With just over 131.2 billion card transactions made in the U.S. in 2018 according to the 2019 Federal Reserve Payments Study, it’s clear that card payments have been accelerating steadily in the past several years. There’s an increase in consumer expectations to be able to choose from multiple payment methods, including credit or debit card, NFC mobile payments such as Apple Pay, or other online payments.
For small- and medium-sized eCommerce merchants, navigating the world of credit card processing and payment solutions can be challenging, which means it could be difficult to make the best decisions as you try to grow your business.
In this article, we’re going to look at the current landscape of gateway credit card processing. We’ll look at just what exactly payment gateways are, and then review the top payment gateway providers active in 2022 to help you make informed decisions.Learn More
What is a Payment Gateway?
Payment gateways, which are also called credit card processing gateways, are necessary for all types of merchants, whether you’re a small business or a larger corporation. Payment gateways are used for processing and accepting payments as part of the payment authorization process at checkout.
This means whether your customers are making a payment via a “card not present” (CNP) transaction—like via your eCommerce site, using a virtual shopping cart, or over the phone or mail using a virtual terminal—you’ll need a payment gateway.
Payment gateways encrypt and route all entered data, such as your customers’ credit card information. This creates a secure connection that connects payment and credit card processors, card networks, and financial institutions such as the acquiring bank and your customers’ issuing banks.
As a note, you will need to get a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to accept customer’s credit card information on your online store. An SSL certificate provides an important layer of security and encryption for your customer’s data at checkout. The certificate will update your URL from “HTTP” to “HTTPS”. The “S” tells customers they can trust you with their credit card information.
The gateway will then finalize the sale and either approve or deny the transaction—for example, if there isn’t enough money available.
Simply put, a payment gateway functions as a sort of online point-of-sale (POS) terminal for eCommerce merchants, transmitting the necessary information to process payments.
Payment Gateways vs. Payment Processors
We’ve already spoken at length at the difference between payment gateways and processors, but here’s a quick summary on the difference between the two.
While both encrypt payment information such as card data, you need both a payment processor and payment gateway for CNP transactions. If you’re processing card-present transactions in person—like when a customer makes an in-store credit card transaction using your POS system—then you’d only need a payment processor. Essentially, the payment gateway acts as the POS or card reader in a CNP transaction, connecting to the payment processor to then do its usual job.
What are the Most Important Features of a Payment Gateway?
If you need to sell in-person and online, having a payment gateway is a must. However, not all eCommerce gateways are created equal. There are a few factors you should be on the lookout for when shopping for a merchant services provider, including:
- That it can be easily integrated with the software and tools you already use.
- That they offer upfront pricing, such as no setup fees or long-term contracts.
- That your provider offers the latest payment solutions to streamline and future-proof your workflow.
The Top Payment Gateways In 2023
Online businesses can choose from a variety of payment gateways providers to start accepting debit and credit card payments. This is one of the oldest software industries, so there are many providers with well-developed functionality.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some popular payment gateways on the market:
One of oldest payment gateway providers available, Authorize.net accepts most payments, such as online, virtual, mobile, and eCheck. It also provides the possibility for businesses to use various third-party integrations.
However, their flat-rate pricing rates are on the higher side, charging 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction if you opt for their all-in-one option. Plus, if you already have an existing merchant account, it may not be cost-effective to use Authorize.net, but rather see if your existing provider offers it, or opt for a reseller.
Also known as Network Merchants Inc., this payment processing company doesn’t target merchants, but rather Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and fintech innovators, selling software to retailers. They provide extremely customizable APIs and powerful dashboards with granular reporting options—as well as tokenization for extra security.
That said, NMI doesn’t provide upfront pricing information, as they work with resellers and ISOs, which could lead to higher price quotes. This also means there’s limited reviews from customers on their service.
Probably one of the most popular payment processing platforms today, Stripe is used by several big-name clients such as Lyft and Airbnb. They offer powerful developer tools and are great for international merchants, offering multicurrency support. They also offer upfront flat-rate pricing, although in most cases it will cost more than subscription-based processors such as Stax.
While they’re expanding their in-person payment options, Stripe is best known for its intuitive online payment options, meaning if your online business also relies on traditional merchant account services, they may not be the best choice.
Plus, it’s worth noting that Stripe primarily provides email or chat customer service, with minimal phone contact, while Stax aims to provide a more customer-centric approach.
Priority Payment Systems
Active since 2005, Priority Payment Systems has termed itself as one of the fastest growing payment providers, with over 200,000 merchant accounts. With an emphasis on small businesses, they offer PCI compliant payment industry solutions suitable for various verticals. In addition to payment processing, they offer a Merchant Suite, which is a full payment ecosystem custom-tailored to each customer’s needs.
Despite their popularity, their services rank low on most online services. With a 1-star average out of 15 Yelp reviews, it’s clear many customers aren’t pleased with the service. It’s not just customers either – expert reviewers pan the company as well. Phillip Parker gave them a 1-star review on Compare Merchant Services.
Another payment platform used by several major companies, Adyen provides a one-stop platform to accept hundreds of payment methods in over 100 currencies. It also provides its own proprietary risk management tool that analyzes transaction behavior, along with several other advanced functionalities.
However, Adyen may not be the best fit for smaller businesses: with a minimum invoice requirement dependent on your niche or industry, companies with lower turnover will likely find Adyen’s pricing model unsustainable in the long run. Customers also frequently mention in reviews that Adyen’s interface is very difficult to use.
Stax’s Gateway Credit Card Processing Services
With so many payment gateway services available, it’s clear that there is no “one size fits all” solution. But by following the guidelines we mentioned earlier, you’ll be able to find a provider that’s a great fit for you.
We’ve been around the payment processing block here at Stax, and are confident we offer what we like to call “The Stax Difference.” Our holistic and scalable payment services are built on secure technology, and we offer an intuitive setup with modular payments API for full customization.
Most importantly, our upfront subscription-style pricing eliminates unexpected fees and extra markups, granting you access to direct interchange rates and much more. And with industry standards such as real-time data analysis and PCI compliance, Stax’ payment gateway solutions are a trustworthy choice for online businesses looking to sustainably scale up.
Stax provides an all-in-one gateway credit card processing platform, with simple pricing and no contracts. We offer customizable hardware and software solutions for all businesses, so you can grow and increase your profits.