Estimated read time: 15 minutes, 27 seconds
Many companies that expand globally reach a point where they can’t properly support their international customers with their current payment platform. They’ll start noticing issues like low conversion rates, low authorization rates, more chargebacks, and an overall plateau in global growth.
An international payment gateway can help with some of these issues, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. To accept payments internationally, you also need to offer local payment methods, collect and pay consumption tax, adhere to local transaction laws and regulations, and much more.
In this post, we clarify what an international payment gateway is, how it fits into the payment processing landscape, and how to choose the best one for your business. Then, we compare 10 of the top payment solutions starting with a deep-dive into our solution, FastSpring.
Table of Contents
FastSpring handles everything from maintaining high authorization rates to paying end-of-year consumption taxes for SaaS companies. Sign up for a free account or request a demo today to see how FastSpring can help you expand globally.
What is an international payment gateway?
Traditionally, payment gateways and payment processors were offered as two separate services and you would have different providers for each service:
- Payment gateways quickly and securely transfer the payment details from the checkout software to the payment processor.
- Payment processors verify that all necessary information is present and in the correct format and then carry it to the issuing bank or credit card network for final authorization. Some payment gateways integrate with multiple payment processors behind the scenes to optimize performance.
Fast forward to today, and these two services are often offered together, which is why many companies use these terms interchangeably.
For the remainder of this post, if we mention one, we assume the other is included.
International payment processors let you immediately start accepting preferred payments from around the globe. Without an international payment processor, you would have to maintain a relationship with each card network (e.g., MasterCard or Visa), issuing bank, or electronic wallet (a.k.a., e-wallet) that you want to accept. Each payment provider has different regulations to follow and different acceptance levels for fraud and chargebacks, so it can be very difficult to maintain a good relationship with each of them on your own.
International payment processors take on the responsibility of staying in good standing with various payment providers so that you don’t have to.
Related: International Recurring Payments (How We Handle It for You)
Factors to Consider When Choosing an International Payment Gateway
When choosing an international payment gateway, the most important thing to consider is whether or not they also act as your Merchant of Record.
A Merchant of Record (MoR) takes on the liability of SaaS transactions for you which means they handle payment processing, collecting and remitting taxes, staying compliant with local laws and regulations, chargebacks, and much more. If something goes wrong in any of these areas, your MoR takes the lead to resolve it for you.
If your payment gateway does not act as your MoR, then you’ll be on your own to:
- Calculate tax, add tax to the final amount, and pay those taxes to the local government
- Understand and adhere to local transaction laws and regulations
- Improve conversions with an optimized checkout flow
- Handle chargebacks and fraud
- And more
Many payment processors will provide an API or built-in integrations with other solutions that will help you with those things. However, you’ll have to manage that entire software stack and you’ll still be held responsible for everything from paying taxes to fraud prevention. If taxes don’t get paid correctly, for example, you may face huge fines or be prevented from transacting in that region.
Once you’ve determined if the payment gateway also acts as a MoR, there are two other factors to consider:
- What countries they let you transact in (it will differ with each payment gateway provider).
- How they maintain high authorization rates (there are many reasons a payment can fail even if you have a good relationship with the card network).
Next, we’ll take a deep-dive into how FastSpring acts as your MoR and then compare nine other international payment gateway providers.
FastSpring: Merchant of Record for Global SaaS Companies
Expanding your business globally is a very complex process that includes everything from translating your website to learning about each region’s laws and regulations. To add to the complexity, many of these systems and regulations constantly change.
For example, SaaS companies didn’t always have to pay consumption tax but now most countries are requiring it. Plus, most states, provinces, territories, and countries change the amounts of taxes that need to be collected and how you have to pay those taxes every year. This is a lot to keep track of and most regions charge you hefty fines if you don’t pay the right amount of taxes on time. And, this is just one piece of what you need to manage international transactions.
With FastSpring, you can scale almost instantly to over 200+ regions because we:
- Stay in good standing with dozens of payment providers around the world so you can accept popular local payment methods (including but not limited to Apple Pay, ACH, SEPA, Amazon Pay, and more).
- Collect and remit consumption tax (including GST, VAT, SST, etc.) for every transaction and file all necessary tax returns for you.
- Take on the responsibility of adhering to local transaction laws and regulations. Our team of legal experts stay up to date on all relevant legalities and make sure all the necessary procedures are in place for collecting payments.
- Handle currency conversions and language translations at checkout.
FastSpring is fully compliant with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Additionally, we renew our level one certification (which is the highest level possible) with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) every year.
In the following sections, we cover in detail how FastSpring helps you:
Achieve High Authorization Rates in 200+ Regions with Advanced Payment Failure Handling and Local Payment Processing
Many companies are able to maintain high authorization rates in their home country but quickly see a decline in authorization rates when they expand internationally. This is because transacting globally is much more complicated so more things can go wrong. For example, the card network or issuing bank could mark the transaction as suspicious (and therefore deny authorization) because the seller isn’t in the same country as the buyer.
It can be very difficult — and a drain on resources — to identify what’s making the payments fail and find a way to solve those issues on your own.
As your payment processing solution and MoR, FastSpring takes care of maintaining high authorization rates for you. Here are two ways that we maintain high authorization rates.
1. Payment Processor Rerouting
While payments can fail for simple reasons like low funds or inaccurate payment details, payments can also fail because of network or system failures. If a payment fails on the first attempt, FastSpring tries again using a secondary processor. While this won’t solve issues like low funds, it often solves the issue of network or system failures.
2. Local Payment Processors
Card networks and issuing banks are more likely to authorize transactions when the payment processor has a legal entity in the same country as the buyer. FastSpring works with payment processors who specialize in global transactions so that all of your transactions are processed in the same location as your customer.
Increase Conversions with an Optimized Checkout Experience
Before the payment details are even sent to the payment gateway, there are many reasons a customer may abandon the checkout process. For example:
- They have to create an account in order to purchase and don’t want to.
- Additional fees and taxes are added but not clearly labeled so the customer doesn’t know why the price is different.
- The checkout screen isn’t clearly labeled as secure so the customer doesn’t feel safe entering personal information.
FastSpring helps you reduce checkout abandonment and improve conversion rates with:
- Dynamic currency and tax updates based on the user’s location. You can set the price in different currencies or let FastSpring automatically convert prices to the local currency. (FastSpring uses OANDA for exchange rates and we update prices four times per day.) If you have us convert the price for you, we’ll match the general format of the original price. (For example, if your base price is $17.99 and the conversion to Euros is €18.29, FastSpring would update it to €18.99.)
- Translations at checkout. You can let each buyer select their preferred language from a dropdown menu or lock the language and FastSpring will automatically select the appropriate language based on the buyer’s location.
- Complete visual customization. Most payment gateways only provide checkout templates with a few basic options for customization (like adding your logo or choosing from a preset list of colors). FastSpring gives you the tools and personalized support needed to create a custom, fully branded checkout experience. (We also provide a pre-built template that is optimized for high conversion rates.)
- An embedded, pop-up, or web storefront checkout. With FastSpring, you can embed checkout directly in your website, insert a popup modal on top of your webpage, or send customers to a secure FastSpring storefront. This gives you the flexibility to choose the solution that’s best for your team and customers.
Reduce Involuntary Churn with Proactive Dunning Management
Successfully converting potential buyers to paying customers is just the first step. For SaaS businesses, additional payment issues often come up between that initial purchase and subsequent billings. The most common way to deal with payment failures is to simply notify the customer, however, you’ll need to do more — like send out multiple reminders — if you want to significantly reduce involuntary churn.
FastSpring provides flexible dunning management which includes:
- Proactive reminders to update payment information. FastSpring will send out email reminders when a customer’s card is about to expire. You can use our pre-made email template or customize your own message.
- Multiple, scheduled retries and follow-up notifications. After the initial payment retry and notification, you can schedule notifications to be sent two, five, seven, 14, and 21 days after the initial failure. Before sending out each reminder, FastSpring will retry the payment.
- Easy to access self-serve portal. FastSpring provides a self-serve portal where your customers can view their order history, change their subscription, and update payment or bank account information. This self-serve website is entirely managed by FastSpring but the appearance of the portal will match the branding of your checkout to provide customers with a cohesive buying experience.
You can choose how many reminders it takes before the customer’s service is paused. We’ve found that allowing the service to continue through the first several reminders reduces involuntary churn and provides a better customer experience.
After the final reminder, you have the flexibility to choose whether to pause or cancel their service if they fail to update their payment information. Pausing their service makes it easier for them to start up the service again without going through the entire onboarding process again.
Handle Complex Billing Logic and Free Trials Without Code
Building out recurring billing logic internally is often a drain on developer time and it’s difficult to maintain. While some international payment gateways will support subscription billing, most providers only offer basic options (e.g., a free trial that automatically turns into monthly billing).
FastSpring, on the other hand, offers flexible options for free trials, billing periods, and payment. Here’s an overview of the options you have with FastSpring’s recurring billing feature:
- Free trial periods of any length
- Free trials with or without gathering payment information upfront
- Prorated subscription payments
- Variable billing intervals
- Usage-based billing
- Upgrade at renewal or in the middle of a cycle
- Customers can change the billing date at any time (or you can lock the billing date)
- Prepaid recurring billing
- Subscription bundled with a one-time purchase at sign up
- Refunds applied to the next payment
- And many more
Most of these options can be set up with just a few clicks and zero code.
If you need custom subscription logic, you can use our API and webhooks library. Plus, our experienced developers are readily available to help you create the best solution for your business model.
Note: If you already have subscriptions set up on another platform, our team can help you migrate over to FastSpring. Learn more here.
Related: Create, Manage, and Localize Your Digital Invoices
Scale Quickly with Transparent Flat-Rate Pricing
With most international payment processors, you’ll have to add additional software to your stack to manage recurring billing, taxes, dunning, etc. Additionally, many international payment processors charge extra for each feature beyond processing payments. This makes it difficult to know what you’ll be paying and the costs can rack up quickly as you grow.
FastSpring doesn’t charge extra for each feature. This makes it easier to plan your budget and scale. Instead of charging per feature, our team works with you to find a simple, flat-rate price based on the volume of transactions you move through FastSpring. You’ll have access to every aspect of FastSpring and you’ll only be charged when transactions take place.
FastSpring is more than just an international payment gateway — we’re your Merchant of Record. Sign up for a free account or request a demo today to see how we can help you go further, faster.
9 Other International Payment Gateways for SaaS and Non-SaaS Businesses
Verifone (formerly 2Checkout) is a payment platform for digital goods and retail. Their solutions include:
- Subscription management
- Reporting and analytics
- Global tax and financial services
- Risk management and compliance
- B2B quote builder
- Channel partner management
Some of these features are offered for an additional price as an add-on. Verifone is the only other option in this list that offers MoR services. They let you choose between a MoR model and payment service provider model.
Stripe is a popular cross-border payment processing platform that offers many different solutions including:
- Customizable UI and pre-built checkout flows
- Simple subscription management
- Fraud prevention and risk management
- Flexible billing logic
- Online invoicing
- In-person payments
Stripe can also assist you in issuing virtual and physical cards and help you manage business spend. Stripe is fairly easy to set up and integrate with other systems, however, they do not act as a MoR.
PayPal is both a payment processor and a popular digital wallet (not a MoR). PayPal supports online businesses and brick-and-mortar businesses. PayPal’s services include:
- QR code and POS systems
- Installment payment management
- Support for preferred payment methods (other than PayPal’s digital wallet)
- Crypto payments
- Chargeback protection
As a payment processor, PayPal uses one merchant account for all of its customers and then pays you out of that account.
Braintree by PayPal is another online payment gateway solution that doesn’t offer MoR services. The main difference between Braintree and PayPal is that Braintree provides you with your own merchant account. Braintree also offers a few more services (like subscription management). Braintree’s features include:
- Subscription management
- Optimized checkout flow
- Flexible risk mitigation options
- Reporting and analytics
- Third-party integrations for recurring billing, accounting, and more
Braintree supports payment from PayPal, Venmo (in the US), Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Authorize.net offers payment solutions for ecommerce merchants and in-person sales. Authorize.net’s products include:
- Monthly billing management
- Virtual point of sale
- Payment processing
- Advanced fraud detection suite (AFDS)
They offer a package for payment gateways or you can choose a bundle that includes a merchant account. Authorize.net serves companies in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia.
Adyen is an end-to-end payment processing and financial management solution. Here’s an overview of Adyen’s features:
- Online and in-person debit card and credit card payments
- Fraud detection
- Intelligent payment routing
- Automated dunning
- Subscription management
Adyen serves companies offering digital goods, transportation services, retail, food and beverage, and hospitality.
WorldPay by FIS
Fidelity National Information Services, Inc. offers many financial services and products including WorldPay, their global payment processing solution. WorldPay’s features include:
- Pay by email link
- Multi-currency support
- Support for 200+ alternative payment methods including mobile payments, e-wallets, pre-pay, and more
- 24/7/365 support in most global regions
While WorldPay can give you instant global reach, payment processing is just one of their many offerings. So, you may not receive personalized attention.
Amazon Pay lets your customers use the account they’ve already set up on Amazon to pay you. When customers go to checkout on your ecommerce site, they’ll see Amazon Pay as an option and will be able to use the payment options and contact information already stored in their account. Amazon Pay includes:
- Payment processing
- Optimized checkout flow (modeled after Amazon’s own checkout experience)
- Recurring billing management
- Fraud detection
You do not need to become a seller on Amazon Marketplace to use Amazon Pay. Amazon Pay may be a good option for small businesses that are just getting started.
Note: You can accept Amazon Pay with FastSpring.
- Payment processing
- Fraud detection
- 3D secure authentication
They also offer flexible incoming payment options that let you choose how to allocate money from split payments to commission fees. Checkout.com partners with over 50+ other vendors so you can build your global payment system.
FastSpring lets you manage every aspect of global SaaS payment from one platform — without managing tons of different software solutions. We take on taxes, regulation compliance, and much more for you. Sign up for a free account or request a demo today.