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Need An Alternative To Credit Cards? These 7 Best ACH Processors Can Save You Money

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If you collect payments online, your customers are likely accustomed to using credit or debit cards, PayPal, or even digital wallets (such as Apple Pay or Google Pay). However, some of your customers may be quite open to authorizing a simple bank transfer via the good old ACH (Automated Clearing House) Network.

Paper checks are going the way of the dinosaur, but bank-to-bank transfers that bypass card networks (such as Visa and Mastercard) are alive and well. These ACH payments are commonly known as echecks, and you’re probably already paying some of your own personal or business bills this way. If you’ve used direct deposit to distribute or collect a paycheck or have ever received a tax refund directly into your bank account from the IRS, you’ve used the ACH Network. As you may know, ACH has some advantages over card-based transactions for some types of transactions, making it a valuable option when it comes to low-cost, recurring payments.

How do you compare ACH service providers and choose the best one for your business? Read on!

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyBest ForNext Steps
Dharma Merchant Services
Best for low-risk domestic merchants processing more than $10,000 per month.

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Fattmerchant
Best for high-volume domestic merchants looking for membership pricing.

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PaymentCloud
Best for high-risk and international businesses.

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National Processing
Best for low-volume or budget-conscious merchants.

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Stripe Payments
Best for low-risk and international eCommerce businesses.

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Other Featured Options:

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

The 7 Best ACH Processing Companies

We’ve reviewed a large number of ACH processing companies to find the most complete and competitively-priced providers. Below are the best ACH processing companies for each type of business.

1. Dharma Merchant Services

Dharma Merchant Services



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Dharma Merchant Services shows up in a lot of our lists, and for good reason. It’s a transparent payment services company that offers interchange-plus pricing with no application fees, no annual fees, and no monthly minimums. Ideally, these are things you want from any merchant services company you subscribe to.

Dharma offers ACH processing through one of several programs. The first is MX Merchant, which allows you to accept ACH payments ($25 monthly, $0.40/transaction) through the same portal as your credit card processing. The second is through Telecheck for Clover (1.5% + $0.20/transaction). Finally, you can use the Dharma/NMI Gateway ($20 monthly, $0.35/transaction) to accept echecks. The best option for your business will probably depend on whether you own the hardware (in the case of Clover) or if you want to accept paper checks as well as echecks.

While Dharma Merchant Services is a great deal overall, it doesn’t work with high-risk companies, and low-volume merchants can probably get away with a cheaper service.

Pros

  • No annual fee or monthly minimum
  • Month-to-month billing with no early termination charge
  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Outstanding transparency

Cons

  • No support for high-risk or international merchants
  • Not recommended for high-risk or international merchants
  • ACH support requires an add-on service

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2. Fattmerchant

Fattmerchant



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Fattmerchant manages to perform the impressive feat of having a sense of humor and transparent pricing β€” both are extremely rare in a merchant services company. Fattmerchant also stands out as one of only a few providers to offer membership pricing. This means that instead of marking up your rate over the interchange rate, Fattmerchant charges a higher monthly subscription fee. As you might guess, this makes Fattmerchant a better deal for businesses that process a high volume of card transactions.

So what about ACH? Fattmerchant has ACH processing upon request: You can call your account manager and ask to have it turned on. ACH processing will run you an additional $49/month plus a flat $0.25 per transaction.

Like the rest of Fattmerchant’s services, this relatively high monthly rate, combined with a low per-transaction rate, makes it a better fit for high-volume companies than those that just need to cash the occasional echeck. It’s also only available to US-based merchants.

Pros

  • Transparent membership pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no early termination charge
  • Next-day funding options
  • QuickBooks integration

Cons

  • Domestic merchants only
  • Not suitable for low-volume businesses

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3. PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud



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It’s easy to offer excellent rates to businesses that don’t come with a lot of risks. Giving high-risk businesses a square deal, however, takes a special kind of merchant services provider. PaymentCloud is a high-risk specialist with an excellent reputation (both Dharma Merchant Services and Stripe frequently refer high-risk businesses they can’t serve to PaymentCloud).

PaymentCloud also offers ACH processing, which can be especially helpful to businesses that may have a hard time processing credit cards. PaymentCloud’s virtual terminal can support ACH-related features upon request. The company boasts of being able to get ACH service up and running for businesses within 48 hours so long as you have a business checking account, photo ID, and a voided check.

Unfortunately, as is typical for a high-risk service, PaymentCloud doesn’t disclose much information about its rates publicly, making it difficult to do a one-to-one comparison.

Pros

  • High-risk specialization
  • No account setup fee
  • Reasonable rates and fees
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • No publicly disclosed pricing
  • Some businesses may have to accept tiered-pricing

 

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4. National Processing

National Processing



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Not to be confused with the similarly-named National Processing Company, National Processing is one of the smaller processors on our list, but it provides a lot of value for your dollar. You’ll get interchange-plus pricing with reasonable month-to-month billing.

National Processing offers ACH processing as an add-on feature. The company advertises a $15/month and $0.48 per-transaction rate, making it one of the cheaper options on this list on a month-to-month basis. That’s a good deal if you’re not processing too many ACH transactions.

The only real downside to National Processing is that it does charge an early termination fee in some cases. This is usually for customers who sign a long-term contract in exchange for getting a free terminal.

Pros

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing (in most cases)
  • Good reputation

Cons

  • Long-term contracts required to get a free terminal
  • Early termination fee charged in some cases

Get Started with National Processing

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5. Stripe

Stripe Payments



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If you’ve bought something online with a credit card, there’s a very good chance your payment info has passed through Stripe’s infrastructure at some point. More of a payment platform than a payment service, Stripe has an exhaustive list of features that can potentially fill most niches. It serves businesses in 36 countries and can process transactions in well over 100 different currencies.

Stripe can process ACH payments without any special fuss, but its pricing system can be a little confusing. An ACH debit is charged 0.8% of the transaction, capped at $5. ACH credit is assessed $1 per credit payments, with a $7 fee upon successful payment. It’s a little more expensive to processing checks, with a $5 fee charged per check.

Stripe’s main weakness is that, as a third-party processor, it suffers from account stability issues. This makes it a bad fit for high-risk businesses. You’ll also want to work with a developer to get the most out of Stripe.

Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Excellent international support
  • Excellent subscription services
  • Advanced reporting tools

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Not suitable for high-risk industries
  • Needs technical skill to implement

Read our in-depth review

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6. Braintree

Braintree Payment Solutions



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Braintree largely competes for the same market as Stripe: Both are developer-centric payment processors with a focus on eCommerce and international transactions. The big difference is that, where Stripe is a third-party processor, Braintree offers individual merchant accounts to its customers. The trade-off is you’ll get better account stability but have to endure a longer, more stringent application process.

Braintree charges a fixed rate of 0.75% per transaction on all ACH debits, with the fee capped at $5. Discounts are available for enterprise-level businesses. Note that you’ll need to have access to Braintree’s gateway service to process ACH debits. Braintree’s gateway is a little pricey on its own, so we’d recommend signing up for the full Braintree package if you decide you want to go with this processor.

Unfortunately, despite offering merchant accounts, Braintree still doesn’t support high-risk merchants.

Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Excellent international support
  • Extensive integrations

Cons

  • Overpriced gateway-only option
  • Not suitable for high-risk industries
  • Needs technical skill to implement

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7. Authorize.Net

Authorize.Net



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Most of the other services on this list are either merchant service providers that offer gateway support or payment processors that integrate gateway functionality into their infrastructure. Authorize.Net, on the other hand, is just a gateway (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In fact, many merchant services providers use Authorize.Net as their gateway.

Authorize.Net offers ACH processing through its optional add-on program intuitively called eCheck.Net. This service is also available as a standalone in case you don’t need everything else Authorize.Net can do. eCheck.Net charges a flat 0.75% per echeck.

The most vexing thing about Authorize.Net is that, while you can sign up for it directly, it’s often cheaper to get it bundled with another service. Still, it’s good to know that you could potentially add it to your merchant account independently if you wanted to.

Pros

  • Supports multiple currencies
  • No long-term contracts
  • Can be paired with a merchant account from another service

Cons

  • It may be cheaper to use it when it’s bundled with another service
  • Expensive to get a merchant account through Authorize.Net’s partners
  • The all-in-one option may confuse customers

Get Started with Authorize.Net

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How To Compare ACH Merchant Services

For businesses that accept payments online β€” through electronic invoices, a virtual terminal for keying-in payments, a website or web form, or any other methods β€” there are a few common pathways to setting up ACH payments.

You’ll need two primary components to accept ACH payments, which may or may not be provided by the same entity:

  • a payment gateway (the software that transmits payment data)
  • an ACH processing account that’s connected to your gateway

Below are a few of the most common ways merchants arrive at ACH payment acceptance:

Merchant Services Provider (MSP)

MSPs that set up merchant accounts for credit and debit card processing typically also partner with one or more specialized ACH payment providers to set up ACH accounts for clients. If you already have a good merchant account provider, you can start your ACH processing search here. Note that when bundled with credit card processing and other merchant services, you may get a better deal on ACH processing fees. Some MSPs even throw in ACH transactions for free (this is becoming less common, unfortunately). MSPs may also provide you with ACH processing on its own, but usually only if you ask. Either way, ACH processing accounts have a separate underwriting process than your merchant account for credit cards.

Payment Service Provider (PSP)

PSPs (a.k.a., third-party processors, merchant aggregators) do not require you to be underwritten for your own dedicated merchant account for credit card processing or ACH processing. Instead, the PSP creates a communal merchant account on behalf of multiple merchants. There are advantages and disadvantages to using a third-party processor. One nice benefit for online merchants is that the payment gateway software is typically already included with a PSP. Stripe is one example of an all-in-one PSP, with a built-in gateway that facilitates ACH transactions as well as card transactions. In other words, you don’t need to sign up for ACH processing separately. All you need to do is enable and configure ACH processing within your main PSP account that you use to accept credit and debit. It may take a bit of technical know-how, but PSPs (such as Stripe) that are accustomed to dealing with online merchants usually have thorough documentation.

Standalone ACH Processor

If you’re not going to be setting up credit and debit card processing at all, you may want to find an ACH or echeck processor and sign up directly. Again, some high-risk ACH payment providers even specialize in layered echeck systems that supply extra fraud, chargeback, and bounced check protection.

Common ACH payment providers include:

  • Payment Gateways: Some gateways can set you up with ACH processing by itself. For example, the popular Visa-owned gateway Authorize.Net acts as the merchant acquirer and underwriter of ACH accounts for its specialized eCheck.Net gateway service. Thus, Authorize.Net can act as your one-stop-shop for ACH acceptance. This is in contrast to credit card processing with the main Authorize.Net gateway, in which you’ll need a separate, connected merchant account that is not underwritten by Authorize.Net.
  • Business Bank Accounts:Β You can also go directly to a bank and sign up for an ACH processing account. The bank will underwrite your account, determine your rates and fees, and point you toward a compatible payment gateway service.

What To Look For

Now that you know where to look for an ACH payment provider, how do you know if you’ve found a good one? Here are some important considerations and tips to guide you:

  • Reasonable Rates: An ACH processing rate can come as a percentage, a flat fee per transaction, or both. In most cases, especially as your transaction size increases, a flat fee beats a percentage charge. Sometimes, ACH transactions are even free if you’re already paying for credit card processing through the same company. Remember that your ACH rates should be lower than for credit card processing in the vast majority of cases!
  • Reasonable Fees & Overall Cost: While rates are important, don’t get too caught up in this one figure. Watch out for hefty application or setup fees or a high annual or monthly fee for a service that provides little value for the price. Ask about the cost of any add-on products or services that may or may not be mandatory for your business as well as the charge for incidentals, such as ACH reversals and ACH returns. For more information on the types of fees to look out for, check out the pricing section of our ACH guide.
  • Helpful Features: This depends on your business type and circumstances, so consider the features both you and your customers need most. Do you need a virtual terminal for manually entering MOTO transactions? An ACH gateway that handles complex recurring billing configurations? A gateway that comes pre-integrated with the shopping cart or website builder you’re already using? Auto-reconciliation of invoices or advanced reporting tools? Expedited deposits? A check guarantee or check verification service to protect yourself in a high-risk industry? Shop around to see what features are out there and avoid paying for extras that you don’t need.
  • User-Friendly: Again, think about ease of use both from your perspective and the perspective of your customers. Find out what personalized help and/or support documentation is available for the initial deployment and ongoing troubleshooting of the system. How much tech-savviness do you need to work with your ACH gateway? Talk with your provider and ask to see examples of all the available tools in action.
  • Advanced Integrations & Developer Tools: Some ACH payment providers not only integrate with websites and shopping carts but also with services that automate and streamline authorization and bank verification for ACH. For example, Plaid is a popular ACH integration that facilitates the authorization of funds and validation of bank accounts without requiring the customer to go look up an account or routing number. Meanwhile, if you work with a software developer to customize and run your website, we’d definitely recommend getting their opinion when deciding on an ACH service.

How Do I Find The Best ACH Processor For Me?

The high cost of processing credit cards has long plagued both large and small businesses alike. Especially when compared to accepting card payments in-person, the cost of accepting plastic online can be particularly painful. Is it any wonder that direct bank-to-bank transfers that are batched and processed via the Automated Clearing House Network have steadily increased in popularity over the years, despite the arrival of newer, snazzier-sounding payment technologies onto the scene?

When looking for an ACH payment provider, we’d suggest starting with your current merchant account or payment gateway provider. If you’re just getting started with an online business, we encourage you to be open to accepting as many payment methods as you can. The more options you provide, the better you’ll reach customers. In this case, you’ll want to pick a provider that has a good track record of serving businesses like yours, with competitive rates and, ideally, no long-term contract.

We’ve only scratched the surface on ACH payments here. If you want to know more about how they work and what advantages they offer, check out our post, What Is An ACH Payment? Everything You Need To Know About ACH Transactions. If you want to know more about B2B payments, in general, take a look at The Complete Guide To B2B Payment Processing: Credit Cards, ACH, Software & More. We can also clear up any confusion you have about ACH payments vs. wire transfers.

In Summary: The 7 Best ACH Processing Companies

  1. Dharma Merchant Services: Best for low-risk domestic merchants processing more than $10,000 per month.
  2. Fattmerchant: Best for high-volume domestic merchants looking for membership pricing.
  3. PaymentCloud: Best for high-risk and international businesses.
  4. National Processing: Best for low-volume or budget-conscious merchants.
  5. Stripe Payments: Best for low-risk and international eCommerce businesses.
  6. Braintree Payment Solutions: Best for low-risk and international eCommerce businesses.
  7. Authorize.Net: Best for businesses that need a gateway to supplement their merchant services accounts.
Chris Motola

Chris Motola

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

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7 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.

    Christine

    Thank you for your articles…as a start up service business (and with others in my category I am searching for a solution for all of us) this is the dilemma/question. As contractors for an institute, the institute has instructed we bill them through PayPal invoice. Where we are all start-up practices, many with manual to a variety of different invoicing systems, we’re looking for the possibility of receiving the contracted rate without the fees debited that PayPal charges. Is this possible or is the moving of money always with a cost? Your article on Zelle was helpful although the institute banks with a non-participating bank. Grateful for your anticipated helpπŸ™

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

      Jessica Dinsmore

      Hi Christine!

      For businesses, moving money, accepting payments, etc. will almost always cost money. Accepting credit card payments will always cost money because the banks demand a cut. It’s just a matter of whether a business accepts it as part of doing business, or if they can and choose to pass those costs onto the customer. It’s a lot harder to pass on those fees in a B2B space, unfortunately. You could take a look at Dharma or National Processing, who might have invoicing solutions where you can potentially get lower interchange rates, as well.

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

        Curtis Valenzuela

        National Processing charges the following:

        Setup Fee: $25.00
        Monthly Fee: $15.00
        Transaction Fee: Payments above $5,000.00 is 1%

        The information in the chart above is incorrect.

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

          Jessica Dinsmore

          Hi Curtis!

          Good catch and thanks for pointing it out! We’ll be updating the entire article soon. Stay tuned!

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

            David

            HI Rose, I’ve read a few of your ACH / echeck articles, very educational and super helpful. I’m in need of a good invoice/payment solution for our clients. Unfortunately i’m having a difficult time in finding the right solution for our business. 90% of our business has avg invoice size > $140k, 10% of our business has invoices avg $8k. Our bank does not have a great solution. Quickbooks (not our primary solution) can not process payments/invoices > $50k. Any ideas? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

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

              Emily Hale

              Hi, David!

              Thanks for your question; we have a few recommendations that may be a good solution for you! PaymentCloud may be a great fit because historically they do well with these types of higher ticket transactions. A few other great options you may want to look into are National Processing and Dharma, mainly because they have a great team who would be helpful in finding a solution for you, or pointing you in the right direction if nothing else. Best of luck in finding the right fit.

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

                David Brandt

                Awesome, thanks Rose!!!!

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

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