Best payment gateway providers

By | Writer

Start taking card payments online and fuel the growth of your business


Your website’s looking amazing. You’ve got your business model in place, you’re all stocked up, and there’s just one thing you need to do – start selling! But, er, how exactly do you do that?

Don’t fret – that’s where a nifty piece of software called a payment gateway comes in. A payment gateway slots into the look and feel of your website, and lets you accept debit and card payments online. They’re cheap as chips to set up, and are one of the most secure, quick, and simple ways of accepting online payments.

So what are we here for? Well, it can be a wild world out there, and choosing a payment gateway provider isn’t easy. That’s why here at Expert Market, we’ve handpicked the top 7 payment gateways in the UK for small businesses, and reviewed them all below. Think of us as your, um… gateway to choosing the right provider.

We also break down everything you need to know about payment gateways below, and offer our expert tips for choosing the best provider for your business. More interested in the money side of things? No problem; just jump straight to our payment gateway price comparison table.

Or – even better – pop some quick details about what you’re looking for into our quick form, and get tailored quotes from top payment gateway providers.

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best payment gateway providers

Payment gateways let your business accept card payments online and in-store


Best payment gateways in the UK

So, you, ask, what did we base our list of the best payment gateways on?

Well, we reckon there’s four main things you need from your payment gateway provider. Low rates, strong customer support, user-friendliness, and security. And that’s not even mentioning all the other stuff – speed, design, and compatibility with your website.

The following seven providers excel in all the above elements.

So here they are, the best payment gateways for UK businesses: Stripe, Handepay, Worldpay, Sage Pay, Authorize.net, PayPal, and Amazon Pay. Click below to jump to a provider; scroll down to start reviewing.

The best payment gateways for UK businesses:


Stripe

Best for small businesses

Stripe is one of the most innovative payment processing providers on the planet – and its payment gateway doesn’t disappoint. It’s one of the most powerful and flexible tools for budding ecommerce businesses on the planet. Stripe’s payment gateway offers a bunch of handy API integrations, slotting soundly into the aesthetic of your website. What does that mean exactly? Well, a smooth, straightforward journey for your users. And for you, Stripe’s simple, affordable prices deliver a welcome breath of fresh air.

Stripe pricing

Transaction feeSetup feeMonthly feeFree transactions?
1.4-2.9% (+ 20p)£0£0

Pros:

  • One of the cheapest payment gateways on the market
  • Customised payment forms look great on your website

X Cons:

  • Customer service is lacking when compared to other providers

The Verdict

Stripe is a tech-minded, forward-thinking payment gateway that’ll look good (and feel great!) on your website. Customer support might be lacking, but fees are low – and the sheer number of its integrations it offers means it more than earns its stripes.


Handepay

Best for small businesses

Handepay knows what makes small UK businesses tick – a powerful payment gateway at a low price, backed by friendly customer service. It’s what’s made Merseyside-based Handepay the overwhelming favourite of the people. Its (frankly, quite stunning!) 9.8/10 rating on Trustpilot attests to the team’s fast and friendly service – one that’s available 24/7. If you’re with another provider, Handepay offers fast, easy switching to its own payment gateway. And the best bit? if Handepay can’t save you money on accepting card payments, it’ll put a grand in your pocket. Handy indeed!

Handepay pricing

Transaction feeSetup feeMonthly feeFree transactions?
10p£0£19.99400

Pros:

  • 24/7 customer support
  • Links to all major shopping carts

X Cons:

  • Can be expensive to get out of a contract early

The Verdict

Handepay comes across as an honest, down-to-earth company, and as such is one of our favourite payment gateway providers out there. If you’re just starting out, its superlative support team are great for guiding you through the next step in growing your business.


Worldpay

Best all-rounder

Worldpay is a certified colossus in the card payment industry. Trusted by more than 300,000 UK businesses, its payment gateway is one of the most dependable on the market. It accepts all major cards, and is a truly global solution; it lets you process payments in more than 116 currencies, after all. Worldpay also brings to the table an impressive set of top-notch online reporting tools, meaning all the data you need to grow your business is at your fingertips. And should any hiccups happen along the way, don’t worry. Worldpay’s experienced customer service team are on hand around the clock to help you out.

Did you know? Securely handling over 10,000 transactions every minute, Worldpay is the largest payment processor in the UK.

Worldpay pricing

Transaction feeSetup feeMonthly feeFree transactions?
0.75-2.75%£0£19.95

Pros:

  • Simple, flexible pricing plans to suit businesses of all sizes
  • Online hub offers great ecommerce advice for UK SMEs

X Cons:

  • Can be expensive when compared to other providers

The Verdict

Yes, the fees might put off some merchants. But for versatility, experience, and sheer quality, you just can’t go wrong with Worldpay – so it’s our top payment gateway choice for UK businesses.

Find the best payment gateway for your business
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Sage Pay

Best for quick payouts

Powering the payments of over 45,000 businesses, Sage Pay’s payment gateway is a sleek, scalable solution for your small business. It lets you shrug off those long waiting times for payouts, with one of the quickest – and most secure – payment gateways on the market. Sage Pay’s range of integrations (think Shopify and BigCommerce, for starters!) makes it one of the most flexible payment gateways for growing businesses. And to top it off, Sage Pay’s customer service team burn the midnight oil to make sure you’re never without the 24/7 phone support you need.

Sage Pay pricing

Transaction feeSetup feeMonthly feeFree transactions?
0.74-2.09% (+12p)£0£20.90350

Pros:

  • Accepts payments in more than 25 currencies
  • Quick payout times mean you get paid within two working days of the transaction date

X Cons:

  • Fees are a little high, and you’ll have to get your head around multiple pricing plans

The Verdict

Sage Pay offers fast payouts to your account, and is a smart, scalable payment gateway that grows with your business. Read the small print carefully, though – and make sure you’re aware of all transaction and monthly fees tied to your plan.


Authorize.Net

Best for simplicity

Authorize.Net is a low-cost, reputable way of…well…authorising your online transactions. Trusted by nearly half a million businesses every month, its hosted payment form offers a simple – yet elegant – way for your customers to pay. It doesn’t matter where in the world they are, either; you can accept card payments or donations from buyers across the globe. And the cherry on top is that Authorize.Net’s payment form is both secure and PCI compliant – so you can put your feet up and watch the cash roll in.

Authorize.Net pricing

Transaction feeSetup feeMonthly feeFree transactions?
10p£0£19

Pros:

  • Simple, flat rate pricing plan
  • 24/7 phone support

X Cons:

The Verdict

Authorize.Net is a proven global business with straightforward pricing. If you’ve already got a merchant account set up it’s ideal; but if you’ll be needing the whole package you’ll want to look elsewhere.


PayPal

Best for large businesses

It’s hard to argue with PayPal. Supporting 75 million businesses and taking payments in over 25 currencies, the numbers most definitely add up. As a household name, PayPal’s payment gateway gives your customers the safety of a brand they know and trust. And for you, there’s no setup or monthly fees to worry about. Plus, It doesn’t take much technical skill to get it up and running on your website. And if you’re already familiar with PayPal, you’ll be right at home with it’s silky, easy to use interface.

Authorize.Net pricing

Transaction feeSetup feeMonthly feeFree transactions?
1.9-3.4% (+20p)£0£0

Pros:

  • Smooth interface makes your customers’ buying journey a effortless one
  • Stores your customers’ card details for quicker purchases

X Cons:

  • Money, money, money! PayPal is pricey – especially for smaller businesses

The Verdict

PayPal is an industry-leading company, and boasts the payment gateway to match. However, it’s sliding pricing plan means it’s a tough pill to swallow for smaller businesses. If you take less than £1,500 per month in card, you’ll be paying transaction fees of a grimace-inducing 3.4%.

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Amazon Pay

Best for ease of use

There’s nothing like giving your customers a familiar way to pay, with a brand they’re comfortable with. That’s why Amazon Pay can boost your business with the benefits of a big, instantly recognisable brand – and over 310 million users. Even on its own merits, though, its payment gateway is pretty good – processing transactions quickly and securely. Amazon Pay helps cut out the administrative hassle for everyone involved in the transaction. How? By reusing the payment and contact details already stored in the Amazon accounts of you and your customer. Genius!

Authorize.Net pricing

Transaction feeSetup feeMonthly feeFree transactions?
1.4-3.4% (+20p)£0£0

Pros:

  • Range of API integration options
  • Familiar, easy to use login and interface

X Cons:

  • Hefty fees for fewer sales means it’s not so suitable for smaller businesses

The Verdict

Amazon Pay offers familiarity and huge brand backing, but its high transaction fees and sliding price scale means small businesses might prefer to steer clear.


What is a payment gateway?

A payment gateway is the piece of digital infrastructure that allows you to accept card payments. It’s the software that processes the customer’s card data, and enables a quick, secure transaction to take place.

Payment gateways aren’t just for selling online, either. Whether you’re taking a card payment online, or face-to-face through a countertop card machine or mobile device, it’ll be passing through a payment gateway.

A useful way to think of it is that it’s like… a gateway! It’s a place one thing (the customer’s card details) needs to go through to get somewhere else (authorisation of the card by the bank involved). Simple, right?

Well… there is one more thing. You’ll need also need a merchant account before you can start taking payments for your business. A payment gateway makes the transaction happen, but you still need somewhere for the money to go.

Payment gateways commonly come in a package when you set up a merchant account, like with Worldpay. But, payment gateways like Authorize.Net offer a service that can work alongside a merchant account from a different provider.

Read more: UK merchant account comparison


Top 6 things to consider before choosing a provider

1. International support

In today’s world, you can’t afford to lose business from abroad – or because a buyer didn’t have the right card. Make sure your payment gateway supports different card types and currencies, so your business can blossom beyond borders.

2. Transaction volume

Payment gateway fees can be fickle things; transaction rates often go up and down depending on how much you’re turning over. Have a think about how much you’re expecting to sell, and how many transactions will be going through your gateway. It’s absolutely crucial in selecting the cheapest supplier for your business.

Not sure what we mean? Check out the examples of Oliver and Daniela below, or click to compare quotes.

3. Customer support

Time is money. So if there’s an issue with your payment gateway, you want it sorted as quickly as possible – or you face missing out on sales. What kind of customer support does your provider offer? Is it just web-based service like a chat bot, or can you call up and speak to a real person? Is it available 24/7?

4. Hosted or API?

At some stage, you’ll also need to have a think about how you want to add the payment gateway to your website. The easiest option is to host it on the payment provider’s site. This is also ideal because it means you don’t have to worry about tricky PCI compliance. However, your customers get redirected away from your site to pay.

The other option is to use an API integration to slot your payment gateway straight into your website. It makes for a smoother payment journey for the customer, although you’ll need to take care of your own…

5. PCI DSS compliance

This is the Payment Card Industry’s (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS). It’s designed to help protect cardholder data and reduce fraud.

No matter how big your business is, you’ll need to stay compliant – if you’re taking card payments, that is.

Make sure your payment gateway provider is PCI DSS compliant before you go anywhere near signing a contract!

Read more: PCI compliance guide 2019

6. Cart compatibility

A payment gateway processes the transaction, but your website will still need a shopping cart system in place. That’s where your customers browse your products, add stuff to their carts, and eventually (hopefully!) hit ‘checkout’.

Your payment gateway and your shopping cart system need to talk to each other loudly and clearly if you want your buyer’s journey to be a smooth one. Which is why you’ll need to make sure your payment gateway providers offers integration with whatever current shopping cart you’re using.

Luckily, most payment gateway providers offer a full breakdown of the programmes and integrations they offer. Just make sure you check ‘em!

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How much do payment gateways charge?

Great question. If you’ve read the above, you’ll have an idea of some of the costs that come with a payment gateway for your business – and how dependent the fees are on which provider you pick. Payment gateway fees come in a few different shapes and sizes, but most break down as follows:

how much do payment gateways charge

Transaction fees

These are what you pay for every time you accept a card payment. They’re commonly a percentage of the value of the transaction (usually between 1-3%, but it can be even more, or less).

Transaction fees can also be a fixed rate per sale (in the region of pennies, rather than pounds – don’t stress!), or a combination of both a percentage and a flat rate. See Oliver’s situation below for an example of this.

Set up fees

This is the charge to get your payment gateway up and running. We found that most providers actually don’t ask for one, which is good news. And it makes sense – it’s a competitive market, and each provider wants to rope you into its own payment ecosystem.

Monthly fees

Some providers will also charge you a set monthly fee for their services. Generally, payment gateways that come with monthly charges offset these with lower transaction fees. Or, they’ll offer a set amount of transactions (often your first 350-400 per month) free, as a deal-sweetener. See Daniela’s case study below for an example of payment gateway monthly fees in action.


Oliver payment gateway comparison case study

Oliver

Oliver uses a payment gateway from Stripe to sell clothing within Europe. He sells a shirt on his website worth £30 to a customer paying with an EU card. Stripe takes a transaction fee of 1.4% + 20p for its services, so Oliver receives a total of £29.38 in his merchant account. Stripe is ideal for Oliver because he does fewer, lower value transactions a month, and Stripe’s ‘pay as you go’ payment gateway doesn’t charge any monthly fees.

Daniela payment gateway comparison case study

Daniela

Daniela uses Sage Pay for her thriving online bookselling business. She’s on the most basic plan, which sets her back £20.90 in monthly fees. One of her customers buys a cookbook worth £60. They pay with a credit card, so (minus Daniela’s transaction fee of 2.09%) she receives £58.75. Daniela chooses Sage Pay because, with her plan, she gets her first 350 transactions free . So it’s well-suited to her busier, higher-volume bookselling business.


Are there free payment gateways?

Well, we hate to break it to you, but…. No. As the old saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a free payment gateway.”

How come? Put simply, all card transactions attract a charge. It costs the provider to facilitate your online payments, so they need to charge you something to cover their own costs. And, of course, like all businesses, they need to make money.

The point is that, while many payment gateways don’t incur an initial cost, you’ll always have to pay some kind of usage or transaction fee. Turn away from any company claiming to offer you a free payment gateway, and run in the opposite direction!

Read more: Free payment gateway services

Payment gateway comparison

Payment gateway providerTransaction feeSetup feeMonthly feeFree monthly transactions
Stripe1.4-2.9%
(+ 20p)
£0£0
Handepay10p£0£19.99400
Worldpay0.75-2.75%£0£19.95
Sage Pay0.74-2.09% (+12p)£0£20.90350
Authorize.Net10p£0£19
PayPal1.9-3.4% (+20p)£0£0
Amazon Pay1.4-3.4% (+20p)£0£0

Looking at the table, it’s easy to feel confused by the often mercurial payment gateway pricing. Even with the same provider, there can be so much range around the transaction percentage you can expect to pay. Why is this, you ask? A couple of reasons.

  • Transaction fees vary by the online payment method your buyer chooses. It’s annoying, but it’s true. Credit cards generally incur a higher fee than debit cards. And providers like Stripe charge higher fees for non-EU cards.
  • Fees also vary depending on the amount of transactions you make. The big guns like PayPal do this, because they make money when you do. The more online payments you process with them, the less fees you pay.

Most online payment gateway providers don’t like rolling over and showing the soft underbelly of their pricing plans; and you often have to trawl through pages of marketing speak to get anywhere on the websites of some companies.

Save yourself time – and most probably, some money too – and fill out our quick form. It’s free, and you could be comparing quotes from top suppliers within the day.

Read more: Compare credit card processing costs


Robert Binns 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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