Top 9 Online Payment Methods for Small Businesses

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | 10 June, 2020

Find the best online payment provider for your business and never miss a sale


Even before COVID-19 closed bricks and mortar businesses, around 87% of all purchases in the UK were made online. Now, consumers are making more ecommerce purchases than ever – and are showing few signs of looking back. So, are you equipped to accept payments online?

If not, you’re missing out on big business. Getting an online payment method set up is so much easier than you think. Plus, it's the best way of safeguarding your business against COVID-19 in the present, while preparing it for the whims and uncertainty of the future.

We looked at the range of online payment providers on the market and handpicked the best solutions for your small business. We took into account features like brand trust, price, and the level of phone support available. We also read online reviews to find out what other small business owners are saying.

So read on, and find a payment provider to help take your business to the next level. Or, if you're short on time, tell us about your business' requirements, and we'll match you with leading online payment providers, who'll provide you with quotes tailored to your business.


The best online payment methods

Our top online payment providers are Stripe, PayPal, Worldpay, SagePay, Square, Braintree, takepayments, Handepay and Shopify.

The best online payment methods for small businesses in the UK:

  1. Stripe: best method for flexibility
  2. PayPal: best method for global reach
  3. Worldpay: best all-round payment method
  4. Sage Pay: best method for quick payouts
  5. Square: best method for simplicity
  6. Braintree: best method for innovation
  7. takepayments: best method for short contracts
  8. Handepay: best method for affordability
  9. Shopify: best method for creativity


Stripe

Best for flexibility

With attractive and flexible options for taking payments online, there’s a reason Stripe is one of the big names in the industry. Stripe’s emphasis on design and integration makes it easy to build your own payment form, completely customised with your own branding. This ensures your customers get a payment experience that looks and feels the same as when they’re browsing your website, and helps you earn trust and boost conversions, all while building your brand.

Stripe also offers a payment form you can embed into your website. This means your customers can easily pay there and then, without the annoyance of getting redirected somewhere else. All in all, Stripe offers a simple and intuitive interface to smooth your customers through the payment process. And the best bit? It’s cheap!

Pricing

Stripe charges 1.45% of the transaction, plus a 20p transaction fee (2.9% + 20p for non-European cards).

Pros:

  • Process Bitcoin payments and cash in on the crypto-currency craze
  • Payment form available in 12 languages

X Cons:

  • Customer service is lacking compared to other online payment providers
  • Read the terms carefully – Trustpilot reviews tell of Stripe holding money and closing accounts without notice
Want to start taking payments online? Get free quotes
Did You Know?

Online conversion rates increased 8.8% in February, indicating a level of online purchase fervour normally reserved for Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays.


PayPal

Best for global reach

PayPal is a household name trusted by 17 million businesses worldwide. With PayPal, you can accept payments in over 25 currencies around the world – perfect if your business goes beyond borders. It's also one of the most versatile solutions out there – you can accept online payments via your website, invoices, or subscriptions and recurring billing. And, if you want to accept payments over the phone, PayPal's virtual terminal involves no setup, no software, no coding, and no faff.

Pricing

If your business is based in the UK, PayPal charges 2.9% of the transaction, plus a fixed fee of 30p. You'll also pay an additional fee relating to where your customer is making the purchase from – 0.5% if that's within Europe, and up to 2% for Canada and the US.

Pros:

  • Level of brand trust worldwide can increase chance of conversion

X Cons:

  • Customer is redirected away from your website to make the payment
  • Users need to have (or create) an account with PayPal to complete transaction

Worldpay

Best all-round provider

Worldpay (though now a part of FIS Global) is still a big name when it comes to accepting online payments. You can take payments in 116 currencies for a start, and its online payment gateway offers advanced protection from fraud. It’s also PCI compliant, so you don’t have to fret about the small print!

Better still, Worldpay's online reporting tools are some of the best. Its online dashboard allows you to manage your card sales, invoices, and settlements, all while crunching the numbers that matter most to your business.

A Worldpay payment page can be hosted on their site or integrated within your own website, offering flexibility. And while you’ll need to spend some time deciphering their pricing plans, you’re sure to get a deal that’ll reflect the unique qualities of your small business.

Pricing

On a pay as you go plan you’ll pay 2.75% + 20p transaction fee. On a monthly plan, expect to pay a £19.95/month fixed online payment gateway, fee plus 2.75% + 20p per transaction. If you're taking more than 1,000 card payments per month, you can contact Worldpay for a better rate.

Worldpay also charges a fee for PCI compliance, which amounts to £29.95 per year.

Pros:

  • 24/7 customer support within the UK
  • Range of pricing plans offer flexibility

X Cons:

  • Like PayPal, it’s expensive – almost double the cost of Stripe for each transaction
Ask The Experts
Question symbol

What’s the difference between a virtual terminal and a payment gateway?

lucy
Lucy Crossfield
Editor
Both are ways of accepting payments. A virtual terminal allows you to take payments over the phone as well as in store and via mail. Virtual terminals are essential if you don’t do business face to face. They’re also a great tool for tracking payments and storing your customer data.

A payment gateway is what your customers use when buying something online. It can be integrated within your website or hosted on a separate page. A payment gateway takes the payment, helps safeguard against fraud, and checks if the buyer has enough funds on their card.


Sage Pay

Best for quick payouts

Processing millions of payments a month for over 45,000 businesses, Sage Pay is making waves. Its powerful cloud-based reporting and integration features let you manage different parts of your business with one tool, while its payment pages look slick on your website. Oh, and you can use Sage Pay alongside Sage's wide range of other productivity tools for business, including its CRM (customer relationship management) system and accounting software.

And when it comes to the best part of the process – you getting paid – Sage Pay doesn't mess around. It releases payments within two days, rather than the seven you can expect with other providers.

Pricing

For Sage Pay's cheapest plan, Flex, you’ll pay a monthly fee of £27, with 350 transactions and 24/7 customer support included. Upgrading to the next plan up, Plus (£45 per month) allows you to accept a range of local European online payment methods. You can request a quote for Sage Pay's corporate pricing, which gets you over 3,000 transactions per month, and a dedicated account manager.

Pros:

  • Round-the-clock phone support included
  • Offer other services like payroll and accounting to help you grow your business

X Cons:

  • One of the more expensive providers out there
Want to start taking payments online? Get free quotes

Square

Best for simplicity

If you want to start taking online payments but don’t have an online store, Square can help you build one. It's partnered with easy-to-use website builders like Wix, Weebly and GoDaddy to help you get online and start selling.

Square offers API integration so you can take payments from your own website. It aims to cut out the hassle of keeping tabs on your online transactions, letting you track all your sales from one place. And, while the price is on the expensive side, there’s no cost to sign up or any hidden fees, and PCI compliance is handled for you.

Pricing

Square charges a 2.5% transaction fee for all card-not-present transactions, which include ecommerce payments, invoices, and those keyed-in or made through a virtual terminal.

Pros:

  • They won’t ask you to commit to a long-term contract
  • Simple pricing

X Cons:

  • Phone support only available Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm

Braintree

Best for innovation

Combining innovation with the backing of online payments giant PayPal, Braintree is a growing ecommerce force. It offers a range of custom ways to embed its checkout form within your website, and is suitable for everyone: from the first time payments newbie to the experienced code-dabblers. Braintree also boasts an array of third-party app integrations including Salesforce, allowing you to combine the power of payments and customer data for 360-degree visibility over your business.

Braintree also offers intelligent tools to prevent fraudulent transactions, and help keep your money safe online. And with low rates and zero setup fees, it’s an affordable solution for your small business.

Pricing

Braintree charges a transaction fee of 1.9% + 20p per sale, with no hidden or monthly fees to speak of.

Pros:

  • Low, simple, and transparent fees
  • Accepts payments in over 120 currencies

X Cons:

  • Can be a long and difficult process to set up Poor online reviews
Did You Know?

Two in five UK shoppers say they will make more frequent purchases once lockdown ends, according to data from Dynata and ChannelAdvisor.


takepayments

Best for short contracts

With over 30 years of experience, takepayments (formerly Payzone) is an established online payment method for your business. There’s no cost to join. Its 12 month contracts are some of the shortest on the market. And after your contract is done, it won’t cost to leave.

takepayments provides both payment gateways and virtual terminals. Its ‘Pay by Link’ feature lets you easily send payment links to customers, too – great for if you’re dealing with small, bespoke transactions, and for keeping your business going through tough times (such as global pandemics).

Pricing

takepayments plans are tailored to your business and you’ll need to contact them for a quote. Better yet, compare quotes instantly by taking a minute to pop your details into our short form.

Pros:

  • Good relationships with acquirers like Elavon and Barclaycard

X Cons:

  • Customer support can be slow and phone wait times long

Handepay

Best for affordability

With an overwhelming 94% of Trustpilot reviewers awarding five stars, Handepay is the clear people’s favourite. And, quite frankly, it's not hard to see why.

Backed by 24/7 customer support, a lack of hidden fees, and hassle-free signup, Handepay ticks all the boxes for small businesses. It also includes a rather unique selling point…

If you already accept online payments, Handepay will carry out a no-obligation review of your current deal. If it can't save you money with a better deal, it'll give you £1,000. Not bad!

Handepay accepts all major credit and debit cards and its real-time reporting rivals the big names. And you’ll only play a flat monthly fee, avoiding those pesky transaction fees cutting into your profits.

Pricing

Handepay charges £19.99 per month for a package that includes both a payment gateway and a virtual terminal. This includes 400 online transactions – any more than that will incur a flat fee of 10p per sale.

Pros:

  • Claim they will pay out £1,000 if you can find a cheaper deal
  • Impressive customer service record

X Cons:

  • Expensive to get out of a contract early
Want to start taking payments online? Get free quotes

Shopify

Best for creativity

Shopify’s ecommerce platform gives you the chance to get creative. Its online store builder invites you to create a stunning platform to showcase your products, and ensure they'll soon be flying off the (virtual) shelves. You can do it all with drag and drop elements, too – so you won't need design skills to set up your business' online headquarters.

And, when it comes to actually taking the payment, Shopify offers integration with over 100 payment gateways, as well as its own, Shopify Payments.

Pricing

How much you'll pay to accept online payments with Shopify depends on the plan you select. 

Its cheapest plan, Basic Shopify, costs $29 (£23) per month, but comes with the highest credit card processing costs of 2.2% + 20p per online transaction.

The next plan up, simply dubbed ‘Shopify', is $79 (£63) per month, with online processing rates of 1.9% + 20p per transaction.

Advanced Shopify (the ecommerce platform's most expensive option) will set you back a whopping $299 (£240) per month, though also offers the lowest credit card processing rates – just 1.6% + 20p per sale.

Pros:

  • Store design elements look great and respond well on mobile

X Cons:

  • Expensive and prices on website not offered in pounds

Next steps

Which online payment method is the best for your business?

If you’re just looking for value, Handepay or Stripe should be the first name on your list. If you don’t mind paying a bit more for the trust and reputation of a big name, look at WorldPay or PayPal. And a provider such as Square or Shopify is best if you like to get hands-on with design.

Like the sound of them all, and want to start comparing your options? We can help.

Simply let us know a bit more about your business' requirements. We'll ask about your industry and expected sales volume, and whether you've accepted card payments online before (and, if so, which online payment method you used). When this is done, we'll match you with online payment providers that are the best fit for you.

Then, you'll receive quotes tailored to your business' size and ambitions, from leading merchant account providers handpicked to help you scale. It takes just 30 seconds, and is free for UK-based businesses.


Top 3 tips for taking payments on your website

Online shoppers can be a fickle bunch. Almost 75% of online shoppers abandon their baskets before completing a purchase. Transactions can break down in seconds if you don’t give your customers a smooth and snappy shopping experience. Follow these tips to keep people on your site and inspire them to buy.

1) Make it easy

Don’t make your users have to sign up for an account to pay. It’s one of the biggest barriers to making a sale. People can’t be bothered to enter their details and will often choose to abandon the purchase rather than doing it. By offering guest checkout you simplify your user’s journey and boost your chances of them making a purchase.

2) Make it look good

No matter where you host your payment page, it needs to look like it belongs to your website. Add your logo and colours to ensure a visually consistent path from browser to buyer. If your customer feels like they’re lurching around different websites to make a payment, they won’t buy.

3) Make it quick

Don’t ask your customers for lots of details and make them navigate long, data-heavy forms. Only take the minimum amount of info you need for the transaction to take place. This speeds up the process and inspires trust in your website and services.

Setting up an online payment method for your small business

For more information about how to take credit card payments online and over the phone, head over to our dedicated resource to learn more.

And, when the current COVID-19 crisis is all over (it will be!) and you open your physical store's doors again, you can check out our guide to accepting payments from your bricks and mortar business, too.

Want to start taking payments online? Get free quotes
Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, social media monitoring, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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