How can I accept large payments

How to accept payments online

There are two main methods of making payments online: credit (or debit) card payments and direct debit. Online payments can be made directly from an account, credit or debit card, or through an all-in-one payment service provider such as PayPal or Worldpay Online Payments. These methods provide your customers with a quick, easy, and secure way to pay online.

We've also explored these options for recurring payments in our latest guide to recurring payments.

Direct debit

You can also accept payments online by direct debit. This is usually a cheaper way to take payments. However, this payment method is not suitable if you need instant payments (e.g. for things like e-commerce). Similar to card payments, there are several ways to accept online payments by direct debit. What is right for you depends on your business and the amount of payments you collect.

Make sure you double-check that a provider has included online payments in their pricing - this may be one of the additional costs not mentioned in advance.


If you choose to collect online direct debit payments internally, you will need your own SUN and can invest in Bacs-approved Bacstel IP software.


SUN is basically a direct debit merchant account. You can either register yourself or through a direct debit provider.

Options: Most banks offer such an account.

What you choose depends on what you need:

  • If you want to accept online direct debit payments, speak to your bank first.

  • If you need a good API, automated service, or online payments specialist, check out GoCardless.

Direct debit provider

A direct debit provider is a third party that processes direct debit payments on your behalf with either your own SUN or its own SUN so that you can accept payments online or offline.

Options: Eazy Collect, FastPay and SmartDebit.

Such a provider is great if you need the full range of phone, paper, and online direct debits and want to manage everything from scratch. If not, take a look at direct debit management software and GoCardless.

Direct debit management software

The direct debit management software is a full-fledged software suite that offers integration with other systems and the option of using a range of payment methods such as SEPA, SWIFT and BACS. It enables you to generate Bacs files, upload templates and automatically apply notifications from Bacs to a database.

Options: Bottomline c-series or Bottomline Webseries

The direct debit management software is good if you want to consolidate different online (and offline) payment types like direct debit, faster payments, card payments and checks under one tool. However, it is very expensive and requires a lot of manual processes. If you're looking for a simpler solution that automates the whole process as much as possible, you should check out GoCardless.

Credit cards

Credit and debit cards are probably the main form of payment businesses use to accept payments online. If you need to collect instant payments or payments from around the world, then cards are probably the best form of payment for you.

There are several ways in which you can accept card payments online - DIY or with the help of full-service payment providers such as Stripe. These relieve you of a lot of hard work and save you from having to deal with pesky PCI compliance requirements. For more details on how to do this, check out our guide on recurring payments.


Unless you choose an all-in-one payment service provider such as Stripe or PayPal, you need to set up a merchant account and a payment portal:

The merchant account

A merchant account is a bank account that you can use to accept payments by credit or debit cards. It's an online bank account that temporarily holds your money until it's transferred to your actual business account.

Options: Most banks offer such an account.

Note: Your merchant account does not have to be with the same bank as your business account.

Payment gateway

A payment gateway connects your website to one or more so-called processor networks (similar to a credit card reader in a shop or restaurant). It allows your customer to enter their credit card details and then tells you whether the charge has been approved by the cardholder's bank. It then sends the amount for billing.

Options: Braintree,, PaymentExpress, TrustCommerce

Outsourcing to a full-service payment service provider

Payment service provider

If you don't want to do everything yourself, you can contact a payment service provider or payment processor to accept online payments.

These act as intermediaries between you and the banks and ensure that all the money ends up in the right place by withdrawing it from the cardholder's account and transferring it to your account. Full-service payment providers usually act as both a merchant account and a payment gateway, so you can accept online payments without your own merchant account.

Using a payment service provider or payment processor usually reduces the workload for PCI compliance because you never really come into contact with sensitive financial information. Online payment service providers like Stripe also offer a whole range of services such as subscription billing, fraud management, withdrawals, transfers, etc. that make the payment process even easier.

Options: Stripe, Braintree, PayPal, Adyen

What you choose depends on what you need:

  • If you want a great API, check out Stripe.

  • If you want a really big name, consider PayPal.

  • If you want a great mobile experience, try Braintree.

Subscription management services

A subscription management service allows you to easily manage recurring payments. The services usually have a credit card depot (where customers can save their credit card details for later use), automate billing, customer registration and email invoicing. They also ensure that each customer is billed the correct amount each month. Typically, you will still need to use either a merchant account and payment gateway or a payment service provider.

Options: Zuora, Recurly, Chargify, Vindicia, Chargebee


GoCardless is a secure online payments specialist that allows you to accept online direct debit payments through our API or online dashboards. We offer two options:

  1. With GoCardless, you can use the GoCardless Master SUN to manage everything online without having to apply for a SUN (this option allows you to set up and collect payments instantly).

  2. With GoCardless Pro we can get you your own SUN and give you complete control.

How do you know which is the best online payment method?

If you are still unsure which is the best option for you to accept online payments, check out our guide to recurring payments. This guide compares each of the key options in terms of cost, ease of access, international reach, schedules, support, etc. to help you find the right payment method for you.

If you think GoCardless might be the right option for you, sign up now for free and start collecting your payments today.

Would you like to accept recurring payments?

GoCardless makes collecting recurring payments a breeze: for small and large businesses.

Learn more about GoCardless