The best payment gateways for subscriptions

The best payment gateways for your subscription business

Over the past few decades, companies across varying industries have adopted subscription-based business models.

Brands like Spotify and Netflix replaced physical CDs and DVDs, leading to a subscription revolution. From meal kits to grooming supplies, the business-to-consumer subscription industry has been growing 200% annually since 2011. Thousands of businesses have adopted the value of recurring revenue, attracting over 11 million U.S. subscribers — and counting.

If you're one of these businesses, you know how important it is to provide your customers with a secure way to pay for the goods or services you offer. As technology continues to develop, choosing the best global payment gateway providers will be essential to the growth of your subscription business.

Why you need to invest in a solid payment gateway

Customers are familiar with online payment platforms like PayPal. They now expect a safe and easy way to buy, and if you cannot offer them that, you risk being left behind.

There are many reasons you need to choose a reputable payment gateway, including:

  • Increased sales — If your customers are unsure about the way you're processing payments or your payment gateway doesn't work properly, they will quickly abandon their purchase and seek what they need elsewhere. For subscription businesses, losing customers to a competitor can be incredibly costly as you not only lose the initial sale but all the recurring revenue that a subscription model offers.

  • Greater customer confidence — Your customers' buying experience matters. When you provide customers with several legitimate and trusted ways to pay, you'll ensure higher levels of confidence.

  • Conversion ratesA survey by YouGov found that 50% of people would cancel their purchase if they could not pay via their preferred method. Customers want a smooth and seamless checkout experience. Once you make that a priority, focusing on the best payment gateways, higher conversion rates will follow.

Recommended reading: How PayPal Reduces Friction and Increases Conversions

What to consider when choosing a payment gateway

Once you have narrowed down the most reputable payment gateways, which are discussed below, one of the primary considerations will cost. Some payment gateways charge an initial sign-up fee, as well as transaction fees. Others will charge transaction fees only.

The other major consideration is the features provided. For companies that process one-off payments, all the most well-known payment gateways are fairly similar. However, since you will want to charge recurring payments, functionality matters.

Recommended reading: 15 Critical Questions to Ask When Evaluating a Payment Gateway

The ability to accept payments around the world

Accepting payments around the world is easy when you connect your global gateways for worldwide coverage. Some gateways are better for different geographies, industries, and business models. So, many businesses are opting to add multiple payment gateways to best satisfy their broad and growing customer bases. Your subscription management platform should support many different gateways to help support your growth and success.

At Recurly, we integrate with twelve popular gateways to help you start accepting payments without delay in the regions you want to do business in around the world. Over half of our top merchants use multiple gateways.

Recommended reading: Global expansion for subscription businesses

The advantages of payment gateways

Whether you operate a subscription pet food business or are launching a digital fitness brand, there are many advantages of payment gateways, including the following.

  • Make the checkout experience faster and easier

  • Help you capitalize on impulse purchases when the payment gateway creates a seamless, efficient buying experience

  • Integrate with shopping carts

  • Accept multiple payment options

Leverage the benefits of multiple payment gateways

Does a certain payment gateway work best for one group of your customers, while another increases operational efficiencies with another group? If so, it's best to consider multiple payment gateways.

Even if you love all the features of one subscription payment gateway, you need to be ready in the event an outage or incident occurs. Issues can arise, and when they do, your transaction declines could spike. For customers attempting to subscribe for the first time, a failed attempt may mean that they give their business to someone else. This means you will not only lose the upfront purchase but also their subsequent recurring revenue.

From higher acceptance rates to easier expansion into new markets, there is value in choosing multiple payment gateways.

No matter where in the world you’re doing business, it’s a risky undertaking to put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to a payment gateway. Using a single gateway won’t let you route payments to achieve higher acceptance rates or give you lower processing costs and simplified reconciliation. You also don’t get full currency and payment method support.

You can optimize payments by integrating with multiple payment gateways and route transactions based on key transaction data, such as location or payment method. Using custom gateway routing provides you unlimited flexibility in routing payments, both in terms of the initial transaction or subsequent renewal transactions. This allows you to take advantage of the benefits a certain gateway may offer for specific types of transactions based on geolocation or for specific products.

Global businesses in particular should consider using multiple gateways that enable you to route transactions based on geography. Having a second gateway also enables you to conduct A/B split tests to determine which has higher acceptance rates based on key criteria relevant to your business.

Six of the best payment gateways

The following payment gateways are some of the best available based on integrations, ease-of-use, cost, payment types, support, and more. They are listed in no specific order, as each offers its own unique advantages. Again, this is why it's beneficial to consider more than one payment gateway.

Note: pricing throughout this article is subject to change by the gateway providers.


PayPal is often considered the best payment gateway worldwide based on its history. It is a familiar name to nearly all customers, making it a payment option that is approachable and trusted. It is also efficient when aiming to handle international payments, accepting payments in 25 currencies from 2020 countries. Customers often have money in their accounts as well, making it quick and easy to subscribe.

The average cost is 2.9% + a $0.30 transaction fee, with the opportunity to benefit from volume discounts. If you opt for PayPal Payments Pro, which will allow you to customize the entire checkout process and keep customers on your site, an additional $35 per month will apply.

Amazon Pay

First launched in 2007, Amazon Pay offers an online payment service that makes checkout fast and secure for millions of Amazon customers. Eligible customers can choose this payment option at checkout, providing them with a familiar, seamless process. When aiming to manage subscriptions and recurring payments, this payment gateway simplifies the process with the help of Recurly.

The cost to use Amazon pay is based on a total transaction fee. This fee is 2.9% + $0.30 for web and mobile payments. However, when using Alexa or processing payments in-person, the fee is 4% + $.30.


Like PayPal, Authorize.Net has been around since the late 90s, which gives this company an upper hand in terms of experience. They also offer numerous features other companies don't, including security settings and detailed subscription handling. Automated Recurring Billing (ARB) offers your customers flexible automatic payment options while eliminating the hassle of manually entering payment details for every transaction.

There are several options for pricing, including an all-in-one plan that is $25 per month and 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. If you already have a merchant account and would just like to leverage Authorize.Net as a payment gateway only, the fee is $25 per month + $0.10 per transaction. Prices quoted in this article are subject to change.


Braintree is often an attractive choice to start-ups, as it offers an easy-to-use platform and a simple pricing structure. Since Braintree was acquired by PayPal in 2013, this payment gateway accepts a wide variety of payment options, including major credit cards, ACH deposits, PayPal, digital wallets, etc. You can easily accept repeat online payments for your subscription business, and if users alter their subscription mid-month, Braintree will automatically bill the customer for what they owe. This prorated subscription feature allows customers to upgrade or downgrade their subscriptions. You can also offer promotional periods, rewards, add-ons, and more.

Standard pricing is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. However, Braintree offers custom pricing based on your business model and the volume of payments processed.


As they say at Adyen, they are, "The payments platform built for growth." This company offers a subscription payment feature that's designed for any recurring business model. Whether you operate a membership-based business, a subscription box company, a streaming service, or any other subscription business, Adyen can help you reduce acquisition costs.

Recurly has an integration with Adyen, a leading global payments company. Adyen supports transactions via credit and debit cards, along with over 50 other payment methods. These include prepaid methods and mobile wallets that are used in North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

This integration makes it easy for subscription businesses to accept the local payment methods commonly used in these regions—and to do so in a seamless and secure way. The breadth of coverage that Adyen offers, along with their expertise in serving international markets and navigating local regulations, are just some of the reasons why Recurly has chosen to partner with them.

There is no setup fee, and pricing is based on a processing fee + a payment method fee per transaction. Learn more here.


GoCardless makes the process of collecting both one-off and recurring payments seamless. Helping companies of all sizes reduce costs, failed payments, churn, and international barriers, this payment gateway will help you boost conversion rates and improve cash flow.

Recurly’s partnership with GoCardless enables Recurly merchants to accept direct debit payments internationally without additional configuration. This includes SEPA in Europe, Bacs in the UK, and BECS in Australia.

Why Recurly?

At Recurly, we offer payment processing options that serve the unique needs of your subscription business. Integrating with over a dozen payment gateways around the globe, we help you select the best payment gateways to help power your growing business. Switch anytime as your subscription business scales and enjoy custom gateway routing.

The Field Guide to Global Expansion for Subscription Buisness cover

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