Free Payment Gateways: Do They Even Exist?

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Selling online is a great way to start your business without the need to open up a brick-and-mortar shop, but to do that, you’ll need a payment gateway. Whether you're looking for your first gateway or aiming to switch to a cheaper service, the first thing to know is that there are no free payment gateways. While some providers offer free sign up and no monthly charges, their high transaction fees usually offset any savings.

However, with nearly 15 years of covering the market under our belts, we can safely say it makes more sense to seek out the cheapest payment gateway for your business, rather than trying to find a free option.

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 payment gateway most suited to your business.

What are the most affordable payment gateways?

 Feel free to use our free cost comparison tool to find the most affordable payment gateway provider for your business.

You may not be able to find a free payment gateway service, but we can help you find the best-value option for what you need!

How do you need to take card payments?

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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. Read our review of Handepay for more information.

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 (read our takepayments review) or Clover, or by a bank, such as Barclaycard. 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.

Worldpay

Worldpay has recently launched a new payment gateway called Worldpay eCommerce. With no monthly charge, no minimum fee and no set-up fee, it's the cheapest out of the traditional providers we compared.

For Visa and Mastercard consumer cards, the transaction fees are set at 1.3%+20p, whereas commercial cards and Amex are charged at a separate rate. However, you'll need to be locked into an 18-month contract to access these fees.

Worldpay's card machine costs £17.50 per month, while its virtual terminal costs and £9.99 per month.

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 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.

Given that it offers a generous range of integrations and analytics features, Worldpay is a suitable option if you want to switch to a solution with more advanced features than your current payment gateway offers.

It is also a suitable option for small businesses seeking a payment gateway, thanks to its low fees and quick next-business-day settlement.

Following our extensive research and testing, we gave Worldpay an excellent score of 4.7/5. While it offers cheap transaction fees, it also transfers funds within 30 minutes, which is super handy for businesses that need the cash flow.

Read our Worldpay review.

Expert Rating:

Revolut

Revolut earned a score of 4.8/5 from us following our research and testing – one of its best qualities is that it's one of the most affordable mobile reader providers we analysed. For UK consumer cards, transaction fees cost 1% +20p for in-person transactions and 0.8% + 2p for in-person transactions. For all International and commercial cards, the rates are 2.8% + 20p for online transactions and 2.6% + 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.

Read of our review of Revolut.

Expert Rating:

Stripe

Stripe is a mobile card reader, scoring a strong 4/5 in our research. Stripe charges 1.5% + 20p per transaction for standard UK cards and 2.5% + 20p per transaction for EU cards. 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: real-time 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.

Expert Rating:

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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!
  5. Switch providers if you find that you can get a better deal elsewhere. The market is constantly evolving and options are changing, so it's wise to consider switching to a new payment gateway if your current provider is not ticking all of your boxes.

Next steps to finding a payment gateway

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.

Whether you're seeking out your first payment gateway or looking to switch to a better-suited provider, you can use our free quote comparison tool to help find the right payment system 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.

How We Test Merchant Account Products and Services for UK Businesses

We tested 11 market-leading merchant account products and services to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, regulatory compliance, customer support, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to UK businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in six main categories of investigation and 25 subcategories – in fact, we covered 36 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs and requirements of Expert Market readers – and that's our product testing algorithm in a nutshell!

Our main testing categories for merchant account products and services are:

Compliance: the adherence of the merchant account product to relevant regulations and standards, such as data security, anti-fraud measures, and legal requirements.

Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the merchant account provider to users in resolving issues, answering questions, and providing guidance.

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular merchant account – the market position and reputation a merchant account holds.

Features: the functionalities and capabilities provided by the merchant account product. This can include online payment processing, payment gateway integration, and fraud prevention.

Taking Payments: the process and options available for accepting payments through the merchant account product.

Price: the cost associated with using the merchant account product, including transaction fees, setup fees, monthly fees, and any additional charges.

 

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 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 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.