Consumers are going cashless. In fact, shoppers use credit, debit, and mobile app payments for a majority of their transactions, accounting for 60% of total payments in 2021.
To grow, businesses must keep up with the trends. That means selecting a credit card processor that supports your business effectively.
To help you make the right choice, we gather fifteen credit card processors for small businesses and their key features. Let’s dive in.
What is a credit card processor?
During card payments, there are three companies involved: the credit card company, the business, and the credit card processor. The credit card processor transfers funds from the credit card account to the business.
Many of these processors also work for debit or electronic check payments.
Additionally, credit card processors may provide automated clearing house (ACH) payments which are payments that move directly from your account to the account of the business you are making a payment. Typically, these types of payments come from auto-pay accounts.
Credit card processors are sometimes called payment processors.
What to Look For in a Credit Card Processor
- Security and Reputation
- Necessary Equipment
- What Card and Payment Types are Supported
Businesses must optimize their cash flow to grow — which involves taking multiple types of payment. If you haven’t already, start by selecting an effective credit card processor.
Choosing a credit card processor begins with knowing what to look for. Business owners should keep the following items in mind when beginning their search.
1. Security and Reputation
Did you know that there’s a new victim of identity theft every two seconds? Many of these incidents involve credit cards. Fraud and theft pose an ongoing threat to businesses and consumers.
Protecting your business from these threats includes finding a credit processor that meets and adheres to security standards.
The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (known as PCI compliance) develops guidelines to ensure data safety. Keep an eye out for PCI compliance when embarking on your credit card processor search.
In addition, look for card verification value (CVV) requirements for all purchases, address verification services (AVS), site encryption with secure sockets layer (SSL), and fraud-prevention software.
Security audits don’t stop once you’ve found a payment processor. You should routinely self-audit your programs to ensure your users’ information is safe.
Another consideration is credit card processor cost. Avoid options outside your budget that will eat away at your bottom line.
Expenses will vary from company to company. To avoid overpaying, look for a brand that offers clear pricing and fees. Hidden fees can drain your finances and morale.
As a small business, you likely already have some payment infrastructure in place.
You will need to make sure that what you have is compatible with the software that the processing company provides. Otherwise, you will have to make changes to your systems or switch to a different provider.
Another consideration with compatibility is linking your systems together. Inventory management and accounting can become complex and tedious if all aspects are separate. These key components should be merged, so they can work together to simplify workflows.
When it comes to picking the right credit card processor, customer service should be top of mind. You need a processor that is available and helpful when problems arise, so they can be resolved quickly.
You should also consider the time zone where the credit card processor is located. If your business days do not overlap, do they have self-service options? Do they have a chatbot? Do they offer 24/7 support?
Additionally, ask how frequent and long maintenance typically takes. If their maintenance overlaps with your peak sales times, it could hurt your cash flow. Constant and unpredictable maintenance also interrupts the customer buying process and may dissuade consumers from purchasing from you in the future.
5. Necessary Equipment
Where your business operates will affect the equipment you need. To run transactions, you will need a payment gateway. If your business is entirely online, then you’ll need to have an online portal.
Businesses that require in-person payments usually need a physical machine to run transactions.
Physical terminals include an external credit card machine, a two-in-one point of sale (POS) and credit card terminal, or an attachment that plugs into a mobile device. The prices of these products will vary from business to business. Be sure to include these numbers in your total cost for a credit card processor.
If you need more than one physical pay station, be sure to include the cost of all the terminals you intend to purchase. Also, you will want to ensure the product you purchase is reliable and compatible with your current set-up.
To avoid a physical terminal, some businesses will opt for an online portal accessed through a QR code or pay links. However, this method is not suitable for all businesses.
6. What Card and Payment Types are Supported
The most common card types are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. You will also want software that can perform contactless transactions. That allows shoppers to use Apple and Google pay.
Unfortunately, every additional service usually means an added cost. To reduce costs, you can remove some of these options from your plan.
15 Credit Card Processors for Small Businesses
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to explore your options. Review the list of 15 credit card processors for small businesses below to find your perfect match.
Best Bang for Your Buck
HubSpot Payments accepts all major credit cards, ACH payments, and recurring payments. In addition, you can embed payment links into texts and emails — all while using layered security to protect your business and your customers.
Price: 2.9% of transactions for all U.S.-based Sales Hub users with a starter account or above.
Best Third-party App Integration
Square is most well-known for its mobile payment terminals, but they also offer POS systems and other terminal types.
Additionally, Square is able to connect with third-party apps, so you can continue to use services that already work for you. That includes Mailchimp, Groupon, Poptin, and more.
Price: Square offers three different types of payment plans:
- A free Plan.
- A Plus Plan, which costs $29 per month.
- A Premium Plan, where monthly costs vary based on the features selected.
Additionally, all plans are subject to fees per transaction. See the fee structure below.
- Card present transactions: 2.6% + $0.10
- Card not present transactions: 2.9% + $0.30
- Keyed-in transactions: 3.5% + $0.15
Best for Growing Businesses
Helcim prides itself on transparency and honesty. They accept all major credit cards, as well as Google and Apple Pay. Plus, their customer service has live representatives.
Price: The rates offered by Helcim are scaled based on the volume of transactions. The higher volume of transactions leads to lower transaction rates. The rates listed below are on average and per transaction.
- In-person transactions: 1.86% + $0.08
- Keyed-in and online transactions: 2.40% + $0.25
- No contracts, monthly fees, or hidden fees.
Best for Global Merchants
Stripe offers per-transaction pricing with over 100 features to choose from. Some of their features include global payments, 24/7 phone, chat, and email support, unified dashboard.
Stripe provides cardholder support to more than 195 countries with local payment options to reduce conversion rates.
Price: Stripe charges a fee per transaction. There are no setup, monthly, or hidden fees. A regular plan costs 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Customizable plans vary in cost.
Best for Payment Options
Paypal is likely the most well-known, and its system is easy to set up and simple to use.
Payments can be made in person or online. They allow credit card payments from all major credit card companies. Of course, you can also make payments through PayPal and Venmo, as well as digital wallets like Apple Pay.
Price: Paypal’s costs vary, so we have included their lowest and highest charges for reference. There are no hidden fees or monthly commitments.
- In-person, QR, PayPal/Venmo transactions run at 1.9% + $0.10 per transaction.
- Additional fees are applied to payments over $10.00.
- Online payments will cost 3.49% + $0.49 per transaction.
Best for Credit Card Transactions
CardX knows the intricacies of credit card compliance laws and has worked to create solutions that ensure compliance. Many of these solutions are built into their software.
With CardX, you can make sure that your customers have secure, easy card transactions.
Price: For credit card transactions, the processing fee is passed onto the customer at 3.5%. Merchants will incur a fee of 1% + $0.25 for debit card payments, and no fee is applied to the consumer. Additionally, terminal costs vary from $30-$35 per month.
Best for E-commerce
If your business includes an online component, consider Shopify. Their platform provides solutions for online and in-person payments.
Shopify allows users to embed payment solutions, enable secure checkout, and customize the online shopping experience. Plus, its website provides a variety of learning resources to help you grow your business.
Price: Monthly and yearly plans are available. For simplicity, we have only included their monthly plan costs.
- Basic monthly plan: $29
- 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
- 2.7% + $0.00 per in-person transaction
- Advanced plan: $299
- 2.4% + $0.30 per online transaction
- 2.4% + $0.00 per in-person transaction.
Best for Healthcare Businesses
Stax aims to simplify operations for business owners by having an all-in-one platform with demos available upon request.
Those running a healthcare operation will be able to offer clients payment plans and scheduled payments for later dates. You can also accept contactless transactions in-person and digitally.
Price: This subscription-based platform has three different tiers that are billed per month. See plans below.
- Growth plan: $99
- Pro plan: $159
- Ultimate: $199
Best for Low Transaction Rates
Payline is a credit card processor with services for in-person and online payments. Their focus is on low transaction fees. Plus, Payline can accept all major credit card brands.
Price: Payline charges a monthly subscription, as well as a fee for each transaction. See the costs of in-person and online services below.
- In-person services: $10.00 per month
- 0.4% + $0.10 per transaction
- Online services: $20.00 per month
- 0.75% + $0.20 per transaction
10. Payment Depot
Best for Whole Sale Rates
Payment Depot offers a membership model rather than taking a percentage of each payment. This way merchants do not have to increase their prices to cover transaction costs.
Their equipment is also included in the subscription price, and the terminal types accept a wide variety of payment options.
Price: Costs range from a $59 per month starter package to a $99 per month growth plan. Additionally, there is a rate calculator so you can see if Payment Depot will save you money.
Best for Industry-Specific Plans
National Processing focuses on plans for different industries. Some of their industry options are retail, e-commerce, and restaurants.
A virtual terminal is available to those who only use online and phone orders. In these cases, no hardware will need to be purchased.
Price: Most plans have a monthly cost of $9.95. Their transaction fees can be as low as 0%, but you will pay a higher monthly cost.
Best for Nonprofits
Dharma merchant services is another processor that caters to various industries. When working with vendors and suppliers, they choose local and sustainable providers when possible.
Price: The cost varies from industry to industry, and full details are available on their website. Typically, plans start at $25 per month plus transaction fees. Nonprofits have the lowest rate at $20 per month.
Best for Retail and Restaurant Businesses
ProMerchant offers solutions for brick-and-mortar businesses as well as online merchants.
For those considered high-risk, there are services available for your business too. ProMerchant can also have your account approved in as little as two hours.
Cost: There are two pricing plans. An interchange fixed plus rate is available for a month-to-month cost upon approval. Zero-cost processing is available for retail and restaurant-based businesses. Cost is moved to the customers, so retailers do not have to pay processing fees.
Best for Small Businesses with a Loyalty Program
Flagship provides solutions for in-person, mobile, and online payments. Clover products make up the majority of their terminal offerings which allow for chip, contactless, swipe, and mobile payments with all major credit cards.
Flagship also has additional features like merchant cash advances, business management portals, and digital loyalty program support.
Price: Pricing is available upon request.
Best for High-Risk Merchants
PaymentCloud centers around high-risk merchants. Some of their tools are used to track and monitor chargebacks, so situations can be addressed before they become roadblocks.
PaymentCloud’s solutions cover in-person, online, and mobile transactions. They also allow merchants to accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment.
Price: Like some of the other processors, their costs vary and will depend on your unique needs. They offer the following pricing models.
- Interchange Plus/Percentage Markup (or Cost +)
- Flat Rate
Choosing the Right Credit Card Processor
There are several credit card processor options available to small businesses. Based on your business plan, you will need to consider costs, security, equipment, and tools when picking your provider.
Start by making a list of must-have features and budget constraints. From there, see which credit card processors check the most boxes.