The Best Credit Card Payment Processing Apps for 2018
Being able to take payments on the go without having to jump through five million hoops is crucial for mobile businesses, whether you’re a service business that visits customers at home or just a small business without a permanent storefront. That’s where credit card processing apps come in: Combining integrated credit card payments and feature-rich POS systems that run on smartphones and tablets, they’re designed to operate anywhere you can get a cellular or Wi-Fi signal. These apps usually serve as alternatives to traditional merchant accounts through credit card processors, but some (like Payline Mobile) use a merchant account to provide the best rates possible.
We took a look at the most promising credit card processing apps for mobile and service businesses, comparing their features as well as their processing rates. Then, we compiled the best options into a list!
Additional Reading: Check out our mobile credit card processing app comparison chart or iPad POS app comparison chart for another look at your options. Or if you are more hardware-focused, take a look at our list of the best mobile credit card readers for small businessses.
Table of Contents
Choosing the Best App Features for Mobile & Service Businesses
If your business is primarily service-based or you tend to do more pop-up sales and events than deal with retail storefronts, you probably don’t need (or want) a whole lot of hardware. What you do need is an EMV-friendly reader and a smartphone or tablet to run the system from.
We used two primary criteria in deciding this list: first, the product has to have integrated payment processing, and the app must be available on a tablet (preferably a smartphone as well).
While hardware may not be a priority, knowing which systems can work as a countertop system as well as mobile is helpful. Invoicing, virtual terminals, solid sales tax management, and decent item libraries were also factors. Take a look at our comprehensive comparison chart to figure out which system might work best for your particular needs.
|Square||PayPal Here||Shopify||Payline Mobile||SumUp|
|Integrated Processing||Yes||Yes||Yes (Other options available)||Yes||Yes|
|Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions)||2.75%||2.70%||2.70%||Interchange + 0.5% or 0.3%||2.75%|
|Monthly Fee||$0||$0||Plans start at $9/month||$5 / $9.95||$0|
|Number of Devices||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||1|
|Tablet Support||Apple, Android||Apple, Android, Windows||Apple, Android||Apple, Android||Apple, Android|
|Smartphone Support||Apple, Android||Apple, Android, Windows||Apple, Android||Apple, Android||Apple, Android|
|Email/SMS Receipts||Email/SMS||Email/SMS||Email Only||Yes||Email/SMS|
|Receipt Printer Connectivity||Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB||Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless||Bluetooth, USB, LAN||No||Bluetooth, LAN|
|Cash Drawer Connectivity||Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity)||Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity)||Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity)||No||Yes (with Printer Connectivity)|
|Offline Processing Mode||Yes||No||Very Limited||No||No|
|Full and Partial Returns||Yes||Yes||Yes (including store credit)||Yes||Full Only|
|Sub-User/Employee Accounts||Yes (monthly fee)||Yes (free)||Yes (PINS/accounts)||Yes||Yes (Limited)|
|Discounts by $ or %||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Tipping by $ or %||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Multiple Tax Rates||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Adjust Tax Rates In-App||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Virtual Terminal||Yes||Yes (monthly fee)||No||Yes||Yes|
|Bulk Item Upload||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|Create Item from App or Dashboard||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No (App Only)|
You can check out our reviews of each service for more information about features, user experience, and more.
Square (see our review) made its name with a mobile processing service that anyone could use, and while the company is definitely catering to larger entities these days, small and mobile businesses still make up a good portion of Square’s merchants. Square’s totally free processing app makes it easy to create an item library of physical products as well as services.
Square’s tax rate settings are easily adjustable from within the mobile app and you can pre-program different rates if you find yourself flipping between different locations often.
In addition, Square offers invoicing, recurring invoicing/storing cards on file, and a free virtual terminal for browser-based transactions. You can even integrate Square’s appointment booking software seamlessly.
Square will charge you 2.75% per swiped transaction, but invoicing will run you 2.9% + $0.30, and virtual terminal transactions will cost you 3.5% + $0.15.
SumUp (see our review) has been operating in Europe for several years now, but it’s only reached the US in the past year, which definitely makes it the newcomer. The app is overall solid, though more limited than the others on this list.
You do get a free mobile app and free virtual terminal, as well as a fairly unique tool: SMS payments where customers can complete a transaction by opening a link sent through text message.
However, you can only process on one device at a time, so while you can create sub-user accounts, there’s not much of a benefit. SumUp does support multiple tax rates, but tax rates can’t be deleted when they are associated with an item. You’ll have to delete the item first.
The lack of discounts and the ability to make some changes through the dashboard are a bit disappointing — but the fact that you can manage everything from within the app is a major improvement over a platform like Clover Go, which requires you to make many adjustments in the web dashboard.
There are no recurring billing or card-on-file options, though, and no invoicing, either. That said, SumUp charges a simple 2.65% per transaction for credit and debit cards, and 2.9% + $0.15 for virtual terminal and SMS payments, with no monthly fee.
Shopify (see our review) started out as just an eCommerce offering but it’s expanded into a multi-channel solution for business. You can get Shopify’s Point of Sale app for as little as $9/month with the Lite plan, or you can upgrade to a countertop-friendly version with the Retail package, and even add on integrations for appointment booking. However, if you don’t /need/ a receipt printer or cash drawer and don’t sell through your own site online, the Lite plan will absolutely get you through.
Shopify isn’t the most advanced credit card processing app out there — for example, it doesn’t support tipping — but overall it has most of the features mobile and service-based businesses need, and its integration with the eCommerce tools is definitely an asset. It even allows invoicing.
Shopify allows you to set a tax rate for a shop location and create overrides and exemptions. One thing I do like that I don’t often see in these sorts of apps is tax rates based on GPS location, which eases the burden on you considerably.
For Shopify Payments (the default processing method), you’re going to pay 2.7% per transaction to start out, though if you opt for the higher-tiered plans you’ll see some savings.
Payline is one of our favorite merchant services providers, and we like their mobile solution (see our review) because it’s available independently of the other offerings and suitable for low-volume businesses, which isn’t common with traditional merchant accounts.
The payments app is overall solid, with inventory features, tipping, and discounts. While there’s no invoicing feature, the mobile plans do offer access to a virtual terminal. The app is also designed for mobile use only: it doesn’t support retail/countertop processing features like cash drawers or receipt printers. However, Payline supports multiple tax rates for different items as well as a master tax rate for checkout, depending on your needs.
Payline’s mobile products offer interchange-plus pricing, too: the Start plan (formerly Spark Plan) will charge you 0.5% over interchange plus $0.20 per transaction with a $5 monthly fee; the Surge plan charges a 0.3% markup plus $0.20, with a $9.95 monthly fee, which includes the cost of the merchant account. The $0.20 per-transaction fee is a little high, but doesn’t put Payline Mobile in the realm of unreasonable pricing. However, it does mean businesses with larger ticket sizes will feel the effects of that per-transaction fee less.
Spark Pay (Discontinued)
Capital One’s mobile processing solution Spark Pay (see our review) is part of the larger “Spark” line of businesses solutions, which includes a fairly advanced online store. However, despite that, Spark Pay the mobile app stands alone, with no integrations.
It has all the major features a merchant would need — tipping, custom discounts, an item library, and support for a countertop setup. Unfortunately, there’s no invoicing, and Spark Pay’s virtual terminal is only in beta mode. You can only set one tax rate in the app as well. However, the major shortcoming is simply that while Spark Pay does offer EMV terminals, there’s not currently an EMV-compliant mobile reader, something that all the other options here do offer.
That said, Spark Pay does offer great customer service, and its pricing is competitive. On the Go plan, there’s no monthly fee and transactions cost 2.65% + $0.05. The Pro plan has a $19 monthly fee, but your rates drop to 1.99% + $0.05.
PayPal Here (see our review) is another staple of mobile businesses with a free mobile app. PayPal has the advantage of massive eCommerce support as well as a solid mPOS so you can seamlessly blend different aspects of your business. Plus, your funds are available almost instantly in your PayPal account, and with the PayPal debit card, you can spend them anywhere. The free mobile app isn’t quite as feature-rich as Square’s, but it’s highly capable.
You’ll also find PayPal Here’s tax settings are adjustable within the app and you can easily accommodate different sales tax rates. Like Square, you get free in-app invoicing. However, if you are looking for a virtual terminal or recurring billing, they’re going to run you an additional $30 and $10 per month, respectively, which is a fairly high price tag.
You’ll pay 2.7% per transaction in the app, whereas invoices will run you 2.9% + $0.30. Virtual terminal transactions (not counting the monthly fee) cost 3.1% + $0.15.
I’m usually pretty hesitant to recommend one product above all others without consideration of the differences from one business to the next. And that’s true here. If you really only have simple needs, any of the options on this list will serve you well. As your needs get more advanced, it’s definitely worth looking at more advanced setups such as Square or PayPal Here. And as always, the price is a major consideration. Make sure you run the numbers and are confident the rates you will pay are competitive. If you
The good news is that all of these services have a no-monthly-fee option so you can try them out with no risk. I encourage you to check out our complete reviews of any credit card processing app you’re interested in pursuing. And if you have questions, I encourage you to reach out. We’re always here to help, so feel free to leave us a comment!