Online payment systems made simple

Online payments systems can be tough to understand. In this article, we demystify payments and recommend a range of alternative systems for those specific non-Direct Debit use cases.


The payments landscape is vast and sometimes confusing. With so many options out there, it can be tough to work out which is best for your needs.

As specialists in Direct Debit, we focus on doing just one thing as well as we possibly can. This means there are inevitably a few situations where Direct Debit isn’t the most suitable choice.

In this article, we demystify payments, exploring the different options from a GoCardless angle. We'll recommend a range of alternative payment systems for those specific non-Direct Debit use cases.

Direct Debit and GoCardless: A perfect match

Direct Debit has many benefits. For starters, it’s one of the most reliable payment methods available, widely trusted in the UK since the late 1960s.

It’s also a great way for businesses to ensure regular cash flow, reduce involuntary churn caused by expired and cancelled cards, and ‘set and forget’ customer payments with one easy mandate.

GoCardless makes Direct Debit even better, bringing it into the digital age. For businesses with systems already set up, for example using Xero, Zuora, Chargebee, Sage or QuickBooks, you can easily add GoCardless to your existing workflow using our ready-made integrations, which range from accounting systems to billing platforms.

For those who need further customisation, the powerful GoCardless API offers everything you need to tailor your payment experience to perfectly fit your business.

GoCardless offers:

  • Quick, easy setup and management via one convenient online dashboard
  • Range of payment plans to suit businesses of all sizes
  • Flexible API that can be easily integrated with your existing system or used to create a custom integration to suit your unique needs
  • Partner integrations with many of the most popular accounting and billing software packages for ease of use
  • Low, simple and transparent pricing plans

At GoCardless, we specialise in Direct Debit and we aim to be best in class at what we do.

But here are some of the things we CAN’T do:

  • Handle e-commerce, or any transaction that requires instant payment
  • Take mobile payments with Apple or Android Pay
  • Process high value transactions (over £5000)

To plug those payment gaps, here are our favourite recommendations:

Stripe: Credit and debit cards

Stripe is to credit card payments what GoCardless is to Direct Debit payments. Stripe's core business is an API that lets developers easily integrate online payments into their website. Stripe also offers online setup.

If you need credit card payments (either for e-commerce and need to dispatch your payments on the spot, or because you need to serve the US market), and you have a developer to implement the API, then Stripe may be a good choice.

Paypal: Payments people recognise

Everyone knows Paypal and it can be useful in certain payment situations. For starters, it's a well known brand name and many of your customers will already have Paypal accounts.

With Paypal, you won't necessarily require a developer to get going - particularly if you’re invoicing your customers. This makes the setup process easier than Stripe’s.

Checkout with Paypal is easy to add to your website, as there are plugins for most 'Build your own website' platforms, from Shopify to Wordpress. However, cost can be an issue. Paypal is expensive, with each transaction costing 3.4% + 20p.

Adyen: Localised payments

Adyen offers lots of different online payment systems in one. This is useful if your business requires a range of payment methods, or if you have customers based in China. Adyen supports payments by Alipay, China’s main online payment method.

As a technology company, Adyen also offers a reliable API. Payments generally cost around 3.5% per transaction, or, for Direct Debit payments through Adyen, €0.25 per transaction.

FastSpring: Customisable payments

FastSpring offers a tailored payment experience for your customers. The focus is very much on customisability, and FastSpring also offers both online and mobile payments. The key difference between FastSpring and other online payment systems is that FastSpring tries to help you with the overall design of the checkout flow.

It offers tools like A/B split testing and online analytics as part of the software package. But this comes with one big drawback: cost. FastSpring charges a hefty 8.9% per transaction.

Apple Pay and Android Pay: Mobile payments

In an increasingly mobile world this duo can be invaluable in certain situations. They offer a best-in-class in-app purchasing experience for both Apple and Android devices. They also have the nice feature of charging the credit card issuers, not the merchants.

This should help keep your fees down, although you may still be hit with high credit card fees. For businesses needing mobile payments, Apple Pay and Android Pay are your best bet.

Other online payment service providers

The above list are just a few of the main providers operating in the UK. Below we've set out a more comprehensive (although not exhaustive) list running you through a few more of the available options:

Other payment methods

Alternative payment systems

For a variety of additional use cases where Direct Debit isn’t suitable, including mobile operator billing, bitcoin, and prepaid options, you could try some of the following providers:

While Direct Debit via GoCardless offers an excellent solution for many online payment needs, as a specialist provider there will always be some gaps that we just can’t fill. We hope our guide has helped you find exactly the right payment system for your business needs. If you still think Direct Debit would be the best fit, contact us today and see what we can do for your business.

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