Helcim Review: Does Helcim Credit Card Processing Offer The Best Of All Worlds?
Helcim is one of the best merchant services providers out there for both Canadian merchants and US-based businesses.
- Exclusive interchange-plus processing rates
- No long-term contracts or early termination fees
- Extensive account fee disclosures
- Excellent customer support
- Processing costs decrease with business growth
- Accepts international payments
- Not suitable for high-risk industries
Helcim Merchant Services Overview
There’s a lot to love about Helcim. The company distinguishes itself from many other merchant services providers by offering no long-term contracts, exclusive interchange-plus pricing (otherwise known as cost-plus), consistently good customer service, and low fees — all of which the company fully discloses on its website. None of these features should be anything special, but that’s where we are in the payments industry, so it’s a nice breath of fresh air.
The truth is that many processors go out of their way to hide the actual cost of their services and then lock you into a long-term contract that is so difficult and expensive to get out of that you’ll be stuck with them indefinitely. Helcim stands out with its extensive disclosures and details on its pricing structure on its website. While we can’t say with absolute certainty that Helcim has disclosed every possible fee, we can say it has covered all the fees that typically come with a merchant account.
While Helcim has always charged a minimum in additional fees, the company has recently dropped its monthly account maintenance fee altogether. This makes it a very worthy competitor in the Helcim vs. Square battle. Helcim is now an excellent choice for very small or seasonal businesses that want a true, full-service merchant account rather than Square’s aggregated accounts. Helcim’s low fees and reasonable rates make it one of the cheapest options for small businesses looking to begin accepting credit cards.
Be aware, however, that one of the ways Helcim can offer such competitive prices is by not accepting high-risk merchants. If your business is high-risk, check out our article on the best high-risk merchant account providers for some suggested vendors.
For everyone else, Helcim scores an excellent 5 out of 5 stars, our highest recommendation, and qualifies as one of the best overall merchant account providers in the industry. It’s a great option for small to medium-sized businesses looking for predictable interchange-plus pricing and a full range of features, including POS, mobile, and robust eCommerce solutions.
Read our full Helcim review to see what this service has to offer!
Table of Contents
Helcim Credit Card Processing Services & Features
Helcim provides a full range of merchant services to enable mobile, in-person, and eCommerce payments with its robust and comprehensive features, including:
- Merchant Accounts: Helcim is not a direct processor and instead partners with Elavon for processing services.
- International Payments: You can accept payments from anywhere in the world with built-in payment options, and you won’t have to deal with currency conversion. But be aware that international transactions come with cross-border fees, as set by the card payment brands.
Processing Hardware For Retail Businesses
- Card Reader: Helcim offers just one credit card terminal: the proprietary Helcim Card Reader. This small, multifunctional device can handle all of your in-person credit card processing needs. In addition to support for magstripe, EMV, and NFC-based payment methods (including Apple Pay and Google Pay), it can sync up with your smartphone, tablet, or laptop/desktop computer. It’s compatible with most of the recent versions of iOS, iPadOS, Android, Windows, and macOS and can connect via a USB cable, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. This interoperability allows it to function as a fully-featured point of sale (POS) system, countertop terminal, or mobile card reader. It can also work in conjunction with a virtual terminal to accept card-present transactions. You can buy the Helcim Card Reader outright, with the option to add a stand and a receipt printer, for a reasonable price. Rental options are also available in Canada. Our one caution is that the Helcim Card Reader is powered by a rechargeable battery only, so we recommend keeping a charger handy for all-day in-store use.
- Point Of Sale (POS) System: Rather than selling you a clunky, full-sized point of sale (POS) system, Helcim lets you install its Helcim POS software on just about any device you’d like to use. Paired with the Helcim Card Reader for accepting card-present transactions, your business can enjoy full POS functionality without the expensive hardware and costly software subscription fees that come with most traditional POS systems. Software features include the following capabilities:
- Product/service catalog
- Accessing invoices
- Inventory tracking
- Built-in credit and debit card payments
- Unlimited invoice creation
- Custom fields, including drop-down menus
- Discount codes
- Automatic tax calculations
- Automatic email reminders for invoices due
- Virtual terminal for card-not-present sales
Of course, you’ll need to provide the hardware for this setup to work. You may or may not also need to invest in the optional cash drawer or barcode scanner.
- Mobile Payments: The Helcim Card Reader can also provide full mPOS capabilities. Simply install the Helcim Payments app on your iOS or Android device, sync it with the reader, and you’re ready to start taking payments.
Software For eCommerce Businesses
- Online Store: Helcim now offers a fully hosted online shop with customizable templates that you can adjust to fit your brand (e.g., brand colors and logo). You won’t pay extra for web hosting with this service, and you can add your existing inventory to your shop and any other pages to your site that you want (such as a blog). Additionally, you can add a shopping cart with discount codes, tax calculations, and shipping integrations — and the payment flow is built right in. Folks with existing websites can still use these features, but Helcim also offers advanced DNS services if you have more custom needs.
- Hosted Payment Pages: Helcim’s hosted payment page option lets you take payments on an existing site with no programming required. Helcim’s “payment page wizard” enables you to customize the template to add the fields you need, including recurring payments, invoice payments, customer registration, and shopping cart.
- Buy-Now Button: Whether you have a site or not, you can utilize a buy-now button anywhere on the web, including your website, blog, or email, through the hosted payment page feature.
- Online Food Ordering: With this feature, you can opt to have Helcim host your site or embed your menu and order form to your existing website. You’ll get the shopping cart, discount code feature, tax calculations, and tip recommendations. Helcim does offer a demo for this feature, so you can see how it works. Just like the online store, Food Ordering is customizable with branding colors and your logo.
- Helcim API: You’ll have access to development docs so that you can integrate payments and have customizable solutions for whatever you need, including your website, shopping cart, billing system, and application. You can take credit cards, debit cards, other tender transactions, batches, and settlements and have a fully secure card vault to store and charge your customers. You can use it with the features included in your Helcim account or like a traditional payment gateway API. In all, you’ll have 80 different API actions at your disposal.
- Virtual Terminal: All Helcim Commerce plans include an integrated virtual terminal. This web-based application allows you to enter credit card transactions manually from any computer and is designed primarily for mail-order or telephone-order businesses. It also works well as a backup solution if your credit card terminal isn’t working correctly. Note that keyed-in payments cost you more to process, so this should only be used if it makes sense to do so as a card-not-present payment option.
- Fast & Easy Setup: You can sign up for an online account with Helcim in as little as five minutes. Underwriting to approve and activate your merchant account takes a little longer but usually occurs within 24 hours. While eCommerce businesses can begin accepting payments as soon as their account is approved, retail merchants will have to wait for their Helcim Card Reader to be delivered before they can get started.
- Product & Inventory Manager: This product is built into the Helcim Online Store and automatically syncs sales data across your sales channels. Reporting features are included and can be customized to provide the information you need to run your business.
Helcim Fees & Rates
|Monthly Card Processing Volume||In-Person Payments||Keyed & Online|
|Less than $25,000||INT + 0.30% + $0.08||INT + 0.50% + $0.25|
|$25,001-$50,000||INT + 0.25% + $0.07||INT + 0.45% + $0.20|
|$50,001-$100,000||INT + 0.20% + $0.07||INT + 0.40% + $0.20|
|$100,001-$250,000||INT + 0.18% + $0.06||INT + 0.35% + $0.15|
|$250,001-$1,000,000||INT + 0.15% + $0.06||INT + 0.30% + $0.15|
|$1,000,001-$5,000,000||INT + 0.12% + $0.05||INT + 0.25% + $0.10|
|$5,000,001+||INT + 0.10% + $0.05||INT + 0.20% + $0.10|
One of the best things about Helcim’s rates for credit card processing is that every merchant — regardless of processing volume or history — is set up with an interchange-plus pricing plan. Many providers don’t offer interchange-plus at all, while others simply don’t advertise it. Discounted rates are also available for high-volume businesses.
Keep in mind that while interchange-plus pricing clearly separates the interchange rate that you’ll pay to the credit card associations and issuing banks from the markup you’ll pay to your provider, you’ll usually see a lot of variability in the interchange rates themselves, depending on the transaction type and card brand.
As with most providers, Helcim offers lower rates to businesses that have a higher monthly processing volume. This feature can save you a significant amount of money on your processing costs as your business grows. Check out our article, The Complete Guide To Merchant Account & Credit Card Transaction Fees, to understand payment processing costs.
Hardware & Software Costs
The only card terminal/reader currently offered is the Helcim Card Reader, which you can use as a countertop or mobile device. The Helcim Card Reader can also be used with a tablet, laptop, or desktop device to create a full-featured POS system. Helcim currently advertises the following costs for its equipment:
- Helcim Card Reader: $199 per unit
- ZJ-5809 Lightweight Thermal Printer: $79 per unit
- Countertop Stand: $39 per unit
Additional Helcim Fees
Unlike most traditional providers, Helcim keeps your additional fees to a bare minimum. It’s eliminated most of the extraneous fees that other providers love to tack on to your bill, including the following:
- No account setup or application fees
- No monthly account fees
- No PCI compliance fees
- No statement fees
- No monthly minimums
- No early termination fees
Note that Helcim’s recent decision to drop its monthly account maintenance fees altogether now makes it an excellent choice for very small or seasonal businesses. Most merchant account providers will charge you a monthly fee just to keep your account open — even if you don’t process any transactions for that month.
Other incidental Helcim fees, some of which you may never encounter, are fully disclosed in your Merchant Agreement and on the company’s website. For example, if you incur a chargeback, you can expect to pay $0 to $15 depending on the outcome. Helcim is one of the few providers we’ve found that will refund your chargeback fee if you prevail in the investigation. As a merchant, it’s a good idea to understand how to prevent a chargeback in the first place, so bookmark our post, How To Keep Your Payment Processor From Holding Funds Or Terminating Your Account: What Small Businesses Need To Know, for some helpful information.
While Helcim is a very transparent company, we always recommend that merchants read and understand their merchant services agreement to prevent misunderstandings and frustration. Your agreement discloses all fees, including ancillary charges that may come up under certain circumstances (e.g., chargeback fees).
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
All Helcim merchant accounts feature true month-to-month billing, with no early termination fees or other penalties for closing your account. All you need to do is provide 30 days’ notice, and your account will be closed. This is a much better and more flexible arrangement than the industry standard. Most providers will lock you into a three-year contract that comes with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee (typically several hundred dollars) if you close your account before your contract expires.
Because these long-term contracts and cancellation penalties are so unpopular, there is a growing trend within the processing industry to do away with them. While some of the more honest providers (such as Helcim) will eliminate both the multi-year contract term and the early termination fee, most providers will agree to waive the cancellation fee — if you negotiate this waiver when you set up your account. However, this arrangement is not a true month-to-month contract, as you’re still on the hook for the full three years. While you won’t be hit with a penalty if you close your account early, we’ve seen plenty of complaints where merchants continued to be billed for monthly account fees long after they thought they had closed their accounts.
You won’t have these kinds of problems with Helcim credit card processing, and it’s good to see that the company is leading the trend towards true month-to-month billing within the industry. Nonetheless, we encourage you to read your contract very carefully before signing up. Pay close attention to the account closure instructions, which you’ll want to follow to the letter to close your account without any problems.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Before you even sign up for Helcim credit card processing, the company website gives full disclosures about pricing and contract terms, as well as what features your merchant account includes. The information presented on Helcim’s website is perhaps the most thorough and transparent explanation of merchant account pricing we’ve ever seen from a provider. For example, while a few other providers might disclose their interchange-plus processing rates for an entry-level plan, Helcim provides a detailed table of exactly what you’ll pay as your volume increases.
Additionally, we think Helcim’s sales team is a good example of how a business should set this part of the company up. It has a dedicated, full-time sales staff and doesn’t use independent agents. For merchants, this translates to a much more pleasant sales experience. You won’t have to worry about the high-pressure sales tactics and misleading claims that independent agents frequently resort to. We haven’t seen any criticism of the company’s sales practices, but we have seen several positive comments from satisfied merchants.
Helcim also has a thriving social media presence, with regularly updated accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These accounts mostly distribute material from the company’s blog and feature numerous educational articles that will help you gain a more in-depth understanding of how credit card processing works. The company also has a YouTube channel, which currently features over 200 tutorials and educational videos.
Helcim Customer Service & Technical Support
Helcim offers 24/7 telephone and email support, and merchants’ feedback indicates that the quality of that support is generally excellent. One word of caution: While you’re likely to talk to an in-house customer service representative during business hours, off-hours support is usually outsourced. Consequently, you can expect better help with technical issues if you call during regular business hours. Email support is excellent and also fast. You should expect to receive a response in less than 24 hours.
The company also provides one of the most extensive, easy to search, and detailed online knowledgebases we’ve seen. If you have any questions about Helcim merchant services, you can click on a category and find what you need or do a general search by topic.
We love that this part of the site is full of documentation and tutorials for setting up your countertop terminals, using the Helcim Virtual Terminal, running the mobile processing app, and other services. If you’re new to Helcim credit card processing and are having trouble getting everything up and running, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to solve your problem using the knowledgebase.
Helcim Merchant Services Reviews
Negative Helcim Reviews & Complaints
Helcim has been accredited by the BBB since 2014 and currently has an A+ rating. There have been zero complaints filed against the company within the past three years — a trend that has continued over several of our annual review updates. Feedback from merchants on other review sites has likewise been overwhelmingly positive. Here’s a summary of what we found for Helcim merchant services reviews:
- Trustpilot: 4.4/5 stars (72 reviews)
- G2: 4.4/5 stars (12 reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/5 stars (17 reviews)
Overall, we didn’t see any issues that came up repeatedly enough to indicate a problem. As to the few merchants who had a less-than-perfect experience, Helcim responded to every complaint and offered to resolve the issue.
We did see a few complaints from merchants who either weren’t approved for an account or had difficulties with the “fast & easy” account setup process. As we’ve noted, Helcim does not accept high-risk merchants. However, even low-risk merchants have to go through an underwriting process that is controlled by the company’s backend processor (in this case, Elavon). Issues such as a low personal credit score on the part of the business owner can create unexpected problems in getting an account approved, but this process isn’t entirely under Helcim’s control.
We also saw a complaint or two claiming that the Helcim Card Reader wasn’t easy to use. However, Helcim provides full technical support and training for this proprietary product, so merchants should be able to resolve any problems relatively quickly.
Positive Helcim Reviews & Testimonials
As the majority of Helcim reviews indicate, users are very happy with the service. Business owners praise the company’s customer service and transparent rates across the board. Helcim also has fully attributed testimonials on its website, which is somewhat rare and a great indication of its trustworthiness.
One Trustpilot reviewer left a lengthy review that I will share below because it is so well-thought-out and represents some of the challenges faced by many merchants:
Helcim has been an absolute godsend for my business, in the amount of both money and stress I’ve been able to save by making the switch. After dealing with some truly awful and exploitative payment processing options for years, I finally found Helcim after doing a bit of research.
I was skeptical at first because they didn’t seem to be very well-known, but from my very first interaction with their website and then with their excellent customer service team, I could feel the difference between them and my past providers. They were extremely patient and helpful with any questions I had, even though some of them were quite pointed, based on my past dealings with payment companies who promise a lot but rarely follow through.
Now that I’ve been processing with them for a while, I can’t tell you how much of a weight has been lifted because I know they actually have my best interest at heart. How often can we say that about any service providers we use?? For those businesses out there who feel like there is no good option for payments and they’ve been misled and overcharged, there is hope with a company like Helcim.
Thank you Helcim and I will continue to recommend you to any business looking for a truly honest and affordable processor.
Final Verdict On Helcim Credit Card Processing
Finding a good merchant account provider can be a huge challenge for a small business owner. We wish that wasn’t the case, but the truth is that merchant accounts are complicated, and there are many variables to consider when estimating what your costs will be with any provider. To make matters worse, the payment processing industry has a well-deserved bad reputation for dishonest sales practices, high costs, onerous long-term contracts, and poor customer support.
What we love about Helcim is that you won’t have to worry about the bait-and-switch tactics and long-term, binding contracts that plague the industry. It has some of the most transparent sales practices, with fully disclosed prices and terms on its website. You’ll know what you’re getting before you even talk to a sales representative. Helcim uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively, which for merchants processing at least $5,000 per month will likely be the most cost-effective pricing model available. Additionally, the customer support, both through the website and via telephone, is excellent.
Overall, Helcim rates a solid 5 out of 5 stars. It’s the best merchant services provider for Canadian merchants and one of the best options for US-based businesses as well. If you’ve had any personal experience with Helcim credit card processing, let us know how your experience has been so far — we’d love to hear from you. Also, if you want to continue exploring your options, check out our review of another 5-star merchant account service, KIS Payments.
The Merchant Maverick Seal of Approval 🏆
After hours of in-depth research and evaluation, we can confidently recommend this brand to our readers. Get started today and see Helcim for yourself.
The Merchant Maverick Seal of Approval 🏆
After hours of in-depth research and evaluation, we can confidently recommend this brand to our readers. Get started today and see Helcim for yourself.