Here at Money Transfer Comparison we are experts on everything to do with international fx payments. With that in mind, we bring our comparison expertise to compare online payment systems in the UK. In this guide, we’ll look at the pros and cons of each payment gateway and compare the costs for accepting both domestic and international card payments. Ultimately, we’ll provide a data-backed answer to which payment gateway is cheapest.
Top Five Online Payment Systems for your Small Business
Find a list below of the top five online payment systems for your small business. The list has been compiled based on the credibility, security, cost and overall quality of the online payment processing systems available to UK businesses. First and foremost – we prioritise the fees charged by each provider as the primary determining factor. But we also take a look at the payment methods they accept and the overall quality of their solution, including customer service, PCI compliance and ease of integration.
Square (Our #1 Choice!)
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 things like 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 either 1.4 / 2.5% + 25p per transaction.
If you also opt for Square as your point-of-sale provider then integration across the two is seamless – allowing you to manage stock levels across both online and in-store orders, view sales history and manage buyer information.
Set-up Fees: None at all.
Transaction Fees: 1.4% + 25p for UK cards and 2.5% + 25p for non-UK cards
Subscription Fees: None at all.
|European Card||Non-European Card|
The above fees are the standard pricing pan for SMEs. If your business processes a high volume of payments, you may be eligible for a custom pricing plan. Speak to the Square sales team to learn more. 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 fixed fee charged per transaction (15p instead of 25p). The additional features you can benefit from as you progress through the packages relate to other areas, such as a custom domain beginning on the Premium Plan and improved video uploading capabilities on the Professional Plan.
Square – Our Take
Square has drastically streamlined its pricing by removing different plans and scrapping monthly subscription fees on its payment gateway solution. Instead, it’s now a simple 1.4% +25p on UK cards and 2.5% +25p on non-UK cards. Even cheaper than the 1.9% and 2.9% they used to charge on UK and international cards respectively. With this in mind, we think these are very reasonable fees for accepted card payments from the UK, Europe and Rest of World. With a fixed 25p payment fee added to the percentage charged, the only instance the new fee structure will not work in your favour is if you sell low-value goods or services (roughly under £40).
If you’ve traditionally sold face-to-face and are looking for an online solution then Square proves a very solid bet. Managing your in-store POS with the same provider as your online payment gateway saves a lot of time and hassle.
The completely 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.
Runner-Up: 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 originally started its journey known as Protx before it was acquired by Sage. The company’s size is 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 is 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 an impressive 4.9 / 5 TrustScore on TrustPilot from over 4,500 customer reviews (as of May 2023), 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 necessary payment tools to help businesses grow. Packages are well defined and the company is trusted by its 50,000+ customers. Every year, Opayo’s payment gateway processes around £40bn worth of card payments for over 50,000 merchants, across online and in-person.
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 ‘start at 1.99%’ on the no-monthly fee account and ‘start at 0.99%’ on the paid monthly account, subject to card turnover.
Subscription Fees: In a bid to simplify their offering, there are now just two packages available through Opaya, including a newly added no-fee monthly account.
Pay as you go
– No free transactions
– 1.99% or more transaction fee + ‘12p gateway click fee’
– Free fraud screening tools
– 24/7 support
Always open – £25 monthly fee
– 350 free transactions
– 0.99% or more transaction fee
– No gateway click fee
– Free fraud screening tools
– 24/7 support
Opayo – Our Take
The firm may have moved from Sage to Elavon in 2019 but with hundreds of 5* customer reviews in 2022/23 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 subscription plans are now clearly separated between a free monthly account and a paid £25 monthly fee account. One thing we don’t like is the 12p ‘gateway access fee’ – it’s not a particularly common charge and adds an unwelcome extra charge on the basic plan. One thing we really like is the 350 free transactions on the paid monthly account – if you process at least this volume of payments a month then the monthly fee will easily pay for itself. Shopify & Square both have monthly packages of greater value that still attract higher transaction fees.
With all that being said, we haven’t been able to identify the exact transaction fees involved with the plans from Opayo’s website – they simply mention the ‘starting at’ prices which we assume are only available to businesses processing a high volume/value of card turnover.. Looking at the overall solution, 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.
Stripe has been one of the hottest fintechs to have launched in the 21st century. 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 licences 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 is only slightly more expensive than Square for UK cards and works out a little cheaper for processing cards from the EU. They are substantially more expensive for processing non-EU international credit cards.
Set-up Fees: None
- 1.4% + £0.20 for UK cards
- 2.5% + £0.20 for cards in EEA
- 3.54% + £0.20 for non-EEA cards outside the UK
An additional 2% is charged if currency conversion is required, i.e. customers opts to pay in their own currency.
Subscription Fees: No setup fees, monthly fees, or hidden fees.
Stripe is unique as it actively separates the transaction fee between UK, 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 business only selling in your jurisdiction then you do know that you’ll be paying 1.5% + £0.20. A very reasonable fee – the only cheaper option on a free account is the 1.4% + £0.25 fee charged by Stripe. Custom plans are also possible for large scale enterprises.
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.
Brexit has forced Stripe to increase its fees for processing cards from the EEA – 1.4% to 2.5% but with a + £0.20 fixed charge this is still slightly cheaper than the 2.5% + £0.25 charged by Square. Where it really gets more expensive than square, however, if for processing international cards. As of 10 April 2023 the strip fee for processing international cards outside the EEA is 3.25% + £0.20, considerably more than Square who charge the same fees they do for European cards. However, if you’re a UK only business that wants the cheapest online payment gateway in the UK, then look no further than Stripe.
Set-up Fees: None
Transaction Fees: Dependent on package but the FIS / Worldpay website is convoluted and rather opaque when it comes to fees. The FIS website simply states “2.75% + 20p. We won’t tie you up in knots with complex pricing. Pay as you go at the rate above, or with a simple monthly payment plan.”
Worldpay is the least transparent of any provider reviewed and we think this is a bad sign. Through research on the FIS website and alternative places on the net, we have found the most up-to-date pricing as of May 2023.
Subscription Fees: Dependent on package – begins at £19 gateway fee with the Gateway Standard plan and a £45 fee for Gateway Advanced. It’s not clear at all what the benefits are of the subscription plans. It appears that a pay-as-you-go option is also available.
|Pay as you go||Gateway Standard||Gateway Advanced|
|Transaction Fees||2.75% + £0.20 for both credit and debit card payments.||2.75% + £0.20 for both credit and debit card payments.||0.75% on debit cards and 2.75% on credit cards.|
|Monthly Fees||None||£19 monthly gateway fee||£45 monthly gateway fee|
Worldpay – Our Take
As far as sheer experience and magnitude of operation, 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.
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, such as things like the number of locations you can manage stock.
Set-up Fees: None
Transaction Fees: Dependent on package but even the most expensive package only matches the pay as you go option from Square.
Subscription Fees: Monthly, varies depending on package.
|Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
UK: 2% + £0.25
International: 3.1% + £0.25
UK: 1.7% + £0.25
International: 2.7% + £0.25
UK: 1.5% + £0.25
International: 2.5% + £0.25
Shopify – Our Take
Shopify has lowered the processing fee it charges as a % but has increased the per transaction fee from 20p to 25p. Businesses making high value sales will probably appreciate this, but those making frequent, low value sales may find better deals elsewhere. The international card fees on the Shopify basic account are higher with Shopify than they are with Stripe but do come in lower if you opt for the advanced package. Overall, despite lowering their payment fees, they are still above average. 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%. It’s a clever tactic as it makes using an alternative payment gateway very expensive on a shopify hosted website. SMEs using the basic or normal shopify plan will almost certainly want to ensure they’re also using Shopify payments to get the cheapest online payment processing available to their situation, i.e. they’ve opted for Shopify as their website provider. And after all, why shouldn’t they, as it’s included as part of the Shopify plan anyway. To get cheaper payment processing fees, it’s better to use a different web host.
Cheapest Online Payment Gateway UK
There’s only one way to choose a winner here and that’s to do an online payment gateway price comparison, although cheapest rates don’t always mean better service. Summarising the fees we have already discussed per online payment gateway provider we can see:
|Monthly Fees||Transaction Fees|
1.4% + £0.20 for UK cards
2.9% + £0.20 for non-UK cards
|Opayo||£25 to access lower transaction fees||Starting at 0.99%*|
|Worldpay||Pay as you go available||2.75% + £0.20 for both credit and debit card payments on pay as you go|
|Shopify||Starting at £25||2% + £0.25 on basic plan, as low as 1.5% £0.25 on Shopify’s Advanced plan|
|Square||None||1.4% + £0.25 on UK cards, 2.5% + £0.25 on non-UK cards|
*Opayo transaction fees are opaque and simply presented as ‘starting at’ so 0.99% is unlikely to be accessible to SMEse.
UK Winner – Square
Taking into account processing fees for both UK cards and international cards, Square is the winner of the cheapest payment gateway in the UK. The 1.4% variable transaction fee is on par with Stripe but the £0.25 fixed fee per transaction is just a shade more expensive than Stripe’s £0.20. Where they are substantially cheaper, however, is for processing non-UK cards. Square charges 2.5% + £0.25, whereas Stripe charges 2.9% + £0.20. Therefore, Square is the cheapest overall online payment gateway for businesses who make sales in the UK & abroad.
What’s particularly impressive is that Square offers these low fees through a pay as you go, no monthly fee subscription. Beating the rates of even paid monthly subscription plans from their competitors.
If you’re an SME that makes sales abroad, Square is most likely going to be your cheapest option. Large corporate customers will want to explore customisable plans from a range of providers.
Cheapest Online Payment Processing for UK-only Customers- Stripe
If we’re talking specifically for UK-based transactions then Stripe is the cheapest online payment processing company for entry-level businesses. The fact it has no subscription fees and a slightly lower fixed fee for UK card transactions than Square, means Stripe just edge it to the no.1 spot if you only sell domestically The 1.4% variable fee is exactly the same as it is with Square, but you make a 5p saving on the fixed fee per transaction.
Stripe used to have a cheaper payment processing fee for European cards too, but following Brexit the 2.9% transaction fee is now quite a bit higher than the 2.5% charged by Square and even higher than the 2.75% charged by Worldpay.
Shopify deserves a special mention for customers looking for a complete eCommerce solution, including web hosting and web design. Shopify’s standard plans start from just £25 p/m and incorporate Shopify Payments, which are in turn powered by Stripe so remains a very strong product in its own right.
Unknown Quantity – Cheapest Online Payment Gateway UK? Opayo
Technically, Opayo presents the cheapest transaction fee through their £25 paid monthly account. The Opayo website states ‘Starting at 0.99%’, which is the lowest advertised rate that can be found online. However, the big premise here is that it is ‘based on card turnover’. Other providers choose to present their standard tariff which most SMEs will access and then state something along the lines of ‘customisable plans available for large enterprises’. Therefore, it’s perfectly possible the likes of Square and Stripe can beat Opayo’s rates for businesses with high card turnover volumes.
With that being said, there are thousands of positive reviews that can be found online for Opayo, and large enterprises will at least want to include Opayo in any tender or price comparison they conduct. UK 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.
Dealing Directly with Customers who Pay to Your Bank from Abroad?
If you are dealing directly with customers abroad in high-value transactions that can’t be made via debit or credit card in a POS system, but rather pay through a direct bank deposit, then you should consider using a UK multi-currency virtual bank account as provided by the best foreign exchange companies. This account will enable you to receive money in multiple currencies and pay an ULTRA-tight exchange rate margin and no other fees.
Multi-Currency Account Fees
- Set-up Fees: None
- Transaction Fees: None
- Subscription Fees: None
- Foreign Exchange Rate Markup Fees: As low as 0.15% for large volumes (read the best exchange rate for bank transfers article to learn more). Not more than 1.5% per transfer even with the worst company of its kind, making this a cheaper way than any online payment gateway in UK, hence the best way to receive large international transfers from abroad.
Multi Currency Accounts – Our Take
Whether you choose a company like WorldFirst that specialises in ultra-low margins and specifically caters to online businesses, a currency broker type of company like Moneycorp whose added value in the professional support it can provide, or Wise – one of the largest online money transfer systems in the world, you will not be disappointed with how much saving they’ll show compared to your bank or payment gateway provider. It’s true that these solutions are only applicable for a limited number of businesses whose customers are happy to pay via a bank transfer (mainly B2B), but we strongly believe that over time they will integrate with more and more payment systems and be able to help more businesses reduce their foreign exchange fees.
New: Revolut, the revolutionary currency exchange platform, offers Payment Gateway solutions as well. MoneyTransferComparison also reviewed Genome, a new multi-currency platform that offers a payment gateway functionality.
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 over 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, and at 1.4% / 2.5% it is the overall cheapest payment gateway in the UK. For this reason, alongside its strong reputation for being a true tech disruptor that supports SMEs, we’ve determined Square to be the best online payment gateway in the UK too.