What’s the best online payment solution for small businesses? The answer very much depends on your type of business, sales volume, online payment methods required, and whether you need or have an online store.

Some platforms make it super-easy to set up sales channels if the card processing system is already integrated with your required payment methods. Others are purely offering the backend payment system that has to be connected manually to the outward-facing sales channel – requiring technical know-how.

In other words, the answer isn’t always clear-cut. Let’s compare the best online payment systems to give a better picture of what might suit you best.

Provider Best for Website
1. Square Breadth of user-friendly, free online payment tools accessible in app or web browser.
2. Worldpay Trusted payment processing with your own merchant account & custom fees.
3. PayPal Popular with payers because of Buyer Protection, familiarity & convenience.
4. SumUp Simplicity & accessibility of payment features with fixed card rate & no monthly fees.
5. Adyen High-volume businesses needing a custom solution for their global customers.
6. iZettle If you need a cheap POS-and-online payments system with not too many features.
7. 2Checkout International payments and advanced subscription features.
8. Stripe Advanced, scalable payment flows managed by your own developer.
Provider Best for Website
1. Square Breadth of user-friendly, free online payment tools accessible in app or web browser.
2. Worldpay Trusted payment processing with your own merchant account & custom fees.
3. PayPal Popular with payers because of Buyer Protection, familiarity & convenience.
4. SumUp Simplicity & accessibility of payment features with fixed card rate & no monthly fees.
5. Adyen High-volume businesses needing a custom solution for their global customers.
6. iZettle If you need a cheap POS-and-online payments system with not too many features.
7. 2Checkout International payments and advanced subscription features.
8. Stripe Advanced, scalable payment flows managed by your own developer.

First, some basics: To accept payments online, you need a payment processor connected to one or more of these sales channels:

  • Online store: Full-fledged website with products and a checkout page.

  • Payment link: Link to a checkout page shared via text, email, app or social media.

  • Pay button: Embed code added to existing website to link a product with a checkout.

  • QR code: To scan with a mobile camera for paying on a web page on a phone.

  • Click and collect: Web page where customers can order for collection or delivery.

  • E-invoice: Email with billing info (incl. due date) and a link to pay online.

  • Virtual terminal: Web page where the merchant enters card details for the customer.

  • Card on file: Card details saved electronically for authorised or repeat payments.

  • E-gift cards: Digital gift cards sold online and issued via email or message link.

An online payment system may process payments for few or all of these payment methods. Some solutions require coding through so-called APIs (Application Programming Interface) in order to set up the payment system you need. Others are already connected with user-friendly sales tools so you can easily e.g. send and manage invoice payments without adding a pay button code on invoices.

All online stores use a payment gateway, which is the card processing system connected to an online checkout page. But user-friendly online payment solutions already have this set up so all you need is to create the online store in a website builder. Lots to consider here – now, let’s go through the different online systems.


1. Square – easiest, most complete out-of-the-box solution

No other payments platform in the UK has a wider range of free online payment tools than Square. There’s no contractual commitment, no monthly fees (unless you upgrade to a paid online store plan), only pay-as-you-go transaction fees.

Square handles payment processing so there’s no need to install anything to accept payments in your bank account. You just need to create an account via the quick online sign-up form and start using the payment tools available in your Square account.

Square
Payment system Already integrated with Square selling tools. APIs available to connect Square Payments with external ecommerce software.
Selling tools
  • Online store
  • Online gateway
  • Payment links
  • Buy buttons
  • QR codes
  • Virtual terminal
  • Invoicing
  • Click & collect
  • Card on file
  • Recurring payments
  • Online gift cards
Payouts In bank account within 1-2 working days.
Immediately with Instant Transfers (1% extra fee).
Fees Online store, links, QR codes, e-gift cards:
European cards: 1.9%, Non-European cards: 2.9%
Virtual terminal, invoices & card on file: 2.5%
No contract, no monthly fees (except for online store plans)
Square
Payment system Already integrated with Square selling tools. APIs available to connect Square Payments with external ecommerce software.
Selling tools
  • Online store
  • Online gateway
  • Payment links
  • Buy buttons
  • QR codes
  • Virtual terminal
  • Invoicing
  • Click & collect
  • Card on file
  • Recurring payments
  • Online gift cards
Payouts In bank account within 1-2 working days.
Immediately with Instant Transfers (1% extra fee).
Fees Online store, links, QR codes, e-gift cards:
European cards: 1.9%, Non-European cards: 2.9%
Virtual terminal, invoices & card on file: 2.5%
No contract, no monthly fees (except for online store plans)

If most of your payments are from a UK/European debit or credit card, you pay an attractive, fixed online rate of 1.9% per transaction. Non-European cards incur a 2.9% fee per transaction. With an annual turnover of at least £250k, you can negotiate lower fees with Square.

We are impressed with how many features you actually get without a monthly fee. For example, the virtual terminal for over-the-phone payments is more advanced than certain other providers charging for theirs. Online Checkout can be used for sending payment links, printing QR codes for your premises for socially distanced orders and adding pay buttons on an existing website. Square Invoices has its own app for managing all client invoices for bills or estimates.

Square online payments

You can set up an online store for free, but a professional-looking website probably requires a paid online store plan that has more features. An online ordering page for collection or delivery can be set up for free. Online gift cards can also be issued and accepted.

Alternatively, you can integrate Square with many different kinds of partner apps for e.g. accounting and online takeaway platforms. APIs are also available to add Square Payments to a different ecommerce solution.

Pros

  • Simple, quick sign-up

  • Lack of monthly fees and contract

  • Impressive range of free tools

  • Very easy-to-use features

  • Many integrations available

  • Instant payouts available