Your business’s payment gateway is the intermediary between your customers and your ability to make money. We researched dozens of the most talked-about payment gateways for businesses of all sizes to determine which ones are the best for specific business needs. Our top choice is PayPal because of its ability to handle global transactions, easy-to-use mobile app, and extra financial management tools for an all-in-one payment solution.
The Best Payment Gateways for Most
Whether you sell online or in-person, you’ve likely heard of PayPal. This payment gateway is used by more than 400 million customers worldwide to easily make and accept payments digitally or in stores. By adding PayPal to your checkout options, you give customers a way to make a purchase quickly by connecting to their PayPal account and associated payment methods.
PayPal also has options for installment payments for customers and financing for businesses. Best of all, you can sign up for free to start using it immediately and pay affordable transaction fees rather than a continuous subscription cost.
The Best Payment Gateway Options to Consider
- PayPal – Best payment gateway for most
- Helcim – Best for large-volume sellers
- Payment Depot – Best payment gateway for small businesses
- Braintree – Best for ecommerce businesses
- GoCardless – Best payment gateway for recurring payments
- Amazon Pay – Best for customer checkout convenience
When It Makes Sense to Invest In Payment Gateways
Today’s businesses practically can’t survive by accepting only cash or checks. To meet their customers’ needs, they should invest in a payment gateway that can handle different forms of electronic payments.
At the very least, they need a way to accept debit and credit cards. According to report data from the Federal Reserve, debit cards are the most popular payment option followed by credit cards. Only 19% of payments are cash.
Electronic payments are especially crucial for online businesses. JP Morgan reports data showing that nearly half of payments to ecommerce businesses are made by cards, while another 28% come from digital wallet payments.
It’s clear that businesses of all sizes can benefit from having a payment gateway if they sell items or services to customers or clients. The challenge is finding one that offers the features you need without falling outside of your budget.
Smaller businesses should consider investing in a payment gateway with low transaction and subscription fees without the bells and whistles. You may not need invoicing, financial reporting, and CRM integrations, but having a connected mobile app, options for payment terminals, and easy-to-set-up accounting can be beneficial.
Larger businesses might invest in more features, like high-level security, international payments, and risk management.
#1 – PayPal — The Best Payment Gateway for Most
It’s nearly impossible not to know about PayPal. Since 1998, the payment gateway has offered simple ways to accept and transfer money online, making it the first company of its kind to bring digital payments to the masses.
Today, it’s an all-in-one financial solution for businesses of all types, from solopreneurs to massive organizations.
PayPal accepts payments from more than 200 countries and over 100 currencies, making it easier for you to sell wherever your business takes you.
It also features a few convenient ways in its single platform for customers to pay. Not only can they use their PayPal account and connected digital wallet payments, but eligible customers can also use the Buy Now, Pay Later feature for financing or Venmo payments with a connected Venmo account.
Plus, businesses can add PayPal payment links to their websites or place QR payment codes on business cards or store signage for even more ways to pay.
But what we love most about PayPal is its virtually neverending array of additional financial solutions that help businesses avoid the need to pay for multiple other services.
For example, as a PayPal merchant, you’re eligible for seller protections that give you additional peace of mind in cases of fraudulent complaints or chargebacks.
You can also print shipping labels and track packages to customers, find detailed shopper insights to help you plan marketing campaigns, and apply for a business loan from PayPal.
While small businesses may not need these perks right now, they certainly can come in handy for future scalability.
PayPal is 100% free to sign up, although you can have the company create customizable solutions for your business for an additional cost. Per-transaction and service fees range between 1.90% + a fixed fee to $3.49% + a fixed fee.
#2 – Helcim — The Best for Large-Volume Sellers
When you sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products or services a month, your payment gateway’s fees can add up quickly.
Helcim seeks to change that, making its per-transaction fees lower than competitors, especially for large-volume sellers. The more you sell, the lower your fees are.
Fees start at 10% + $0.05 for in-person payments from businesses selling more than $5 million monthly. They increase to 0.50% + $0.25 for online or keyed payments from companies selling up to $25,000/month.
How does Helcim keep its costs so low? It uses an interchange-plus model, which sends credit card processing fees directly to you rather than up-charging you for a middleman service. Instead, Helcim charges a low per-transaction fee as their cut, allowing it to reduce the fee as you sell more.
It’s also incredibly transparent with its fees, listing everything in plain sight on its website. You’ll know what to expect before you sign up.
Helcim offers all the tools you’ll need for seamless financial management at any stage of your business, including a customer portal, card readers, and invoicing or recurring payment services.
#3 – Payment Depot — The Best Payment Gateway for Small Businesses
Best Payment Gateway for Small Businesses
Payment Depot's monthly subscription model works best for businesses processing up to $500,000/year. Wholesale credit card rates and zero hidden fees make this payment gateway one of the most affordable options for small businesses.
Per-transaction-fee pricing models aren’t the most economical for all businesses, especially small businesses pulling in more modest revenue.
For example, a business processing $100,000 in credit card payments each month could easily spend thousands of dollars on credit card and payment processing fees.
Payment Depot does things a bit differently by offering wholesale credit card rates and a monthly payment structure to its clients.
Monthly pricing is under $100 per month, but you unlock incredibly low fees for online and common in-person payments.
Rates for online payments are 0% plus $0.18 per transaction, which is incredibly competitive. Most other gateways take a lot more out of each payment than that, so this is a great way to keep more of the money you’re earning via ecommerce.
Swiped/chip payments are even better at 0% plus $0.08 per transaction, so local businesses or anyone with a brick-and-mortar location can seriously benefit from switching to Payment Depot, too. Note that this program is exclusively for companies based in the US.
In addition to its attractive pricing model, Payment Depot has multiple payment terminals, contactless payments, and 24/7 customer service. Get started today by submitting your business information for a quote.
#4 – Braintree — The Best for Ecommerce Businesses
Best for Ecommerce Businesses
PayPal child company Braintree prioritizes the needs of ecommerce businesses with flexible payment solutions and a simple checkout experience. Accept PayPal, Venmo, credit or debit cards, and other popular payment types to meet your customers' needs.
Braintree looks similar to PayPal on the surface. This makes sense, considering it’s a product of PayPal.
The primary difference between the two is that Braintree is specifically designed to handle large-volume ecommerce sales.
When you sign up for Braintree, you get a merchant account, which is similar to a line of credit. This takes longer to set up than a traditional PayPal account because Braintree will actually vet your business before it approves your account.
The perk is that your business gets a layer of protection that non-merchant accounts don’t have, which could lead to fewer account freezes and fraudulent charge investigations. This is a must for busy ecommerce businesses that need to keep finances moving.
Braintree accepts multiple types of electronic payments that fit the needs of online shoppers, including Venmo, PayPal, and digital wallet payments. Customers can also pay by electronic bank draft and credit or debit cards.
Your business can even set up recurring payments if you’re on a subscription-based model.
Braintree accounts also come with top-tier data security and detailed reporting to streamline your operations, find transactions, and research payment statuses.
A Braintree account can be a bit more complex to set up than other payment gateways simply because the service offers a more in-control experience for business owners. However, Braintree’s white-glove support can assist you with getting set up or making changes to your account.
Braintree accounts are free to set up.
Pricing varies by payment method, with PayPal payments matching PayPal’s fees. Cards and digital wallet payments are 2.59% + $.49 per transaction, while Venmo payments are 3.49% + $.49 per transaction. ACH payments are 0.75% per transaction.
#5 – GoCardless — The Best Payment Gateway for Recurring Payments
Best Payment Gateway for Recurring Payments
Businesses offering subscriptions need recurring payment capabilities like GoCardless offers. Conveniently allow customers to pay by card or bank account for your service. You can still invoice or accept one-time payments as needed.
GoCardless is a payment gateway specializing in recurrent payments, making it ideal for subscription-based businesses.
Let your customers choose their subscription model based on preset options, such as monthly or annual recurring subscriptions. You can also add the option for them to choose which date to start their subscription.
Then, GoCardless does the rest for you by taking and processing their bank or card information. The service will retry unsuccessful payments if you opt-in to the feature to help customers keep their subscriptions going.
Connect GoCardless to your other services to create an all-in-one solution for easier financial management, like Xero and Salesforce.
If you also sell products or services that don’t require recurring billing, GoCardless can handle that, too, with one-time payment checkout options.
GoCardless charges per transaction using a simple pricing model. Each U.S. transaction costs 1% + $0.49 for a maximum of $2.50, while international transactions are 2% + $0.25 each.
#6 – Amazon Pay — The Best for Customer Checkout Convenience
A payment gateway isn’t all about your business; it’s also about the customer. Payment gateways should make the payment process as easy as possible for your customers, which is what Amazon Pay sets out to do.
Amazon Pay is the same payment gateway used on Amazon. Amazon customers can choose from the saved payment methods in their wallet when making an Amazon purchase.
This payment gateway allows the same options on your site. Amazon users can connect to their Amazon wallets via your checkout to pay with whatever debit or credit card they see fit. They don’t need to register an account to do it, either.
This leads to a fast and convenient checkout process that could boost your checkout completions.
You can also set up recurring payments through Amazon Pay.
Businesses using Amazon Pay get dedicated account and technical support and a quick and easy setup process.
Amazon Pay Pricing is per-transaction and starts at 2.9% + $0.30.
Methodology for Choosing the Best Payment Gateways
Payment gateways offer a diverse range of features to fit all kinds of businesses, from sole proprietorships to large-scale organizations. Depending on where your business falls in that spectrum, one solution could be better for you than another.
That’s why we’ve broken down a few of the most important factors to consider when choosing the best payment gateway for your business. We’ve also used the following points when curating our top list to provide a good mix of options for different types of businesses.
Flexible Payment Solutions
Some payment gateways allow businesses to offer several payment options to their customers, like in-person contactless payments, bank withdrawals, or online payment methods.
Having the ability to charge recurring subscriptions or allow customers to pay over time with installments can boost convenience for your business and consumers.
If you only conduct business from a brick-and-mortar location, you may not need a bunch of digital payment options. However, ecommerce businesses can certainly benefit from giving customers multiple ways to pay on their websites.
You’ll pay more to have these extra options, but your investment might be worth the potential customer satisfaction you’ll get on the other end.
Many of today’s businesses take orders from people across the globe. For such businesses, it’s crucial to have a payment gateway that accepts and processes international payments reliably and without excessive fees.
First, consider how many countries the payment gateway accepts payments from. Some companies, like PayPal, work with more than 200 countries. Others are more limited, like Braintree’s 45 countries and regions.
Then, research the payment gateway’s fees.
Most have higher fees for international payments than domestic payments. However, the amount you’ll pay per transaction can vary significantly, depending on whether the gateway charges fixed or variable fees.
Payment gateways usually charge businesses for a monthly or annual subscription, per transaction, or both. Be aware that additional fees can also make up a large portion of what you spend for the payment service.
For example, chargebacks requested by a credit card company can be costly. Some payment gateways charge $30 or higher fees for them.
Refunds can also eat into your revenue. Issuing a refund can result in a fee outside of your monthly or annual plan.
Before deciding on a payment gateway, speak with a customer service representative to get a detailed scope of fees you can expect based on the plan you’re interested in to help you compare costs.
Does your payment gateway include no-cost point-of-sale equipment for in-person purchases?
Some do, but others charge an additional upfront or rental fee for their equipment. This could be an additional cost to consider, especially if you’re on a tight budget for your payment gateway setup.
Additionally, decide if the payment gateway’s available point-of-sale equipment has the features you need, like contactless payments, touchscreen operation, or a barcode scanner.
Financial Management Features
The best payment gateways offer more than payment collections; they also offer full financial management solutions for businesses to keep track of their sales.
Of course, these more comprehensive options tend to cost more than more basic solutions.
But if you have a medium to large business or plan on scaling your small business, having these features in place can make accounting easier.
For instance, some companies provide dispute management and seller protections to help protect businesses against fraud. They might also include invoicing, inventory management, and portals for customers to manage their accounts.
To make sure you don’t overpay for features you don’t need currently, you could look for a payment gateway that has these features on specific plans. This way, an upgrade is available when you’re ready to scale.
The Top Payment Gateways in Summary
PayPal‘s various payment methods and seller tools make it our number one payment gateway option for most businesses. Still, you might find another solution to better fit your business model, customers, or budget. Use our methodology as a guide to help you find the payment gateway that fits your budget while including the most important features your business needs.