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6 Best Retail Credit Card Processing Companies For 2024

The best credit card processors for retail businesses are reasonably priced and have flexible terms, robust services, and excellent customer support.

    Frank Kehl
  • Last updated onUpdated

  • Shannon Vissers

    Shannon Vissers

    Lead Staff Writer

Advertiser Disclosure: Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity.

Finding the best retail credit card processing company for your business is an important — and complicated — decision. The wrong processor can cost you too much money, fail to deliver essential features, and result in a frustrating customer service experience when problems arise.

You can avoid these pitfalls by choosing a processor that offers reasonable prices, flexible contract terms, retail-specific products and services, and top-notch customer support. We’ve found that many of the best credit card processors for small businesses are also great choices for retail or omnichannel businesses.

Here, we’ll profile each of our top contenders and explain why we thought they were the best options for a small retail business. We’ll also describe all the features and services you should be looking for in a credit card processing company.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

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  • No monthly fee for basic account
  • Uses flat-rate pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts
  • No monthly fee for basic account
  • Uses flat-rate pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts

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  • $14.99/month account fee (low-risk businesses)
  • Uses interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts
  • $14.99/month account fee (low-risk businesses)
  • Uses interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts

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  • $15/month account fee ($12/month for nonprofits)
  • Uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts
  • $15/month account fee ($12/month for nonprofits)
  • Uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts

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  • No monthly fee for standard account
  • Uses interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts
  • No monthly fee for standard account
  • Uses interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts

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  • $9.95-$19.00+/month account fee (depends on pricing plan)
  • Offers flat-rate pricing
  • Long-term contract only required with free terminal
  • $9.95-$19.00+/month account fee (depends on pricing plan)
  • Offers flat-rate pricing
  • Long-term contract only required with free terminal

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  • Variable monthly account fees
  • Variable rates and fees (quote required)
  • May require long-term contract for high-risk merchant accounts
  • Variable monthly account fees
  • Variable rates and fees (quote required)
  • May require long-term contract for high-risk merchant accounts

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Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

Table of Contents

The 6 Best Credit Card Processors For Retail Businesses

Choosing the best credit card processor for your small retail business comes down to three main factors: (1) pricing, (2) features, and (3) customer support. Most of our top choices offer month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts or early termination penalties. You should also consider which type of processing rate plan will be the most cost-effective for your business.

How The Best Retail Credit Card Processing Companies Compare

Monthly Fee Pricing Type Contract Length Hardware Options
Square $0 (Free plan) or $89 (Plus plan) Flat-Rate Month-to-month Proprietary Square card readers & terminals
Host Merchant Services $14.99/month Interchange-Plus Month-to-month Wide choice of universal models
Dharma Merchant Services $15/month ($12 for nonprofits) Interchange-Plus Month-to-month Clover terminals or wide choice of universal models
Helcim $0 Interchange-Plus Month-to-month Proprietary Helcim card reader or smart terminal
National Processing $9.95-$19.00+/month (depends on pricing plan) Flat-Rate or Customized Month-to-month (3 years with “free” terminal) Clover or PAX terminals
PaymentCloud Variable Tiered or Interchange-Plus Variable Clover terminals or wide choice of universal models


Square: Best For Startups Or Seasonal Retail Businesses

Total Rating 4.8
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services4.7


Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.9

User Reviews4.9

Get a free card swiper from Square at no cost when you create a free account. Claim your card reader.


  • All-in-one payments system with an impressive feature-set
  • No monthly fees
  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Ideal for low-volume merchants


  • Account stability issues
  • Not available to most high-risk industries

Why Square Is A Great Choice For Startups Or Seasonal Retail Businesses

Perennial small-business favorite Square is an excellent choice for a newly-established or seasonal retail business due to its lack of a monthly fee or long-term contract requirement. Square's flat-rate pricing is ideal for new or low-volume businesses, offering predictability and fewer surprises on your monthly processing statement.

Square offers a variety of affordable Square-branded credit card readers that work seamlessly with your Square account. Equipment can be purchased outright or on an installment plan for some of the more expensive options.

Square For Retail is the company's special program for retail businesses that need something more than just a simple credit card reader to run their shops. Square For Retail includes an iPad-based POS system that features an entirely redesigned user interface, optimized for searching and scanning to manage a large inventory.

Square Pricing

  • No setup or application fees
  • $0/month for Square Free account ($89/month for Square For Retail Plus plan)
  • 2.6% + $0.10/card-present transaction (Square For Retail Free plan)
  • 2.5% + $0.10/card-present transaction (Square For Retail Plus plan)
  • 2.9% + $0.30/online transaction
  • 3.5% + $0.15/manually keyed-in transaction
  • 1%/ACH transaction (minimum $1 charge)
  • No ACH reject or chargeback fees
  • Square Contactless & Chip Reader — $59 each
  • Square Terminal — $299 (or $27/month for 12 months)
  • Square Register — $799 (or $39/month for 24 months)

Square Features

  • Aggregated account for credit and debit card processing
  • Mobile card reader (magstripe-only) included with an account
  • EMV and NFC-capable card readers are available
  • Square Register POS system available
  • ACH processing included with every account
  • Square Online for eCommerce sales channel
  • Analytics and reporting available through Square Dashboard

What To Watch Out For

As a payment service provider (PSP), Square doesn’t offer the stability of a full-service merchant account. It also doesn’t accept high-risk businesses (with the exception of a special program for CBD merchants).

While its flat-rate pricing structure is very predictable and affordable for low-volume businesses, it actually becomes more expensive at higher monthly processing volumes. Luckily, Square offers custom pricing to merchants processing more than $250,000/year.

We’d also advise against purchasing your Square Terminal or Register on an installment plan. While the markup for stretching out your payments isn’t unreasonable, you could still be stuck making payments on a proprietary device that you can no longer use if you decide to cancel your Square account before it’s fully paid for.

When To Choose Square

  • You're a first-time business owner and don't know what your monthly processing volume will be
  • You run a seasonal business and want to avoid monthly fees
  • You want affordable, easy-to-use processing hardware that integrates seamlessly with your other business services

Get Started With Square

Read our in-depth review

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Host Merchant Services: Best For Mid-Sized High & Low-Risk Businesses

Host Merchant Services

Total Rating 4.9
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services5.0


Sales & Advertising Transparency4.7

Customer Service4.6

User Reviews4.8


  • Transparent interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no early termination fees
  • No monthly minimums
  • Web hosting included with each account


  • Can be expensive for some low-volume merchants

Why Host Merchant Services Works Well For Mid-Sized High & Low-Risk Businesses

Host Merchant Services is one of our top picks for retail credit card processing due to its wide range of products and services, flexible contract terms, and excellent pricing transparency. Host Merchant Services offers its own proprietary Bonsai POS system, as well as the popular Clover and Vital POS product line. It’s also one of the few merchant services providers that include free web hosting for online sales as a standard account feature.

Host Merchant Services fully discloses its pricing on its website, and its combination of interchange-plus processing rates and low account maintenance fees make it a very affordable choice for any small retail business. The company also accepts a wide variety of high-risk industries. Note that high-risk pricing and terms will be different from what's listed on the Host Merchant website.

Host Merchant Services offers month-to-month billing for all low-risk businesses. There are no long-term contracts or early termination fees.

Host Merchant Services Pricing

  • No application or setup fees
  • $14.99/month account fee
  • Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10/retail transaction
  • Interchange + 0.35 + $0.10/eCommerce transaction
  • $5.00/month gateway fee (optional)
  • $15 chargeback fee
  • No PCI compliance fee
  • No early termination fee

Host Merchant Services Features

  • Full-service merchant accounts
  • Accepts most high-risk industries
  • Full line of countertop and mobile credit card terminals
  • Free terminal available to merchants processing over $20,000/month
  • Vital and SwipeSimple mobile processing solutions
  • Proprietary Bonsai POS system available
  • Clover and Vital POS systems are available
  • Authorize.Net payment gateway
  • Proprietary HMSExpress payment gateway
  • Virtual terminal included
  • Web hosting included with an account
  • Cash discounting program available

What To Watch Out For

Host Merchant Services is a great choice for both low and high-risk businesses. Be aware, however, that high-risk merchants will be onboarded by a different backend processor, and pricing and contract terms will be very different (and much more expensive) than those advertised for low-risk businesses. Contract terms, in particular, may include a long-term contract of some kind.

When To Choose Host Merchant Services

  • You have a medium-sized retail business that can save money with interchange-plus pricing
  • You have both in-person and online sales channels and need web hosting as part of your merchant account
  • You want a choice of universal credit card terminals that can be reprogrammed

Get Started With Host Merchant Services

Read our in-depth review

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Dharma Merchant Services: Best For Nonprofit Retail Businesses

Dharma Merchant Services

Total Rating 5.0
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services5.0


Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.8

User Reviews4.5


  • Interchange-plus pricing is offered exclusively
  • No annual fee or monthly minimum
  • Discount pricing for qualified nonprofits


  • Does not accept merchants in high-risk industries
  • Not recommended for businesses processing less than $10,000/month

Why Dharma Merchant Services Excels For Nonprofit Retail Businesses

Dharma Merchant Services offers significant pricing discounts to qualified nonprofit organizations, making it an excellent choice for nonprofits with a high monthly credit card processing volume.

Dharma also offers some of the most complete pricing transparency you'll find anywhere in the payments industry. It's an excellent choice for any low-risk small to medium-sized business that’s looking for interchange-plus pricing and Clover hardware. Like most of our other top choices, you’ll enjoy month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts or early termination fees (although a fully-disclosed $49 account closure fee is required if you close your account).

Dharma Merchant Services Pricing

  • $15/month account fee ($12/month for nonprofits)
  • Interchange + 0.15% + $0.08/card-present transaction (volume discounts available)
  • Interchange + 0.10% + $0.08/card-present transaction (qualified nonprofits)
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.11/card-not-present transaction (volume discounts available)
  • Interchange + 0.10% + $0.11/card-not-present transaction (qualified nonprofits)
  • No gateway fees with MX Merchant
  • No annual fee
  • No PCI compliance fees
  • No monthly minimum
  • $49 account closure fee

Dharma Merchant Services Features

  • Full-service merchant accounts through Fiserv or TSYS
  • Full line of credit card terminals, including Verifone Engage V200c, Fiserv FD-150, Ingenico Desk/5000, and Dejavoo Z11 models
  • Full line of Clover POS systems
  • MX Merchant integrated payment platform
  • Choice of Authorize.Net or MX Merchant payment gateways
  • QuickPay virtual terminal
  • Credit card surcharging (no-fee, zero-cost credit card processing) program available

What To Watch Out For

Dharma does not accept high-risk businesses, but will refer you to PaymentCloud if your application is declined. The company also recommends against using its services if your processing volume is less than $10,000/month.

When To Choose Dharma Merchant Services

  • You run a nonprofit organization that makes retail sales
  • Your monthly processing volume is $10,000 or more
  • You're in a low-risk retail industry

Get Started With Dharma Merchant Services

Read our in-depth review

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Helcim: Best For Low-Cost Full-Service Merchant Accounts

Total Rating 4.9
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services4.4


Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.8

User Reviews4.5


  • No long-term contracts
  • Exclusive interchange-plus pricing
  • No monthly fees
  • Excellent customer support


  • Does not accept high-risk businesses
  • Not suited for very low-volume businesses

Why Helcim Is A Great Choice For Low-Cost Full-Service Merchant Accounts

Canadian payment processor Helcim serves low-risk merchants in both the United States and Canada. With no monthly fee, the company offers one of the lowest-cost ways to get a full-service merchant account. Helcim's pricing is roughly comparable to Square's, with the added bonus that you won't have to settle for an aggregated account like you would with Square. Instead, you'll get a full-service merchant account that will be at very little risk of suddenly being frozen or shut down.

For processing hardware, Helcim offers the proprietary Helcim Card Reader, which can function as a countertop terminal or as part of a mobile payments system or POS. The company also offers the Helcim Smart Terminal, a more powerful device with a color touchscreen that comes with Helcim's POS software preinstalled.

For a small retail business, Helcim offers everything you need at a very low price. The company has also received a lot of praise from merchants for its excellent customer support.

Helcim's contracts are all on a month-to-month basis and don't require a long-term commitment. You can cancel your account at any time without penalty.

Helcim Pricing

  • Interchange + 0.40% + $0.08/card-present transaction (volume discounts available)
  • Interchange + 0.50% + $0.25/card-not-present transaction (volume discounts available)
  • Helcim Card Reader — $99/unit
  • Helcim Smart Terminal — $329/unit
  • No monthly or annual account fees
  • No PCI compliance fees
  • No monthly minimum

Helcim Features

  • Full-service merchant account
  • Proprietary Helcim Card Reader or Helcim Smart Terminal for in-person payments
  • Helcim Payments app for mobile processing
  • Virtual terminal included with each account
  • Helcim POS software (requires tablet, laptop, desktop, or Helcim Smart Terminal)
  • Access to Helcim API for customized credit card payments

What To Watch Out For

Helcim is able to keep its pricing very low in part by not accepting any high-risk merchants. If you’re in a high-risk category, you’ll have to look elsewhere for credit card processing.

You should also be aware that the Helcim Card Reader and Helcim Smart Terminal are proprietary devices and will not work with any other credit card processor.

When To Choose Helcim

  • You're on a tight budget, but want the added stability of a full-service merchant account
  • You want to avoid paying monthly fees
  • You're looking for affordable processing hardware that still has all the features you need

Get Started With Helcim

Read our in-depth review

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National Processing: Best For Included Credit Card Terminals

National Processing

Total Rating 4.6
Fees & Rates4.8

Products & Services5.0


Sales & Advertising Transparency4.4

Customer Service4.1

User Reviews4.4

Get a free Clover Go card reader from National Processing when you sign up. Claim your card reader.


  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Offers month-to-month billing with no early termination fee (ETF)
  • A good option for budget-conscious merchants


  • Long-term contract with early termination fee required in exchange for free terminal

Why National Processing Is Best For Included Credit Card Terminals

Another great low-cost option, National Processing is an excellent choice for merchants looking for transparent pricing and access to the popular line of  Clover POS products. National Processing offers full support for retail merchants, including a variety of credit card terminals that you can purchase outright or include for "free" with your account. Note that a long-term contract will apply in the latter case.

National Processing has recently revamped its pricing structure and now offers flat-rate pricing to merchants processing less than $30,000/month. (Note that interchange-plus and membership pricing are still available through a customized pricing plan.) National Processing also offers a cash discounting program if you want to pass your credit card processing costs onto your customers. This program stands out from similar offers from competing providers in that it does not require a monthly fee.

National Processing offers excellent customer service and technical support and is one of the cheapest options available to small retail businesses. In calculating your overall costs, be aware that most Clover terminals and POS systems (with the exception of the mobile Clover Go card reader) require a monthly software subscription fee on top of your other costs.

National Processing Pricing

  • $9.95-$19.00+/month account fee (depending on the plan chosen)
  • $0.00/month for the cash discounting program (optional)
  • $15.00/month and 0-1.5% + $0.48/transaction for ACH and echeck processing (optional)
  • 2.5% + $0.10/transaction (Basic In-Person Plan)
  • 2.41% + $0.10/transaction (Advanced Plan)
  • 3.5% + $0.15/transaction (manual or keyed-in transactions)

National Processing Features

  • Offers a choice of three flat-rate pricing plans (plus a customized pricing option)
  • Offers mobile processing with a Clover Go card reader
  • “Free” credit card terminal available
  • No long-term contract if processing hardware is purchased outright
  • Offers ACH and echeck processing as an add-on

What To Watch Out For

National Processing generally offers month-to-month billing with no long-term commitment or cancellation penalties. However, if you accept a free credit card terminal with your account, you’ll also have to agree to a standard three-year contract. Luckily, National Processing only enforces the early termination fee if a merchant drops them in favor of a competing provider.

When To Choose National Processing

  • You want to use Clover hardware in your business
  • You're willing to accept a long-term contract in exchange for "free" processing equipment
  • You're looking for flat-rate processing rates that are below the industry average

Get Started With National Processing

Read our in-depth review

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PaymentCloud: Best For High-Risk Retail Businesses

Total Rating 4.1
Fees & Rates4.3

Products & Services5.0


Sales & Advertising Transparency3.9

Customer Service4.2

User Reviews4.0

Exclusive Promo: PaymentCloud will give you $200 if they can't beat your current rate. Get Your Quote


  • No account setup fee
  • Accepts a wide variety of high-risk industries
  • “Free” credit card terminal available
  • Excellent customer support


  • No publicly disclosed pricing

Why PaymentCloud Is Best For High-Risk Retail Businesses

PaymentCloud serves low, medium, and high-risk businesses but excels as one of the best merchant account providers for high-risk businesses. Industries accepted include CBD, nutraceuticals and supplements, guns and firearms, cigarettes and tobacco, vape and e-cigarettes, dropshipping, and many others.

PaymentCloud stands out for the very hands-on approach it takes during the initial application and underwriting process. After approval, it continues to work closely with merchants for follow-up support. PaymentCloud gives you a dedicated account manager to take care of problems that may arise, and that's probably why we don't see many customer complaints on the internet.

PaymentCloud offers both tiered and interchange-plus pricing models, so if you're only given a tiered rate, be sure to ask for an interchange-plus rate quote, too.

PaymentCloud can give you one "free" loaner credit card terminal with your account, but you must return it if you close your account. PaymentCloud also sells terminals from several different manufacturers, if you wish to buy one outright.

PaymentCloud Pricing

  • No account setup fee
  • No monthly minimum (low-risk accounts)
  • Interchange + 0.05%-0.30% + $0.08-$0.10 per transaction (low-risk accounts)
  • Processing rates vary by acquiring bank/back-end processors (high-risk accounts)
  • $15/month account fee (low-risk accounts)
  • Account fees vary by the acquiring bank/back-end processor (high-risk accounts)

PaymentCloud Features

  • Mobile processing solution available
  • Offers a variety of EMV and NFC-capable countertop credit card terminals
  • Paysley QR-code payment service is available
  • ACH and echeck processing are available
  • Virtual terminal included
  • Authorize.Net, NMI, or USAePay payment gateways are available

What To Watch Out For

Like most high-risk processors, PaymentCloud doesn’t publish processing rates on its website. It works with many back-end processors to ultimately find one that will take your business, so rates and fees will be tailored to each merchant. Be aware that your rates will be higher than those of an average-risk merchant. It’s also likely that you’ll need to accept a long-term contract.

When To Choose PaymentCloud

  • You're in a high-risk industry and have had difficulty finding a processor that will accept your business
  • You don't want to pay any application or account setup fees
  • You want a dedicated account manager to assist you with customer support issues

Get Started With PaymentCloud

Read our in-depth review

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Payment Processing Rating Methodology

Merchant Maverick has been researching the payment processing industry since 2009. Our writers have reviewed hundreds of credit card processors, merchant account services, and mobile payment apps, evaluating each provider carefully on several different metrics.

When comparing different payment processing companies and applications to one another, we consider numerous data points. Our experts start by comparing credit card processing rates, the presence of additional fees, contract length, sales practices, and the presence or absence of additional features and services, like point of sale software. Each provider is judged on its own merits and how well it stacks up to industry standards; then it is weighed against the other providers on the list.

We spend an average of 10-15 hours researching and updating each one of our lists, making sure every company or application included meets our internal standards for quality and reputation. Any list of recommended payment processors on our site might contain a mix of standard merchant accounts, third-party payment processors, mobile payment devices, and high-risk payment processors, depending on what our expert feels is the best fit for certain scenarios or business types.

For additional details about Merchant Maverick’s review and rating processes, please refer to any or all of the following methodology pages:


Years reviewing payment processors


Providers evaluated


Attributes and features assessed per vendor


Years combined experience

What Do You Need In A Retail Credit Card Processing System?

The days when a brick-and-mortar store could operate just fine with a single, magstripe-only credit card terminal are long gone. Today, most retail merchants find it essential to have in place a full credit card processing system that can accept a wide variety of payment methods and perform many other functions related to running their businesses on a daily basis.

At a bare minimum, any business accepting in-person payments will need a modern card reader or terminal that can accept EMV cards. Processing hardware that uses NFC technology to accept contactless payments (and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay) is also increasingly expected by customers.

Processing hardware currently includes the following general categories:

  • Mobile card readers: These can be used in conjunction with an app to make payments virtually anywhere. They can also be used with a virtual terminal to use your laptop or desktop computer as a credit card terminal.
  • Countertop credit card terminals: The best credit card terminals for small businesses can now accept EMV & NFC-based payment methods, as well as magstripe (in most cases). Most new models also feature color touchscreens, customer-facing displays, and “smart” technology that allows you to add extra apps to your device. Wireless models are also available for taking payments in the field, but they require a monthly cellular data plan and tend to be bulky due to the need for a large battery. We also recommend selecting a terminal with a PIN pad to take advantage of lower PIN debit transaction processing fees.
  • Point-of-sale (POS) systems: These devices are very popular among restaurant owners but can also be very useful for a traditional retail store as well. The ability to add apps for inventory management, employee scheduling, and other functions is a plus, but some devices (particularly the Clover brand) require monthly software subscription fees in addition to the cost of the device itself.

You’ll also need to have access to specialized services and features that help you run your business. While it’s possible (and sometimes necessary) to cobble together a system using several third-party products, it’s usually better if you can obtain everything you need from your credit card processor. This ensures compatibility and gives you a single point of contact for technical support and customer service. Additional services commonly used by retail businesses include the following:

Note: If you’re running a retail-only business and don’t accept any online sales, we recommend avoiding eCommerce-focused credit card processors like Stripe or Shopify. While both are excellent companies, they offer fairly limited support for in-person sales, and you won’t be able to use most of their powerful online services.

What's The Future Of Retail Credit Card Processing?

Retail credit card processing has changed quite a bit within the last few years.

EMV chip cards have (mostly) replaced older magstripe technology as the default method of card acceptance, and contactless payment methods using NFC technology surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a preview of some of the significant trends in retail credit card processing that are either happening right now or are just on the horizon:

  • Magstripe payments are going away. While most merchants have already made the switch to EMV, there are still customers with magstripe-only cards out there. However, that won’t be the case for much longer. Mastercard and Visa plan to begin issuing new cards within a few years that don’t have a magstripe at all, and eventually, the technology will disappear altogether. Modern mobile credit card readers (like the Square Reader for contactless and chip) now commonly support EMV and NFC payments, but not magstripe.
  • Alternative payment methods that don’t require a physical credit or debit card are gaining in popularity. Apps like Venmo, Zelle, and Square’s Cash App offer customers an easy way to make a payment without using a physical card. QR code payments are also useful in a retail setting. We recommend incorporating as many of these alternative payment methods as you can to give your customers more flexibility in completing a purchase.
  • Real-time payments are now available (but not widely distributed). In addition to several private real-time payment services, the Federal Reserve’s FedNow real-time payment service (which launched in 2023) will make it much easier for small business owners to get their funds almost instantly (even on weekends). This can be a great feature for businesses that depend on a steady day-to-day cash flow.

Which Retail Credit Card Processor Is Right For Your Business?

While the top credit card processors we’ve profiled above are all excellent choices, finding the best provider for your business ultimately comes down to matching up the services you need — and what you can afford — with what a provider has to offer. Each business has unique needs, so there’s no one-size-fits-all “best” credit card processor that will work equally well for everyone. In evaluating your choices, consider the following factors in making a selection:

  • Contract flexibility. Even if you think you’ll be happy with your chosen provider, it’s always best to have a month-to-month contract that allows you to switch providers if things don’t work out. We strongly recommend avoiding long-term commitments unless you’re in a high-risk industry and have no choice.
  • Reasonable pricing. In addition to looking for the lowest monthly fees, you’ll want to select a processing rate plan that’s best for your business. While flat-rate pricing generally works best for low-volume or new businesses, interchange-plus pricing is usually cheaper for mid-sized and larger enterprises. Very high-volume businesses can save money with membership pricing, but you’ll want to carefully analyze your anticipated costs before switching to this option. Tiered pricing, unfortunately, offers no advantages to any business and should be avoided.
  • Availability of add-on services. Most businesses need at least some ancillary services in addition to basic credit card processing. Be sure that the provider you choose offers the services that you need so you don’t have to go to a third party to get them.
  • Reputable customer service. Merchants often ignore the importance of good customer support — until they need to use it. Look for a provider that has a good reputation in this area, as the payments industry generally doesn’t do well in terms of customer service.

Good luck!

FAQs: Retail Credit Card Processing

What is retail payment processing?

Retail payment processing allows merchants to accept credit and debit cards in-person as forms of payment in their brick-and-mortar stores. Retail payment processing requires a credit card terminal to read the customer’s card, and a merchant account (or payment service account like Square) to process the transaction and disburse funds to the merchant.

What is the cheapest way to take card payments?

For a very small or newly-launched business, a payment service provider (PSP) like Square usually offers the cheapest way to accept credit card payments. PSPs generally charge no monthly fees and don’t require a long-term contract. They also frequently use flat-rate pricing, which makes transaction processing costs very predictable and easy to understand.

Do I need a payment gateway for retail credit card processing?

No. Payment gateways are not essential for retail credit card processing, and most brick-and-mortar stores have operated without them for many years. Today, however, payment gateways are becoming increasingly common in a retail setting as part of an integrated payments platform that ties in-person and online sales together. Using a payment gateway in a retail setting enables many additional functions, including analytics and reporting, inventory management, and more. Payment gateways also enable the use of advanced payment security and anti-fraud measures, such as credit card tokenization.

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Frank Kehl

Frank Kehl

Senior Staff Writer at Merchant Maverick
Frank has been writing about payment processing and business services since 2015. He is a retired Air Force officer and a former practicing attorney. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University and a Juris Doctorate degree from the Ventura College of Law, and currently resides in Paso Robles, California.
Frank Kehl
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