Need to take payments over the phone, but not sure which virtual terminal to choose? Quite a few payment providers in the UK offer virtual terminals, but only few are truly good value for a small business.

Compared to card machine payments, manually typing card details is more expensive because there’s a greater risk for the card company to accept a card that is not read physically in a terminal.

There is, however, a lot of variation in costs between phone payment terminals. Some providers require a monthly fee, formal PCI documentation and fee per transaction. Others only require the transaction fee, completely bypassing a traditional contract and subscription fees.

What is a virtual terminal?

  • Web page for entering card details securely to accept a payment from a person who is not present.
  • Does not read payment cards in a card machine – instead, credit card processing is done through an internet browser.
  • Commonly used for mail orders and over-the-phone payments.

So which is the right one to choose? Our virtual terminal comparison gives you an overview of the five best in the UK.

ProviderRatingCostsWebsite
Square logo£0/mo
2.5% card fee
Worldpay logo red text£9.95 + VAT/mo
Varying card fees
Sage Pay logo£15 + VAT/mo
Varying card fees
PayPal logo£20/mo
1.9%-3.4% + 20p card fee
SumUp logo£0/mo
2.95% + 25p card fee
WhoCostLink
Square logoNo monthly fee & 2.5% card fee
Worldpay logo red text£9.95 + VAT/mo & varying card fees
Sage Pay logo£15 + VAT/mo & varying card fees
PayPal logoFrom £20/mo & 1.9%-3.4% + 25p card fee
SumUp logoNo monthly fee & 2.95% + 25p card fee

Square – easy and no monthly fees

Square
Our rating
  • No monthly cost, only pay card fee

  • Easy sign-up

  • Very simple and user-friendly

  • No commitment

If you’re looking for no commitment, quick registration and no monthly fees, Square is your best solution. The only thing you pay is a fixed transaction fee per Virtual Terminal payment.

Square Virtual Terminal UK

Square Virtual Terminal is a very simple page focusing on card details. Photo: Square

You can go many months without using the terminal, without being charged anything, and it will still be available as a complimentary feature in your Square account.

Square Virtual Terminal accepts Visa, Visa Electron, V Pay, Mastercard, Maestro and American Express.

The virtual payment terminal page is quite simple – enter the card details, amount to be paid and a short note that will be shown in your sales reports (i.e. not for personal details), or itemise the bill with products from your library (or new custom items), taxes, discounts and variants.

Pricing

Monthly cost: Free

Transaction fee: 2.5% for all cards

PCI compliance: No fee

If you’ve saved a customer’s card details in the system, you can pick that for the payment, or start a recurring payment if you’re setting up a new regularly occurring transaction.

Square really has lowered the threshold for getting started with payments, whether it’s for the point of sale, via invoicing, ecommerce or in this case a virtual terminal. With a Square account, you can take payments in any of these ways for a fixed percentage. There is no requirement to submit PCI documentation with Square, but they do expect you to follow general safety check recommendations in line with PCI regulations.

Best for: Small, new or seasonal businesses needing an easy, not-committing option for remote payments.

Worldpay – popular in the UK

Worldpay
Our rating
  • £9.95 + VAT/mo + transaction fees

  • Card rates determined during sign-up

  • User-friendly online interface

  • Rolling, cancellable 30-day contract

As the biggest payment processor in the UK, Worldpay offers everything from card machines to online payments, including virtual terminals. Transaction rates are shaped around your card turnover, business area and card types accepted.

Worldpay Virtual Terminal review

Worldpay Virtual Terminal allows you to add billing address.

Precise card rates are given by Worldpay when you contact them, but one thing is sure: the Virtual Terminal, on its own, has a fixed monthly fee of £9.95 + VAT. You pay for transactions on top of the monthly cost, and the plan can be cancelled any time with 30 days’ notice.

Worldpay has a broad range of features for remote payments, including recurring payments and pay-by-link where customers can pay via an email link. If you want a payment gateway and pay-by-links together with the virtual terminal, it costs £19.95 + VAT per month.

Transaction fees can be negotiated to comprise of a fixed amount like 10p or 20p + a percentage based on the card type. Debit cards are cheaper (from 0.5%) than credit cards (from 1.4%), and foreign, corporate and premium cards like American Express cost even more (from 1.9%). With no transaction history, you may just get a fixed general rate like 1.75%.

Pricing

Monthly cost: £9.95 + VAT

Transaction fee: Depends on plan, card type & turnover, higher for premium & foreign cards

PCI compliance: Costs apply for non-compliance

Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express and Diners Club are accepted through the Worldpay virtual terminal, but it is possible they allow other card brands with an extra agreement.

Some features – such as advanced reporting – may incur extra fees, and the monthly costs would not be suitable for businesses who only use the virtual terminal occasionally. Customer service is available over phone and email 24/7.

Best for: Businesses with a relatively stable monthly turnover of over £2k monthly, accepting mainly UK-issued debit cards.

Sage Pay – best for reporting

Sage Pay
Our rating
  • £15 + VAT/mo + transaction fees

  • Different fee plans available

  • Integrates with advanced accounting

  • Highly-rated 24/7 customer support

Sage Pay is one of the biggest merchant service providers in the UK, with solutions for ecommerce, accounting, invoicing, point of sales and more. You can subscribe to the Sage virtual terminal under a plan called ‘Sage Pay Phone Payments’ (suitable for small businesses) or ‘Sage Pay Phone Payments Corporate’ if you’re a high-volume business looking for customised fees.

Sage Pay virtual terminal

Sage virtual terminal allows you to enter quite a few details.

The basic Sage Pay Phone Payments plan costs a fixed monthly fee of £15 + VAT. This gives you 100 transaction tokens and includes 24/7 phone, email and Twitter support. The Corporate plan has bespoke pricing and is for companies expecting to make over 1,500 transactions a month.

Plans have a contract period, so do ask Sage about that before signing up for anything – otherwise, you can get a heavy termination fee if cancelling before the contract is up.

With Sage Pay, you usually pay a fixed transaction percentage – or fixed-amount fee – per sale, that vary between card brands or whether a premium card is used (debit cards are cheaper to accept). You will only get information about exact fees when you start an application process with the company.

Pricing

Monthly fee: £15 + VAT

Transaction fees: Determined at sign-up

PCI compliance: Costs included

By default, Sage accepts Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard and Maestro via the virtual terminal, but is also able to set up acceptance for other payment types. Their round-the-clock customer support is generally highly rated.

Best for: Merchants already using Sage’s accounting software and who want to integrate it with phone sales.

PayPal – better for high-volume businesses

PayPal
Our rating
  • £20/mo + various transaction fees

  • Expensive below £1,500/mo turnover

  • Quick settlement in PayPal account

  • Integrates with other PayPal services

PayPal is a popular choice for small business, perhaps partly because it is so well-known. The virtual terminal itself is effective and highly secure, but PayPal makes it your responsibility to set up PCI compliance, which can be costly if you require assistance. PayPal Virtual Terminal accepts Visa, Mastercard and Maestro, and transactions settle in your PayPal account within minutes. Customer service is only available during working hours in the UK.

PayPal Virtual Terminal

PayPal’s virtual terminal is simple to use, but costs are a little complicated.

To cut to the chase, transaction fees for their virtual terminal are some of the highest for small businesses.

For a card turnover of less than £1,500 a month, you pay 3.4% + 20p per transaction, then 2.9% + 20p for a monthly turnover of £1,500.01-£6,000, 2.4% + 20p for a monthly turnover of £6,000.01-£15,000, and 1.9% + 20p for a monthly turnover of over £15k. These are for domestic payments only – transactions using a foreign-issued card incur an additional cross-border fee of 0.4%-1.5% depending on the cardholder’s country. Additional fees apply to certain transactions, e.g. for “card account verification” or “uncaptured” payments.

Monthly turnover is based on the previous month’s card taking through PayPal, so it can change month-on-month, and the first month will always incur the highest fee since there is no record of payments from the month before.

Furthermore, a monthly cost of £20 is charged for having the Virtual Terminal in your PayPal account. To sign up, you submit an online form followed by a phone call with PayPal to discuss your requirements.

Pricing

Monthly fee: £20

Transaction fee: 3.5%-1.9% + 20p (lower the higher your turnover) + additional fees may apply

Cross-border fee: 0.4%-1.5% depending on cardholder country

PCI compliance: Costs apply

It is possible to choose a different fee system for cards (Interchange Plus), but these fees are more complicated.

Tired of reading about PayPal fees? Maybe this virtual terminal isn’t for you. However, they do offer a broad range of online payment features such as recurring payments, PayPal checkout on your website, but also a mobile card reader. If you’d like to have all this in one place, you may prefer PayPal.

Best for: Online businesses using PayPal services regularly, with a card turnover of at least £6k a month.

SumUp – for existing users with history of sales

SumUp
Our rating
  • No ongoing fees

  • Simple layout

  • Requires approval by SumUp

  • No commitment

SumUp is mostly know for its low-cost card readers. They don’t advertise its Virtual Terminal, but if you have a SumUp account with some sales history, you can message customer support to get the virtual terminal activated. SumUp will ask for some information, after which they undergo security checks. If all goes well, the virtual terminal will be activated for use in your account.

SumUp Virtual Terminal has a simple layout, in line with all of SumUp’s no-fuss products.

The virtual terminal costs nothing in monthly fees, but transactions are charged at 2.95% + 25p regardless of card type or sales volume. Although higher than some other virtual terminals’ card fees, the lack of monthly costs could still mean this is the most economical solution for seasonal sales or low-volume merchants.

Existing SumUp users who have been taking cards through the Air or 3G card reader can benefit from keeping both face-to-face and phone payment transactions viewable in the same account, exported to Excel for accounting purposes.

SumUp Virtual Terminal accepts Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, Diners Club, Discover and JCB – which is the largest selection of cards (on this shortlist) available by default to accept.

Pricing

Monthly cost: Free

Transaction fee: 2.95% + 25p for all cards

PCI compliance: No fee

There is no contract to commit to with SumUp. Once it is activated, you will be able to accept payments through the virtual terminal when required, but a period of non-usage may deactivate it eventually, requiring you to contact SumUp again.

As with Square’s virtual terminal, the only additional information you can enter is a short note. No customer address or other details than card information can be added.

Best for: SumUp users with an accumulation of transactions from card reader sales.

payment link providers UK

Have you considered pay-by-links? We’ve reviewed the best UK options:

Best payment links for a small business

Summary

Which is the best virtual payment terminal, then? It comes down to how you prioritise monthly fees, contractual commitment, features and ease of use. Sales volume and type of cards accepted (credit or debit) also determine whether one provider is cheaper than another.

Strengths of each virtual terminal provider:

Virtual terminalBest forWebsite
SquareQuickest startup, no commitment, simple card rate – least hassle for a small business.
WorldpayBreadth of virtual terminal features for an affordable, 30-day rolling contract.
SageExisting cloud accounting customers who want to integrate over-the-phone sales with the software.
PayPalExisting, medium-volume PayPal merchants using the online account as a central hub.
SumUpConvenience for long-term SumUp users accepting occasional telephone payments.
Virtual
terminal
Best for
Square
Quickest startup, no commitment, simple card rate – least hassle for a small business.
Worldpay
Breadth of virtual terminal features for an affordable, 30-day rolling contract.
Sage
Existing cloud accounting customers who want to integrate over-the-phone sales with the software.
PayPal
Existing, medium-volume PayPal merchants using the online account as a central hub.
SumUp
Convenience for long-term SumUp users accepting occasional telephone payments.