Choosing Between Payment Gateway & Payment Processor

Choosing Between Payment Gateway & Payment Processor

Written by Pravin Vazirani Posted August 8, 2013 by Carolina
Pravin Vazirani

Pravin Vazirani

Quite interestingly I have seen “Payment Gateway” and “Payment Processor” being used as interchangeable terms.

It would be worth noting that the “Payment Gateway” and “Payment Processor” are two completely different entities in the card payment industry world.

What is Payment Gateway?

Payment Gateway is an application service provider that authorizes payments for businesses, online retailers or traditional brick and mortar.

In simple terms a Payment Gateway can be thought of as an interface between merchants and payment processors. The Payment Gateway accepts payment request from merchants and forwards this to payment processor for further processing.

List of some popular Payment Gateways:

  • Cybersource
  • Chase Paymentech Orbital (only works with Chase Paymentech processing network).
  • First Data Global Gateway (only works on First Data’s various processing networks. Used to be called Linkpoint, EFSNet and Yourpay, at various points in time).
  • Plug N Pay
  • Paypal Payflow
  • ViaKlix / Virtual Merchant (only works with Nova/Elavon)
  • SecurePay
  • USAePay
  • TrustCommerce
  • EPX
  • Skipjack
  • CenPOS

What is Payment Processor?

Payment Processor is an entity that has a direct interface to card associations or networks such as VISA and MasterCard. The Payment processor receives payment requests from merchants or payment gateways and sends it to the card association or networks such as VISA and MasterCard which in turn routes the transaction to the card issuing bank for authorization.

Payment processors are also referred as “Acquirers”. The Payment processor on a whole is a complete payment processing engine that processes real time transactions and end of day settlement requests and are also responsible for handling chargebacks from the Issuing bank.

List of some popular Payment Processors:

  • First Data
    • North (Cardnet)
    • South (Nabanco)
    • Nashville (Envoy)
    • Omaha
    • BuyPass (Concord/Atlanta)
  • Vantiv
  • Elavon
  • Heartland
  • Global
  • WorldPay
  • TSYS
  • Chase Paymentech

 Below diagram shows a clear distinction between payment gateway and payment processor in a typical card processing system. As seen below the Payment Gateway is a layer that sits between the merchant and the payment processor.

Difference between Payment gateway and payment processor

Choosing Between Payment Gateway VS Payment Processor

While the payment gateway offers an easy integration to merchant application it comes as an additional cost to the merchant. The Merchant can save this additional cost if it integrates directly to the payment processor. While this is true there are several other factors that should be considered while choosing between payment gateway and payment processor.

Below are some tips in choosing between payment gateway and processor:

Total Transaction Volume – The Payment processors have different transaction fee rates that depends on the volume of transactions. Most of the Payment processors offer lower rates for high volume of transactions. It would be more feasible for small businesses to go to payment gateway that have small volume of transactions.

Integration Cost & Time – The development cost and time for integrating with payment processor is higher as compared to payment gateway integration. The Payment processor requires integration to their ISO 8583 platform and undergoing their certification process.

Compliances – Integration to payment processor requires a PCI certified infrastructure and adherence to all compliances set by the card association network (VISA and MasterCard). The payment gateway on the other hand deals with all the intricacies related to ISO 8583 integration and the payment processor certification process. The time and cost associated with payment gateway integration is much lower as they offer a simple API layer for accepting and processing payment requests from merchants.

Settlement – The payment gateway handles the settlement on behalf of merchant while the payment processor expects the merchant to send the end-of-day settlement request and handle the settlement file to be imported back into the system.

Working on different projects related to payment gateway and processors we have seen an emerging convergence between the POS and Payment Gateway industry.

The POS industries are leaning towards implementing their own payment gateway to get a cut of all the transactions that is processed via the POS. Conversely the payment gateway industry is looking to build their own POS systems to process all the transactions originating from the POS system.


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