Best Payment Gateway in 2021 – Choose the Secure Line

By Jovan Milenkovic February 24, 2021

E-commerce is growing fast. Global retail e-commerce sales surpassed $4.2 billion in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic only accelerating the shift to this already booming sector. Whether you’re just starting your business or you’ve decided to add online sales to your existing infrastructure, you’ll need a payment gateway in order to facilitate online transactions.

Finding the best payment gateway is paramount to facilitating quick and easy online transactions. Payment gateways are merchant services that integrate with your website or app and give your business credit card payment processing capabilities. These gateways differ in the transaction fees they charge, the types of payments they accept, and the countries they cover. In this article, we’ve identified, reviewed, and compared the top payment gateways on the market.

  • Easy to implement
  • Extensive coverage
  • Simplified PCI compliance
  • Doesn’t support PayPal
Price 2.9% + $0.30/transaction
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  • Straightforward pricing
  • No hidden fees
  • Affordable
  • Only for US businesses
Price 0.2%/transaction
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  • Best country/currency coverage
  • High acceptance rate
  • Robust integration
  • Not for high-risk businesses
Price $0.10/transaction
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  • Most payment methods supported, including Venmo
  • POS integration
  • Buy now, pay later
  • Not suitable for high-risk businesses
Price 2.9% + $0.30/transaction
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  • Extensive international coverage
  • Best fraud prevention in the market
  • Insightful reports
  • Pricey
Price $2.9% + $0.30/transaction
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1. Stripe

" Best for Developers "

stripe logo best payment gateway kommandotech
  • Merchant account:
    Third-party processor
  • Payment methods:
    Credit cards, debit cards, e-wallets
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, subscriptions
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    43 countries

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy to implement
  • Extensive coverage
  • Simplified PCI compliance
  • Doesn’t support PayPal

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy to implement
  • Extensive coverage
  • Simplified PCI compliance
  • Doesn’t support PayPal
  • Merchant account:
    Third-party processor
  • Payment methods:
    Credit cards, debit cards, e-wallets
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, subscriptions
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    43 countries

Stripe is a third-party payment processor that’s dual-headquartered in San Francisco and Dublin. Since its inception 11 years ago, Stripe has quickly risen to become one of the top payment gateways. The company’s main strength lies with its robust developer tools that allow tech-savvy users to incorporate this payment gateway into any environment and payment model. Coupled with competitive pricing, Stripe is a great choice for e-commerce businesses of all stripes (no pun intended).

Payment Processing

What makes Stripe possibly the best payment gateway for ecommerce is the sheer amount of payment options it supports. Besides processing traditional credit/debit card one-time payments, Stripe allows you to create customizable invoices for recurring payments, create subscription models as well as accept payments through your own mobile apps.

This level of flexibility is made possible by an impressive set of integrations and developer tools. The easiest way to integrate payment is via the pre-built Stripe Checkout page. Mobile and terminal credit card gateway SDKs allow you to easily accept payments through mobile apps or via in-person POS terminals. While using one of these best ecommerce payment gateway integration methods, Stripe simplifies PCI compliance, as the payment fields are hosted on Stripe PCI compliant servers. 

Stripe’s true potential lies with its powerful API integrations. Through Stripe Elements, businesses can design their own payment pages by utilizing pre-built UI components. If you do not have the coding knowledge to implement the API yourself, Stripe can assist you. Stripe Elements also comes with one-click PCI compliance. Additionally, Stripe offers integration with a slew of other third-party apps through their partner system.

Aside from being the best payment gateway API provider, Stripe supports a multitude of payment methods including credit cards, debit cards, and e-wallets. It also supports processing payments in more than 135 currencies, and its services are available in 43 countries, including much of Europe, the US, the UK, Japan, and Australia. One downside to Stripe is that it does not accept PayPal payments.

Fees

Stripe acts as an all-in-one payment processor, which means that you won’t need a merchant account to accept payments via Stripe – they act as a mediator. Unfortunately, if you already have your own merchant account you cannot use it with Stripe.

What makes Stripe possibly the best payment gateway for small business solutions is its flat-rate pricing. Stripe charges 2.9% + $0.30 per successful credit card transaction. This is a great rate for low-to-medium transaction volume businesses. Companies with higher volumes, however, might hemorrhage a significant amount of money through these transaction fees. There are no additional costs beyond the transaction fees.

Stripe also offers customized plans for larger enterprises. While they do not divulge the exact fees, the company offers discounts for high-volume businesses.

Aside from transaction processing, this online payment gateway comes with a powerful fraud prevention tool based on machine learning as well as acceptance optimization which automatically updates expired cards and retries failed transactions.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for the best online payment gateway for a small business, Stripe is definitely worth considering. This is an extremely powerful payment gateway that provides an unmatched level of flexibility when it comes to integrations. A multitude of additional features like simplified PCI compliance and fraud prevention shouldn’t be overlooked either. Its pricing is competitive, but high-volume companies might be better off with processors that allow you to use your own merchant account.

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2. Payline

" Best for high transaction volume businesses "

payline logo best payment gateway kommandotech
  • Merchant account:
    Full merchant account provider
  • Payment methods:
    Credit cards, debit cards, e-wallets
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, scheduled
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    US only

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Straightforward pricing
  • No hidden fees
  • Affordable
  • Only for US businesses

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Straightforward pricing
  • No hidden fees
  • Affordable
  • Only for US businesses
  • Merchant account:
    Full merchant account provider
  • Payment methods:
    Credit cards, debit cards, e-wallets
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, scheduled
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    US only

One of the biggest issues you encounter when browsing the best online payment gateways market is transparency. Finding exact pricing and all the included fees often involves sifting through the fine print and checking every detail in the contract. This is why we were so impressed with the transparency of our next payment processor. Payline is a payment gateway provider that stands out due to its affordability, clearly laid out pricing, full merchant account provision, and seamless integration.

Payment Processing

Payline isn’t just an online payment processor. It offers full-fledged credit card processing services, from in-person transactions to mobile and online payments. Like many of the best payment gateways, Payline has a proprietary payment gateway for accepting online transactions.

The Payline gateway can be easily integrated with both new and old e-commerce shopping carts. Payline supports more than 175 shopping cart integrations in total. The quick and easy integration process is especially useful for existing e-commerce businesses as you don’t have to change the look of your website/store. This allows you to retain the UI your customers grew accustomed to. The gateway also allows you to accept credit cards, debit cards, and electronic payments at your store.

Like most of the best payment gateways for e-commerce, Payline also offers pre-built payment gateways. This is especially useful for people not too familiar with online payment gateways, as it gives you a customer-ready page for accepting payments that requires you to be IT-savvy to implement. Of course, Payline also offers its APIs and SDKs. Through them, you can easily integrate the payment gateway into your mobile app. This facilitates payments through your company’s apps, without the need to redirect customers to the website.

Easily-digestible documentation and powerful APIs make implementation easy for developers. Payline also allows the creation of invoices and lets you quickly set up recurring payments for customers. Another great feature that places Payline on our best credit card payment gateway list is the ability to manage multiple merchant accounts through a single gateway.

Other useful features include batch processing, which lets you handle large volumes of transactions at once, and inventory management for virtual terminal transactions.

Payline comes with full PCI compliance at no additional cost. This is very important for safe and secure online transaction processing. Unfortunately, Payline only accepts US businesses at the moment.

Fees

Unlike many payment processors, Payline clearly displays its pricing structure on the website. There are two simple and easy to understand transaction fees: one for in-person transactions and one for online payments. Thanks to its interchange-plus pricing structure, Payline is one of the cheapest payment processing options available, especially for businesses with higher transaction volumes.

Swiping in person fees: 0.2% + $0.10 per transaction + $10/month

Online transaction fees: 0.4% + $0.20 per transaction + $20/month

Payline is a full merchant account provider, supplying each business with its own unique merchant ID. It doesn’t require you to sign long term contracts, and there are no hidden or cancellation fees. There is a monthly minimum of $25 that Payline charges, but even businesses with very small volumes should cross that threshold easily. PCI compliance also comes at no additional cost.

Final Thoughts

Payline is definitely one of the best payment gateways for ecommerce. While its developer tools might not be as powerful as those of Stripe, it has extremely affordable interchange-plus pricing and offers full merchant accounts and PCI compliance. Its transparency with pricing is another one of Payline’s key assets.

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3. PayPal

" Best for international businesses "

paypal logo best payment gateway kommandotech
  • Merchant account:
    Payment aggregator
  • Payment methods:
    Credit cards, debit cards, Paypal
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, scheduled, subscriptions
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    200

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Best country/currency coverage
  • High acceptance rate
  • Robust integration
  • Not for high-risk businesses

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Best country/currency coverage
  • High acceptance rate
  • Robust integration
  • Not for high-risk businesses
  • Merchant account:
    Payment aggregator
  • Payment methods:
    Credit cards, debit cards, Paypal
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, scheduled, subscriptions
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    200

Today, it’s almost impossible to find someone who hasn’t at least heard of PayPal. Arguably one of the most popular payment methods in the world, PayPal has over 220 million customers and is used by more than 27 million merchants. Its immense popularity is one of the main reasons why PayPal is considered to be the best WooCommerce payment gateway, as customers prefer using familiar payment methods. Moreover, PayPal’s integration capabilities allow merchants to easily incorporate it with e-commerce stores of all shapes and sizes.

Payment Processing

If it wasn’t already obvious from its vast user base, PayPal is nearly unmatched in both popularity and global coverage. You can use PayPal to send and receive payments in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, and it supports more than 25 currencies. This type of global availability makes PayPal ideal for international businesses.

The hallmark of the best payment gateway in the USA is flexibility, and PayPal is definitely not lacking in this area. What’s interesting about PayPal is that it can act either as a basic payment gateway or as a full-fledged credit card processor.

The gateway-only service is called Payflow, which is tailored to businesses that already have their own ecommerce credit card processor and merchant account. Payflow will connect your store to your merchant account and card processor, providing you with an affordable, PCI-compliant checkout solution that’s easy to implement. There are two Payflow plans available: Link and Pro. There are no monthly fees, but there is a small transaction fee.

 

In case you want to get one of the best payment gateways for WooCommerce, you should go with Payflow Pro. This gives you access to a fully customizable payment template that can be hosted on your website. This plan includes a setup and monthly fee.

 

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a merchant account and a processor, PayPal Business and PayPal Credit are ideal options. Through these services, PayPal acts as a payment aggregator. This means that they’re not providing a unique merchant account for you – PayPal processes online transactions for you. Through this best international payment gateway, you can accept credit and debit card payments as well as a multitude of other payment methods.

 

Like other payment gateway providers we’ve reviewed, PayPal also lets you create invoices, set up recurring payments and subscriptions, and supports pay-later options. You also have a variety of integration options at your disposal. You can integrate a Pay with PayPal button by just pasting in a line of code, incorporate PayPal payments into your shopping cart, product, and payment pages as well as create custom integrations for your site/mobile apps.

Fees

PayPal has different pricing plans depending on whether you opt-in for full credit card processing or you just need the best payment gateway for WordPress, for example.

 

Here are the fees for PayPal Payflow – their standalone payment gateway solution.

  • Payflow Link: $0 setup fee, $0 monthly fee, $0.10 per transaction fee
  • Payflow Pro: $99 setup fee, $25 monthly fee, $0.10 per transaction fee

 

For businesses in need of a merchant account and a credit card processor, PayPal charges flat rates. The transaction fees break down as follows:

  • Domestic online transaction: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
  • International online transaction: domestic transaction fee + 1.50%

Final Thoughts

So, is PayPal one of the best payment gateways? Absolutely. PayPal offers flexibility and is one of the easiest to integrate within your e-commerce infrastructure. Due to its incredible popularity and coverage, you can accept payments online from practically any country in the world, with customers using a payment service they know and love.

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4. Braintree

" Best for accepting different payment methods "

braintree logo best payment gateway kommandotech
  • Merchant account:
    Merchant account provider
  • Payment methods:
    Credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and Venmo (US only)
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, buy now-pay later
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    45

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Most payment methods supported, including Venmo
  • POS integration
  • Buy now, pay later
  • Not suitable for high-risk businesses

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Most payment methods supported, including Venmo
  • POS integration
  • Buy now, pay later
  • Not suitable for high-risk businesses
  • Merchant account:
    Merchant account provider
  • Payment methods:
    Credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and Venmo (US only)
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, buy now-pay later
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    45

Braintree is a merchant services provider with a pretty storied history. In 2012, Braintree acquired the extremely popular mobile payment service Venmo. A year later, Braintree itself was bought by PayPal. Similar to PayPal, Braintree also offers full merchant and credit card processing services as well as gateway-only options. Over the years, Braintree grew to become one of the best payment gateway solutions thanks to its affordability, top-notch data security, and powerful reporting tools.

Payment Processing

While Braintree is a division of PayPal, it offers a completely separate payment processing service. The two types of services are full payment processing and a payment gateway-only service.

The latter targets customers that already have their own merchant account and payment processor and merely need an online payment platform. Braintree’s payment gateway is compatible with most US merchant accounts, and of course, costs significantly less than its full merchant services.

Of course, like other providers on our best gateway list, Braintree mainly advertises its full merchant service. Besides credit and debit cards, Braintree also enables you to receive payments via Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and Venmo (US only). 

In addition to one-time payments, you can also set up recurring charges and have the buy now, pay later option. While Braintree mainly focuses on e-commerce payment processing, they do offer POS processing tools as well.

When it comes to integrations, Braintree offers two methods of direct checkout integration – via the drop-in UI and the custom UI. Their drop-in UI provides a customer-ready payment interface that’s incredibly easy to implement and requires no coding skills. On the other hand, if you want to get the best payment gateway for your website and customize it according to your needs, you’ll have to streamline PCI compliance by yourself, as you won’t be accepting payments through Braintree’s PCI-compliant template.

Braintree also supports a multitude of third-party integrations with many shopping carts, accounting, and enterprise plug-ins.

The areas where Braintree truly excels are safety and reporting. All data that goes through Braintree’s payment gateway is encrypted. Additionally, Braintree is a Level 1 PCI-compliant service, and there are no additional costs for PCI compliance. Moreover, Braintree offers robust fraud-protection tools.

Besides being the best payment gateway for OpenCart and other shopping cart solutions, Braintree provides robust transaction reports that offer insight into transactions processed through your e-commerce store.

Unfortunately, Braintree has somewhat limited international coverage when compared to other online payment providers. The supported countries/territories include the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, and a number of European states. Merchants can accept payments in more than 130 currencies.

Fees

The pricing for Braintree is on par with other best WooCommerce payment gateways. The transaction fees for the full merchant services are 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

In case you already have a merchant account/processor, the price is $49 per month + $0.10 per transaction and $10 for each additional merchant account.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, Braintree isn’t all that different from much of the competition. However, its transparent pricing, excellent integration capabilities, and huge list of supported currencies make it a viable alternative to services like PayPal.

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5. Authorize.net

" Best for WooCommerce integration "

authorize.net logo best payment gateway kommandotech
  • Merchant account:
    Third-party processor
  • Payment methods:
    Credit and debit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Chase Pay, and e-check
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, buy now-pay later
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia.

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Extensive international coverage
  • Best fraud prevention in the market
  • Insightful reports
  • Pricey

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Extensive international coverage
  • Best fraud prevention in the market
  • Insightful reports
  • Pricey
  • Merchant account:
    Third-party processor
  • Payment methods:
    Credit and debit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Chase Pay, and e-check
  • Payment types:
    One-time, recurring, buy now-pay later
  • PCI compliance:
    Yes
  • Supported countries:
    United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia.

Authorize.net is another payment gateway that, like Braintree, stands witness to the growing monolithization of the credit card processing market. Authorize.net is one of the oldest payment gateways around, founded back in 1996. It’s also one of the best WooCommerce payment gateways, cementing its reputation over the years. The company was acquired by CyberSource in 2007, which was in turn acquired by Visa in 2010. Authorize.net offers services to companies both with and without a merchant account. The areas where this payment gateway shines are security and fraud prevention as well as international payments processing.

Payment Processing

Like some of the online payment platforms we’ve reviewed, Authorize.net is not a merchant account provider. Instead, it provides you with a payment gateway that connects the payments made at your online store to credit card processors. However, similarly to other best payment gateway providers, Authorize.net does offer to set you up with a merchant account through one of its partners.

Ideally, you’ll already have a merchant account and you can use the service as a payment gateway. For this, Authorize.net charges small processing fees. In case you’re without a merchant account, go with Authorize.net’s all-in-one solution. The service provider will hook you up with a merchant account, but you’ll end up with a higher total fee that includes merchant account fees as well.

Whichever best payment processor plan you go with, you’ll gain access to a combination of great features. Firstly, Authorize.net provides you with pre-built simple checkout pages. These checkout pages are easy to implement by just pasting in the HTML code and come with full PCI compliance. Another incredibly useful feature is the built-in fraud prevention tool. Fraudulent practices can make a merchant’s life miserable, which is why you need the right tools to shield your business. Thankfully, Authorize.net delivers in this area.

Additionally, both pricing plans come with a Customer Information Manager that allows customers to safely save and store their payment data. This in turn allows you to easily set up recurring payments and subscriptions. Meanwhile, powerful integration capabilities make Authorize.net one of the best Shopify payment gateway options available. The long list of integrations also includes QuickBooks and Zapier, which is a godsend for many business owners.

Authorize.net can accept transactions from businesses located in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe and supports multiple currencies depending on your location. The payment gateway also supports a multitude of online payment options – credit and debit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Chase Pay, and e-check.

Fees

Whether you’re looking for the best payment gateway for WooCommerce, your own website, or any other type of plugin/shopping cart, pricing is probably going to be a huge factor when making a decision. Authorize.net does not differ much from the competitors in that regard, although some might consider its all-in-one service a bit pricey. The fees are as follows:

All-in-one (with merchant account): $25 monthly gateway fee, 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

Gateway only: $25 monthly gateway fee, $0.10 per transaction fee, $0.10 daily batch fee

Final Thoughts

If you’d like to go with a tried and true payment gateway that offers military-grade security, seamless integrations, and has a stellar reputation, Authorize.net is your best option. Its pricing makes it one of the best online payment gateway for small business solutions, but its fees are probably too steep for high-volume businesses.

Methodology

To an untrained eye, all of the best payment gateways may seem absolutely identical. But the truth is, there are significant differences. While they all offer online payment services, things like fees, integration options, and merchant account offers often vary by provider and affect your bottom line. Here, we’ve laid out the evaluation methodology we rely on when reviewing and scoring payment gateways. These metrics will make it easier for you to make your pick.

Merchant Account

A merchant account is a specific type of bank accounts that enables businesses to accept and process card payments. A merchant account is usually unique to your business. Opening a merchant account is an important step in the lead-up to selecting the best payment processor. The application process involves bank underwriters looking into your credit and payment history and that of your business. However, some payment gateway providers offer to open a merchant account for you, saving you time and effort but for a certain price. Payment processor merchant account providers also differ in whether they provide you with a unique merchant ID or act as a third-party payment processor instead of you.

Fees

Payment processing companies can charge several types of fees for their services. The most significant monthly fees you’ll incur are the transaction fees. As a rule, top payment gateways charge per-transaction fees. The fees largely depend on whether the processor is providing you with a merchant account or if you already have one. For businesses with their own merchant accounts, transaction fees are usually just slightly higher than interchange fees – unavoidable transaction costs charged by credit card networks. If the processor is providing a merchant account for you, then the fees can be significantly larger, between 1.5% and 3.5% of the total transaction plus a fixed processing fee. 

Usually, the best payment processor for ecommerce solutions offers both types of pricing. Conventional wisdom says that businesses with a smaller transaction volume can stick to third-party processors, as they won’t lose too much money since the fees are percentage-based. However, once your transaction volume increases, you’re better off with a merchant account and/or fixed fees in order to avoid hemorrhaging money with percentage-based fees.

Aside from transaction costs, some processors may charge setup fees, monthly fees, and termination fees. The key to picking the right online payment processing provider is reading the fine print, seeing all the fees involved, and calculating potential costs based on your current transaction volume.

Currencies and Countries Supported

Even the best online payment processors are limited when it comes to global coverage and the currencies supported. While there are payment gateways that support a huge number of countries/currencies, you’d be hard-pressed to find a provider that has truly global coverage. As such, currency and coverage are an important factor when deciding which processor to go with.

In general, businesses in the US, UK, and other parts of Europe are almost always fully covered. Usually, if your business is located in a country the payment processor supports, you’ll be able to accept payments from anywhere in the world. However, even the best online payment processor has a limited number of currencies it can accept transactions in. Additionally, processors might accept different payment methods. Aside from credit and debit cards, it might be worth checking whether the processor accepts payments from various e-wallets, direct deposits, etc. 

Integration

The main purpose of payment gateways, aside from providing payment processing capabilities, is to seamlessly integrate into your e-commerce website or app. Slow complicated payment processes will annoy customers and may negatively impact your sales. There are different integration methods offered by online payment solutions. One of the most simple integration methods is the pre-built checkout page. 

The best payment gateway providers offer checkout pages that are available for use immediately and require no coding experience. The majority of providers also offer API integrations, the creation of customized payment pages, and a variety of other integration solutions. When it comes to integration, you should base your choice on the needs of your business and the resources at your disposal.

Compliance and Security

It goes without saying that payment processing involves the handling of extremely sensitive customer data. Therefore, it’s imperative that both your site in general and payment gateways, in particular, employ the necessary security measures that will safeguard personal and financial user data. The best payment gateway providers need to adhere to the so-called Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. PCI represents a unified data security standard that needs to be implemented by all entities that process credit card payments. While PCI compliance is not required by federal law, individual states have local legislation that directly refers to PCI DSS.

The standards for PCI compliance are managed by the PCI Security Standards Council. This body, comprised of major credit card brands, administers the PCI Standards and works to enhance global payment account data security. Failure to comply can lead to financial penalties and can even get you banned from accepting credit card payments. Therefore, it’s crucial that any best online payment gateway you choose is fully PCI compliant.

Best Payment Gateways for E-commerce and Dropshipping

  1. Stripe
  2. Payline
  3. PayPal
  4. Braintree
  5. Authorize.net

FAQ

Which payment gateway is cheapest?

If you already have a merchant account, PayPal offers the most affordable payment gateway. For high transaction volume businesses, Payline is the best option, while Stripe, Braintree, and Authorize.net will cost small-medium merchants roughly the same.

Which Payment Gateway is best in UK?

PayPal and Stripe are some of the best payment gateways in the UK.

Is there any free payment gateway?

No. There aren’t any companies that will process credit card payments and provide you with a merchant account for free. In case you already have a merchant account and a processor, you can get a payment gateway with a minuscule transaction fee from PayPal, Braintree, or Authorize.net.

How much does a payment gateway cost?

The best payment gateway companies charge 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction if they’re acting as a merchant account provider/aggregator for you. If you already have a merchant account, then you can get a payment gateway for a $0 to10 monthly fee and $0.10 transaction charge.