What is an online payment gateway?
Payment gateways are third party payment systems that allow you to take payments through your website, without needing a card reader or complicated bank transfer. The payment software, or gateway, links your site’s shopping cart to the third party and then moves the funds, whilst communicating with the customer’s bank.
How do online payment systems charge the retailer?
Payment systems make their money in one of two ways – they either charge a monthly fee or take a small percentage of each payment. Some offer both options or a combination of the two.
Which are the best e-commerce payment gateways for small businesses in the UK?
The leading online payment gateways in the UK currently are:
WorldPay (part of Pay360) handles around half of all UK-based online transactions. Worldpay costs start with a minimum monthly package fee of £19 or 2.75% per transaction plus 20p. WorldPay works globally with most card providers and has 24 hour UK Customer support. A POS option is available for use instore.
WorldPay is recommended for businesses whose transaction levels are consistent year-round, or larger businesses with more complex payment needs. On the downside, its support channels are known for slow service, so getting started can be challenging.
PayPal was originally set up to handle payments on eBay but is now used in over 200 countries on all kinds of websites. Easy to integrate with all major e-commerce platforms, a major benefit is that your customers are likely to already have a PayPal account. This means they should be able to pay quickly, as their cards or bank details are already set up, and they will trust PayPal to handle their payment. If they don’t have a PayPal account, they can still pay through the gateway without setting one up.
PayPal charges vary depending on where the payment is coming from and are currently around 2.9% plus 30p. PayPal is known for its ease of use, for the customers and the retailer, and for its swift payment transfers. POS options to use instore are available through Zettle.
Used by all types of business, from tiny start-ups to giants such as Deliveroo and Booking.com, Stripe has a particular focus on beating fraud. Stripe’s charges start from 1.4% plus 20p per transaction, more if the card is from outside the EU. Stripe can also handle recurrent payment schemes such as subscriptions. Customers do not need a Stripe account to pay through it.
If you are selling on Shopify, you are probably using Shopify’s payment plan and it is likely to be the most favourable fees-wise. If you are already paying Shopify’s monthly hosting fees, on Shopify Basic, the transaction fee is low at 2.2% plus 20p. Shopify payments work with all major credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay and can also be used in store via Shopify’s POS.
As with PayPal, lots of people have an account set up already on Amazon, so allowing them to pay on your website, using Amazon Pay, can be quick, easy and trusted. It also means customers can pay for goods using Alexa. On the downside, the transaction fee is relatively high at 2.7% plus 30p per transaction, and Amazon Pay does not support payments with PayPal.
At Forms Plus, we use Take Payments for our checkout. Formerly known as Payzone, it offers EPOS systems and card machines as well as online payments. Take Payments has UK-based Account Management and 7 days Customer Support. The Payment Gateway can be fully customised to look like your brand and cash flow is not a problem with most payments settled on the next working day. Take Payments has plugins for most e-commerce sites including Drupal, Magento and WooCommerce but does not accept American Express.
Not a payment gateway as such, but worth a mention, Klarna is a way to receive full payment but allow your customers to pay up to 30 days later, or in monthly instalments for bigger ticket items. You can choose to offer Klarna on your own checkout, or Klarna users can use the Klarna App to pay for goods with any online retailer.
Other options that you might want to look into include Opayo (formally SagePay) which is well known for its high level of security, Cardstream – which allows “white-label” usage with your own branded payment pages and receipts and Go Cardless, which is particularly known for handling recurring subscriptions and instalments.
How to choose an e-commerce payment gateway?
The payment gateway you choose will depend on the nature of your business, your budget and the types of customers you have. Areas to consider include:
Budget – How do the payment gateway’s charges fit with your level of transactions and revenue?
Security – Check the platform is fully PCI compliant. This is needed to handle credit card data and different levels of security are recognised.
Hosted or integrated – A hosted gateway takes the customer from your website to the payment processor’s platform. An integrated gateway means the customer never leaves your site, which might make it easier to track which elements of your marketing are having an impact on revenue and help with customer trust.
Customer Journey – Some payment gateways are easier than others for customers to use. Avoid anything that takes too much time or too many steps and is likely to interrupt the purchase. Check this for mobile payments too.
Cards Accepted – Check which payment cards the gateway can handle. Some do not accept American Express. Some work with PayPal, some do not.
Data Portability – Check whether you own the customer data if you choose to leave the gateway in future, and that it is easy to download and move the data to another provider if required.
Customer Support – You may need help setting up and managing your gateway. Get a feel for customer service levels from your early enquiries and do read reviews to check you will get the service you need.
We wish you good luck in choosing your new payment gateway. Do not hesitate to get in touch, if we can help at all as you develop your e-commerce business.