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As more shoppers stop using cash, it is easy to lose out on potential sales if you don't accept credit and debit cards. There are plenty of systems to help you process digital and card payments for online and in-store purchases. Finding the best credit card processing company for your business doesn't have to be difficult and expensive. Look for one that is easy to use, offers low monthly fees, and plenty of integrations with Apple Pay and Google Pay to QuickBooks.
Best Credit Card Processing Companies of 2023
- Best Overall: Helcim
- Best for Low Transaction Volumes: PayPal
- Lowest Fees: National Processing
- Easiest Setup: Square
- Best for e-Commerce: Stripe
- Best for Large Volumes: Stax by Fattmerchant
- Best for High-Risk Merchants: PaymentCloud
Best Overall : Helcim
- Cost: Varies on the amount of sales
- Apply online: Yes
- Card reader or hardware: Available for $109
With transparent pricing and volume-based discounts, Helcim does a great job of helping owners scale their businesses. Plus, it doesn't charge a monthly fee and can be used with both digital payments and credit cards, and your money is deposited into your account within two business days.
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 no monthly fees and a fee schedule that rewards you for higher volumes, Helcim has 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 solid security practices typical of 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 $109, 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
You'll only pay the interchange and transaction fees based on volume. The fee rates are straightforward and give you discounts for volume. You'll pay an interchange fee plus the following rates per transaction:
|Volume per Month||In-Person||Keyed or Online|
|$0 to $25,000||0.30% plus $0.08||0.50% plus $0.25|
|$25,001 to $50,000||0.25% plus $0.07||0.45% plus $0.20|
|$50,001 to $100,000||0.20% plus $0.07||0.40% plus $0.20|
|$100,001 to $250,000||0.18% plus $0.06||0.35% plus $0.15|
If you have any problems, you'll appreciate its email and phone support line, open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. MST, plus a robust self-service center for troubleshooting any potential issues.
Best for Low Transaction Volumes : PayPal
- Cost: No monthly fees, per-payment cost
- Apply online: Yes
- Card reader or hardware included: The first reader costs $29; subsequent ones for $79
This is our top pick for smaller businesses with low transaction volumes and smaller monthly sales figures. PayPal is fast, familiar, easy to use, and integrates with many point-of-sale programs.
Fast, hassle-free setup
Offers mobile wallet options in-store
No monthly fees or contracts
Not suited for a high volume of transactions
May hold your funds for potential 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
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 card reader costs $29 per new business user. The Standard PayPal Zettle card reader price is $79.
If you already have a point-of-sale system in place, PayPal integrates with Vend 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: 2.29% plus $0.09 per payment
- Online transactions: 2.59% plus $0.49 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 two to three business days, or you can pay an extra 1.5% fee to get it instantly. PayPal offers phone support and chat but it does not list specific support hours. You can get help in the resolution center, via text, or in community groups.
Lowest Fees : National Processing
This budget-friendly service offers low prices for processing with its no-frills approach. Small business owners who need to budget will appreciate its price transparency to determine how much everything will cost.
No monthly minimum volume
A variety of plans
Early termination fees
No equipment prices on website
Established in 2007, National Processing earns good reviews among small to medium business owners for its reliable service and pricing transparency. With its $9.95 per month plan, 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:
- $9.95 per month Restaurant plan: 0.14% plus $0.07
- $9.95 per month Retail plan: 0.18% plus $0.10
- $9.95 per month e-Commerce plan: 0.29% plus $0.15
- $59 per month Subscription plan: 0% plus $0.09
- $199 per month Subscription Plus plan: 0% plus $0.05
Merchants also benefit from telephone and email support, along with a support team that helps you integrate existing systems or select the right plan.
Easiest Setup : Square
- Cost: Flat rates based on the type of transaction
- Apply online: Yes
- Card reader or hardware included: Yes (cost varies on the type of hardware)
Square is simple to set up, and you can start accepting credit card payments, both in-store and online, within minutes.
Free POS software
Many equipment options
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
Square’s free credit card reader works with the free Square POS app to let everyone accept payments on their smartphone or tablet. Other options include the Square Terminal or Square Register. There's also a free plan (transaction fee only) or you can pay a one-time fee or spread the costs over a 12- to 24-month timeframe if you are using a larger POS system. 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 Xero. You’ll get a free point-of-sale system 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 because you pay a flat rate regardless of the credit card type. You won’t pay monthly chargeback, early termination, or PCI compliance fees with Square. The flat rates consist of the following:
- Card present payments: 2.6% plus $0.10 per transaction
- Online card, not present payments: 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction
- Manually keyed in cards: 3.5% 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, or you can email 24/7. Its website also gives you access to a seller community and tutorial videos.
Best for e-Commerce : Stripe
- Cost: Varies; custom pricing available
- Apply online: No
- Card reader or hardware included: Yes ($59 to $249)
Stripe's strength comes from its ability to integrate with hundreds of business software. And if you are an e-commerce entrepreneur, Stripe should be a top contender because it also accepts all forms of mobile wallet payments.
Hundreds of integrations with business software
Custom pricing available
Accepts all mobile wallet payments
High-risk businesses must wait 14 days for payment
Fraudulent activity may result in a hold
Since 2010, Stripe has been a top-rated online payment service provider. With flat rates and plenty of ways to customize, Stripe easily wins the category for best e-commerce processors. Its flexibility makes it easy to integrate into various business systems.
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 seamlessly fits your existing hardware and software. Along with pre-certified third-party equipment, Stripe offers card readers from $59 to $249. 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, phone, or chat options.
Best for Large Volumes : Stax by Fattmerchant
- Cost: Starts at $99 a month
- Apply online: Yes, but you have to wait for approval
- Card reader or hardware included: Yes (price not listed)
The company's subscription-based service with no markup on interchange rates makes Fattmerchant perfect for businesses with large volumes.
Virtual POS terminals
0% markup on interchange rates
Pricey monthly subscription
Not worth it for low-volume processing
Stax by Fattmerchant was launched in 2014 as Fattmerchant, 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. Stax's volume-friendly plans make it our pick as best for large volumes.
Stax is a Level 1 PCI Service Provider providing end-to-end encryption and tokenization. Plus, it will help you stay PCI-compliant with various tools and support options. With Stax, you can accept all major credit cards at your business, including:
- American Express
- Pin Debit
- JCB Dining
- Health Flex
Signing up to Stax 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 four 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 Stax, and the company can reprogram many standard EMV terminals. Popular integrations include QuickBooks, Salesforce, WooCommerce, and many POS systems.
Stax by Fattmerchant offers three plans, including its most popular "Pro" plan for $159 per month. 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, including the first $500,000 in annual processing and a 0% markup on the direct-cost interchange. Customer support options include 24/7 phone support, live chat, and email. Its website provides a comprehensive knowledge base and helpful blog posts.
Best for High-Risk Merchants : PaymentCloud
- Cost: Pricing varies by risk
- Apply online: Yes
- Card reader or hardware included: Free EMV reader and POS equipment
PaymentCloud is available to businesses that other companies may consider a risk. We like it because it gives business owners trying to rise above obstacles like bad credit an opportunity to be successful.
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 2015, 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 with 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
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 integrates with WooCommerce, WordPress, and Wix, which have open APIs. 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:
- Wireless and wired credit card terminals
- Card readers for smartphones or tablets
With PaymentCloud, you’ll get funds in your bank within days. Customer support is robust since you can talk to your dedicated account manager, call customer support between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. PST, or use its 24/7 technical support lines.
Helcim took the best overall category because of its transparent pricing, volume-based discounts, and easy setup, plus it doesn't make you wait too long for payments (only two business days at the most).
Compare the Best Credit Card Processing Companies
|Company||Cost||Apply Online||Card Reader or Hardware Included|
|Varies on the amount of sales||Yes||Available for $109|
Best for Low Transaction Volumes
|No monthly fees, per-payment cost||Yes||The first reader costs $29; subsequent ones for $79|
|$9.95 fixed monthly plan||Yes||No|
|Flat rates based on the type of transaction||Yes||Yes (cost varies on the type of hardware )|
Best for e-Commerce
|Varies; custom pricing available||No||Yes ($59 to $249)|
|Stax by Fattmerchant
Best for Large Volumes
|Starts at $99 a month||Yes, but you have to wait for approval||Yes (price not listed)|
Best for High-Risk Merchants
|Pricing varies by risk||Yes||Free EMV reader and POS equipment|
Guide to Choosing a Credit Card Processing Company
Any business that accepts credit cards, whether a restaurant or retail shop, uses a service and devices for credit card processing. To select the right credit card processing services, reviewing your current or projected credit card payment volume and where customers pay (online, at your cash register, or via mobile devices) is essential. Then compare companies by looking at how much you’ll pay for processing while assessing customer support and extra services.
Merchant services may also integrate with point of sale (POS) systems, customer relationship management (CMS) software, or accounting programs, so it is worth asking about these integrations before you commit to a company.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Credit Card Processing Company?
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 to help you view transactions, fees, chargebacks, and more on a single dashboard. Business owners can often purchase or lease hardware from a credit card processing company, including devices like card terminals or mobile readers.
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. Although it only takes seconds to accept a credit card payment, an intricate (and fast) process involves authorization and authentication behind the scenes via a credit card processing company. Most credit card processors are PCI-compliant to ensure the utmost security and use advanced encryption methods.
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.
How Much Do Credit Card Companies Charge for Processing?
Credit card companies charge various per-transaction fees and offer monthly subscription programs. The most common processing cost is the interchange rate and most processors use an interchange-plus pricing model. Credit cards like Visa charge this fee, and it gets passed to you. This fee includes a percentage of your sales going 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
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, so 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 processing times and ease of setup details.