An online payment system is the bread and butter of any e-commerce website. E-commerce sites require ‘card not present’ transactions, and without an online payment system, you have no reliable way of taking payments. That PDQ machine is no use to you here. As we’ll see, however, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to online payment processing.
We’ve no doubt that you’ve already heard of Paypal and Worldpay – they are household names after all. As we’ll uncover, however, online payment systems can serve entirely different purposes and depending on the type of business you own, you may find considerable differences in how much they will cost to operate.
All information correct on 14/07/2022.
What is an online payment system?
An online payment system, simply put, is the system that allows you to take payments online.
The online payment system for an ecommerce site consists of two main parts:
- The payment gateway – the software that links your site’s shopping cart to the payment processing network
- The payment processor (or merchant service), which does all the important bits like actually moving the transaction through the processing network, sending you statements and working with your bank.
Another solution for processing online transactions is a virtual terminal. Unlike payment gateways, these are typically used by an employee once they have collected a customer’s details. This could be over the phone, in-store, or by email.
An online payment system is typically managed by a third-party, such as Paypal.
What are the best online payment systems on offer right now?
The UK’s most popular payment processing company, Worldpay currently processes about half of all online payments in the UK. It’s also a great choice for small businesses, with lots of flexibility when it comes to choosing a plan.
A Worldpay payment gateway can either be hosted on their site or integrated into your own site, depending on your budget and requirements. You can accept payment from around the world, with over 120 currencies supported. It’s also got advanced fraud protection to keep your business safe.
WorldPay offers two main pricing plans:
- Pay as you go: 2.75% + 20p per transaction, applicable to both credit and debit card payments.
- Pay monthly: From £19.95 per month plus 2.75% for credit card payments and 0.75% for debit card payments.
The website also states that any business with over 1,000 monthly transactions can get in touch for pricing discounts based on volume. However, it’s worth noting that for PCI compliance, Worldpay’s SaferPayments PCI service comes at an additional cost of £29.99 / year.
- Secure payments
- Flexible pricing
- All major cards accepted
- No hidden fees
- Minimum contract term 18 months
Stripe offers a customisable payment form that you can embed directly into your website so that your customers can pay easily without getting redirected. This can be important for earning trust as a brand and boosting your conversion rate. It accepts over 135 currencies. What’s more, it’s actually a lot cheaper than rivals like Worldpay.
Stripe offers some flexibility when it comes to choosing plans, though it’s not entirely clear how much from the website:
- Integrated: 1.4% + 20p per transaction for UK cards, 2.9% + 20p for European/International cards.
- Customised: Offers volume discounts, interchange pricing, multi-product discounts and country specific rates.
- Accepts Bitcoin
- Payment form available in 12 languages
- Customer service not up to the standards of other providers
- Additional features are not user friendly
3. Opayo by Elavon
Opayo by Elavon, formerly Sage Pay, is one of the UK’s most popular and trusted payment providers. Providing services to over 50,000 merchants online and in store, Opayo is a reliable choice with no hidden fees. They also offer 5 star customer support that is 24/7.
- Flex £25/month – Allows 300 transactions per month, no set-up fee and no fee for refunds.
- Plus £45/month – Allows 500 transactions per month, 9p/transaction for transactions >£350.
- Corporate – Bespoke Pricing, 3000+ transactions per month.
- 24/7 customer support
- Transparent pricing
- Accepts a wide range of major card providers
- Price increase since takeover
Square’s a great choice if you’re looking to get your online business up and running as quickly as possible, especially as it’s partnered with website builders like Wix and Weebly for ease of use. It’s cheaper than Paypal if you’re a small business (not the cheapest, admittedly), but it also offers a tonne of free features which you’ll want to take into account before you opt for any of its rivals. If you also accept a low volume of face-to-face payments, the low transaction fee could make all the difference.
Square offers a simple flat fee for both its card and card-not-present transactions. However for online transactions, their fees are:
- 1.9% for UK/EEA cards, or 1.75% if you upgrade to a premium plan
- 2.9% for non-UK/EEA cards
- Additional charge if you want to purchase your own domain name/email address
- No commitment to long-term contracts
- Simple, transparent pricing
- Sell online, accept payments and manage orders immediately
- Customer support not 24/7
Shopify offers a complete ecommerce platform, allowing you to build a site from scratch, integrate over 4,100 different apps and plugins, and use the Shopify payment gateway to take customer payments.
Shopify offers 3 main payment plans for different sizes of business:
- Basic: £19/month, online credit card rates 2% + 25p, online AMEX/International card fees 3.1% +25p, in person credit/debit card fees 1.7% + 0p
- Shopify: £49/month, online credit card rates 1.7% + 25p, online AMEX/International card fees 2.7% + 25p, in person credit/debit card fees 1.6% + 0p
- Advanced: £259/month, online credit card rates 1.5% + 25p, online AMEX/International card fees 2.5% + 25p, in person credit/debit card fees 1.5% + 0p
- All plans include fraud protection, unlimited products, various staff discounts, and a POS system to accept in person payments.
- Customers pay in their local currency using their preferred payment method
- Offers integration with over 100 payment gateways.
- Transparent fees
- 24/7 customer support
- High monthly fees, but this is more than just an online payment gateway at the end of the day.
Braintree is the lesser known division of Paypal which specialises in mobile payments and online payment solutions for ecommerce businesses. That said, Braintree also powers many of the brands you’ve come to know and love, including Uber, Airbnb and Skyscanner. It’s got some great fraud protection, accepts over 120 different currencies and low rates and zero setup fees make it an equally affordable choice for your small business.
Braintree fees are nice and easy to get your head around:
- 1.9% + 20p per transaction, with no hidden or monthly fees.
- Additional 1% fee for cards outside of the UK, or 1.5% for multi-currency transactions.
- AMEX transactions cost 2.4% + 20p per transaction.
- Merchant account and payment gateway is automatically included.
- Low and easy to understand fees.
- Online reviews suggest it can take a little longer to set up than alternatives.
Paypal made itself known through the ecommerce giant eBay, allowing for fast, reliable and generally pain-free transactions. All customers need to do is sign up for a Paypal account. It’s clearly earned a special place in consumer’s hearts as a household name, even as new alternatives to Paypal flood the market. Needless to say, Paypal’s payment gateway, Payflow, is a firm favourite with online businesses.
Paypal checkout can be expensive for businesses with a low monthly sales volume, but fees become much more manageable for higher volume retailers:
- Website Payments Pro (standard): 2.9% + 30p per transaction
- Virtual Terminal (standard): 2.9% + 30p per transaction
- Standard Debit/Credit Card Payments: 1.2% + 30p per transaction
- Advanced Debit/Credit Card Payments (AMEX): 3.5% per transaction
- Widely trusted, over 220 million users worldwide.
- Budget-friendly if you have an ambitious sales target.
- High transaction fees for small businesses with low volume.
- Various, albeit transparent, fees to be mindful of.
8. Amazon Pay
Amazon Pay really needs no explanation. Amazon makes the whole checkout process incredibly easy, with 1-click payment options, the ability to load Amazon accounts with gift cards and more. According to a recent survey, 89% of buyers are more likely to buy products from Amazon than any other online retailer. Checkout time is also significantly reduced for customers, who can re-use their previously entered details.
For a business with low monthly volume, Amazon Pay processing fees can be expensive:
- Monthly payment volume <50,000: 2.7% + 30p
- Monthly payment volume >50,000: Bespoke pricing
- 2.5 million active sellers, 150 million Prime members, and millions more standard accounts.
- 49% faster checkouts compared to other providers.
- High transaction fees for small businesses with low volume.
Authorize.net is a highly customisable payment system and one of the favourite choices for online retailers. It’s also one of the oldest and most trusted – and with over 400,000 merchant accounts around the world, it shows. UK customers can choose between either a Payment Gateway and Online Merchant Account or a Payment Gateway by itself.
Authorize.net can feel a little expensive, particularly for low volume merchants.
- Payment Gateway Only – £19 per month gateway fee, + 10p per transaction.
- Merchant Account and Payment Gateway – £19 per month and 2.49% + £0.15 per transaction. Additional £35 set up fee.
- Recurring billing is included.
- Includes a virtual terminal.
- Monthly fee.
- Extra monthly fee for non GBP currencies (£15 per month).
The word Adyen means ‘start over again’ in Surinamese, which is exactly what the company planned to do with online payments when it was founded in 2006. The company aimed to create a frictionless payment experience for the customer, and with over 250 payment methods accepted online, in person and over the phone, there’s no doubt it has achieved this.
There are no setup fees, but a range of different fees depending on the payment method can make Adyen seem quite complex:
- Visa – £0.10 + interchange ++*
- Mastercard – £0.10 + interchange ++
- AMEX – £0.10 + interchange ++
- Accepts hundreds of payments all on one platform.
- Competitive fees.
- A minimum invoice of £100 makes it a difficult sell for small businesses.
- Not good for higher risk merchants with larger numbers of chargebacks.
- Funds are settled to your bank account twice a week, which is a little slower than competitors.
*Interchange fees are variable depending on your location. Within Europe they are typically around 0.3/0.4% and within the US it’s 2%.
Fondy is a one-stop solution for all your online transactions. You can make online payments from websites, mobile applications, computers, and other payment portals from any device.
It costs nothing to get started with Fondy and there are no set-up fees, subscription payments or other costs. Simply pay a set fee for each transaction – and the more transactions you have, the lower the fee.
Pricing for businesses of all sizes:
- UK based: debit & credit cards from 1.3% + £0.2 , alternative payment methods from 0.5% + £0.2 , bank transfers from 1.2% + £0.2
- EU based: debit & credit cards from 1.3% + €0.25 , alternative payment methods from 0.5% + €0.25 , bank transfers from 1.2% + €0.25
Actual price: https://fondy.io/gb/pricing/
- Don’t have hidden and additional fees;
- Cross-border payments;
- Payuts solution
- Custom Checkout and Payment link
- Integrations with popular CMS and Web-builders
- Not 24/7 customer support
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to deciding on the type of payment service that your business needs. This roundup is designed to give you an insight into the variety of services and fee models on the market to make your decision easier.
If you’re looking for an online payment solution, then chances are you are also in the market for a new merchant account. Why not check out our article, ‘what is a merchant account’?
For ideas on the best virtual terminals, check out our other round-up.
If you’re looking to cut your overall card processing costs, CardSwitcher is here to help. We compare prices from a number of providers, helping you to save up to 40%! Start comparing card processing fees today.
Debit cards are more widely common than elsewhere in Europe, with the average shopper holding between 2-3 cards per person. 90% of the population is a Visa or Mastercard cardholder and cards account for approximately 90% of all online payments.
PayPal. PayPal is the world's most widely used payment acquirer, processing over 19 billion payments in 2021. More than 30 million merchants and 400 million active customers use PayPal. Payments are made using a user's existing account or with a credit card.
The UK's most popular payment processing company, Worldpay currently processes about half of all online payments in the UK. It's also a great choice for small businesses, with lots of flexibility when it comes to choosing a plan.
You can now send or request Cash App payments with friends located in the UK. When you send a payment outside the US, Cash App will convert the payment from USD to GBP based on the mid-market exchange rate at the time the payment is created and your recipient will receive the funds in GBP.
- Accept Credit Cards and Debit Cards Online. ...
- Accept Online Payments with eChecks and ACH. ...
- Look Into Mobile Payments, Which Continue to Grow. ...
- Provide an Online Payment Gateway. ...
- Add Click-to-Pay Email Invoicing. ...
- Schedule Recurring Billing. ...
- Build an Online Store.