Here at money transfer comparison we make it our mission to help individuals and SMEs alike save money on the international payments they have to make. More recently however, we’ve received multiple reader requests to recommend the best online payment systems for small businesses in order to accept online payments. When you buy goods internationally, making international payments is par for the course.
Likewise, if you sell goods internationally, particularly to consumers, then accepting card payments online will be an important aspect of your sales cycle. So with that in mind, in this article we bring our comparison expertise to compare online payment systems in the UK. Based on our extensive research, read on to discover the cheapest online payment processing provider, the top five online payment systems for your small business and finally our verdict on the best online payment gateway for small business in the UK.
Top Five Online Payment Systems for your Small Business
Find a list of online payment systems below, in no particular order, of the top five online payment systems for your small business. The list has been compiled based on the credibility, security, cost and overall service of the online payment processing systems available to UK clients. Whilst we obviously have to consider the fees charged by each provider we also take a look at the payment methods they accept and the overall quality of their offering, including customer service, PCI compliance and ease of integration.
#1 Choice: SagePay / Opayo
Opayo, formerly SagePay, is a payments processing service now owned by the Elavon Group. With around 300 employees, the UK payment service provider started its journey known as Protx before it was acquired by Sage. With around 300 hundred employees it’s of a similar ilk to the top money transfer providers we recommend on money transfer comparison. Unlike the other multinational companies operating in the online payments processing industry, Opayo operates solely in the UK and Ireland.
With an office in Newcastle, Opayo’s UK-based team are available day and night. You can reach out to them on the phone, via email, or through social media. Customer Service is a core part of Opayo’s offering. The firm boasts a 4.9 / 5 TrustScore on TrustPilot, from over 2,000 customer reviews, with customers regularly praising the excellent and helpful service. They are Trustpilot’s highest-rated payment provider, and whilst there’s been a recent name change the service is identical.
The firm has been operating for almost two decades, providing the payment tools to help businesses grow. Packages are well defined and the pricing is transparent. In 2019, Opayo’s payment gateway processed £40bn worth of card payments for over 50,000 merchants, across online and in-person.
Opayo / SagePay Fees
Set-up Fees: None
Transaction Fees: It’s not clear on Opayo’s website what the exact transaction fees are for online payment processing, but they are reported elsewhere as 1.99% for credit cards and just 40p for debit.
Subscription Fees: There are three packages available with Opaya, beginning with the flex program for smaller businesses right thought to bespoke corporate solutions.
Flex – £27 p/m
– 350 transactions per month
– Free fraud screening tools
– 24/7 support
Plus – £45 p/m
– 500 token purchases per month
– Free fraud screening tools
– Access to Fast Pass support
Corporate – Bespoke
– 3000+ transactions per month
– Bespoke fraud screening tools
– Priority support services
– Dedicated account manager
Opayo – Our Take
The firm may have moved from Sage to Elavon in 2019 but with hundreds of 5* customer reviews in 2020 it clearly hasn’t impacted the service offering at the heart of the business.
Opayo can work with any acquirer so if you have an existing merchant account there’s no need to switch. But if you’re new to taking payments, then equally Opayo can get you set up with your own merchant account from scratch.
The payment plans are based on a pre-agreed number of online transactions so you can quickly choose a plan based on your current payment volumes or progress your way through the plans if you’re just starting out. We haven’t been able to identify the exact transaction fees involved with the plans from Opayo’s website but if they are indeed what they have been reported to be elsewhere – 1.99% for credit card and 40p for debit cards – then this represents a very fair price by the average standards in the online payment processing market. Given the excellent 24/7 customer service and fast response times, customers appear unanimously happy with what they pay for Opayo’s payment processing services.
Highest rated payment provider on TrustPilot.
UK only team with local support staff available 24/7.
Nearly two decades of industry experience with clients of all sizes.
Straightforward payment plans based on the number of online transactions processed each month.
Industry leading online payment gateway with 99.99% uptime.
Transaction Fees not clear from the website but will be clearly stipulated at the onset of the agreement.
Not relevant for companies operating outside of the UK & Ireland.
Stripe has been one of the hottest FinTech’s to have launched in the last 10 years. Companies from around the world, no matter the size, use Stripe to accept multiple payment methods for their online sales. As a payment juggernaut, Stripe is certified to the very highest industry standards, has obtained regulatory licenses around the world and invests in securing their payment infrastructure with world-class security experts.
The sheer volume of online payment methods for small business that Stripe provides is impressive. They understand that payment behaviour is different in every country so if you have international customers then Stripe can be a very good option – allowing your customers to use their preferred payment method, and improve the conversion of your checkout experience. In total, Stripe supports over 135 currencies and offers a unified payment gateway for credit cards, online wallets, bank transfers, and more.
Stripe recommends the most commonly used online payment methods by region so you can judge what suits you business best:
It’s not just one-off payment acceptance that Stripe offers either. For businesses who offer a subscription service – such as wine delivery for example – then Stripe can help you with this too.
Stripe’s competitive pricing on European cards also makes it a great option for UK only businesses – more on fees below.
Set-up Fees: None
1.4% + £0.20 for European cards
2.9% + £0.20 for non-European cards
An additional 2% is charged if a customer pays in a different currency.
Subscription Fees: No setup fees, monthly fees, or hidden fees.
Stripe is unique as it actively separates the transaction fee between European and non-European cards. Worldpay offers cheaper transaction fees on debit cards vs credit cards but you don’t know what your customer would prefer to pay with. If you’re a UK or European business only selling in your jurisdiction then you do know that you’ll be paying 1.4% + £0.20 for European cards though. A very reasonable fee – the cheapest online payment processing fee we could find in fact. Even better when you consider there’s no monthly subscription fee.
Stripe – Our Take
If you already have an eCommerce website, perhaps built with WordPress or any of the other major web builders, then you’ll struggle to find a better solution than Stripe. Whilst Shopify and Square aim to cover you for all your eCommerce needs, Stripe focuses purely on online payment processing and it does this brilliantly.
In a recent study, conducted by an analyst firm that interviewed Stripe customers, businesses accounted for an increase in revenues of 6.7% with Stripe. Overall, firms saw on average a 24% reduction in the cost of operations and an 81% reduction in unplanned outages for their payment software.
If you’re a UK only business that wants the cheapest online payment gateway in the UK, then look no further than Stripe.
The largest selection of payment methods available – no matter where your customers are based or how you bill clients.
24/7 customer support.
Customers can pay in over 135 currencies.
No monthly subscription fee, only pay on transactions.
The cheapest online payment processing fee for European cards.
Expensive FX fee for payments made in different currencies.
Worldpay is one of the largest online payment systems in not only the UK but the world. Chances are you’re already aware of the brand, perhaps you’ve spotted one of their card machines when making a purchase. What you may not know is they were actually acquired by FIS Global in 2019. The Worldpay brand remains though and it’s with good reason they’ve been able to cement their place as one of the best payment methods for online businesses.
Despite its size, Worldpay is neatly organised with a dedicated small business team. Worldpay’s small business offering allows businesses to accept payments via three checkout methods:
Payment gateway – accept PayPal and ALL credit/debit cards.
Pay by link – email your customers to complete a payment from their inbox.
Virtual terminal – take payments over the phone using a secure web browser.
You have the option to either link a separate merchant account with Worldpay or establish your own Worldpay merchant account for free. Customer service is available from a UK team 24/7/365.
Set-up Fees: None
Transaction Fees: Dependent on Package.
Subscription Fees: Dependent on package but begins at £19.95 gateway fee with the Simplicity plan.
2.75% + £0.20 for both credit and debit card payments.
0.75% on debit cards and 2.75% on credit cards.
£19.95 monthly gateway fee
Worldpay – Our Take
As far as core payment processing offerings go, you’ll struggle to beat Worldpay. As the number one global acquirer, the firm manages $1.7 trillion of payment volumes annually. If you opt for the Worldpay checkout experience, PCI compliance is completely handled for you, fraud checks are conducted, and payments are routed via only the fastest and most secure networks.
If you’re selling outside of the UK then Worldpay has a Global reach, operating in over 40 countries and handling over 120 currencies. What’s more Worldpay does not charge you to accept payments in foreign currencies.
Accept all credit and debit cards as well as PayPal.
Payments can be made via email link and telephone.
24/7/365 customer support.
Market-leading security and compliance.
Simple fee structure.
Additional products include PPE equipment, face-to-face payment acceptance and even a cash advance from Worldpay Business Finance.
Important to choose the most appropriate plan to avoid excessive fees.
Online shop offered by a Worldpay partner as opposed to their own solution.
Shopify deserves a spot in our top 5 as, in addition to an online payment gateway, it provides a complete solution for all your online selling needs. Shopify payments are included as part of your overall Shopify plan which provides you with so much more than just the online payment gateway. Whatever plan you opt for you’ll receive an ecommerce website and blog that you can manage with Shopify. Meaning you can build your complete online store, including a smooth checkout experience and accepting payments online for your small business. The online payment processing element that is included in your Shopify plan is called Shopify payments and it’s actually powered by Stripe, so you’re safe in the knowledge it has a world-leading payment processor behind it.
If you’re an online-only business then Shopify is almost always a great fit. Shopify Payments not only allows credit and debit card payments but accelerated checkout payment methods such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Shopify Pay (Shopify’s own one-click checkout for repeat customers). Over the last year, Shopify Payments has processed over $16.6 billion globally.
The Shopify plan that you opt for not only influences your payment gateway fees but also the benefits you receive through Shopify overall, including the number of locations you can manage stock.
Set-up Fees: None
Transaction Fees: Dependent on package.
Subscription Fees: Monthly, varies depending on package.
2.2% + £0.20
1.9% + £0.20
1.6% + £0.20
Shopify – Our Take
Shopify runs one of the smoothest, full-suite, ecommerce operations available today. If you’re looking to list on marketplaces as well as make direct sales then Shopify has you covered. The amount of additional features available through Spotify are near-endless, including domain registration, dropshipping recommendations and a full suite of marketing tools and insights that even allow you to create google and facebook ads from your Shopify dashboard.
The payment fees are pretty average but it’s the additional value that Shopify adds which is the winner here. One thing to watch out for is that if you run your online store through Shopify but use a different payment gateway, say Worldpay for example, then Shopify will levy additional fees. On the basic Shopify plan, Shopify charges an extra 2% per transaction, on the usual Shopify plan it’s an extra 1% and on the Advanced Shopify plan it’s an additional 0.5%. SMEs using the basic or normal shopify plan will almost certainly want to ensure they’re using Shopify payments to ensure they’re getting the cheapest online payment processing available. And after all, why shouldn’t you, as it’s included as part of the Shopify plan anyway.
Comprehensive online selling solution – whatever you need to sell online, Shopify has you covered.
Google Pay and Apple Pay compatible.
Shopify POS lite included in all packages, allowing you to take in-person payments too.
24/7 customer support.
Costly if you use Shopify as your online store with a different payment gateway provider.
Square has long been known as one of the leading point-of-sale software and hardware providers, so it comes as no surprise they’re looking to crack online payment processing as well. Being a little late to the party, Square has launched with some very tidy packages, including a completely free entry-level plan that only sees you pay when transactions are made.
Just like Shopify, square is looking to become your complete online solution, including web hosting and website design. With Square’s free plan, you can use the online store builder to create, design and launch your site completely for free. The only cost you’ll encounter is when you make a sale at 2.5% per transaction.
If you use Square as your point-of-sale provider as well then integration across the two is seamless – allowing you to manage stock across both online and in-store oders, view sales history and manage buyer information.
Set-up Fees: None at all.
Transaction Fees: 2.5% except for premium which is 2.25%.
Subscription Fees: Monthly and varies on package.
As you progress through the Square online plans you don’t actually receive any tangible benefits to your online payment gateway, except for premium which sees a lower fee charged per transaction. The additional features you can benefit from as you progress through the packages relate to other areas, such as a custom domain beginning at the Professional package and customer review capabilities starting at the performance package.
Square – Our Take
2.5% is on the more expensive end of transaction fees but we have to weigh this up against a completely free-to-use entry level package. Even going up to the performance package, priced at £19 a month will see you paying a lower subscription fee than with many other providers. If you’ve traditionally sold face-to-face and are looking for an online solution then Square will prove a pretty solid bet. Managing your in-store POS with the same provider as your online payment gateway saves a lot of time and hassle.
Even the free package comes with unlimited bandwidth and a free SSL certificate. Having a secure SSL connection will help power your eCommerce sales by enabling customers to checkout directly on your domain. However, it should be noted, to bring a custom domain to Square you’ll have to opt for one of the paid packages.
Fee structure as simply as they come.
Tons of other benefits included in your Square eCommerce plan.
Free, no monthly subscription plan available.
Easy integration if you use Square as your point-of-sale provider.
Apple Pay, Google Pay and Square Pay all accepted in addition to credit card processing.
Create checkout links and take payment over the phone.
Sync with WordPress, Woocommerce, Wix and many other web builders.
Free plan does not allow for custom domain.
2.5% is at the more expensive end of transaction fees.
There’s only one way to choose a winner here and that’s to do an online payment gateway price comparison. Summarising the fees we havealready discussed per online payment gateway provider:
1.4% + £0.20 for European cards
2.9% + £0.20 for non-European cards
Starting at £27
1.99% credit cards, 40p debit cards*
Starting at £19.95
2.75% + £0.20 for both credit and debit card payments on basic plan
Starting at $29
2.2% + £0.20 on basic plan, as low as 1.6% on Shopify’s enhanced plan
Starting from nothing
2.5% on most plans, 2.2% on the most advanced plan.
*Opayo transaction fees are not available directly from the Opayo website. Fees based on our independent research.
UK Winner – Opayo
There are thousands of positive reviews that can be found online for Opayo. UK-only businesses are likely to appreciate the UK-based support team that is available 24/7 and won’t mind that Opayo only operates throughout the UK & Ireland. Its parent company Elavon is also a well-trusted payment processor. If the transaction fees are also as they are reported elsewhere through our research – 1.99% for credit cards and just 40p for debit – then this represents a good saving against the average transaction fees charged in the online payment systems industry.
If we consider the overall proposition offered then Stripe deserves a mention here too. There are tonnes of payment solutions available, no matter the type of business you operate. Perhaps better suited for businesses who prefer to work online it still has a well regarded 24/7 customer service team on hand.
If we’re talking specifically for UK-based transactions then Stripe is overall the cheapest online payment processing company for entry-level businesses. The fact it has no subscription fees and a special lowered rate for European card transactions makes it a great option for businesses operating in the UK. Stripe recognises it gets better rates from its European banking and card acquiring partners, and passes this saving onto its customers, demonstrating its commitment to fair pricing and making Stripe the cheapest payment gateway in the UK.
Square and Shopify deserve a special mention for customers looking for a complete eCommerce solution, including web hosting and web design. Shopify’s standard plans start from just $29 p/m and incorporate Shopify Payments, which are in turn powered by Stripe so remains a very strong product in its own right.
Final Word – Best Online Payment Gateway for Small Business in the UK
After a thorough online payment systems comparison, it’s clear that the online payment processing industry is dominated by larger players than those involved in the money transfer industry. This doesn’t appear to be at the detriment to customers though as low fees and multiple online payment methods are available on the market. When Stripe entered the market for online payment solutions just 10 years ago it disrupted the industry sufficiently to see all of the major providers deliver a strong solution, with multiple plans that include cheap, entry-level packages. Stripe suggests the best payment methods for online businesses, based on their location, and provides the cheapest online payment gateway in the UK.
Square, under their Square eCommerce offering, also offers a no-fee subscription which only sees you paying when an online payment is processed, but at 2.5% it is a little more expensive than Stripe. We’ve determined the best online payment gateway in the UK to be Opayo, given its resoundingly positive customer feedback but businesses who operate outside the UK may prefer one of the other options listed in our online payment gateway comparison.
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