The Best Virtual Terminals in the UK 2020

phone on table next to a computer

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 29 September 2020

Accepting payments over the phone is a simple, affordable way to grow your business. Read on to compare virtual terminal providers, and receive tailored quotes from top suppliers


Best forSuitable forMonthly feesTransaction feeTransactions included
WorldpayAll-round excellenceBusinesses of all sizesFrom £19 to £45 per monthNot stated350 to 850
Opayo24/7 phone, email, and Twitter supportSmall to medium-sized businesses£15Not stated100
PayPalGlobal brand powerExisting PayPal usersNone2.9% + 30pNone
SumUpEase of use and aestheticsMicro-merchantsNone2.9% + 25p per transactionNone
SquareAffordabilityEcommerce businessesNone2.5%None
PayVectorSimplicitySmall businesses only£2010p250
Web-Merchant ServicesFinancial reportingHigh risk businesses£10 per month1.6% + 20pNone

What is a virtual terminal?

Well, it’s got nothing to do with video games – or airports.

A virtual terminal is actually a simple, affordable way of taking payments over the phone. Neither your customer – nor their card – needs to be present. You just log in to a secure webpage, enter the customer’s card details, and voila.

You don’t even have to have a website – all you’ll need is a computer with an internet connection, and a merchant account to capture the funds. Sound easy? It is!

What’s less easy is choosing the right virtual terminal for your business. There are just so many providers in the UK, and all of them want your custom. But which one is cheapest? Which is the most secure? And which virtual terminal is the best for small businesses?

We’re here to answer all these questions, and more. Scroll on to get stuck into our expert reviews of the best virtual terminals in the UK – for small businesses and beyond. You can also start by cluing up with our FAQs, or answering a few quick questions about your business to receive tailored quotes.


Top 7 virtual terminals in the UK

Analysing price, real-time reporting, customer support, and ease of use, we researched and collated our top 7 best virtual terminals in the UK.

The best virtual terminals in the UK come from Worldpay, Opayo, PayPal, SumUp, Square, PayVector, and Web-Merchant Services.

They appear here in no particular order, because each provider is best-suited to a specific business niche or size – and what works for your competitors won’t necessarily work for you. 

Scroll on to find out which UK virtual terminal is right for your business.


Worldpay virtual terminal

Best all-round virtual terminal for UK businesses

Suitable for businesses of all sizes

With over 300,000 customers in the UK alone, Worldpay (now owned by FIS) knows what it’s doing when it comes to providing quick, simple ways of taking card payments. Its pricing plans have become a little murkier since it was acquired last year, though Worldpay’s virtual terminal still comes with some pretty pleasant perks: fraud management tools, no setup fees, and a basic support service. Sure, the interface isn’t winning any beauty pageants, but at least you don’t need to be tech-savvy to use it. Simply log in, get paid, and have yourself a cup of tea while you’re at it.

We recommend Worldpay’s virtual terminal to businesses of all sizes. However, its monthly pricing structure and minimum-term contracts mean that businesses with higher sales volume will get the most value from it.

Worldpay virtual terminal: How much does it cost?

Worldpay’s virtual terminal is included as standard with Worldpay’s monthly payment packages ‘Gateway Standard’ (from £19 per month, 350 transactions included), and ‘Gateway Advanced’ (from £45 per month, 850 transactions included). Pricing for ‘Gateway Enterprise’ is only available on request. 

You’ll need to upgrade to at least ‘Gateway Advanced’ to accept mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, and to take international transactions. To unlock 24/7 support, account management, and fully customisable capabilities, you’ll need to be on a bespoke plan.

To decide which of Worldpay’s virtual terminal plans is best for your situation – and to receive tailored quotes from leading suppliers – furnish us with some details about your business, and we’ll match you with the right provider for your requirements.

Pros:

  • 350 transactions are included with the monthly cost
  • Worldpay’s pricing packages also include a payment gateway, for accepting payments online
  • Includes a digital ‘pay by link’ service for busy business owners, too

X Cons:

  • PCI compliance comes at an extra cost
  • Interface is a little dated
  • Minimum contract applies
  • 24/7 support only available with a bespoke plan

Opayo virtual terminal

Best for 24/7 phone, email, and Twitter support

Suitable for small to medium-sized businesses

Once you get past the complicated, Inception-like nature of Opayo’s (formerly Sage Pay, now a part of Elavon) chain of acquisitions and name changes, there’s plenty to love about its virtual terminal. Built-in fraud screening is included as standard, you won’t pay extra for real-time reporting, and you’ll be taking payments in over 25 currencies. Best of all, you’ll get round-the-clock, UK-based support across several channels, and – if you’re willing to pay a bit extra – a dedicated account manager.

We recommend Opayo to small businesses, due to its low monthly fee. However, medium-sized and large businesses shouldn’t feel excluded – Opayo’s bespoke rates cater to enterprises, too.

Opayo virtual terminal: How much does it cost?

Opayo’s virtual terminal is available for £15 per month, with its ‘Small Business’ package. This includes 100 transactions, as well as 24/7 phone, email, and Twitter support. PCI compliance is included, naturally.

Opayo’s bespoke package, ‘Corporate’, scores you a dedicated account manager, and comes with a whopping 1,500 transactions per month.

Pros:

  • UK-based support
  • PCI compliant
  • It's a well-renowned and widely trusted payment provider (despite the name changes!)
  • It’s possible to process returns and refunds...

X Cons:

  • ...but doesn’t include an option to issue customer receipts

PayPal virtual terminal

Best for global brand power

Suitable for existing PayPal users

There’s a reason PayPal is a household name. And, while its virtual terminal is undeniably one of PayPal’s lower profile services, it still showcases the power and simplicity that’ve made the global powerhouse’s reputation. Its transaction and activity tracking capabilities are among the best, while its reports are easy to read and interpret. There’s also plenty to love about no setup or monthly fees, on top of flat, understandable, and transparent per transaction rates.

While all businesses can benefit from PayPal’s brand power, its virtual terminal is best-suited to small merchants. We’d also recommend this virtual terminal if you’re an existing PayPal user – you’ll receive quicker payouts, and see your hard-earned takings straight away in your PayPal account.

PayPal virtual terminal: How much does it cost?

There’s no monthly fee for PayPal’s virtual terminal – just a per transaction fee of 2.9% + 30p. Like SumUp and Square (which we’ll get to shortly), this allows PayPal to offer excellent value to small businesses – particularly those currently weathering COVID-19-related restrictions on opening hours and trade.

However, you should also be wary of some fees that lurk below the tranquil, idyllic surface of PayPal’s fee structure. There’s a currency conversion fee of 2.5% if you’re trading with overseas customers, plus a cross-border fee of between 0.5% and 2%.

Pros:

  • PayPal’s brand inspires consumer confidence and trust – and could boost your conversions accordingly
  • Quick payouts, particularly for existing PayPal users
  • Ideal if you mainly rely on UK or Western Europe-based customers...

X Cons:

  • ...not so much for the rest of the world!
  • Poor customer reviews
  • PCI compliance costs extra
  • Hidden fees may apply

SumUp virtual terminal

Best for ease of use and aesthetics

Suitable for micro-merchants

Like PayPal and Square, SumUp’s virtual terminal embodies a modern approach – a clean interface, simple setup, and nothing to pay except a straightforward, per transaction fee. That’s the long and short of SumUp's virtual terminal – but you can check out our dedicated SumUp review for the lowdown on its other merchant services, or see how it stacks up in a head-to-head against close rival iZettle (which is absent here, as it doesn’t offer a virtual terminal service… yet!).

SumUp’s lack of monthly fees make it suitable for micro-merchants and sole traders. However, the flat 25p levied on top of each 2.95% transaction fee that you pay means that SumUp’s virtual terminal is less ideal for merchants who trade mainly in low-value goods.

SumUp virtual terminal: How much does it cost?

SumUp’s virtual terminal comes with no setup or monthly fees, and incurs a cost of 2.95% + 25p per transaction.

Pros:

  • Excellent synergy with SumUp’s card machine range and ecommerce services
  • Affordable, simple rates
  • No contractual commitment
  • PCI compliance handled for you

X Cons:

  • Not suitable for businesses with larger transaction volumes (pick Worldpay for this)
  • Only available to ‘eligible’ merchants… whatever that means!

Square virtual terminal

Best for affordability

Suitable for ecommerce businesses

There’s so much to love about Square. First of all – it’s cheap! You’ll pay just a flat transaction fee of 2.5%, making it the most affordable virtual terminal for micro-merchants. It’ll certainly suit the more hands-off merchants out there, too – PCI compliance, dispute management, and data security are all handled for you. It’s easy to get set up (you can do it from your living room!) and even easier to take payments, with Square’s clean lines and accessible, polished interface. On-demand analytics place your business’ destiny firmly in your hands, while support is on hand from 9am to 5pm during the week.

Square’s low, percentage-based transaction fee makes it suitable for small merchants – and is particularly handy for those selling lower value goods.

Square virtual terminal: How much does it cost?

No setup fees, no monthly fees, and you’ll pay nothing for PCI compliance. Square’s virtual terminal costs just 2.5% per each transaction you accept through the interface.

Pros:

  • Ideal if you also want to create an online store
  • Robust knowledge centre provides quick, customer-generated issues to any problems
  • It looks beautiful, and is super easy to sign up

X Cons:

  • Some Square customers find their accounts suspended for little or no reason, because of fraud concerns

PayVector virtual terminal

Best for simplicity

Suitable for small businesses only

Put simply, PayVector is best for… simplicity! That’s because its virtual terminal comes as part of a package that also contains a payment gateway and a pay by link feature. This makes PayVector a handy, all-in-one payment provider for your business. And it’s not just easier for you – your customers also get a greater range of quicker, easier (and COVID-19 safe) ways to pay. Decent reporting and scheduling features are also included as standard. The end result? A reliable virtual terminal solution for your small business, albeit one that will probably prove too simplistic for larger setups.

PayVector offers a wonderfully straightforward approach to taking payments over the phone. Yet, due to the relative simplicity of its features vis a vis most other providers here, we don’t recommend it to medium-sized or large businesses.

PayVector virtual terminal: How much does it cost?

PayVector’s virtual terminal comes as part of a package, with its payment gateway and a pay by link tool included for just £20 per month. You get 350 transactions thrown in, and will pay just 10p per sale beyond that limit.

Pros:

  • You can sign up for a free ‘test’ account to try before you buy
  • Fully customisable, with white label solutions available
  • No setup fees
  • 100% uptime, so you’ll never miss out on a sale

X Cons:

  • PayVector’s virtual terminal lacks the same level of excellent customer support as other providers on this list

Web-Merchant Services virtual terminal

Best for its financial reporting capabilities

Suitable for high risk businesses

Looking for a no-nonsense, no-frills way of taking payments over the phone? With Web-Merchant Services, what you see is very much what you get. But that doesn’t mean it’s short of innovation – after all (pub quiz fact incoming), it was the first company to develop the virtual terminal as a payment method. It’s also been around for more than two decades, too – so it’s fair to say it has a good idea of what makes UK businesses tick. Whether your outfit sells CBD oil, adult films, or is just plain high risk, there’s a range of plans to cater to you – and a technical support team on hand 24/7 to back you up.

If you’re a high risk business, choose Web-Merchant Services’ virtual terminal. It’s made for you!

Web-Merchant Services virtual terminal: How much does it cost?

Web-Merchant Services charges £10 per month for its virtual terminal, with transaction fees ringing up at 1.6% + 20p. There’s no monthly charge if you’ve already signed up for one of Web-Merchant’s online payment solutions.

Pros:

  • Highly affordable, transparent rates
  • Enables you to set up monthly recurring payments
  • Impressive financial reporting capabilities
  • Virtual terminal available free when you apply for an online payments package
  • It’s nostalgic...

X Cons:

  • ...because the interface could have been pulled straight from the 1990s!

Next steps

So, what’s next? Well, it depends on where you’re at in your journey towards accepting card payments. 

To read more about virtual terminals, scroll on for our FAQs. Or, if you’re eager to learn more about the costs side of things, we can help – simply take 30 seconds to provide us with a few details about your requirements.

We’ll ask a couple of questions about how you want to accept cards, the size of your business, and what industry you’re in. Then, we’ll match you with top virtual terminal suppliers. 

They’ll be in touch to provide no-obligation quotes – all tailored to your responses, of course – all you have to do is decide which one (if any!) is right for you. 

The whole service is completely free for UK-based businesses, too.


FAQs

What is a virtual terminal?

A virtual terminal lets your business take payments over the phone, without the need for a separate phone line – or any specialist equipment. It’s a secure webpage that you log into to enter your customer’s credit or debit card details.

There’s usually no software to download, meaning you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection.

Put simply, a virtual terminal acts as a kind of digital card machine – because, of course, your customer (and their card) doesn’t have to be physically present.

What are MOTO payments?

Virtual terminals accept payments called MOTO (Mail Order/Telephone Order) transactions. You can take MOTO payments over the phone or through the mail (that includes fax, email, and the postal service).

Do I need a merchant account to use a virtual terminal?

Yes, you do. To start using a virtual terminal to take MOTO payments, you’ll need a merchant account. Conveniently, virtual terminals usually come as part of a package offered by a merchant account provider.

So what does a merchant account actually do? Well, it basically serves as a kind of holding pen for the funds you receive, before they’re sent to your business bank account. Every UK business needs a merchant account in order to accept contactless and chip and pin transactions.

How do virtual terminals work?

When you take a MOTO payment with your virtual terminal, it goes through a payment gateway. This authenticates the transaction, moving your customer’s money to your merchant account. When the funds clear, ka-ching – you’ll see the cash in your business account.

Who are virtual terminals suitable for?

Virtual terminals are suited for all businesses that sell stuff. Which… is all businesses! 

If you run a restaurant, you can use a virtual terminal to accept deposits on tables, or advance payments on big bar tabs. And if you’re in retail, you can sell your latest stock over the phone, or generate payment links for customers remotely.

Virtual terminals are, by their very nature, very well-suited for mobile businesses. Why? Because you can sell without a bricks and mortar premises – and without any cash having to physically change hands.

Virtual terminals are also ideal for businesses that don’t deal with large volumes of payments. Many providers offer virtual terminals as a ’pay as you go’ service, meaning you can use them to take phone payments on an ad hoc basis – rather than getting weighed down by monthly fees.

Virtual terminals that don’t charge monthly fees are PayPal, SumUp, and Square.


How we analyse and rate virtual terminal 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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