Payment gateways: How do they work and which ones are best?

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Payment gateways: How do they work and which ones are best?
Payment gateways: How do they work and which ones are best?


Payment gateways have become one of the most widely used systems for completing online transactions. They move a large volume of transactions on a daily basis, so they cannot fail. And now, thanks to APIs, they also offer a new experience for the users who use them.

In recent years, the dramatic growth of e-commerce has led consumers to demand simpler, clearer and more reliable services. These include payment gateways, a critical service for ecommerce that facilitates the process of such a critical moment as the payment of the transaction.

Payment gateways process a large volume of transactions worldwide on a daily basis, so it is a service that cannot fail. In addition, they now also offer a new customer experience thanks to the integration with third-party platforms through APIs, which increase the conversion rate for establishments and increase customer loyalty.

What are payment gateways and how do they work?

A payment gateway is an intermediary service through which a bank card is connected to the relevant payment processor. Its function is to transmit the information of a commercial transaction from the establishment where it takes place to the customer’s bank.

It works relatively simply: when a user makes a purchase, they provide their credit card details, which are sent encrypted to the customer’s bank to process the purchase. The latter, in turn, authorizes the transaction if sufficient funds are available, and deducts the purchase amount from the current account. If there are insufficient funds to complete the transaction, or if the card is blocked, the bank refuses the transaction.

In general, if you have shopped online, you will have used payment gateways at some point, although sometimes you may not even have been aware of it. In fact, if you have had to enter your credit or debit card on a different website to the one you were buying from, you will already have used a payment gateway. Other times the transaction will have been completed without you having to enter anything, but behind the scenes the system will have used the service of a payment gateway.

Payment gateways are nowadays widely used for processing payments in e-commerce. According to the study “Payment Methods in Ecommerce“, carried out by Palbin, almost 80% of e-commerce in Spain use payment gateways as the main payment method for their customers with this being one of the main systems used by e-commerce  

The best payment gateways

Although there are many similarities between the various payment gateways, there are also differences and added value that some provide over others. It is therefore important to choose the right payment gateway that best suits the needs of each establishment.


This is probably the best known and most recognized payment gateway in the world. It is a service that goes beyond a simple payment processor, as many users have their own PayPal accounts to handle occasional payments or even make payments among their friends.

Its main advantage is its speed of installation, as in just a few minutes any user can have a fully operational account, which means that many stores allow it to be used as a means of payment even before the payment gateways themselves. Perhaps for all these reasons, more than 70% of e-commerce businesses use it, according to Palbin’s study. 


Redsys is the payment gateway that Spanish buyers are most familiar with, as it collaborates with the majority of banks in our country to perform the function of virtual POS. It is also one of the oldest payment gateways, with more than 35 years of experience in the sector.

It has the advantage of being a completely secure payment gateway and, thanks to its image, it is a completely reliable service recognized by customers. However, its integration is not yet complete, as it is necessary to access a third-party site to enter credit card details.


Stripe is one of the most popular and fastest growing payment platforms, with up to 80% of US consumers having used it to pay at some point, even if they do not always know it. Its added value is that it allows its customers to use its APIs to offer their customers payment from the website itself. Although the most common method of payment is by credit card, having an infrastructure in many countries also allows payment with wallets and other alternative systems that are restricted to certain areas.

In addition, Stripe allows the payment gateway to be integrated within the store’s own platform, without the need to redirect to a third-party site, an inelegant experience that generates some friction, especially at such a critical moment as the payment.


BlueSnap is not a payment gateway. In addition to the usual functions offered by these platforms, it also offers a set of smart functionalities, such as the option to retry recurring failed payments, smart remote payments or even the possibility of switching in case of connection errors. In addition, it also offers a global fraud protection scheme.

Like Stripe, BlueSnap offers an API to quickly integrate the payment gateway into e-commerce. It allows the merchant to accept global payment methods such as bank cards, digital wallets, direct billing or SEPA through almost any sales channel.


Since it began operating back in 2010, PAYCOMET has stood out for having become a true benchmark in innovation, with a firm commitment to user experience, customer service and security. 

This platform operates with all EU banks and can be integrated with the most popular alternative collection and payment services such as Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay or Bizum. It also has an advanced fraud management module. In 2018 it was acquired by Banc Sabadell, and became the first payment gateway in Spain to obtain PCI DSS Level 1 certification, which certifies the highest level of data security standard in the industry.


In short, payment gateways have become services that go far beyond simple transaction processors. Now, thanks to the boost provided by APIs, they are a method of integrating banking services into third-party platforms, which will undoubtedly serve to improve brand awareness and transaction speed.

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