A good credit card processor is crucial for the success of your company. Whether you’re selling in-person or online, this guide will help you choose the best credit card processing service for your business.
The 10 Best Credit Card Processing Services
- Stax – Best for reducing fees on all payment types
- Square – Best for stores with in-person and online sales
- Payment Depot – Best for high-volume payment processing
- Helcim – Best for small businesses processing more than $3,000 per month
- Flagship Merchant Services – Best customer service for small businesses
- National Processing – Best for paying month-to-month
- Stripe – Best for online stores
- PayPal – Best simple solution for small business payment processing
- CDGcommerce – Best for non-profit organizations
- Payline – Best for high-risk businesses
For each processor, I’ll break down the pricing, benefits, drawbacks, and which types of businesses should consider the service.
Stax — Best For Reducing Fees on All Payment Types
- Transparent flat-fee pricing
- 0% markup on Interchange
- No contract
- 24/7 customer support
Stax is an all-in-one merchant services provider. Services include low-cost ACH processing, integrated payments, invoicing and billing software, analytics, and more. Stax is most widely known for its transparent fees, subscription-based pricing model, and 0% markup on interchange rates–and for accepting all payment types.
Stax accepts every type of in-person or online payment option you can think of, including:
- All major credit and debit cards, including card-on-file recurring billing
- ACH payments
- Virtual terminal
- Contactless payments, where buyers can wave their contactless card, phone, or smartwatch over the terminal to make a payment
- Electronic invoices that can be paid via email or text
Accepted cards include Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, debit cards, JCB Dining, EBT, Health Flex, Wex, and Voyager.
You can accept payments from almost any point-of-sale (POS) system, online payment gateway, or through the Stax mobile app for iOS and Android. Stax integrates with most third-party POS terminals for free, and you can also purchase virtual POS terminals and mobile card readers from Stax directly.
When you pick a pricing tier from Stax, you get a free terminal of your choice and Stax Pay. Stax Pay is the company’s centralized platform for users to accept all payment types and integrate tools in one intuitive dashboard. From the dashboard, you can run reports, view statements, do invoicing, and access customer support.
Stax has processed over $9 billion in payments since opening its doors in 2014, and boasts a pretty amazing 95% customer satisfaction rating, in addition to good reviews across platforms.
The subscription pricing starts at $99 per month, including a free terminal or mobile reader, ACH processing, analytics, and more. Transaction fees are 8 cents + Interchange on card-present transactions and 15 cents + Interchange on keyed-in and online transactions. But the Interchange markup is 0%.
Stax also provides a robust knowledge base and 24/7 customer support. Learn more about Stax.
Square — Best for stores with in-person and online sales
Any business accepting in-person payments needs to take a closer look at Square.
Square ranked first on my list of the best POS systems, so the fact that they double as a payment processor is an added bonus.
With more than 2 million businesses use Square to process payments, they offers POS systems with built-in payment processing.
Square also processes payments online, on the go, through recurring invoices, and manually for orders taken over the phone. But with that said, the in-person POS processing is where Square really shines.
Another standout of Square is the ability to get paid fast.
While most processing companies usually take a couple of days for funds withdrawals, Square gets money in your bank account in the next business day. They also offer instant transfers for a fee.
Square’s pricing is straightforward and transparent. You’ll pay the same rate for every card, including Discover and American Express.
They don’t charge any startup fees, monthly fees, cancelation fees, authorization fees, statement fees, terminal fees, or other common industry-standard markups.
Square pricing varies slightly by industry and POS hardware, but here are the most common rates offered:
- Square Point of Sale — 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction
- Square For Retail — 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction
- Ecommerce transactions — 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
- Card not present transactions — 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction
- Card on file transactions — 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction
Square provides you with everything you need for success when processing payments. They have active fraud prevention, account takeover protection, dispute management, other security measures like PCI compliance and end-to-end encryption.
Signing up and getting started with Square is simple.
The only major drawback of Square is that its customer service is not available 24/7. Most processing companies can be reached on weekends, nights, or other odd hours.
If I were running a physical retail store and wanted a POS system and payment processor from the same company, I’d choose Square.
Payment Depot — Best for high-volume payment processing
- 90-day free trial
- Fixed costs per transaction
- Best for high-volume merchants
- Free gateway with most plans
Payment Depot processes more than $4 billion in credit card sales with over 3 million transactions per month. Their system is simple; they charge a membership fee to give you access to wholesale processing rates.
Think of Payment Depot as the Costco for credit card processing. The prices are lower than the competition, but you need to be a member.
For this reason, Payment Depot is the best option for high-volume merchants.
Payment Depot does not take a percentage of each transaction. They simply charge a fixed amount per transaction based on your membership tier on top of the interchange fee.
Here’s an overview of the plans, features, and pricing:
Basic — $49 per month + interchange
- $25,000 monthly processing limit
- $0.15 per transaction
- Reprogram your existing equipment for free
- Free gateway
Most Popular — $79 per month + interchange
- $75,000 monthly processing limit
- $0.10 per transaction
- Free standard terminal
- Data breach protection
- Premier 24 hour support
Best Value — $99 per month + interchange
- $200,000 monthly processing limit
- $0.07 per transaction
- Free standard terminal
- Free pin pad
Premier — $199 per month + interchange
- Unlimited processing
- $0.05 per transaction
- Free standard terminal
- Free pin pad
- Free terminal upgrade every two years
All plans come with a 90-day free trial.
Payment Depot is used by big brands like Dominos, Boost Mobile, Subway, Arco, and Sprint. I wouldn’t consider this payment processor unless you’re over the $25,000 monthly limit.
As you can see from the rates, you can save lots of money on processing fees with a Payment Depot membership.
Overall, this is an impressive payment processing service. The only downside is that it’s not realistic for most smaller businesses to consider.
Helcim — Best for small businesses processing more than $3,000 per month
- $0 monthly fees
- Best rate guarantee
- Interchange pricing structure
- Contracts are month-to-month
Helcim is an all-in-one payment processing service for retail locations and online stores.
I highly suggest it for any small-business owner.
Where Helcim shines is their transparency. Their interchange pricing structure shows you exactly how much you’ll pay above the interchange rate set by the credit card companies.
They also have one of the best rate guarantee in the industry. They will never increase your rates for the lifetime of your account. While the fees for certain cards might go up, the Helcim margins will always remain the same.
While Helcim does have the online feature, I’d personally just consider them for in-person payments.
Your rates will vary by industry, monthly processing volume, and average transaction amount.
The industry options are:
- Real estate and property management
- Online international
Here’s a detailed look at the pricing rates for retail merchants based on monthly volume.
Helcim interchange pricing costs are below average compared to many others out there. So it’s a great way for small businesses to save money on credit card processing—even if they are in the lower pricing tiers.
Helcim contracts are month-to-month, and they don’t charge any cancellation fees.
They integrate with QuickBooks to improve your small business accounting process as well.
Helcim offers a POS system, with an app that’s free with your plan.
While Helcim prices are competitive and generally low, it’s not the best choice for those of you who are only processing less than $3,000 per month. You can probably find a more cost-effective alternative elsewhere.
Flagship Merchant Services — Best customer service for small businesses
Flagship Merchant Services offers some of the most customizable credit card processing plans out there. They give flexible terms and month-to-month pricing for all businesses.
Types of pricing plans are customizable as well. Flagship Merchant Services has tiered pricing and interchange plus options, whereas other payment processors typically just offer one or the other.
They’re a smaller financial service. But all that means is they can give you more attention and white-glove service.
For example, Flagship Merchant Services offers exceptional 24/7 customer service. You’ll get a free EMV terminal or Clover Mini POS system when you sign up. If they can’t lower your processing rates, they’ll send you a $50 AMEX gift card.
The downside of this payment processor is the setup and getting started. No prices or contract details are available online. So you’ll need to speak to a sales rep to request a quote, which isn’t convenient for everyone.
National Processing — Best for paying month-to-month
- Month-to-month billing
- No early termination fee
- Extremely competitive rates
- Great reputation
National Processing was established in 2007 and is headquartered in Lindon, Utah. They are a smaller company compared to many of the other companies on my list but they provide excellent service and prices for small and medium sized businesses.
Here are some of the pros and cons of their service.
- Offers month-to-month billing with no early termination fee
- Interchange-plus pricing standard
- Low-cost ACH and echeck payment processing
- Great online reviews and reputation
- They donate 10% of their profits to charity
- An early termination fee is charged in some circumstances
- A long-term contract is required in exchange for a free terminal
Overall, National Processing is a great choice for any small to medium sized business. The company offers extremely competitive rates and fees along with high-quality service.
Stripe — Best for online stores
Stripe is built for developers, so there is a slight learning curve. However, you’ll quickly realize that this payment processor is easy to use, regardless of your technical experience.
For those of you who want to take advantage of the developer features, you’ll be impressed with the Stripe API and UI toolkit.
Another top benefit of Stripe is its built-in fraud protection system. This will help you manage and avoid ecommerce chargebacks.
It’s easy to integrate Stripe with your ecommerce store, regardless of the platform that you’re using. Stripe accepts a wide range of payment options, including digital wallets like Apple Pay, Microsoft Pay, Google Pay, and Visa Checkout.
Stripe helps simplify your checkout process. According to a recent IDC report, businesses using this payment processing service were able to increase their revenue by 6.7%.
The report also found that Stripe resulted in 59% higher productivity, 81% fewer unplanned outages, and 24% lower operating costs.
Speaking of costs, Stripe is an affordable payment processor, even if you’re just starting out. The fixed pricing model is very straightforward:
- Online transactions — 2.9% + $0.30
- International cards — Additional 1% per transaction
- Currency conversion — Additional 1% per transactions
- ACH debits — 0.8% with a $5 max per transaction
- In-person payments — $2.7% + $0.05
If you use Stripe to set up recurring charges for subscription customers, your first $1 million is free. After that, you’ll pay $0.5% on all recurring charges.
I like Stripe because you pay the same flat rate for all credit cards, including digital wallets and premium cards like American Express. It’s also pretty intuitive and powerful once you get the hang of it.
For those of you with unique business models and large payouts, you may qualify for a customized pricing solution. Contact the Stripe sales team about volume discounts, interchange pricing, and multi-product discounts.
Overall, Stripe is an ideal solution for any ecommerce business. It is highly technical, which can be a drawback for companies that don’t have a developer on staff.
PayPal — Best simple solution for small business payment processing
- Trusted well-known brand
- Online or in-person payments
- Extremely easy to set up
- Trusted and reputable brand
PayPal has been a giant in the world of processing transactions for more than a decade. There’s a good chance that you’ve used PayPal in some form or another in your personal life.
While PayPal has always been known for its P2P payments, it’s also a great choice for businesses to use as a payment processing service.
You can use PayPal to accept payments both online or in-person. I highly recommend it for low-volume businesses to get paid online.
I recently wrote an article comparing PayPal vs. Stripe for ecommerce. While Stripe definitely has its fair share of advantages, the PayPal technology is much simpler. It’s also extremely easy to set up. You won’t need to worry about all of the developer features like you do with Stripe.
Let’s take a closer look at PayPal’s processing fees:
- Online payments and invoicing — 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
- Mobile and in-store payments — 2.7% per transaction
- Manual entry transactions — 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction
Pricing is nearly identical to Stripe.
One of the best parts about using PayPal as your online payment processor is that you’ll be able to accept PayPal, Venmo, and PayPal credits in addition to all major credit and debit cards. That flexibility is a huge boon for your customers.
This is a massive advantage over other payment processors, where you would need to integrate PayPal separately.
While I personally like PayPal’s online features, the flat rate of 2.7% per transaction for mobile and in-store payments is appealing for low-volume merchants as well.
The biggest downside of using PayPal is that customers will be taken to the PayPal website to finish processing all online transactions. You can eliminate this step and integrate PayPal directly into your site, but there is an added fee for that.
Speaking of added fees, PayPal has a long list of add-ons and other incidentals that they charge for. They are transparent about these prices, but make sure you review all of them in your contract so you fully understand the terms.
Overall, you know you’re getting a trusted and reputable brand if you use PayPal to process credit card transactions for your business.
CDGcommerce — Best for non-profit organizations
- Industry specific services
- No monthly fee or minimums
- Flexible pricing options
- Best for nonprofit organizations
CDGcommerce offers custom credit card processing services for different industries including:
Clearly, all of these different business types will have varying needs. But overall, CDGcommerce is the best choice for nonprofit organizations.
That’s because CDGcommerce doesn’t charge any monthly fees or require monthly minimums for nonprofits. You can get an integrated mobile card reader, set up recurring billing, and benefit from special nonprofit rates.
The rates will vary based on volume and specific needs, but nonprofit processing typically starts 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction, plus interchange costs.
If you fall into one of the other categories, CDGcommerce has flexible pricing options based on your monthly volume.
One Rate Pricing: $1,000 – $10,000 monthly volume
- Flat rate and fixed monthly fee
- Customer tracking
- Loyalty promotions
- Invoicing, virtual terminal, ecommerce solutions
- Fully integrated credit card terminal
- Nonprofit campaign and donation management
Interchange Plus Pricing: $10,000 – $200,000 monthly volume
- Full transparency
- Pass-through pricing
- $100,000 data breach protection plan
- PCI security tools and solutions
Wholesale Membership: $200,000+ monthly volume
- Discounted pricing based on annual membership
- All benefits of the other plans
Again, the specific rates will vary for each business based on a number of factors. You need to contact the CDGcommerce sales team to request a quote.
I chatted with an online sales rep just to see how long this would take, and I got a quick answer in just a couple of minutes. This wasn’t an official quote, but it’s nice knowing that they are quick to respond. That’s where I got the starting rates for nonprofits, which isn’t listed anywhere on the website.
Payline — Best for high-risk businesses
- Accepts high-risk merchants
- Customized pricing and plans
- Wide range of solutions
- Apply online
Payline offers a wide range of solutions for mobile payments, ecommerce payments, and in-person payments.
Sure, you might not have heard of them — but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer a fantastic service.
They can meet the needs of small business owners, enterprises, and everyone in between.
However, Payline is the best option for a very specific type of business: high-risk merchants.
For one reason or another, certain merchants are considered a high risk to credit card processing companies. It could have to do with the history of your company, or maybe it has to do with the types of products that you’re selling (CBD, firearms, vaping, etc).
It’s tough for these merchants to find a credit card processing service that will work with them, and even harder to find one that will offer favorable rate terms.
So if you fall into the high-risk merchant category, Payline will be your best option.
Payline will even work with businesses in online gaming, casinos, multi-level marketing, and adult industries.
Rates and plans are customized for each merchant. But if you’re struggling to find a payment processor that will accept your business, I’d schedule a call or apply online with Payline.
How to Find the Best Credit Card Processing Services
There are specific features to look for when you’re evaluating a credit card processing service. This is our methodology at Quick Sprout for filtering results down to this list.
There are two main pricing structures for credit card processing.
With fixed pricing, it’s the same rate for each transaction, regardless of the credit card that the customer uses. Stripe, Square, and PayPal are examples of processors with fixed prices.
For interchange pricing, you pay the amount charged by the credit card company, plus the markup fees of the processor. Helcim has interchange pricing.
Flagship Merchant Services offers both fixed-rate plans as well as interchange pricing, since they provide custom solutions for different businesses. Some credit card processors, like Payment Depot, will charge you a monthly rate to access wholesale prices.
The pricing structure you ultimately choose will depend on your business and business type. Don’t slouch on this when researching — it’s going to have a massive impact on your bottom line.
Most high-volume merchants can get lower processing rates per transaction. You can request a custom quote from nearly every credit card processor, even if they have fixed rates advertised on their website.
There are certain services that are best for high-volume merchants, and others that are better for low-volume merchants.
I’d recommend PayPal for low-volume processing and Payment Depot for high-volume credit card transactions.
The type of business you have will affect your credit card processing terms. Rates vary if you’re processing cards online, in-person, or over the phone for “card not present” transactions.
Stripe is the best provider for online transactions, while Square is better for brick-and-mortar retail locations.
Other payment processing services specialize in nonprofit organizations or high-risk merchant industries. So if you fall into one of those categories, you’ll need to find a processor that can meet those needs.
How soon can you get your money?
In most cases, funds are available in your bank account after two business days. Sometimes this period can be a bit longer when you’re just starting out.
Other credit card processors offer next-day delivery for funds. Some providers will let you do an instant funds withdrawal for an added fee. So if you need your money immediately, this is definitely something that you need to keep in mind.
In addition to the transactional fees or monthly plan rates, there are other costs that you need to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a credit card payment processor.
I’m referring to things like hardware, POS systems, and payment terminals. Some providers charge extra for international transactions, setup fees, or cancellations.
So make sure you review all of this before you decide on service based on the transactional rates alone.
The Top Credit Card Processing Companies in Summary
Credit card processing comes in all different shapes and sizes. There are varying fee structures, contract terms, and services offered by each processor. To get the lowest possible rate from a quality provider, you need to shop around and compare quotes.
Interchange plus pricing typically offers the lowest fees. But for startups and small businesses looking for simplicity, fixed-rate processing can still get the job done, especially if the service comes with added perks.