Free Payment Gateways in 2023: Do They Even Exist?

Zara Chechi

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With the end of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme in April 2023 and its substitute offering less financial support, rising energy costs are making it quite expensive to keep brick-and-mortar shops open.

Selling online is a great way to offset those costs, but to do that, you’ll need a payment gateway. Unfortunately, there are no free payment gateways. While some providers offer free signup and no monthly charges, their high transaction fees usually offset any savings.

However, with our nearly 15 years of covering the market, we can say it makes more sense to focus on finding the cheapest payment gateway for your business, rather than a free one.

In this article, we've included some of the most affordable providers we found during our in-depth research into the best payment gateway providers, along with insightful information to help you choose the one most suited to your business.

How much should I pay for a payment gateway?

Payment gateway fees vary for each business. Essentially, the more money you process in card transactions, the less you’ll pay to your provider.

The only way to get an accurate idea of costs for your business is to request a tailored quote, but let’s look at some ballpark figures.

Payment gateway: guide prices
Joining feeFixed monthly feeTransaction fees
Up to £50£10 to £2010p fixed or 2% + 20p

Monthly fees and lower transaction fees vs no monthly fees and higher transaction fees

Contract providers offer their service for fixed monthly fee, which covers transaction fees up to a certain threshold, and then charge low transaction fees per payment you take once you go above. The payment gateway from Handepay, for example, is charged at £19.99 per month for the first 400 transactions, after which you pay an additional 10p for every payment processed.

Mobile card readers, however, don't charge you an ongoing monthly cost but bite a bigger chunk off your transactions. Examples of these include:

If you're a small business owner

If you’re a small business owner determined to find yourself a free payment gateway, then it’s worth looking at alternative online payment methods such as Paypal — it’s the closest you’re going to get!

PayPal is a third-party payment service provider. There's no fee for setting up your payment gateway account, no monthly charge, and transaction fees come in at 2.9% + 30p.

Mobile providers like the ones listed above are also good options for you, especially if you run a brick-and-mortar business – in which case, you can benefit from the card readers they provide.

If you're a mid to large-sized businesses business owner

Mid to large-sized businesses might be better served by a traditional payment gateway provider, such as takepayments or Clover, or by a bank, such as Barclaycard merchant services. This is because traditional providers tend to have much lower transaction fees and often operate on a sliding scale, depending on the number of transaction your business processes.

Cheapest payment gateway providers

These guys might not offer a free payment gateway, but they come close. And, importantly, you can rely on them to provide secure payment services for your business.


At £9.95, Worldpay‘s minimum monthly account fees are the cheapest out of the traditional providers we compared. Its transaction fees are on a sliding scale between 0.75% and 2.75%. However, you'll need to be locked into an 18-month contract for these fees. If you're after flexibility, its pay as you go transaction fee is 2.75% + 20p.

For Worldpay hardware, it'll cost you £17.50 per month for a terminal and £9.99 per month for a virtual terminal.

Worldpay is suited to businesses that want flexible pricing as you can typically get a better rate than with a pay as you go or mobile reader option.

Worldpay offers over 100 integrations and accepts over 120 currencies. You can also access analytics and reporting, but this is hidden behind a paywall of £4.99 per month. If this is important to you and you don't want to have to pay extra, Stripe provides comprehensive reporting without the price tag. Although Stripe includes several reporting options, its transaction fees (1.4% +20p) may not be suitable if your business takes lots of small payments. Plus, you're more likely to get a much better rate for transaction fees with Worldpay.

Worldpay has a score of 4.7/5 in our research and, while it offers cheap transaction fees, it also transfers funds within 30 minutes, which is super handy for businesses that need the cash flow.

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Revolut has a score of 4.8/5 in our research and it is one of the most affordable mobile readers we looked at. Its transaction fees cost 1% +20p for in-person transactions and 0.8% +2p for in-person transactions.

Revolut's card reader costs a one-off of £49 and, while there are cheaper readers, such as Square's £16 reader, Square's transaction fees are much higher at 1.75%. So, in the long term, Revolut is much cheaper because you'll receive more money from each transaction.

Revolut doesn't just boast cheap transaction fees but it's a pretty well-rounded provider as it includes: over 16 integrations, reporting, and accepts over 30 currencies.

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Stripe is a mobile card reader, scoring a strong 4/5 in our research. Stripe charges 1.4% +20p per transaction and 0.4% per invoice. Its card readers cost £49 or £179, which is a little pricey. However, these are typically one-off costs, unlike traditional readers where you have to pay monthly. A one-off fee is well-suited to small businesses or startups that aren't quite ready to commit to a long-term contract and instead need the flexibility of a mobile reader, like Stripe.

Our research has found that Stripe is the best mobile reader for reporting, offering several reporting options that include: realtime reporting on charges, funds, and transfers. It also accepts over 135 currencies.

Although Stripe has great features, its transfer fund time is around three to seven days, much longer than Worldpay's time of 30 minutes and even Revolut's time of one to three days. If you're a business that finds cash flow to be important, you might be better suited to Revolut if you want the flexibility, or Worldpay if you don't mind the contract.

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Expert tips for keeping online payment costs down

There are plenty of payment gateway providers for UK businesses to choose from, so it really pays to shop around. Online payment processing is highly competitive, and providers will work hard to win your business. But to negotiate the best deal you need to know what you’re talking about — and you have to ask the right questions.

Follow these simple steps to find the cheapest payment gateway for your business:

  1. Research payment gateway providers. Know the key benefits of their services and what they can offer your business.
  2. Understand what a merchant account is and how it works. To process debit and credit card payments face-to-face as well as online you’ll need to first set one up.
  3. Explain your business' needs to providers, including the number of card transactions you expect to process monthly and projected turnover. This information will determine rates.
  4. Compare quotes. Costs vary, so the only way to know that you’re getting the best deal on a payment gateway is to talk to as many providers as you can. This is where we, Expert Market, can help!

While Worldpay, Stripe, and Revolut all provide low transaction fees and comprehensive features, such as integrations and multi currencies, they might not be the right choice for your business.

You can use our free quote comparison tool to help find the right payment provider for your business. With a few details about your business, we can match you up with the right provider. You'll then be contacted by your matched providers with obligation-free quotes.

Free Payment Gateways FAQs

Is there any free payment gateway?
There are no completely free payment gateways. While some providers offer free signups or no monthly costs, they tend to charge high transaction fees.
Is PayPal payment gateway free?
PayPal payment gateway isn't free. Though there's no fee for setting up your payment gateway account nor monthly charges, its transaction fees come in at 2.9% + 30p.
Which is the cheapest payment gateway?
Worldpay is the cheapest payment gateway according to our independent research. Its combination of monthly charge of £9.95 + VAT and transaction fees starting at 0.75% make it have the lowest overall cost among the 11 providers we looked into.

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Written by:
Zara Chechi
Zara Chechi Business Services Expert

Zara is a Payments Expert, specialising in writing about Point of Sale systems. With a Law Degree from City University of London, she has used her legally-honed research and analytical skills to develop expertise in the Business Services world. Featured in FinTech Magazine, she quickly became an expert in payroll, POS systems, and merchant accounts.

Reviewed by:
Ruairi Shirlow Business Services Researcher

Ruairi uses his 3+ years of research experience to uncover insights which can help Expert Market provide the best business solutions for their users. He has done this by meeting with business owners to find out what is important to them and what challenges they face on a daily basis. Ruairi specialises in tools that can be used to grow your business and has done research for a wide range of categories on Expert Market, such as EPOS, Website Builders, and Merchant Accounts.