

What do all these fees have in common? Well, they all differ from one merchant service provider to the next. Also, they’re all pretty hard to understand!

Let us do the work for you. Partake in our quick, free quote-finding form and start comparing top suppliers today.

How we analyse and rate the best merchant services for hospitality

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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