Payment gateways allow you to take card payments online or in-store, which means they can offer credit card payment processing online and offline, as well as work with Point of Sale (POS) processing in-store.
Some payment gateways are simply a way to charge cards, with fees being charged to the merchant ordinarily at anywhere between 1.4%-3.5%. However, if you have a merchant account, then processing fees are reduced to around interchange fees, which are typically around 0.10%-20% per transaction.
For low volume sales a simple payment gateway will be the most effective option in the short-term, as the monthly fees can eat into income more than processing fees. However, once sales volume reaches a critical threshold then it becomes cheaper to pay a monthly fee for merchant processing with interchange fees.
You'll find that a number of the best payment gateways offer both options, or some other advantage above the field. This could be anything from reduced processing fees for certain cards, to direct integration into accounting software.
Which provider you choose will depend on your needs, but here we'll list what we think are the best payment gateways and the different service tiers they offer.
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Best payment gateways - at a glance
Boasting more than 220 million active accounts around the world, PayPal is clearly the most widely used payments platform. Founded in 1998 as Cofinity, it lets you make and receive payments all over the world.
PayPal provides payment processing services for e-commerce vendors, auction sites and other commercial entities globally, and allows you to accept credit cards including Amex and Visa. It also offers easy cart integration, plentiful customization options, online invoicing, and facilitates credit card payments over the phone.
PayPal is normally associated with online marketplace eBay, but it’s worth noting that by 2020, it’ll cease to be eBay’s main payment option (as the company is switching to Adyen – although PayPal will still be offered as an optional payment service). In a statement made last year, eBay said it made the move to offer customers more competitive prices.
Pricing is competitive, with card processing charged at 2.9% per transaction, with no monthly fees, making it ideal for lower-volume merchants.
Stripe is yet another powerful payment platform designed for internet businesses, with the company claiming to handle billions of dollars worth of transactions annually. The main difference between this service and many others is that it isn’t an out-of-the-box solution. Instead, you’re provided with a range of flexible tools to customize your own payment processes.
Designed for larger firms, it offers a plethora of APIs that allow you to create your own subscription services, on-demand marketplaces, or crowdfunding platforms. It supports a range of development languages, including Ruby, Python, PHP and Java.
Furthermore, Stripe supports more than a hundred currencies, and offers features such as mobile payments, subscription billing and one-click checkout. Users also get access to a dashboard where they can visualize transactions. Clearly, then, this is a feature-rich payment gateway, although Stripe does demand a lot more technological knowledge from the user than most providers.
Stripe offers a particular advantage to merchants based in Europe, as card processing fees for European cards are 1.4% + 20p per transaction. For non-European cards processing fees are a more standard 2.9%, plus $0.30 per charge. Additionally, for larger volume needs, it has a customized plan with volume discounts.
Payline is a Pineapple Payments company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. It provides solutions to businesses ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, with a focus on the payment experience.
Payline offers gateway payment processing, and its web solutions are designed to integrate with over 175 online shopping carts. The company also offers mobile solutions designed to accept payments via mobile apps. The Payline payment processing gateway also integrates with QuickBooks for ease of payroll management, and business financials in general.
Pricing for bricks and mortar stores starts from $10 per month, plus a 0.2% fee and $0.10 per transaction. For online stores, pricing starts at $20 per month, plus a transaction fee of 0.3% and $0.20.
Adyen is used by companies such as Uber, Spotify, Microsoft and eBay to handle business and customer transactions. The software lets you accept every payment made to your company from a single platform, as well as giving you tools to manage risk and track results.
Not only does Adyen accept more than 250 payment methods and 150 global currencies, but it also lets you analyze transaction data to benefit from “data-rich insights to learn customer behavior.”
For example, you’re able to identify buyer behavior and patterns, allowing you to tweak products and services appropriately. There’s also a built-in risk management tool that sifts through data to identify and fight cases of fraud.
Processing fees vary by the method of payment, but the firm uses Interchange++ pricing, with an additional transaction fee which is $0.12 for most transactions. However, you will need a merchant bank account to take advantage of interchange pricing.
The main aim of these solutions is to streamline the payments process, and Authorize.net (from Visa) does exactly that. Developed with firms of all sizes in mind and offering a choice of plans, the platform gives you the tools to sell items and take payments online, or in-person at a store.
With the solution, you can accept payments from websites and transfer funds into a merchant bank account quickly. It supports all major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diner’s Club and JCB. As well as this, the platform is compatible with digital payment services such as Apple Pay, PayPal and Visa Checkout.
Although the software can accept transactions made by customers all over the world, your business must be registered in the US, UK, Canada, Europe or Australia if you’d like to use this service.
The best way to take advantage of Authorize.net is to have a merchant account, in which case plans start with the Payment Gateway Only offering, which has no setup fee, a monthly gateway fee of $25, plus a per transaction fee of $0.10 and a daily batch fee of an additional $0.10. At the other end of the spectrum are enterprise solutions which offer tailored pricing for larger business needs.
Other payment gateways to consider
While we've mentioned some of the best merchant gateways, there are a number of others worth considering. This is especially as many are available to integrate with existing ecommerce platforms using nothing more than an easy-to-install plugin. Here, therefore, we'll list some additional merchant gateways that are well worth considering, according to the differing needs of online businesses.
Worldpay is another popular payment gateway, with a number of integrations available for popular ecommerce platforms. You can set up as a paid-monthly service, or else use a merchant account to take advantage of interchange fees on all transactions. However, Worldpay has undergone significant changes over the past few years, after being owned by at least two different companies, so it's worth inquiring as to what services are currently available and at what price.
Sagepay offers not just a merchant gateway, but the ability to directly record all sales and transactions directly into your Sage accounting software. This makes it especially invaluable for efficiency purposes, not least because it means you can see your costs and income in real-time. However, while there are different plans available for Sagepay, it's best to have a merchant account to get the most out of the software, not least for reducing transaction fees in the first place.
2Checkout is another payment provider that is commonly used by online merchants, not least because as well as one-off purchases it's easy to set up subscriptions. This makes it especially useful for online businesses selling digital services such as web hosting or web design companies. It's also commonly available as a plugin for major ecommerce platforms, and can process a wide range of global currencies.