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The Best Credit Card Payment Processing Apps for 2018

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Credit card processing apps can be powerful tools for merchants. Instead of investing in an expensive POS system, a credit card processing app works on a smartphone or tablet, allowing merchants to use low-cost hardware with an affordable (or even nonexistent) software fee. The terminology can be a bit inconsistent — you might have heard credit card processing apps called point of sale/POS apps or even mPOS (mobile point of sale) apps. The ability to function on a smartphone or tablet (typically iOS or Android) is just one aspect of the equation. These apps also offer small, lightweight mobile card readers rather than full-on credit card terminals that require a dedicated internet connection.

But where do you start to look? What features do you need? How much do these apps cost, and which ones lead the pack? Let’s start by taking a closer look at four very important aspects to consider when choosing a credit card processing app, and then I’ll introduce you to our favorite providers for 2018.

Check out Square, our top-rated credit card processing app

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Free App & ReaderSquare eCommerceSquare for RetailSquare for Restaurants
Get StartedGet StartedGet StartedGet Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and AndroidEasy integration with popular platforms plus API for customizationSpecialized software for more complex retail storesSpecialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month$0/month$60/month$60/month
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4 Key Features To Look For In A Credit Card Processing App

Not all credit card processing apps are created equal. Finding the right option means having an understanding of what you and your business need. What features are must-haves in terms of inventory and reporting? What operating system would you like your POS app available on? Would having a virtual terminal as a backup be helpful? Are you okay with paying a monthly software fee or would you rather have a pay-as-you-go option?

You’ll have many factors to consider. Apart from a list of specific features, here are three other considerations you should take into account:

Standalone POS Or Integrated Platform?

Do you just need a credit card processing app to take payments in person? Or do you plan to sell online, do custom orders, and maybe even sell on social media? A standalone POS app is great if you only plan to sell in person. But if you plan to run your business through multiple sales channels, an integrated platform will make managing everything much simpler. Choosing an all-in-one solution means you can get inventory updates without having to cross-reference or reconcile multiple reports. (For example, no more selling the last of a product in stores and then getting an online order for it.)

With an integrated platform, you can also manage custom orders and invoices from the same portal as all your other sales. No mucking about with spreadsheets or checking emails to see whether payment has been sent. An all-in-one approach makes managing a business easier if you plan to take advantage of multiple sales channels. And if you plan to only sell online but don’t want to rule out the possibility of expanding later, you can still find an integrated platform that won’t charge you for those services until you’re ready to use them.

Payment Processing Costs

Payment processing costs, in this case, refer to the actual transaction processing rates as well as any applicable software costs. Some credit card processing apps offer free software and only charge for transaction costs; others charge for both the software and payment processing. Obviously, you’ll save more money (in most cases, at least) if you opt for a payment processing app that has no software fees. However, sometimes the trade-off does provide more value — namely in the form of convenience, or a greater array of features. (Remember, the best value doesn’t always equate to the lowest price. It’s about what features you get, and the quality of the experience.)

It’s fairly common for credit card processing apps to offer flat-rate pricing rather than interchange-plus pricing. Flat-rate pricing does it make it very simple to estimate your processing costs because every transaction costs the same regardless of the type of card. For higher-volume businesses, interchange-plus pricing usually translates into greater cost savings.

Cost Of Hardware

Even if the software for a credit card processing app is free, you still need to consider the cost of the hardware. The credit card reader is a major consideration here, but it’s not the only one. You need a tablet (or smartphone) to run the app from. And depending on your setup, you might want a cash drawer, a receipt printer, or maybe even a kitchen printer or barcode scanner. Buying every component individually can be pretty expensive — so make sure you know what hardware you need. Some providers offer hardware bundles at a discounted rate, which can save you money. It’s a good idea to know just how much you want to spend on hardware before start shopping.

Once upon a time, many processors offered a free magstripe reader to get you started. However, in 2018 you absolutely must have a chip card reader to protect your business from fraudulent swipe transactions. Not many companies are offering a free chip-enabled credit card reader, but it’s absolutely worth the investment to have peace of mind.

Third-Party Processor Or Merchant Account?

One final consideration for choosing a credit card processing app is the type of payment processor you use. Payment processors fall into one of two categories: merchant account or third-party processor (sometimes called an aggregator). Third-party processors get their names because essentially act as an intermediary between a merchant account and merchants — the third party processor has its own merchant account, and it essentially onboards new merchants as sub-users of the account. All of those user accounts are lumped together, or aggregated. As a result of this business model, it’s very easy and quick to set up an account with a third-party processor — much more so than with most merchant accounts. The trade-off is that you face a greater amount of scrutiny after you open the account, and your funds could be held or your account terminated without any warning. This tends to be the single greatest complaint about any third-party payment processor, and the number of complaints can be overwhelming. However, the reality is these complaints come from a very small portion of the overall userbase.

That said, a merchant account will always offer more stability than a third-party processor because you go through a more thorough vetting process before signing up. You typically also get more personalized attention, but most merchant accounts are targeted at businesses doing at least $10,000/month in credit card payments.

5 Best Mobile Credit Card Processing Apps

Now that you have an idea of what you need and what to look for in a credit card processing app, let’s take a closer look at some of the top options. I’m delighted to say that for the first time we’re expanding this list to look at options that operate outside the US. We’ve pulled together a mix of standalone payment processing apps and integrated platforms, third-party processors and merchant accounts, to give you options that cater to nearly any merchant’s needs.

Square

Square is, without a question, one of the best-known names among credit card processing apps. Just about anyone can sign up for a Square account and start accepting credit card payments. The free app, Square Point of Sale, is one of the most advanced mPOS options available, with an extensive array of supported features on both iOS and Android. Square offers advanced inventory management tools as well as a selection of compatible hardware for countertop register setups as well as mobile.

But the real value in Square is the all-in-one platform. Square offers free invoicing and a virtual terminal (you just pay the transaction costs), ecommerce integrations and a free online store, plus premium POS apps with competitive pricing, tailored to a range of industries. Plus, you can add on marketing, loyalty, and payroll programs that integrate seamlessly with the rest of the suite. The Square dashboard unifies everything and functions as the centralized control panel for your business, with advanced reporting abilities. Check out our complete Square review for a look at the many services and features Square offers.

ReadereCommerceRetailFood Service
Free App & ReaderSquare eCommerceSquare for RetailSquare for Restaurants
Get StartedGet StartedGet StartedGet Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and AndroidEasy integration with popular platforms plus API for customizationSpecialized software for more complex retail storesSpecialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month$0/month$60/month$60/month
Always FreeAlways FreeFree TrialFree Trial

You don’t have to use all Square’s features if you don’t want to. You won’t be paying extra for features you won’t use, which is one of the many things that makes Square a great option for businesses. When your business is at a point where expanding to a new sales channel makes sense, you can simply start using that Square service.

Square Point of Sale is free to use, but if you need more than the free POS app, you do have options:

  • Square For Retail: An iPad exclusive POS with an interface optimized for searching and barcode scanning, with enhanced inventory features. Starting at $60/month plus transaction processing costs. Check out our review for a closer look.
  • Square For Restaurants: An iPad exclusive POS ideal for full service restaurants. The app allows you to build your menu from scratch as well as create your restaurant floor plan. Starting at $60/month plus transaction processing costs. Check out our review for more information.
  • Square Appointments: An iOS exclusive, Square Appointments is free for individuals, but charges a monthly subscription fee for 2 or more employees. Subscriptions starting at $50/month plus transaction processing costs. Our complete Square Appointments review has more information.

With Square Point of Sale, you’ll pay a straightforward 2.75% per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction. Keyed transactions process at 3.5% + $0.15, while invoices and online transaction process at 2.95% + $0.30. Different rates apply for the other Square POS apps. Please take note, as well: Square is a third-party processor, so merchants need to be prepared to deal with the risk of sudden transaction holds.

One of the other major advantages of Square is the large selection of hardware. Square does offer a free magstripe reader for new merchants, but you should absolutely upgrade to a chip card reader. Square offers two options: the Chip Card Reader ($35) or the Contactless + Chip Reader ($49). If you’re more interested in a countertop setup, Square offers its Square Stand ($169), Square Terminal ($399), or Square Register ($999) as well.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Square is available outside the US, specifically in Canada, the UK, Japan, and Australia. Different pricing applies to these countries. While I’m not sure about Square’s prevalence in the UK, Japan, or Australia, I do know Square tends to be a popular option in Canada and it does support Interac debit.

  • Integrated, all-in-one platform
  • Free POS app (Premium apps also available)
  • 2.75% per in-person transaction
  • 3.5% + $0.15 per keyed transactions
  • 2.9% + $0.30 per invoice or online transaction
  • Free card reader (Chip card readers starting at $35)
  • No contracts or monthly fees

Get Started With Square

Payline Mobile

Payline Data is a rare case of a merchant account offering that’s suitable even for low-volume merchants, and it also offers an mPOS app. This is a bit of a rarity because most merchant accounts, even those that offer an mPOS, are targeted at merchants who typically process at least $10,000/month. Payline’s threshold is a lot lower, in that merchants need to generate $25/month in fees (typically about $1,000/month in volume).

While it’s not the most powerful system out there, the Payline Mobile app is definitely capable of meeting most merchants’ needs for standalone payment processing. You can read my full Payline Mobile review for a closer look at the app. The inventory tools are fairly basic, but a customer database with notes, as well as support for barcode scanning using the device’s camera, help offset that. It won’t come close to substituting for a proper countertop POS but if you don’t need all of the frills, there’s certainly a lot to love about Payline.

Payline doesn’t use yearly or multi-year contracts. Everything is month-to-month, so you can cancel at any time. Apart from a $10 monthly fee, Payline doesn’t have any other monthly or yearly fees, and Payline handles PCI compliance for you, too. What’s most interesting is that despite all of this, Payline still offers cost-plus (also known as interchange-plus) pricing. Transactions process at interchange rates with a 0.2% + $0.10 markup.

As far as hardware options, Payline does offer a basic magstripe reader (it’s an Ingenico GX5) as well as a Bluetooth-enabled all in one reader, an Ingenico RP457c. I haven’t reviewed that particular reader, but the design does intrigue me and it is compatible with a charging dock for countertop use. Pricing isn’t disclosed, but some merchants might qualify for a free reader.

  • Standalone processing option
  • Free mPOS app
  • $10 monthly fee
  • interchange plus 0.2% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Pricing not disclosed for card readers
  • No contracts

Get Started With Payline

Shopify Lite

Shopify started solely as an eCommerce provider, but it’s slowly built up its products into a powerful all-in-one platform so you can sell seamlessly online and in person, including its own branded third-party payment service, powered by Stripe. Shopify’s ecommerce tools are top of the line, and its POS app, simply called Shopify POS, is constantly improving.

Shopify POS is included for free with all Shopify ecommerce plans, which start at $29/month. Our full Shopify review breaks down your options for online selling. However, if you’re only interested in the POS and some entry-level selling tools, the Shopify Lite plan, at $9/month, might be appealing. (Read our review for Shopify Lite.) It includes invoicing as well as the ability to create “buy” buttons and a Facebook shop. Shopify’s inventory is on par with Square’s, and most of its other features are closely in line with Square’s as well.

Whereas Square is the best value platform if you plan to sell primarily in person and supplement with online sales, Shopify is the best value platform if you want to sell online and supplement it with in-person sales. I think that’s an important distinction to make. With Shopify, you get a completely seamless platform to manage all of your inventory and fulfill online orders across multiple channels. And now Shopify is working on upgrading its features to make the platform more friendly to businesses with multiple retail locations.

MobilePOSOnlineSocial Media
Mobile App + Free Card ReaderPoint of SaleOnline StoreSocial Media Selling
Get StartedGet StartedGet StartedGet Started
Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardwareAll-purpose POS integrated with all sales channelsBuild a store or integrate with your current websiteSell on Facebook and other platforms
Starts at $9/monthStarts at $29/monthStarts at $29/monthStarts at $9/month
Free TrialFree TrialFree TrialFree Trial

However, the Shopify Lite plan does make it a worthy contender as a standalone platform, too. And upgrading to another Shopify plan later on is incredibly painless. So this is definitely an option that will grow as your business grows.

Payments process at 2.7% per transaction for tapped, dipped, or swiped transactions, or 2.9% + $0.30 for keyed transactions. The higher Shopify plan tiers include discounts on payment processing for both online and in-person, but you’d have to do a significant volume to justify the cost savings based on the transaction rates alone. (You should certainly consider other factors, such as access to additional features, if you’re thinking about a higher-tiered plan).

Plus, Shopify offers new merchants a free Chip & Swipe reader (retail price $29). I’ve already reviewed Shopify’s card reader very favorably, and it’s easily one of my favorite devices. Shopify is the only provider on this list that offers a free chip card reader to all of its merchants, which is no small consideration.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Shopify is actually a Canadian business. It seems to have concentrated the bulk of its efforts on the US market, but Shopify does support merchants using its POS app in Canada and the UK — though you’ll find your hardware options and pricing vary.

  • Integrated, all-in-one platform
  • Plans starting at $9/month
  • 2.7% per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction
  • 2.9% + $0.30 per keyed transaction
  • 2.9% + $0.30 per online and invoice transaction
  • Free chip card reader

Get Started With Shopify

SumUp

I said in another article (a comparison of Square vs. SumUp) that SumUp is a bit like Square’s sophisticated, minimalist European cousin. And I still think that’s an accurate comparison. SumUp’s standalone mPOS app works in many European countries and expanded into the US a while back. While SumUp’s app is definitely the simplest option on this list, it has the essentials that merchants need for in-person sales. Check out our SumUp review for more information.

Like most of the other options on this list, SumUp is a third-party aggregator, so you can sign up and start taking payments very quickly. The app itself is free, and transactions process at 2.65%, which is fractionally lower than Square or Shopify (you’d need a large volume to see any real cost savings). Perhaps the most notable quirk of SumUp’s app is the lack of support for keyed entry, but this I think has more to do with the company’s financial partners than anything. SumUp is still a third-party processor, after all.

If you don’t need a lot and just want a well designed mobile processing app, SumUp is a great choice. Its mobile card reader, at $69, is admittedly somewhat expensive. But it accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions, and overall is incredibly well designed. (You can check out my unboxing review of the SumUp card reader for a more in-depth look at the actual device).

  • Standalone mPOS
  • No monthly fees
  • 2.65% per transaction
  • No keyed entry
  • $69 all-in-one card reader

Get Started With SumUp

iZettle

iZettle is unique in that it’s the only option on this list that doesn’t operate in the US at all. While Shopify, SumUp, and Square operate in the US and other countries, iZettle is predominantly a European third-party payment processor and is particularly well known in the UK. We’ll be talking about UK rates here, but if you’re in another country you should check iZettle’s costs there. You can read our review of iZettle’s UK product for more information as well.

iZettle offers both standalone mobile processing as well as an integrated approach with ecommerce support. Its mobile standalone option, iZettle Go, comes with no monthly fee. In-person transactions process at 1.75%, while invoices process at 2.5%. You can also treat iZettle as a countertop POS, though it doesn’t offer quite as many features as a full-fledged POS. You do get separate employee accounts and inventory tracking.

ReaderPOSecommerceinvoice

Mobile Processing

Point of Sale

Online Store

Invoicing

Claim £19 Offer

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Card reader is only £19 for a limited time (Normally £59)

Specialised upgrades are available

Integrate with all sales channels

Easy one-time and recurring billing

Always £0/month

£0/month for standard app

14-day free trial

Always £0/month

1.75% for in-person sales

1.75% for in-person sales

2.5% for ecommerce sales

2.5% for invoiced sales

Europe only. Does not serve US or Canadian businesses. 

Europe only. Does not serve US or Canadian businesses. 

Europe only. Does not serve US or Canadian businesses. 

Europe only. Does not serve US or Canadian businesses. 

If you’d like to add eCommerce support, you’ll pay £29/month for the iZettle Go Plus plan, plus 2.5% for online transactions. Also, iZettle does offer a more advanced POS app targeted at restaurants, bars, and cafes. It’s an iPad exclusive, available for £39/month per iPad used, and 1.25% per transaction. The most noteworthy features are table management, opening tabs, and splitting bills. Pro also comes with a loyalty program and advanced inventory. 

iZettle’s mobile card reader currently sells for £29, including the 50% discount for new merchants. It normally retails for £59. A charging dock is available for £39. But beyond that, iZettle offers an array of countertop POS setups and other accessories, including barcode scanners.

  • Standalone mPOS
  • No monthly fee
  • Premium POS app/Integrated platform available for additional fees
  • 1.75% per in-person transaction
  • 2.5% per invoice
  • £29 for all-in-one card reader

Get Started With iZettle

Final Thoughts: Which Credit Card Processing App Is Right For You?

I don’t believe there’s ever really a “one size fits all” situation with payment processing. There are so many variables to consider and one business is so different from the next. As a business owner, you should absolutely do a bit of research and talk with other merchants to start building a list of must-haves. Now would be a great time to crunch some numbers and see just how much you can afford for hardware and even monthly subscription costs.

If you don’t want or need a lot of features and just want an easy way to accept payments, SumUp is a great option for merchants in the US and across Europe. iZettle is a great starter option for merchants in the UK as well as across Europe, and it has some entry-level eCommerce features for an integrated platform if you’d like. Payline Mobile is a mid-range option for merchants who prize stability over everything else, and it’s one of the few merchant accounts that is suitable for even low-volume merchants.

But if you want the best value and room to grow, Shopify and Square are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Keep in mind that Shopify is heavily focused on ecommerce capabilities, though the company is investing in improving in-person payments capabilities. If you want to sell online and also add in-person payments, Shopify is the best option. However, if you want to sell in person with a robust POS and also supplement your sales with ecommerce, Square might be the better option, as its POS is more developed than Shopify’s.

You’re the only person who can say what’s right for your business. But we’re always here to help! If you have questions or experiences using any of these credit card processing apps, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us a comment and let us know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

Try out Square, our top-rated credit card processing app

ReadereCommerceRetailFood Service
Free App & ReaderSquare eCommerceSquare for RetailSquare for Restaurants
Get StartedGet StartedGet StartedGet Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and AndroidEasy integration with popular platforms plus API for customizationSpecialized software for more complex retail storesSpecialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month$0/month$60/month$60/month
Always FreeAlways FreeFree TrialFree Trial
Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson has been writing about payment processing and mobile payments since 2014, and has been quoted in articles for Credit Karma and The Next Web, among others. She graduated from The University of Kansas in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism.
Melissa Johnson

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