Guide to the best UK merchant accounts

There are a large number of organisations that provide merchant accounts to businesses in the UK. This guide compares the leading UK providers of merchant accounts from among both the acquiring banks and Independent Sales Organisations (ISOs), and will help you decide which one is right for your business.

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Changing consumer habits over recent years have made accepting card payments a necessity for the majority of UK businesses with innovations such as contactless payments only accelerating the switch from cash to card payments.

As a business cannot accept card payments without having a merchant account in place, selecting the best merchant account for your business is a critical decision. However, deciding on which merchant services provider is right for your business can be a complicated and confusing process, and the right card payments partner can vary widely from business to business.

If you would like more information on merchant accounts and how your business can accept card payments read our article How to accept card payments. If you are interested in finding out more about mobile card readers read our article Guide to UK mobile card reader providers.

In this article we highlight leading merchant accounts providers operating in the UK marketplace from among the acquiring banks and ISOs.

To help your understanding of the merchant accounts industry we have provided standalone articles How the UK card payments process works and Card payments glossary for you to refer to alongside this article.

In this article

Merchant accounts overview

Merchant accounts from acquiring banks

Acquiring banks can provide your business, as a ‘merchant’ customer, directly with a merchant account. They are major, often global, organisations and usually, due to their scale and longevity, offer the widest selection of merchant accounts and ancillary services.

However, they also tend to apply more onerous application procedures and more expensive fee structures to start ups and small businesses, and so are usually a better choice for medium sized and larger companies requiring more complex card payments services.

Merchant accounts from ISOs

An ISO is an organisation that acts as a broker for an acquiring bank, recruiting, onboarding and supporting new merchant customers in setting up merchant accounts. An ISO may act as agent for one or more acquiring banks. Many ISOs have been set up primarily to cater to SMEs and make the whole merchant account process easier to navigate for small businesses.

With a few exceptions ISOs may offer a more limited range of card payment services than the acquiring banks. However,  they are often much easier to interact with, provide all of the basic services that a small business might require and, as they bring together a large number of merchant customers, they can negotiate low fees with their acquiring banks. ISOs often prove cheaper for their customers than for those businesses to go direct to an acquiring bank.

The best UK merchant accounts from acquiring banks

The acquiring banks usually provide the widest range of merchant accounts, services and technology solutions in the market and tend to be more price competitive for businesses with greater card payment volumes.

Barclaycard is a division of Barclays PLC one of the UK’s largest high street banks. It was launched in 1966 and in 1967, following regulatory changes, launched the UK’s first credit card.

Advantages: It has a variety of payment plans, a wide range of merchant accounts solutions, contract length from 18 months, sophisticated security features, a high degree of customer and technical support.

Disadvantages: It has a lengthy application process, early termination fees, poor customer satisfaction ratings.

Trustpilot score: 1.6 out of 5 (709 reviews).

First Data was founded in 1971 and is a subsidiary of Fiserv, Inc., a US based global provider of financial services technology. It has over 6 million customers worldwide and processes $2.2 trillion of card payments each year.

Advantages: It has flexible pricing plans, supports all sizes of business, a wide range of merchant accounts solutions, sophisticated security features.

Disadvantages: It has joining/set up fees, early termination fees, contract period from 36 months, no 24/7 customer support, no dedicated account manager.

Trustpilot score: 3.9 out of 5 (543 reviews).

Global Payments is a US based global financial technology services company founded in 2000. It has over 3.5 million customers worldwide, processes over 50 billion of card payments each year and has c.20% market share of the UK card payments processing market.

Advantages: It has flexible pricing plans, plans available that are tailored to certain industry sectors, a wide range of merchant accounts solutions, contract length 12-36 months, 24/7 customer support.

Disadvantages: It has joining/set up fees, early termination fees.

Trustpilot score: 4.1 out of 5 (800 reviews).

Lloyds Bank Cardnet was launched in 1997 and is a division of Lloyds Banking Group plc one of the UK’s largest high street banks. It has over 50,000 UK customers and processes over 1.1 billion card payments each year.

Advantages: It has flexible pricing plans, cheaper rates for existing Lloyds Bank customers, a range of merchant accounts solutions, contract length 12-36 months, 24/7 UK based customer support, dedicated account manager.

Disadvantages: It has a lengthy application process, joining/set up fees for non-Lloyds Bank customers, early termination fees, poor customer satisfaction rating.

Trustpilot score: 1.7 out of 5 (917 reviews).

Worldpay is a US based global payment processing and technology company founded in 1971. It is the UK’s leading dedicated merchant accounts provider, processes over 40 billion card payments worldwide each year, and handles over 40% of UK card payments.

Advantages: It has no joining/set up fees, flexible pricing plans, a wide range of merchant accounts solutions, sophisticated security features, contract length from 18 months, 24/7 UK customer support.

Disadvantages: It has early termination fees, no dedicated account manager, average customer satisfaction rating.

Trustpilot score: 3.4 out of 5 (2,240 reviews).

The best UK merchant accounts from ISOs

Merchant accounts provided through ISOs tend to have (although not always) a more limited range of card payment solutions than those provided by the acquiring banks. However, the ISOs generally provide all of the merchant accounts services that a SME would require, are quick and easy to deal with and are usually priced extremely competitively.

Card Cutters is a UK card acceptance and payment solutions specialist founded in 2009. It has over 7,000 customers. Its acquiring bank relationships are with AIBMS and EVO Payments.

Advantages: It has a focus on SMEs, no joining/set up fees, easy to set up and use, competitive pricing, a range of merchant accounts solutions, contract length from 18 months, short term leases of terminals, no early termination fees, 24/7 customer support, extremely high customer satisfaction ratings.

Disadvantages: It has early termination fees on terminal rental.

Trustpilot score: 4.9 out of 5 (245 reviews).

Handepay is a UK based merchant services company founded in 2006. It has over 28,000 customers. Its acquiring bank relationship is with EVO Payments.

Advantages: It has no joining/set up fees, competitive pricing and a price switching offer, a range of merchant accounts solutions, extremely high customer satisfaction ratings.

Disadvantages: It has early termination fees, contract length 12-36 months.

Trustpilot score: 4.9 out of 5 (7,161 reviews).

Paymentsense is one of the leading UK merchant account providers founded in 2008. It has over 70,000 customers and processes over £10 billion in value, and over 250 million in volume, of card payments each year. Its acquiring bank relationship is with First Data.

Advantages: It has a focus on SMEs, no joining/set up fees, easy to set up and use, competitive pricing, a range of merchant accounts solutions, 24/7 UK based customer support.

Disadvantages: It has early termination fees, contract length 18-60 months, no dedicated account manager.

Trustpilot score: 4.5 out of 5 (5,735 reviews).

Payzone is a UK based consumer payments company founded in 1995. It has over 15,000 customers and processes over £1.2 billion of card payments each year. Its acquiring bank relationship is with Barclaycard.

Advantages: It has a focus on SMEs, no joining/set up fees, easy to set up, competitive pricing, a wide range of merchant accounts solutions for small businesses, short contract length of 12 months, 24/7 UK based customer support.

Disadvantages: It requires the payment of any remaining contract length on early termination.

Trustpilot score: 4.6 out of 5 (6,946 reviews).

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