Nearly 38% of small business customers have been unable to make a purchase at a physical store because "their form of payment wasn't accepted," according to a study conducted by business technology firm Weave. Although not accepting credit cards hurts sales, many entrepreneurs worry about affording excessive payment processing fees.
Monthly services can be pricey, which is why it's vital to review your options before selecting your merchant services provider. However, more than 1,000 credit processors exist. So, how do you know which one is best for your business? We researched 27 credit card processing companies and analyzed services for ease of use, customer services, and transparent fee structures.
To narrow the choices, we looked for companies that offer extra services, plenty of integrations, and superior reliability. Here are the best credit card processing companies according to our rigorous examination.
The 7 Best Credit Card Processing Companies of 2021
Helcim: Best Overall
With transparent pricing and volume-based discounts, Helcim helps you scale your business.
CRM and inventory management tools included
Many options to get support
Online approval makes it easy to sign up
Only one plan to choose from
Only one type of hardware
Helcim has been in business since 2006, expanding from a payment processor to a financial technology company offering various business solutions. With a low monthly rate and a fee schedule that rewards you for higher volumes, Helcim is a great choice with plenty of options for small business owners, which is why it’s our best overall winner.
The company is a Level 1 PCI-DSS compliant service provider that uses top-notch security practices typical with financial technology companies.
Business owners use Helcim to accept payments like:
- American Express
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
- Pin debit cards
It takes about five minutes to sign up for a Helcim account, and you don’t need any hardware to get started. Simply download the payments app to start accepting payments. For in-store transactions, order the Helcim Card Reader for $299, which connects with smartphones, desktops, or tablets.
While Helcim integrates with QuickBooks and WooCommerce, the real benefits come from its extra services. You can turn any device into a workhorse using cloud programs from Helcim, including:
- Point of sale (POS) system
- Customer management
- Inventory management
- Payments app
The company offers one plan for $20 per month, plus interchange-plus fees. Their website includes a tool so you can quickly adjust your monthly volume to see how it affects your rates. Plus, Helcim waives your monthly fee automatically if you don’t process a payment that month.
The fee rates are straightforward and give you discounts for volume. You’ll pay an interchange fee plus the following rates per transaction:
- $0 to $25,000 volume per month: In-person: 0.30% plus $0.08; Keyed or online: 0.50% plus $0.25
- $25,001 to $50,000 volume per month: In-person: 0.25% plus $0.07; Keyed or online: 0.45% plus $0.20
- $50,001 to $100,000 volume per month: In-person: 0.20% plus $0.07; Keyed or online: 0.40% plus $0.20
- $100,001 to $250,000 volume per month: In-person: 0.18% plus $0.06; Keyed or online: 0.35% plus $0.15
Moreover, you’ll get money in your bank from payments within two business days. If you have any problems, you’ll appreciate the phone and email customer support, along with a robust knowledge base and self-service center.
PayPal: Best for Low Transaction Volumes
Fast, familiar, and easy to use for businesses with smaller monthly sales figures.
Fast, hassle-free setup
Offers mobile wallet options in-store
No monthly fees or contracts
Not suited for a high volume of transactions
The company can hold your funds if you’re suspected of fraudulent activity
Doesn’t have 24/7 phone support
In business since 1998, PayPal is a trusted name. Many online storefronts offer PayPal payment options, and now you can do the same in your store. PayPal stands out by offering the best merchant services for small businesses with low transaction volumes.
PayPal holds many PCI compliance certifications, including the Mastercard Site Data Protection Program and Visa Cardholder Information Security Program.
With PayPal, you can accept all major credit and debit cards, including:
- American Express
- PayPal credit cards
Setup is simple. For online payments, you’ll need to download the PayPal Here app. Creating your account takes minutes, and you can start accepting online payments immediately. For in-store transactions, you’ll need to order the card reader. The basic model is free. You can by a more advanced model that does tap payments for $79.99.
If you already have a point of sale system in place, PayPal integrates with Revel Systems, Vend, Lavu, and TouchBistro. You can also connect it to your QuickBooks, Constant Contact, or Shopify accounts.
With no monthly fees or startup costs, PayPal is a great way to accept payments quickly. PayPal has extra fees, but for businesses with a low volume of transactions, you’ll rarely come across many, except for the $20 chargeback fee. PayPal’s fee structure consists of per payment fees:
- In-person sales via a card reader: 2.7% + $0.30 per payment
- Online transactions: 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction
Lastly, you get paid quickly. As soon as you authorize the payment, you can transfer it to your account with a processing time of around 24 hours or you can pay an extra 1% fee to get it instantly. PayPal offers phone support seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. PST. You can also get help in the resolution center, via text, or in community groups.
National Processing: Lowest Fees
This budget-friendly service offers low prices for processing with its no-frills approach.
No monthly minimum volume
A variety of plans
You may get hit with a early termination fee
No equipment prices on website
ACH/eCheck processing fees aren’t listed
Established in 2007, National Processing earns good reviews among small to medium business owners for its reliable service and pricing transparency.
With its $10 per month plans, you can process payments with a low fee per transaction, making it a clear winner for the lowest fees.
National Processing is PCI-compliant. The company accepts all primary payment forms, including:
- American Express
- Electronic checks
- Online transactions
National Processing partners with Clover to provide a full range of Clover equipment, such as:
- Clover Go: Comes free with a contract and works with your phone
- Clover Flex: A portable all-in-one register and printer
- Clover Mini: A small POS system
- Clover Station: A full-size POS system
With no minimum monthly fees, an interchange-plus rate system, and a transparent pricing model, it’s easy to figure out how much credit card processing will cost. For each plan, you’ll pay the monthly charge, interchange rate, and transaction fees:
- $10 per month Restaurant plan: 0.15% plus $0.07
- $10 per month Retail plan: 0.20% plus $0.10
- $10 per month e-Commerce plan: 0.30% plus $0.15
- $59 per month Enterprise plan: 0% plus $0.09
- $199 per month Enterprise plan: 0% plus $0.05
You’ll get your funds in one to three days, and merchants also benefit from 24/7 telephone and email support, along with a support team that helps you integrate existing systems or select the right plan.
Square: Easiest Setup
Start accepting credit card payments in-store and online within minutes.
Free POS software
Many equipment options
Phone support only during business hours
Suspicious transactions may result in funds being held
In business since 2009, Square is a familiar and reputable company that delivers a range of services to support your growing company. Within five minutes, you can start accepting credit cards at your business, making Square the best for easy setup.
Square complies with all PCI regulations and leads the industry with technology and security protocols, including end-to-end encryption.
With Square credit processing, you can accept all major credit cards and most internationally issued cards, including:
- American Express
- Consumer credit cards
- Business credit cards
- Debit cards
- Prepaid cards
To get started with Square, you’ll need to purchase the Square reader. However, many signups qualify for a free magstripe reader. Other options include the Square terminal or Square register. You can pay a one-time fee or spread the costs over a 12- to 24-month timeframe. Square also offers a variety of hardware options like barcode scanners, printers, and docks.
The company provides plenty of integrations using its Square App Marketplace. Popular integrations include QuickBooks, IFTTT, and Zero. You’ll get a free point of sale system which is compatible with Apple and Android devices. Plus, Square grows with you by offering a range of solutions such as:
- Loyalty programs
- Payroll services
- e-Commerce website design
- Appointment and scheduling software
Square’s fees are unique in that you pay a flat rate regardless of the credit card type. With Square, you won’t pay monthly, chargeback, early termination, or PCI compliance fees. The flat rates consist of:
- Card present payments: 2.65%
- Online card not present payments: 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction
- Manually keyed in cards: 3.4% plus $0.15 per transaction
You’ll have funds in your account within one to two business days or you can opt for an instant transfer for a 1.5% fee. Plus, you can access phone support from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. PST or you can email 24/7. Their website also gives you access to a seller community and tutorial videos.
Stripe: Best for e-Commerce
Stripe provides the features and customization that online retailers need.
Hundreds of integrations with business software
Custom pricing available
Accepts all mobile wallet payments
High-risk businesses must wait seven days for payment
Phone support upon request
Fraudulent activity may result in a hold on your funds
Since 2010, Stripe has been a top-rated online payment service provider. Its flexibility makes it easy to integrate into various business systems. With flat rates and plenty of ways to customize, Stripe easily wins the category for best e-commerce processors.
As a PCI Level 1 Service Provider, Stripe ensures safety using various security methods and abiding by the latest regulations. The company accepts many credit cards and digital payment types:
- Visa Debit
- American Express
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
- Visa Checkout
- Masterpass by Mastercard
- Amex Express Checkout
- Microsoft Pay
- WeChat Pay
- International payment options
With hundreds of features and integrations, Stripe processing fits seamlessly with your existing hardware and software. Along with pre-certified third-party equipment, Stripe offers card readers from $59 to $299. Integrate easily with popular programs like Mailchimp, WooCommerce, or QuickBooks. However, Stripe provides a range of its own business solutions, including:
- Stripe Billing
- Stripe Connect
- Radar for Fraud Teams
- Stripe Sigma
- Stripe Atlas
The flexibility extends to Stripe’s flat-rate pricing. You won’t pay a monthly fee or need to meet a monthly minimum volume. Stripe works with you to develop custom pricing solutions and offers discounts for companies processing more than $100,000 per month. The flat rates are:
- Domestic credit and debit card payments: 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction
- ACH debit transfers: 0.8% with a $5 cap
- In-person payments: 2.7% plus $0.05 per transaction
Although there’s a waiting period to transfer your first payments, it typically takes two days to receive funds after the initial payment or you can opt for Instant Payouts where money gets transferred to your debit card.
Stripe offers 24/7 customer support with email or chat options. Although you can’t call into customer service, Stripe says you can request a phone call with an average wait time of three minutes.
Fattmerchant: Best for Large Volumes
The company's subscription-based service with no markup on interchange rates makes Fattmerchant perfect for businesses with large volumes.
Invoicing and billing tools
Virtual POS terminals
0% markup on interchange rates
Pricey monthly subscription
Not worth it for low-volume processing
Fattmerchant launched in 2014 with its unusual name, which is an acronym for Fast, Affordable, Transaction, Technology. The company stands up to that acronym by offering affordable services, tons of add-ons, and everything your business needs to grow. Fattmerchant’s volume-friendly plans make it our pick as best for large volumes.
Fattmerchant is a Level 1 PCI Service Provider providing end-to-end encryption and tokenization. Plus, they’ll help you stay PCI-compliant with a variety of tools and support options.
With Fattmerchant, you can accept all major credit cards at your business, including:
- American Express
- Pin Debit
- JCB Dining
- Health Flex
Signing up to Fattmerchant is simple, thanks to its five-minute application process. However, you’ll need to wait for approval and shipping of your equipment, meaning you won’t be able to accept payments until around 10 days after approval. All equipment is plug-and-play, so there’s no hassle with setup. You can purchase a terminal or mobile card reader from Fattmerchant, and the company can reprogram many standard EMV terminals.
Popular integrations consist of QuickBooks, Salesforce, WooCommerce, and many POS systems. However, the Omni platform gives robust reporting and payment features like:
- Omni heatmap
- Financial reporting
- Customer management
- Sales and service monitoring
Fattmerchant offers two plans that you can cancel at any time. But, the plans only cover one payment format. So you’ll pay separate monthly fees for each type of service, like online shopping cart versus EMV chip card terminal versus mobile credit card reader.
Along with the interchange fee, you’ll pay a monthly fee and transaction fees according to your plan:
- $99 for businesses processing under $500,000 monthly: EMV terminal fee: 0% plus $0.08; All other payments: 0% plus $0.15 per transaction
- $199 for companies processing over $500,000 monthly: EMV terminal fee: 0% plus $0.06; Mobile card reader or online payments: 0% plus $0.12; Virtual terminal payments: 0% plus $0.15 per transaction
Customer support options include 24/7 phone support, live chat, and email. Their website provides a comprehensive knowledge base and helpful blog posts.
PaymentCloud: Best for High-Risk Merchants
From furniture stores to business owners with bad credit, PaymentCloud allows you to process credit cards and rise above obstacles.
Fast application approval
Easy to set up
Next day funding
Dedicated account manager
No pricing information on website
Pricing varies by risk
May face early termination fees
In business since 2016, PaymentCloud maintains a diverse customer base and offers solutions for in-store and online business needs. As a reputable credit processor, PaymentCloud delivers competitive rates while serving companies that have trouble qualifying for other services, making it the winner in our high-risk category.
PaymentCloud is PCI-compliant and accepts major credit cards, including:
- American Express
- Apple Pay
- Union Pay
Since high-risk companies face many barriers, PaymentCloud gives you a dedicated account manager. This person works with you to determine your plan and fee structure and helps integrate essential software and hardware. Since high-risk services charge rates according to risk, you won’t find fee information on PaymentCloud’s website.
PaymentCloud features an open API, so it integrates with WooCommerce, WordPress, and Wix. You can also connect your QuickBooks account. Other services include help with data migration and step-by-step guidance for setup.
From a free EMV reader to POS equipment, PaymentCloud offers a wide variety of hardware. Your account manager helps you select the right mix of hardware, such as:
- MaXXPay POS systems
- Wireless and wired credit card terminals
- Card readers for smartphones or tablets
With PaymentCloud, you’ll get funds in your bank as soon as the next day. Customer support is robust since you can talk to your dedicated account manager, call customer support between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. PST, or use their 24/7 technical support lines.
What Is a Credit Card Processor?
If you’re a business owner who wants to accept credit cards, debit cards, or mobile payments, then you’re called a merchant. Credit card processors, also called merchant service providers or acquiring service providers, administer a service so you can accept credit card payments at your business.
Merchant providers offer software so you can view your transactions, fees, chargebacks, and more on a single dashboard. Typically, business owners can purchase or lease hardware, including devices like card terminals or mobile readers.
Any business that accepts credit cards, whether it’s a restaurant or retail shop, uses a service and devices for credit card processing. Merchant services may also integrate with point of sale (POS) systems, customer relationship management (CMS) software, or accounting programs.
Although it only takes seconds to accept a credit card payment, there’s an intricate (and fast) process that involves authorization and authentication behind the scenes. Various security protocols are followed, and information is transferred to both the credit card network and the credit card’s issuing bank.
How Do Merchant Providers Work?
Merchant providers are the go-between service that connects everything behind the scenes. Providers connect to the credit card network, thousands of issuing banks, and your banking services. To ensure the utmost security, most credit card processors are PCI-compliant and use advanced encryption methods.
To select the right credit card processing services, it’s essential to review your current or projected credit card payment volume and where customers pay (online, at your cash register, or via mobile devices). Then compare companies by looking at how much you’ll pay for processing while assessing customer support and extra services.
What Equipment Do I Need to Accept Credit Cards?
From a small Square phone device to a freestanding POS register, your processing equipment depends on your merchant service provider requirements, what systems you already have, and how you want to accept payments. As more stores add mobile options, you may have kiosks or mobile payment devices available in your store, along with a card terminal at your checkout counter.
Although you don’t need special devices for e-commerce payments, many credit card processors may charge different online purchase rates or require you to purchase a separate plan for online services.
What Are the Costs of Credit Card Processing?
Merchant credit services charge various per-transaction fees and offer monthly subscription programs. The most common cost is the interchange rate. Credit cards like Visa charge this fee, and it gets passed to you.
Most processors use an interchange-plus pricing model. This fee includes a percentage of your sale that goes to the processor and a rate per payment fee. Prices vary by company but typically have the following ranges:
- Monthly fees: $0 to $599 per month
- Transaction fees: 0% to 3.5% per payment
- Flat-rate fees: $0.05 to $0.30 per transaction
How We Chose the Best Credit Card Processing Companies
To narrow our credit processors list to only seven, we looked at dozens of reputable merchant providers. To make our top list, providers had to be PCI-compliant and accept all standard credit cards. For providers servicing high-volume accounts, 24/7 customer service was a must.
However, we know business owners need more than just one more service. Integrations with your software are key, which is why we looked at processors that offer syncing capabilities with your CMS, accounting, and POS systems.
We narrowed our list further by assessing total cost differences between companies with subscriptions or transaction fees while balancing out the benefits of extra services or software options, like inventory management software. Furthermore, we combed through data to uncover details about processing times and ease of setup.
Weave. "New Payment Statistics." Accessed December 7, 2020.