Advertiser Disclosure

Looking For The Best Merchant Services? Try These 8 Small Business Credit Card Payment Processing Companies In 2021

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

You’ve heard the saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 2020 was a year of changes for merchants and payment processors. As the pandemic forced physical stores to shut down and reduce operations, online sales boomed. Many brick-and-mortar merchants took to online sales to survive, and the credit card processors adapted and repackaged their offerings to help with this transition. Through all the changes, the better processors stayed the better processors.

But your business has changed. The best processor for you last year might not be the best processor for you going forward.

Whether you have an existing business trying to find the best processor for your new realities or a brand new business that’s never even heard of a “merchant account” before, trying to choose the best credit card processing company can be overwhelming. Many processing companies seem to be doing more or less the same thing, and they all have both glowing testimonials and terrible complaints. How are you supposed to choose the best company under these circumstances? Who can you trust? Which merchant services solution is best for your business?

And our answer is always the same: It depends.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. But over the years, we’ve found that there are some good guidelines to follow. Using these guidelines, we’ve created this list of the best small business credit card processing companies, whittling down the field of providers to a manageable number. The good news is that the quality of services our Best Of processors provide tend to stay the same, so typically, there’s little to no movement of the companies on our list.

But, as mentioned earlier, your business may have changed. Your online/in-person split may look very different than before. Of the processors on our list, some are good for eCommerce via your website, while others are best for mobile payments on your smartphone. Some work for retail with a credit card machine or phone orders with a virtual terminal. There are processors on the list for large transactions, that offer iPad POS, or are suitable for high-risk businesses. All of them follow some simple rules that we live by here at Merchant Maverick, which we’ll discuss in detail below.

Now it’s up to you to match the strengths of these processors to the needs of your business.

Here’s a quick look at our list of the highest-ranking credit card processing companies for small businesses. (They’re great for medium and large businesses too, for the record.) Scroll down for in-depth discussions.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanySummaryNext StepsSummary
Payment Depot

Read More

Best for low-risk, US-based businesses looking for predictable pricing.
Best for low-risk, US-based businesses looking for predictable pricing.

Visit Site

Read More

Fattmerchant

Read More

Best for high-volume, US-based businesses looking for predictable pricing.
Best for high-volume, US-based businesses looking for predictable pricing.

Visit Site

Read More

PaymentCloud

Read More

Best for high-risk merchants.
Best for high-risk merchants.

Visit Site

Read More

National Processing

Read More

Best for cost-conscious merchants.
Best for cost-conscious merchants.

Visit Site

Read More

Square

Read More

Best for low-volume merchants looking for an all-in-one service.
Best for low-volume merchants looking for an all-in-one service.

Visit Site

Read More

Other Featured Options:

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

Credit Card Payment Processing Solutions For Small Businesses: What You Need To Know

Small businesses looking for credit card payment processors should take stock of their needs. Also, stay focused on your current needs (one to two years), not what you think you’ll need far down the road (three to ten years). If (when) you outgrow your current processor, you can switch to one that better suits your needs. Incidentally, this is one reason why we suggest avoiding processors that lock you into extended contracts.

Credit card processing is a complex topic with a lot of moving parts. If terms such as interchange fees and contactless payments sound completely alien to you, I’d recommend checking out some of these resources:

How To Choose The Best Credit Card Payment Processing Company

While the worst processing services aren’t good for any business, the best credit card processing company for one business won’t necessarily be the best for another. We’ll discuss what, broadly speaking, makes a good or bad processor in the next section. First, let’s take a look at how you isolate your credit card processing needs.

Things to consider:

Are Most Of Your Sales Online Or In-Person?

Many credit card processors these days specialize in either point of sale processing or eCommerce. While these share many elements in common, they also come with special needs. For point of sale, you’ll likely need card readers, either dedicated or smartphone peripherals, to process credit and debit cards. Do you want contactless payments and the ability to accept digital wallets?

Or are most of your customers far away from your place of business and buying your products and services online? In that case, you’ll need a payment gateway and, perhaps, support for your online shopping cart or website. You’ll also want to make sure your service has excellent data security and tokenization.

Is Your Business High Or Low-Risk?

Not all businesses will have the same options when it comes to selecting a payment processor. If your business is considered high-risk, some credit card processors won’t work with you. In this case, you’ll need to narrow your search to those processors that work with businesses such as yours.

Are You High Or Low-Volume?

There’s an economy of scale with many credit card processors, wherein businesses that do enormous numbers of transactions get better rates than those with a lower volume. This means that some processors that are very competitive at high volumes aren’t at low volumes and vice versa.

Our Methodology

When it comes to picking the best credit card company for your business, it helps to follow these four simple rules. We relied on these rules heavily to formulate our list of best credit card processors. You can use them in your search as well.

Rule 1: Transparency Is The Best Policy

There can be no hidden fees and no surprises for a credit card processor to make it onto our list of recommendations. That’s why we insist that our featured merchant account providers use a pricing system that separates wholesale from markup cost (interchange-plus, aka “pass-through” pricing).

The interchange fees are set by the credit card brands (Visa and Mastercard foremost) and are the same for every credit card processor. It’s the markup that really matters here.

In addition to using this cost-plus pricing model, all of our top picks make in-depth fee disclosures upfront. Our top-rated processing companies will also meet or beat your current rate if it’s lower than their advertised price. And all new businesses are guaranteed a fair starting rate thanks to the standardized public rate disclosures.

Rule 2: No Pressure, No Commitment

We do not tolerate high-pressure sales tactics or long-term commitments.

Some salespeople will say anything to get you to sign the dotted line — and then force you to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars when the company doesn’t live up to its promises. We only recommend companies that employ honest, respectful sales reps and offer service with no long-term contract commitments (with the exception of high-risk processors). You should be able to accept credit cards without making a deal with the devil.

Rule 3: Look For Value & Savings

Some credit card processing companies only give you barebones service, but they do so at rock-bottom prices. Others charge a bit more but provide valuable software as part of the service.

Which is best for you? That depends on your budget and your wants/needs. The cheapest credit card processor isn’t always the best. Likewise, you don’t always get what you pay for. It’s important to determine the value of a merchant account for your business needs.

The topic of credit card processing fees is way too broad for us to cover thoroughly in this post. If you’re interested, we have an in-depth resource that explains everything you could ever want to know about credit card payment processing rates and fees.

Rule 4: Reputation Matters

We carefully consider every complaint we find to figure out what went wrong. We then weigh these conclusions against the number of businesses the credit card processor services to decide which companies we feel comfortable recommending. Our top-rated merchant account providers have extremely low complaint counts and numerous independent reviews validating good practices. A proven track record of satisfaction is imperative for us.

We don’t think that’s too much to ask, and we never settle for less.

The 8 Best Small Business Credit Card Payment Processing Companies

We believe that the best small business credit card processing companies offer reasonable costs, accessibility, transparency, and overall value for your dollar. Such companies as Payment Depot, Fattmerchant, PaymentCloud, National Processing, Square Payments, Dharma Merchant Services, CDGcommerce, and Helcim (in no particular order) all meet this standard.

1. Payment Depot

Payment Depot



Visit Site

Read our Review

Payment Depot is best known for its use of subscription or membership-based pricing, a spinoff of the interchange-plus model. While it isn’t the only provider to offer this type of pricing, Payment Depot’s reputation for open, honest sales practices and excellent customer support puts it ahead of many of its competitors using this relatively new pricing model.

How does it work? Most providers offering interchange-plus pricing will charge “interchange fee + markup” rates, with the markup including both a small percentage of the sale and a per-transaction fee. You’ll also incur several monthly and annual fees for individual services, such as PCI compliance and account statements. In contrast, Payment Depot’s model combines all your monthly fees into a single monthly subscription.

Pros

  • Transparent membership pricing
  • Free gateway and virtual terminal
  • Next-day funding available
  • No application or setup fees

Cons

  • Available to US merchants only
  • Not suited for high-risk merchants

Get Started with Payment Depot

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

2. Fattmerchant

Fattmerchant



Visit Site

Read our Review

Fattmerchant is a great choice for most businesses, but the company particularly shines when it comes to eCommerce and card-not-present transactions. One of our favorite things about this company is its subscription pricing model. With this fee structure, you have a 0% mark up alongside a small per-transaction fee and a larger monthly fee, as shown below:

Processing Under $500,000 Per Year:

  • $99 monthly fee
  • $0.08 + interchange for in-person transactions
  • $0.15 + interchange for online transactions

Processing Over $500,000 Per Year

  • $199 monthly fee
  • $0.06 + interchange for in-person transactions
  • $0.12 + interchange for online transactions

Processing Over $5,000,000 Per Year

  • Custom pricing

Don’t let that monthly fee discourage you.

The truth is that the 0% mark up saves most small businesses so much money that it more than pays for the monthly fee. This is especially true for eCommerce and other card-not-present businesses because Fattmerchant does not charge an inflated markup on these accounts. Just about every other merchant services provider, even our favorites, charge a lot extra for phone orders and eCommerce businesses.

Still not convinced that it’s worth it? Well, Fattmerchant adds even more value to your account with high-quality invoicing and billing tools, customer management, a virtual terminal, a POS app, inventory management, detailed reporting analytics, and more.

Pros

  • Transparent membership pricing
  • Free gateway and virtual terminal
  • Next-day funding available
  • Month-to-month billing

Cons

  • Available to US merchants only
  • Not suited for low-volume businesses

Get Started with Fattmerchant

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

3. PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud



Visit Site

Read our Review

PaymentCloud specializes in setting up merchant accounts for high-risk businesses with a network of third-party processors and acquiring banks. While it can’t always place every merchant, the company has a higher success rate than many of its competitors. Best of all, PaymentCloud does the extra work required to accept a high-risk account without charging you any application or account setup fees.

Like almost all high-risk specialists, the company doesn’t disclose its transaction cost. You’ll have to get a quote from the sales team and do a little negotiating to see how the company’s offer stacks up against other providers.

PaymentCloud provides its retail merchants a free lease of an EMV-compliant credit card terminal. It also offers Authorize.Net as its payment gateway, although its system is compatible with other third-party gateways as well. Additionally, it provides a free virtual terminal with each account.

Pros

  • High-risk specialists
  • Few public complaints
  • No setup fee
  • No monthly minimums

Cons

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

Get Started with PaymentCloud

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

4. National Processing

National Processing



Visit Site

Read our Review

For the merchant who’s looking to save on costs but still wants a full-service merchant account, National Processing is the best option. The company has a great reputation, with few complaints and quite a bit of praise from customers — something we don’t often see with merchant account providers.

National Processing offers three interchange-plus rates, depending on the nature of your business:

  • Retail: Interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Restaurants: Interchange + 0.15% + $0.07 per transaction
  • eCommerce: Interchange + 0.30% + $0.15 per transaction
  • eCheck (ACH): $15/month and as low as $0.48 per transaction

National Processing is a great service for businesses that want low rates from a reliable company. However, if you’re hoping for a massive free software suite like Square offers, with POS, analytics, etc., included, you might not find what you’re looking for.

Keep in mind that you could easily end up saving enough money with National Processing to buy all that software and more from whichever provider you want. Low costs and overall versatility make National Processing a great option for many businesses.

Pros

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Low-cost ACH processing
  • No long-term contract if you don’t need equipment

Cons

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

Get Started with National Processing

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

5. Square Payments

Square



Visit Site

Read our Review

Everyone has heard of Square by now. With its free card reader that you can plug into a smartphone tablet, mobile application payment system, and simple pricing structure, it’s one of the most popular processing services on the market for small businesses. Square’s pay-as-you-go system allows businesses that ordinarily couldn’t afford a merchant account to accept credit and debit cards.

In general, Square charges:

  • 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person transaction
  • 2.9% + $30 per online transaction

But there are a few variations to these charges, depending on the payment method.

Square keeps costs low by aggregating accounts together rather than issuing each user a unique Merchant ID number. Because of this, you won’t get a true full-service merchant account, but you are much more likely to be quickly approved for an account.

The trade-off is that there’s a much higher chance that your account will be frozen or terminated without notice if fraud is suspected. This might be a minor inconvenience to a retail business that mostly deals in cash and only occasionally takes credit cards. It would be catastrophic to an eCommerce business where cash isn’t an option.

To summarize, Square offers a great deal under most circumstances, but use the service with caution. Scroll a few sections down for a more detailed discussion about whether Square is a good fit for your business.

Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Ideal for low-volume merchants
  • No monthly fees
  • All-in-one payments system

Cons

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

Get Started with Square

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

6. Dharma Merchant Services

Dharma Merchant Services



Visit Site

Read our Review

Dharma’s fee structure is transparent — it uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively, and it has no annual merchant service fees. This includes OptBlue pricing for accepting American Express transactions.

In general, Dharma charges:

  • In-Person: 0.07% + $0.07 per transaction
  • Online: 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction

The rates get lower for those who process more than $100,000 per month.

The company also doesn’t charge account update fees, early termination fees, PCI compliance fees, or require a monthly minimum. Fees that it does charge are fully disclosed on its website. This is a company that strives to do the right thing with all its business practices. 

Dharma is unique in the world of credit card processing companies in that it donates a significant percentage of its profits to charity. Related to that, Dharma provides discounted rates for nonprofit businesses. Our guide for nonprofit payment processing discounts has more information for charities looking to save money on credit card acceptance. While many believe that nonprofits get the best rates with a software specialist such as Blackbaud Merchant Services, Dharma provides much lower discount rates and better service.

Nonprofits that accept credit cards with Dharma pay a markup of only 0.20% + $0.10 markup for virtual and 0.15% + $0.07 for in-person payments. And Dharma Merchant Services will meet or beat your current rate to win your business; rates are always negotiable in this industry. We highly recommend Dharma to nonprofits, but this company serves all merchants well — in fact, it’s on our list of the best retail credit card processing companies too.

Pros

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • No annual fee or monthly minimum
  • Discount pricing for qualified nonprofits

Cons

  • Not recommended for businesses processing less than $10,000/month
  • Not suitable for high-risk industries or international markets

Get Started with Dharma Merchant Services

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

7. CDGcommerce

CDGcommerce



Visit Site

Read our Review

CDGcommerce was founded in 1998, and for more than twenty years, it has focused on merchant account services for small and medium-sized businesses. While the company’s services are geared more toward eCommerce businesses, it also provides a full range of offerings for retail merchants.

If you run a startup, CDGcommerce can onboard you quickly and let you start processing almost right away. Below is a summary of CDG’s pricing:

Recommended For $1,000-$10,000 Per Month

  • In-Person: 2.75% + $0.30
  • Online: 2.9% + $0.30

Recommended For $10,000-$200,000 Per Month

  • In-Person: 0.25% + $0.10 + interchange
  • Online: 0.30% + $0.15 + interchange
  • Nonprofit: 0.20% + $0.10 + interchange

Membership Plans

Basic Membership:

  • $49/month
  • $0.10 + interchange

Standard Membership:

  • $49/month
  • $0.10 + interchange

Plus Membership:

  • $99/month
  • $0.07 + interchange

Premium Membership:

  • $199/month
  • $0.05 + interchange

CDG contracts are month-to-month, so you can cancel at any time without penalty. With all these plans, merchants are offered various aspects of a CDG-proprietary POS system called PastePay that allow for various business reporting and marketing solutions. For an additional subscription per month, you can access the full suite of PastePay functionality. Lastly, CDGcommerce has eliminated many of the excessive fees that other providers charge, including account setup fees, PCI compliance fees, and monthly minimums.

Pros

  • Transparent pricing
  • Free gateway and virtual terminal
  • No early termination fees

Cons

  • Only available to US-based merchants
  • Some high-risk industries may not qualify

Get Started with CDGcommerce

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

8. Helcim

Helcim



Visit Site

Read our Review

Helcim distinguishes itself from many other providers by offering no binding contracts, exclusive interchange-plus pricing, consistently good customer service, and low account fees — all of which the company fully discloses on its website. It also offers numerous perks for merchants who do a lot of their sales remotely, including overseas.

Helcim’s interchange-plus pricing rewards higher volumes of transactions. Details can be found on Helcim’s pricing page.

Helcim keeps the monthly fees to a minimum, although it doesn’t offer much in the way of free terminals and hardware (the selection is also pretty limited). There is, however, a mobile application that can be used on a smartphone or tablet for point of sale. That said, Helcim offers an excellent suite of features for eCommerce, including hosted payments pages, menu-embedding, and buy-now buttons.

Get Started with Helcim

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

Looking For One Of These Credit Card Processing Solutions?

Best credit card payment processing companies for small business

As you might have guessed, there are a lot more than eight options for credit card processing. Here are some notable companies that you may have heard of but that didn’t make our list.

Honorable Mention: PayPal

You’ve almost certainly heard of PayPal since it’s a giant in the payment processing industry. PayPal’s infrastructure is well-developed, scales well with business growth, and can process transactions in countries worldwide. This comes with one particularly large risk — account stability. PayPal is a third-party processor like Square, meaning it aggregates customers into a single merchant account. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this model, but PayPal doesn’t do a great job of resolving account freezes or customer service in general.

Honorable Mention: Shopify

Shopify is nearly ubiquitous in the eCommerce world, offering a fully-hosted platform for businesses. Truth be told, if Shopify fits your business model, we have very little bad to say about the company. Just be prepared to navigate through its enormous add-on ecosystem to get the functionality you’re looking for.

Honorable Mention: Intuit Merchant Services (QuickBooks Payments)

We’ll make this quick: If you don’t use QuickBooks, Intuit Merchant Services probably isn’t your optimal choice for credit card payment processing. You can get better rates and support elsewhere. That said, if you love the QuickBooks ecosystem, you’ll get online invoicing, a powerful mobile app, echeck/ACH acceptance, and an absolutely ideal QuickBooks bookkeeping integration.

Honorable Mention: Stripe

Stripe is a third-party processor that you can almost think of as the eCommerce version of Square. It’s an all-in-one platform with tremendous international reach and developer support. Like PayPal (and Square, for that matter), Stripe has account stability issues. The platform also takes some technical knowledge if you want to get the most out of it.

Approach With Caution: Flagship Merchant Services

Flagship Merchant Services generally provides a good value, deals with most active sales in-house, and it’s nice that it offers month-to-month agreements as well as interchange pricing (if you ask for it). In fact, on paper, the company looks pretty good. Unfortunately, a lot of users report unexpected escalating fees that kick in after an introductory period.

Approach With Caution: Merchant One

Merchant One has a number of features that help it stand out from its numerous competitors in the merchant services industry. The availability of interchange-plus pricing (at least, if you ask for it), the lack of an automatic renewal clause once your initial three-year term is up, and the fact that the company no longer offers equipment leases are all positive characteristics.

However, the company’s standard three-year contract and the potentially expensive early termination fee that comes with it are not so great. The use of tiered pricing, the reliance on independent sales agents, and a reputation for poor customer service make it hard to recommend.

Approach With Caution: Payroc

While Payroc has a reputation for excellent customer service, its terms of service aren’t so merchant-friendly.

Our biggest concern is the company’s standard Terms and Conditions, which imposes an initial term of four years and automatic renewals for two-year periods after that. As with most long-term contracts of this nature, there’s also a pricey early termination fee (ETF) of $595 if you close your account before the end of the initial term. While this is bad enough, it could get even worse: Payroc reserves the right to raise your ETF to an eye-watering $1,500 if it decides to close your account due to your violation of applicable law or industry operating regulations.

Approach With Caution: Fiserv

If your business is large and well-established, Fiserv (formerly First Data) can offer you a lot of extras that other providers cannot. Account fees aren’t nearly as burdensome on large businesses, and in many cases, the significantly lower interchange-plus processing rates will balance them out and save you money overall.  On the other hand, if your business is small or doesn’t have a lengthy processing history, you won’t have much leverage to negotiate a good deal with a provider such as Fiserv. Instead, you’ll be stuck in a lengthy contract with high fees and even higher processing rates.

Future Payment Trends: What You Can Expect From Merchant Services In 2021

To put it mildly, the 2020 pandemic had a substantial impact on the payment processing world. With many businesses having to scale back their operations or move more of their infrastructure online, some distinct trends emerged.

Online Shopping Exploded

Probably the number one trend of 2020 was that online shopping exploded as physical stores were forced to close or reduce operations. Most experts believe that this trend will continue. Even traditionally brick-and-mortar businesses were forced online, so customers can buy and have the product shipped, delivered, or readied for curbside pickup. Many professional services have at least partially moved online as well (e.g., virtual doctor visits, video calls with lawyers).

Online shopping is here to stay. If you have a physical store or office, having a website and an online store with a shopping cart function used to be nice-to-haves. Now, these are must-haves. At the very least, you should have a virtual terminal, so your customers can pay with a credit card by phone.

Contactless Payments On The Rise

Contactless payments had been slowly on the rise for many years, but the pandemic may have finally given it the last push it needed for wide adoption. Previously, issues such as lack of NFC-capable hardware at the stores, few contactless cards issued, and consumer security concerns all slowed down contactless payment adoption. (See 2018 TSYS US Consumer Payment Study.)

Consumers wishing to avoid unnecessary touching because of the pandemic gave the payment card industry a lot of incentive to make contactless payments easier. Merchants are more aware of contactless payments and may have ensured that their NFC-capable readers and terminals now function fully. Banks finally have issued enough contactless credit cards so that consumers who wish to do so could move to contactless payments.

Consumers’ security concerns over storing cards in digital wallets were likely overtaken by health concerns, so consumers had more incentive to use contactless. Lastly, payment companies such as PayPal, Venmo, and Square implemented QR code workarounds in 2020 for merchants without NFC readers/terminals.

Debit Card Usage Continues To Exceed Credit Card Usage

On the whole, consumers continue to prefer debit cards over credit cards. In a detailed breakdown of credit vs. debit and online vs. in-person, available studies show different conclusions.

A TSYS study shows a preference for credit over debit when it comes to online shopping. Debit cards are preferred for in-person shopping, such as grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants. In addition, those with a higher income ($100k or more) prefer credit while everyone else favors debit. In another study by the Atlanta Federal Reserve, consumers prefer debit cards even for online shopping, which holds true even for those with higher income levels ($75K or more).

Both studies were conducted right before the pandemic, however. We know that consumers have moved largely to online purchases due to the pandemic, but we have contradictory information on their preferred method of payment.

Therefore, it is safest for merchants to continue to take both credit and debit payments, both in-person and online, and possibly add additional electronic payment types such as ACH going forward.

Fraudulent Transactions On The Rise

As more and more transactions moved online and via mobile devices, fraud attacks have also increased. These attacks include not only friendly fraud but also include sophisticated attacks that steal customer payment information.

While banks and other third-party security firms are using sophisticated software to detect hacker attacks, the attackers continue to improve their techniques as well. It is more and more important for merchants to comply with PCI requirements to reduce avenues of attack for hackers.

ACH Payments Continue To Overtake Paper Checks

Lastly, we expect the use of paper checks to continue to decline. In its place, ACH payments are gaining popularity through online bill pay with banks or direct payments with various merchants/services providers.

Not all payment situations are appropriate for ACH payments, of course. But given that ACH payments tend to cost less for a merchant, it might be advantageous to encourage your customers to pay by ACH when the situation is appropriate.

Is Square The Best Merchant Services Provider For Small Business?

If you’re a small business owner or are just starting out, you probably only process small transactions ($15 or less average ticket size) — a couple of thousand dollars each month. Maybe you’re adamant about not paying any monthly fees, even if you process somewhat above that amount. If so, Square might be the right fit for you.

Square currently charges 2.6% + $0.10 per card-present transaction. While this is a price increase from its old charges, for many small business owners — especially in retail or small food service businesses — it’s still an excellent value given the low cost and high-quality software that also comes with Square’s service. Larger businesses, however, can end up saving hundreds or thousands of dollars each month by not using Square. Lastly, high-risk businesses should avoid Square because it is incredibly risk-averse and will shut down your account and hold your money if you are high-risk.

Square offers its own line of payment card processing hardware. The hardware can run from free to thousands of dollars per machine. Each has its positives and negatives, so be sure to understand your business’s specific needs before deciding on a machine. We’ve written an article discussing the hardware in more detail, where we also make some recommendations. Square’s also took the initiative during the pandemic by expanding its free eCommerce tools through Square Checkout and Square Online.

Still can’t decide? Check out our in-depth post on why Square may or may not be the best way for your business to accept credit card payments. You could even try both Square and a merchant account. Since none of our top merchant services providers lock you into long-term contracts, it’s safe to try it out for a few months with no major commitment. If you’re set on getting a Square-like option, but you feel skeptical of Square as a company, we have a post dedicated to Square alternatives for you to consider.

Why Your Choice Of Credit Card Processing Machine Matters

Best credit card payment processing companies for small business

Unless you run an eCommerce website, the credit card machine you use to take payments is an important part of your consideration when picking a processor. We have in-depth articles on how to pick a machine. But the short answer is that you should not only pay attention to the price and basic functionalities but also think about hardware and software compatibility with multiple processors.

When shopping for credit card machines, you can either spend a lot of money and buy a larger point of sale system that typically fits on a sales counter or go with a mobile system. The mobile system can be subdivided into dedicated machines that only read payment cards or generic mobile devices loaded with the processor’s software connected to a dedicated card reader. Here’s a table showing the basic differences:

Hardware Software Cost NFC Availability
Card Reader Typically linked to another device such as a tablet or smartphone No additional software Least expensive Yes
Standalone Terminal All-In-One device for taking payments Only card processing software Mid-range Yes
Integrated POS & Terminal/Smart Terminal Complete set of card reading hardware and software with additional capabilities Additional business management software such as inventory, sales analysis, employee time tracking Most expensive Yes

We see a trend toward the mobile system, probably because it’s a build-your-own modular system where a merchant picks however much hardware they wish to have. The merchant can also load whatever POS software is provided to help manage their business.

Whichever system you pick, don’t forget to plan ahead. For instance, the Clover terminals are nice and modern looking, with advanced software installed for inventory management, sales analysis, marketing tools, and similar. While you can find many processors that sell Clover machines, the technology actually belongs to the direct processor Fiserv (formerly First Data) that many smaller processors connect to at the back end. Even though Clover machines are slightly more flexible than, say, Square’s (which can only be used with Square), Clover does limit the number of processors you can ultimately use. As to the card reader, make sure it’s NFC-capable so that you can process contactless payments.

The Bottom Line On The Best Merchant Account Services For Small Business

Whether you’re trying to juggle multiple retail locations or just sell products online, one of the eight services we’ve highlighted here should be a “best match” for your business. While each service has its own standout features, they all offer competitive rates, transparent pricing, and easy, low-cost setup. While all of them perform more or less the same essential service (connecting an acquiring bank to an issuing bank), each brings its own value to the floor.

Square is a solid contender for very small, low-volume businesses, while Fattmerchant, Helcim, and CDGcommerce are better for larger retail establishments. If you’re running a nonprofit, Dharma may very well be your best choice. In any event, all of these services will, in most cases, provide you with a better, more affordable service than you’re likely to get with any of the traditional, bank-owned credit card processing companies.

You can compare our top processors (except for Square) head-to-head using our merchant account comparison chart. Those interested in mobile credit card processing specifically should consult our mobile chart. And those most interested in eCommerce tools can take a look at our shopping cart software comparison.

We hope one of the options on our list will be the best choice for your small, medium-sized, or even enterprise business! Let us know how it goes.

In Summary: The 8 Best Small Business Credit Card Payment Processing Companies

  1. Payment Depot: Best for low-risk, US-based businesses looking for predictable pricing.
  2. Fattmerchant: Best for high-volume, US-based businesses looking for predictable pricing.
  3. PaymentCloud: Best for high-risk merchants.
  4. National Processing: Best for cost-conscious merchants.
  5. Square: Best for low-volume merchants looking for an all-in-one service.
  6. Dharma Merchant Services: Best for charity-minded businesses and nonprofits.
  7. CDGcommerce: Best for eCommerce-based startups.
  8. Helcim: Best for businesses that sell internationally.
Frank Kehl

Frank Kehl

Frank Kehl has been writing about merchant services, payment gateways, and international money transfer services since 2015. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State and a Juris Doctorate from the Ventura College of Law. After a long and enjoyable career of traveling around the world as an Air Force navigator, he’s comfortably settled down in the wine country town of Paso Robles in California’s scenic Central Coast region. He enjoys reading, photography, hiking, and numerous other outdoor pursuits.
Frank Kehl

Sources

Leave a comment

328 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.

    Rich

    I am having an issue I was hoping someone here could help me out with.

    I am processing with Square and I have been applying for traditional merchant accounts as square is expensive.

    I applied for an account with Elavon and was told I was approved. Just as I was setting up the gateway, they told me that “loss prevention” had closed the account for reasons that they could not disclose but that they couldn’t work with my business. So I moved on to another provider, but after filling out my second application they told me that I had been put on the TMF by Elavon even though I never processed a single transaction. After a lot of back and forth, Elavon agreed to take me off but no I am extremely worried because of the severe consequence of getting put on the TMF *just for applying for an account*.

    Does anyone know why something like this would have happened? Is this typical?

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

      Jessica Dinsmore

      Hi Rich,

      What an unfortunate and unusual situation! It might be something as simple as personal credit concerns or maybe an issue came up with your processing history with Square? This post might be helpful. All our best!

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

        Mary C Brady

        Great comparisons. I have been with my current processor for a little over 3 years and the fee’s and charges have been going up this year sent me to your site. First year good, second slight increase. This year major changes in fees and changed my account from merit back to tier with higher rates without notifying me. This article allowed me to see heads to head comparison what I as a small business will need looking forward. Thank you for highlighting these companies. Have been on other sites and spoke to other merchant processors. Agree square isn’t a good fit for certain small businesses ( we found their software and connections as not user friendly and not working on our site.) As a wholesaler we deal with business to business which you don’t even mention on your evaluations, we aren’t online ( due to the costs), and still deal with customers face to face, dealing in perishable seasonal goods. Writing an article for business to business and how we are different then retail would be good.

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

          Jessica Dinsmore

          Hi Mary,

          Thank you for your feedback! We actually have a couple of articles on B2B processing to share with you: The 6 Best B2B Options For Your Small Business and Switch To B2B Processing And Modernize Your Business. I hope you find them to be helpful.

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

            Jhon Pace

            Thank you so much for this article, great information! It is helpful for startup small business.

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

              Nasir

              We have a startup Money Transfer incorporated in Canada, which payment processor is the best for our business.

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

                Jessica Dinsmore

                Hey Nasir,

                There are a lot of factors that can impact this decision! We have a great filtering tool that can help you determine which options may be best for your business, based on the specifics that you enter. Give it a try, and if you need help narrowing it down from there, we’ll do our best to help!

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

                  Cherrell

                  Excellent review! Square takes the win for me. Being a small business owner, I have been using them for quite sometime now and quite happy with their service.

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

                    David

                    I own a salon in Texas. Can you help me recommend a trustworthy merchant?

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

                      Jessica Dinsmore

                      Hi David,

                      It’s hard to say without knowing more information about your business, but our in-depth reviews will let you know how trustworthy we believe them to be. What you can do is fill out our merchant account filtering tool and it will populate the best suggestions based on the information you’ve entered about your business. I hope that helps, and if you haven’t already checked it out, here is a link to our post on Salon Survival During COVID-19. Best of luck to you!

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

                        EH

                        Hi, We are a new start-up trying to sell a monthly subscription to our online application for $20/month. Since we are an online application we only care about being able to charge credit cards (no need for any other option like POS etc’).
                        Which credit card processor do you recommend for us given the fact that we do not know how many subscribers per month in an average we will have.

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

                          Jessica Dinsmore

                          Hi EH,

                          I think Stripe might be a good option for you; it’s entirely pay-as-you-go, has really powerful tools, and advanced subscription options. Check it out and see what you think!

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

                          More Comments

                          Leave a Reply

                          Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

                          Your Review

                          Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.
                          Please read the "User Review and Comment Policy" before posting.

                          Share

                          Get Started With Featured Pick! 🏆

                          is our current featured vendor in this category.




                          Get Started

                          Learn more today with no commitment.

                          Featured Offer: We Recommend QuickBooks 🎉

                          Take it for a spin with a free trial.

                          Try QuickBooks Today

                          We Recommend Fattmerchant 🏆

                          Fattmerchant is one of our top picks for Credit Card Processing!

                           

                           

                          We love Fattmerchant as a credit card processor for its predictable pricing, excellent service, and integrated billing features. Get started today and get your first month for $5 with an exclusive Merchant Maverick promo.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          Earn 1.00% APY On Your Cash 🏦

                          Try BlueVine Checking today to start earning.

                           

                           

                          BlueVine's small business checking has a 1.00% APY, no minimum deposit or balance, and no monthly service fees.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Fattmerchant 🏆

                          Fattmerchant is one of our top picks for Credit Card Processing!

                           

                           

                          We love Fattmerchant as a credit card processor for its predictable pricing, excellent service, and integrated billing features. Get started today and get your first month for $5 with an exclusive Merchant Maverick promo.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Fattmerchant 🏆

                          Fattmerchant is one of our top picks for Credit Card Processing!

                           

                           

                          We love Fattmerchant as a credit card processor for its predictable pricing, excellent service, and integrated billing features. Get started today and get your first month for $5 with an exclusive Merchant Maverick promo.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Donorbox 🏆

                          Donorbox is one of our top picks for Donation Systems!

                           

                           

                          Donorbox is a versatile, feature-rich, and easy-to-use donation management system that can help you attract more recurring donors. Get started today for free.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend BigCommerce 🏆

                          BigCommerce is one of our top picks for eCommerce Platforms!

                           

                           

                          Bigcommerce offers exceptional tools for all eCommerce businesses from startups looking to build a site to enterprise-level systems. Now get a 15-day free trial + one month free when you upgrade!

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Fattmerchant 🏆

                          Fattmerchant is one of our top picks for Credit Card Processing!

                           

                           

                          We love Fattmerchant as a credit card processor for its predictable pricing, excellent service, and integrated billing features. Get started today and get your first month for $5 with an exclusive Merchant Maverick promo.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Helcim 🏆

                          Helcim is one of our top picks for payment processing!

                           

                           

                          Helcim has exceptional service and an advanced platform that we highly recommend for businesses in Canada and the US. Get three months free when you sign up with Helcim through our links!

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend PaymentCloud 🏆

                          PaymentCloud is one of our top picks for credit card processing!

                           

                           

                          We love PaymentCloud's predictable pricing and excellent service.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend OnDeck 🏆

                          OnDeck is one of our top picks for Business Loans!

                           

                           

                          OnDeck is our featured vendor for business loans and lines of credit. If you have at least one year in business, a personal credit score of 600 or higher, and $100K in annual revenue, OnDeck is ready to help your business get funded.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Lendio 🏆

                          Lendio is one of our top picks for PPP/Business Financing!

                           

                           

                          Lendio is a free-to-use marketplace that allows you to compare lenders side-by-side. Easily find PPP/SBA loans alongside other financing options.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend PaymentCloud 🏆

                          PaymentCloud is one of our top picks for credit card processing!

                           

                           

                          We love PaymentCloud's predictable pricing and excellent service.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend ADP Payroll 🏆

                          ADP Payroll is one of our top picks for Payroll Software!

                           

                           

                          Our reviewers like ADP Payroll for its advanced employee management, strong payroll features, and great customer support.👍

                          For a limited time, get three months free when you sign up via our links!

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Revel POS 🏆

                          Revel POS is one of our top picks for Point of Sale!

                           

                           

                          We love Revel POS for its advanced features and exceptional versatiliy in both the retail and restaurant industries. Get a demo today to find out everything Revel has to offer!

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Revel POS 🏆

                          Revel POS is one of our top picks for Point of Sale!

                           

                           

                          We love Revel POS for its advanced features and exceptional versatiliy in both the retail and restaurant industries. Get a demo today to find out everything Revel has to offer!

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          PPP & EIDL Are Not Your Only Options

                          The SBA has expanded their loan portfolio and we have the list that no one else is talking about (yet) — Sign up for our newsletter to get your free copy!

                          • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

                          We Recommend Fundera 🏆

                          Fundera is one of our top picks for SBA loans!

                           

                           

                          Fundera is a free-to-use marketplace that allows you to compare lenders side-by-side. Easily find SBA 7(a)loans alongside other financing options.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend ShippingEasy 🏆

                          ShippingEasy is one of our top picks for shipping software!

                           

                           

                          ShippingEasy got a 5-star review from our team. Get a 30-day free trial to access discounted USPS and UPS shipping rates and print labels in no time. No credit card required.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.

                          We Recommend Square POS 🏆

                          Square POS is one of our top picks for Point of Sale!

                           

                           

                          Square is free to use and currently includes a free card reader at sign-up!

                          No credit card is required to create your account.

                          Get Started

                          Get started with no commitment today.


                           

                          Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity. The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.

                          Sign up for the Maverick Newsletter

                          • Please select topics of interest

                          • We occasionally send out emails with special offers.