Payment aggregators 101: What they are and how they enable online payments

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a payment aggregator?
  3. How do payment aggregators work?
  4. What types of businesses use payment aggregators?
  5. Benefits of using a payment aggregator
  6. Payment aggregator vs payment gateway
    1. Purpose
    2. Integration
    3. Transaction handling
    4. Additional services
    5. Suitability
  7. Payment aggregator vs payment processor
    1. Function
    2. Integration
    3. Payment acceptance
    4. Risk management and compliance
    5. Settlement

Businesses often partner with third-party providers to receive support for specific aspects of online payment processing – and sometimes, their entire payment ecosystem. One type of provider that businesses frequently work with is a payment aggregator. These providers simplify the process of accepting payments, offering businesses a unified and efficient system to work through the complexities of electronic transactions.

Payment aggregators typically don’t provide comprehensive solutions for every aspect of payment processing, so businesses need to understand what aggregators offer and what they don’t, before committing to working with one. This article covers what businesses need to know about payment aggregators: their role in payment processing, the key benefits of working with one as well as how they enable businesses to streamline their payment processes and meet the demands of modern customers.

What's in this article?

  • What is a payment aggregator?
  • How do payment aggregators work?
  • What types of businesses use payment aggregators?
  • Benefits of using a payment aggregator
  • Payment aggregator vs payment gateway
  • Payment aggregator vs payment processor

What is a payment aggregator?

A payment aggregator, also often referred to as a payment facilitator (payfac) or payment service provider (PSP), is a financial technology company that simplifies the process of accepting electronic payments for businesses. While the term is commonly used interchangeably with payfac, they are different businesses.

Traditionally, businesses that wanted to accept credit card payments had to complete a lengthy, complex process of setting up a merchant account with a bank or a payment processor. This process involved various requirements, such as credit checks, underwriting and compliance procedures. However, payment aggregators can now streamline this process and make it more accessible for small and medium-sized businesses. Payment aggregators act as intermediaries between the business and the financial institutions that handle payment processing, and businesses can avoid the intricacies of establishing direct relationships with these entities.

How do payment aggregators work?

The primary goal of payment aggregators is to make the payment acceptance procedure easier, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. By simplifying the onboarding process, integrating with multiple payment methods and providing efficient transaction handling and funds settlement, these aggregators offer a one-stop payment acceptance solution. Here's a brief overview of how payment aggregators work:

  • Onboarding and verification
    A business signs up with a payment aggregator by providing relevant information and agreeing to the terms and conditions. Once the payment aggregator has created the new account, it verifies the business's identity and conducts risk assessments to ensure compliance with regulations and identify potential fraud risks.

  • Fast integration
    Once the business has been approved, the payment aggregator offers integration options, such as APIs or plugins, which enable businesses to connect their websites or applications to the aggregator's platform. This integration creates a smooth payment acceptance process and allows customers to pay using various methods, including credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets and alternative payment options.

  • Efficient transaction handling
    When a customer initiates a payment, the payment aggregator securely collects the payment details and routes them to the appropriate payment processor or acquiring bank. The processor then authorises and processes the transaction, transferring the funds from the customer's account to the merchant account.

  • Funds settlement
    Payment aggregators also manage the settlement process, ensuring that funds from processed transactions are promptly transferred from the acquiring bank to the business bank account. While settlement periods may vary, businesses typically receive their funds within a few working days.

  • Reporting
    Some payment aggregators offer reporting tools and analytics to businesses, providing insight into transaction history and sales performance, and enabling better business analysis.

  • Additional services
    Payment aggregators sometimes offer supplementary services such as recurring billing, subscription management, fraud detection and prevention, and customer support. These value-added services enhance the overall payment experience for businesses and streamline operations. Not all payment aggregators offer these services – they’re most commonly offered by payfacs, which tend to provide a broader scope of services.

What types of businesses use payment aggregators?

A wide range of businesses across multiple industries use payment aggregators, due to their broad applicability and flexibility. But certain businesses are more likely to benefit from working with a payment aggregator, including:

  • E-commerce businesses
    Online retailers and e-commerce platforms often rely on payment aggregators to facilitate smooth, secure online transactions. Aggregators simplify the integration of payment gateways, allowing businesses to accept credit card payments, digital wallets and other online payment methods.

  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
    Payment aggregators are particularly popular among SMEs – such as local shops, service providers and startups – due to their ease of use and simple onboarding process. These businesses can quickly start accepting electronic payments without the complexities and higher costs associated with traditional merchant accounts.

  • Mobile app developers
    Companies developing mobile applications, including gaming, travel, food delivery or ticketing apps, often integrate payment aggregators to offer in-app purchases and secure payment processing for their users.

  • Subscription-based services
    Businesses offering subscription-based services – such as streaming platforms, membership websites, content subscriptions, software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, co-working spaces and fitness studios – can use certain payment aggregators supported by payfacs to manage recurring billing and automate subscription management for their customers.

  • Marketplaces and sharing economy platforms
    Marketplace platforms such as ride-sharing services, accommodation booking platforms and freelance job portals frequently use aggregators. These platforms require a payments infrastructure for collecting payments from buyers and disbursing funds to sellers or service providers.

  • Non-profit organisations
    Non-profit organisations and charities often rely on payment aggregators to accept online donations securely. Aggregators can simplify the donation process and provide reporting tools to track contributions and donor information.

  • Event management and ticketing
    Event organisers and ticketing platforms use payment aggregators to handle ticket sales and process payments for concerts, conferences, sports events and other gatherings. This makes the ticket purchasing experience easier for attendees.

While most businesses are able to work with payment aggregators, certain industries or high-risk businesses may require specialised payment solutions or direct relationships with payment processors, due to specific regulatory or compliance requirements.

Benefits of using a payment aggregator

Using a payment aggregator provides several benefits to businesses:

  • Simplified onboarding
    Businesses can easily sign up and start accepting payments without the lengthy and complex process associated with traditional merchant accounts.

  • Convenient payment process
    Aggregators provide a unified platform that integrates with multiple payment methods, making it convenient for customers to pay using their preferred option.

  • Cost efficiency
    Payment aggregators often have lower upfront costs and eliminate the need for businesses to invest in payment hardware or software.

  • Faster time to market
    Aggregators enable businesses to quickly integrate payment capabilities into their websites or applications, reducing the time and effort required to go live.

  • Enhanced user experience
    Aggregators offer a simple, user-friendly payment experience, ensuring smooth transactions and improving customer satisfaction.

  • Security and compliance
    Payment aggregators handle sensitive payment information and implement strong security measures to protect customer data, reducing the burden of compliance on businesses.

  • Additional features and services
    Aggregators sometimes provide value-added services such as recurring billing, subscription management, fraud detection and reporting tools, empowering businesses with advanced functionalities.

  • Scalability
    Aggregators can accommodate businesses of various sizes and handle increased transaction volumes as the business grows.

  • Customer support
    Many payment aggregators offer dedicated customer support to assist businesses with any payment-processing issues or queries.

Payment aggregators offer a convenient, efficient and cost-effective solution for businesses to accept electronic payments. This enables them to focus on core operations while providing a positive payment experience to their customers.

Payment aggregator vs payment gateway

Payment aggregators and payment gateways are closely related components within the payment processing setup for many businesses. Here’s an explanation of their unique roles and how they differ.

Purpose

  • Payment aggregator: Acts as an intermediary between businesses and financial institutions, simplifying the payment acceptance process.
  • Payment gateway: Provides a secure communication channel between a business's website or application and the payment processor or acquiring bank.

Integration

  • Payment aggregator: Offers a unified platform that integrates with multiple payment methods and processors, providing businesses with greater flexibility and choice.
  • Payment gateway: Typically requires a direct merchant account with a payment processor or bank and integrates various payment methods into the business's website or application.

Transaction handling

  • Payment aggregator: Handles transaction routing and settlement on behalf of businesses, simplifying the payment process and reducing administrative complexities.
  • Payment gateway: Verifies and authorises transaction details in real time, encrypts sensitive payment information and securely transmits data between the business and the payment processor or bank.

Additional services

  • Payment aggregator: Often provides value-added services such as fraud detection and prevention, reporting and analytics to enhance the payment experience for businesses.
  • Payment gateway: Offers customisation options to align with the business's branding and user experience, focusing primarily on secure data transmission and transaction authorisation.

Suitability

  • Payment aggregator: Particularly suitable for small and medium-sized businesses that seek a simplified onboarding process and cost-effective payment solution.
  • Payment gateway: Widely used by businesses of all sizes, requiring a direct merchant account and providing more customisation options for a tailored payment experience.

Payment aggregators act as intermediaries, simplifying payment acceptance, integrating with multiple processors and offering additional services. Payment gateways primarily focus on secure transaction handling, encryption and customisation options. The choice between the two depends on a business's specific needs, size and preferences.

Payment aggregator vs payment processor

Payment aggregators and payment processors differ in their functions and the benefits that they offer to businesses:

Function

  • Payment aggregator: Acts as an intermediary between businesses and financial institutions, simplifying the process of accepting electronic payments. It provides a unified platform that integrates with multiple payment methods and processors, streamlining the payment acceptance process.
  • Payment processor: Handles the actual processing of payments, authorising and facilitating the movement of funds between the customer’s account and the merchant account.

Integration

  • Payment aggregator: Offers businesses a single integration point, allowing them to connect to multiple payment processors and methods through a unified interface. This eliminates the need for separate integrations with multiple processors.
  • Payment processor: Typically requires a direct integration with the business’s website or application to process payments. Businesses establish a direct relationship with the payment processor to use their services.

Payment acceptance

  • Payment aggregator: Allows businesses to accept various payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets and alternative payment options, all through a single integration. It simplifies the acceptance of multiple payment types for businesses.
  • Payment processor: Processes payments based on the specific payment methods and services that it supports. Businesses sometimes need to integrate with different processors or establish relationships with multiple processors to accept different payment types.

Risk management and compliance

  • Payment aggregator: Assumes responsibility for managing and mitigating risks associated with payment processing. It conducts risk assessments, implements fraud detection measures and ensures compliance with relevant regulations on behalf of the businesses it serves.
  • Payment processor: Offers tools and services related to risk management, fraud prevention and compliance. However, the ultimate responsibility for risk management and compliance often lies with the business, which must adhere to applicable regulations. This distribution of risk and responsibility can vary considerably based on the specific providers in question.

Settlement

  • Payment aggregator: Manages the settlement process, transferring funds from the acquiring bank to the business’s designated bank account. Settlement periods may vary, but the payment aggregator handles this aspect for the business.
  • Payment processor: Facilitates the movement of funds between the customer’s account and the merchant account during the payment processing. The payment processor initiates the settlement process, ensuring the transfer of funds to the merchant account.

Payment aggregators simplify the payment acceptance process by integrating with multiple payment processors and methods. They provide a unified platform, handle risk management and manage settlement. Payment processors focus on processing payments, authorising transactions and transferring funds between accounts.

While payment aggregators, payment gateways and payment processors differ in function, Stripe comprehensively supports a business’s full payment ecosystem on every channel by offering the combined functionality of a payment gateway, processor and aggregation platform in one solution. Stripe backs this up with exceptional fraud detection and prevention measures, compliance management, 24/7 customer support and unified reporting. To learn more and get started, go here.

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