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Credit Card Payment Processing For Nonprofits: 9 Best Options, Free Processing, & More

Most payment processors offer a discount for nonprofits. Here’s how to maximize your merchant services' toolsets, including implementing free credit card processing.

    Jason Vissers
  • UPDATED

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

Finding the right credit card processing for nonprofits is crucial to keeping your nonprofit organization’s costs low. With donations increasingly being made online, your nonprofit payment processing system has taken on extra importance. A good processor will not only help your nonprofit save money on processing donations — it can meet a wide range of your organization’s needs.

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  • $0/month
  • Pricing starts at interchange + 0.10% + $0.05 (qualified nonprofits get discounted pricing)
  • $0/month
  • Pricing starts at interchange + 0.10% + $0.05 (qualified nonprofits get discounted pricing)

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  • $0/month
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
  • $0/month
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction

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  • $0-$30/month
  • 1.99% + $0.49 per online transaction for nonprofits, 2.29% + $0.09 per in-person transaction
  • $0-$30/month
  • 1.99% + $0.49 per online transaction for nonprofits, 2.29% + $0.09 per in-person transaction

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  • $20/month
  • Interchange + 0.10% + $0.08 per in-person transaction for nonprofits, interchange + 0.10% + $0.11 per online transaction
  • $20/month
  • Interchange + 0.10% + $0.08 per in-person transaction for nonprofits, interchange + 0.10% + $0.11 per online transaction

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  • $0/month
  • 2.2% + $0.30 per online transaction for nonprofits, 2.7% + $0.05 per in-person transaction
  • $0/month
  • 2.2% + $0.30 per online transaction for nonprofits, 2.7% + $0.05 per in-person transaction

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  • Monthly fee not disclosed
  • Per-transaction rates not disclosed
  • Monthly fee not disclosed
  • Per-transaction rates not disclosed

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  • $9.95/month
  • Interchange + 0.12% + $0.06 per transaction for nonprofits
  • $9.95/month
  • Interchange + 0.12% + $0.06 per transaction for nonprofits

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  • $10/month
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction for nonprofits
  • $10/month
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction for nonprofits

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  • $14.99/month
  • 1.35% + $0.05 per transaction for nonprofits
  • $14.99/month
  • 1.35% + $0.05 per transaction for nonprofits

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Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

Why Nonprofits Need Reliable Payment Processing

According to Double The Donation, while overall charitable giving has increased by 4.1% over the past year, online giving increased by three times as much — 12.1% — over the same period. Clearly, any forward-thinking nonprofit stands to benefit from reliable online payment processing.

A solid payment processor can allow nonprofits to:

  • Accept donations online
  • Set up recurring donations and ACH transfers
  • Set up an online store
  • Promote and sell tickets to events

Get More Resources For Your Nonprofit Or Charity

Nonprofit organizations have their own particular needs. These needs go beyond payment processing. From loans to credit cards to accounting software integrations to registering your organization as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Merchant Maverick can help you find the services you need to reach your charitable goals and succeed as an organization.

Check out some of our resources below:

The Best Credit Card Payment Processing For Nonprofits

Many payment processors offer lower processing rates for nonprofits. You’ll also want to consider providers that offer virtual terminals, ACH/echeck processing, eCommerce integrations, mobile point of sale, and other tools that help you take donations and communicate with donors. Our list includes Helcim, Square, PayPal, and more.

1. Helcim

Helcim


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Pros

  • Discounted interchange-plus pricing for qualified nonprofits
  • No long-term contracts or early termination fees
  • Extensive account fee disclosures
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • No support for high-risk users
  • Pricey card reader

Helcim Pricing

  • $0/month
  • Interchange + 0.30% + $0.08 to interchange + 0.10% + $0.05 per standard in-person transaction, with fees decreasing with processing volume
  • Nonprofits get lower interchange fees than standard users

Helcim Features

Combining low interchange-plus pricing (including Visa and Mastercard’s special nonprofit interchange rates) with honest service and excellent customer support, Helcim is one of Merchant Maverick’s favorite payment processors.

Helcim’s nonprofit-friendly features include the following:

  • Donate buttons
  • QR code payments
  • Payment links
  • Mobile credit card reader (sells for $109)
  • Recurring billing and membership management
  • Hosted donation pages
  • CRM functionality
  • Invoicing
  • Virtual terminal
  • International payment support
  • Your own merchant account

Where Helcim Really Shines For Nonprofits

Helcim gives nonprofits the tools they need to conduct fundraisers and accept payments (online, in-person, and over the phone) in the 21st century, all while keeping your costs as low as possible. While Helcim’s mobile card reader is relatively pricey — though it includes a free countertop stand — you’ll get a virtual terminal, recurring billing, CRM, and payment portal pages for no extra cost whatsoever. A specialized donation platform might charge you $100 a month to use these features.

Helcim’s payments package is an outstanding value for nonprofit organizations.

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2. Square

Square


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

Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • No monthly fees
  • Impressive feature set
  • Affordable card reader

Cons

  • No discount rate for entities taking in less than $250K annually
  • Account stability issues

Square Pricing

  • $0/month
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
  • Nonprofits taking in $250K+/year in donations may get a discounted rate; otherwise, nonprofits pay the standard rate

Square Features

Square’s nonprofit page details some of the benefits the company has to offer a nonprofit organization. All in all, Square’s package includes numerous features that can benefit nonprofits, almost all of which come free after signing up.

  • Capture donor information in a Customer Directory
  • Donation links with customizable donation goals
  • Donation tracking
  • Virtual terminal
  • Free magstripe-only card reader
  • Inexpensive ($49) chip card reader
  • Hosted donation pages
  • Invoicing
  • QR code payments
  • Square Online (website/online store builder)

Where Square Really Shines For Nonprofits

Unfortunately, Square doesn’t give nonprofits a discounted rate unless they take in more than $250K/year in donations. However, when you consider Square’s bevy of free processing, business management, payment analytics, and donor management tools — not to mention numerous integrations with other useful platforms — its nonprofit appeal becomes clearer. For larger nonprofits eligible for Square’s high-processing-volume transaction discounts, there’s even more to like.

Have a look at our guide to Square for nonprofits to learn more.

Get Started With Square

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3. PayPal

PayPal


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Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Discounted nonprofit rate available
  • Extensive integrations
  • Good developer tools

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Inconsistent customer support
  • Pricing is high if you take lots of very small online donations

PayPal Pricing

  • $0-$30/month (depending on the payment system you use)
  • 1.99% + $0.49 online transaction fee for approved nonprofits, 2.20% + $0.09 per in-person transaction

PayPal Features

PayPal has a lot of resources designed especially for nonprofits. That includes special transaction rates for 501(c)(3) charities and somewhat discounted rates for donations even if your organization is not a 501(c)(3) charity.

Featurewise, I recommend reading our PayPal nonprofit and donations guide for a full rundown, but here’s a quick summary of what you’ll get:

  • Donation buttons
  • QR codes
  • Inexpensive mobile card reader with a PIN pad
  • Virtual terminal (though you have to pay a monthly fee for it)
  • Donation links (PayPal.me)
  • Hosted donation pages
  • Invoicing
  • Countless shopping carts, POS, CRM, and accounting integrations
  • Detailed reporting

Where PayPal Really Shines For Nonprofits

PayPal’s discounted nonprofit rates for online transactions include a $0.49 fixed fee, which ends up being pretty steep if you accept lots of online donations under $10 or so (though taking in-person donations cuts this fixed per-transaction fee to $0.09). We also wish you didn’t have to pay a monthly fee to use PayPal’s virtual terminal. But for most nonprofits, PayPal’s combination of discounted rates and nonprofit-friendly features and tools (both in-house and third-party) makes for a compelling package.

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4. Dharma Merchant Services

Dharma Merchant Services


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Pros

  • Discounted interchange-plus pricing for qualified nonprofits
  • Month-to-month billing
  • Virtual terminal, recurring billing, and donation buttons
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Monthly fee
  • Pricey mobile card reader

Dharma Merchant Services Pricing

  • $20/month for nonprofits
  • Nonprofit rates are interchange + 0.10% + $0.08 per in-person transaction, interchange + 0.10% + $0.11 per online transaction

Dharma Merchant Services Features

Dharma is a reputable merchant services provider that offers transparent interchange-plus pricing with discounted rates for nonprofits.

Dharma’s nonprofit page details its features for registered charities, and these features include:

  • Donation buttons
  • A virtual terminal
  • Recurring billing and invoicing
  • eCommerce integrations (for an additional $10/month)
  • Hosted donation pages
  • Customer database
  • ACH processing (for a monthly fee)
  • Payment links
  • Mobile card reader ($149)
  • Your own merchant account

Where Dharma Really Shines For Nonprofits

Dharma’s merchant services package is ideally suited to nonprofits processing over $10,000 per month. With nonprofit-discounted interchange-plus pricing, tools for accepting donations both online and in-person, and a wide array of eCommerce and POS integrations, there’s a lot to like for larger nonprofits — more than enough to compensate for the monthly fees charged for the core service and some of the add-on features.

Get Started With Dharma Merchant Services

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5. Stripe

Stripe Payments


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Pros

  • Discounted pricing for qualified nonprofits
  • Excellent developer tools
  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Advanced reporting, tax, and bookkeeping tools

Cons

  • No discount if your nonprofit raises less than 80% of its funds via donations
  • Account stability issues

Stripe Pricing

  • $0/month
  • 2.2% + $0.30 online transaction fee for qualified nonprofits, 2.7% + $0.05 fee for in-person transactions
  • Your organization must raise at least 80% of its funds through donations to qualify for the discounted rate

Stripe Features

Stripe is best known for its strong developer support and excellent developer tools. If your nonprofit needs a custom solution for taking donations online, Stripe’s advanced features and discounted online transaction fees may offer what you need.

Other features include:

  • International support
  • Recurring billing
  • ACH transactions
  • Numerous integrations
  • Hosted payment pages (Stripe Checkout)
  • Customizable donation forms
  • Manage taxes, reporting, and bookkeeping
  • Payment links

Where Stripe Really Shines For Nonprofits

Stripe offers many nonprofit-friendly features, but remember that you must raise at least 80% of your funds through donations to qualify for nonprofit pricing. If your organization raises more than 20% of its funds through membership fees, tuition payments, etc., it can’t qualify for this discounted rate.

Stripe lets your nonprofit create a custom website experience, accept payments on desktop and mobile devices in any currency, and generate custom reports. Some very large charities/nonprofits use Stripe, including Unicef, Oxfam, and NPR. If you go with Stripe, you’d be in good company, but you may want to read our Stripe nonprofit guide before making a final decision.

Get Started With Stripe Payments

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6. PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud


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

Pros

  • High-risk specialist
  • Free credit card terminal
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Non-transparent pricing with no nonprofit discount
  • An early termination fee may apply

PaymentCloud Pricing

  • Quote-based pricing — tiered and interchange-plus plans are available (get interchange-plus pricing if possible)
  • No further pricing details are provided, but no nonprofit discount is offered

PaymentCloud Features

PaymentCloud is a credit card processor specializing in servicing high-risk businesses, and nonprofits are often classified as such. The company pitches itself as a nonprofit payment processing solution, offering processing services and an integrated gateway to nonprofits and businesses, though it does not provide a specific nonprofit discount.

Features include:

  • Virtual terminal
  • Free credit card terminal
  • ACH/echeck processing
  • Integrated shopping cart software
  • Mobile POS integrations
  • Multiple payment gateways
  • QR code payments
  • Recurring billing
  • Your own merchant account

Note that while the credit card terminal is free, you’ll have to ship it back to the company immediately if you close your account. Otherwise, you’ll be charged for the full cost of the machine.

Where PaymentCloud Really Shines For Nonprofits

Offering such features as a virtual terminal, a shopping cart integration, and ACH/echeck processing, PaymentCloud can benefit a nonprofit (particularly those considered higher-risk) in several ways. We just wish PaymentCloud offered discounted rates for nonprofits or disclosed any pricing information on its website.

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7. National Processing

National Processing


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

Pros

  • Low interchange-plus pricing with a nonprofit discount
  • Low-cost ACH/echeck processing
  • Month-to-month billing offered

Cons

  • Long-term contracts are required for a free terminal
  • Early termination fee charged in some circumstances

National Processing Pricing

  • $9.95/month
  • Nonprofit rates are interchange + 0.12% + $0.06 per in-person and online transaction

National Processing Features

Not only does National Processing offer some of the lowest nonprofit processing rates you’ll ever find, but the company also makes additional donations to charities, ensuring that even your processing fees end up going to a good cause.

Notable features include:

  • ACH/echeck processing
  • Virtual terminal
  • Credit card terminals
  • POS systems (both in-house and third-party)
  • Mobile processing with Clover and SwipeSimple
  • API integration
  • Many eCommerce integrations
  • Proprietary donation tracking software
  • Nonprofit-focused analytics

Where National Processing Really Shines For Nonprofits

National Processing offers exceptionally low transaction fees to nonprofit organizations, along with a solid feature set and integration list. However, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for any Clover hardware you obtain, and if you want “free” POS equipment, you’ll have to sign a long-term contract that may include an early termination fee.

Get Started With National Processing

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8. Payline Data

Payline Data


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Pros

  • Transparent interchange-plus pricing with a nonprofit discount
  • No early termination fee
  • Free virtual terminal and gateway

Cons

  • Not available for international users
  • Hidden developer tools

Payline Data Pricing

  • $10/month (fee waived for your first month)
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction for nonprofits

Payline Data Features

Along with special rates for nonprofits, Payline Data offers some features a nonprofit organization will be happy to see, including:

  • Donation buttons
  • ACH processing
  • Virtual terminal
  • Hosted payment page
  • Recurring billing
  • Invoicing
  • API and developer docs
  • Credit card terminals
  • Mobile processing and mobile card readers
  • Shopping cart and accounting integrations

Where Payline Data Really Shines For Nonprofits

While we wish Payline Data offered more information about pricing for the terminals and card readers it sells, the company merits inclusion in our list due to its low transaction fees for nonprofits and its long list of nonprofit-friendly features and integrations.

Get Started With Payline Data

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9. Host Merchant Services

Host Merchant Services


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Pros

  • Discounted interchange-plus pricing for nonprofits
  • Good customer support
  • Many nonprofit-friendly features

Cons

  • US-based organizations only
  • No pricing details given for card readers

Host Merchant Services Pricing

  • $14.99/month
  • 1.35% + $0.05 per transaction for nonprofits

Host Merchant Services Features

Host Merchant Services offers discounted nonprofit pricing through its HMS Gives program. It also provides several features that nonprofit organizations can make use of, including:

  • Virtual terminal
  • Web hosting and a basic website
  • Credit card terminals
  • Mobile processing and card readers
  • In-house Bonsai POS system
  • Shopping cart integrations
  • eCheck processing
  • Your own merchant account

Where Host Merchant Services Really Shines For Nonprofits

Host Merchant Services combines transparent nonprofit-discounted pricing with solid features, excellent customer support, and a great reputation in the industry. Additionally, you won’t have to sign a long-term contract or pay an early termination fee if you jump ship. While the company doesn’t publicly disclose pricing details for its credit card terminals and card readers, it’s not alone in this regard.

Get Started With Host Merchant Services

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How To Get Free Credit Card Processing For Nonprofits

Yes, free credit card processing exists for nonprofits. However, this merely means that you pass your processing costs down to your donors.

A nonprofit is one of the few types of organizations that can get away with asking customers to cover the cost of “free” payment processing without incurring a wave of resentment. Walmart.com would not enjoy that privilege. Check out our guide for a list of processors that allow you to pass processing costs onto your donors.

Surcharging

In addition to the actual charge, surcharging means the processing costs are added to the amount afterward, and the payment card user must pay this additional amount.

Convenience Fees

With convenience fees, the net result is the same as with surcharging — the card user pays the processing costs — but you must offer a way for the donor to pay if they don’t want to pay the convenience fee.

Facts Regarding Free Credit Card Processing For Nonprofits

  • You can eliminate some or all of your processing costs
  • You may be charged a monthly fee for using the feature
  • You’ll still be responsible for chargebacks and other incidental fees
  • You’ll need to inform your donors clearly that they’re paying the costs
  • You may turn off some potential donors, though this is less of an issue than it is for for-profit businesses
  • You may be liable if you do not implement this feature correctly, so follow the laws and guidelines of both your state and payment processor

5 Tools & Features To Look For In Your Nonprofit Payment Processor

Nonprofits have some specific needs when it comes to payment processing. Here are a few tools and features to look for when selecting a payment processor.

ACH Processing

You’ve probably used an automated clearinghouse (ACH) for direct deposits and peer-to-peer transactions. ACH payments are the most common way of performing bank-to-bank transfers in the US. They’re low cost compared to credit card transactions, making them excellent for recurring donations.

Reasonable Rates

Comparing payment processor rates can be tricky because not all of them use the same pricing model. Low-volume nonprofits will probably want to consider processors that offer flat-rate pricing with no monthly fee. Higher-volume nonprofits will generally be better off with interchange-plus pricing.

Everyone should stay away from tiered pricing if possible, though high-risk businesses don’t always have a choice.

Nonprofit discounts are always nice, too, of course.

Donation Buttons

If you’re taking donations online as a convenience to your donors, you want it to be easy for them to give you money. Many payment processors offer nonprofits simple buttons for donation processing that you can drop into the HTML of your website. Others will provide you with tools to build landing pages and websites.

Strong Security Features

Nonprofits, like other businesses, can be victims of credit card fraud. While it’s impossible to reduce the risk of credit card fraud to zero, you’ll want to select a processor with a good reputation for security. Additionally, you’ll generally want to choose one that takes PCI compliance out of your hands by keeping all credit card information on their server rather than yours.

Mobile Credit Card Readers

If you want to accept donations in-person at fundraising events, dinners, contests, and the like, mobile credit card readers, when paired with a mobile POS app, can make accepting donations when on the go simple and easy. While processors such as Square and PayPal offer their own proprietary devices, traditional merchant account providers typically offer third-party apps (and associated readers) such as SwipeSimple and Clover Go.

How To Choose The Best Merchant Services For Nonprofits

When it comes to credit card processing for nonprofits, the options presented in this article all provide quality service with competitive pricing and a comprehensive feature set. When choosing between these options, you’ll need to consider your nonprofit’s needs.

Start shopping around for the best online payment processors. Consider your donation volume. Do you take lots of small donations or fewer larger donations? Are they recurring, or do they come in large annual chunks? Do you already have a website or need help building and hosting one? These questions will guide you toward the best credit card processing provider for nonprofits.

Two final points: 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 will at least waive your ETFs. Steer clear of independent sales agents and deal directly with a company when possible. Lastly, get everything in writing.

Common Questions About Nonprofit Credit Card Processing

How do nonprofits accept credit cards?

Nonprofits accept credit card payments through a credit card processor. If a nonprofit intends to take credit card payments online, it will also need a payment gateway and a website, hosted payments page, or another type of online presence that can host a donation link or button.

Some payment processors combine all of these features in one service package.

How do fundraisers accept credit cards?

Fundraisers accept credit cards through a payment processor. If your fundraiser is online, you’ll need (at minimum) a payment gateway and either a fundraising website or payment buttons/links that can be embedded in an email or social media profile.

If your fundraiser is a real-world event, you’ll need a credit card reader or terminal that pairs with a mobile POS app.

Do nonprofits pay credit card processing fees?

Nonprofits have to pay credit card processing fees unless they pass those costs on to their donors with surcharging or convenience fees. Many payment processors offer discounted rates to nonprofits, however.

Is PayPal good for nonprofits?

PayPal does suit some nonprofits. PayPal offers discounted rates to nonprofits and provides a number of features that make donation collection easy, such as ACH processing, donation buttons, QR code payments, and the Zettle mobile POS app + card reader.

Is Square good for nonprofits?

Square is quite nonprofit-friendly. Square does not offer discounted processing rates to nonprofits, but its massive, mostly free software suite includes tools for donation collection. It also provides inexpensive card readers and a free mobile POS.

Do nonprofits need to be PCI compliant?

Yes, nonprofits must be PCI compliant if they accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information. There are no PCI compliance exemptions for nonprofit organizations.

How do I ask donors to cover processing fees?

If you want your donors to pay your processing fees, consult your payment processor’s policies and your state’s guidelines on surcharging. You’ll want to communicate clearly to your donors that they are paying the costs.

Alternatively, you can charge convenience fees, which face fewer state-level restrictions.

In Summary: The Best Credit Card Payment Processing For Nonprofits

  1. Helcim:
    • $0/month
    • Pricing starts at interchange + 0.10% + $0.05 (qualified nonprofits get discounted pricing)
  2. Square:
    • $0/month
    • 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
  3. PayPal:
    • $0-$30/month
    • 1.99% + $0.49 per online transaction for nonprofits, 2.29% + $0.09 per in-person transaction
  4. Dharma Merchant Services:
    • $20/month
    • Interchange + 0.10% + $0.08 per in-person transaction for nonprofits, interchange + 0.10% + $0.11 per online transaction
  5. Stripe Payments:
    • $0/month
    • 2.2% + $0.30 per online transaction for nonprofits, 2.7% + $0.05 per in-person transaction
  6. PaymentCloud:
    • Monthly fee not disclosed
    • Per-transaction rates not disclosed
  7. National Processing:
    • $9.95/month
    • Interchange + 0.12% + $0.06 per transaction for nonprofits
  8. Payline Data:
    • $10/month
    • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction for nonprofits
  9. Host Merchant Services:
    • $14.99/month
    • 1.35% + $0.05 per transaction for nonprofits
Jason Vissers

Jason Vissers

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
Jason Vissers has been researching, analyzing, and writing about small business software and finance since 2015. His financial expertise has been cited in numerous publications, including The Ladders. Jason graduated with a Political Science degree from San Diego State University in 2001.
Jason Vissers
View Jason Vissers's professional experience on LinkedIn.

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Merchant Maverick’s ratings are editorial in nature, and are not aggregated from user reviews. Each staff reviewer at Merchant Maverick is a subject matter expert with experience researching, testing, and evaluating small business software and services. The rating of this company or service is based on the author’s expert opinion and analysis of the product, and assessed and seconded by another subject matter expert on staff before publication. Merchant Maverick’s ratings are not influenced by affiliate partnerships.

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