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What is the easiest way to accept payments online?

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Last editedJul 20233 min read

The internet has become a vital channel for businesses of all sizes and types. Some businesses do still use it mainly as a marketing tool. Increasingly, however, businesses want (or need) to use it as a sales channel. That means they need an easy way to accept payments online. Here is a guide to help you pick the right one for you and your business.

What makes an easy way to accept payments online?

An easy way to accept payments online is an online payment method that just fits seamlessly into your way of doing business. For practical purposes, that generally means it has to be easy to implement, easy to use and easy to decommission. Furthermore, it should meet all of these criteria without compromising security.

Here is a closer look at what that means in practice.

Easy to implement

In general, even large merchants are likely to want to use third-party solutions to handle all aspects of payment. The main benefit of this is that it puts most (if not all) of the relevant security concerns into the hands of specialists. 

Whatever third-party solution you choose should, ideally, just slot seamlessly into your regular checkout system. You should not have to do any technical development to implement the system (or at least no significant development).

Easy to use

The easier your solution is to use, the less likely it is that people will make mistakes when they use it. In general, there are three ways to manage your choice of online payment method. These are dashboards, integrations and APIs. 


Dashboards are online portals created by vendors specifically to allow people to manage their services. They are generally intended to be easy to use although it may not seem that way. Dashboards typically have relatively limited functionality but are often perfectly suitable for small merchants.


Many online payment methods have integrations with complementary software packages such as accounting software. With these integrations, one half of the partnership manages the other. 

In the case of online payment methods, generally, the partner software controls the payment software. For example, customers would create an invoice in their accounting software and the accounting software would instruct the payment method to charge it on its due date.


API stands for Application Programming Interface. Essentially, it’s a way for users to connect directly with a provider’s service. The main benefit of this is that it allows for more flexibility in use.

Remember to keep the future in mind

When thinking about which option is right for you, remember to think about your needs in the future as well as the present. Be aware that providers may not support all options to the same standard. 

For example, new providers may not have had time to develop integrations. Established providers may have decided to focus on the option their main target market wants. This means they may have a great dashboard but a weak API or vice versa.

Easy to decommission

Be very wary of adopting an online payment service that could leave you vulnerable to vendor lock-in. Just as an online payment service should integrate seamlessly with your existing system, so it should be able to be removed without a trace.

The main options to accept online payments

Taking payments online rules out physical payment options such as cash and cheques. Payment cards, however, do work online. They are one of the most popular online payment methods along with ewallets and bank debits. Technically, you can also accept cryptocurrency but this is quite a niche option.

Here is a quick guide to the three main options for accepting online payments.

Payment cards

Payment card acceptance generally comes in two main forms. With the first, you simply integrate payment card acceptance into your usual checkout (e.g. Stripe). With the second, you use an online commerce solution that also offers payment acceptance (e.g. Square). 

The payment acceptance option may also be available as a stand-alone feature. For example, you can use Square’s payment processing services in a website that’s not built on Square. Generally, however, you will get the most out of the service if you use it in its native environment.

Accepting payment cards online is a lot easier than it used to be. The main advantage of doing so is that most people have at least a debit card. It’s quite common for people to have a credit card as well. The main disadvantage of doing so is the cost.


Ewallets are an extremely convenient and user-friendly way of accepting payments online. There are, however, two drawbacks to them that could potentially be significant. 

The first is that ewallets require both the customer and the merchant to sign up for the ewallet. This means that their acceptance is much more restricted than either payment cards or bank debits, both of which are used by practically everybody. The second is that ewallets typically have very high transaction costs.

Bank debits

The traditional way of taking bank debits is often known as Direct Debit. This is still a very popular way for merchants to charge their customers, particularly for recurring payments. It is now complemented by Instant Bank Pay, which is well-suited to one-off purchases.

The main drawback of traditional Direct Debit is that it is relatively slow. This is why it’s arguably better suited to predictable payments rather than ad hoc ones. Instant Bank Pay, however, addresses this and hence is very suitable for ad hoc payments.

The main advantages of bank debits are that effectively all customers can be charged by bank debit and that they are very cost-effective.

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Over 85,000 businesses use GoCardless to get paid on time. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help
Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

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