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

Some platforms make it super-easy to set up if the card processing system is already integrated. Others are purely offering a payment system to connect manually with an outward-facing sales channel – this usually requires technical know-how. In other words, not everyone would be confident with some of the leading solutions.

Compare the best online payment systems UK:

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 global customers
6. Revolut Low transaction costs and multi-currency accounts for international payments
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 global customers
6. Revolut Low transaction costs and multi-currency accounts for international payments
7. 2Checkout International payments and advanced subscription features
8. Stripe Advanced, scalable payment flows managed by your own developer

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

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

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

  • Pay button: Graphical button added to website, linking to payment page.

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

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

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

An online payment system may offer some or all of these channels. Certain solutions require coding through so-called APIs (Application Programming Interface) to set up the payment system. Others are already connected with user-friendly sales tools – for example, so you can easily send and manage invoice bills without embedding a pay button on invoices.

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


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
  • Payment gateway
  • Payment links
  • Buy buttons
  • Virtual terminal
  • Invoicing
  • Click & collect
  • Recurring payments
Payouts In bank account within 1-2 working days.
Immediately with Instant Transfers (1% extra fee).
Fees Online store, links:
European cards: 1.9%, Non-European cards: 2.9%
Virtual terminal, invoices: 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
  • Payment gateway
  • Payment links
  • Buy buttons
  • Virtual terminal
  • Invoicing
  • Click & collect
  • Recurring payments
Payouts In bank account within 1-2 working days.
Immediately with Instant Transfers (1% extra fee).
Fees Online store, links:
European cards: 1.9%, Non-European cards: 2.9%
Virtual terminal, invoices: 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

Cons

  • Online store builder too simple for some

  • Fees non-negotiable until £250k/yr turnover

  • Customer support only on weekdays


2. Worldpay – solid processor for established merchants

Worldpay has been a trusted online payments provider for decades. In fact, it processes around 40% of all card payments in the UK, making it the leading payment processor in this country.

Signing up requires talking to a Worldpay representative who will give a quote based on your sales volume, type of business and online system required. This is great for those preferring personalised rates but difficult for those uneasy about negotiating transaction fees and a contract for a new business that hasn’t taken off yet.

Worldpay
Payment system Online payment gateway that can be connected with many ecommerce platforms. Certain tools are available from Worldpay without the need to install software.
Selling tools
  • Payment gateway
  • Payment links
  • Virtual terminal
  • Recurring payments
Payouts In bank account within 1-3 working days.
Fees Virtual terminal, pay-by-link: £9.95 + VAT/mo + custom rates
Other ecommerce: Custom pricing
30-day rolling contract or longer commitment
Worldpay
Payment system Online payment gateway that can be connected with many ecommerce platforms. Certain tools are available from Worldpay without the need to install software.
Selling tools
  • Payment gateway
  • Payment links
  • Virtual terminal
  • Recurring payments
Payouts In bank account within 1-3 working days.
Fees Virtual terminal, pay-by-link: £9.95 + VAT/mo + custom rates
Other ecommerce: Custom pricing
30-day rolling contract or longer commitment

You can get long-term contracts or rolling, 30-day contracts that can be cancelled any month. Businesses get their own merchant account, which makes payment processing more reliable than, say, Square’s or PayPal’s.

Transaction fees are competitive with a consistent online card turnover of at least £2,000 per month. Foreign and premium cards like American Express have the highest rates (e.g. 2.75%), whereas domestic cards typically have the lowest rates (e.g. 0.95%). Some plans include PCI compliance (payment security standard), whereas others require you to set up PCI compliance at a cost.

Worldpay Virtual Terminal can be used for remote payments where the merchant enters card details while talking to the customer on the phone. Worldpay Pay by Link is for embedding unique payment links into an email or digital invoice so the customer can pay on a secure web page. Both can only be used in a web browser, not mobile app.

The online payment gateway can either be a ‘Hosted Pay’ page taking your customers to a standard checkout page outside your website, or an ‘Integrated’ payment page on your website. The latter makes you responsible for your own PCI compliance, but then you have full control over the checkout experience. You can, for example, enable the option for customers to save card details (card on file), set up recurring payments and accept different currencies. There are many ways to customise online payments with Worldpay, but it may be a little complicated to do.

Pros

  • Suitable for any size business

  • Fees and contract are tailored

  • Connects with many website platforms

  • Many customisation options with online gateway

  • Includes your own merchant account

  • 24/7 customer support

Cons

  • Few easy-to-use payment tools

  • Monthly cost and commitment can be too much for some

  • Signing up requires negotiating a contract

  • PCI compliance can be extra cost

  • Can’t manage payment tools in app


3. PayPal – accessible tools with online account

As an early innovator in online payments, PayPal is well-known among businesses and consumers alike. The familiarity of the brand and Buyer Protection mean that your customers are likely going to feel safe paying through PayPal – but it is far from the cheapest payment system for most businesses.

It is easy and free to sign up online for a PayPal Business account, which you’ll need for any of the payment tools. It is an e-money account based online, meaning it is not a bank account or traditional merchant account such as Worldpay’s.

Money received through PayPal will go straight into your online account. If you need to have the money in a bank account, you have to manually withdraw it to the bank account connected to the PayPal account. This can take a few working days or hours, depending on your bank.

PayPal
Payment system Already integrated with payment tools. Codes available to integrate pay buttons or online gateway on your website.
Selling tools
  • Payment gateway
  • Payment links
  • Buy buttons
  • Virtual terminal
  • Invoicing
Payouts Immediate in online account.
Manual transfers to bank account take 0-2 working days.
Fees Standard transactions: 2.9% + 30p
Non-UK cards: 0.5%-2% cross-border fee, 2.5% currency conversion fee
No contract, no monthly fees (except for Virtual Terminal & advanced checkout plan)
PayPal
Payment system Already integrated with payment tools. Codes available to integrate pay buttons or online gateway on your website.
Selling tools
  • Payment gateway
  • Payment links
  • Buy buttons
  • Virtual terminal
  • Invoicing
Payouts Immediate in online account.
Manual transfers to bank account take 0-2 working days.
Fees Standard transactions: 2.9% + 30p
Non-UK cards: 0.5%-2% cross-border fee, 2.5% currency conversion fee
No contract, no monthly fees (except for Virtual Terminal & advanced checkout plan)

Email invoices, QR codes, payment links, buy buttons and a standard integrated checkout on your website (PayPal Checkout) have no monthly fees. The payment tools with a monthly fee of £20 include the virtual terminal and advanced checkout solution called Web Payments Pro. There’s no contractual commitment for any of these features, so they can be cancelled any time.

The standard transaction fee for invoicing, payment links, pay buttons and online checkout is 2.9% + 30p. An additional cross-border fee of 0.5%-2% applies to non-UK cards, as does a currency conversion fee of 2.5% where applicable. Merchants can apply for blended fees that adjust to the type of card being used, and those with an online turnover above £50k monthly can also get better fees. Other general fees apply, such as £14 per chargeback.

PayPal online checkout options

Although non-UK card payments are expensive, a main advantage of PayPal is its ability to accept many currencies. Moreover, adding PayPal as an optional payment method to your online checkout can secure more transactions because payers trust it and already have a PayPal account that’s convenient for them to use.

Many sellers, however, have had issues with account holds and poor customer support. We don’t recommend PayPal for their fees or taking the seller’s defence in customer disputes where Buyer Protection takes priority, but it is undoubtedly an asset to offer PayPal for customers who prefer it.

Pros

  • Consumer trust in PayPal

  • Convenient online payment tools, some of which are available in app

  • Multi-currency options

  • Includes online account with instant access to transactions

  • Helps increase sales conversion

Cons

  • High fees

  • High monthly cost for virtual terminal and advanced checkout

  • Poor customer reviews

  • Manual transfers to bank account


4. SumUp – simple and convenient features from app

SumUp has added lots of new online payment features in the past year. This is a payments provider primarily intended for face-to-face merchants (see SumUp’s inexpensive card readers), but merchants who can buy a card reader can accept transactions online as much as they like.

The online sign-up form is very quick to fill in, after which it takes a few days for SumUp to verify and connect your bank account. Payouts automatically go into this bank account within 1-3 working days. With the free SumUp Mastercard activated, transactions can settle in an online SumUp account the next day, even on weekends.

SumUp
Payment system Already integrated with SumUp selling tools. APIs available to connect SumUp with external ecommerce software.
Selling tools
  • Online store
  • Payment links
  • Virtual terminal
  • Invoicing
  • Click & collect
Payouts In bank account within 1-3 working days.
Day after with SumUp Card (online account).
Fees Online store, links, invoices: 2.5%
Virtual terminal: 2.95% + 25p
No contract, no monthly fees
SumUp
Payment system Already integrated with SumUp selling tools. APIs available to connect SumUp with external ecommerce software.
Selling tools
  • Online store
  • Payment links
  • Virtual terminal
  • Invoicing
  • Click & collect
Payouts In bank account within 1-3 working days.
Day after with SumUp Card (online account).
Fees Online store, links, invoices: 2.5%
Virtual terminal: 2.95% + 25p
No contract, no monthly fees

The pay-as-you-go fee of 2.5% applies to transactions via links, QR code, e-gift cards, invoices and ecommerce. It costs 2.95% + 25p for all virtual terminal transactions. None of the features have ongoing monthly charges or contractual commitment.

The online payment features can all be accessed in the SumUp App from an iPhone, iPad or Android device. This includes the Online Store Starter, an extremely basic online store that can be created in minutes from your app. You can then link to it on social media or elsewhere online and accept orders for delivery or collection.

Through the point of sale (POS) checkout in the app, you can also send payment links for specific transactions through SMS or messaging, or generate QR codes for customers to scan with their phone camera. You can send email invoices, or key in payments through the simple Virtual Terminal in the app or web browser. A gift card page can be shared online so people can buy digital gift cards to spend in your store.

A great thing about SumUp is how extremely easy it is to use the features, but also the easy access to online tools through an app. The lack of monthly fees and the competitive fixed rates make this attractive to casual or micro-merchants, but there’s no straightforward way to connect SumUp’s online payment system to a professional ecommerce website.