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9 Best Merchant Account Providers & Card Processing Companies 2023

Find out which Payment Providers will save you money and convert more sales

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Best Merchant Account Providers & Card Processing Companies

All you care about is getting paid, it shouldn’t be your concern how the payment industry operates, in that regard payments technology and financial services are a necessary evil. To ensure you maximize your sales and minimize your costs it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the industry and the different providers available to you.

We work with the leading payment providers in the UK, some of the incumbents and services provided by banks are no longer fit for purpose in terms of the value that they can deliver you.

Let’s take a look at the different card processors and merchant account providers in the UK.

But first, let’s get the lay of the land, to accept payments online or in-store you need:

  • A bank account where money will settle at the end of the day
  • A Payment Provider that provides the ability to accept, process and settle the payment

Payment Providers offer the following services, explicitly or not to you to achieve the above:

  • A Merchant Account (a special bank account that process a payment and moves it to your regular account)
  • A Payment Gateway (software technology to collect the payment details from the customer)
  • A Terminal for tapping or inserting a card in-store (hardware technology to collect the payment details from the customer)

You can get all three of these things from one or three different providers, the benefit of getting them all from one provider is that the procurement and management is simpler. The benefit of getting the from different providers is that you might save money and get a better product or service. Small businesses tend to get all they need from one payment service provider.

These ‘full service’ payment / merchant account service providers tend to outsource certain elements to third parties. You should know what companies do because it can affect the fees you pay and the quality of service you receive. These companies are can be split into the following three main categories.

At the top of the tree are the Merchant Acquirers, they own and operate merchant accounts and actually carry out the payment processing (some examples are Global Payments, Worldpay, Elavon, First Data). You may or may not deal directly with a merchant acquirer or merchant account provider. You interact with an Independent Sales Organisation (ISO) or Payment Service Providers (PSPs) that provide payment services and merchant accounts via their partnership with merchant acquirers. These companies tend to offer value added services and a more bespoke service to merchants but their prices might be higher overall since they sit on top of a merchant acquirer and charge for their extra services.

The problem is that these different names are often used interchangeably and quite honestly, once you get beyond the merchant acquirer the categorisation and definitions get a bit confusing.

Across the world Merchant Acquirers are doing less and less direct acquiring of businesses and instead are happy to have ISO or PSPs do the grunt work. Therefore it’s more likely that you’ll be dealing with an ISO or PSP. But you will get the best deal by going direct to a Merchant Acquirer and plugging in your own payment gateway, you’ll also be able clearly separate out the costs. An example of this would be using Worldpay and NMI (Network Merchants).

We find that you if you go to an old skool Merchant Acquirer for all your services, the various service fees will probably not be obvious to you (hidden in your statements) and the technology and service will be lacking. Most merchants who approach us for help do so because of poor service and then we reveal that they are actually paying more than they thought to process payments. Most people have been using Barclaycard or Worldpay in the UK to date.

Recommended Merchant Acquirers & Account Providers

Merchant acquirers will also have their own payment gateway technologies and often terminal hardware as well.

  • Checkout.com
  • Ecommpay
  • Global Payments
  • Trust Payments

Recommended Payment Gateways

If you use a payment gateway you will also need a merchant account, the providers below can make recommendations. The smart thing with an independent payment gateway is that they can use multiple acquirers to improve the payment acceptance.

  • Acquired.com
  • Network Merchants (NMI)

Recommended Payment Service Providers

If you use an all in one payment service provider you only need a bank account to accept payments.

  • Stripe
  • PayPal
  • Square