Comparing over 30 of the UK’s top payment service providers for your business – so you don’t have to
If you want to start accepting credit and debit card payments, you’ll need a merchant account. The trouble is, there are so many companies out there that seem to offer the same thing. How do you know which merchant accounts are the best – and how much they’re going to cost?
Fortunately, we’ve compared over 30 merchant services providers from across the UK and beyond. We looked at price, customer support, innovative features, contract lengths, and several other metrics to create the below: a comprehensive list of the very best online payment service providers.
Do you want to take payments online, or over the phone? Perhaps a mobile card reader for lower volume and value transactions is more up your street – or an affordable, efficient hospitality merchant account for your bar or restaurant.
Whichever type of merchant account is on your menu, you'll find it here.
We’ve also broken down the best merchant accounts by sector. So, whether you’re in retail, travel, or a ‘high risk’ industry, you can be sure you’re getting a payment service provider that understands your niche.
Dive into the list below for in-depth reviews. Alternatively, provide us with a few, quick details about your the kind of card payments you're looking to accept. It takes 30 seconds, and you'll receive merchant services quotes tailored to your specific needs, all from top payment service providers. Oh, and it's free!
The best merchant account providers in 2021
First, let’s take a look at five of the UK merchant account providers dominating the card payment industry. Use our comparison chart below to compare credit card merchant services at a glance, or scroll down for in-depth reviews.
Worldpay merchant services
The numbers don’t lie. Worldpay is one of the largest merchant account providers in the world, processing a mind-boggling 400 card transactions every second. Worldpay offers flexible price plans – including a ‘pay-as-you-go’ option for micro-merchants – as well as both credit card machine and smart EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) till rental.
- Flexible pricing plans
- 24/7 support
- Card machine and till rental available
- No dedicated account manager
- 18 month minimum rental contract
|Credit card fees||1%|
|Debit card fees||2%|
takepayments is a UK-based merchant service provider specialising in merchant accounts for small and medium-sized businesses. takepayments boasts competitive (and completely bespoke!) rates, strong customer support, and a minimum contract of just 12 months – one of the shortest in the industry. takepayments is rated ‘Excellent' from almost 10,000 reviews on Trustpilot, which speaks volumes for its customer service.
- 12 month rental contract
- One of the best Trustpilot ratings we've seen, full stop!
- UK-based, seven day per week customer support
- No till rental
- Auto-renewing contract
takepayments' pricing is completely bespoke. Rather than showcase blanket or demonstrative rates on its website, takepayments prefers to craft you a pricing plan that fits your business' size, type, industry, and sales volume.
You can enquire with takepayments for pricing, or utilise our free quote-finding questionnaire to receive tailored quotes from merchant account providers that work for your business.
First Data is a global merchant services provider. And, with a minimum monthly service charge of just £5, it also happens to be one of the cheapest merchant accounts in the country. First Data partnered with manufacturer Clover in 2013, and now offers both the Clover Station till and Clover Flex card machine on a standard rental contract.
- Low monthly minimum
- Clover smart till and card machine
- £150 cashback for switching to First Data
- No 24/7 support
- No dedicated account manager
|Credit card fees||10p|
|Debit card fees||1.25%|
Paymentsense is what’s known as an ISO (Independent Service Organisation). Rather than opening a dedicated merchant account for each customer, Paymentsense pools transactions in a shared account to negotiate the best rates. This allows Paymentsense to offer some of the cheapest merchant services you'll find. Be sure to take advantage of Paymentsense's price match promise to get the best deal on card payment services – it just makes sense!
- Low transaction fees
- Price match promise
- UK-based customer support
- Auto-renewing contract
- No dedicated account manager
|Credit card fees||0.75%|
|Debit card fees||0.96%|
Lloyds Cardnet is one of the UK's leading merchant account providers. Lloyds Cardnet offers a full complement of merchant services, including smart till and card machine rental. Existing customers are eligible for cheaper rates. So, if you have your business bank account with Lloyds, it pays to go with them as your merchant account provider, too.
- Cheaper rates for existing customers
- Online management tool
- Clover hardware
- 48 month rental contract
- Set up and termination fees apply
Cheapest merchant account providers
There are many (frankly, quite complicated!) factors that make a merchant account great. But there’s one, above all, that’s as simple as it is important – price.
The merchant accounts below are on this list because they’re lighter on the wallet than many of their competitors. That means low transaction fees, price match offers, and even cash back for joining. And the best bit? No compromise on quality. Interested? Read on to compare the cheapest merchant services providers.
Handepay offers a fast, secure, and straightforward way to accept card payments. Handepay comes with no hidden fees or minimum charges, and it’ll give you £1,000 if you don’t save by making the switch. Handepay is one of the people’s favourites, too; it clocks in with more than 7,000 five star reviews. In today’s world of slow service and slippery salespeople, Handepay's brand of customer-focussed approach is hard to come by!
- NO PCI DSS fees
- Handepay will (in most cases) cover any fees to switch from your current provider
- May be expensive to get out of a contract early
|Transaction fee:||10p (first 400 transactions free)|
Square is a mobile card reader for the modern business. With no hidden fees and zero monthly costs, Square’s pricing plan is as straightforward and simple as its name – and its design. Throw in free POS software, round-the-clock technical support, and the ability to accept mobile wallets? Well, then Square gets the nod as one of the most superb – and shrewd – mobile card payment options on the shelf.
- POS software and real-time analytics included free
- Fully PCI DSS compliant
- 24/7 support centre
- Square's EPOS hardware add-ons are expensive
|Card reader cost:||£39 (excl. VAT)|
|Card transaction fee:||1.75%|
|Virtual Terminal/Ecommerce transaction fees:||2.5%|
Stripe is one of the UK’s leading online card payment processing companies. Stripe offers a flexible, pay as you go price plan, no hidden costs, and real-time fee reporting. Stripe's honest, transparent approach makes receiving online payments easy, and turns PCI compliance into a simple concept. Stripe also flaunts a payment gateway that slots soundly into the look and feel of your website, for the smoothest customer experience.
- Also processes cryptocurrency payments
- Low transaction fees
- Customer service not as strong as other providers
|Transaction fee (EU cards)||1.4% + 20p|
|Transaction fee (non-EU cards)||2.9% + 20p|
Best mobile credit card processing
Do you need a compact, portable, and low-maintenance solution for taking card payments? A mobile card reader is the option for you. And it’s your lucky day, because we’ve summarised the top five options money can buy below.
What is a mobile card reader, you ask? It’s a way to take payments on the go, meaning you can sell from anywhere with wifi or 3G/4G coverage. Mobile card readers pair with a free app on your tablet, essentially (and literally!) putting everything you need to make sales at your fingertips.
Read on for our top mobile card reader picks. Or, if you’re already sold on the big benefits of mobile card readers, fill out our quick form and start comparing quotes from industry-leading suppliers.
SumUp is the hipster's choice; a trendy and gorgeous card reader perfect for taking card payments on the go. But SumUp's flagship card reader (SumUp Air) isn't only nice to look at; it also boasts some of the lowest transaction costs out there, and no monthly fees. SumUp accepts a huge range of card types, too, plus contactless, and its online customer approval ratings are simply superb.
- Low fees and upfront cost
- 30-day money back guarantee
- No monthly costs
- Longer payout time than some of its rivals
|Card reader cost||£29 (often discounts to £19) (excl. VAT)|
|Card transaction fee||1.69%|
|Virtual Terminal transaction fee||2.95% + 25p|
iZettle emerged out of Sweden in 2010, making waves with a sleek, simple and stylish solution for accepting card payments. And ‘iZettle 2’ – its new and improved mobile card reader – is quick; charging in a couple of seconds, and taking payments in five. iZettle's pricing is transparent, with low costs and no hidden fees. And, even though iZettle doesn't provide phone support at the weekend, its customers don’t seem to mind; the majority of iZettle’s Trustpilot reviews are five stars.
- Funds deposited within two working days
- Takes payments in five seconds
- Favourable online customer reviews
- No weekend phone support
- iZettle's add-ons (such as the card reader's charging dock) will cost extra
|Card reader cost||£59 (often discounts to £29) (excl. VAT)|
|Card transaction fee||1.75%|
|Ecommerce transaction fee||2.5%|
If you’ve already got a PayPal account and want to accept card payments, PayPal Here is the option for you. PayPal Here has a scaled pricing structure to reward you for taking more card payments. So if your business takes over £15,000 in monthly sales volume, you'll pay as little as 1% per transaction. Combine this with PayPal Here's big brand name and solid customer support, and you’re looking at even bigger value. Here, here!
- Quick fund deposit time
- PCI DSS compliant
- No fixed monthly costs or fixed-term contract
- Poor online customer approval ratings
|Card reader cost:||£45 (excl. VAT)|
|Card transaction fee:||1 – 2.75% (based on sales volume)|
Looking to mobilise your business with a card payment processing solution like SumUp, iZettle, or PayPal Here? Check out our guide to the best mobile card readers for small businesses for all you need to know.
Best high risk merchant account and payment service providers
Do you run a travel agency? Perhaps you head up a pharmacy, or a healthcare ecommerce website? Maybe you trade in the world of online gambling or dating? If so, your business sector qualifies as high risk. We know it sounds a bit negative, but all that means is that you’ll need a different type of merchant account to accept card transactions.
Certain companies specialise in providing merchant accounts for higher risk businesses and industries. Here is a list of the companies that are doing it well.
Best merchant services providers for travel agencies
Flights, hotels, and holiday packages don’t generally come cheap. So travel businesses need a safe way of taking high value payments and avoiding those dreaded chargeback fees. Here are some of the top high risk merchant account providers for travel businesses.
Instabill is one of the UK’s leading high risk payment processors. Instabill specialises in providing high risk merchant services for those struggling to find a mainstream provider. Instabill's rates are competitive, as are its tailored packages for ecommerce and MOTO (Mail Order/Telephone Order) businesses. Instabill’s merchant accounts are flexible, which means they’re ideal for selling hotel reservations, flights, and timeshares.
- Handles transactions in real-time
- 24/7 customer support
- Instabill is US-based, meaning it's not as attuned to the needs of UK businesses
Verotel is a popular internet merchant services provider, working with over 50,000 high risk businesses worldwide. Verotel is an ideal choice for international businesses – and if you’re selling big travel packages, lengthy hotel stays, and long-haul flights, it's an ideal provider for you.
- No chargeback fees
- Verotel is trusted by tens of thousands of high risk companies worldwide
- Large registration fee applies
Best merchant accounts for pharmacies
Like travel agencies, businesses operating as online or bricks-and-mortar pharmacies are also considered high risk. The companies below will help you get set up with a merchant account for your pharmacy.
ccNetPay offers a variety of high risk merchant account solutions for your pharmacy. Are you a fully-licensed bricks-and-mortar business based in the EU? Or seeking an offshore solution for ecommerce pharmaceutical trading only? Whatever line of work you're in, ccNetPay’s quick, no-nonsense approach will help. ccNetPay's rates are transparent, and setup is quick – you could be accepting card payments within a couple of weeks.
- Transparent pricing
- No transaction limits
- High chargeback fees
Merchant Scout isn't an actual merchant account provider. Instead, it partners with over 40 merchant banks. This allows Merchant Scout to ‘scout’ high risk merchant accounts for online or bricks-and-mortar pharmacies. Merchant Scout then matches you with the merchant account best-suited to the demands of your industry. Simple!
- Works only with proven banks and providers
- Independent and unbiased
- 24/7 phone support
- Inconsistent customer service
- Lack of detail regarding pricing
Best offshore merchant account
Need to accept card payments, but haven’t been able to secure a merchant account in the UK? It might be time to look abroad, and see how you can benefit from an offshore merchant account.
Offshore merchant accounts have higher acceptance rates and a less thorough application process. There are tax breaks, and overall there’s more flexibility in accepting card transactions. Read on to compare offshore merchant services.
Payline, based in the US, comes with years of experience in supporting high risk businesses. Payline's offshore merchant services boast quick applications and straightforward pricing. Payline also brings to the table a dedicated support team, available 24/7. What’s not to like?
- 24/7 support and great customer service
- Payline integrates with hundreds of online shopping carts
- Monthly fee applies
GSPay provides offshore merchant accounts to businesses around the world. GSPay offers reliability and competitive rates, to help take the stress and hoop-jumping out of running a high risk business. GSPay accepts most of the big cards, and integrates with your website to provide a consistent, comfortable customer experience.
- Supports a range of shopping cart systems
- Customisable payment and order pages
- Website is dated and doesn’t inspire confidence
Best ecommerce merchant services providers
If you run a business online – or are thinking about setting one up soon – you’ll need the right merchant account.
The ecommerce merchant accounts providers below are ideal for solely internet-based businesses. Ecommerce merchant accounts take the hassle out of online trading, and give the people visiting your website a quick and pleasant buying journey. Below is a list of the best ecommerce merchant services providers.
PayPal (not to be confused with PayPal Here) is already trusted by millions of businesses selling online. PayPal lets you get on your website, or via online invoicing. PayPal is simple to use, and easy to integrate into the unique look and feel of your website. Plus, PayPal’s sliding scale pricing plan means that as your business grows, you’ll pay less and less (and even less!) in fees.
- Available in 25 currencies and 202 countries and markets
- 24/7 customer support
- Expensive for merchants with lower transaction volume
|Transaction fee:||1.9-3.4% + 20p (based on sales volume)|
Want to build a website that looks amazing, then start selling through it? Shopify’s free tools will help – and don’t require any technical knowledge to set up. Shopify is a smart ecommerce platform that lets you build your business online, from the ground up. Shopify also allows you to sell through your own online store, as well as on social media and via online marketplaces. Shopify's in-built tools will help you drive Google and Facebook marketing campaigns, too – all from a single, easy-to-use dashboard.
- Range of pricing plans available
- Design elements respond well on mobile
- Shopfy is one of the more expensive ecommerce solutions on the market
- Prices not available in pounds
|Monthly fee:||Around £20-22|
|Transaction fee:||2.2% + 20p|
2Checkout provides merchant accounts for ecommerce to 180 countries worldwide, in over 20 currencies. It offers integration with a wide range of shopping cart platforms for ultimate flexibility, and accepts most major credit cards. 2Checkout also proffers up international phone support. Its customer service team are friendly, and will get you set up within 24 hours.
- Simple, transparent pricing plans with great options for small businesses
- No monthly fee
- Its cheaper pricing plans are some of the most expensive options on the market
|Transaction fee:||3.5 – 6% + 25-45p (dependent on package)|
Best payment gateways
What is a payment gateway?
It’s basically a piece of software, provided by an online payment service provider, that helps ecommerce businesses to process card transactions.
Why should you care?
Because it’s an inexpensive, secure, and efficient way to take payments online.
How do you choose one?
Opayo (formerly Sage Pay) is a leading payment gateway provider in the UK. Opayo's responsive payment gateway allows for one-click ordering, and automates repeat payments you’re owed. Opayo also accepts all major credit cards, and boasts superb PayPal integration – so no matter how your customers prefer to pay, you’ll have them covered.
- Wide range of integrations available
- 24/7 customer support
- Monthly fee applies even for the most basic plan
|Monthly fee (most basic plan):||£20.90|
|Credit card transaction fee:||2.09%|
|Debit card transaction fee:||0.74%|
Cardstream offers an online payment solution that's fully customised to suit your business’ branding. That means no Cardstream logos, and no Cardstream transaction page hosted off-site; just a smart, secure, and scalable online payment gateway. Cardstream fully integrates into your ecommerce platform. It’s also the only independent payment gateway offering a white label payment system for businesses… not bad!
- 20 years of experience in the industry
- Secure and PCI DSS compliant
- Customer service slower than other suppliers
|Transaction fee:||9p (first 350 transactions free)|
Amazon Pay – no payment gateway providers list would be complete without it. Why? Simply put, the retail giant is one of the best online payment processors out there. Amazon Pay's simple application form takes minutes to complete, and is easy to get to grips with. Amazon Pay also comes with the backing of a truly colossal brand, meaning its payment gateway is slick, streamlined, and easy to trust.
- No early termination fees
- Email, web, and phone customer support
- Expensive for merchants with a lower transaction volume
Best virtual terminals
Virtual terminals let you accept card payments over the phone, or through the mail. There’s no need for an extra phone line, or any expensive equipment.
Like a payment gateway, a virtual terminal provides the connection between the seller and the buyer. It’s crucial if you do any business over the phone, or want to take payments remotely. Let’s take a look at the virtual terminal suppliers that are leading the way.
Worldpay (sound familiar?) is a giant in the global card payment processing arena. Worldpay excels in providing effective, easy-to-use card processing solutions, and its virtual terminals are no exception. Worldpay's virtual terminal – with a simple interface, risk management tools, and real-time reporting – has all the bases covered. And, costing just a small, straightforward monthly fee, Worldpay's virtual terminal is as cheap as a subscription to your local paper.
- Customer support available every hour of every day
- Transparent (and competitive) pricing
- Often let down by subpar customer reviews
PayVector’s virtual terminal is a web-based application that’s flexible and easy to use. PayVector gets rid of any need for a physical terminal, enabling you to take and manage payments online. Add in PayVector's customisable anti-fraud features and zero set up fees, and it's a solid, reliable virtual terminal option.
- PCI DSS compliant
- Provides comprehensive reporting about your payments
- PayVector is more expensive than some other virtual terminals
|Transaction fee:||10p (first 350 transactions free)|
Web Merchant Services
Web Merchant Services (aptly-named) offers a range of no-frills online payment solutions to boost sales. Web Merchant Services' virtual terminal is designed for modern business. That means you can use it on any device, from anywhere… anytime! Web Merchant Services also promises daily payouts, so your bank account will stay looking healthy.
- More than 20 years of experience in the industry
- Simple, transparent pricing
- Easy to use and set up
- Online feedback criticises vague and exasperating staff
|Transaction fee:||1.6% + 20p|
For more in-depth virtual terminal write-ups and comparisons, explore our virtual terminal reviews page.
Best retail credit card processing companies
Even if you operate in a lower risk industry such as retail, you’ll still need a merchant account with features tailored to what you do. Retail businesses require low fees, portable credit card machines, and payment gateways that’ll handle regular (and hopefully big!) online shopping orders.
If this sounds like you, why not fill in our short form to get tailored quotes for your retail business? Alternatively, read on for the best retail credit card processing companies.
Card Cutters is a Nottinghamshire-based company bringing card payment solutions to over 5,000 businesses across the country. Card Cutters' competitive PDQ machine rental rates and UK-based support makes it ideal if you’re in retail. Card Cutters' dependable payment gateway and virtual terminal mean that you’re not just limited to selling in-store. Plus, Card Cutters has combined with EPOS Now to provide a complete EPOS system that’s tailored to the retail industry. The result? Less hassle, better service, and happier customers.
- Merchant cash advance available
- 24/7 customer support
- Slow, sometimes frustrating customer service
|Transaction fee||9p (first 350 transactions free)|
Ever had a niggling feeling that you might be overpaying to sell online? CashFlows can help. CashFlows claims to offer card payment services at “substantially lower rates” than its competitors. CashFlows also offers speedy on-boarding, real-time reporting, and friendly customer service.
- Company uses social media to give real-time service updates
- UK-based team of finance experts
- Pricing not clear, and a range of fees may be applicable
Global Payments offers specific solutions for retail, hospitality, healthcare and more. Global Payments recognises that in retail, the speed and ease of taking payments is the difference between a sale and a missed chance. That’s why Global Payments helps protect your business against fraud, while ensuring your customers are getting the smoothest – and quickest – retail experience possible.
- Good customer service ratings online
- Provides support to millions of businesses worldwide
- Large early termination fee
- Pricing on website not particularly clear
|Transaction fee:||1.1-3.3% + 19p|
Best nonprofit payment processing services
If you’re in charge of a nonprofit, it’s essential you choose a payment processing service that knows what's up. Why? Well, not only are non profit payment processing services committed to growing and supporting charities, but they’re cheaper. Some even offer discounts for registered charities. Let’s look at three of the best.
iATS payments is the world’s leading provider of debit and credit card processing for nonprofits. iATS payments is the go-to for over 10,000 businesses around the world, and handles billions of dollars every year. iATS payments allows you to create event-specific pages in a matter of minutes. You'll also be able to customise its smart payment form to match your website’s design. This means iATS payments helps make sure your site’s users enjoy a smooth and comfortable journey through the donation process.
- 24/7 reporting
- Donations arrive in your bank account within 48 hours
- Complicated to get set up
Braintree – owned by industry giant PayPal – is a world-renowned platform for accepting card payments. And Braintree, though you might not have known it, excels in providing merchant solutions for nonprofits, too. Braintree, as well as offering your donors “almost any way to pay,” assists you in cutting out fraud, and reaching a new generation of donors through mobile and web. And if that wasn’t enough? Braintree offers special pricing for nonprofits, too, letting you free up cash flow for what matters most.
- Customise the design of your checkout page
- Easy to use and maintain
- APIs will be difficult to set up without technical knowledge
|Transaction fee:||1.9% + 20p|
|AMEX transaction fee:||2.4% + 20p|
|Non EU/EEA card transaction fee:||2.9% + 20p|
Blackbaud deals exclusively with software for nonprofits, and boasts some of the industry’s best tools for processing payments. Blackbaud handles all your transactions, and you’ll get access to everything you need from a free, secure online portal. Here's where manage your data, create reports, and have all your latest donation figures at your fingertips.
- No monthly fees or minimums
- PCI DSS compliance covered at no extra cost
- Expensive for charities taking smaller amounts of donations
|Transaction fee:||2.75% + 19p|
|AMEX transaction fee:||3.5% + 19p|
Interested in finding the right solution to take payments at your charity? Let us help. Click here to compare quotes from top suppliers, or dive into our guide to the best merchant accounts for nonprofits.
Best merchant accounts for hospitality
Whether you’re running a hotel, restaurant, pub, or cafe, you’ll need the right merchant account. The best merchant services for hospitality provide portable, dynamic card machines. They also set you up to take payment for orders and table reservations made online.
The best merchant accounts for hospitality also have low fees, and are capable of processing large amounts of smaller transactions. They’ll also help streamline your service, making for happier staff and satisfied customers. Here are our top picks.
Retail Merchant Services
Retail Merchant Services promises low-cost card payment solutions with same-day settlement of funds. Retail Merchant Services offers PDQ machine rental, as well as a virtual terminal for accepting card payments over the phone. Retail Merchant Services has a long history of helping UK cafes and restaurants thrive, and counts hotel goliath Best Western among its top hospitality clients.
- UK-based technical support
- Retail Merchant Services has superb online customer approval ratings
- Pricing not transparent, and will vary based on your needs
|Transaction fees:||2.55-3.75% + 10-19p|
Fidelity Payment is one of the largest merchant payment processors in the world, handling over £1 billion of credit card transactions in the UK alone every year. And, since acquiring Worldpay in July 2019, that number will have ballooned. Fidelity Payment's benefits include a dedicated account manager and 24/7 support. Fidelity Payment also promises to answer 90% of calls in under 10 seconds to help with any technical issues. Not bad!
- Big hospitality clients include Holiday Inn
- 22 years of experience in the hospitality industry
- Lack of transparency around terms and conditions
|Transaction fee:||1.9% + 25p|
Barclaycard offers a full complement of card payment services. Barclaycard's offerings include solutions for taking card payments face-to-face, online, and over the phone. Barclaycard has the best merchant account rates of any provider, especially on mobile and countertop card machines. Combine this with a UK focus and a reputation for reliability, and hey presto! Barclaycard emerges as one of our top merchant accounts for hospitality.
- Over 40 years of experience in the sector
- Offers shorter term contracts
- Call support weaker than with other payment service providers
Want to know more about how the right merchant account will boost your bar, cafe, restaurant, popup, or hotel? Start taking payments with the best merchant services for hospitality.
Merchant account costs
Let’s face it: merchant account fees are always going to be important when it comes to choosing your payment service provider. But many providers don’t disclose pricing information at all; instead, they’ll give you a bespoke quote based on the size of your business and card payment volume.
To make sure you're getting the best deal, you’ll need to compare merchant accounts from multiple providers. Luckily, this is where we excel. Click the button below to find the merchant services best suited to your demands, today.