7 Best Credit Card Processing Companies 2021

Helcim and Square are two of the best credit card processing companies for small businesses.
Amrita JayakumarSep 13, 2021

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What’s inside

For small businesses that want to accept credit cards, finding a processor is the first step. The best credit card processing company depends on which features are most important to your business. NerdWallet looked at factors such as:

Here are our top picks.

» MORE:

Type: Merchant account provider.

PriceVolume-dependent. For merchants processing in-person retail payments with monthly sales of $25,000 or less, cost includes interchange rate plus Helcim’s markup of 0.3% plus 8 cents per transactionFor example, a business paying this rate would pay a total of 1.8% plus 8 cents if the interchange rate was 1.5%. 

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Why we like it: Helcim is a standout choice for credit card processing because it checks off many boxes. Setup is quick. Helcim gives you the ability to accept credit cards in-person, online, through an app or over the phone. The pricing model is transparent, with no hidden fees. The company has well-rated customer support as well as comprehensive support resources on its site. You receive automatic volume discounts as your business grows and transactions increase. Helcim uses interchange-plus pricing with volume-based discounts, making it a particularly cost-effective option for businesses with high monthly sales.

Type: Payment service provider. 

Price: For in-person payments, standard processing fee is 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction.

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Why we like it: is a strong overall choice for credit card processing because its flat-rate pricing model is simple to understand and allows you to budget for a fixed monthly cost, though your actual cost may be higher than what you’d pay with interchange-plus pricing. Unlike Helcim, Square offers the option to access your funds instantly for a fee.

Square also stands apart from the competition because of its end-to-end payment processing solution. This means it handles most aspects of a credit card transaction, so you don’t need to purchase a payment gateway (a payment processing portal) or point-of-sale system from separate providers.

Type: Merchant account provider. 

Price: Monthly subscriptions start at $99. For in-person transactions, processing fee is 8 cents per transaction plus interchange fee; for keyed-in transactions, it’s 15 cents per transaction plus interchange fee.

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Why we like it:  offers plans starting at $99 per month that give businesses access to 0% markup on interchange fees, plus a low fixed fee per transaction. This pricing model can easily save businesses enough money to justify the monthly fee, especially if they have high sales volumes. Same-day funding for an additional fee and in-house 24/7 customer support also make Stax a solid choice.

Type: Payment service provider. 

Price: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.

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Why we like it: Stripe stands out from the competition because its suite of developer-friendly tools allows you to customize the online payment experience for your e-commerce business. It enables your business to accept a wide range of online payment methods, including mobile wallets like Alipay, Apple Pay and Google Pay. Stripe also lets you offer financing options to customers through buy-now-pay-later companies like Klarna and Afterpay.

Type: Payment service provider.

Price: For in-person transactions, processing fee is 2.29% plus 9 cents per transaction; for online transactions, it’s 2.59% plus 49 cents per transaction.

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Why we like it: PayPal’s in-person credit card processing fee of 2.29% plus 9 cents per transaction makes it a relatively low-cost option for businesses interested in flat-rate pricing. The company is best known for its consumer product, but it also offers credit card processing, a POS system and online checkout services that don’t require your customers to have a PayPal account. PayPal owns Venmo, which means it’s the only payment processing company that allows you to accept payments using the money transfer app.

Type: Merchant account provider.

Price: Plans start at $79 per month (for up to $50,000 a month in processing). Processing fee is 15 cents per transaction plus interchange rate for the Starter plan.

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Why we like it: doesn’t charge a markup on top of interchange fees. Instead, it charges a fixed fee (15 cents per transaction for the Starter plan, for instance) for each payment and a monthly subscription fee, making it a cost-effective option — especially for businesses that can qualify for the lowest rates by processing $300,000 or more per month. Payment Depot's lowest-tier plan has a cheaper monthly fee than Stax, and its customer support is well-rated on most review websites.

Type: Merchant account provider.

Price: Quote-based.

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Why we like it:  caters to small businesses that work in high-risk industries that some payment processors don't serve. This includes businesses selling age-restricted products like tobacco and firearms, businesses, such as electronics resellers, that have high chargeback rates, or those that may face a higher risk of fraud, such as finance companies. PaymentCloud also provides round-the-clock customer support for businesses in these industries. Pricing depends on the level of risk involved in your business.

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