Best Payment Gateways Reviewed and Compared: Worldpay vs vs Adyen vs Stripe vs PayPal (March 2017)

Which payment gateway should you use for your ecommerce store? With dozens of online payment processing options to choose from, it can be a complicated decision.

Everyone who is new to ecommerce will tell you that the most difficult task isn't only to decide which platform is the best one, but also the different factors that you need to take into consideration when deciding which gateway is best for your specific needs. However, to learn more about each one, read on:

Pro Tip

Just a quick note to let you know which is my favourite Payment gateway + Merchant account combo to save you a lot of time and $$$: it's called Dharma Merchant Services and it's a really cool and ethical company! Check out my full review here

Just in case you're in a hurry here's our top with the best payment gateways:

Payment Gateway
Dharma Merchant Servicespayment gateway dharma merchant
Payline Datapayline
Authorize.netpayment gateway: authorize-net
Stripepayment gateway: stripe
PayPalpayment gateway: paypal

Now, here are ten factors to consider:

1. Is the payment gateway supported on your ecommerce platform?

Which ecommerce platform are you going to be using? Something SaaS-based like Shopify or BigCommerce, perhaps? Or a self-hosted platform like WooCommerce or Magento? Whichever platform you've chosen, there will be a range of off-the-shelf plugins or extensions to help you integrate with major payment gateways.

Where possible, choose a payment gateway that already has a plugin for your platform.

2. Do you want customers to enter their payment details directly on your site?

From a technical point of view, there are three ways for you to take payment details from a customer.

a) Payment form on your site, details posted to your server

The smoothest checkout experience for customers is usually for them to enter their payment details into a normal form on your site. Unfortunately, this is the least secure way of doing things so you'll need to take very serious security precautions to remain PCI compliant. Unless you're turning over millions per year, this probably won't be cost-effective.

b) iFrame or redirect

An alternative to take payment details directly through your site is to include putting the checkout form in a secure iFrame (within a page on your site) or redirecting customers to a hosted payment page. It's harder to get the payment form to match the rest of your website with these approaches, but they're also the most secure way of doing things.

c) Payment form on your site, details sent straight from browser to secure payment gateway (not via your server)

Lastly, a middle-ground solution is to use a solution such as the Stripe payment gateway's Stripe.js. With Stripe.js, your customers type their card details into a form on a page served from your site, but the Stripe.js code communicates directly with the Stripe server. The customer's card details never pass through your web server. Your security responsibilities will be less than with a normal form, but much more involved that with an iFrame or redirect.

Make sure you understand the version 3.0 PCI data security standards effective from 1st January 2015 which give more details about the different categories and what merchants using each of these checkout methods need to do to be PCI compliant.

3. Do you want a payment gateway and merchant account or an all-in-one payment service provider?

Some payment providers such as SagePay or PayPoint offer just a payment gateway (the bit of technology that sits between your website and the payment networks). They require you to have your own merchant account (the special bank account that the money passes into — different from your regular business bank account). Other payment providers such as PayPal and Stripe offer a combined payment gateway and merchant account (effectively you're using their merchant account.)

Getting an account with one of the combined providers tends to be easier than getting a merchant account, and tends to involve fewer setup and monthly fees. The per-transaction fees tend to be higher, however. For these reasons, small merchants may want to start with a combined payment provider. Larger merchants can typically save money by having their own merchant account.

4. Do you want to offer PayPal?

You don't necessarily need to limit yourself to one payment gateway. Lots of ecommerce platforms allow you to offer multiple payment options to your customers. The most popular ‘secondary' option to offer is PayPal. Lots of consumers have PayPal accounts and many of them prefer to pay by PayPal rather than enter credit card details into yet another website. Even if you don't use PayPal as your main payment gateway, consider offering PayPal as an alternative way for customers to pay. It can also be a good backup in case of any problems with your primary payment gateway or merchant account.

5. What are the fees?

Payment gateways and merchant accounts charge various different fees that can include monthly fees, fixed fees per transaction, variable fees based on a percentage of transaction amounts, and extra fees for things like chargebacks, payments from international cards, and more. You can use a comparison website such as PaymentBrain to get an overview of fees and ask to see a full schedule of charges before signing with a provider.

6. How long is the contract?

Historically, some payment providers have been known to lock merchants into lengthy contracts of two years or more. This can be a problem if you find you're not happy with the provider for some reason after signing. Other providers are happy to have merchants using them on a monthly rolling contract. Make sure you understand which sort you're signing up to.

7. Does the provider have a good reputation?

Payment processing is critical to your business, so you'll want to work with a provider who has a good reputation in the industry. Some payment providers have had problems with outages. Others have a reputation in some circles for blocking merchants' money without due cause. If you haven't heard of a particular payment provider before, be a little extra careful before signing up with them.

8. Does the payment gateway do what you need?

Does you need to do more than just take one-off payments for goods or services that you are providing? Perhaps you're looking to take recurring payments from your customers? Perhaps you want to act as a marketplace, taking payments on behalf of sellers who are listing on your site? Most payment gateways are quite limited in the functionality they provide, so make sure the payment gateway you're considering has the features you need.

9. Does the payment gateway support the payment methods your target market uses?

There is a huge number of online payment methods in use around the world, from the well-known and well-established Visa and MasterCard to very niche payment methods used in just one or two countries. Each payment gateway supports some of these payment methods. Make sure you understand which payment methods people in your target market like to use and choose a payment gateway with support for those methods. If your website doesn't accept your customer's preferred payment method, you will lose sales.

10. Are you in a ‘high-risk' business?

Some businesses are considered by payment providers to be ‘high-risk'. This is generally because of the sector they operate in.

Some high-risk sectors include:

  • gambling
  • adult content
  • travel
  • tobacco
  • debt collection
  • e-books
  • electronic cigarettes
  • diet programmes
  • credit repair

If your business is in one of these sectors, you may find many payment providers don't want to work with you. In such cases you'll need to work with a provider that specialises in so-called ‘high-risk' payment processing.

5 Popular Payment Gateways to Consider

If you've considered these 10 points, you're now well on your way to choosing a suitable payment gateway.

To save you some time, here are five popular payment gateways that all do well based on the criteria above.

Payment Gateway
Dharma Merchant Servicesdharma-merchant
Payline Datapayline

What other factors are you considering in choosing a payment gateway? Let us know!

Matt Collins

Matt is an e-commerce technology guy who has built the technology for a number of e-commerce companies. He runs the PaymentBrain website where he enjoys helping business owners make sense of the sometimes complicated world of payment processing.

18 Responses

  1. As much as people seem to hate Paypal, I think you’d have to be a fool to not at least offer it as an option on an ecommerce site. It’s just too trusted and well known not to. In fact I would even bet that offering it as an option is correlated with a higher conversion rate.

  2. Dear Catalin,
    Thanks for great resources as always. I have been looking into this a long time but couldn’t find any relevant info. We are trying to find the best off-the-shelf ecommerce solution for us but we don’t have a US bank account and turns out to take advantage of shopify payment gateway to cut on the transaction fees, you need to have a US account. Otherwise, we need to pay 2% on every transaction in addition to the general credit card rates. Any suggestion would be highly relevant.
    Best regards,

    1. You can find a list here with the international payment gateways available. Keep in mind that these gateways all come with their own transaction fees. All transaction fees will be lifted regardless of your plan only if you are eligible to apply for Shopify Payments. Cheers!

    2. On Shopify it doesn’t help to have just an US bank account, you need to have a SSN, too, to get approved to use Shopify Payments – if you signed up on 2016.

  3. Thanks for you valuable notes. I’m from iran and our business is about exportation of persian rugs, as we want to establish our online market we want a payment gateway provider but many of these providers don’t provide any service to iranian businesses. please help me to find a suitable provider that we can work with.
    kind regards

  4. I have been using for 8 years and their rates are the lowest I’ve found anywhere. Yes, you have to pay some monthly fees, but overall, if you sell a lot of volume, the per transaction fees are so much lower than anything else I have looked at.

  5. Paypal all the way, I’ve heard plenty of good things about Stripe – they customer service is excellent – at least when I was trying to contact them as a potential client.

  6. The combination we use (Stripe + PayPal, either Express or Standard) covers probably 95% of our customers.

    Most people tend to just setup PayPal because thats what comes with most of the big e-commerce systems already pre-setup and plus it’s super easy to configure.

    But I found that setting up Stripe as well to process credit cards on-site gave a great conversion increase. Plus it works in a similar way to PayPal on the backend, meaning you still don’t need to setup a merchant account with your bank and the money can just get transferred back to your bank account.

  7. Question for the Forum, our company is considering implementing or Stripe for a new eCommerce product we are launching and are trying to understand the fee structure. If we go with either or Stipe, do we still need merchant processing services from our bank?
    We currently use Intuit/Quickbooks to process credit cards for our current merchant services where we accept credit cards. For our new consumer eCommerce product, do we need to pay both or Stripe AND Quickbooks, or does handle all aspects of processing the transaction? Thank you

  8. Great article Matt Collins
    You have given us such great information on the payment gateway. Please keep on posting some great articles.
    Thanks for the excellent post.

  9. Hi Collins,
    My difficulty with these payment gateways is that the kind of description they assign to transactions done on merchant site. Example, you check into a hotel, and they do a pre-authorization to secure funds… but the narration on the customers account says google pay… And customers are denying such transactions because they have not done any activities at google pay… Kindly me unravel such scenarios. Thanks

  10. We are facing difficulties on getting a payment gateway support on our website. Everyone rejected to support us for 3 reasons: (1) we deal with branded and authentic women accessories, (2) our business registered in the middle east and (3) we are an auction website. We heard about making our own payment gateway. Does anyone knows about this topic? how much will it cost? any complications?

  11. Helllooo friends,

    Love my Merchant e Solutions Gateway provider.
    However if you are a non-profit organization built on DONATION make sure you find a website that fully support DONATIONS pages because you will receive little or no help from Merchants E Solutions.
    They provide a copy and paste HTML generated Donation form that provides no Cascading entries. The Form really sucks. You will have to pay thousands of dollars to a Developer to get ir going.


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