The best payment gateways in 2021

Payment gateways were a silent revolution in the world of commerce. Today: the best payment gateways in 2021.

Fidel Chaves
10 min read

What’s a payment gateway?

Payment gateways are an innovation that changed the world of finance and business. Put simply, they are the bridge between customers and merchants to make payments during a commerce shopping experience. But only the best payment gateways are those that let people go on an online shopping spree and accumulate a huge amount of credit debt.


No doubt, payment gateways have revolutionized financial transactions. By streamlining the payment checkout for personalized commerce stores, payment gateways have enhanced the customer experience in digital sales and online shopping. As a result, companies are modernizing their payment methods within their IT infrastructure.


Payment gateways are those kinds of inventions that people don’t even notice anymore, like the telephone or the internet. Being able to pay with many different payment methods worldwide and in any currency is not a thing to take for granted. It augments the interconnectivity of our world, creates international marketplaces, and increases globalization.


There are many alternatives available on the market today, so we will review how to choose the best payment gateway for your commerce.

How to choose the best payment gateway for your commerce

Commerce in the U.S. grew more than 40% in 2020—the highest increase in a decade, which sustained an annual rise of 15%. Naturally, as it happened across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic had an influence strengthening that trend. Only China tops the United States among the powers with the largest online marketplaces. Being able to sell online and fast is more important than ever.


Such an impressive evolution of commerce got businesses thinking about their integration to the best digital tools to ensure conversion given the fierce competition. One of the critical steps in the customer journey is when the shopping cart displays the payment methods. In that crucial moment, months of strategy and effort can be thrown away if clients are not offered the best solution, which must be both functional and secure. You know the rule, one unsuccessful payment attempt and you are out.


Apart from credit cards provided by banking institutions, there are alternative payment channels to integrate on a commerce website. Often, these gateways are the preferred method by clients because once they have their account registered there, they do not need to put in their credit card data in every online store, which increases the security of transactions.


Although there are many choices, magnate Elon Musk's PayPal, the fastest-growing Stripe, and Amazon Pay hold the highest number of online marketplaces. While these are the big guns, it’s not only them playing the game.

What to consider when choosing a payment gateway?

Oh no, said Zaphod Beeblebrox, That’s just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the universe has that ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


So I may have already convinced you that you need alternative payment gateways, or you just went online and noticed that every major commerce shows a gigantic list of variable payment methods. Whether by trusting or proof, you decided to include new payment gateways. What should you consider then?

Service costs

The costs of integrating a payment method on a commerce gateway may vary because they depend on which platform the marketplace uses and its flexibility. Some companies even charge a monthly maintenance fee, damn SaaS. Fees per transaction charged by the gateway, for another part, may vary according to the volume of transactions processed.


It is crucial to analyze if the business model matches the fee structure of the payment channel. The most popular gateways, for instance, frequently have the highest transaction fees, so in that case, the company will need to analyze if having that fee as backing to win customers' trust offsets its high cost. PayPal, the longest-running gateway, exemplifies that, even though Amazon also charges high fees.


That’s only considering per-transaction fees. Some options can charge you monthly with lower rates per transaction, a thing to consider if you expect a high volume of transactions per month.


It is crucial to provide a transparent and straightforward shopping process to offer each user the best online experience. In that sense, several gateways enable a custom-made payment process using the knowledgeable brand's fonts, logos, and colors to assure customers that they have not been forwarded to an unwanted site. Yet another case of using design in service of communication.


Many users are not aware of the fact that they can be redirected to an external website to process their transactions, which risks the completion of the purchasing process. I can certainly vouch for this; every time I find myself getting out of the commerce website, I start double-checking everything, and I’m all day on the Internet.


The chosen payment system needs to have an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate, which guarantees the data customers submit are encrypted and no one can access them. The last thing you want is customers to be scammed while buying your products or services.

Payment management

When it comes to choosing a payment gateway, there are two things, in particular, to be considered:


  • The APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) it can handle and its strengths, as these are used to manage data and services;
  • Access to valuable user information for commerce, such as interests or consumer habits.


The most frequent APIs are the ones that allow customers to make the payment on the company's own website so that they will not need to complete their payment process on external sites. PayPal and Amazon Pay are two examples of payment gateways hosted outside their site; Stripe, on the other hand, allows customers to pay directly on the store's site.

Technical Support

The payment gateway service needs to rely on immediate technical support for the store, which not all stores have. So users end up relying on user manuals to solve possible technical problems. And, oh boy, how awful those manuals can be. Never put the burden of solving the problem into the customer's hands is a rule of thumb for humane design.


Apart from providing fast and competent service, the gateway should offer 24/7 support. Also, it needs to provide other more agile communication channels than e-mail. For example, Stripe has got some customer claims for this service, so look into that before making your decision. I know, it’s kind of reading the terms and conditions, and who does that anyway? Well, I guess you are, or should.

What are the best 5 global payment gateways?

We already discussed the best commerce platforms, the basics of digital commerce, and how to prepare for hot sales. But even offering the best deals will be of little use if, when the time comes to pay for their products, customers cannot round off a positive shopping experience.


As I said, providing customers with the best payment options helps build trust in the store. And it also has a direct impact on sales.


In his video, Brennan Valeski puts it clear enough, it is about four main characteristics:


  • Security
  • Cost
  • Customer service
  • Integration Availability


Let’s see which payment gateways excel in all of these requirements.


You are probably familiar with Paypal. It is one of the best online payment choices worldwide. This prestigious firm, owned by Elon Musk, allows users to pay directly with their credit cards or PayPal itself—by becoming a renowned brand, it has earned customer trust.


The platform's web integration is not complex and has a varied set of plugins, as well as extensive documentation, to be installed. PayPal is also bundled with the configuration of some Content Management Systems, or CMS, and so in some cases, it needs virtually no integration. In addition, it has an app for Android and iOS mobile devices.


Paypal elicits two typical responses: love or hate. Detractors point out high fees and problems with implementation, but adopters will boast about its good customer service and massive market share.


Unlike PayPal, Stripe is not a payment method per se but an end-to-end solution including several methods. Even though the company is relatively new —it started in 2010, almost prehistoric on Internet scale —, its development and growth have soared and seem to have no boundaries. Stripe enables payments to commerce stores with options such as Bitcoin, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and most existing credit and debit cards. Plus, businesses can pay non-commercial transactions through Stripe, as well.


Stripe fully integrates the payment method in the online store, ridding the need to redirect customers to an external site, which is invariably a point of friction at payment time. It also has a highly praised API, which complements both commerce and CRM or ERP.


The ease of use, the high availability, credit and debit card integration, security, the capacity to manage different businesses, and the implementation of monthly subscriptions makes Stripe a tempting choice.

Amazon Pay

With 33 million users from all over the planet, Amazon Pay is the payment gateway of the biggest global online marketplace: Amazon. Boasting transparency and customer trust due to its global popularity, Amazon Pay is also one of the most interesting online payment methods.


With Amazon Pay, users can shop online without providing any other data than that in their Amazon personal account since the gateway later adds on the remaining information. Amazon Pay can integrate into popular commerce solutions, such as Magento, Prestashop, Woocommerce, or Shopify.


Authorize.Net was first introduced by Visa in 1996, making it a pioneering payment gateway in the market. Very well positioned in most commerce platforms (particularly, Shopify) it enables the processing of a great variety of payments: credit card, contact-free payment, and e-checks.


With Authorize.Net, you can schedule recurring billing for repeat customers, as it enables managing and controlling subscriptions. This gateway creates reports so you can keep a detailed track of transactions that can later be shared with other users. It is also well-rated because of its advanced fraud detection suite. It has been shown to be a versatile payment method and is used in most countries in the world. Also, Authorize.Net has integration with accounting software, a good time saver.


A PayPal subsidiary, Braintree made its first appearance as a payment gateway in 2013. It can be used as a regular payment method in any store, but its profile is geared towards international payments. In fact, unlike PayPal, it can process Bitcoin payments.


Present in more than 40 countries and with an option to operate with 130 currencies, it specializes in enabling payments through mobile devices (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone). Braintree allows developers to work with various languages: PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, among others.

Honorable mentions

Before finishing this article, let's have a few honorable mentions that did not make it to the top five. These are all good, but they are more niche or international-focused. Yeah, I know that sounds contradictory, but there’s that.


  • Shopify payments: this is a boutique option as it works just for Shopify commerce users.
  • Square: with physical stores in mind, Square doesn’t charge for their point of sale and offers a free mobile credit card reader.
  • 2checkout: for commerce stores with international users. 2checkout has currency integrations and recurring transactions, and it integrates with more than 120 commerce platforms.
  • Payoneer: it provides international transactions and doesn’t charge if your customer already has a Payoneer account.


At Awkbit, we have been working with Stripe and PayPal for a long time. We have seen first-hand the positive results obtained after their implementation, but no payment gateway is out of bounds when it comes to developing your store. Curious to know about how to leverage payment gateways to your advantage.

Reach Out!

Sources & further reading

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