Best Payment Gateways
How to choose a payment gateway for your business
A payment gateway is a bridge between an online retail and a credit card network. Its purpose is to send payment data to a processing network and make sure the entire process is PCI compliant; that consumer’s banking information is protected and individual retails don’t have to handle sensitive data. For enterprise owners, payment solutions can help streamline online business operation, integrate payment with existing sales platform, and enable new features like recurring billing, account management, invoicing, and reporting analytics.
Service providers differ in how they deliver payment gateway solutions. Most offer hosted and in-line checkout with optional plugins and API and a mobile point-of-sale (POS) system for on-the-go scenarios. Plans can range from a payment gateway-only solution to end-to-end payment processing platform and simple checkout (think Buy now on Amazon). Several online payment solutions are described below with a table comparison at the end.
Shopify Payments is a payment gateway tethered to Shopify’s e-commerce platform, an end-to-end online retail solution that covers storefront setup and backend management. Its payment gateway is bundled in a plan, which starts at $29 per month and includes a credit card rate of 2.9% plus 30 cents for online sales. Clients can also purchase Shopify POS, a physical card processing system that lets owners accept in-person payments at a rate of 2.4%. That’s if customers want to swipe a card or pay in-store, for instance.
Upgraded Shopify plans have lower payment processing rates and add-on features like professional reports and abandoned shopping cart recovery. The bulk of Shopify’s services package isn’t actually the payment gateway. The company markets its service on online store setup, retail management, and digital marketing. For example, a Shopify client can track payments from a dashboard that also manages storefront operations; inventory, customers, and sales; digital marketing, SEO, and analytics. For businesses with minimal e-commerce needs — e.g. those that sell on social media platforms — Shopify offers a Lite plan ($9 per month) with easy-to-integrate Buy buttons, instant messaging, and custom orders and invoice management. With Shopify Payments, there are no transaction fees and all payment information is securely processed on PCI compliant servers. Plans are month-to-month and come with instant setup, a free 14-days trial, and 24/7 customer support via web and phone.
Square Inc is a dedicated SaaS (Software-as-a-service) payment solution provider for digital businesses and retail owners. It offers modern software and hardware for online and point-of-sale transactions at a rate of 2.75% for physical payments and 2.9% plus 30 cents for online payments. A popular choice among small and medium retails, Square provides affordable payment processing plans, free for basic services and $60 per month for tailored services like inventory tracking and customer, employee, and vendor management. The payment gateway is pre-built into select e-commerce platforms like Magento, BigCommerce, Weebly, Wix, and several others. Clients can use its e-commerce plugin or API to integrate the payment platform to their website. For in-store payments, clients use a signature stand with custom POS hardware and cloud-based app to process contactless payments and payment cards with or without a chip.
Square’s idea is that sales don’t end at a swipe but efficient product delivery. Thus its integrated payment solution also includes consumer profiling, inventory management, order fulfillment among other business essentials. Via its dashboard, businesses can receive low stock alerts, send purchase orders to vendors, and track and transfer inventory across multiple locations. This ensures paid customers get their products on time. Clients can also view reports on sales margins, cost of goods, and consumer purchasing trends. For businesses that want to integrate payments with accounting, payroll and tax services are available with added subscription fee.
They run a customer-first payment model; support is available 24/7 via phone, email, and Tweet, and the company offers chargeback protection that covers disputes up to $250 per month, fraud protection, and account takeover protection. The SaaS solution runs on a monthly subscription and users receive automatic software updates through the cloud. A free trial is available to test out the system. More perks: Square clients can process payments without an internet connection and receive funds in their bank account in 1-2 business days.
2Checkout is a popular payment service for merchants with an existing website and shopping cart. 2Checkout’s website provides step-by-step instructions on how to set up its hosted checkout to work with e-commerce shopping carts and invoicing systems. Credit card processing rate starts at 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction and discounts are available for companies that sell above $50,000 per month. There are no monthly, setup, or cancellation fees — services operate under a “pay for what you use” model.
2Checkout’s solution tailors to a global audience. They accept 87 currencies at a conversion rate 2-5% above bank exchange rates; 8 payment methods including major credit cards and PayPal, and their checkout module can be displayed in 15 languages. Online retailers can either direct customers to an external checkout page or display an in-line module via API on their own website. The latter creates a more seamless shopping experience for online customers, and both options support quick checkout across multiple devices. Either way, payments are securely processed on 2Checkout’s PCI compliant servers using encryption, tokenization, fraud detection, and other advanced technologies.
A recurring billing service is included to allow stores to charge customers on a schedule, manage credit card updates, and create subscription plans. Owners also have options to automate orders, review sales history, and manage inventory, coupon, and payment. A free product demo is available and customer support can be reached through its website.
Authorize.Net is a payment gateway provider that’s part of CyberSource, an online payment management company. Payments go through a typical payment gateway procedure: Customers submit their credit card information through Authorize.Net’s hosted checkout page, which can be customized for a retailer’s site. Customers might click a Buy button, for example, then enter their card information on a secure payment page. Payment data is immediately analyzed for accuracy and fraud on a PCI compliant server and encrypted into tokens. The tokens are sent to a credit card network like Visa and MasterCard and de-tokenized for the card issuer’s bank to approve. The transaction is completed when Authorize.Net servers receive the payment status and display them on the retailer’s website. The entire process takes a matter of seconds. (An interactive diagram illustrates how online payment works.)
Authorize.Net’s payment processing rate is 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction; non-US transactions have higher rates. For clients with a separate Internet merchant account, the gateway fee is 10 cents per transaction. The third-party merchant account provider will address other fees. Basic checkout plan costs $49 to set up and $25 per month, which includes a free mobile POS app and virtual terminal for manual payment entries and accepting payments on-the-go. A physical card reader that plugs into a mobile device sells separately.
The basic plan covers advanced fraud detection suite to help retailers minimize risk, customer information management for securely storing customer data, payment methods, shipping locations; and recurring billing to enable subscription and enhance loyalty. Businesses can sync settled transactions to their QuickBooks account at no extra cost, though account updater and eCheck.Net (for e-check processing) come with additional subscription. There’s no long-term contract or cancellation fees. For help, the company offers 24/7 customer support through their support center or by phone.
PayPal is a recognized Internet payment platform that enables hundreds of millions of people to send and receive money everyday. It delivers two tiers of digital payment acceptance service, Payments Standard and Payments Pro. PayPal Payments Pro is the more customizable solution. It allows e-commerce owners to design their own checkout page while redirecting sensitive bank information to PayPal’s PCI compliant servers as soon as shoppers click submit. It’s attractive for owners who want shoppers to stay on their website while they pay. Pro costs $30 per month and includes online invoicing, order management, and basic fraud detection. Retailers can also take phone or mail payments using PayPal’s virtual terminal. The credit card processing rate is 2.9% plus 30 cents for online US-based transactions and 4.4% for non-US online transactions. Charitable organizations may qualify for lower rates. More advanced fraud protection and recurring billing can be added with additional fees.
PayPal has a point-of-sale system that lets clients accept physical payments as well. With PayPal Here, companies use a card reader to process payments via a mobile app, which can also be used to manage invoice, generate sales reports, and customize employees’ access levels. In-person payment processing rate starts at 2.7% per swipe (or dip). PayPal offers client support online or by phone.
A gateway-only service is available through PayPal PayFlow Pro, which costs $99 to set up and $25 per month. The gateway fee is 10 cents per transaction, and it comes with the same benefits as Payments Pro, though clients will be charged separately by their merchant account provider.
PayPal’s most basic payment gateway plans are free. With PayPal Payments Standard and PayFlow Link, shoppers are directed to an external PayPal-hosted checkout page to enter payment information and go back to the retailer’s site when checkout is completed. This can serve well where a majority of paying customers are familiar with the PayPal brand.
Vantiv provides online, in-store, and mobile payment processing solutions. Checkout can be hosted or integrated via API, SDK (software development kit), or third-party plugin to a retailer’s storefront and e-commerce application. Integration requires coding knowledge — technical support available — and developers are invited to test the environment using a sandbox account. The company’s credit card processing rates are 2.7% plus 30 cents per online transaction and 2.25% plus 10 cents for in-person payments. Occasionally, there are promotion periods with different rates or special offers. Clients can request more information on costs and services by calling customer support.
For clients that need to sell face-to-face, Vantiv’s POS system features Verifone Carbon, a sleek platform that combines payment processor, app marketplace, and display in one. Traveling retailers can use an iOS and Android device compatible mobile card reader to take EMV, contactless, and magstripe card payments. A virtual terminal is available as well.
The company also makes gift cards and prepaid cards branded for retails. These can be used to enhance consumer and employee loyalty. Another enabling service is Vantiv’s cloud-based business intelligence and reporting tool for credit card processing, which helps owners better visualize their payment transactions.
Vantiv offers proactive fraud and chargeback protection; dedicated chargeback analysts are available to address chargeback disputes and loss; a risk management team helps clients decrease chargeback occurrence. That’s in addition to 24/7 phone support and online video support for chargebacks and disputes.
Braintree is a scalable payment platform with core focus on seamless checkout, white-glove support, and fraud prevention. Its pre-made user interface – designed for simplicity – lets clients set up a PCI compliant payment gateway in a preferred theme and language in minutes. Alternatively, clients can create a customize checkout interface using Braintree’s custom UI toolbox and hosted fields that keep entered data secure. Additional fraud protection and cardholder verification help prevent chargebacks.
The standard plan is free with no monthly minimums and includes payment gateway, fraud protection, and recurring billing. The credit card processing rate is 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction, international transaction rates are higher, and nonprofit organizations qualify for lower rates. For large enterprise, Braintree offers a custom package that includes data management, account and integration support among other business-scaling services, and multi-channel selling on partner platforms. The pricing is competitive; clients can obtain a quote via web or phone.
Braintree offers plugins to integrate its payment gateway with leading e-commerce applications — shopping carts like 3dcart, opencart; WooCommerce, Salesforce, and Magento; Freshbooks, TaxCloud for accounting; ERP softwares Oracle, SAP, and NetSuite. Instructions on how to use its plugins are found in their developer docs.
Finally, the white-glove support: Braintree experts are available for merchant support, sales, account management, and to help clients reach their next milestone, whether that’s online retail expansion or setting up shop in another country.
An e-business should weigh multiple factors when selecting a payment gateway. The mentioned payment gateways show that pricing is just one component. Solution interoperability and scalability are equally important measurements. How seamless can a payment platform integrate with other enterprise applications? Are solutions scalable for business expansion — do they support multi-channel sales; or, can servers handle online traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Are the payment platforms themselves scalable for technological advancements, network upgrades, security enhancements, and IoT development. These are baked into the value of a digital payment processing solution.
Shopify, for example, gives online business owners a one-stop solution that covers web hosting to payment and marketing. The plug-and-play package is valuable for businesses with less manpower and no IT team. Yet for companies looking for a scalable platform, Braintree and Authorize.Net might be more attractive.
Given technology’s rapid advancement, longterm e-commerce planning — payment processing included — can’t be comprehensive enough. Costs often involve monthly minimum fee, chargeback fee, refund fee, international transaction fee, and separate merchant fees where applicable. Add to that an inexhaustible list of vendors for digital payment alone. The equation for a perfect digital payment gateway can be complicated.
Industry experts highlight basic factors to consider – PCI compliance, rates, commitment, security, integration, and support. Below is a table comparing the mentioned payment gateways and several others. (Online payment processing rates written are for standard domestic transactions.) These comparisons and the above reviews are not comprehensive; companies should solicit more information directly from payment gateway providers.
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