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Become A Hero & Save Your Charity Money With Discounted Credit Card Processing For Nonprofits

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Anyone who runs a nonprofit organization knows how important it is to cut costs at every turn. Funds are limited, as are resources. There are many ways to save money, but one that many not-for-profit organizations don’t think of is reducing their nonprofit credit card processing costs.

In our increasingly cashless society, most people prefer to pay through a credit or debit card. While accepting donations in-person or over the telephone continues to be a good way for nonprofits to bring in funds, donations are increasingly funneling through online payment portals. There, not only can donors pay with a credit or debit card, but they can also buy additional merchandise, such as t-shirts, mugs, or books.

In addition to taking payments, many of these nonprofit organizations often require flexible solutions that allow them to collect information about donors and sponsors for future fund drives. Some donors even prefer to set up automatic recurring payments. So the payment processing needs of a nonprofit can be unique and complex.

Fortunately, if you are a nonprofit organization, you can, in some cases, lower your credit card processing rates just by asking! (Note: You’ll have to provide proof of your 501(c)(3) status.) If you don’t already qualify for a nonprofit discount, and your current processor doesn’t want to offer you a lower rate, you should start looking around at some other options.

Read on to find out how to save credit card processing costs for a nonprofit.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanySummaryNext Steps
Dharma's company values and culture align well with nonprofits. In fact, it has been working with nonprofits for a long time and knows to make sure your nonprofit is assigned the correct MCC. On top of that, it gives an additional discount to nonprofits.

Visit Site

Read More

If you work with National Processing, not only will you get a nonprofit discount, it makes additional donations to charities as well, so even your processing fees end up doing well.

Visit Site

Read More

While Payline doesn't have nonprofit-specific information on its website, we contacted a few folks for you and confirmed that indeed Payline does have special rates for nonprofits.

Visit Site

Read More

PayPal has a lot of resources designed especially for nonprofits. It has special transaction rates for 501(c)(3) charities, but even if your organization doesn't qualify as such, PayPal might still have reduced rates for you.

Read More

Square has a dedicated page for nonprofits, but, at this writing, it does not give a special discount rate to most nonprofits. If your nonprofit takes in more than $250,000 per year in donations, however, you might be able to negotiate a custom discounted rate.

Visit Site

Read More

Other Featured Options:

  • Stripe Payments: Stripe does offer custom charity pricing for nonprofit organizations. In order to qualify, you have to be a 501(c)(3) organization and you must also raise at least 80% of your funds through donations.

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

What Are Nonprofit Discounts For Credit Card Processing?

Many payment card processors offer lower processing rates for nonprofit organizations. That is true whether you work with a traditional merchant account provider or a third-party processor. All you need to get started is your 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation from the IRS, so you can show your tax-exemption status to the processor.

To understand how a nonprofit can get a discount in processing rates, you first have to understand the different pricing models used by the credit card processing industry because your discount can come from two places.

On the highest level, you can divide the industry into traditional merchant account providers and third-party processors. Traditional merchant account providers set you up with a dedicated account called a merchant account into which credit card funds can be deposited. The provider can draw all the fees from that account before forwarding the rest of the money to you. With a third-party processor, everything it processes goes into one big merchant account. The processor keeps track internally of how much is owed to each merchant and disburses money after it deducts its charges.

With nonprofits, how much of a discount you can get depends on whether you use a traditional merchant account provider or a third-party processor.

Using A Traditional Merchant Account For Nonprofit Credit Card Processing

Even within the category of traditional merchant account providers, credit card processing fees can still vary significantly, depending on both the company that does the processing and the general pricing model the processor follows. Most traditional processors offer either tiered or interchange-plus (sometimes called cost-plus) pricing models.

Tiered pricing essentially lumps certain types of transactions into broader groups and charges costs based on the group the payment falls into. Typically, you have a qualified tier with the lowest processing rate, a mid-qualified tier with a slightly higher rate, and a non-qualified tier with the highest rate. You pay a flat fee based on the tier grouping. It’s not always clear which tier a particular payment will fall into, so you can end up paying more than necessary because of it.

Interchange-plus is a much more transparent option. All card payments get assessed a mandatory interchange fee, which is the fee paid to the banks and credit card associations that run the card processing network. Interchange is non-negotiable. The plus comes from the markup that your processor charges per transaction. It may be a certain percentage; it may be a percentage plus a flat-rate fee; in some cases, it may even be just a flat-rate fee. Often, the processor will reduce the plus part to get your business. With interchange-plus, you always know what you’ll pay to your processor as a markup regardless of card type, so it is often a much better deal.

For nonprofits, there are typically two places where you can get a discount: the interchange costs can be lower for certain cards, and the processor can give an additional discount.

For discounts on interchange rates, note that the various types of cards charged through the distinct channels (e.g., online payments vs. over the phone) are subject to different rates. For example, debit cards have a much lower rate than credit cards, and Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover all charge slightly different rates. Only Visa and Mastercard offer discounted interchange rates for what it deems Charitable and Social Service organizations.

To get that discount from Visa and Mastercard, however, you must make sure that your merchant account provider sets you up with the correct MCC. MCC stands for Merchant Category Code. Each merchant has a code assigned to it to signal to the card association what kind of industry the merchant is in, and it is this MCC that determines your interchange rate. Both Visa and Mastercard use MCC 8398 for Charitable and Social Service organizations, and only transactions prefixed with this MCC will receive the lower interchange rates. However, it’s important to note that not all nonprofits will be eligible for this MCC, so you must talk to your merchant services provider.

In addition to receiving a discount from the credit card associations, the traditional processor might give nonprofits added discounts in its portion of the markup and/or provide additional tools or software for free.

Typically, interchange-plus pricing is the best way to get a discount for nonprofits. However, if you are a small outfit or just getting started, you might consider using a third-party processor. Third-party processors typically cost a bit more, but they offer other free services and conveniences that might turn out to be more beneficial.

Using A Third-Party Processor For Nonprofit Credit Card Processing

As already mentioned above, third-party processors aggregate all of their users into one big merchant account to receive all incoming card payments. There’s an MCC assigned to this big merchant account, but that MCC isn’t MCC 8398 because the third-party processor is not a nonprofit. So third-party processors can’t get the special nonprofit rates from Visa or Mastercard. Nevertheless, most third-party processors do offer special discounts for nonprofits. You may just have to dig a little to find them.

Because these discounts are processor-specific, they tend to vary a lot. Some, such as Stripe, offer discounts somewhat limited in scope (e.g., basically no selling products, tickets, membership fees, etc.), and you must contact Stripe for pricing. Others, such as PayPal, publish their discounted rates and have a page with extensive information on the discounts that are available for nonprofits.

Setting up an account with a third-party processor as a nonprofit is much like setting up an account as other regular businesses, except that you will have to prove your nonprofit status by showing your 501(c)(3) designation. In some cases, you might also need to request and then negotiate a discount on your processing specifically. (Check out our article on how to negotiate the perfect credit card processing deal for tips on the process.)

Processing payments through a third-party processor comes with the typical pluses and minuses of all entities processing through third-party processors. Benefits include quick setup, predictable flat-rate pricing, no monthly fees, no early termination fee, and fast payment. However, if your nonprofit experiences a high chargeback rate — an admittedly unlikely occurrence — or you suddenly exceed your stated monthly processing amount, you may experience the same account stability issues (frozen accounts, account terminations) as for-profit organizations.

Does Free Credit Card Processing For Nonprofits Exist?

In the strictest sense of the word, free — as in “at no cost to you” — yes, free credit card processing exists. However, this merely means that you pass your processing costs down to your donors.

In the credit card processing world, there is something called surcharging, and something else called a convenience fee. Surcharging means, in addition to the actual charge, the processing costs are added to the amount afterward, and the payment card user must pay this additional amount. For convenience fees, the net result is the same — the card user pays the processing costs — but you must have a “primary” way for the donor to pay if they do not wish to pay the convenience fee.

Both surcharges and convenience fees can be tricky to implement correctly. In fact, surcharges are not allowed in some states, and even in those states that do allow it, they are subject to various state laws. We do have articles on both surcharges and convenience fees, so if you’re seriously thinking about implementing either, we recommend you read the articles and proceed carefully. Our research suggests that some donors will voluntarily cover your processing fees, but others might object. It may be that the best way to implement a surcharge or convenience fee is to give your donor a choice instead of making the fee a mandatory part of the donation process.

What To Look For In A Nonprofit Credit Card Processor

Now that we’ve explained where typical nonprofit discounts for credit card processing can come from, below are a few characteristics of a good credit card processor for nonprofits. You might want to keep these attributes in mind as you shop around for a processor.

  • Affordable Rates: Of course, the primary reason you’re shopping around is for the best-discounted rates for nonprofits. However, don’t forget that a processor often offers various other services as well. If you find one who provides other services you like for free or for a small fee but does not offer a nonprofit discount, don’t immediately rule them out. If their fees are reasonable and the additional services end up saving you time or money, then don’t be afraid to go with that processor.
  • Good Customer Support: These days, good customer support is pretty crucial. In credit card processing, you are dealing with technology as well as sometimes mysterious charges. When you have questions about the charges or when you need to fix technical issues, you need to be able to find someone who can help you right away, days, nights, or weekends. So keep in mind the processor’s customer support ratings as you look through your options.
  • Free Payment Gateway: If you plan to accept donations or sell merchandise online, you will need a payment gateway. If you use a third-party processor who sets you up with mobile processing software, a gateway typically comes with it. If you use a merchant account provider, they may or may not provide one for free, so be sure to ask. Even if your merchant account provider does not offer one for free, they should be able to point you to a provider who has a gateway compatible with your merchant account provider’s processing software.
  • Customizable Checkout: If you want to be able to offer honorariums and memorials, you need a processor that provides a customizable checkout, so you can create a place for your donors to leave that information.
  • Support For A Variety Of Transaction Types: Before you decide on a processor, think first about where you expect to take payments. Will you be holding silent auctions or getting on-the-spot donations? Will you only be accepting donations online? Will you maybe set up a shop for your merchandise either as a booth at events or at a permanent physical location? Depending on how you plan to take donations, you might wish to invest in a credit card terminal, a virtual terminal (to accept donations by phone), or a mobile card reader (to be paired with a mobile payment app on a phone or a tablet). Different processors can provide you with different tools, some for free and others for a fee.
  • Recurring Billing: Some patrons like to make regular donations to the nonprofit cause of their choice. If you have this type of patron, you will need software that can do recurring billing. Typically, this is a feature that is added on for an additional fee. With recurring payments, you’ll need to pay attention to the security features of the software so that your donor’s card data can be stored securely. An automatic account updater feature — that is, software that will automatically update a donor’s card number if it changes — is nice to have and can prevent disruptions in their donations.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Features: Customer relationship management features often come with the free software provided by third-party processors. Merchant account providers might bundle such software with their services too. These features typically include a contacts list and may include mailing lists to send out newsletters about your nonprofit or donation/fund drives.
  • Accounting Integrations: Keeping good records is essential for any business. Make sure that your payment processor works with your chosen accounting software. Support for QuickBooks is fairly common, but you should always double-check.

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1. Dharma Merchant Services

Dharma Merchant Services



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Dharma is a merchant account provider who believes in giving good value for a fair price. It offers interchange-plus pricing, and its website clearly discloses the charges, so you know what you will pay and what you won’t pay. There’s no early termination fee with Dharma, so even if, after a while, you decide you don’t like them, you can leave without suffering a hefty penalty.

Dharma’s company values and culture align well with nonprofits. In fact, it has been working with nonprofits for a long time and knows to make sure your nonprofit is assigned the correct MCC. On top of that, it gives an additional discount to nonprofits. As of this writing, Dharma’s nonprofit rates are:

  • Storefront: interchange + 0.15% + $0.07 per transaction
  • Virtual: interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Monthly Fee: $20 per month

Dharma has an entire page of information specially designed for nonprofits, so you know exactly what you will get if you sign up with them.

For additional information about Dharma, read our review here.

Get Started with Dharma Merchant Services

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2. National Processing

National Processing



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If you work with National Processing, not only will you get a nonprofit discount, but it makes additional donations to charities as well, so even your processing fees end up doing good. (Currently, its favorite charity is Success in Education.) National Processing is a merchant account provider who favors transparency in pricing and reasonableness in its contract and fees. We think highly of National Processing.

As to rates, National Processing offers a discounted rate to nonprofits of:

  • Storefront: interchange + 0.15% + $0.07 per transaction
  • Virtual: interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Monthly Fee: $10 per month

In addition to the above, National Processing is developing some proprietary software that will help donors track their donations (as well as help nonprofits manage these donations with additional analytics). Given that donors like to know their money is being put to good use for the specific cause/disaster of their choice, the ability to track donations seems like a tool that can help a nonprofit raise more funds.

Get Started with National Processing

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3. Payline Data

Payline



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Payline Data is another merchant account provider that we at Merchant Maverick like. While it doesn’t have nonprofit-specific information on its website, we contacted a few folks for you and confirmed that, indeed, Payline does have special rates for nonprofits.

Basically, nonprofits get Payline’s retail pricing. Typically, retail (card-present) transactions have the lowest rates. Even though nonprofits tend to get donations through the web (i.e., card-not-present transactions), Payline Data is giving its best pricing to nonprofits. To be more specific, the charges are:

  • Processing Fee: interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Monthly Fee: $10 per month

It also works with you to set up the payment processing portion of your website to make it a better client experience, including adding a Donate Now button for easy payments. Contact Payline Data for more specifics.

Get Started with Payline

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4. PayPal

PayPal



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PayPal has a lot of resources designed especially for nonprofits. That includes special transaction rates for 501(c)(3) charities. Even if your organization doesn’t qualify as such, PayPal might still have reduced rates for you. There are no extra fees for setup, statements, withdrawals, or cancellation. PayPal charges 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction (except for in-person transactions via mobile POS, in which case it is a flat 2.7% per swipe for US transactions).

In addition to special rates, PayPal offers a dedicated Donate button that allows quick donations via payment card or PayPal account, and the donor can even set up recurring payments from there. You can also prompt your donors to pay the promised amount with a PaPal.Me link, for secure one-button payments.

If you already have a CRM software, PayPal integrates with quite a few of them, so be sure to visit the PayPal nonprofits page to see if your software can be used with PayPal. Lastly, you’ll automatically be included in the PayPal Giving Fund, where donors seeking to do good can find you.

Be sure to look at our complete PayPal review if you’re considering using them.

Read our in-depth review

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5. Square

Square



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Read our Review

Square has a dedicated page for nonprofits, but, at this writing, it does not give a special discount rate to most nonprofits. If your nonprofit takes in more than $250,000 per year in donations, however, you might be able to negotiate a custom discounted rate. Otherwise, Square charges its standard 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction, with keyed-in transactions costing 3.5% + 0.15%.

While Square doesn’t exactly give a discount for nonprofits, a lot of Square’s processing, business management, and payment analytics software come free after signing up. One feature that might benefit nonprofits is Square’s customer management software, where contact information and donation history can be automatically saved. Square also offers various analytics, so you can quickly see multiple aspects of your donation drives.

If you need to integrate Square payments to other software, Square supports a large number of those. Be sure to read our full review of Square and to investigate the specifics on its website.

Get Started with Square

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6. Stripe Payments

Stripe Payments



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Stripe does offer custom charity pricing for nonprofit organizations. To qualify, you have to be a 501(c)(3) organization, and you must also raise at least 80% of your funds through donations. That means if your organization raises more than 20% of funds through membership fees, tuition payments, ticket sales, auction payments, or similar, then your organization can’t qualify for this discounted rate. You must contact Stripe to find out your specific discount.

Once you are set up as a nonprofit with Stripe, you can create a custom website experience, accept payments on desktop and mobile devices in any currency, and generate and download custom reports. Some very large charities/nonprofits use Stripe, including Unicef, Oxfam, NPR, and Habitat for Humanity, so if you go with Stripe, you’d be in good company.

Read our complete review of Stripe here before you make a final decision.

Read our in-depth review

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Alternatives To Conventional Credit Card Processors For Nonprofits

Being able to take credit card payments in the traditional way isn’t the only avenue for a nonprofit to accept donations. There are other programs that you can join where being able to accept donations through payment cards is part of a broader suite of services provided by the platform.

Third-Party Or Social Media Platforms

Amazon Pay

Just like regular merchants who can sign up to be an Amazon merchant, nonprofit organizations can also sign up with Amazon to take donations. Once you sign up, your donors can donate to your cause by using their payment information already stored with Amazon. Amazon provides a special reduced rate of 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction if the donor is in the US and 3.2% + $0.30 per transaction if the donor is outside the US.

With Amazon Pay, donors can donate through Alexa devices or a Donate with Amazon button on your website. To enable paying through Alexa, all you have to do is to sign up with Amazon Pay and enable the Alexa Donations functionality. If you wish to add a button on your website, you can copy and paste a simple code provided by Amazon, use a plug-in from your eCommerce software provider, or integrate the button by hiring a developer and using APIs provided by Amazon. Donors can set up recurring payments if they wish.

Amazon offers various reports to help you manage and analyze your donation sources and volume. Your donated funds will be available after a 14-day hold but disbursed in a seven-day rolling disbursement period.

Facebook Payments

If your 501(c)(3) nonprofit has a Facebook page, you can accept donations through Facebook Payments. Facebook charges zero fees for nonprofit organization fundraisers. Facebook offers a Donate button that you can place on a page and allows your supporters to set up dedicated fundraising pages on your behalf to receive donations through the Donate button. You can also set up a dedicated custom link for specific fundraisers.

In addition to getting your donations through Facebook Payments, your fundraiser on Facebook can also receive funds through Network for Good or PayPal Giving Fund (both will be discussed below). Disbursement times vary, with Facebook Payments having the shortest hold time of two weeks.

You can get some analytics of your donors through Facebook Payments and can build a mailing list for those donors who opt-in. You can’t get similar donor information if your organization comes to Facebook through Network for Good or PayPal Giving Fund. However, if you’re signed up with those two organizations, you can get your analytics through them.

PayPal Giving Fund

For nonprofits enrolled in the PayPal Giving Fund, supporters can donate on PayPal, eBay, and other online partner platforms. The fund receives the donations, provides receipts to donors, and sends the donations to the nonprofit’s PayPal account.

There are no fees associated with the PayPal Giving Fund (note the fund is not the same as taking card payments via PayPal, for which there is a charge). Once you enroll, your charity can be accessible to a vast online audience, including users of PayPal, eBay for Charity, Humble Bundle, GoFundMe, and Airbnb. You can receive donations and donor reports, issue receipts, and receive disbursements into your PayPal account every month.

Donation Management Software For Nonprofits

There are certain CRM software packages designed especially for nonprofits. These services sometimes run behind the scenes. However, even if the names of these organizations aren’t household names, if you’ve ever donated your extra airline miles or your cash rewards from credit cards, you have probably worked through them.

From a nonprofit’s standpoint, these software options can be expensive. However, some might find the higher cost worth it because of the convenience that they bring to fundraising.

JustGiving

About a year ago, there was an organization in the US called JustGive and an organization in the UK called JustGiving. The two organizations had been collaborating since 2016. Recently, the JustGive accounts are being phased out, and all new accounts are going through JustGiving.

JustGiving is a software platform that helps a nonprofit set up everything it needs to raise funds online. It allows your organization to set up custom fundraising pages to tell your organization’s story and gives you tools, such as donate buttons, widgets, and mailing lists, to help you raise funds. You can also set up a crowdfunding page and use the power of the crowd to help you raise money for your cause. You can keep track of your organization’s fundraising efforts using a web browser or through an iPhone or Android app. Donors can send money in nine currencies via credit/debit card or PayPal. Some reporting analytics tools are available from JustGiving.

With JustGiving, US and UK charities are subject to slightly different rules when it comes to processing donations. If you’re in the US and sign up through JustGiving to process payment cards, the donations are processed by Blackbaud because Blackbaud owns JustGiving. You pay a service fee of 5% and 2.9% + $0.30 per payment card transaction. Note, you can get a better deal if you sign up with Blackbaud directly and then link your merchant account to JustGiving. See our review of Blackbaud for details.

JustGiving is a membership-based service, but its starter account is free. Once your donations reach a higher volume, you’ll have to pay to continue your account with JustGiving. However, before you reach that donation threshold, you won’t have to pay. JustGiving recoups the cost of running its platform through the payment card processing fees for donations to your organization. It takes out its processing and service fees before releasing the rest of the money to you.

Network For Good

Network for Good, like JustGiving, is a donor management software where you can build your nonprofit’s page, initiate and manage campaigns (including email campaigns), and accept one-time or recurring donations. It offers reports and donor relationship management software for keeping in touch with your donors. It also allows your fundraisers to link to your page for fundraising. Note, you can use Network for Good inside Facebook for fund drives.

Network for Good is a subscription service, and it charges a monthly fee (billed annually) based on the number of contacts you keep in its system. The lowest tier you can sign up for is for 0-1,000 contacts, which costs $200 per month. The highest tier is for up to 10,000 contacts at $400 per month.

To take donations made with a credit or debit card, you can let Network for Good handle the processing, or you can link your merchant account provider. Whichever route you take, Network for Good charges a fee of 3% on top of the payment card processor’s charges, but your donor has the option of paying this 3% for you. If you use Network for Good’s payment processor, it is a little unclear how much the processor charges, but it could be about 2% because there is a page on its website that states:

The 3%-5% additional grant to the Network for Good Donor Advised Fund helps cover the costs of processing transactions, providing customer support, disbursing funds to charities and maintaining our technology.

Given that Network for Good charges 3% if you use your merchant account provider, the logical conclusion is that its card processor charges 2% to process every transaction.

Donor Box

Donor Box is yet another donation management software. It offers about the same suite of services as the others already mentioned above, except you can’t simply sign up and let it handle the payment card processing. You must set up separate accounts with its back-end processors — either Stripe or PayPal — and then connect up to Donor Box for the rest of the fundraising. Donor Box’s website lists PayPal’s published nonprofit rate of 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction and Stripe’s standard rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. It also provides a contact email to get specific nonprofit rates.

You can sign up with Donor Box for free, and it doesn’t charge you unless you raise $1,000 or more per month. Anything at or above $1,000 will cost you a 1.5% processing fee. While the lower fees might sound like a bargain, Donor Box does charge additional monthly fees for integrating with certain software, such as email campaign software (through Mailchimp) and Salesforce NPSP.

Start Saving On Credit Card Processing Fees With Nonprofit Discounts

Now that you have some idea on payment card processing options for nonprofits and the discounts you might be able to get, it’s time to look at your nonprofit’s needs. You might want to read our other article on How To Accept Donations Online. If you’re already accepting credit card payments, check your monthly statements and see what you’re currently paying. (Check out our guide here for more information about fair credit card processing rates and how to make accurate comparisons.)

Then, start shopping around. With interchange-plus, you should be able to compare processing rates directly. Be sure to look at the average size of your donations when comparing transaction costs. A flat per-transaction fee is more costly for small transactions than a straight percentage, which is something to consider. Don’t forget to factor in monthly fees, either.

Beware of locking yourself into a long-term contract or one that includes an early termination fee (ETF). Many processors have now moved to month-to-month packages or at least waive your ETFs. Beware of independent sales agents and deal directly with a company when you can. And, finally, make sure you get everything in writing.

Check out our articles on tax deductions for small businesses — you might be able to write off your credit card processing fees as tax deductions. While a percentage point here or there might sound like pocket change, in the long run, the savings from your lower credit card processing fees can add up. And the money saved on credit card processing fees can be directed to more worthwhile causes.

Do you have questions about nonprofit credit card processing rates? Leave a comment.

A Last Look At Our Top Picks

  1. Dharma Merchant Services
    Summary - Dharma's company values and culture align well with nonprofits. In fact, it has been working with nonprofits for a long time and knows to make sure your nonprofit is assigned the correct MCC. On top of that, it gives an additional discount to nonprofits.
  2. National Processing
    Summary - If you work with National Processing, not only will you get a nonprofit discount, it makes additional donations to charities as well, so even your processing fees end up doing well.
  3. Payline
    Summary - While Payline doesn't have nonprofit-specific information on its website, we contacted a few folks for you and confirmed that indeed Payline does have special rates for nonprofits.
  4. PayPal
    Summary - PayPal has a lot of resources designed especially for nonprofits. It has special transaction rates for 501(c)(3) charities, but even if your organization doesn't qualify as such, PayPal might still have reduced rates for you.
  5. Square
    Summary - Square has a dedicated page for nonprofits, but, at this writing, it does not give a special discount rate to most nonprofits. If your nonprofit takes in more than $250,000 per year in donations, however, you might be able to negotiate a custom discounted rate.
  6. Stripe Payments
    Summary - Stripe does offer custom charity pricing for nonprofit organizations. In order to qualify, you have to be a 501(c)(3) organization and you must also raise at least 80% of your funds through donations.
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.
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67 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Brian

    5 years ago we ran and LLC selling wildflower oil. Eventually we were shut down by paypal, amazon, stripe, square, Elavon, and registered TMF ” Terminated Merchant File: Shut down and unable to do credit/debit card processing, labeled as a CBD product. Their computer software read our website as CBD, when they scanned our website account, and shut us down. Even though the CBD on the website was for Colorado Bred Design wildflower oil, nothing to do with CBD hemp products. Amazon even kept $2,700 of our sales, and later said, we had no such account. Since our product is wildflower oil, we have considered enlisting our 501 c3 organization to market the oil. Any ideas? We have applied to over 100 banks as the previous LLC and got nowhere. How bout a 501 c3 that has been in good standing since its inception in 1974.

      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

      Emily Hale

      Hi Brian,

      I’m sorry to hear you are facing so much trouble finding a processor. There are pros and cons to enlisting your 501 c3 and without knowing all of the ins and outs, I’m not comfortable giving advice concerning that particular business move. Have you specifically focused on high-risk processors? It’s possible that your other products (especially if health related) could be an issue as far as that’s concerned, too. Additionally, Square just announced that they are opening up their services to CBD sellers, so it would be less of a deterrent if that was the case. Another possibility for you is to ensure that in your site and materials, you have removed all acronyms that may be misconstrued as CBD oil. I wish you the best of luck in finding a good processor! Let us know what you land on.

        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

        Jim Mouradick

        We are in the final stages of completing our custom non-profit 501(c)(3) website/company to be able to sell original works of art from Armenia into the US market, wherein 100% all profits are donated back into Armenian charities doing charitable work in Armenia (rebuilding schools, health centers, housing, water treatment, and infrastructure). Our business model allows us to pass along a 60% income tax deduction to art purchasers/collectors. Our individual sales transactions in the first year will be between $500-$2,000 each, with annual first years sales projected to be $50,000 to $100,000. Year three annual sales should be in the $200,000-$250,000 and year five should be in the $400,000-$500,000 range, which is where we think we will level off. During this transition, sales on the low end will continue at $500 and top out at the $5,000 level. All our sales will be via internet and we hope to offer all major CC cards (including AMEX and PayPal). Is there a merchant service provider that would be the perfect fit for us (we currently bank with Chase Bank)?

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          Melissa Johnson

          Hi, Jim!

          It sounds like you’re based in the US, which is an advantage. It’ll make processing a lot easier. Off the top of my head, Braintree and Stripe seem like they would be good fits. Braintree will allow you to build in PayPal payments pretty effortlessly. Both are very developer friendly and you can do a lot with automation and reporting. Dharma Merchant Services is also a really great company for nonprofits in general, but they do generally want you to have a monthly volume of $10k.

          Hope this helps!

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            Judy Kaufman

            I head up a non-profit organization that takes in annually about $20,000: $4000 annual membership fees, $13,000 event registration fees, $1000 donations, $2000 book sales and miscellany. We currently do no credit card processing except one of our board members just started using her own Square account for selling books at a few events. We have a website and would like to allow people to pre-register on the website for events and charge the reg. fee to credit cards, as well as being able to charge donations and membership fees. (And probably also use the same system for selling books at our events and walk-in registrations.) And we need good reports of all this activity to be generated for our Treasurer. What system would you recommend?

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              Emily Hale

              Hi Judy,

              You might want to consider Stripe, as it’s a very flexible solution and offers integrations available (e.g. Event.com) for registering online. In addition, you can apply for special pricing with your nonprofit status. Hope this helps, and best of luck!

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                Carla Forrest

                I opened a 501(c)3 kitten rescue nonprofit. The nonprofit will be taking online donations, mail in and over the phone donations and collecting in-store donations during adoption events. I am also opening a Cat Cafe that will be selling merchandise, coffee and cat experiences. Is there an all in one option for both businesses, so I do not have to pay 2 monthly fees. I would hate to start the cafe with a $99 monthly fee.

                Thank you,
                Carla Forrest
                Small Lives Matter Kitten Rescue

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                  Dakota Fillet

                  Hi Carla,

                  Square would be the best option for your business. They have no monthly fees, affordable hardware, and do not charge to use the virtual terminal to do phone or mail donations. They do not, however, support ACH and we are not sure how their online tools are since they recently made a few changes, but this is something you may want to contact them to inquire about. Additionally, we would encourage getting a chip reader for purchases to ensure you are protected against potential credit card fraud. Square has many options so it would be best to visit their site to see all of your options before choosing.

                  If you begin to clear $10k/month for credit card processing, you may want to consider Dharma Merchant Services which will give you processing discounts and access to some more specialized tools while also supporting all of the retail needs of the cat cafe. Best of luck!

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                    Pam Krueger

                    Thank you for a great article, but there is still so much I don’t understand. I serve on a church committee that plans an annual retreat. We only take credit card payments from retreat attendees during our registration period which is 3 – 4 months long and the average amount charged is $150. We take credit card payments online only. Which companies do you recommend we look into as a non-profit? Thank you for taking the time to reply.
                    Sincerely,
                    Pam

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                      Jessica Dinsmore

                      Hi Pam,

                      I’d suggest looking into Paypal or Square. While Square is an excellent option, Paypal offers an online discount. So I’d definitely check them both out and see what checks more of your boxes. Good luck!

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                        Paul

                        Fantastic summary of the available payment processors and merchants for non-profits. Looking for guidance here as we are looking to move our 501c(3) away from from PayPal to another payment merhcant/provider. There are so many today and I am not sure what we focus on.

                        Out situation is quite unique as our non-profit runs an experimental/pilot stock exchange to gather data for the US government to one day pursue regulatory certainty. We have been taking in donations from paypal to our non-profit since 2011/12, with the stock exchange taking donations itself starting in 2014. So we have tremendous history with payment processing and very very few chargebacks over that time.

                        What’s unique about our model though is that while the non-profit take in donations to the experimental exchange, we also make outpayments should the pilot participant wish to take anything out. We have capped donations to $2500 year per pilot participant, so its not crazy amount of money coming in or going out.

                        Which providers would you recommend that would best for this model of taking in donations and sending out payments periodically?

                        Thanks!

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                          Jessica Dinsmore

                          Hi Paul,

                          What an interesting question! I’d suggest reaching out to Dharma to see if they will accommodate your unique request (I suspect they will!). Best of luck to you!

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                            Zana S Price

                            We are a 53 year nonprofit 501 C3 Art Association. We hold a six week holiday arts and craft show each year since 1967. Last year gross sales was $73,000 for the six weeks. Looking for a POS with lower processing fees than Square. No monthly fees, short term holiday commitment.

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                              Jessica Dinsmore

                              Hi Zana!

                              I’d say Dharma or possibly Payline. The big determining factor in whether the pricing is competitive is your average transaction size. The larger the transaction size, the more likely an interchange-plus plan will work best for you.

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                                Marlin

                                We are a Youth Group from our church looking into purchasing something that is very feasible for our budget and looking for something that won’t charge fees. Thanks!

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                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                  Hi Marlin!

                                  I definitely think Square or Paypal is the way to go for your youth group. Best wishes!

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                                    Joyce

                                    Hi, if you were looking to get small political campaign donations and needed to gather other information like the name, address, occupation and employer information of the donation while looking for reduced fees – what would you recommend?

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                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                      Hi Joyce,

                                      Square would be an excellent option for you. Happy campaigning!

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                                        Michelle Stewart Walsh

                                        Hello Melissa – we’re a small local church that regularly runs fund-raisers: Rummage sales, bake sales and the like. We’d like to be able to accept credit and debit cards at these functions, but we only have a few every year, so would like to keep costs down as much as possible.

                                        What would you recommend?

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                                          Jessica Dinsmore

                                          Hi Michelle,

                                          I’d suggest looking into Paypal or Square. They both work well for smaller non-profits with variable sales volumes. Good luck!

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                                            Steph J

                                            Hi there! Thanks so much for all the helpful info in this article… we are small nonprofit history museum with 501 c 3 status –we have a small museum store and regularly process tours and sales by credit card. Our current POS is a bit outdated and we are having issues with it. Wondering if this is a good time to also review our merchant services and make a change both in processing and our whole POS system —to be sure we are making the most of ever penny we earn and spend. Wondering what your suggestions are for us? We recently used PayPal Here for our big yearly fundraiser but we definitely still need a point-of-sale for our daily operations (tours, sales, donations etc.). Thanks so much for any advice!

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                                              Melissa Johnson

                                              Hi, Steph!

                                              It certainly sounds like you’re at a good point in time to re-evaluate your payment processing and POS setup!

                                              PayPal Here should work on a daily basis if you don’t need a lot of features. You can add hardware and receipt printers and such. You can also set up donation buttons online for one-time and recurring donations, and you’d be eligible for a discount for those online transactions. As a bonus, PPH is free.

                                              Vend offers a non-profit discount (30% off) for its POS app as well. And it integrates with PayPal as a processor. If you need some more robust functions, that could be worth pursuing. Vend offers a discount if you pay for a whole year in advance, but you can also go month to month.

                                              There’s also ShopKeep, which offers custom pricing for merchants. ShopKeep offers its own payment processor with custom rates (but you can choose to use your own processor if you like). You’ll have to contact them for details, but it’s a powerful platform with month to month agreements.

                                              Another great option to look at would be Dharma Merchant Services. They do offer nonprofit discounts and they give a lot of money toward charitable causes themselves.

                                              I hope this helps!

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                                                Ariel

                                                Health Services in an office setting with 501(c)3 status. We are trying to figure out if going with Square or Paypal makes the most sense? We will be taking payments by swiping cards and would love an option for donations on the website or other easy ways. Which would be best? Thanks!

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                                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                                  Hi Ariel,
                                                  I would say Paypal makes the most sense for you, and it’s super easy to set up a donation button. Good luck!

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                                                    Carmen Davis

                                                    Our group, non profit, puts on horse shows one time per year. We would like to accept credit cards with little to no fees. Any suggestions?

                                                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                                      Hi Carmen,
                                                      I’d suggest looking into Square or Paypal Here. They are both non-profit friendly and mobile, which seems convenient for horse shows, and neither have monthly fees. Best of luck!

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                                                        Kim Carroll

                                                        What would you recommend for a school PTO with 501c3 tax exempt status? It would be used for spirit wear, school event tickets and food & drink sales at functions.
                                                        Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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                                                          Melissa Johnson

                                                          Hi, Kim! I would probably look at PayPal in your case. You’ll get all the tools you need with no monthly fees, which is great if you’re doing only a small volume each month.

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                                                            Sandra

                                                            Non profit Inc. 501 c 3 New Charitable Assistance program. Building a web page awaiting my bank to setup a donation system in the future. Have a bank account established. Please advise for growth of the foundation to include sales of products. fees and/or percentages and no termination for transfer to another service. security is another area of interest. We are only at projections so little income and need much to grow.

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                                                              Melissa Johnson

                                                              Hi, Sandra! I think if you are just starting out with a low volume, PayPal may be the best option for you! You’ll be able to set up single and recurring donations with just a few clicks, plus create an online shop and swipe cards in person at fundraisers, and you’ll be eligible for the nonprofit discount.

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                                                                Debbie Burkhart

                                                                We are a 501C3 supporting a music program at a high school and run two big events an a few small ones. GoPayment had been great up until they stopped letting us use older readers forcing us to buy new at about $20 each and we need atleast 15 for the large marching band event. Any ideas who would help on the card reader side?

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                                                                  Melissa Johnson

                                                                  Hi, Debbie!

                                                                  I would consider looking at PayPal, though Square may also be willing to work with you on the hardware front! You’ll have to contact sales directly and ask, however. Generally, discounts on hardware aren’t offered by default, even for nonprofits! But you really should consider upgrading to some chip card hardware to reduce your own potential liability.

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                                                                    Mike Rolf

                                                                    Thanks for the info. Pay Pal looks pretty good for our nonprofit but I see they only mention credit cards for processing. We recently had a fundraiser with a big silent auction. We currently use Swipe but we had about 15 upset people when our iPads were not able to process debit cards. We are a small nonprofit that takes in less than $100,000 in Credit/debit donations. Thanks for any suggestions.
                                                                    Thank you,
                                                                    Mike

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                                                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                      Hi Mike,

                                                                      That sounds very frustrating! We don’t know much about Swipe, but Paypal seems to be a good fit for your needs. Paypal Here can process debit cards on the credit networks, just like a credit card, so the customer experience remains the same regardless of their method of payment. I hope that helps!

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                                                                        Brenna

                                                                        Thanks so much for this helpful article and for the follow-up questions and responses!

                                                                        I have worked for straight-up non-profits in the past, and we’ve always used Network for Good, ActBlue, and other donation processors of that type. However, my new gig is with an historic mansion that is a non-profit, but also makes money from for-profit activities such as weddings, lectures, concerts, and the like. We’d like to be able to take both donations and payments online, as well as in person. We’re relative small. Would Square be the right way to go to meet this for-profit/non-profit hybrid’s needs?

                                                                        Thanks!

                                                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                          Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                          Hi Brenna,

                                                                          Square is a great option for nonprofits, but for your situation, I think PayPal is your best bet. They will offer you a nonprofit discount, plus recurring donation buttons. PayPal’s recurring donation buttons are easy to set up, plus you can send invoices and accept payments in person. Best!

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                                                                            Cathy Freeman

                                                                            We just applied for non-profit status. We are a group of patients with a rare incurable cancer and are looking for donations to fund researchers who’ll study our rare disease, help get tumor tissue to researchers to create cell lines and assist patients. We have both a facebook site and a website. In our first year we facilitated $130,000 in fundraising through a researcher’s nonprofit lab (using his Foundation’s status). This year we are going creating our own non-profit so we can fund other researchers as well. I doubt we’ll every get the amount we raised last year again thus it would be a low volume donation site. I first thought Paypal but then realized there would be two fees, Paypal’s fee plus the credit cards fee. I expect most donations to be by credit card. I use Square personally for my husband’s concerts but it has a high percentage per transaction fee. Thus looking for a credit card non-profit that a donate button on our website would link to with the least percentage fee per transaction as well as no monthly fees since we’ll probably go months with no donations. Trying to save lives and often our disease first is seen in teenagers, SDH Deficient (a Kreb’s Cycle inherited mutation) that leads to three different cancers, Gist (what I have), Paraganglioma (what my father died of) and renal cell carcinoma. Thank you.

                                                                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                              Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                              Hi Cathy,

                                                                              Paypal is actually your best option — there won’t be any fees beyond processing rates, and since you are a non-profit you’ll be able to get a lower rate than you would with Square.
                                                                              Plus you get the option of recurring donations for free! Best of luck to you and your nonprofit!

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                                                                                Kim

                                                                                Hi, We’re a small nonprofit providing thherapeutic riding for children and adults with disabilities. We’d like to be able to accept donations via credit card, as well as payments for lessons. Occasionally we might have merchandise, such as t-shirts or cups being sold. Suggestions?

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                                                                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                  Hi Kim,

                                                                                  What a great service you provide! I think Square would handle this well. They work great for most smaller non-profits, for both regular donations, as well as fundraising events, etc. They are also easy to use and have no monthly fee. Good luck to you!

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                                                                                    Gerry

                                                                                    Hi,

                                                                                    I’ve read your article and many of your responses to comments. We are a small to medium sized church that has some monthly recurring donations plus a small bookstore that accepts credit card sales. We don’t have a dedicated pad or phone that we can attach a reader to, though there is a computer in the bookstore that can be accessed. You recommend Dharma to several folks who seem to be in situations similar to ours but I read somewhere the Dharma isn’t good for smaller organizations. Is that correct? What would you recommend for us?

                                                                                    Thank you!

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                                                                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                      Hi Gerry,

                                                                                      I think with your lower sales volume, you’d be best off with Square or Paypal, however you’d really need to invest in an iPad or tablet for either of them. They both accommodate donations quite simply, and offer the flexibility to accept donations on the go. Just be sure to get the EMV reader regardless of your choice. Hope that helps!

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                                                                                        Jason

                                                                                        Are there any 3rd party processors that allow you to execute all transactions under your domain, seamlessly? I understand I can do this by working with a company like Authorize.net, but that is a complicated set up. I’m looking for a PayPal or a NetworkforGood type service that can do this.

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                                                                                          Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                          Hi Jason,

                                                                                          I’d suggest checking out our eCommerce reviews, and possibly look into Shopify. We aren’t 100% sure if this is the solution to your problem, but at a minimum, they make it pretty seamless to set everything up under one domain. I hope that helps!

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                                                                                            Annie H

                                                                                            Hi, we are a non-profit preschool based in California, and we’re looking for a way to accept online tuition payments (around $175-$200/month) for around 75 families. That’s our priority, as our parents have been asking for online payments for awhile now. Also, a mobile on site option would be nice, in case parents want to pay tuition at school, or if they want to purchase tickets to some of our events. Any recommendations?

                                                                                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                              Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                              Hi Annie,

                                                                                              I think Dharma Merchant Services (see our review) would meet your needs. They are great for non-profits and come highly recommended. I’d also suggest this article: Nonprofit Card Processing Discounts Can Mean Big Savings.

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                                                                                                Kathi Williams

                                                                                                We are looking for something other than PayPal Here for vendor events. PayPal Here does not transfer the address of the donor to the main Pay Pal file causing us to have to enter everyone by hand.

                                                                                                Do you know of any POS card companies that have the integration so we can obtain the address of our donor?

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                                                                                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                  Hi Kathi!

                                                                                                  I love the work you’re doing! I think Square Customer Directory would be perfect for what you are looking for. Check it out and please let me know if you have any further questions. Best of luck!

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                                                                                                    Catherine

                                                                                                    Great Article, Im not sure if I have more or less questions. I have heard that PayPal has a cap on how much money you can move out of the account per month? If that is true, is there a better option.

                                                                                                    It is a non profit.

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                                                                                                      Melissa Johnson

                                                                                                      Hi, Catherine!

                                                                                                      As far as I am aware, and as far as PayPal indicates on its website, caps only apply to unverified non-profits. Once you link your bank account and provide the other information, you should be free to move money around as you need/

                                                                                                      https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/brc/nonprofits-and-limitations

                                                                                                      Hope this helps!

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                                                                                                        Elaina

                                                                                                        We are a looking to accept credit card transactions at various events such as bake sales, and other fundraisers, etc as well as adding a storefront to our website.

                                                                                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                          Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                          Hi Elaina,

                                                                                                          I think Square would be perfect for you. Check them out and see what you think. Good luck with your sales!

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                                                                                                            Sherry

                                                                                                            Our camp would like to take online donations where people can use their credit cards. We also have a camp store that we sell out of and have many parents that would like to pay with a credit card. What’s the best option that would allow us to both?

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                                                                                                              Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                              Hi Sherry,

                                                                                                              Thanks for writing. I would recommend taking a look at Square; they work well for non-profit organizations in our experience. Paypal would also be worth looking into if Square doesn’t check all of your boxes. Best of luck with your camp!

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                                                                                                                Reema

                                                                                                                Hi, I am looking for a cheap option for credit card machines for a non-profit organization. We are currently using moneris which is quite costly for us.
                                                                                                                Please advise! Thanks!

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                                                                                                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                                  Hi Reema,
                                                                                                                  Square is an excellent choice for non-profit organizations and there are no monthly fees or early termination fees.

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                                                                                                                    Kathie Daufel

                                                                                                                    We are a non-profit organization. We perform once a year and we would like to offer the option of buying tickets at the door using a CC. Looking for the best option for us to do this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

                                                                                                                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                                      Hi Kathie,
                                                                                                                      Square is a great option for non-profits with low/variable sales volumes.

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                                                                                                                        Lynette

                                                                                                                        Do any of the merchants have a mobile phone app that accepts recurring donations.?

                                                                                                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                          Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                                          Hi Lynette,

                                                                                                                          Dharma Merchant Services should be able to help with this!

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                                                                                                                            anne

                                                                                                                            Hi, Can non-profits charge the fee BACK to the person making the donation?

                                                                                                                            We were thinking of putting a comment on our website that the processing fee would be covered by the donor. $100 becomes $114.50.

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                                                                                                                              Chloe Bahal

                                                                                                                              Hi Anne,

                                                                                                                              That’s a great questions. The laws regarding charging the customer vary between the different card networks, so it is hard to say. This article and this article will help you get a better idea of what you need to do to comply. I hope this helps and if you have further questions please let me know.

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                                                                                                                                Julie Elangwey

                                                                                                                                Hello Melissa, How to reduce credit card processing costs?

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                                                                                                                                  Chloe Bahal

                                                                                                                                  Hi Julia,

                                                                                                                                  I think you might find this article helpful. If you have further questions please don’t hesitate to let us know.

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                                                                                                                                    Florence Allbaugh

                                                                                                                                    Thank you for your work. It was helpful for us. We are a non-profit providing medical & dental care in developing countries.

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                                                                                                                                      Abraham Amoah

                                                                                                                                      Please I’ve set up a non-profit making organization site at http://www.christiansonearth.org and I want to see how you can help me to set up a merchant account for donations. Please visit http://www.christiansonearth.org/hell.html or /rapture.html to understand what I mean.
                                                                                                                                      Thank you.
                                                                                                                                      Abraham Amoah
                                                                                                                                      Ghana

                                                                                                                                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                                        Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                                                        Hi Abraham! Thank you for your inquiry. I’d recommend Dharma for your non-profit needs. Best of luck to you!

                                                                                                                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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