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Take Your Business Global With The Best International Payment Processing Options

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For decades, the promise of the internet has been that it would allow businesses to sell their products to markets not just in their immediate vicinity, but all over the country, and even the world. While it’s true that the internet does allow an entrepreneur in Michigan to sell goods and services to a customer in London, there are a lot of logistics involved in making that possible. After all, to buy your services, your foreign customer needs a way to be able to pay you.

How do you make that possible?

You do it by finding a great payment processor that can process payments from around the world and in different currencies. Below, we’ll take a look at how international payment processing works and what your options are.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyBest ForNext Steps
Host Merchant Services
Best for high-volume businesses looking for interchange-plus pricing and solid tech support.

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Helcim
Best for businesses processing over $25,000/month and are looking for interchange-plus pricing.

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Durango Merchant Services
Best for high-risk merchants looking for a stable international merchant account for doing business in Europe, Canada, or Panama.

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Stripe Payments
Best for low-risk merchants looking for extensive, customizable international support.

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PaymentCloud
Best for high-risk eCommerce businesses seeking interchange-plus pricing.

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Other Featured Options:

  • Authorize.Net: Best for businesses that are happy with their merchant accounts and just need a gateway with international reach.
  • PayPal: Best for businesses that want to sell to many different countries using a well-known brand.
  • 2Checkout: Best for low-risk eCommerce businesses, especially those selling digital goods, that are looking for broad international reach.

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

The Best International Merchant Services Companies

Here are the best international merchant services that provide international payment processing, international payment gateways, and international merchant accounts.

1. Host Merchant Services

Host Merchant Services



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Host Merchant Services may have a forgettable name, but it’s attached to a high-quality service offering many advantages to its customers. That it’s able to do so with no early termination fees, monthly minimums, or setup fees should place it squarely within your shortlist for merchant service providers.

Host Merchant Services does a really good job of breaking down the costs of international payment processing on its website. In general, you can expect the interchange rate for an international card swipe to fall between 1.10% and 1.98% (remember, that doesn’t include the “plus” side of the equation, which is a flat per-transaction fee). On top of this, you’ll have the international fees charged by the payment network (Visa, Mastercard, etc.). You can expect an international transaction rate of around 2.5% to 3.0%, plus processor fees.

Host Merchant Services enjoys a very positive reputation โ€” unusual among payment processors โ€” for its excellent customer service, attentive tech support, and secondary partnerships. If there’s one major flaw in the company’s armor, it’s that it charges monthly and annual fees.

Pros

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • No setup fees or early termination fees
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Can be expensive for low-volume businesses
  • Annual and monthly fees

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2. Helcim

Helcim



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At Merchant Maverick, we tend to be pretty big fans of interchange-plus pricing. It is, by far, the most transparent way to bill for payment processing, letting you know exactly where your fees are coming from and how much you’re paying for each swipe. Helcim offers interchange-plus pricing and more, making it well worth your consideration as an international processor.

I’m assuming that you’re not going to be setting up an exchange program to bring international customers to you; therefore, you’ll probably need eCommerce support. Helcim offers fully-hosted online shops with customizable templates you can use. Even better, this service comes free with your Helcim account!

Helcim’s price structure is set up to reward volume, meaning that it’s a better deal the higher your sales volume is. While this makes it a great deal for businesses doing a lot of transactions, low-volume merchants may end up spending more than they want to. They also don’t generally work with high-risk industries.

Pros

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • No early termination fees
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Can be expensive for low-volume businesses
  • Monthly fees
  • Not suitable for high-risk industries

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3. Durango Merchant Services

Durango Merchant Services



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High-risk merchants get a bad rap in the payment processing industry and are often shunned by popular services. That said, there are payment processors that think selling a little CBD oil isn’t such a big deal. Durango Merchant Services falls into the latter category and, while it isn’t necessarily the cheapest option on the block, offers a quality service with international capabilities.

Durango offers most of its customers month-to-month contracts with no early termination fee. However, certain businesses that are considered especially high-risk may be asked to sign a contract with a more extended term. Durango uses a proprietary gateway, a necessary feature for eCommerce, and includes it at no additional charge. Durango is a registered ISO in Europe and offers international merchant accounts with currency conversion services for Canada, Panama, the UK, and most countries in the EU. These accounts also come with additional fraud prevention services.

While Durango uses tiered pricing by default, we generally encourage businesses to see if interchange-plus pricing is available when they’re negotiating their accounts. You never know.

Pros

  • High-risk merchant support
  • No early termination fees (in most cases)
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Tiered pricing
  • No public fee disclosure

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4. Stripe

Stripe Payments



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Stripe is a developer-centric payment processor that also just happens to boast exhaustive support for foreign currencies and payment methods. Stripe is available in 36 countries (primarily North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia) and supports Alipay in all markets, in addition to payment methods popular in North America. It also supports over 135 currencies. Needless to say, that’s an incredible amount of reach.

Stripe’s customization can further work in your favor by allowing you to avoid exchange fees. You can, for example, accumulate separate balances in different currencies with Stripe, which it then routes to different bank accounts. If you don’t want to do that, Stripe can still make the conversion for you, but it comes with an additional 1% fee.

Stripe uses flat-rate pricing with generally industry-standard rates for online purchases. As a third-party processor, Stripe has some weaknesses where account stability is concerned, so it’s not a good fit for high-risk businesses. While there are ready-made templates and services you can use, you’ll probably need the help of a developer to get the most out of Stripe, so factor that into your calculations as well.

Pros

  • Well-developed international support
  • No early termination fees
  • Excellent marketplace tools

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Needs technical skill to implement well

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5. PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud



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Interchange-plus pricing, Merchant Maverick’s preferred payment processing pricing scheme, can be elusive for high-risk businesses. Elusive isn’t the same as impossible, however, with PaymentCloud being one of a handful of exceptions to the rule. The company has also cultivated quite a positive reputation. Top-tier merchant services provider Dharma even refers high-risk clients that it can’t accommodate to PaymentCloud. Incidentally, Dharma also refers businesses that do more than 10% of their sales internationally to PaymentCloud.

PaymentCloud specializes in card-not-present transactions, which includes, of course, eCommerce. The processor uses Authorize.Net (which is also on this list) for its payment gateway, which can give you a sense of what it can offer in terms of international reach.

Just keep in mind that even with interchange-pricing, you’re going to be paying a little bit more as a high-risk merchant. Additionally, PaymentCloud doesn’t offer too much in the way of point of sale support (beyond a free credit card terminal, which is admittedly nice), so if you also maintain a brick-and-mortar operation, it may not be an ideal solution.

Pros

  • No account set-up fee
  • High-risk merchant support
  • Reasonable rates and fees

Cons

  • No publically-disclosed pricing
  • Limited support for point of sale

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6. Authorize.Net

Authorize.Net



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eCommerce requires both a payment processor and a payment gateway. Many payment processors offer gateway support with their service or as an add-on. In the case of Authorize.Net, it’s the reverse. It’s a payment gateway that offers optional merchant account services through its partners.

Authorize.Net can accept transactions from merchants located in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, the EU, or Australia and can handle 11 different currencies. As long as you’re based in one of those countries, you can accept payments from anywhere in the world. Currency support, however, is pegged to your region by default. So if you’re based in the US, you’d get currency support for US and Canadian dollars.

The weird thing about Authorize.Net is that signing up directly with the gateway generally isn’t the cheapest way to get it. Authorize.Net provides gateway services for a number of merchant account services that will, in turn, bundle it with their services. Nevertheless, if you just need a gateway with international capabilities, Authorize.Net is an option.

Pros

  • Broad support for international transactions
  • Month-to-month billing
  • Robust security and anti-fraud features

Cons

  • It may be cheaper to use Authorize.Net when bundled with another service
  • Regionally-limited currency support

Get Started with Authorize.Net

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7. PayPal/Braintree

PayPal



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When it comes to online payments, no brand has the name recognition and reach of PayPal. Braintree, while it has few unique qualities, has been owned by PayPal since 2013, so we’re grouping the two branded services into one entry.

PayPal can process transactions in over 130 currencies from 45 different countries, edging out even strong competitors such as Stripe. Further, PayPal offers its own branded infrastructure and payment method, which is a common way to pay for things online. Businesses that can handle some coding, as well as those that prefer a merchant account, will find Braintree more to their liking. Those looking for simplicity and quick approval may prefer PayPal’s third-party processing service (the usual cautions about account stability apply). International transactions incur a 1% fee, with an additional 1% for non-US credit cards.

Between the two services, you can probably find an option that works for your business, though companies that want a merchant account without a lot of tech-related hassle may not find what they’re looking for.

Pros

  • Trusted by consumers
  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Good for low-volume merchants
  • Incredible international reach

Cons

  • Account stability issues (PayPal)
  • May require some technical knowledge (Braintree)

Read our in-depth review

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8. 2Checkout

2Checkout



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2Checkout competes for a lot of the same market share as PayPal and Stripe. Like those two services, 2Checkout has impressive international reach, with availability in over 200 countries and the ability to process over 100 different currencies. Not too many other services can take you that far around the globe.

What’s unique about 2Checkout is its branding as a “monetization platform.” A lot of this is due to a merger a few years back between 2Checkout and a company called Avangate that specialized in selling digital goods. As a result, 2Checkout offers a lot of bells and whistles useful for optimizing the sale of digital products, such as A/B testing, cart abandonment prevention, and conversion rate optimization. Most of these are available as add-ons, so you can pick and choose what you want to pay for.

Just be aware that 2Checkout doesn’t offer any support for card-present transactions at all, so it’s not a good solution for businesses that also engage in brick-and-mortar retail. Also, keep in mind that 2Checkout is a third-party processor, so it’s not a good fit for high-risk merchants.

Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Month-to-month agreements
  • Excellent international reach
  • Offers tools for businesses selling digital goods

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Not suitable for card-present merchants
  • Not suitable for high-risk merchants

Read our in-depth review

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Why You Need A Great International Payment Gateway

You may have noticed some confusing terminology above. Don’t feel bad. The merchant services sector is 90% made up of confusing terminology. In particular, you may have noticed payment processors and payment gateways mentioned as separate entities, as in the case of Authorize.Net.

So what exactly is going on there?

Well, a payment processor is required for completing any card-based transaction. The processor transmits the sale and card information from the point of sale (you, the merchant) to and between the issuing bank (the cardholder’s bank) and the acquiring bank (your bank). The processor will provide a merchant account, or aggregate you into a collective merchant account in the case of a third-party processor, which will temporarily hold the payment and deduct all applicable fees from it. You never directly access your merchant account. Instead, funds will be transferred to your bank account from it automatically once all the background processing is complete.

A payment gateway adds another step to this process. It securely transmits data to the payment processor and relays whether the transaction has been accepted or declined to the customer. Gateways can also do substantially more, such as provide support for multiple currencies and allow you to do business overseas. You can think of a gateway as being the “online” portion of your payment services. So while a gateway is optional for an in-person card transaction, it’s necessary for any online purchase. If you’re doing business overseas without a physical retail location in that market, you’ll need a gateway with international capabilities.

Not too confusing? Good, because here’s some additional complexity. Some payment services companies are “full-stack” service providers, meaning they combine the functionality of a payment processor and a payment gateway into a single service. This includes companies such as Square and Stripe. It also means you can’t mix and match your merchant account and your gateway; they’re joined at the hip.

What about services that aren’t “full-stack?” Both payment processors and payment gateway providers are aware that many of their customers will need the portion of the service that they don’t provide. Because of this, most will form partnerships with companies that provide the missing functionality. In some cases, that functionality is included as part of your service bundle, and in others, you can add it ร  la carte.

So what makes an international payment gateway “great?” Look for features such as:

  • Enhanced Security:ย You’re going to be doing business in more than one system, possibly in multiple currencies. The last thing you need is to have customer info exposed.
  • Multiple Currency Support:ย There are a lot of perks to being the world’s reserve currency โ€” US dollars are exchanged all over the world. However, the ability to accept payment in local currencies will save your customers some headaches and will probably increase your sales in foreign markets overall. This includes being able to display the cost of your product in the local currency on your shopping cart.
  • Multiple Payment Type Support:ย Visa and Mastercard can take you pretty far in foreign markets, but if your gateway supports local payment methods that are popular in those markets, you’ll have an edge. These include methods such as Alipay, which is popular in Asia and also used in Australia and parts of Europe (some American retailers also accept it). It also can’t hurt to have support for digital wallets (such as Apple Pay and Google Pay).
  • Foreign Tax Support:ย Have you heard of a VAT (value-added tax)? Turns out, the US is one of a minority of UN member nations that don’t have one. The short of it is that it’s a tax levied on each stage of production but generally collected by the end retailer. Having your gateway service worry about this for you will save you a lot of grief.
  • General eCommerce Support:ย What does your gateway service offer in terms of checkout support and templates for eCommerce pages? Is it user-friendly? All the concerns you’d have with a domestic market apply here.

5 More Concerns For International Merchant Accounts

Some additional things to keep in mind when you’re accepting international payments include:

Exchange Rates

Exchange rates can be confusing, especially if you’re trying to optimize them. They’re in a constant state of flux, and that’s before you factor in service fees from banks or services that make the exchange for you. Make sure you know who is exchanging currency in your payment pipeline, what they’re using to determine the exchange rate, and how much they charge for making the exchange.

Cross Border Fees

Many payment methods, such as Visa and Mastercard, charge additional fees for international purposes. For example, Mastercard charges an extra 0.6% on “any transaction in which the merchant’s country of domicile differs from the country where the card was issued, and the transactionย was settled in USD.”ย 

There’s also the Global Acquirer Program Support Fee, which applies to transactions accepted by US-based merchants that involve credit cards issued outside the US, which is around 0.85%.

Most popular payment types have similar fees.

Conversions On Disputes

If you thought chargebacks and disputes were fun on domestic charges, international disputes add in another factor: the exchange rate. Because exchange rates fluctuate, the amount that’s refunded may be more or less than what was originally paid. In most cases, you’ll be expected to refund the exact amount of the purchase to the customer, so you may end up eating (or benefiting from) the second conversion.

Multiple Merchant &/Or Bank Accounts

Depending on the service you use and your accounting preferences, you may prefer to use multiple accounts to separate sales in different markets. This can add cost and complexity but also save you money that you’d otherwise lose changing currencies. Talk with your accountant to get a sense of the best way to optimize your payment infrastructure.

Risk Profile

Many payment services consider doing business internationally to be a risk factor. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re working with payment services that specialize in international sales, but if you’re mixing and matching your services, be aware that it could trigger some flags.

How To Choose The Best International Payment Processing For Your Business

Choosing the best international payment processing provider for your business can be a pretty complicated decision. Many payment services specialize in handling a specific type of business, so you’ll want to pick one that matches your risk profile and operates in the markets you’re hoping to break into. Consider any other perks they offer that will make it easier for you to present and sell your particular product. And finally, pay as little as necessary for the features you need.

In the meantime, we can offer more information about specific topics we were only able to touch on in this post. Want to know more about what to expect from cross border fees? Curious about what other payment types you might encounter out in the wild? We can teach you everything you need to know about alternative payment methods.

In Summary: The Best International Merchant Services Companies

  1. Host Merchant Services: Best for high-volume businesses looking for interchange-plus pricing and solid tech support.
  2. Helcim: Best for businesses processing over $25,000/month and are looking for interchange-plus pricing.
  3. Durango Merchant Services: Best for high-risk merchants looking for a stable international merchant account for doing business in Europe, Canada, or Panama.
  4. Stripe Payments: Best for low-risk merchants looking for extensive, customizable international support.
  5. PaymentCloud: Best for high-risk eCommerce businesses seeking interchange-plus pricing.
  6. Authorize.Net: Best for businesses that are happy with their merchant accounts and just need a gateway with international reach.
  7. PayPal: Best for businesses that want to sell to many different countries using a well-known brand.
  8. 2Checkout: Best for low-risk eCommerce businesses, especially those selling digital goods, that are looking for broad international reach.
Chris Motola

Chris Motola

Finance Writer at Merchant Maverick
Chris Motola is a writer, programmer, game designer, and product of NY. These days he's mostly writing about financial products, but in a past life he wrote about health care and business. He's a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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