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What Is A Pay Link & How Do You Make One?

Payment links are a cost-effective add-on service that many payment processors now offer so that small businesses and freelancers can easily invoice clients.

    Chris Motola
  • Last updated onUpdated

  • Shannon Vissers
  • REVIEWED BY

    Shannon Vissers

    Lead Staff Writer: Payment Processing

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

While card payments reign supreme, consumers and business owners alike are always looking for an easier, faster, and more convenient way to make/take payments in person. A pay link allows your customers to pay their bill from any device that has an internet connection.

The best small business credit card processing companies offer payment links as a free way to collect payment. We’ll cover the 6 best options for your business below.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyBest ForNext StepsBest For
Stripe Payments

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  • Best For eCommerce businesses
  • No monthly fee
  • Best For eCommerce businesses
  • No monthly fee

Visit Site

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Wave

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  • Best for independent contractors
  • No monthly fee for basic account
  • Best for independent contractors
  • No monthly fee for basic account

Visit Site

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Square

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  • Best for new businesses
  • No monthly fee for basic accounts
  • Best for new businesses
  • No monthly fee for basic accounts

Visit Site

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PayPal

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  • Best integrated payment link system
  • No monthly fee for basic account
  • Best integrated payment link system
  • No monthly fee for basic account

Visit Site

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Helcim

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  • Best for growing businesses
  • No monthly fee
  • Best for growing businesses
  • No monthly fee

Visit Site

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Venmo

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  • Best for minimal fees
  • No monthly fee
  • Best for minimal fees
  • No monthly fee

Visit Site

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PaymentCloud

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  • Best for high-risk business
  • Variable monthly fee
  • Best for high-risk business
  • Variable monthly fee

Visit Site

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Show Fewer Options

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

What Is A Payment Link?

A payment link is a way to directly invoice a customer by sending them a URL or QR code that initiates an online transaction process.

In other words, payment links are links that are used in place of traditional POS or online shopping cart transactions. In most cases, they’ll be sent via an SMS text or email, but they can theoretically be used anywhere you can drop a link, including websites, messaging apps, and signage.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Payment Links?

Here are some basic benefits of using payment links to improve your payment process:

  1. You Can Place Them Almost Anywhere: You can place a payment link pretty much anywhere you could paste a typical URL. This makes them very versatile.
  2. They’re Easy To Setup & Deploy: Setting up payment links generally doesn’t require any technical knowledge. And if you know how to copy and paste a link, you already know how to deploy them.
  3. You Can Take Advantage Of The Medium: Want to send multiple invoices out in a mass text? Want to send a payment request with your email marketing campaign? Want to make a sale during a customer support chat? All possible with payment links.
  4. They’re Reasonably Secure: The payment link will send your customer to your payment gateway, so you’ll have all of the security features it normally offers.
  5. They Can Be Useful To Companies With Limited Resources: If you only offer one or two services and don’t have the resources or inclination to make an online shopping cart, payment links can allow you to still engage in eCommerce.
  6. Easy, Faster Invoicing: Businesses that had previously relied on billing by mail or enrolling clients in online systems can now easily send a bill with just a phone number or email address.
  7. They Are Convenient For Your Customers: Payment links make it easy for customers to make remote payments by taking them directly to your payment page.
  8. Your Invoices Are More Likely To Be Read: This is especially true if you send them by text. Studies have found that SMS text messages are opened somewhere around 98% of the time.
  9. Your Payment Processor May Already Offer Them: As is the case with most of the payment processors on the list above, payment links are often included in your service at no additional charge.

Which Types Of Businesses Can Use Pay Links?

While just about any business could use a payment link, the payment method will have more utility for some businesses than others. Generally speaking, payment links are a better way to accept credit card payments for businesses that invoice customers rather than taking payment from them at a register.

These businesses may benefit the most from payment links:

  • Freelancers
  • Medical services
  • Professional services
  • B2B businesses
  • Low-frequency retail
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Cleaning services

Many longstanding payment processors have begun offering payment links as a complementary or add-on feature.

Here are some of the top payment processors that are equipped for pay link transactions:

How The Best Payment Processors Offering Pay Links Compare

Monthly Fee Payment Link Surcharge Custom Link Design High-Risk Business Friendly
Stripe Payments Paid add-on
Wave
Square Paid add-on
PayPal
Helcim
Venmo
PaymentCloud

Stripe: Best For eCommerce

Stripe Payments

Total Rating 4.7
Fees & Rates4.7

Products & Services4.5

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.5

User Reviews4.1



Pros

  • Extensive features and integrations
  • No surcharge for payment link transactions

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Not suitable for high risk merchants

Why We Chose Stripe As The Best Option For Online Businesses

Stripe prides itself on staying on the cutting edge of the payments industry, rapidly introducing and adopting features as technology shapes consumer behavior.

Payment links not only fall into Stripe's wheelhouse, but they're a form of digital invoicing, and invoicing is something Stripe has long excelled at.

Stripe Features

Stripe’s features focus heavily on eCommerce, international sales, and API functionality, but the company has recently been improving its in-person processing options with Stripe Terminal and Tap-To-Pay for Android and iPhone. Additional features include:

  • Stripe Payments integrated payments platform
  • Stripe Virtual Terminal
  • Stripe Radar anti-fraud protection
  • Stripe Terminal API and card readers for card-present transactions
  • ACH processing included with every account
  • Extensive library of APIs and developer tools
  • Broad support for international payments and local payment methods
  • Many ancillary services for establishing and running your business

Payment links happen to be one of the easiest Stripe features for the average merchant or contractor to use. You won’t need any programming skills to implement payment links; it can all be done from your Stripe dashboard.

Stripe Pricing

Stripe offers a basic account with no monthly fee while standard transaction fees start at 2.9% + $0.30 which includes transactions completed through pay links.

It will cost you $10/month if you want to create a custom domain (or use your existing one) for your payment link URLs.

Post-payment invoices that provide proof of transaction for your customers after a one-time purchase cost 0.4% of the transaction total and are capped at $2 per invoice.

Read our full breakdown of Stripe’s pricing for more info.

What To Watch Out For

Like all payment service providers (PSPs) you may run into issues with account stability and fund holds/freezes. Customer support is another complaint that is mentioned by users, but it isn’t an overwhelming trend.

You won’t need to worry about long-term commitments, early termination fees, or losing your customer data if you decide to stop using Stripe. The company will help you export your data and take it with you when you go.

While Stripe can seem complex, it is a very transparent payment processor which makes it easy for you to research before signing anything.

Choose Stripe Payments If You Want...

  • Great developer resources
  • No payment link surcharges
  • Strong international transaction support

Get Started With Stripe Payments

Read our in-depth review

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Wave: Best For Freelancers

Wave


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Pros

  • Useful suite of freelancing tools
  • No monthly fee for basic account
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Limited integrations
  • Unsuited for larger businesses
  • Hit-or-miss customer service

Why We Chose Wave As The Best Option For Independent Contractors

Wave is a convenient accounting tool for independent contractors, so the ability to take payments through it can save freelancers a lot of hassle. And since contractors rely heavily on invoices, payment links are a natural fit for this niche.

Wave has come to a similar conclusion, as the company offers pay-by-link services through its Checkout feature.

Wave Features

Wave offers a lot of useful functionality for freelancers, though some features are paywalled:

  • Credit card processing
  • ACH processing
  • Unlimited invoicing
  • Unlimited estimates
  • Contact management
  • Expense tracking
  • Accounts payable
  • Inventory
  • Reports
  • Payroll (premium)
  • Bookkeeping (premium)
  • Tax services (premium)
  • Coaching (premium)

After you’ve created a Checkout page that contains your products and services, you can generate either a Checkout button or a hyperlink that you can drop into the appropriate site or messenger app.

Wave Pricing

Like Stripe, Wave offers a basic account with no monthly fee. The main difference between Wave and the other PSPs on this list is the transaction fee structure.

Wave charges two different transaction fees based on the card being processed.

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per Visa, Mastercard, or Discover transaction
  • 3.4% + $0.60 per American Express transaction

Wave also charges 1% per ACH transaction (min. $1).

While the starter plan is free, Wave does offer a Pro plan that costs $16/month and includes automated features like importing bank transactions and late payment reminders. Check out Wave’s website for more detailed pricing information.

What To Watch Out For

Where Wave is lacking is in the integrations category. It does support a Zapier integration which allows users to connect to 1,000+ add-ons, but these are not considered to be true integrations and come with the hiccups and syncing issues to prove it.

If you choose to pay for the Wave Payments Pro plan, you’ll be looking at either a monthly or annual commitment to Wave, but there are no early termination fees to worry about!

Choose Wave Payments If You Want...

  • Sleek and unique custom invoice templates
  • Freelancing tools along with payment processing
  • Time-saving automations

Get Started With Wave

Read our in-depth review

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Square: Best For New Businesses

Total Rating 4.8
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services4.7

Contract4.3

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.9

User Reviews4.9



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

Pros

  • No payment link surcharge
  • No monthly fees

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Not suitable for high-risk industries

Why Square Is The Best Choice For New Businesses

When you're talking about broad functionality with minimal overhead, (AKA a perfect combination for new businesses) you'll inevitably find Square on your shortlist.

Square’s invoicing system is a simple and versatile way to use payment links without any fancy equipment or monthly plans, and you'll have access to Square's expansive omnichannel sales tools.

Square Features

Square offers one of the most generous feature packages one can get without a monthly fee (and even more if you do pay one).

In addition to payment links, this includes:

  • Credit and debit card processing
  • Mobile card reader (magstripe-only) included with an account
  • EMV and NFC-capable card readers are available
  • Square Register POS system available
  • ACH processing included with every account
  • Square Online Store for eCommerce businesses
  • Analytics and reporting available through Square Dashboard
  • Create milestone-based payment schedules (Invoice Plus)
  • Send batch invoices (Invoice Plus)
  • Custom invoices (Invoice Plus)

Square Messages is a feature new businesses using payment links may find especially useful. Accessible from your Square dashboard, Square Messages functions as a single channel you can use to communicate with your customers as well as create and send payment links.

Square Pricing

Square has no monthly, setup, or application fees. You can pay a little more for plans like Invoice Plus ($20/month) that have extra features like custom and batch invoices.

There is no monthly payment to use Square Payment Links. Like Stripe and Wave, Square charges an industry-standard 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

What To Watch Out For

It’s important to note that Square Payment Links are only available for domestic sales. You’ll have to look into Square Online if you want to sell online internationally.

Like Stripe, Square also receives negative reviews about account/fund holds and freezes. Square’s support for cryptocurrency and currency conversion is somewhat limited as well, but that’s usually not a dealbreaker for new businesses.

With no early termination fees, long-term contracts, or sticky usage terms, Square is a great option for easy-to-use and affordable payment links for new businesses!

Choose Square If You Want...

  • A new business-friendly PSP
  • No monthly fees or payment link surcharges
  • Access to the massive Square business ecosystem

Get Started With Square

Read our in-depth review

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Total Rating 4.2
Fees & Rates3.8

Products & Services4.2

Contract4.6

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.1

User Reviews3.3



Pros

  • Huge platform with many features
  • Can process PayPal wallet transactions

Cons

  • Can be more expensive that competitors
  • Account stability issues

Why PayPal Has The Best Payment Link Integration

PayPal is one of the biggest names in eCommerce, known for its massive infrastructure, proprietary digital wallet, and innovative services.

PayPal was one of the first processors to offer payment link functionality and features one of the most user-friendly implements of it via PayPal.Me. You'll get a custom user tag through which customers can pay you, and you can invoice them directly through the PayPal.Me interface.

PayPal Features

PayPal supports payment links through its PayPal.Me feature, which has both business and personal versions. Additionally, PayPal’s Venmo brand can be used for invoicing.

Additional features include:

  • PayPal integrated payment platform
  • Payment buttons and hosted checkout pages
  • Virtual terminal
  • Recurring billing

PayPal Pricing

PayPal’s payment link fees can vary depending on your account. PayPal’s pricing model has become rather complicated, so you’ll want to check out our PayPal pricing guide to get a sense of what you’ll pay.

What To Watch Out For

Remember that you can’t use a personal account for business transactions, so make sure you sign up for the business version of PayPal. You’ll also need to be careful where you post your link, as PayPal has guidelines about what kind of content it can be associated with.

There have been some price hikes in the past few years, but, honestly, what hasn’t gotten more expensive in 2024?

Choose PayPal If You Want...

  • Extensive integrations
  • Features tailored to low-volume merchants
  • To use the original payment links

Get Started With PayPal

Read our in-depth review

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Helcim: Best For Growing Businesses

Total Rating 4.9
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services4.4

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.8

User Reviews4.5



Pros

  • Interchange pricing with every account
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Does not accept high-risk businesses
  • Not suited for very low-volume businesses

Why Helcim Is The Best Choice For Growing Businesses

Helcim is one of the most cost-effective ways for growing businesses to get a full merchant account.

On top of that, Helcim offers a strong suite of services on its platform, which includes payment links at no additional charge.

Helcim Features

In addition to pay by text, Helcim offers:

  • Credit and debit card processing with a full merchant account
  • Affordable, versatile card reader
  • Good developer tools
  • Strong support for international sales

Helcim lets businesses generate and send payment links right from its virtual terminal, so you won’t need any special infrastructure to get started.

Helcim Pricing

  • No setup or application fees
    No monthly account fees
    Interchange + 0.5% + $0.25 on card-not-present transactions, including payment links (volume discounts available)

What To Watch Out For

If your business is extremely low-volume, Helcim can get expensive. That being said, if you have immediate plans to increase your processing volume and grow your business, Helcim is a great option to help you grow.

Helcim receives great reviews pretty much across the board. It seems like the biggest complaint is from merchants who aren’t approved for an account. This process, however, isn’t entirely under Helcim’s control and is mainly the responsibility of Elavon, Helcim’s back-end processor.

There are no early termination fees or penalties for closing your Helcim account, you just need to give them 30 days’ notice.

Choose Helcim If You Want...

  • No monthly fees
  • A full merchant account
  • Interchange pricing

Get Started With Helcim

Read our in-depth review

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Venmo: Most Budget-Friendly

Venmo


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Pros

  • Convenient for low-volume merchants and contractors
  • Integrated social media provides marketing opportunities

Cons

  • The social element may not appeal to some customers
  • Transaction and transfer limitations

Why We Chose Venmo As The Best Budget-Friendly Option

Venmo is technically a free PayPal service, so why are we giving it a separate entry?

Venmo handles payment links differently than PayPal.Me and is considered a social payments platform encouraging interaction between payers and payees. You can create a business profile that appears in customers' feeds so, in a way, you're getting a payment method and advertising source in one.

Venmo Features

Venmo is a lightweight app but manages to do quite a bit. With its focus on QR-code scanning and payment solicitation, Venmo is a ready-made mobile platform for payment links.

Features include:

  • Sending and receiving payments
  • Personal QR codes
  • Direct deposit
  • Venmo debit card
  • Venmo credit card
  • Social feeds
  • Buy and sell cryptocurrency

Venmo Pricing

Venmo charges no maintenance fees and no transaction fees for personal accounts. We caution you against using a personal account to avoid the business account fees. The IRS has begun cracking down on using P2P platforms to avoid taxes and your account can be suspended or banned if you get caught.

The following fees apply to Venmo business profiles:

  • 1.9% + $0.10 per transaction made using the Venmo app or a QR code
  • 3.49% + $0.49 for purchases made online, using Braintree gateway, or PayPal Checkout

What To Watch Out For

The main problem with using Venmo as your only form of payment processor is that any customer has to also have a Venmo account to pay you because the app can’t take card payments. You’re also responsible for applying sales tax, there are limited reporting and customer management tools, and transaction limits can cause issues for high-volume businesses.

That being said, if you’re a small, low-volume business that doesn’t need a lot of extra features, Venmo is a great (and cheap) option for you. You also don’t need to purchase any hardware if you already have a smartphone or tablet and you can take contactless payments with ease.

Choose Venmo If You Want...

  • A free app with low transaction fees
  • A familiar and easy-to-use platform for your potential customers
  • A built-in social media marketing platform

Get Started With Venmo

Read our in-depth review

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PaymentCloud: Best For High-Risk Businesses

Total Rating 4.1
Fees & Rates4.3

Products & Services5.0

Contract2.8

Sales & Advertising Transparency3.9

Customer Service4.2

User Reviews4.0



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

Pros

  • High-risk specialists
  • Specialized payment link service available

Cons

  • No publicly disclosed pricing
  • Low-risk merchants can probably find a a better deal

Why PaymentCloud Is The Best Choice For High-Risk Businesses

While every other option on the list is ill-suited for high-risk industries, PaymentCloud is one of the best high-risk merchant account providers.

Through Paysley, PaymentCloud offers text, email, and QR code payment links.

Not sure if your business is considered high-risk? Check out our article about high-risk businesses/industries to learn more.

PaymentCloud Features

In addition to Paysley’s pay-by-text and QR code payment link processing, PaymentCloud offers:

  • Credit and debit card processing
  • Payment gateway access through Authorize.Net, NMI, or USAePay
  • ACH and echeck processing

Paysley is a pay-as-you-go service that allows you to send payment requests to your customers over text or email.

Paysley does not use an app or any dedicated hardware, nor do customers need to sign up for an account to make a payment. Instead, you’ll either send a payment link or generate a QR code that can be displayed online or on a device.

PaymentCloud Pricing

Like most high-risk merchant account providers, PaymentCloud doesn’t disclose pricing details. This is because of the quote-based structure high-risk businesses have come to expect.

Some general pricing guidelines for high and low-risk accounts include:

  • $10-$45/month software fee
  • $15/month (on average) payment gateway fee
  • $15-$45/month virtual terminal fee

Transaction fees are another area where PaymentCloud doesn’t disclose exact numbers due to the negotiation process involved with creating a high-risk merchant account. Here are some best estimations of what you can expect to pay:

  • Low-risk Account Transaction Fee: 2% – 3,1% per transaction
  • Medium-Risk Account Transaction Fee: 2,3% – 3.4% per transaction
  • High-Risk Account Transaction Fee: 2.7% – 4.3% per transaction

Processing rates for high-risk accounts vary by acquiring bank/back-end processors.

Because Paysley comes as a separate feature supported by PaymentCloud, we wanted to give you a quick overview of their pricing model.

The Express plan costs $69/month, the Premier plan costs $99/month, and there is custom pricing available for the Enterprise plan. You can also expect to pay:

  • $0.20/transaction
  • $0.03/SMS text
  • $0.05/MMS picture text
  • $0.02/email

What To Watch Out For

Because Paysley is billed independently of any transactions you complete through PaymentCloud, monthly fees can get expensive fast for small business owners. Unfortunately, if you are a high-risk business, you don’t have much choice in this situation.

PaymentCloud’s pricing is reasonable for the high-risk market, but low to medium-risk merchants can probably find better pricing elsewhere.

Contract terms are not publicly disclosed, but as a high-risk merchant, you can expect a two-year contract with an automatic renewal clause. There are most likely early termination fees that you can try to get waived or lowered by PaymentCloud if you choose to leave.

Choose PaymentCloud If You Want...

  • A high-risk merchant account
  • Great customer support
  • Reasonable processing rates and transaction fees

Get Started With PaymentCloud

Read our in-depth review

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Payment Processing Rating Methodology

Merchant Maverick has been researching the payment processing industry since 2009. Our writers have reviewed hundreds of credit card processors, merchant account services, and mobile payment apps, evaluating each provider carefully on several different metrics.

When comparing different payment processing companies and applications to one another, we consider numerous data points. Our experts start by comparing credit card processing rates, the presence of additional fees, contract length, sales practices, and the presence or absence of additional features and services, like point of sale software. Each provider is judged on its own merits and how well it stacks up to industry standards; then it is weighed against the other providers on the list.

We spend an average of 10-15 hours researching and updating each one of our lists, making sure every company or application included meets our internal standards for quality and reputation. Any list of recommended payment processors on our site might contain a mix of standard merchant accounts, third-party payment processors, mobile payment devices, and high-risk payment processors, depending on what our expert feels is the best fit for certain scenarios or business types.

For additional details about Merchant Maverick’s review and rating processes, please refer to any or all of the following methodology pages:

15

Years reviewing payment processors

100+

Providers evaluated

25

Attributes and features assessed per vendor

40+

Years combined experience


If payment links have so far piqued your interest, you may be curious about how to create and send one. While the exact process will differ somewhat between payment processors, they generally have a few steps in common.

1. Create A Payment Page

Depending on your payment processor, this part may be taken care of for you. In some cases, you’ll be offered a default payment page that you can make adjustments to. Regardless, this is where your link will ultimately send your customer when they click on it.

For the most part, this page will look like any other online checkout form that solicits payment information for processing.

2. Create Your Link

This process may also vary depending on your payment processor. In most cases, you’ll be asked to designate specific products or services for links. You’ll then generate a link associated with that product.

3. Send The Link

There are several different ways you can get a payment link to the customer.

You can simply copy and paste the link into some form of digital correspondence that you then send to the customer.

If you’re dealing with a higher volume of payment links, however, you may want to see how much of the process your payment service allows you to automate. If you retain your customer’s information, you may be able to send payment links to their preferred method of contact automatically.

Are you ready to start using payment links? Here are some next steps for you.

Evaluate your current payment processes to see if using payment links will add value to your business. If your current methods/services are working well, is it worth it to pay for another service?

On the same note: If your current methods/services are working well, does your current payment processor offer payment links? Taking advantage of existing features you already pay for is always going to be a smarter decision than taking on extra costs for no reason.

Keep in mind that it could also be more cost-effective to find a payment link service provider that integrates with your existing processor. Look into the integrations/add-ons your provider offers for potential cost savings.

Are you looking for a card reader to accompany your virtual payment methods? Check out the best credit card readers for small businesses for some affordable, reliable, and easy-to-use options.

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Chris Motola

Chris Motola

Senior Staff Writer at Merchant Maverick
Chris has been writing about small business topics since 2003. In 2015, he joined Merchant Maverick, where he writes about business financing, payment processing, and demographic trends in entrepreneurship. Chris has been featured in Fox Business, ABC News, Yahoo Finance, GoBankingRates, Newsweek, BizJournals, and other publications. He has a Bachelor’s of Arts in English Writing Arts from SUNY Oswego, and a Masters of Science in Interactive Media from the University of Central Florida. He currently resides in the Hudson Valley region of New York.
Chris Motola
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