- 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
- Includes a monthly fee
There’s a lot to love about Helcim. Founded in 2006, Helcim distinguishes itself from many other providers by offering no binding contracts, exclusive interchange-plus pricing (otherwise known as cost-plus), consistently good customer service, and low account 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 is 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 by offering extensive disclosures and details on its scaling 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. Plus, there are plenty of glowing user reviews praising its transparent and low costs.
So is there any type of business we wouldn’t recommend Helcim to? Good question! The pricing structure doesn’t work particularly well for small businesses processing less than $5,000 per month. If your business falls into that category, you should probably consider using Square or a similar payment service processor (PSP). Additionally, 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. We encourage you to check out what it has to offer.
Table of Contents
Helcim Review: Quick Summary
We give our full 5-star rating to Helcim and recommend it as 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.
Products & Services
Helcim provides a full range of merchant services to enable mobile, in-person, and eCommerce payments with its robust and comprehensive features, including:
- 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 have come with cross-border fees as set by the card payment brands.
- Card Reader: Helcim now offers a more robust card reader option since our last review update (December 2017) — the mobile and countertop-friendly Helcim Card Reader. Accept all major credit cards, including American Express, JCB, Discover, Visa, and Mastercard, as well as a PIN debit and Apple Pay and Google Pay contactless payments. I’m pleased to see that this reader is fully EMV-compliant with NFC options, and we don’t always see such a portable option that’s debit-card-friendly. This little reader lets you take payments via your mobile phone, tablet, or put it on the small stand and turn your desktop into a POS with Mac or Windows.
- Helcim 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 additional 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). 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.
- Helcim Point Of Sale: You can use the Helcim point of sale app on your smartphone, tablet, or use it on a Mac or Windows computer to create a workstation. Here are some of the features for the POS:
- Product/service catalog
- Accessing invoices
- Inventory tracking
- Built-in credit and debit payments
- Unlimited invoice creation
- Custom fields, including drop-downs
- Discount codes
- Automatic tax calculations
- Automatic email reminders for invoices due
- Virtual terminal for card-not-present sales
- Barcode scanner and cash drawer (optional)
- Hosted Payment Pages: This 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. You can also create buy-now buttons.
- 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.
- Helcim 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. 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.
- Third-Party Integrations: While the Helcim site doesn’t list all of the integration options, you’ll be able to integrate with dozens of third-party software providers, including what’s pictured below.
- 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 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. (See pricing information in the Fees & Rates section below.)
- Fast & Easy Setup: Signing up for a merchant account with Helcim is easy, and the process can be completed online in about five minutes. You’ll be able to access your account right away, with review and final approval usually occurring within 24 hours.
- eCheck/ACH Processing: This feature is coming soon.
Fees & Rates
One of the best things about Helcim’s pricing structure 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 might see variability in the interchange rates themselves. Check out our article, The Complete Guide To Merchant Account & Credit Card Processing Fees, to understand payment processing costs.
The other great thing for businesses in the growth stage — or that have higher volumes — is that costs significantly decrease the more you process. Below, I’ll include a few price points for in-person and online/keyed-in transactions:
Businesses that process less than $25K/month will see these payment margins with Helcim:
- Swiped/EMV/NFC Payments: 0.30% + $0.08
- Online & Keyed-In Payments: 0.50% + $0.25
For businesses that process $25,001-$50K/month:
- Swiped/EMV/NFC Payments: 0.25% + $0.07
- Online & Keyed-In Payments: 0.45% + $0.20
For businesses that process $50,001-$100K/month:
- Swiped/EMV/NFC Payments: 0.20% + $0.07
- Online & Keyed-In Payments: 0.40% + $0.20
As you can see in the screenshot I took above, costs continue to decrease as you process more volume, which is a great thing.
Hardware & Software Costs
The only terminal/reader currently offered with Helcim is the Helcim Card Reader, which you can use as your countertop or mobile processor. (Refer to the Products & Services section for more details.) Additionally, you can purchase the stand for the reader. Costs are the following:
- Helcim Card Reader: $199/per unit
- Countertop Stand: $39/per unit
As far as the recurring SaaS fees, you can expect a monthly account fee with Helcim of $20/month, but the company is currently waving the first three months of monthly fees for all businesses! This waiver is extended indefinitely for qualified nonprofits.
However, if you do not process any payments at all one month, Helcim automatically waves your fee with its auto-pause billing feature. This is a great option for seasonal businesses or if you need to take a break for a month or two.
Overall, Helcim also does a great job of keeping your monthly fees to a minimum. It’s eliminated many of the fees that traditional providers love to add to your bill and rolled some unavoidable fees into your monthly account fee.
- No account setup or application fees
- No PCI compliance fees (included in your monthly account fee)
- No statement fees
- No monthly minimums
- No early termination fees
If you incur a chargeback, you can expect to pay $0 to $15 depending on the outcome, which is a great deal. As a merchant, it is 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 merchants read and understand their merchant services agreement, as it can prevent much misunderstanding 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’s 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 multiyear 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, 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
Helcim’s 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, 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.
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 is in order, however. 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. 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 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 has very good reviews overall. Here’s a quick snapshot of the user reviews we found across consumer rating sites and then we dig into specifics of the negative and positive review patterns we found in the sections below.
- Trustpilot: 4.2/5 Stars
- BBB Rating: A+
- Capterra: 5/5 Stars
- G2: 5/5 Stars
We also like to see customer testimonials on the site itself, as they aren’t too easy to come by (believe it or not). So when we see fully credited testimonials with the business owner’s name and company, not to mention photos, it fosters a sense of trust that Helcim truly values its customers.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Admittedly, the pool of reviews on each of the consumer sites listed above is very small. And, usually, that is an excellent sign that most people are content with their merchant services. No news is generally good news when it comes to reviews, but the majority of reviews we do find are positive — even better!
I found one negative review on Trustpilot, and the business owner claims they were charged after wanting to cancel. Helcim responded to the reviewer directly and explained that there are no long-term contracts but that the merchant does have to request a cancellation for the next month. Even if a company such as Helcim doesn’t have a long-term contract, you will have to make sure your cancellation request is in writing and pay attention to the billing cycle to ensure it’s canceled before the new billing month begins if you don’t want to be charged for that month. In Helcim’s case, however, the monthly charge is now even lower than it was at the time of our 2017 review — $20/month.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
As the majority of reviews indicate, users are very happy with the service. Business owners praise Helcim’s customer service and transparent rates across the board, which is a very good sign. As I mentioned earlier, under the User Reviews heading, Helcim also has fully-attributed testimonials on its site, 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.
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 a tremendous number of variables to consider when estimating what your costs will be with any provider. To make matters worse, the 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 offers 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. We recommend it very highly whether your business is in the US or Canada. If you’ve had any personal experience with Helcim, let us know how your experience has been so far — we’d love to hear from you.
Credit Card Processor Rating Criteria.