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Best Credit Card Processing Companies In 2024

These credit card payment processors offer merchant services with reasonable costs, accessibility, transparency, and good overall value.

    Frank Kehl
  • Last updated onUpdated

  • Jason Vissers
  • REVIEWED BY

    Jason Vissers

    Senior Staff Writer

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

Credit card processing for small businesses is essential to boost overall sales and offer convenient payment methods for your customers. Unfortunately, it’s a rather complex subject, making choosing a great payment processor challenging.

Making the best choice for your business comes down to more than just overall cost. Hardware and software compatibility, flexible terms on your merchant agreement, and high-quality customer support are also essential features.

We recommend choosing the provider that offers the most overall value for your credit card processing needs. This means understanding the features and credit card processing rates and fees associated with each provider.

This article will review our top recommendations for credit card processing and explain how to find the best provider for your business.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanySummaryNext StepsSummary
National Processing

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  • $12-$19+/month account fee
  • Offers flat-rate or customized pricing options
  • Month-to-month billing if equipment purchased outright
  • $12-$19+/month account fee
  • Offers flat-rate or customized pricing options
  • Month-to-month billing if equipment purchased outright

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PaymentCloud

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  • Variable monthly fees
  • Variable processing rates
  • Long-term contract may be required
  • Variable monthly fees
  • Variable processing rates
  • Long-term contract may be required

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Square

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  • No monthly fee (for standard account)
  • Offers predictable flat-rate pricing
  • No long-term contracts
  • No monthly fee (for standard account)
  • Offers predictable flat-rate pricing
  • No long-term contracts

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CDGcommerce

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  • $0-199 monthly fee (depends on plan)
  • Offers flat-rate, interchange-plus, or membership pricing options
  • No long-term contracts
  • $0-199 monthly fee (depends on plan)
  • Offers flat-rate, interchange-plus, or membership pricing options
  • No long-term contracts

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Clover POS

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  • $0.00-$94.85 monthly fee (depends on plan)
  • Offers flat-rate pricing through Clover Payments
  • No long-term contracts (through Clover Payments)
  • $0.00-$94.85 monthly fee (depends on plan)
  • Offers flat-rate pricing through Clover Payments
  • No long-term contracts (through Clover Payments)

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Host Merchant Services

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  • $14.99 monthly fee
  • Offers interchange-plus pricing
  • No long-term contracts
  • $14.99 monthly fee
  • Offers interchange-plus pricing
  • No long-term contracts

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Stripe Payments

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  • No monthly fee (for standard account)
  • Offers flat-rate pricing
  • No long-term contracts
  • No monthly fee (for standard account)
  • Offers flat-rate pricing
  • No long-term contracts

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Dharma Merchant Services

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  • $15 monthly fee (for basic account)
  • Offers interchange-plus pricing
  • No long-term contracts
  • $15 monthly fee (for basic account)
  • Offers interchange-plus pricing
  • No long-term contracts

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Helcim

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  • No monthly fees
  • Offers interchange-plus pricing
  • No long-term contracts
  • No monthly fees
  • Offers interchange-plus pricing
  • No long-term contracts

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Chase Payment Solutions℠

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  • $0 monthly fee (for standard account)
  • Offers flat-rate pricing (customized pricing also available)
  • No long-term contracts if equipment purchased outright
  • $0 monthly fee (for standard account)
  • Offers flat-rate pricing (customized pricing also available)
  • No long-term contracts if equipment purchased outright

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Table of Contents

What Is Credit Card Processing?

Credit card processing refers to the sequence of steps for approving and processing credit and debit card transactions. Merchants can accept payments in person, online, or by manually entering a customer’s card information. The credit card processing network checks for indicators of possible fraud and ensures that merchants get paid for approved transactions.

In today’s complex and competitive payments environment, almost all providers offer a variety of services in addition to basic credit card processing. The following products and services are typically offered through either a proprietary, in-house product, or a third-party partnership:

  • Payment gateway for e-commerce transactions
  • Virtual terminal for manually keying in payments
  • Processing hardware (mobile card readers, credit card terminals, or point-of-sale (POS) systems)
  • Online analytics and reporting
  • Support for alternate payment methods (ACH transfers, eChecks, digital wallets, payment links, QR codes, cryptocurrency, etc.)
  • Online shopping cart integration or webstore builder
  • Inventory management features
  • Invoice generation & payment tracking

Compare Best Credit Card Payment Processing Companies For Small Businesses

Company Account Type Monthly Fee Processing Rate Plan(s)
National Processing Merchant Account $12-$19+ Flat-Rate
PaymentCloud Merchant Account Varies Varies
Square Aggregated Account $0.00 Flat-Rate
CDGcommerce Merchant Account $0-199 Flat-Rate, Interchange-Plus, or Membership
Clover Aggregated Account $0.00-$94.85 Flat-Rate
Host Merchant Services Merchant Account $14.99 Interchange-Plus
Stripe Aggregated Account $0.00 Flat-Rate
Dharma Merchant Services Merchant Account $15 ($12 for nonprofits) Interchange-Plus
Helcim Merchant Account $0.00 Interchange-Plus
Chase Payment Solutions Merchant Account $0.00 Flat-Rate

A Closer Look At 10 Best Small Business Credit Card Payment Processing Companies

The best payment processors for small businesses offer a combination of affordable costs, flexible contract terms, and transparent sales practices. High-quality customer support sets them apart from their competitors. Here are our picks for the best credit card processors for small businesses:

National Processing: Best For Flat-Rate Pricing

National Processing

Total Rating 4.6
Fees & Rates4.8

Products & Services5.0

Contract4.6

Sales & Advertising Transparency4.4

Customer Service4.1

User Reviews4.4



Get a free Clover Go card reader from National Processing when you sign up. Claim your card reader.

Pros

  • Offers flat-rate pricing
  • Low-cost ACH & echeck processing available
  • No long-term contract if equipment purchased outright
  • Excellent online reputation

Cons

  • “Free” processing equipment may require a long-term contract
  • May charge an early termination fee for “free” equipment

Why National Processing Is The Best Choice For Flat-Rate Pricing

National Processing provides extensive pricing disclosures on its website, making it easy for merchants to calculate their costs in advance. The company currently offers three basic and advanced plans for small businesses that utilize flat-rate pricing. For merchants processing over $30,000/month, a custom pricing option is also available. National Processing also has a great reputation for customer service, a rarity in the payments industry.

One point of caution with National Processing is that the "free" equipment offered with some of these plans also comes with long-term contract obligations, so make sure you know what you're getting into if you decide to go that route. Fortunately, the company offers many exceptions to its early termination penalties if you promptly return any "free" equipment. You usually won't have to worry about getting hit with an ETF if you close or sell your business. In fact, National Processing will usually only charge you an ETF if you cancel service to switch to a competitor.

National Processing Features

National Processing offers great service and pricing to small businesses. Key features include the following:

  • Offers full-service merchant accounts
  • “Free” credit card reader or terminal available
  • Offers ACH and echeck processing as an add-on
  • Offers flat-rate pricing (or custom pricing for merchants processing over $30,000/month)
  • Offers a variety of Clover and PAX terminals and POS systems
  • No long-term contract if processing hardware is purchased outright
  • Choice of proprietary National Processing Gateway or Authorize.Net

National Processing Pricing

  • $12-$19+/month account fee (Basic In-Person, Basic eCommerce, or Advanced plans)
  • $0.00/month for cash discounting program (optional)
  • $15.00/month and 0-1.5% + $0.48/transaction for ACH and echeck processing (optional)
  • 2.5% + $0.10/in-person transaction (2.41% + $0.10 for Advanced Plan)
  • 2.9% + $0.30/online transaction
  • 3.5% + $0.15/keyed-in transaction

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PaymentCloud: Best For High-Risk Businesses

Total Rating 4.1
Fees & Rates4.3

Products & Services5.0

Contract2.8

Sales & Advertising Transparency3.9

Customer Service4.2

User Reviews4.0



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

Pros

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

Cons

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

Why PaymentCloud Is The Best Choice For High-Risk Businesses

Among our choices for the best small business credit card processors, PaymentCloud stands out as the most well-rounded merchant services provider for high-risk merchants. High-risk businesses can be hard to place, but PaymentCloud puts extra effort into helping you get approved for an account with one of its backend processors -- without charging any account setup or application fees. Pricing is highly variable and customized for each business, but you'll generally pay less overall with PaymentCloud than you would with most other high-risk providers.

PaymentCloud specializes in setting up merchant accounts for high-risk businesses with a network of back-end 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 most high-risk specialists, the company doesn’t disclose any standardized processing rates. 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 offers a range of EMV-compliant credit card terminals and mobile card readers. It also offers the Authorize.Net, NMI, or USAePay payment gateways, although its processing system is compatible with other third-party gateways. You’ll also have access to a free virtual terminal with your account. The company enjoys a great reputation in the industry, and other providers, such as Dharma Merchant Services, refer their high-risk applicants to PaymentCloud.

PaymentCloud Features

PaymentCloud is primarily a high-risk specialist, but offers a full range of services to low-risk businesses as well. Highlights include the following:

  • Mobile processing solution available
  • Virtual terminal included
  • Authorize.Net, NMI, or USAePay payment gateways are available
  • ACH and echeck processing are available
  • Paysley QR-code payment service available

PaymentCloud Pricing

  • No account setup fee
  • No monthly minimum (low-risk accounts)
  • Interchange + 0.05%-0.30% + $0.08-$0.10 per transaction (low-risk accounts)
  • Processing rates vary by acquiring bank/back-end processors (high-risk accounts)
  • $15/month account fee (low-risk accounts)
  • Account fees vary by the acquiring bank/back-end processor (high-risk accounts)

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Square: Best For New Startups

Total Rating 4.8
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services4.7

Contract4.3

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.9

User Reviews4.9



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

Pros

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

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Does not accept most high-risk industries

Why Square Is The Best Choice For New Startups

Square is undoubtedly the most well-known -- and most popular -- credit card processor for small businesses today. Square's ultra-simple online signup process and general lack of recurring fees or long-term contractual commitments make it the easiest option for new business owners to begin accepting credit card payments. Although its free magstripe-only card reader is still available, Square now offers a wide variety of up-to-date card readers, terminals, and POS systems that offer all the basic functionality most small businesses need, but at a much lower cost than the industry average.

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 will likely be quickly approved for an account. The trade-off is that there's a higher chance that your account will be frozen or terminated without notice if fraud is suspected.

Square's product lineup today offers far more than just a simple mobile processing solution. The company covers all the bases for retail and eCommerce businesses, although some features aren't as customizable or advanced as you can find elsewhere. Also, be aware that Square's flat-rate pricing system can actually be more expensive than a full-service merchant account at higher processing volumes.

Square Features

Square has evolved from a basic, mobile-only processing solution to a full-featured payments ecosystem and now includes the following major features:

  • Aggregated account for credit and debit card processing
  • Mobile card reader (magstripe-only) included with each account
  • EMV and NFC-capable card readers are available
  • Square Register POS system available
  • ACH processing included with every account
  • Square Online for eCommerce businesses
  • Basic Square Invoices feature included at no extra cost
  • Analytics and reporting available through Square Dashboard

Square Pricing

  • No setup or application fees
  • $0/month for Square Free account ($29+/month for Square Plus accounts)
  • 2.6% + $0.10/card-present transaction
  • 2.9% + $0.30/online transaction
  • 3.5% + $0.15/manually keyed-in transaction
  • 3.3% + $0.30/invoice
  • 1%/ACH transaction (minimum $1 charge)
  • No ACH reject or chargeback fees
  • Square Contactless & Chip Reader — $59 each
  • Square Terminal — $299 (or $27/month for 12 months)
  • Square Register — $799 (or $39/month for 24 months)

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CDGcommerce: Best For eCommerce Startups

Total Rating 4.7
Fees & Rates4.6

Products & Services5.0

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service3.5

User Reviews4.9



Pros

  • Transparent pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no early termination fees
  • Free payment gateway and virtual terminal

Cons

  • Only available to US-based merchants
  • Some high-risk industries may not qualify (including CBD and cannabis products)

Why CDGcommerce Is The Best Choice For eCommerce Startups

We chose CDGcommerce as one of our top small business credit card processing picks for its unique ability to let merchants choose the type of processing rate plan that's best for their needs. Flat-rate, interchange-plus, and membership pricing options are all available. Regardless of which plan you choose, you'll enjoy month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts and excellent customer support.

CDGcommerce offers some of the most transparent, flexible pricing of any provider we've found. Depending on your monthly processing volume, you can choose between flat-rate pricing with no monthly fee, interchange-plus pricing, or four membership pricing options. The company uses an online application process that can get you onboarded very quickly, which can be very handy for a new startup. (Note that if you're in one of the high-risk industries that CDGcommerce accepts, you'll want to undergo the more lengthy traditional underwriting process to avoid suddenly having your account shut down later.)

All of CDGcommerce's pricing plans come with month-to-month contracts. There's no long-term commitment and no early termination penalty for closing your account. The company also offers a proprietary POS software service called PastePay that keeps all your business data in the cloud and includes numerous expandability options.

CDGcommerce also keeps account fees to a minimum. You won't have to worry about account setup fees, PCI compliance fees, or a monthly minimum.

The company also offers top-notch customer service and support after you've signed up and started processing transactions.

CDGcommerce Features

CDGcommerce has focused on merchant account services for small and medium-sized businesses for over twenty years. While the company’s services are geared more toward eCommerce businesses, it also provides a full range of offerings for retail merchants. Key services include the following:

  • Offers full-service merchant accounts
  • A hybrid risk structure lowers the chance of a held transaction
  • High-risk processing (some industries)
  • Free terminal with each account (requires $79 annual maintenance fee)
  • Offers proprietary Quantum payment gateway or Authorize.Net
  • PastePay Cloud POS software
  • Includes virtual terminal

CDGcommerce Pricing

  • $0.00 monthly fee (Simple, One Rate plan)
  • 2.90% + $0.30/in-person transaction (Simple, One Rate plan)
  • 3.50% + $0.30/online transaction (Simple, One Rate plan)
  • $19-$49 monthly fee (Interchange-Plus plan)
  • Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10/in-person transaction (Interchange-Plus plan)
  • Interchange + 0.30% + $0.15/online transaction (Interchange-Plus plan)
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.10/transaction (qualified nonprofits)
  • + 0.25% for American Express cards
  • + 0.15% for keyed-in transactions
  • 0.75% + $0.15/ ACH debit
  • $79/year terminal insurance/maintenance fee
  • $15/month for cdg360 security package (optional)

CDGcommerce also offers a choice of four membership pricing plans for high-volume businesses. Rates are as follows:

Plan Monthly Fee Transaction Fee Volume
Basic $49 interchange + $0.10 Up to $25,000/month
Standard $79 interchange + $0.10 $25,001-$75,000/month
Plus $99 interchange + $0.07 $75,001-$200,000/month
Premium $199 interchange + $0.05 Over $200,000

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Clover: Best For Sophisticated Processing Hardware

Total Rating 4.3
Pricing4.0

Ease Of Use4.8

Features4.5

Customer Service4.4

User Reviews4.1

Pricing

Starts at $0/month

Contract

Depends on merchant services provider

Equipment Cost

$49-$1,799 per device

Pros

  • Excellent POS hardware
  • Expandable via Clover App Market
  • Available directly or through a large network of ISOs

Cons

  • Requires monthly software subscription fee
  • Hardware cannot be reprogrammed
  • Expensive for most small businesses

Why Clover Is The Best Choice For Sophisticated Processing Hardware

Clover provides some of the best and most well-known point-of-sale (POS) systems in the payments industry. Part of mammoth direct processor Fiserv (formerly First Data), the company offers a very popular line of credit card processing devices, including mobile terminals, smart terminals, and fully-featured POS systems.

In addition to industry-leading processing hardware, Clover offers credit card processing services through Clover Payments. With a Clover merchant account, you'll enjoy flat-rate pricing and month-to-month billing with no long-term contractual obligation. Note that while you can also obtain Clover's terminals and POS systems through Fiserv or its vast network of resellers, pricing, and contract terms will be highly variable.

Clover’s hardware lineup features the latest in payments technology, including wireless connectivity, color touchscreens, and an app market that allows you to expand the capabilities of your Clover device. While the Clover ecosystem is one of the most feature-laden products on the market, it doesn’t come cheap. Expensive hardware costs and high monthly fees make it unaffordable for many small businesses. We’d also caution you that Clover terminals and POS systems cannot be reprogrammed to work with any other processor’s payment network.

Clover Features

Clover Payments offers basic credit card processing services and support for a few alternate payment methods. Here are the highlights:

  • Offers flat-rate pricing (custom pricing available for high-volume businesses)
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts
  • Full line of Clover hardware
  • Access to Clover App Marketplace
  • eCheck processing
  • Scan to Pay QR code payments (Clover Dining plan only)
  • Virtual terminal included

Clover Pricing

  • 2.3%-2.6% + $0.10/in-person transaction (through Clover Payments)
  • 3.5% + $0.10/keyed-in transaction (through Clover Payments)
  • Variable processing fees (through Fiserv or Fiserv ISO)
  • Variable monthly and annual fees (through Fiserv or Fiserv ISO)
  • $0.00-$94.85/month software subscription fee (depending on plan chosen)

For a more detailed breakdown of Clover’s various features and pricing options, please see our complete Clover pricing guide.

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Host Merchant Services: Best For Mid-Sized High & Low-Risk Businesses

Host Merchant Services

Total Rating 4.9
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services5.0

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency4.7

Customer Service4.6

User Reviews4.8



Pros

  • Transparent interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no early termination fees
  • No monthly minimums
  • Good customer support

Cons

  • Can be expensive for some low-volume merchants

Why Host Merchant Services Is The Best Choice For Mid-Sized High & Low-Risk Businesses

We chose Host Merchant Services as one of our top picks for small business credit card processing due to its wide range of products and services, flexible contract terms, and excellent pricing transparency. Host Merchant Services offers its own proprietary payment gateway and POS system, as well as a broad range of third-party alternatives. It's also one of the few merchant services providers that include free web hosting for eCommerce businesses as a standard account feature.

Host Merchant Services offers a robust variety of proprietary and third-party services for just about any business. The company fully discloses its pricing on its website, eliminating the need to negotiate these terms when setting up your account. Host's transparent interchange-plus pricing rates will save most high-volume businesses a significant amount of money if they use a Clover system. Prominent third-party features include the popular Authorize.Net payment gateway and the full line of Clover terminals and POS systems.

Like most of our top choices for small business credit card processing, Host Merchant Services doesn't require a long-term contract or charge an expensive early termination fee to close your account. That allows you to switch to a different provider without penalty if you have to.

Note that while the company also accepts high-risk merchants, your pricing and contract terms will be different (and, ultimately, more expensive) if you fall into a high-risk category. Nonetheless, it's still a great choice for high-risk merchants looking for a company with honest, transparent sales practices and great customer support.

Host Merchant Services Features

Host Merchant Services offers a full range of products and services and fully transparent pricing. Here are the highlights:

  • Full-service merchant accounts
  • Accepts most high-risk industries
  • Full line of countertop and mobile credit card terminals
  • “Free” terminal available to merchants processing over $20,000/month
  • Vital and SwipeSimple mobile processing solutions
  • Proprietary Bonsai POS system available
  • Clover and Vital POS systems are available
  • Authorize.Net payment gateway
  • Proprietary HMSExpress payment gateway
  • Virtual terminal included
  • Web hosting included with an account
  • Cash discounting program available

Host Merchant Services Pricing

  • No application or setup fees
  • $14.99/month account fee
  • Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10/retail transaction
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.09/restaurant transaction
  • Interchange + 0.35 + $0.10/eCommerce transaction
  • $5.00/month gateway fee (optional)
  • $15 chargeback fee
  • No PCI compliance fee
  • No early termination fee

Get Started With Host Merchant Services

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Stripe: Best For eCommerce-Only Businesses

Stripe Payments

Total Rating 4.7
Fees & Rates4.7

Products & Services4.5

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.5

User Reviews4.1



Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Excellent developer tools
  • Exceptional subscription tools
  • Multicurrency support

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Does not accept high-risk merchants
  • May need technical skills to implement

Why Stripe Is The Best Choice For eCommerce-Only Businesses

As one of the most well-known eCommerce payment processors, Stripe is a no-brainer choice for most online and omnichannel businesses. The company offers an extensive variety of standard and optional features, including one of the most-customizable APIs in the industry. Stripe is an excellent choice for any business owner who's looking for transparent pricing, flexible contract terms, and the ability to add extra features as their business grows.

Stripe is a dominant player in the world of eCommerce payment providers and now offers retail processing through Stripe Terminal as well. Stripe's advanced and exhaustive list of features seems to grow every year, providing everything that US-based and international businesses need to accept virtually any type of payment. Stripe's à la carte pricing system can sometimes be complex, but it's also very predictable. The company's website lays out all fees, so there should be no surprises.

Like other payment service providers (PSPs), Stripe uses a pay-as-you-go billing model with flat-rate pricing and a general lack of monthly account fees for basic services. As with any PSP, you won't have a full-service merchant account, potentially leading to account stability issues in some cases. Nonetheless, Stripe offers one of the most advanced, customizable solutions for eCommerce merchants we've found anywhere -- without charging a premium price for it.

Stripe Features

Stripe has long been one of the top payment processors in the eCommerce world, but has recently begun making inroads into retail payments. Here are the major features that Stripe has to offer:

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

Stripe Pricing

  • No monthly fees for a basic account
  • 2.9% + $0.30/online credit/debit transaction (+0.5% for manually entered transactions)
  • 2.7% + $0.05/in-person credit/debit transaction via Stripe Terminal
  • +1.5% for international cards
  • +1% for currency conversion (if required)
  • 0.8%/ACH direct debit transaction ($5.00 maximum)
  • 1.2%/ACH direct debit transaction (two-day settlement)
  • $1.00/ACH credit payment
  • $1.50/instant bank account validation
  • Additional fees for optional add-on services

Please refer to our full breakdown of Stripe’s pricing for additional details.

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Dharma Merchant Services: Best For Nonprofits & Charitable Giving

Dharma Merchant Services

Total Rating 5.0
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services5.0

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.8

User Reviews4.5



Pros

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

Cons

  • Not recommended for businesses processing less than $10,000/month
  • Not available to high-risk industries

Why Dharma Merchant Services Is The Best Choice For Nonprofits & Charitable Giving

We chose Dharma Merchant Services as one of our top small-business processors primarily for the significant pricing discounts the company offers to nonprofit organizations. However, Dharma is also an excellent choice for any low-risk small to medium-sized business that's looking for interchange-plus pricing and Clover hardware. Like our other top choices, you'll also enjoy month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts or early termination fees (although a fully disclosed $49 account closure fee is required if you close your account).

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

However, you don't have to have a qualified nonprofit to benefit from Dharma's features or prices. The company offers a complete line of services that can meet the needs of almost any business, regardless of size. You'll enjoy true month-to-month billing, exclusive interchange-plus pricing, a minimum of (fully disclosed) account fees, and top-notch customer support. Be aware, however, that the company doesn't recommend its services to businesses processing less than $10,000/month and doesn't accept high-risk merchants.

Dharma Merchant Services Features

In addition to being one of the most ethical and transparent providers in the processing industry, Dharma Merchant Services offers a complete line of services for small and large businesses. Here are the highlights:

  • Full-service merchant accounts through Fiserv or TSYS
  • MX Merchant integrated payment platform
  • Choice of Authorize.Net or MX Merchant payment gateways
  • QuickPay virtual terminal
  • Full line of credit card terminals, including Verifone Engage V200c, Fiserv FD-150, Ingenico Desk/5000, Dejavoo Z11, and other models
  • MX B2B app for B2B processing
  • Full line of Clover POS systems
  • Credit card surcharging (no-fee, zero-cost credit card processing) program available

Dharma Merchant Services Pricing

  • $15/month account fee ($12/month for nonprofits)
  • Interchange + 0.15% + $0.08/card-present transaction (volume discounts available)
  • Interchange + 0.10% + $0.08/card-present transaction (qualified nonprofits)
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.11/card-not-present transaction (volume discounts available)
  • Interchange + 0.10% + $0.11/card-not-present transaction (qualified nonprofits)
  • No gateway fees with MX Merchant
  • $10/month for recurring billing (MX Merchant)
  • $15/month for B2B processing (MX Merchant)
  • No annual fee
  • No PCI compliance fees
  • No monthly minimum
  • $49 account closure fee

Get Started With Dharma Merchant Services

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Helcim: Best For International Businesses

Total Rating 4.9
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services4.4

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.8

User Reviews4.5



Pros

  • No long-term contracts
  • Exclusive interchange-plus pricing
  • No monthly fees
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

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

Why Helcim Is The Best Choice For International Businesses

Helcim stands out from the crowd as one of the very few credit card processors in the industry to offer a full-service merchant account without requiring a monthly fee. Despite its emphasis on affordability, Helcim still offers a robust suite of proprietary products and services to meet the needs of most retail or online businesses. The versatile Helcim Card Reader, in particular, is both affordable and can function as either a mobile card reader or countertop terminal.

Helcim distinguishes itself from many other providers by offering true month-to-month billing, exclusive interchange-plus pricing, and no monthly 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, saving you even more money on your credit card processing costs.

Helcim is a great choice for very low-volume and seasonal businesses. The proprietary Helcim Card Reader offers every feature you need to accept in-person transactions. Smartphones and tablets can also use a mobile application. Helcim also provides an excellent suite of features for eCommerce, including hosted payment pages for secure online checkouts, menu embedding, and buy-now buttons.

Helcim Features

With no monthly account fee and no long-term contracts, Helcim offers one of the lowest points of entry to a full-service merchant account. Your Helcim account comes with a full range of essential payment processing features, including the following:

  • Full-service merchant account
  • Proprietary Helcim Card Reader or Helcim Smart Terminal for in-person payments
  • Helcim Payments app for mobile processing
  • Virtual terminal included with each account
  • Helcim POS software (requires tablet, laptop, desktop, or Helcim Smart Terminal)
  • Access to Helcim API for customized credit card payments

Helcim Pricing

  • Interchange + 0.40% + $0.08/card-present transaction (volume discounts available)
  • Interchange + 0.50% + $0.25/card-not-present transaction (volume discounts available)
  • Helcim Card Reader — $99/unit
  • Helcim Smart Terminal — $329/unit
  • No monthly or annual account fees
  • No PCI compliance fees
  • No monthly minimum

Get Started With Helcim

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Chase Payment Solutions: Best For Low-Cost, Full-Service Merchant Accounts

Chase Payment Solutions℠

Total Rating 4.4
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services4.0

Contract4.5

Sales & Advertising Transparency3.7

Customer Service3.9

User Reviews3.7



Pros

  • Large direct processor
  • No monthly fee with a standard account
  • Month-to-month billing available
  • Customized pricing available upon request

Cons

  • “Free” credit card terminal requires a long-term contract

Why Chase Payment Solutions Is The Best Choice For Low-Cost, Full-Service Merchant Accounts

Merchant services from large banks and direct processors often end up being very poor deals for small businesses due to high processing rates, numerous additional fees, and long-term contracts. Chase Payments Solutions, however, is a notable exception. The company offers all the same small business-friendly features as our other top choices, including month-to-month billing, flat-rate pricing, and very low fees.

Chase Payments Solutions offers small business owners a surprisingly good deal on credit card processing. If you sign up for the company's standard plan, you'll receive a full-service merchant account with flat-rate pricing and an array of products and services to run your business. If you buy your hardware outright, you'll enjoy a month-to-month contract with no long-term commitment and no early termination fee.

Mid-sized and larger businesses can also obtain a customized pricing plan (usually with interchange-plus pricing), although you'll have to pay a monthly fee for this type of account. Also, be aware that while Chase Payment Solutions offers a "free" terminal with each account, you'll have to agree to a standard, three-year contract if you accept this offer. Given the reasonable prices that Chase charges for its hardware, we strongly recommend that you purchase your terminal outright and avoid the long-term commitment.

Chase Payment Solutions Features

Chase Payment Solutions offers a full range of products and services for most small online or retail businesses, including the following:

  • Full-service merchant account
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts
  • Authorize.Net payment gateway
  • Virtual terminal included with each account
  • Chase Point of Sale (POS) app and Chase Card Reader for mobile payments
  • Next-day funding for Chase business bank account holders
  • Choice of processing hardware, including Chase Card Terminal or Ingenico models
  • Level II/Level III credit card processing for B2B payments
  • Support for international payments

Chase Payment Solutions Pricing

  • 2.6% + $0.10/card-present transaction
  • 2.9% + $0.25/online transaction
  • 3.5% + $0.10/keyed-in transaction
  • Custom pricing also available
  • $0 monthly fee (for standard account)
  • No PCI compliance fee
  • No gateway fee
  • $99.95 Chase Card Reader
  • $299 Ingenico Desk/5000 countertop terminal
  • $399 Ingenico Move/5000 wireless terminal
  • $499 Chase Card Terminal (Ingenico DX8000)
  • $10/chargeback

Get Started With Chase Payment Solutions℠

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Payment Processing Rating Methodology

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

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

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

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

15

Years reviewing payment processors

100+

Providers evaluated

25

Attributes and features assessed per vendor

40+

Years combined experience


How Credit Card Processing Works

The credit card transaction process usually takes place so quickly that most merchants and consumers are unaware of how many things have to happen before a transaction can be completed. This process includes three sequential stages, each of which involves multiple steps. The three stages of credit card processing include:

  1. Authorization
  2. Authentication
  3. Settlement

Authorization Stage

All credit card transactions must be authorized before any funds can be transferred. When the customer (cardholder) initiates a payment, either by completing an online purchase or presenting their card to a merchant for payment in-store, the merchant’s payment gateway or credit card machine collects the cardholder data and formulates a request for funds. Authorization typically also includes confirmation of the cardholder’s identity.

After the payment is authorized, the merchant’s system sends the information about the transaction — including the amount, the cardholder’s name and account number, and other relevant details — to the payment processor for authentication.

Authentication Stage

To authenticate the legitimacy of a payment, the processor’s system takes the information sent and identifies the card type (the card brand) so that information can be routed through the appropriate card network. The card network then determines which bank issued the card and sends a request for the funds to that bank. The issuing bank then internally checks the account, ensuring that the account is in good standing and that funds are available, and sends back an approval message. If either criteria are not met, the transaction will be declined.

Settlement Stage

Once authenticated, the merchant’s system receives the approval message and finalizes the transaction. A temporary hold is placed on the funds in the customer’s account for the transaction amount. Afterward, the processor/acquiring bank communicates with the issuing bank to collect the funds from the customer and deposit them into the merchant’s bank account. This process typically takes two to three business days.

For more information on credit card processing fundamentals, learn how credit card processing works.

Costs Associated With Credit Card Processing

Credit card processing has a well-deserved reputation for being an expensive, but necessary option for most businesses. However, there is a lot of variability among providers when it comes to costs, making it possible to save money by choosing a good provider and avoiding unnecessary add-ons.

Processing Rate Plans

Credit card processors generally use one of four common ways to charge you for processing your transactions. These charges must be sufficient to pay the interchange fees charged by the issuing banks and ensure a profit (called a “markup” in the industry). Processing rate models can either (a) pass through the interchange fees and charge a fixed markup or (b) charge one of several fixed rates that blend the markup and interchange fees into a single charge.

For small businesses with a relatively low processing volume, a flat-rate credit card processing plan offers predictable pricing and makes it easier to understand your monthly processing statement. Larger businesses tend to save the most money with an interchange-plus pricing plan that passes through the applicable interchange fees at cost and adds a small, fully disclosed markup. For very high-volume businesses, a membership pricing plan can save even more money by eliminating the percentage-based markup in exchange for a fixed monthly subscription fee. A fourth option, tiered pricing, is similar to flat-rate pricing but usually results in higher overall costs for almost all merchants. We strongly recommend that you avoid tiered pricing plans.

Credit Card Processing Account Fees

Credit card processors are notorious for tacking on a host of additional recurring and incidental fees for maintaining your account. These fees can bleed a small business dry, even if you don’t actually use your account every month. In recent years, competition from PSPs like Square and PayPal — who don’t charge any fees for a standard account — has put a lot of downward pressure on these fees, but you’ll often have to negotiate aggressively to get a discount.

Account fees vary widely from one provider to another and even between accounts with the same provider. At a minimum, you can expect to pay a monthly account maintenance fee ($10-$25), as well as incidental fees for things such as chargebacks. Other common fees include annual account fees, PCI compliance fees (charged either monthly or annually), and gateway fees (if your account includes a payment gateway). For a more detailed breakdown of the most common fees, you might see (and how much they’ll cost you), take a look at our guide to merchant services fees.

Credit Card Processing Hardware & Software Costs

You’ll need processing equipment, payment gateway software, or both to accept credit card payments. Here’s a very brief overview of your options and how much to expect to pay for them:

Typical Price Range Considerations
Mobile Card Reader $0-$200 Requires app or virtual terminal
Countertop Credit Card Terminal $200-$500 Wireless models require a data plan
POS System $500-$2000 May require a monthly fee
Payment Gateway $0-$25/month May require an additional per-transaction fee

Costs will vary widely depending on what you need and who you buy it from. Note that older, magstripe-only mobile card readers, while often free, are essentially obsolete due to their lack of EMV compatibility. Prices for traditional countertop terminals have steadily crept up in recent years as manufacturers have added extra features such as NFC support, wireless connectivity, color touchscreens, and “smart” connectivity to an integrated payment gateway. Many of the best point-of-sale (POS) systems, such as those sold by Clover, also require a monthly software subscription on top of the base price of the equipment.

Payment gateways, which used to require a setup fee and a monthly fee, can now sometimes be included for free with your account. Note that it’s almost always cheaper to use a proprietary gateway offered by your provider than to add on a third-party gateway. Other software features will usually incur either a one-time fee or require a monthly (or annual) subscription.

How To Choose The Best Credit Card Payment Processing Company

Determining the best credit card processing company for your business involves evaluating many factors to narrow your search down as much as possible before reaching out to a provider’s sales department. Here are the primary factors to consider when choosing a credit card processor, along with brief explanations of how they will affect your final choice:

Account Stability & Type Of Merchant Services

The first (and perhaps most important) factor to consider will be whether your business needs a full-service merchant account for payment processing or if you’d be better served by signing up with a payment service provider (PSP), such as Square. For very small or newly launched businesses, PSPs offer an easy and affordable way to begin accepting credit cards without the confusing pricing and extensive onboarding requirements of a full-service merchant account. At the same time, account stability can be a concern, as you’re more likely to experience sudden account issues. You will want to avoid merchant account holds, freezes, and terminations.

Full-service merchant accounts are more stable and offer many additional features, but they tend to be more expensive and take longer to set up. Your monthly processing volume will be the main factor in choosing between these two options. Generally, PSPs are a better choice if your processing volume is less than $5,000 per month. However, this “tipping point” can be anywhere from $1,500/month to $10,000/month, depending on the nature of your business and the processing rates your merchant account provider offers.

Fees & Pricing For Credit Card Processing

The credit card processing industry is notorious for charging merchants a bewildering variety of rates and fees for their services, often making it nearly impossible to estimate your costs in advance. Payment service providers eliminate much of this confusion by offering a combination of predictable flat-rate pricing and no monthly fees for basic services.

Merchant account providers, on the other hand, may use either tiered pricing, interchange-plus, or membership pricing. They also usually charge several recurring and incidental fees that can come as an unpleasant surprise if you haven’t thoroughly reviewed your contract in advance.

Tokenization & Card-Not-Present Processing Rates

eCommerce sales have surged in recent years, and incidents of fraud have surged with them. One critically important way to protect yourself is to implement credit card tokenization as a security feature on your website. You’ll reduce your chances of letting a fraudulent transaction slip through, and interchange rates and fees for tokenized payments are significantly lower than for other card-not-present transactions. Tokenization also works with card-present transactions, but requires a payment gateway to implement.

Speed & Flexibility Of Account Setup

New merchants are frequently frustrated with the length of time needed to get their merchant accounts approved and set up. Onboarding can take as long as several weeks, during which you’ll be unable to process any credit or debit card transactions. Technology and automation have improved this process dramatically in recent years, and in some cases, you can apply online and have your account approved overnight.

Payment service providers typically offer the quickest approval time, but they usually only accept low-risk businesses. Fast approval also increases the risk of account instability, as the detailed underwriting process is deferred until you start processing transactions. At the other end of the spectrum, high-risk merchant accounts can take as long as two or more weeks to approve and require much more information about you and your business.

Funding & Deposit Times

Getting the funds from your credit card sales deposited into your bank account quickly is important to any business — particularly if you’re dependent on a steady, day-to-day cash flow coming in. While the standard deposit time in the payments industry is two to four business days, many providers now offer next-day (or even same-day) funding. There’s usually an additional fee, so you’ll want to carefully evaluate whether you really need it before signing up for this service.

Selling Online & In Person

While most businesses have traditionally been either retail-only or eCommerce-only, today, it’s more common for a business to have both in-person and online sales channels. Regardless of how you make your sales, you’ll want the appropriate hardware and software to process transactions, provide analytical data, and help you run your day-to-day business operations.

While some small businesses can still get by with just a payment gateway or countertop credit card terminal, processing companies are increasingly offering integrated payment platforms that support in-person and online sales. These systems offer enhanced security, additional features such as scheduling and inventory management, and the ability to manage your business remotely from any internet-connected device with a browser.

Which Credit Card Processing Company Is Right For Your Business?

Whether you’re running a simple online webstore or trying to juggle multiple retail locations, one of the credit card processing companies we’ve highlighted above will likely be a “best match” for your business. While each provider has its standout features, they all offer competitive rates, transparent pricing, and an easy, low-cost setup. They also enjoy a great reputation among users for honest sales practices and top-notch customer support after the sale.

For a small business, finding the best online credit card processor means balancing affordable costs, flexible contract terms, robust features, and reliable customer support to get the best overall value for a reasonable price. Focusing too much on any one of these variables — particularly pricing — can hurt you in other ways.

FAQs: Small Business Credit Card Processing Companies

Why does my business need to accept credit cards?

Accepting credit and debit cards gives your customers more ways to pay you and increases sales. Numerous studies have consistently found that offering credit card payments can raise your overall sales volume by 20% or more. Offering the option to pay by credit card can also shorten the time it takes to get paid, improving your cash flow and reducing the need to track down unpaid invoices.

Who are the largest credit card processing companies?

The largest credit card processing companies in the United States are direct processors such as Fiserv (formerly First Data), Global Payments, and FIS Worldpay. However, these companies are usually not a good choice for small businesses due to their high costs, long-term contracts, and expensive early termination fees.

What do credit card processing companies do?

Credit card processing companies provide access to processing networks that can authorize a credit/debit card transaction and distribute funds to the merchant from approved sales. Today, most credit card processors also offer a variety of additional services, including processing hardware, payment gateways for online transactions, support for ACH transfers and other payment methods, and detailed analytics and reporting features.

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Frank Kehl

Frank Kehl

Senior Staff Writer at Merchant Maverick
Frank has been writing about payment processing and business services since 2015. He is a retired Air Force officer and a former practicing attorney. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University and a Juris Doctorate degree from the Ventura College of Law, and currently resides in Paso Robles, California.
Frank Kehl
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