It’s essential for businesses to adapt with the times if they want to compete and drive sales, with accepting card payments online being one of the key ways to do this. Online customers need a simple, smooth, and most importantly secure way to pay, or you will limit your business’ sales potential. Deciding the best method for accepting online payments can be a daunting task though, whether you’re an emerging or established business looking to start selling online. 

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the world of online payments. Businesses must consider a wide range of factors like budget, transaction volume, level of security, management and more, to land on a solution that suits their unique situation and business type. 

Accept Cards are experts in finding the right card payment solution for businesses of all sizes and from all industries. We’re here to highlight the main ways to accept online card payments and offer support in doing so. 

How to Accept Credit and Debit Card Payments Online

There are two main ways to accept card payments online, either you set up a merchant account and use a payment gateway, or you opt for a more comprehensive solution of using a payment provider. Of course, there are pros and cons for both practices, making it important for businesses to understand all their options and make educated decisions. 

credit card payments

Create a Merchant Account

Unless you are a small business that plans to start out by only using payment providers to take payments online, you will need to apply for and set up a merchant account. These are offered by most British banks such as Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Natwest and many more, so you have plenty of choice. 

A merchant account essentially acts as a middle ground between online transactions and a business account. Money taken through online card payments is temporarily held in your merchant account and usually moved into a business account after a short period of two to three days. While the application process can take time and involves you having all your finances in order to demonstrate to the bank, it is an essential step to being able to accept card payments online in a secure and seamless manner. 

Set up an Online Payment Gateway

The next step in making the move to accept online card payments is setting up an online payment gateway. Consider an online payment gateway as the digital version of a physical credit card machine – they handle the submitted card details, deal with the cardholder’s bank for approval of the payment and submit any charges. 

Working with a reputable online payment gateway provider like TrustPayments, or Sage Pay means you can benefit from all the support and advice these companies have to offer too. For larger and more established companies that need a secure system to facilitate high volumes of online transactions, payment gateway’s can support you throughout the entire process of setting up. From brand customisation to taking payments securely and smoothly, an online payment gateway provides you with complete control over the way you take online card payments. You can tailor your solution to suit your business’ unique requirements, but in turn, this means you are left with a more complex system to manage. 

Payment Service Providers 

For emerging businesses or those that need to set up online card payments quickly and easily, payment service providers are another option. Think PayPal, Shopify, Worldpay, Stripe and more – these are all payment service providers, acting as both a merchant account and a payment gateway to offer a solution with minimal hassle or management involved. A consumer can simply use an interface to choose their preferred card or bank account and complete the transaction, with the funds being delivered to your business’ account immediately – there’s no waiting around for your money to come through. 

When deciding how to accept card payments online, payment service providers are a hugely popular option, whether you choose to offer these as your main online payment method or you want to present potential customers with multiple ways to pay online. As consumers, we value the option to make a choice about how we pay, something that payment service providers can ensure. Payment service providers allow you to offer customers multiple options for card payments all on one user-friendly interface, making them an ideal online payment solution for all types and sizes of businesses, hugely optimising your site for potential sales. 

With payment providers dealing with the entire process of taking online payments and delivering the funds to your business’ account, you don’t have to get involved with taking any sensitive payment details. This way, you can leave the security of your online card payments in the hands of your trusted provider, who will have the necessary measures in place to protect both you and your consumers. They’re efficient, simple, reliable and highly secure, helping to hugely optimise your site’s user experience

It is, however, important to do your research when finding an online payment solution, taking into account several key factors when deciding which payment service provider or bank to work with.  

Payment Processing Fees

payment processing fees

While payment service providers offer a comprehensive solution for businesses to accept card payments online, there are a number of fees involved. It’s essential to ask plenty of questions to reach a complete understanding of the fees associated with using certain providers or payment gateways. For example, there may be different rates associated with certain types of online card payments, fees for processing refunds, or termination fees, should you need to cancel your contract with a provider or gateway before your contract is up. 

Pinpoint exactly how much your business will be charged for each type and value of transaction so you can compare your options and find the most profitable and suitable online payment solution for you. 



Next, find out whether you will be tied into a contract, how long the contract lasts, what the contract entails and the process involved in leaving a contract should you run into any unexpected issues. 

For large businesses that will be using a provider to handle large volumes of transactions per month, you will need to make sure you predict your sales as accurately as possible to avoid any extra charges for under or overperforming. Some service providers have even been known to put a limit on the allowance of monthly transactions, meaning you can end up hugely limiting your sales should you run into an unexpected period of growth. 

Pay as you go vs Pay Monthly

The best solution for businesses to take card payments is completely dependent on a business’ size, budget, volume of transactions, and overall the ability to predict future success and commit to contracts. 

For established businesses that know they will be accepting large volumes of online card payments each month, a merchant account or a tailored contract which is paid monthly is likely the way to go. Whereas for businesses just starting out, a ‘pay as you go’ option, where you can avoid being tied into any fixed lengthy contracts and instead pay a small fee per online transaction, is far more feasible. 

Merchant accounts or payment providers may set limits or minimum processing fees that can be problematic for businesses that experience a period of sudden growth, or those that don’t hit their monthly sales targets, which is why working with professional online payment experts can be beneficial. 

Whichever option suits you best, it’s important to be fully informed about the rates, how long your contract lasts, how long it will take to set up and how much support is on offer throughout the process.

Alternative ways to accept card payments online

Pay by link

Pay by link allows businesses to send customers a unique link, taking them to a secure payment page for them to complete their transaction. It’s an easy and quick way for businesses to process and accept single or multiple transactions using one link, which can be generated either manually or automatically.

While using payment links can be suitable for businesses of all sizes, it is especially valuable for newer businesses who may not have a website live yet, or those who want to take orders through email, via social media or even on live chats. 

Payments by phone 

Alternatively, you can accept card payments online over the phone. While most consumers will prefer to use pay via your website or a link, there are some that still prefer to speak with someone directly. There are a number of services out there, such as First Data, that allow businesses to take payment details using any credit or debit card in a secure and simple manner.

Online ordering system

A final option worth mentioning when considering how to take payments online is using an online ordering system. These methods are most popular in the food industry, with big players like JustEat and Deliveroo helping companies that may not have websites to take orders online and accept all kinds of card payments with minimal fuss. 

For those that do have a website set up, there are many types of online ordering systems to choose from that allow you to create a branded up ordering experience that allows customers to make payments using any device. 

Ready to accept card payments online?

If you’re struggling to reach a decision on the best online card payment solution for your business, AcceptCards can help to talk you through your options and find the best quotes for you. 

We take the time to understand each business’ needs and situation before advising you on which route to go down. Whether you need support with application processes, implementing security measures, or simply want us to talk through the tools out there, don’t hesitate to get in touch with AcceptCards today.