The Best Payment Gateway Providers For Online Businesses
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably not a gateway newbie. (And if you are a newbie, read our payment gateway primer first!) You are someone who already knows what a gateway does and knows how you can get one for free. But are free payment gateways the best payment gateways? Don’t you get what you paid for? Sometimes.
This article will examine and recommend a few of the best payment gateways for small businesses currently in the marketplace. We’ll also point out some important features to help you comparison-shop. Some of the gateways we discuss come free with a payment processing account, but others you buy yourself and connect it to a merchant account provider. Whichever one you pick in the end, we hope that this article helped you make that decision.
Let’s get started.
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Table of Contents
- What Is The Best Payment Gateway For Small Businesses?
- Looking For One Of These Payment Gateway Providers?
- 4 Features To Look For In A Payment Gateway Provider
- Understanding Gateway Fees: How Much Does A Payment Gateway Cost?
- How To Shop For The Best Payment Gateway
- Which Payment Gateway Is Best For Me?
- In Summary: What Is The Best Payment Gateway For Small Businesses?
What Is The Best Payment Gateway For Small Businesses?
Below are our picks for the best online payment gateway providers for small businesses. We picked them for their feature-sets, portability/compatibility with other systems, and price. If the gateway comes free with the card processing account, we briefly discuss the processor’s strengths and weaknesses as well.
You can directly set up payment processing with Authorize.Net, but the company is better known for its feature-rich gateway that can integrate with other merchant account providers. If you wish to use Authorize.Net, we recommend you sign up through your merchant account provider. The provider can typically give you a better discount for using the gateway.
Authorize.Net has been around since 1996, so it has had time to build up the feature-set that comes with the gateway. Here’s what Authorize.Net can do:
- Accept all major credit and debit cards
- Accept echeck/ACH payments
- Accept PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay
- Accept international transactions (but your business must be based in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, or Australia)
- Offer advanced fraud protection tools
There are three ways to sign up with Authorize.Net, depending on whether or not you already have a relationship with a merchant account provider:
- If you already have a merchant account but sign up with Authorize.Net directly, you are charged:
- $0 setup fee
- $25/month gateway fee
- $25/incident for chargebacks
- $0.10 daily batch fee
- $0.10/transaction on top of what your merchant account provider charges + 1.5% for international transactions
- If you do not have a merchant account and wish to set one up through Authorize.Net, you are charged:
- $25/month gateway fee
- 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
- If you already have a merchant account and wish to sign up with Authorize.Net through your merchant account provider, you are charged:
- Setup fee (typically waived)
- Monthly gateway fee (typically lower than the $25/month that Authorize.Net charges if signing up directly)
- Per-transaction processing fee (often $0.05/transaction or at least lower than the $0.10/transaction that Authorize.Net charges if signing up directly)
Authorize.Net is portable between merchant account providers. If you want to change from Authorize.Net to another gateway provider, however, it’ll be difficult and costly to download your customer’s data (which includes encrypted credit card numbers used in recurrent billing).
- Broad support for multiple payment methods and currencies
- Strong security and fraud prevention features
- Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts
- Pricing is expensive for merchants who sign up with the company directly
- High flat-rate pricing for the optional merchant account
- Data portability is unusually difficult and expensive
2. 2Checkout (Now Verifone)
2Checkout is a third-party processor focused on online processing. As such, a free payment gateway comes with every account. 2Checkout currently does not support in-person processing at all, but this might change in the future because it was recently bought by the processing hardware maker Verifone.
2Checkout offers very strong international processing capabilities, as it can process payments from over 200 countries worldwide. 2Checkout accounts come with a large set of services, but it also has higher pricing to match all the extras you’ll get. Depending on your plan, you’ll get some or all of the following services typically found in other gateways:
- Take payments in 200+ countries
- Shopping cart integration
- Checkout page can be hosted by 2Checkout or integrated with your website
- Recurring billing
- Fraud protection tools
- Online store builder
2Checkout offers three pricing tiers, plus a customized tier for high-volume accounts. The three basic tiers are:
- 2Sell: 3.5% + $0.35 per transaction
- 2Subscribe: 4.5% + $0.45 per transaction
- 2Monetize: 6.0% + $0.60 per transaction
Note that these rates are higher than the average processor’s rates. 2Checkout claims that the higher charges are reasonable because of the additional services each tier provides. Look at the services carefully before deciding if the pricing makes sense for your particular business.
In addition to the above, be sure to consider 2Checkout’s variable chargeback fees and cross-border fees before making a final decision.
It’s a little unclear whether or not your customer data stored with 2Checkout is portable if you wish to change processors. If you’re interested in using 2Checkout, be sure to ask about this issue.
- Predictable flat-rate pricing
- Month-to-month billing
- Broad support for international merchants
- Cannot process card-present transactions
- Frequent reports of held funds
- Not available to high-risk merchants
Stripe is a third-party processor that specializes in eCommerce. Since you can’t process eCommerce online payments without a gateway, a free payment gateway comes with your Stripe account.
You can also add or customize the gateway’s features through Stripe’s vast API library or supported third-party integrations. Stripe also supports data portability, so you can easily take your customer information with you if you decide to change providers later.
Stripe does not charge for:
- Account setup
- Monthly gateway fee
- Additional per-transaction fee
- ACH processing
- Recurring billing
Stripe does charge for the following:
- Credit Card: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
- ACH: $0.8% per transaction, capped at $5
- Chargeback: $15 per lost dispute
For additional pricing details, please refer to our full Stripe review. Stripe also supports other payment avenues, such as Bitcoin, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
Since Stripe’s gateway is integrated with its processing service, we need to touch on one major drawback to using Stripe. Stripe is a payment service provider (PSP)/third-party processor. One inherent weakness with third-party processors is they tend to hold funds or terminate accounts with little warning. If your revenue stream is uneven or has a large chargeback percentage, Stripe might not be the best gateway provider for you.
- Pay-as-you-go pricing with no setup or monthly fees
- A simple, transparent, flat-rate pricing structure
- No long-term contracts or early termination fees
- Huge API library for developers
- Flat-rate pricing is more expensive than interchange-plus for high-volume merchants
- Elevated risk of account holds and terminations
PayPal’s gateway is called Payflow. It works with most payment processors, can be integrated with most major shopping carts, and can take payments in 25 currencies in 202 countries. If you want to sell online but don’t want to use PayPal as your primary payment processor, this could be an option.
Payflow supports two plans:
- Pay as you go at $0.10 per transaction
- No setup or monthly fees
- Embed a checkout form on your website to redirect to PayPal to complete the transaction
- Automatically add PayPal and PayPal credit buttons
- $0.10 per transaction
- $99 setup fee
- No volume limit
- Customizable checkout page hosted on your website
- Optional PayPal and PayPal Credit buttons
- Merchant responsible for PCI compliance
Note your per transaction charge is in addition to your standard payment card transaction charge.
PayPal’s gateway is a fairly bare-bones service. It merely links your eCommerce website to the credit card processor for further processing. For an extra fee, you can add the following services:
- Recurring Billing: $10/month, no additional transaction fee
- Advanced Fraud Protection: $10/month + $0.05 per transaction
- Buyer Authentication: $10/month + $0.10 per transaction
The Payflow data is not portable, so you can’t take the data with you if you wish to switch gateways. But if you look carefully, except for recurring billing, there seems to be very little data to port anyway, so maybe this won’t make a difference.
- Pay-as-you-go pricing with no monthly fees
- Simple flat-rate pricing for standard accounts
- Easy to set up and begin accepting payments
- International reach
- Flat-rate processing charges are higher than most merchant accounts offer
- No echeck (ACH) payment support with PayPal
Braintree Payment Solutions
Braintree is a traditional merchant account provider that is owned by PayPal. Braintree is eCommerce-focused, so it provides a free payment gateway with every merchant account.
Merchants in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and New Zealand can sign up for Braintree’s processing services. Payments can be accepted in over 130 currencies, including Bitcoin. Braintree will convert and deposit funds in USD for a 1% fee.
Braintree has no:
- Account setup fee
- Monthly fees
- Gateway fee
- Long-term contract
- Early termination fee
Braintree has a pay-as-you-go pricing of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. If you process over $80,000/month, you can contact the company for customized pricing. ACH processing is also available for 0.75% of the transaction and capped at $5. Users in the US can also pay with PayPal, PayPal Credit, and Venmo.
The Braintree gateway comes with the following standard features:
- Basic fraud tools
- Encrypted vault for keeping payment card information
- Recurring billing
- Wide variety of third-party integrations
The Braintree data is portable, and you won’t need to pay any additional fees. If you switch to another merchant account provider but wish to keep your Braintree gateway, this will cost $49/month + $0.10 per transaction processed over the gateway.
- Simple, flat-rate, pay-as-you-go pricing with no monthly fees
- Easy to set up and begin accepting payments
- Free, unrestricted data portability
- Flat-rate processing charges are higher than most merchant accounts offer
- Gateway-only option is expensive
6. Amazon Pay
Despite its name, Amazon Pay isn’t restricted to the Amazon website and Alexa. Amazon Pay uses the third-party processing model to provide processing services. Because Amazon Pay is for online payments, it comes with a free payment gateway.
While you can use Amazon Pay strictly on your website, most of its services are optimized or integrated with Amazon.com’s functionalities. For instance, to get an Amazon Pay account, you must sign up as an Amazon merchant because most of the processing is controlled through the Amazon Seller Central dashboard. Sales reports and chargeback claims are all viewed through this dashboard.
With Amazon Pay, you can:
- Take credit card payments while staying on your website
- Collect donations
- Set up recurring billing (customer must make the payment through their Amazon.com account)
- Integrate with third-party shopping carts
- 2.9% processing fee + $0.30 authorization fee per transaction (for domestic US transactions)
- 3.9% processing fee + $0.30 authorization fee per transaction (for cross-border transactions)
- $20 per incidence chargeback fee
You won’t have to worry about the following with Amazon Pay:
- No contracts
- No account setup fee
- No monthly fees
- No PCI compliance fees
Your business’s bank account must be associated with your Seller Central Account to receive payments from Amazon. Amazon uses a mandatory reserve system. When you first start processing with Amazon, it will hold your payment for 14 days. After that, Amazon will hold funds for seven days before disbursing the funds to you on a rolling basis.
Because of its close integration with other Amazon services, any data stored with your Amazon Pay gateway probably isn’t portable. If you’re already an Amazon merchant, you might not mind this. But if you have philosophical objections to Amazon’s dominant market position, then Amazon Pay probably isn’t for you.
- No contracts — pay as you go
- Great for sellers with Amazon
- Brand recognition
- Risk of account holds, terminations, and withheld funds
- No brick-and-mortar payment support
Adyen is a big direct processor and a merchant account provider. It likes to keep its services proprietary, which means that the free gateway that comes with your account is proprietary as well (and the data not portable).
It is a little difficult to discuss Adyen’s gateway because it’s just a bare-bones gateway. Other functions typically packaged with a gateway are integrated into Adyen’s entire system.
Some of the feature typically associated with a gateway that Adyen also offers include:
- International payments
- Currency conversions
- Recurring billing/payments
- Fraud prevention tools
- Sales analytics
- Numerous integrations and developer tools
Adyen has a complicated pricing structure. For the full pricing, please see our full Adyen review or Adyen’s website. Here are some of the highlights:
- Visa & Mastercard: interchange + $0.12 per transaction
- American Express & Discover: varies
- ACH: $0.25 (refunds $0.20) + $0.12 per transaction
- Monthly Minimum: $120
Adyen has an unusual way to describe how Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay are charged. Basically, you’re not charged anything extra — it’s the same charge as if the customer paid with the physical card or typed in the card information online.
Adyen does not charge for:
- Early termination
- Annual fees
- Monthly fee
- PCI compliance
- Gateway fee
- Currency conversion
- Ideal for international merchants
- No setup or application fees
- No monthly fee
- Required monthly minimum
- Not for high-risk merchants
- Mixed customer reviews
Looking For One Of These Payment Gateway Providers?
WePay is a third-party processor, but you can’t sign up for its services directly. This is why WePay is not on our Best Of list.
WePay works behind the scenes with other service providers to process payments. If/when the service provider’s customers need payment processing — for example, as part of an online invoice or to donate money — WePay will process the charges in the background. Here are some software/services that use WePay:
- Constant Contact
PayEezy is the brand name for First Data/Fiserv’s payment gateway. Very little is available on the Fiserv website about the service. We do not even know if it’s available separately or must be bundled with a Fiserv merchant account. This lack of information removes it from our Best Of considerations.
The gateway itself has every feature you’ll need to accept payments and keep your customers’ data secure. It integrates with over 70 different shopping carts and accepts payments by credit or debit card, echeck, or PayPal. It also supports multiple currencies. No pricing information is disclosed.
4 Features To Look For In A Payment Gateway Provider
A payment gateway is not an overly complicated piece of software. All it has to do is to securely transmit payment information between your eCommerce website to your payment processor and back. If you own a physical store, you don’t even have to have a gateway to take payment cards.
Gateways often come bundled with other services. Below, we list a few that we consider fairly crucial when searching for the best payment gateway for your online business.
- Support different payment types and currencies. eCommerce websites tend to have customers from all over the world, and they all want to pay using the method most convenient to them. Support for ACH is nice too, but not every gateway offers this option.
- Security. Every gateway on the market should come with security and encryption features if only to comply with PCI requirements. Other security-related add-ons include data breach insurance, AVS checks, CCV checks, and additional fraud analytics software, such as 3D Secure.
- Early termination penalties and data portability. We at Merchant Maverick dislike long-term contracts with an early termination penalty. Even if you don’t have such a contract, if your data isn’t portable, it’s very hard for you to leave that processor anyway. We know that sometimes, and especially with third-party processors, not being able to port your data can’t be helped. But you should keep this in mind as you sign up with a processor, so you go in with your eyes open.
- APIs and Developer Tools. Ideally, you want your payment gateway to connect smoothly to the other software tools, such as inventory tracking, customer data management, bookkeeping, and similar. This is why having a robust list of APIs and developer tools matter.
Understanding Gateway Fees: How Much Does A Payment Gateway Cost?
Gateway fees run the gamut, from free to pay-as-you-go to must-pay-two-different-entities-to-use.
The free gateways are typically proprietary to the processor, so, unless the data is portable, if the processor increases its price in the future, the “cost” of the gateway can be thought of as included in the price increase.
The pay-as-you-go plans tend to be a gateway hosted on the processor’s website, and you are charged per transaction. The drawback is you might have a very limited ability to customize the payment page.
With the gateways (e.g., Authorize.Net) that can connect to different processors, you’ll be paying the gateway provider for the gateway and maybe an additional processing fee for each transaction that runs through the gateway. You might also be paying your payment processor for the privilege of using a third-party gateway.
Every processor charges differently, so be sure to investigate and add up all your gateway costs when you’re thinking about switching processors. You won’t want to be hit with an unexpectedly high gateway charge after you’ve moved processors.
How To Shop For The Best Payment Gateway
A payment gateway is ancillary to online payment processing services. That is to say, if you don’t have an eCommerce website, you don’t need a gateway.
Shopping only for the best online payment gateways is a little like shopping for tires when you don’t own a car — it’s meaningless. And if you buy a car, it’ll come with tires.
Our advice for shopping for the best online credit card payment gateway is to first look for the best processor for your business. As long as the processor can process online payments, it will have a gateway. The gateway is often proprietary and more-or-less bare-bones, but some merchant account providers are willing to integrate a third-party gateway from a list of approved gateways.
So don’t focus only on the gateway. Focus on what the processor can provide overall first, then look at your gateway.
Which Payment Gateway Is Best For Me?
One way to answer which merchant gateway provider is best for your business is to examine what your business needs are today. Then, consider how those needs might expand as your business grows.
With payment gateways, you might want to find one that offers the flexibility you’ll need at the particular stage your business is at. If you’re still new, maybe use a pay-as-you-go service to stay flexible. But if you have an established business and know which features you’ll need and which features you’ll never use, it makes sense to focus on the payment gateways that provide the features you need for the best price. Always keep data portability in mind, though, so you can take your business elsewhere if that becomes necessary.
Questions? Comments? Experiences with the vendors on our list that you could share? Leave us a comment below!
And if you’d like to learn more about how to save money for your business, check out our article, These 9 Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies Will Save Your Small Business Money.
In Summary: What Is The Best Payment Gateway For Small Businesses?
- Authorize.Net: Best for accepting a wide range of currencies.
- 2Checkout: Best for online transactions.
- Stripe Payments: Best flat-rate pricing.
- PayPal: Best simple pricing and international reach.
- Braintree Payment Solutions: Best for eCommerce.
- Amazon Pay: Best for Amazon sellers.
- Adyen: Best for international merchants.