UK Merchant Accounts Comparison: Our 2023 Guide

Woman paying using a card reader
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Merchant accounts are an essential service for you to start taking payments – and if you need a guide to pick the one best suited to your needs, you’ve come to the right spot.

Merchant accounts are electronic services that act as a buffer account between your customers’ banks and yours. They provide card machines and process payments, allowing you to charge your clientele.

Which are the best merchant accounts in the market?

These are our recommended providers based on our research. Use our cost comparison tool to find the best service for your business

  1. takepayments
  2. Retail Merchant Services
  3. Worldpay
  4. Barclays Merchant Services
  5. Revolut
  6. Zettle
  7. Stripe Payments

While at a glance they can seem alike, finding the right one for you can be tricky. Despite the recent remedial package proposed by the Payment Systems Regulator, pricing and contract length vary greatly between the providers – and you have to watch out for their fine print!

Fear not: to help you choose, we’ve done a thorough research into the merchant accounts market – encompassing both contract and mobile providers – and you can find our insights below.

Contract merchant accounts in 2023

Contract merchant accounts are payment gateways that offer their service through fixed-term agreements. They charge lower (and usually negotiable) transaction fees in exchange for a monthly fee. By and large, they also lease their card machines instead of selling them to you.

1. takepayments

Starting transaction fee Bespoke
Quick overview

takepayments scores an impressive overall score of 4.8/5 in our research, which reflects its plentiful reporting tools and its solid customer score of 4.4/5.

Its mandatory contract length of 18 months is on par with Worldpay’s 18 months, but not as convenient as Barclays Merchant Services’ offering, which allows you to pay as you use. However, like Retail Merchant Services , takepayments allows for custom pricing, so you can negotiate your fees and get ones that don't break the bank.

takepayments scores an impeccable 5/5 for features. Our research notes that it is best for medium-sized businesses as they can fully use its accounting detailing and product customisation. Also, international businesses will appreciate its acceptance of 170 currencies, which is 35 more than Stripe Payments and 50 more than Worldpay, the runner-ups in multi-currency support in our research.

However, it lacks email support - something Worldpay and Zettle offer. Unsurprisingly, these providers get perfect 5/5 scores for customer support in our research, while takepayments only reaches 4.6/5 in this category.


Cheap transaction fees

Supports 170 currencies


No invoicing tool

Long fund transfer times

How does takepayments compare to its competitors?

takepayments’ starting transaction fees are bespoke, meaning it can work out as affordable for your business, Retail Merchant Services’ 0.4% and Worldpay’s 0.75%. That said, takepayments’ starting monthly fee (£20 + VAT) is pricier than Retail Merchant Services (£10 + VAT) and Barclays Merchant Services (£15 + VAT). All this contributes to takepayments’ 4.1/5 score for price in our research.

takepayments is also the champion of multi-currency support, accepting payments in 170 currencies , beating Worldpay’s 120 and Retail Merchant Services’ 100. However, its fund next working transfer time is fast, for example Zettle can take up to 2 business days.

2. Retail Merchant Services

Retail Merchant Services logo
Retail Merchant Services
Starting transaction fee 0.4%
Quick overview

Retail Merchant Services is a payment solution company that’s big on features and small on price. It scores 4.7/5 overall in our research.

It packs six reporting tools (including real-time data insights and wastage monitoring), and accepts 100 currencies, which sees the provider score 4.1/5 for features. This favours small business owners who can use the data from the provider to plan a growth strategy.

However, it’s worth noting that Retail Merchant Services is the only merchant account provider we researched that isn’t Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant, which means the provider doesn’t take industry-standard procedures to keep data safe. It also means that, for the security of your business, you’ll have to undertake these procedures by yourself.

Furthermore, it only offers support over the phone, scoring a low 2.6/5 for customer support. This is a far cry from Zettle’s and Worldpay’s immaculate 5/5 scores in this category, due to their phone, live chat and email support offering.


Custom pricing

Plentiful reporting tools


Support not available through email or live chat

Not PCI compliant

How does Retail Merchant Services compare to its competitors?

Retail Merchant Services’ starting monthly fee of £10 + VAT narrowly misses beating Worldpay’s £9.95 + VAT, but is cheaper than takepayments’ (£20 + VAT). Nevertheless, the provider still scores a perfect 5/5 score for price in our research. Its starting transaction fee (0.4%) beats Worldpay’s 0.75% and Tyl’s 1.5% (both high scorers in price in our research).

While Retail Merchant Services’ multi-support currency is impressive, accepting 100, takepayments is better because it accepts 170 currencies.

If you're a small business that is looking to scale, then Retail Merchant Services could be a good fit as it offers six reporting tools. They don’t upstage takepayments’ eight, but it’s a better reporting offering than Revolut’s two and Zettle’s five. This is reflected in Retail Merchant Services’ 4.1/5 score for features in our research, which is less than Zettle’s 4.9/5 and Revolut’s 4.5/5.

3. Worldpay

Worldpay logo
Starting transaction fee 0.75%
Quick overview

Worldpay is a merchant account that doubles as a payment gateway platform. It has a worldwide presence and the fastest fund transfer times we came across in our research, which helps its 4.6/5 overall score.

At 18 months, Worldpay’s is the longest contract time among the card machine providers we looked into - a far cry from providers such as Zettle and Revolut, that don’t even bind you to contracts. Because of this, Worldpay is more suited to medium-sized to large businesses, as startups might appreciate the flexibility of not sticking to a provider for such a long period from the get-go.

On the other hand, their pricing is transparent, so you'll be clear on what you're expected to pay: 2.75% + 20p if you pay as you go, or you can choose a simple monthly payment plan. So while they're not the most affordable provider out there, there's no complex pricing to worry about, and no set-up fees either.


Fast fund transfer times

Doesn’t charge extra early termination fee


Long contract

Reports are chargeable

How does Worldpay compare to its competitors?

At £9.95 + VAT, Worldpay’s starting monthly fee is the cheapest among the contract merchant accounts we researched, contributing to its 3.8/5 score for price in our research. This sees it beat takepayments (£20 + VAT), but remains pricier than mobile providers like Revolut, which doesn’t charge any monthly fees. Its starting transaction fee of 0.75% is cheaper than Stripe Payments’ 1.4% + 20p.

Its four reporting tools pale when compared to takepayments’ eight and Stripe Payments’ seven – both of which are likely to better serve business owners keen on getting data to grow their ventures. However, it allows for an incredible 100 integrations, which is way more than Zettle (21) and Revolut (16), leading the way to a 4.5/5 score for features. These are primed to benefit business owners keen on running several of their systems in sync.

4. Barclays Merchant Services

barclays logo
Barclays Merchant Services
Starting transaction fee 1.60%
Quick overview

Barclays Merchant Services is the merchant account service offered by the British banking powerhouse, Barclays. While it packs great multi-currency support, its high transaction fee and limited support channels make it score an above average 3/5 in our research.

On the bright side, Barclays Merchant Services is the only contract merchant account we researched that offers its services on a pay-as-you-use basis. This sets it apart from - and gives it a convenient edge against - takepayments and Worldpay, which require you to stick with them for 12 and 18 months, respectively.

It charges a 1.60% transaction fee, way higher than Retail Merchant Services’ 0.4 % - the lowest we came across in our research. This makes the provider score a low 2.3/5 for price in our research, far behind takepayments’ 4.1/5 and Retail Merchant Services’ 5/5 in this category.

It is worth noting that it only offers support over the phone, scoring a subpar 2.6/5 for customer support, tying with Retail Merchant Services, which also doesn’t….


Available as pay-as-you-use

Supports 96 currencies


Support not available through email or live chat

High transaction fee

How does Barclays Merchant Services compare to its competitors?

If you’re a small business owner keen on cutting down on costs, Barclays Merchant Services might not cut it. For starters, it’s the only provider in our research that charges a setup fee, with prices varying between £60 and £150. It also lacks flexible pricing structure like takepayments and Retail Merchant Services.

Its single third-party integration puts Barclays Merchant Services in the same league as Retail Merchant Services, but miles behind takepayments and Revolut (both of which offer 16). It also contributes to its 3.6/5 score for features. By only offering phone support, Barclays Merchant Services loses out to Zettle, which packs email and live chat channels and is therefore a better fit for companies that require hands-on support.

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Mobile merchant account providers in 2023

Mobile merchant accounts don’t require you to sign a fixed-term contract, providing their service on a pay-as-you-use basis. While they don’t incur fixed costs, they charge higher transaction fees. Unlike their contract counterparts, they sell their card machines outright.

5. Revolut

Revolut Logo
Starting transaction fee 0.8% + 2p
Quick overview

Revolut is a merchant account that also offers banking, stock trading, and card reader services. It has a high overall score of 4.8/5 in our research.

All of Revolut’s applications are PCI-compliant, which simplifies your compliance procedure. The Revolut card reader also integrates with 16 third-party providers and accepts 30 currencies. It may only offer two reporting tools, but it still scores a high 4.5/5 for features.

However, if you’re a small business owner looking for data insights to grow, takepayments and Retail Merchant Services would be better suited to you. The former packs eight reporting tools, landing a perfect 5/5 for features in our research, while the latter packs six, scoring 4.1/5 in the same category.

Revolut offers customer support via phone and email, but lacks a live chat channel (like Tyl). This hiccup prevented it from getting a perfect score in this category, where it gets a 4.7/5. If you’re looking for hands-on support, Worldpay is your best choice. It offers 24/7 phone support and scores a 5/5 in this category in our research.


Easy PCI compliance procedure

Low transaction fees


Limited reporting tools

No fraud prevention system

How does Revolut compare to its competitors?

Revolut’s 0.8% + 2p starting transaction fee is cheaper than its mobile card reader competitors, like Stripe Payments’ (1.4% + 20p) and Zettle (1.75%). Like the latter two providers, it doesn’t charge monthly fees, unlike Worldpay and Retail Merchant Services, which charge a minimum of £9.95 + VAT and £10 + VAT, respectively.

Revolut supports 30 currencies, which is more than Zettle’s 25 but way less than takepayments’ 170. If you’re an international business owner, you should check if Revolut’s list of accepted currencies covers your needs.

It’s not the best fit for small businesses that need extensive data, as it only offers two reporting tools: namely, spend and team management. This is behind Stripe Payments’ six and takepayments’ eight. Also, Revolut’s 16 integrations put it on par with takepayments, but behind Worldpay, which packs a whopping 100.

6. Zettle

Starting transaction fee 1.75%
Quick overview

Zettle is a payment taking platform that doubles as an EPOS system. Combining its super low cost, a good amount of features, and impeccable customer support, Zettle tops our merchant account research, scoring a superb overall score of 4.8/5.

Zettle’s strength is its customer support. While it’s only available during weekdays, customers have the option to contact Zettle via phone, email, or live chat. It should come as no surprise that Zettle scores a striking 5/5 in this category. This puts it in a better position than Revolut, runner-up in this category with a 4.7/5 score.

Elsewhere, Zettle integrates with 21 third-party platforms, includes five reporting tools, and accepts 25 currencies. All that sees it score a near-perfect 4.9/5 for features. It almost beats the 5/5 that takepayments - the champion in this category - scores. takepayments also packs eight reporting tools and supports 170 currencies, which means it serves international ventures better.


Remarkable customer support

Free EPOS integration


High transaction fees

Only offers one reader with mobile data

How does Zettle compare to its competitors?

Zettle’s 1.75% transaction fee is the most expensive among the 11 providers we research, considerably higher than Revolut’s 0.8% + 2p and Stripe Payments’ 1.4% + 20p. On the other hand, its hardware is cheaper than either of those providers, reducing Zettle’s initial costs. Zettle’s most basic reader comes in at £29 + VAT, while Stripe Payments’and Revolut’s cost £49 + VAT.

Stripe Payments has a more stringent security protocol than Zettle and it also supports 135 currencies – way more than Zettle’s 25. This makes Stripe Payments a better fit for international businesses. However, Zettle’s payout time of up to two working days is considerably faster than Stripe Payments’ up to seven working days. For this reason, Zettle is likely to serve business owners who depend on constant cash flow better.

7. Stripe Payments

Stripe logo
Stripe Payments
Starting transaction fee 1.4% + 20p
Quick overview

Stripe Payments is the merchant account arm of Stripe, an international payment solutions company. The service can also be augmented with other products of its parent company, such as invoicing and billing tools. All this contributes to its 4/5 overall score in our research.

Stripe Payments offers six reporting tools to help you get business insights, which puts behind takepayments, which packs eight. Stripe Payments also supports 135 currencies, which is less than takepayments’ 170.

Furthermore, Stripe Payments is certified to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) Level 1 - the most stringent available. This is a better certification than being just PCI compliant, as it means Stripe Payments undergoes a full audit on its security protocols.

However, it only offers two third-party integrations, which puts it behind takepayments (which offers 16). This makes takepayments a better fit for business owners who want to sync up several parts of their business (such as accounting and customer satisfaction). Understandably, its score for features (3.4/5) greatly lags behind takepayments’ perfect 5/5. However, Stripe Payments works better for those keen on issuing customised invoices to get paid.


Supports 135 currencies

PCI certified


Integration offering is scarce

Long fund transfer time

How does Stripe Payments compare to its competitors?

Befitting its beginnings as a payment gateway for ecommerce, Stripe Payments is better equipped to serve online businesses. At £49 + VAT, its cheapest reader costs the same as Revolut’s. However, Revolut has a lower starting transaction fee, charging 0.8% + 2p against Stripe Payments’ 1.4% + 20p. Accordingly, Stripe Payments scores 3.2/5 for price in our research while Revolut scores 4.6/5.

Like Worldpay, Stripe Payments offers 24/7 support, through phone, email, and live chat. Unsurprisingly, Stripe Payments scores an impeccable 5/5 for customer support in our research. This makes Stripe Payments better than Retail Merchant Services, which lacks the live chat and email channels, only scoring 2.6/5.

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Which is the best way to take payments?

When looking for a provider to take payments, you should consider your budget and the size of your business, as well as how well your card machine company suits your needs.

For startups and small businesses, mobile payment takers such as Zettle can provide a great way to get started without a hefty initial investment or fixed monthly fees. For medium to large business, contract card machine providers, like takepayments, are the best bet. Companies this size are unlikely to have their bank broken by monthly fees, but they’re still able to benefit from its low transaction fees, effectively offsetting the fixed costs over time.

Reporting tools and third-party integrations should also be taken into account when choosing a payment gateway. These are particularly helpful to small businesses owners, as they can provide data that informs their growth plans. takepayments’ eight reporting tools – which helped it score a perfect 5/5 score for features in our research – are an example to keep in mind in this regard.

Our methodology

To provide this wide comparison between payment taking systems, we researched 11 providers across four categories: price, features, customer support, and customer score. We consolidated the data into scores, some of which we discuss across the article.

We then divided each category into specific traits relevant to this market. In price, we analysed account charges and transaction fees; in features, we went over integration offering and reporting tools; and customer support saw us verify the support channels and opening hours.

We also compiled data from across various online review aggregators to generate the customer score. We also took the feedback the companies received into account.

Ultimately, we compared these companies with each other to highlight their strengths and weaknesses.

Next steps

Now that you know more about payment taking systems, you’re better equipped to go on the hunt for the one that will bring your business closer to the riches. While you’re at it, remember to be mindful of the differences between providers, keeping an eye out for their fees and features, while also checking how those fit your enterprise.

That said, you don’t have to do it alone. We can help you find the card machine provider best suited to your business. Just fill in our free comparison tool to be matched with trusted companies. You will then be sent bespoke quotes to compare.

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Merchant account comparison FAQs

How do I choose a merchant account?
You choose a merchant account by looking at the breadth of its features while also checking if its fees fit within your budget. While they all take payments, reporting tools and third-party integrations should be taken into account when choosing a provider.
What are the types of merchant accounts?
Merchant accounts fall into two categories: contract and mobile. Contract merchant accounts tend to have lower transaction fees in exchange for a monthly fee. On the other hand, mobile ones don’t incur fixed charges but they do have higher transaction fees.
What's the cheapest way to take card payments?
Short answer? It depends. takepayments offers bespoke pricing tailored to your business' needs and turnover but charges a minimum £10 as a monthly fee. If you’re keen on foregoing the fixed fee, Revolut’s your cheapest option, charging a 0.8% + 2p transaction fee.

Our site is reader-supported. Some featured providers are our partners, so we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through our site. This is at no extra cost to our readers, and this doesn’t affect the independence of our reviews. Whether or not we have a partnership with a company does not affect our rating and review of the service.

Written by:
Lucas Pistilli author headshot photo
Lucas Pistilli Business Services Expert

Lucas is a Brazilian-born journalist and Expert Market’s go-to writer for all things EPOS systems, merchant accounts, and franking machines. Having covered business, politics and technology for many years, he’s driven by his passion for the written word and his goal to help people make well-informed decisions.

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.