The Best Canadian Merchant Account Providers | Canada Payment Processing
Canadians are some nice people. I should know, as I have Canadian relatives who visit from time to time – and you’ll never hear them say a bad word about anything or anybody. However, I do have a bad word to say about Canada – well, not Canadians per se (and certainly not my Ontarian cousins!) but about Canadian credit card processors: Sorry, guys. You suck. Or, more politely (as I’m sure our northern readers would prefer), in Canada payment processing simply is not what it could be.
To be fair, it’s not so much that Canadian merchant account providers are terrible by definition; it’s just that there are not enough good ones. Whereas in the US we have a lot of decent credit card processing options, there aren’t many reputable processors to choose from in Canada. There are only a handful that I would recommend, and even out of those, there’s only a couple that I can recommend. The best option for Canadian small businesses who don’t want to break the bank is National Processing (see our review). The account fee is $9.95, no monthly minimum, and retail markup percentage is just 0.20%. The worst option, judging by all the negative reviews that we receive, is probably Pivotal Payments thanks to the plentiful complaints available for this company.
Our Top Payment Processing Picks For Canadian Businesses in 2018
The following companies are some of the best Canadian credit card payment processors and merchant services providers on the market today.
Table of Contents
- Best Low-Cost Canadian Merchant Account: National Processing
- Best Credit Card Payment App For Canada: Square
- Best All-In-One Platform Features for Canada: Helcim
- Worst Canadian Processor: Pivotal Payments
- Average Canadian Processors: Chase Paymentech and Moneris Solutions
- More Alternative Payments
Best Low-Cost Canadian Merchant Account: National Processing
It’s tough to beat National Processing (see our review) when it comes to low rates alongside a good reputation. This company has the lowest standard markups of any Canadian payment processor we’ve reviewed. And, unlike the terrible credit card processors we’ll get to later, National Processing has managed to maintain a great reputation even as it continues to grow. Not many merchant services companies can say that.
At National Processing, retail markup is 0.20% and eCommerce/telephone order markup is 0.30%. There’s a $0.10 per-item fee in both cases. Of course this company is more than willing to meet or beat any quote you can bring them or your current rates, so high-volume businesses with bargaining power will have their needs met here too.
National Processing is a great service for businesses that want low rates from a reliable company. If you’re hoping for some massive free software suite like Square offers with POS, analytics and such included, you might not find what you’re looking for. But keep in mind that you could easily end up saving enough money with National Processing to buy all that software and more from whichever software provider you want. This low cost and overall versatility makes National Processing a great option for many businesses. Low-cost ACH/eCheck payment processing (0% + $0.24 per transaction) alongside an inexpensive payment gateway ($5 monthly) help to tip the potential value scale even more in National Processing’s favor.
Best Credit Card Payment App For Canada: Square
With Square, an “alternative” or “third-party” payment processor, you get an aggregate merchant account shared with other merchants. This means you don’t have your own dedicated merchant account, but on the bright side, you don’t have any merchant account contract or monthly fees to contend with. The only fees with this mobile and tablet-based system are the credit card processing fees – which are admittedly on the higher side, at 2.75% per swipe/dip – but if you process less than $10K each month, you might save money versus a traditional merchant account.
One thing to note about Square is they do have a paid Square for Retail package that has additional point of sale features. However, for most small businesses, the free version of Square will be sufficient.
Here are some highlights of Square (the free version):
- Free POS app can take payments on any mobile device
- No merchant account contract – zero commitment
- No monthly fees
- No setup/application/PCI/ETF fees
- Convenient for mobile setups
- $49 EMV reader
A couple things about Square that aren’t quite so terrific is that you don’t get the same level of customer service or account stability as you would with your own merchant account. But if you have a smaller business and want to start taking payments without a big upfront investment, Square is an excellent alternative to a traditional merchant account.
Best All-In-One Platform Features for Canada: Helcim
If you’ve read our team member Tom DeSimone’s glowing review of Calgary-based Helcim (see our review), it should come as no surprise that we’re singling out this processor. There is simply no better processor for Canadian businesses – and they provide the same kick-butt level of service in the US too.
Here are some of Helcim’s highlights:
- All interchange-plus pricing (aka Cost+)
- mPOS app and standard POS app
- eCommerce Platform
- Billing platform
- API for custom solutions
Something I really like about Helcim is the truly useful educational resources they provide, including articles on navigating the deceitful credit card processing industry in general, and an extensive knowledgebase detailing how Helcim works.
With Helcim, fairness is the name of the game. Helcim charges affordable prices and has one of the most transparent sales policies of any processor out there, Canadian or otherwise, as we mention in our post on the best small business credit card processing companies. Everything is completely laid out on the table, with crystal-clear fee disclosures so you’re never again hit with a bill like a punch in the stomach. This type of fairness and transparency is what’s lacking in a lot of processors, and hopefully the industry takes a cue from these guys.
Worst Canadian Processor: Pivotal Payments
Pretty much, the only good thing I have to say about Pivotal Payments (see our review) is that they offer merchant services in Canada. While they’re based in Melville, New York, they also have an office in Quebec, making them one of the few processors available to Canadian merchants. In case you’re wondering if there’s a difference between the (bad) service they provide in the US and the (bad) service they provide in Canada, there’s really not. As Tom DeSimone put it in his review:
Canadian and US-based merchants get the same sub-par service from Pivotal, regardless of locale.
Oh, and I guess one more good thing about them is they do offer interchange-plus pricing, if you ask for it. Otherwise, it’s mostly bad news. Here are some of the lowlights of this processor.
- Deceptive credit card terminal leases
- Failure to disclose all terms involved with their early termination fee (ETF)
- Bad customer service
- Inconsistent sales experience
Hidden fees (including an early termination fee), deceptive terms (merchants complain of getting stuck in lengthy terminal lease fees), and poor customer service are just a few reasons why this Canadian credit card processor receives terrible customer reviews. For more details on why and just how much they suck, read our review of Pivotal Payments, or just skip down to the comments on that article to read about all the thoroughly unpleasant experiences people have had with this company.
Average Canadian Processors: Chase Paymentech and Moneris Solutions
If you’re looking for a decent processor offering service in Canada, Chase Paymentech (see our review) is a pretty solid choice. They offer affordable rates and have a good reputation in the industry. However, with a big company like Chase, you’re not going to receive the level of customer care you will with a smaller processor like Helcim. Some customers also complain of expensive and unfair terminal (credit card machine) lease contracts with Chase Paymentech.
- Month-to-month contracts with no cancellation fees (FYI: This is a fairly recent offering)
- No PCI compliance fees
- Useful educational resources
- Interchange-plus plans and seasonal downtime offered to most merchants
- No rates or fees disclosed on their website
- Deceptive terminal leases
- Some customers (higher volume merchants and resellers of Chase merchant accounts) may be subject to early cancellation fees
- So-so customer service
If you own a Canadian business and like the idea of going with a major brand like Chase, go ahead and check them out.
Toronto-based Moneris Solutions (see our review) is an amalgam of the credit card processing components of Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal. So, it has some hefty industry experience behind it. While we like Moneris’s services a lot, and they disclose most of their terms on their website, customers who don’t read the fine print before signing the contract may get burned.
- Thorough, informative website
- Terrific array of services and POS products
- Reliable merchant support
- Seasonal downtime
The kind of terrible:
- Early termination fee, sometimes including liquidated damages
- Use of misleading sales ploys (e.g., offering $300 gift card for signing up – with tons of strings attached)
Again, while Moneris provides a good selection of solid services and products, they have been known to charge early termination fees that could total thousands of dollars if they decide to hit you with liquidated damages. Protect yourself from by paying close attention to the termination section of your contract (usually toward the end of their document). Customers have told us that Moneris’s sales reps aren’t always upfront so do not trust them to explain all the fine details of the contract, especially the ETF.
Read more about Moneris’s services and how to avoid their sneaky fees in our review.
More Alternative Payments
If you process less than about $5K/month, in Canada or elsewhere, then it makes more sense to go with what we call an “alternative payment processor” or “third-party payment processor.” Third-party processors like Square, mentioned above, and PayPal, allow you to accept credit cards without having to get a merchant account yourself. The only downside to alternative payment processing is that transaction fees are higher than those of traditional merchant accounts. On the bright side, third-party processors are generally contract-fee have no monthly fee (with the exception of PayPal, which charges a reasonable monthly fee for added services). Refer to this article for more info.
Here are a few third-party payment processors that we like:
- Square – For mobile and brick-and-mortar businesses, online payments
- PayPal – Offers brick-and-mortar, mobile, and online payments
- Stripe – Exclusively for online and mobile payments
- 2Checkout – Exclusively for online and mobile payments
I hope I was able to provide a good idea of the best Canadian merchant account providers and the ones you should avoid. To reiterate, Helcim is the best and Pivotal Payments is the worst; Chase Paymentech and Moneris Solutions are somewhere in the middle. And if you process only a few thousand dollars per month, you’re better off processing credit card payments using a third-party payment processor like Square or Stripe instead of a traditional merchant account.
Got something to add about Canadian payment processors? Sound your voice in the comments!