How can businesses set up and accept recurring payments from customers?

Recurring payment solutions save time and money, as payers are debited automatically without the business or customer having to do anything.

Depending on the chosen solution, payments can be made via:

  • account-to-account payments (using bank account details)
  • credit or debit cards (using the long card number)

There are other criteria to take into account when choosing a solution:

  • Transaction costs and whether or not a subscription is required
  • Recurring payment types available, e.g. Direct Debit, debit card subscription
  • Integrations and compatibility with invoices, accounting, ecommerce, etc.

To help you choose, let’s compare the best recurring payments in the UK:

Recurring payment solutions
Name Payment
1. GoCardless

Bank debit
  • Payment link
  • Website button
  • Invoice
  • Integrations
  • Direct Debit: 1-1.4% + 20p (£4-£5.60 cap)
  • +0.3% on >£2,000 transactions
  • International debits: 2-2.4% + 20p
2. Square

  • Email invoice
  • Payment link
  • Invoice transactions: 2.5%
  • Link transactions: 1.4% + 25p–2.5% + 25p
  • Subscription: £0 or £20/mo
3. Stripe

Card, bank debit
  • Payment link
  • Invoice
  • Ecommerce integration
  • UK cards: 1.5-1.9% + 20p
  • Non-UK cards: 2.5-3.25% + 20p
  • Direct Debit: 1% + 20p (£2 cap)
  • Added billing fee: 0.5-0.8%
4. PayPal

  • Payment button
  • Domestic cards: 2.9% + 30p
  • Non-UK cards: 4.19-4.89% + 30p
  • Currency conversion fee: 3%
  • Subscription: £20/mo
5. Chargebee

Card, bank debit
  • Invoice
  • Ecommerce integration
  • Transaction fees depend on processor
  • Fee above billing threshold: 0.75%
  • Plan: £0 or £499 + VAT/mo
6. Tide

Bank debit
  • Invoice (via GoCardless)
  • Direct Debit: 1% + 20p (£4 cap)
  • Subscription: £0-£49.99 + VAT/mo

The most logical approach is to start looking for a solution offering the type of setup you need for recurring payments. Namely, do your customers or clients sign up for payments via a link in a message, pay button on your website, email invoice, ecommerce store or other channel?

The solutions presented above are multi-purpose payment acceptance platforms that offer recurring payment management tools too.

Many other platforms specialise in subscription management and recurring payments, for example, Rcur, Mollie and Zuora. We chose not to include them in this comparison since they are either too complex for individual entrepreneurs or don’t focus on the UK market.

1. GoCardless – Direct Debit specialist

GoCardless is perhaps the best-known British company specialising in account-to-account payments. When it comes to recurring payments, the platform simplifies the implementation of the Direct Debit mandate by removing many administrative constraints and setup obstacles, compared with other solutions.

You can choose to manually send a payment link to customers, but the strength of GoCardless is its integration with many external apps and software for invoicing, accounting, subscription management, etc. You can easily add a recurring payment option to your favourite platform.

Solution GoCardless
Logo GoCardless
Recurring payment types
  • Direct Debit
  • International bank debits
Integrated solution
  • Payment link/URL
  • Website button
Compatible external solutions
  • Ecommerce: WooCommerce, WPdirectdebit, etc.
  • Accounting and invoicing: FreeAgent, KashFlow, QuickBooks, Xero, Zoho, etc.
  • Subscription: Piano, Recurly, Zuora, etc.
  • CRM: Beacon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Sellsy, etc.
  • Gyms: Club Manager, Perfect Gym, TeamUp, etc.
Payouts 5-6 working days to your bank account

GoCardless handles Direct Debits in the UK and SEPA transfers in the Eurozone, but also bank debits from outside Europe, thanks to a partnership with Wise who also takes care of currency exchange for an advantageous rate.

Bank-to-bank payments do not use card networks like Visa and Mastercard, so merchants avoid card transactions fees and instead pay relatively low bank fees. On the other hand, it does take about a week to receive payments in your bank account.

GoCardless fees*
UK Direct Debits Standard features: 1% + £0.20
Advanced features: 1.25% + £0.20
Pro features: 1.4% + £0.20
+0.3% for amounts over £2,000
Max. fee: £4-£5.60 (depending on plan)
International bank debits Standard features: 2% + £0.20
Advanced features: 2.25% + £0.20
Pro features: 2.4% + £0.20
Monthly subscription Your business name on bank statements: £50/mo
Custom checkout and payer notifications: £150/mo

*All fees exclude VAT, which GoCardless will add.

The paid Plus subscription allows you to have your company name appear on credit card statements instead of GoCardless and to add your logo and colour. The Pro subscription allows you to customise the payment page and emails.

Image: Mobile Transaction

GoCardless integrations menu

Example of the 350+ apps compatible with GoCardless.

Over 350 apps and software partners integrate with GoCardless in the UK, ranging from general business software to specialised platforms for e.g. gyms and charities.

Thanks to its many integrations (that do not require programming knowledge) GoCardless makes bank debits accessible at a fair price point for small businesses.


  • Simple to set up

  • Compatible with many solutions (invoicing, accounting, etc.)

  • UK and international bank debits


  • Few compatible ecommerce sites

  • Slow payouts

2. Square – send a simple invoice

Square is an all-round payments solution from the US, offering merchants both in-person and remote payment methods for customers. You can choose to use card machines, a virtual terminal (over-the-phone transactions), cash register software, payment links, an online store or email invoicing software.

The Square Invoices module allows you to create recurring payments. When the customer clicks on the invoice, they are taken to an online payment page. There, they will be asked to enter their card details to set up recurring payments from the debit or credit card. Direct Debit is not possible in this system.

Solution Square
Logo Square
Recurring payment type
  • Card (Visa, Mastercard, Amex)
Integrated solutions
  • Email invoices
  • Payment links
Compatible external solutions None
Payouts 1-2 working days to bank account

There is also a standalone Subscriptions section in the Square web portal, where you can create plans and send links to customers so they can subscribe online.

As the payment is made by card, there is no geographical limitation. All Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards are accepted at the same rate via Invoices: 2.5%, or 1.4% + 25p for domestic and 2.5% + 25p for non-UK cards via payment links.

Square fees
Card transactions Invoices: 2.5%
Payment links: 1.4% + 25p–2.5% + 25p
Monthly subscription Invoices Free: £0
Invoices Plus: £20

Square’s invoicing software comes as a free or paid plan – recurring payments are available with both. The paid version also offers automatic conversion of quotes into invoices, creation of templates, personalised invoices, etc. If you don’t want to send invoices, the payment link option has no monthly fee.

The platform integrates with many external apps, though not as flexibly as GoCardless. You can, however, expand the Square subscriptions with more complex subscription features from the likes of Billforward and Churn Buster.

Image: Mobile Transaction

subscription creation page

After defining your subscription plans, you can add customers to these subscriptions.

Recurring payments are very easy to set up with Square. Transaction fees are higher, but remember that the payment tools are free.


  • Easy to use and versatile

  • Simplified pricing

  • Free invoicing software


  • Transaction fees a bit high

  • No bank debits, just card transactions

3. Stripe – pretty versatile

Stripe is often the payment gateway of choice for global card acceptance in an online store, even if it is not the cheapest. However, the platform’s many features usually call for more experienced users such as web developers.

Among its features, Stripe offers payment requests by link, invoices and the management of recurring payments without code. You can also easily add Stripe to an online store through its standard integrations.

Stripe is known for its ability to accept a large number of payment methods. This includes Bacs Direct Debit, domestic and international debit and credit cards, SEPA and other international payments.

Solution Stripe
Logo Stripe
Recurring payment types
  • Card (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Apple Pay, UnionPay, local European payment options)
  • Bacs Direct Debit
Integrated solutions
  • Payment links
  • Invoices
  • Online checkout/payment gateway
Compatible external solutions
  • Ecommerce: WooCommerce, Shopify, Wix, etc.
  • or via API
Payouts About a week to your bank account

Stripe includes several modules such as Payments (payment acceptance), Invoicing (via email), Billing (recurring payments) and Payment Links. You can create a recurring payment from a link, an invoice or a compatible online store.

The recurring payment management tool is chargeable – a commission is added to each transaction, in addition to the cost of online payments. This extra fee is 0.5% for the basic plan called Starter, or 0.8% for the Scale plan. The latter includes additional features like smart reminders, bank reconciliation, etc.

Stripe fees (Starter plan)
Visa, Mastercard, Amex UK standard cards: 1.5% + 20p
UK premium cards: 1.9% + 20p
EEA cards: 2.5% + 20p
International cards: 3.25% + 20p + 2% currency exchange
Recurring payments Bacs Direct Debit: 1% + 20p (£2 cap)
0.5% additional Billing fee (Starter)
Monthly subscription None

Bacs Direct Debits are significantly cheaper than card transactions (1% + 20p per bank debit). This is particularly noticeable with service providers like Stripe who offer both types of recurring payment.

Image: Stripe

Stripe billing page

Stripe lets you customise your online payment page.

Stripe is a good solution if you sell subscriptions to people in different countries and want to offer several payment options.


  • Integrated billing and invoicing

  • Accepts cards and Direct Debit

  • Very adaptable if you can code


  • Card transaction fees a bit high

  • Additional transaction fee for billing

  • Slow payouts

4. PayPal – add a button to your site

PayPal is a widely used platform for card payments, whether one-off or on a recurring basis.

Although the PayPal Business account connects with the merchant’s bank account, any payments are received directly in the online account. That said, your customers are able to use their bank account for recurring payments.

For non-programmers, you have to go to the subscriptions section of the PayPal dashboard. This takes you through a series of screens resulting in the generation of JavaScript code to copy and paste on your website to make a payment button appear.

The personalisation of subscriptions is very advanced. There’s a choice between four types of pricing: fixed or decreasing, depending on volume, frequency, and the level of pricing chosen.

Solution PayPal
Logo PayPal
Recurring payment type
  • Card (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover, UnionPay)
Integrated solution
  • Payment button
Compatible external solutions
  • Payment module for ecommerce: PayZen
  • or via API
Payouts Immediate to PayPal account

The customer can pay with their PayPal account or enter a credit/debit card number.

If you want to add PayPal subscriptions to your ecommerce site, but don’t know how to implement the code, you can use Lyra’s PayZen solution.

PayPal fees
Transactions Domestic: 2.9% + 30p
Additional fee for EEA cards: 1.29%
Additional fee for other global cards: 1.99%
Currency conversion fee: 3%
Monthly subscription £20/mo

One of the attractions of PayPal is to be able to accept payments in a very large number of currencies. But cross-border payments do incur an added transaction fee of 1.29%-199% depending on the card’s country of issue + 3% for currency conversion.

Image: Mobile Transaction

PayPal create subscription steps

PayPal’s instructions for creating a subscription in the business dashboard.

PayPal is an effective solution for adding recurring payments to any site – but it’s expensive to use.


  • Convenient for PayPal users

  • Payers can use card or bank payments

  • Trusted brand by many consumers


  • Very high transaction fees

  • Monthly fee applies

  • Can be difficult to set up for non-coders

5. Chargebee – specialised billing management software

Chargebee is one of the more established billing platforms in the UK and used by big companies like Pret A Manger, Typeform and Toyota. It allows you to tailor subscriptions, optimise your own invoicing system and create payment flows specific to your website.

Small businesses can sign up for the pay-as-you-go Starter plan, which has no monthly fee. The first £200,000 of cumulative billing raised through invoicing has no fees, but you pay 0.75% for the billed amounts on top of the payment processing fees.

Solution Chargebee
Logo Chargebee
Recurring payment types
  • Card via chosen payment gateway
  • Bank debits via chosen payment gateway
  • Local payment options via chosen payment gateway
Integrated solutions
  • Invoices
  • Payment links
  • Online checkout
Compatible external solutions
  • Payment gateways: Stripe, GoCardless, BlueSnap, Mollie, PayPal, Worldpay, etc.
  • Accounting: Xero, Zoho Books, Sage, QuickBooks, etc.
  • Marketing: Mailchimp, HubSpot, Zapier, Refersion, etc.
  • Others: Zendesk, BigCommerce, Google Analytics, etc.
Payouts Depends on chosen payment gateway

A big draw is the custom lifecycle management system that helps you to onboard new customers, manage changes to subscriptions and streamline cancellations. Chargebee also offers an automated invoicing system specifically for recurring payments, as opposed to other software geared towards one-off bills.

Linking the account with a payment system like Stripe (or the many other available integrations) allows you to expand on these tools. For example, sending a payment link might be easier through Stripe than Chargebee.

Chargebee fees
Transactions Fees depend on chosen payment processor/method
Monthly subscription Starter: £0 (£200k billing free, then 0.75% per transaction)
Performance: £499 + VAT/mo (£80k billing/mo free, then 0.75% per transaction)

Although features are extensive, Chargebee is not the easiest system to use. It has lots of analytics tools and options to integrate with other software (which may need tech skills), but these are not necessarily useful for a very small business.

Since Chargebee does not directly process payments, it is completely up to your choice of payment provider which payment methods are accepted. With GoCardless, for example, Direct Debits are possible, whereas Worldpay lets you accept cards.

Chargebee subscription illustration

Chargebee lets you customise the checkout process and subscription flow.

Chargebee is a specialised recurrent billing platform with lots of customisations, but it may not be the simplest for a small business.


  • Lots of billing customisations

  • Choice of payment systems

  • Reasonable pricing


  • Features can be complicated

6. Tide – convenient with a business account

Tide Business account holders automatically have access to basic invoicing features in the free banking app or browser dashboard. You just need to sign up for a Tide business bank account online and select one of the free or paid plans.

Solution Tide
Logo Tide
Recurring payment type
  • Direct Debit (via GoCardless)
Integrated solutions
  • Invoices
Compatible external solutions
  • Accounting: QuickBooks, Sage, Xero
Payouts 5-6 working days to your bank account

With the add-on called Invoice Assistant (£10 + VAT/month), you get the option to accept Direct Debits via these invoices. This does, however, require a GoCardless account and connecting that with Tide, since GoCardless processes these bank debits. It is not possible to accept recurring card payments with Tide.

Since Tide is a business account first and foremost, the billing customisations in the Tide app are rather simple. But you can manage Direct Debits in your GoCardless account where, for example, the payment amounts, dates and more can be amended.

Tide fees
Direct Debits via GoCardless 1% + 20p (£4 cap)
0.1% added to amounts over £2,000
Monthly subscription Business account plans: £0-£49.99 + VAT
Invoice Assistant: £10 + VAT

Tide is one of the easiest ways to accept Direct Debits in your business account, but it does require a monthly fee.


  • Easy-to-use Direct Debits via invoices

  • Includes a business bank account


  • Requires registering for a Tide account

  • Requires a GoCardless account too

Conclusion: solutions likely to evolve quickly

There are already solutions for small-business entrepreneurs who want to set up recurring payments via:

  • Payment links and pay buttons
  • Electronic invoices
  • Online shops

The offering, however, is not easy to understand. We can loosely define two types of companies in the recurring payments sector:

  • Payment gateways that focus on payment processing. These are integrated in different types of software, e.g. invoicing apps and ecommerce sites.
  • Subscription or invoice management systems used by merchants and connected with a payment gateway.

In reality, it is more complicated.

Gateway providers often offer interfaces that can be used directly by humans, for example GoCardless and Stripe with their payment links, or Stripe and PayPal with their invoices. This does not prevent them from connecting with solutions of the second type, like Tide’s or Chargebee’s automated invoicing systems.

We’ve seen rapid developments in billing systems in the UK, with bank debits rising in popularity among small businesses. Recurring card payments are also easier to set up now (think Square or even Squarespace) than 10 years ago, but cost more per transaction.

Undoubtedly, more solutions will enter this comparison as they become more accessible and affordable.