The best merchant services for small businesses

Superscript
04 November 2021
7 minute read

So, you’ve perfected your product and set up shop. Now you need a way to get paid. With Brits forecast to spend £132bn online in 2021, climbing to £150bn by 2024, streamlining your online offering makes plain business sense – and that includes finding a payment processor that works for you.

Who needs payment processing companies? Essentially anyone who sells something – online or offline. You could be a neighbourhood boutique, a mobile hairdresser or a ceramicist turning your clay into cash flow. Merchant card services act as the middle man for your money, securely transferring funds from the customer’s account to yours.

We know time is a luxury most small businesses don’t have, so we’re making life easy. This is our round-up of the best payment processors UK wide, including need-to-know details on pricing, fees, and those all-important pros and cons.

Get a snapshot look at our chosen payment processors here:

Merchant platform Pricing Fees per transaction Customer support Transaction processing
WorldPay Pay-as-you-go or £19.95 a month for most basic plan 0.75 – 2.75% 24/7 via phone 1-3 days
Zettle Free, one-off payment for card reader 1 – 2.5% Weekdays, 9-5 pm via phone, chat or email 1-2 days
Stripe Pay-per-transaction or create a customised package 1.4 – 2.9% + 20p 24/7 via email, phone, and chat support 7 days
GoCardless Pay-per-transaction, £50 a month, £200 a month 1 – 2% 24/7 via email, phone, and chat 5 days
tomato pay Free or £10 per month plan 1p – 0.1% Live chat and email Instant payments
SumUp Free, one-off payment for card reader 1.69 – 2.5% Email support 1-3 days

Skip ahead:

WorldPay

With around 400 transactions processed every minute (that’s 26 million transactions daily), WorldPay is arguably one of the biggest, best-known payment processing companies around. In fact, 42% of card transactions in the UK go through WorldPay.

What’s Included

WorldPay supports companies of all sizes around the world, providing safe, flexible payment gateway solutions for e-commerce businesses from start-up to enterprise. You can also take payment by link, or through a secure web browser using their ‘virtual terminal’. If you’re selling in person, they have card reader and POS options, too.

Price

No joining fee for their contract options. The most basic plan is £19.95/month and their pay-as-you-go offering has a £25 set-up fee.

Fees

0.75 - 2.75% per transaction.

Pros

  • Transactions processed in 1-3 days
  • Trusted, secure provider
  • Multiple price plans depending on your needs

Cons

  • Recurring monthly costs
  • Minimum contract length 18 months
  • Expensive for smaller businesses

Customer Support

Available 24/7 over the phone.

Zettle

Zettle (formerly iZettle), is a Swedish payment processor that was set up in 2010. Now part of the PayPal family, Zettle looks out for small businesses “in a world of giants”. They’re known as one of the original mini-card machine providers and have become popular thanks to their affordable, intuitive software.

What’s Included

They’ve come a long way since their early days, and now provide a full suite of payment options. Including card readers, POS, gift cards, invoices, payment links and QR-Codes. If you’ve got an online store, they can help you there as well, with integrations available for several e-commerce partners such as Shopify, BigCommerce, Prestashop and more.

Price

No set-up fees or monthly contracts, and their POS app is free. All you pay for is the card reader.

Fees

  • Payments by card – 1.75%
  • Invoice or payment link – 2.5%
  • QR code – 1%

Pros

  • Your money arrives in 1-2 days
  • Offers accounting integration with QuickBooks and Xero
  • You can easily register any cash transactions for free

Cons

  • One of the more expensive card readers around

Customer Support

Available weekdays 9-5 pm over phone, chat or email.

Stripe

Catering for online businesses of all sizes – from global enterprises to freshly squeezed start-ups – Stripe is used by millions of companies in over 120 countries and 100 currencies. Talk about global.

What’s included

Originally designed in 2011 as a payment gateway for e-commerce retailers, it has since expanded its offering to include invoices, payment links, POS transactions and more.

Stripe’s software and APIs allow you to securely accept online payments from customers around the world. Plus, if you’ve got a developer on your side, you can use Stripe to create a fully customised payment processing solution for your business. Offering a subscription service? Stripe can handle that, too.

Price

No set-up fees and no recurring monthly costs.

Fees

  • European cards – 1.4% + 20p
  • Non European cards – 2.9% + 20p

Pros

  • Offers subscription options and one-click checkout
  • Supports 100+ currencies
  • Integrates with most popular e-commerce platforms

Cons

  • Funds take 7 days to reach your account
  • POS card readers only available in the US and Canada

Customer Support

24/7 via email, phone, and chat support

GoCardless

If you’re a business that offers subscription services, this one’s got your name on it. Founded in 2011, GoCardless is a recurring payment platform that is now used by over 60,000 businesses around the world.

What’s Included

Late payments become a thing of the past with GoCardless’ easy-to-use direct debit solution. Their system allows you to customise your recurring payment schedules, choosing the amounts, intervals, and any one-off payments necessary.

Fuss-free customer set-up and flexible, editable plans make getting paid a walk in the park. GoCardless also allows you to arrange one-off payments through open banking, so funds are transferred from account-to-account with instant confirmation.

Pricing

No set-up costs or hidden fees. Three packages available:

  • Standard – pay per transaction
  • Plus – £50 per month
  • Pro – £200 per month

Fees

  • UK & Europe – 1% + 20p with an additional fee of 0.3% over £2000
  • International – 2%

Pros

  • Tailored specifically for subscription businesses
  • Low transaction fees
  • Reliable direct debit system

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer in-person card payments or e-commerce integration
  • Payments take 5 days to reach your account

Customer Support

Available via chat, phone or email.

tomato pay

Powered by open banking and designed with small businesses and sole traders in mind, tomato pay is a QR-code based instant payment and invoicing app. They launched their app in summer 2021 and are geared towards supporting local communities, helping businesses thrive post-pandemic.

What’s Included

With no cards or cash in sight (and no tomatoes for that matter), your customers simply scan the QR code to pay you in seconds, transferring account-to-account at a rate that’s 90% cheaper than by card. You also have the option to send payment links via text, email or WhatsApp.

tomato pay’s “smart invoice” service should be music to your ears. It lets you see the status of all your invoices at once, automates reminders, and lets customers settle up instantly.

Price

Free to set up, with optional membership of £10/month.

Transaction Fees

Transactions under £10 are charged 1p, up to £100 are charged 10p and over £100 are charged 0.1%.

Pros

  • Instant payments
  • No minimums
  • Connect multiple bank accounts
  • No need for a card terminal

Cons

  • Customer needs a smartphone
  • Only accepts pounds sterling

Customer support

Available via live chat or email.

SumUp

Founded in 2011, Berlin-born SumUp is a global payment processor used by over 3 million small businesses around the world. It’s known for simplifying payments and providing multi-channel flexibility.

What’s Included

Boasting a bunch of business solutions under their umbrella – including their own e-commerce platform -–SumUp lets you accept payments by card reader, payment link, invoice or QR-code. With both point of sale and business accounts among some of their latest additions, this is a one-stop shop with plenty of flexibility to offer. Even better, it requires minimal integration and the set-up is as simple as can be, so you can start selling ASAP.

Pricing

No monthly cost or set-up fee, but you’ll need to purchase your card reader to get started.

Fees

1.69% per card reader transaction, 2.5% for online payments or payment links.

Pros

  • No monthly cost, no binding contracts
  • No fees for QR code payments
  • Transactions processed in 1-3 days
  • Easy gift card options

Cons

  • Their flat fee structure means larger transactions lose cost-efficiency
  • You can only use their payment gateway if you use their e-commerce platform
  • Card readers are pricier than others on the market

Customer Support

Reliable customer support via email.

Which will you choose?

We hope this guide helps you decide on the best merchant payment platform for your business.

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This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

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