Envelope with paper card £50 credit towards GoCardless fees: simply use our referral link.

I’ve had an eBay account since 2002 (yikes!), so I was a very early adopter of PayPal. Although I think they’ve improved over the last couple of years, I still don’t really like to use the service. In my experience, their refund and dispute policies are questionable, their fees are extortionate and their support is pretty dire.

We’ve been looking for an alternative for a long time, and with GoCardless, I think we might be on to something. Quite a few of our clients set up web content writing projects on a regular basis, and we would definitely benefit from an easier way to bill them.

Until recently GoCardless required a certain amount of developer intervention, something we didn’t have the time to sort out ourselves. But today I got an email saying they’d introduced a Paylinks interface which allows anyone* to create a money request URL with no technical fiddling. I thought a little review was in order.

* When I say ‘anyone’, this is perhaps a little misleading: GoCardless don’t take card payments, so it’s a UK-only service. 

Creating a GoCardless Paylink

Signing up was a little problematic as I had to use a different email address and company name to my existing GoCardless account (which I had never used). Minor niggles aside, I found the process of creating a link pretty straightforward once I’d signed up.

Once the link was created, I had the choice of pasting it into an email or sending it through their web application.

If you have a regular customer, they can sign up for a Subscription. This is basically a Direct Debit, but the customer is free to vary the amount taken (please see the Update below).

Making a payment

When the recipient clicks my link, they’ll see a form where they can enter their bank details. There’s no option to pay by card, remember, so paying for the first time involves setting up a Direct Debit. Future payments are far quicker: once the Direct Debit is set up, it can be re-used.

GoCardless fees and charges

By far the biggest plus of GoCardless is the flat 1% fee. Not only is this cheaper than PayPal, who charge anything between 1.4% and 3.4% plus a flat 20p fee, it’s also much more predictable for businesses, and it can be factored in much more easily. Even better, GoCardless actually cap their fee at £2, making it super affordable for large transactions

First impressions of GoCardless Paylinks

I was slightly surprised to find that GoCardless won’t allow me to give my email address to a client for payment, in the same way PayPal does, and there is a certain amount of manual intervention in getting that first payment set up. The process of creating a link is quick, but there is a bit of leg work for the client the first time around, and I’d be a bit concerned about that if I had no other payment options. If a client has several invoices to settle, it’s going to be a bit of a pain for them to click a load of links and pay each one separately. Of course, if they register with GoCardless they don’t need to fill in the form each time.

I’d also be a bit worried about setting up a Direct Debit if I were a client, just because GoCardless is so new. Hopefully confidence will be built as the brand becomes more well-known. The team also told me on Twitter that they were considering integration with our cloud accounting package, FreeAgent. If this actually happens, I would be quite happy to ditch the PayPal account for UK clients, providing they enjoyed using it.

I’ll definitely trial GoCardless for a little while longer and see how clients respond, partly because it’s wonderfully innovative and simple, but partly because a PayPal alternative is a long time coming and we would welcome the chance to get rid of it. If you’ve tried GoCardless Paylinks, let me know what you think in the comments.

Get £50 credit towards GoCardless fees: simply use our referral link.

Update – 17th April

I’ve just heard from GoCardless who have clarified the Direct Debit system as follows.

“When you create a subscription with a customer, the customer isn’t able to vary the amount you’re taking from them (they can cancel the subscription, in which case we’ll tell you about it, but they can’t just change what they’re paying you!)”

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Claire Broadley is a freelance technical blogger for Red Robot Media. Hire Claire to write your business blog or technical user guides.