Top online payment solutions for small businesses
The right payment solution for your business depends on many factors. And with so many solutions available, it can be challenging to know where to start when deciding which options are best for you and your customers.
Customers expect convenience, which means any friction in the payment process can result in fewer customers and decreased purchases. Small businesses need customer-centric solutions that also help them meet their goals. But each payment processing system is unique — you’ll find that dozens of options are available with various features, integration abilities, and pricing structures.
Different kinds of businesses accept different types of payments. Cash, debit cards, credit cards, and checks used to be the main types of payments — but that has changed. We have more advanced forms of digital payments, including digital currencies and electronic transfers. Payment processing systems can also integrate with other software to help engage customers, track sales, and build online stores or omnichannel experiences.
That variety can make it hard to compare solutions side by side. It helps to take the time to identify the features that make the most sense for your business and then learn about the various solution providers individually.
Understanding the different payment options can help you determine the best fit for your customers so you’re not investing in an online payment system that doesn’t do what you need. This article outlines some features of the top online payment services available today.
A refresher on online payment terminology
Before considering specific products, let’s distinguish between a payment gateway and a payment processor. Both are aspects of online payment processing, but they’re not the same.
- What is a payment gateway?
A payment gateway is an interface and a virtual tool that allows a customer to provide payment details securely. Similar to a physical point-of-sale machine, a payment gateway handles the transaction digitally. It’s a trusted medium between merchants and customers.
- What is a payment processor?
A payment processor works behind the scenes when a customer pays through a gateway. The processor communicates the payment details to the financial institutions acquiring or issuing funds. It verifies the payment information, checks that funds are available, and transfers funds securely from the customer’s bank or financial institution to the merchant’s.
Top nine online payment systems for your business
There are many options out there, but these are nine of the top online payment systems today:
- Payment Depot
As one of the oldest payment gateway service providers, Authorize.net was founded in 1996 and is now owned by Visa. It accepts multiple forms of payment in person, online, and over the phone.
Used by more than 430,000 merchants, it appeals to many because users can enter payment information without signing up. Merchants appreciate its flexible API integrations.
- Pricing: $25 per month plus 2.9% and $0.30 per transaction
- Supported payments: Ecommerce, point of sale, mobile, phone, billing, and electronic check
- Integrations: Adobe Commerce, formerly Magento Commerce; Volusion, and X-Cart
- Market segment: Smaller companies with less than 10 employees and $1–10 million in revenue
- Popular industries: Retail and marketing, ecommerce, SEO, and web design
- Critical features: Advanced fraud protection, customer information manager, recurring payments, and digital invoicing
Stripe is a popular option for online payment processing. It works with more than 135 currencies, but it charges 1% for international currency conversion. It’s easy to receive account approval and get started quickly. There is no monthly subscription fee or contract, and you can cancel anytime.
Stripe markets itself as a financial infrastructure and tool for managing a business online. It appeals to companies that want a lot of API customization and flexibility — and that have the technological know-how to handle it. That means that if you’re ready to learn, you can tailor the payment process to customer needs and your business model. For questions, there’s 24/7 customer support.
Many developers choose Stripe because it’s easy to accept web payments and it has an Instant Payout option that can make cash from transactions available in 30 minutes.
- Pricing: 2.9% and $0.30 per credit or debit transaction plus 0.4% per recurring bill
- Supported payments: Online, in-person, and recurring billing
- Integrations: Accounting software like Xero, ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce and Adobe Commerce, and inventory apps like Shopventory
- Market segment: Web developers, smaller companies with less than 10 employees and $1–10 million in revenue
- Popular industries: Retail and ecommerce
- Critical features: Recurring subscriptions and invoicing, payments for platforms and marketplaces, and built-in machine learning fraud prevention
Dwolla offers some unique advantages for B2B and service companies looking for alternatives to credit and debit card transactions. Businesses that process large payments at regular intervals appreciate its minimal transaction fees.
Dwolla enables Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments for things like investments, utility bills, or direct deposits. This structure is great for recurring payments and other flexible structures, such as sending up to 5,000 payments simultaneously. Different contract types are available, including pay-as-you-go, monthly, or annual. Contracted customers have access to a support team.
- Pricing: $25 per month plus 0.5% per transaction
- Supported payments: Standard ACH, balance-to-balance transfers, next-day ACH, same-day ACH, push-to-debit, real-time payments, and wire
- QuickBooks accounting, Plaid ACH authentication, Sift Science, and Slack
- Agnostic technology integrates with other payment or API solutions
- Market segment: 67% small business and 24% mid-market
- Popular industries: Financial services, food services, healthcare, insurance, investments, marketplaces, real estate, and transportation
- Critical features: Addenda records, automated and customizable notifications, digital wallet functionality, bank verification, and custom transfer limits
Originally an eBay service, PayPal has become one of the most used payment solutions for merchants worldwide. Most online customers know and trust it. Businesses and customers like having an online wallet that doesn’t require a credit card transaction for every purchase and the ability to transfer money internationally.
Businesses also appreciate that it doesn’t require a contract, so you can cancel anytime. However, it charges for international credit cards and lacks point-of-sale features.
- Pricing: 2.9% plus $0.30 per credit or debit transaction
- Supported payments: Cards, Venmo, PayPal, local payment options, invoicing, donations, QR codes, and cryptocurrency
- Integrations: Most major ecommerce solutions such as Adobe Commerce, WooCommerce, Wix, BigCommerce, and GoDaddy
- Market segment: 61% small businesses with less than 10 employees and 27% mid-market
- Popular industries: Information technology and services, digital gambling, grocery and food delivery, insurance, travel, and ticketing and entertainment
- Critical features: PayPal link
Square is popular for small businesses and startups that want to process payments both in person and online, and it can scale for larger companies. Many are familiar with the square-shaped point-of-sale hardware that it provides to merchants. But it also offers online point-of-sale software and card payment tools, business banking products and services, payroll services, basic marketing tools, an online store builder, and payment API.
Square’s pricing structure is simple and transparent, with no monthly fees, startup, subscription, or refund fees.
- Pricing: 2.6% per card transaction, 2.9% plus $0.30 for online store and ecommerce API invoices
- Supported payments: Online, in-person, and recurring billing
- Integrations: Hundreds of integrations, including QuickBooks Online, WooCommerce, Mailchimp, Linktree, and other accounting, ecommerce, and marketing platforms
- Market segment: Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees
- Popular industries: Food and beverage, education, marketing, retail, graphic design, events, and beauty and wellness
- Critical features: Contactless hardware, built-in payments, and customer-driven checkout
6. Payment Depot
Payment Depot is the big box store of credit card payment processing systems. It provides access to wholesale interchange rates through a membership. Membership pricing is easy to understand, and there’s no long-term contract required or hidden fees.
Through a membership, users can avoid paying the higher interchange fees of credit card companies. This payment processing system is ideal for businesses that rely on credit card transactions and want to avoid fees. It provides terminal equipment, a virtual terminal, and an online dashboard to track payments.
- Interchange plus $0 per transaction, plus $59 per month for the Starter plan
- Interchange plus $0 per transaction, plus $79 per month for the Starter Plus plan
- Interchange plus $0 per transaction, plus $99 per month for the Growth plan
- Supported payments: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover
- Integrations: Integrations with shopping carts, point-of-sale, and card terminals such as Dejavoo, Clover, SwipeSimple, and Adobe Commerce
- Market segment: United States
- Popular industries: Retail, food and beverage, B2B, mobile, medical, legal, and accounting
- Critical features: Funding within 48 hours, online dashboard, and terminal equipment
Clover is known for its point-of-sale systems, but it offers additional payment processing abilities. Customers can use the hardware for in-store purchases or the virtual terminal for online purchases. It also supports payments via a mobile device and over the phone.
One of Clover’s appealing features is the ability to set up a loyalty program for your customers via the Clover Go app. Its robust security features protect against fraud. And Clover makes accounting easy because it integrates with bookkeeping software.
- Pricing: Subscription-based, starting at $9.95 per month, plus credit card transaction fees — 2.7% plus $0.10 per transaction for in-person purchases and 3.5% plus $.10 for virtual payments
- Supported payments: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, EMV chip cards, swipe cards, contactless NFC payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay, checks, and cash
- Integrations: A variety of integrations, including industry-specific apps, Intuit QuickBooks, and Adobe Commerce
- Market segment: Small businesses, with more than 90% based in the US
- Popular industries: Retail, food and beverage, marketing, hospitality, events, and social media
- Critical features: Mobile app, two-factor authentication, end-to-end encryption, and 24/7 expert phone support
Founded in 2006 in Amsterdam, Adyen is a finance tech giant that — despite being less recognizable in the US — processes more money in transactions per year than Square, Stripe, and PayPal.
The company holds a banking license, so it can avoid third-party costs and offer loans. Adyen takes payments online and in person, and it can unify the data in one system, which makes it great for providing omnichannel experiences. It also provides business analytics and AI tools to improve the user experience.
- Pricing: Interchange plus $0.12
- Supported payments: A wide variety, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, PayPal, iDEAL, Alipay, WeChat Pay, GoPay, Amazon Pay, Klarna, Apple Pay, and Google Pay
- Integrations: Many partners, including Adobe Commerce and Zuora
- Market segment: Small businesses in Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific
- Popular industries: Marketing, retail, social media, education, and consulting
- Critical features: The combination of ecommerce, mobile, and point-of-sale payment options
Founded in 2006 in Canada, Helcim appeals to some businesses because of its tiered pricing model. High-volume merchants benefit from lower pricing. If your business is planning to scale or if it’s already growing quickly, Helcim is a great choice.
It works for in-person, online, and keyed or over-the-phone payments. Helcim includes a payments app, a point-of-sale system, and customer management.
- Pricing: Sliding scale, starting at 0.30% plus $0.08 in person (for $0 to $25,000) and going down to 0.10% plus $0.05in person, with 0.20% plus $0.10for online/keyed payments (over $5,000,001)
- Supported payments: Debit and credit cards and ACH
- Integrations: QuickBooks, Adobe Commerce, Rezgo, WooCommerce, Great Exposure, and WHMCS
- Market segment: Small businesses in North America and the United Kingdom
- Popular industries: Food and beverage, insurance, and accounting
- Critical features: Online stores, food ordering, customer QR codes, and recurring billing
Support your online payment solution with the right integrations
Comparing different payment solutions can help you determine what’s best for your business and customers. When you find the right system, you’ll be ready to serve customers in the most convenient way for them and with the method that benefits your business model most — which will in turn attract more customers and facilitate increased purchases.
You can experience how technology aligns with your business strategy and goals by finding a product that integrates easily with your payment solution of choice. With product integrations, you’ll save the time you would have spent entering transaction information manually.
Adobe Commerce easily integrates with existing business systems using a robust library of APIs and thousands of off-the-shelf extensions, including options for punch-out purchasing and enterprise marketplaces.
It’s completely scalable and extensible, with a modular core and headless capabilities that allow you to quickly incorporate new technologies — even ones yet to be invented — so you can reach customers across an ever-expanding network of touchpoints.