Not every business will want to or indeed be able to get credit card merchant status immediately. There can be a number of reasons for this: a new company may not wish to commit to a monthly rental on the terminal or the bank may consider certain sectors too high-risk from a new organisation.
The good news is that there are alternatives, most of which involve being online. Anyone with a UK debit card can set up an account at NOCHEX and accept money via e-mail. You simply set the account, confirm the small amount NOCHEX puts into your bank, and upload or download money between yourself and NOCHEX. The basic offering costs 99p per upload or download, so that if you wait until there are thousands in your account you can download the lot for only 99p. The cost is the advantage; the disadvantage is that NOCHEX cannot make payments to anyone who refuses to open a NOCHEX account (although it will invite anyone from whom you request money to join). Business facilities including integration with websites are available for sliding scales.
A more flexible alternative is PhonePaid, which works in a similar way but which transfers money via the mobile phone network. Business accounts are available and instead of NOCHEX' standard 99p, the company will charge you a flat three per cent. A similar service is available from Paybox, which has a pilot scheme working at London's Circus bar.
Each has its benefits and its drawbacks, but in comparison with Visa and Mastercard, in spite of many thousands of customers for each, they remain a small fish in a big pond.