How To Create a Secure Payment Gateway for Your Online Store

laptop and phone depicting ecommerce web shop

Every online business needs a way to receive payments from its customers. Your checkout process should be user-friendly and highly secure, protecting your customers’ sensitive payment information. 

You’ll also want to be able to accept credit cards, debit cards, and possibly alternative payment methods, such as digital wallets and bank transfers to accommodate the preferences of a diverse customer base.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to create a secure payment page for your store.

Should I Use a Payment Gateway?

Payment gateways, like Zettle or Square, provide a seamless bridge between your online store and the payment processing network. 

They allow you to accept a variety of payment methods including credit cards, debit cards, and electronic bank transfers through your website. They add a layer of security by encrypting sensitive payment data, ensuring your customers’ details are protected during every transaction.

For most UK online retailers, a payment gateway is the most versatile and secure way to handle online payments.

Choose the Right Payment Gateway

The best payment gateways in the UK include:

  • takepayments: Offers a user-friendly interface and competitive pricing.
  • Zettle: Its mobile card reader provides an option for businesses that also have a physical presence.
  • Revolut: A digital banking platform that also offers a payment gateway service.
  • Worldpay: Offers comprehensive fraud protection and has a reputation for reliability.
  • Square: Known for its flat-rate transaction pricing and free online store.
  • SumUp: Offers competitive pricing and a simple, straightforward setup.
  • Stripe: A strong suite of online payment processing options makes it a popular choice for ecommerce businesses.

When selecting a payment gateway, you’ll want to prioritise different features based on your business model. For example, if you foresee a high volume of small transactions, SumUp or takepayments are cost-effective due to their competitive pricing. 

On the other hand, if you plan to scale quickly and need a robust platform to handle a growing number of transactions, Stripe’s extensive toolkit might better serve your needs.

It’s not just about the fees and features, though. You need to consider how each gateway aligns with your customer journey. Will the checkout process be straightforward? Does the gateway support the payment methods your customers prefer? 

For instance, in 2022, 35% of UK consumers used digital wallets to make online purchases, so you probably want to ensure your chosen gateway supports Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Evaluate Ecommerce Platform Compatibility

Make sure your chosen payment gateway is compatible with your ecommerce platform. If you haven’t chosen a platform yet, consider options that support a wide range of payment gateways. Some popular ecommerce platforms in the UK include Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce.

If you already have an ecommerce platform, double-check that it supports your chosen payment gateway. You may also want to explore any extensions or plugins your payment gateway provides, as these can simplify the process of getting up and running.

Obtain a Merchant Account

A merchant account is a type of bank account that allows your online store to accept and process electronic payment card transactions. It acts as an intermediary between your payment gateway and your business bank account, facilitating fund transfers.

To obtain a merchant account, start by researching the top UK merchant account providers. Look for those with a strong reputation, transparent pricing, and excellent customer service. 

If you run a larger business with high transaction volumes, you could benefit from having a dedicated merchant account. However, if you’re just starting out or running a smaller business, opting for a shared merchant account may be more cost-effective. 

You’ll need to provide various business and financial details during the application process, which may include your business plan, a forecast of your sales volume, and your company’s financial statements.

Install an SSL Certificate

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates are essential for safeguarding online transactions. They encrypt data that’s transferred between the user’s web browser and your website, ensuring sensitive information like credit card numbers and personal details are kept private. 

Many web hosting providers will include SSL certificates as part of your web hosting plan so you may already have one set up.

To get started with an SSL certificate:

  1. Select a dependable SSL certificate provider. Options include Let’s Encrypt, Symantec, and Comodo. Your web hosting provider may also offer SSL certificate services or have specific recommendations based on their server configurations and compatibility.
  2. Choose the certificate that aligns with your needs. If you’re a small business or a start-up, consider a Domain Validation (DV) certificate. 
  3. If you want a higher level of trust, consider Organization Validation (OV) or Extended Validation (EV) certificates. EV certificates, in particular, show visible indicators such as a green address bar or your company’s name next to the URL, reassuring visitors they’re at your business’ legitimate website.
  4. Once you’ve selected your certificate, proceed with the purchasing process.
  5. Follow the provider’s instructions for installation on your web server. This typically involves uploading the certificate file through the server’s administration panel.

Once installed, your website will display a padlock icon in the address bar, and your site’s protocol will switch from HTTP to HTTPS. This change reassures your customers that their data is secure when transacting with your business.

Integrate the Payment Gateway

Next, you’ll need to integrate the payment gateway with your website platform. Every payment gateway and platform will be different, so you’ll need to check their documentation.

For a practical example, let’s walk through the typical steps needed to integrate a payment gateway into an ecommerce platform using Stripe, a widely-used payment processor, together with WooCommerce, a popular plugin for WordPress websites.

  1. Prepare your WooCommerce store: Before you start the integration process, ensure your WooCommerce store is set up and configured. This means your WordPress site is live, and WooCommerce is installed and activated.
  2. Install the Stripe plugin for WooCommerce: In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to ‘Plugins’, then ‘Add New’. Search for the ‘WooCommerce Stripe Payment Gateway’ plugin. Install and activate it. This plugin links your WooCommerce store to Stripe and handles most of the technical work for you.
  3. Configure the plugin settings: With the plugin activated, go to ‘WooCommerce’, then ‘Settings’, followed by the ‘Payments’ tab. You should see Stripe listed as an option. Click on ‘Manage’ to configure the settings.
  4. Connect to Stripe: Click on the ‘Connect with Stripe’ button, which will redirect you to Stripe’s website. Log in to your Stripe account to authorise the connection.
  5. Adjust payment settings: Once connected, you’ll be brought back to your WooCommerce settings. Here, you can select which payment methods you want to offer (such as credit cards or Apple Pay), set up transaction emails, and customise the checkout experience. Be sure to also set up ‘Webhooks’ from Stripe to WooCommerce, which allows Stripe to notify your store about payments and changes in its status.
  6. Enable Stripe: After configuring your settings, toggle Stripe to ‘Enabled’ so that it shows as a payment option at checkout on your store.

Perform Thorough Testing

Before going live with your payment gateway, thorough testing ensures a smooth customer experience:

  • Switch the payment gateway to its test or sandbox mode, which allows you to simulate transactions without moving actual funds.
  • Conduct transactions using all available payment methods to verify that each one works correctly.
  • Test various transaction types, such as purchases, refunds, and chargebacks, to ensure your system can handle them.
  • Check how your system responds to errors and declines. It should fail securely and inform the customer of the issue without revealing sensitive system information.

Deploy and Monitor the Payment Gateway

Once you have thoroughly tested your payment gateway, it’s time to go live:

  • Transition from the test environment to the production environment by switching modes within your payment gateway’s settings.
  • Keep a close eye on transactions to spot any unusual activity or technical difficulties early on.
  • Use the payment gateway’s notification system to alert you immediately of any transaction failures or potential security breaches, enabling you to act swiftly to resolve issues.
Next Steps

Creating a secure payment gateway is the cornerstone of a thriving online store, ensuring customer trust and streamlined transactions. It entails selecting a gateway that complements your business model, obtaining a merchant account, and setting up the gateway with your website platform.

Choosing the right payment gateway will stand you in good stead for the future. Start by exploring the top payment gateways, and take decisive steps towards a secure, customer-centric checkout process.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I accept online payments?
To accept online payments, you need a payment gateway integrated with your online store. This involves selecting a payment gateway provider, obtaining a merchant account, setting up security measures like SSL certificates, and setting up the payment gateway in your ecommerce platform.
What is the role of SSL certificates?
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates are essential for encrypting data transmitted between your customer’s browser and your payment gateway, ensuring sensitive information like credit card numbers can’t be intercepted by cybercriminals during the transaction process.
What measures can I take to prevent fraud in my online store?
To prevent fraud in your online store, you should implement security measures such as two-factor authentication, address verification services (AVS), CVV checks, and a fraud management filter. Additionally, keep your software up to date and educate your team on spotting and dealing with suspicious activities.
Written by:
Richard has more than 20 years of experience in business operations, computer science and full-stack development roles. A graduate in Computer Science and former IT support manager at Samsung, Richard has taught coding courses and developed software for both private businesses and state organisations. A prolific author in B2B and B2C tech, Richard’s work has been published on sites such as TechRadar Pro, ITProPortal and Tom’s Guide.