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What Is A Payment Link & How Do You Use One? 6 Best Pay-By-Link Options For Small Business

Payment links are a cost-effective add-on service that many payment processors now offer so that small businesses and freelancers can easily invoice clients.

    Chris Motola
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Pay by link

Novel payment methods seem to be arriving at a faster and faster pace. One you may have heard of recently is called a payment link, a way to bill your customers through their mobile devices (or email, if you or they are feeling retro).

Below, we’ll take a detailed look at what pay links are, where you can get them, and the types of businesses most likely to find them useful.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyBest ForNext StepsBest For
Stripe Payments

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Best for tech-savvy eCommerce businesses.
Best for tech-savvy eCommerce businesses.

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PayPal

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Best for eCommerce businesses looking for an easy-to-use solution.
Best for eCommerce businesses looking for an easy-to-use solution.

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Square

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Best for small businesses that do in-person transactions.
Best for small businesses that do in-person transactions.

Visit Site

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Venmo

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Best for businesses looking to combine transactions and social media.
Best for businesses looking to combine transactions and social media.

Visit Site

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Wave

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Best for independent contractors.
Best for independent contractors.

Visit Site

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Other Featured Options:

  • Paysley: Best for businesses looking to add payment links to an existing merchant account.

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

What Is A Payment Link?

A payment link is a way to directly invoice a customer by sending them a URL or QR code that initiates an online transaction process.

In other words, payment links are links that are used in place of traditional POS or online shopping cart transactions. In most cases, they’ll be sent via an SMS text or email, but they can theoretically be used anywhere you can drop a link, including websites and messaging apps.

Which Types Of Businesses Can Use "Pay-By-Link" Services?

While just about any business could use a pay-by-link service, the payment method will have more utility for some businesses than others. Generally speaking, payment links are a better fit for businesses that invoice customers rather than “ring them up at the register.”

What kinds of businesses might benefit from pay-by-link services?

  • Freelancers
  • Medical services
  • Professional services
  • B2B businesses
  • Low-frequency retail
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Cleaning services

Many longstanding payment processors have begun offering payment links as a complementary or add-on feature. Here are some of the top payment processors that are equipped for pay-by-link transactions, including Stripe, PayPal, Square, and more.

1. Stripe

Stripe Payments



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Best for tech-savvy eCommerce businesses.

As an eCommerce-focused company that powers the checkouts of many shopping carts, Stripe’s long been enabling customers to make payments from “anywhere.” Payment links fit in pretty seamlessly with the rest of Stripe’s offerings.

Stripe offers pay-by-link services as part of the company’s “integrated pricing,” meaning you can use it without any premium fees (although recurring billing will accrue the usual charges). Payment links are processed at Stripe’s default 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce transaction rate.

While Stripe has a reputation for being developer-oriented, setting up payment links doesn’t require a programmer; it can all be done from the dashboard.

Pros

  • Huge platform with many features
  • Excellent developer resources
  • Extensive integrations
  • Advanced reporting tools

Cons

  • Needs technical skill to implement
  • Account stability issues

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Read our in-depth review

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2. PayPal

PayPal



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Best for eCommerce businesses looking for an easy-to-use solution.

PayPal is one of the biggest names in eCommerce, known for its massive infrastructure, proprietary digital wallet, and innovative services. So it should be no surprise that PayPal offers payment links.

Called PayPal.Me, Paypal’s invoice and payment links can be used by both businesses and individuals. When you sign up for the service, you’ll be asked whether you’re creating a personal or business account. You can’t use a personal account for business transactions. You’ll also need to be careful where you post your link, as PayPal has guidelines about what kind of content it can be associated with.

PayPal.Me doesn’t cost anything extra, and transactions will run you the standard applicable PayPal transaction fee.

Pros

  • Huge platform with many features
  • Can process PayPal transactions
  • Good for low-volume merchants
  • Extensive integrations

Cons

  • Can be more expensive than competitors
  • Account stability issues

Read our in-depth review

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3. Square

Square



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Best for small businesses that do in-person transactions.

Square is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to card-present transactions, but the company is also no slouch when it comes to remote payments. Square Online Checkout offers businesses a way to create buy buttons and Square payment links. Square Online Checkout is a core Square feature, so it won’t cost you any more than the standard 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee for digital payments.

More interesting, perhaps, is Square Messages. Accessible from your Square dashboard, Square Messages functions as a single channel you can use to communicate with your customers as well as create and send payment links.

Square Messages is pretty versatile, allowing businesses to collect payments, accept donations, or sell items directly through text correspondence. Just be aware that if your business has multiple locations, you won’t be able to send existing payment links.

Pros

  • Huge platform with many features
  • Good for low-volume merchants
  • Affordable hardware
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Limited international support
  • Account stability issues

Get Started with Square

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4. Venmo

Venmo



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Best for businesses looking to combine transactions and social media.

Venmo is technically a PayPal service, so why are we giving it a separate entry?

Venmo takes a different approach to payment links than, say, PayPal.Me. As a “social” payments platform, Venmo is designed to encourage interaction between payers and payees. Engagement isn’t limited to personal usage; merchants can create business profiles that will appear in customers’ feeds when they choose to share what they’ve purchased from you. So, ideally, you’re getting a payment method and an advertising platform all in one.

Businesses can make transactions directly through the Venmo app by payment request or scanning a QR code. Payments made through the Venmo app or a QR code come in at a low 1.9% + $0.10 transaction fee. Standard PayPal Checkout fees apply to transactions made through PayPal checkout.

Pros

  • Low fees for in-app transactions
  • Good for low-volume merchants
  • The social aspect provides marketing opportunities

Cons

  • The social element may not appeal to all customers
  • Transfer and transaction size limitations

Get Started with Venmo

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5. Wave

Wave



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Best for independent contractors.

Wave is an accounting platform aimed primarily at contractors and freelancers. As an added convenience, Wave offers merchant services through Vantiv.

You’ll notice we mentioned freelancers on our list of businesses that can benefit from payment links. Wave clearly has come to a similar conclusion, as the company offers pay-by-link services through its Checkout feature. After you’ve created a Checkout page that contains your products and services, you can generate either a Checkout button or a hyperlink that you can drop into the appropriate site or messenger app.

Wave Checkout is part of Wave’s core features, so there’s no additional fee for using it. Wave’s payment links are processed using standard rates, 2.9% + $0.30 for Visa, Mastercard, or Discover and 3.4% + $0.30 for American Express.

Pros

  • Free accounting software
  • Attractive invoice templates
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Limited mobile apps
  • Unsuited for large businesses

Read our in-depth review

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6. Paysley

Paysley



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Best for businesses looking to add payment links to an existing merchant account.

Compared to some of the other options on this list, Paysley may fly a bit under the radar. Paysley began as an independent contactless payment startup but is now owned by PaymentCloud, one of our favorite high-risk credit card processors. Unlike the other services on this list, Paysley isn’t a complete processing service, but you can add it to your existing processing service.

Paysley is a pay-as-you-go service that allows you to send payment requests to your customers over text or email. Paysley does not use an app or any dedicated hardware, nor do customers need to sign up for an account to make a payment. Instead, you’ll either send a payment link or generate a QR code that can be displayed online or on a device. Paysley can also support recurring bills starting at the Plus plan level. Customers can pay with cards, PayPal, and several additional options.

Paysley comes in several pay-as-you-go plans, with monthly fees ranging from $15-$99. In addition, the following transaction fees apply:

  • Email Invoicing & Payment Requests: $0.02
  • Text Invoicing & Payment Requests: $0.03/SMS, $0.05/MMS
  • All Transactions: $0.20

Pros

  • Versatile contactless payment service
  • No hardware or app is necessary
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • Monthly fees

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How To Create & Send A Payment Link

If payment links have so far piqued your interest, you may be curious about how to create and send one. While the exact process will differ somewhat between payment processors, they generally have a few steps in common.

1) Setup A Payment/Transaction Page

Depending on your payment processor, this part may be taken care of for you. In some cases, you’ll be offered a default payment page that you can make adjustments to. Regardless, this is where your link will ultimately send your customer when they click on it.

For the most part, this page will look like any other online checkout form that solicits payment information for processing.

2) Create The Link

This process may also vary depending on your payment processor. In most cases, you’ll be asked to designate specific products or services for links. You’ll then generate a link associated with that product.

3) Send The Link

There are a number of different ways you can get a payment link to the customer. It is, of course, possible to simply copy and paste the link into some form of digital correspondence that you then send to the customer. If you’re dealing with a higher volume of payment links, however, you may want to see how much of the process your payment service allows you to automate. If you retain your customer’s information, you may be able to send payment links to their preferred method of contact automatically.

9 Benefits To Using "Pay-By-Link" Services

Now that we’ve covered how payment links work and where you can get them, let’s sum up some of the main benefits of using them.

  1. You Can Place Them Almost Anywhere: You can place a payment link pretty much anywhere you could paste a typical URL. This makes them very versatile.
  2. They’re Easy To Setup & Deploy: Setting up payment links generally doesn’t require any technical knowledge. And if you know how to copy and paste a link, you already know how to deploy them.
  3. You Can Take Advantage Of The Medium: Want to send multiple invoices out in a mass text? Want to send a payment request with your email marketing campaign? Want to make a sale during a customer support chat? All possible with payment links.
  4. They’re Reasonably Secure: The payment link will send your customer to your payment gateway, so you’ll have all of the security features it normally offers.
  5. They Can Be Useful To Companies With Limited Resources: If you only offer one or two services and don’t have the resources or inclination to make an online shopping cart, payment links can allow you to still engage in eCommerce.
  6. Easy, Faster Invoicing: Businesses that had previously relied on billing by mail or enrolling clients in online systems can now easily send a bill with just a phone number or email address.
  7. They Are Convenient For Your Customers: Payment links make it easy for customers to make remote payments by taking them directly to your payment page.
  8. Your Invoices Are More Likely To Be Read: This is especially true if you send them by text. Studies have found that SMS text messages are opened somewhere around 98% of the time.
  9. Your Payment Processor May Already Offer Them: As is the case with most of the payment processors on the list above, payment links are often included in your service at no additional charge.

How To Choose The Best Payment Link Service For Your Business

Are you ready to start using payment links? Here’s what to do next:

  • Investigate Whether They’ll Add Value: Are your current processes working well? Do you see a niche payment links can fill?
  • See If Your Payment Processor Offers Payment Links: Many payment processors offer payment links, some of them even at no additional cost.
  • Look For Add-On Services: If you’re happy with your current merchant services, but your provider doesn’t offer payment links, you can investigate add-on services.

Are you looking for a cost-effective payment processor? Check out our post, 11 Credit Card Processors With The Lowest Fees & The Cheapest Ways To Accept Credit Card Payments.

In Summary: 6 Top Payment Processors With Payment Link Features

  1. Stripe Payments: Best for tech-savvy eCommerce businesses.
  2. PayPal: Best for eCommerce businesses looking for an easy-to-use solution.
  3. Square: Best for small businesses that do in-person transactions.
  4. Venmo: Best for businesses looking to combine transactions and social media.
  5. Wave: Best for independent contractors.
  6. Paysley: Best for businesses looking to add payment links to an existing merchant account.
Chris Motola

Chris Motola

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
An expert in personal and business loans and financial health, Chris Motola has been writing about small business finance and payments for over 5 years. He has been cited in various industry publications, including Forbes Advisor, GoBankingRates, and Medium. Chris is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.
Chris Motola
View Chris Motola's professional experience on LinkedIn.

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