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Merchant services allow a business to accept credit and debit card transactions by transmitting the customer information to the card network and issuing bank and giving businesses access to the payments received.
The companies that offer merchant services vary in the related products and services they offer, and in their pricing models (flat rate, interchange-plus, membership). Here’s our list of the best merchant services and what sets them apart.
Helcim: Best overall option
Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate — which is set by the card issuer and generally ranges from 1% to 3% — you also pay a processing fee (hence the term “interchange plus”). For a monthly card processing volume of up to $25,000, the markup is 0.3% plus 8 cents per in-person transaction and 0.5% plus 25 cents per keyed and online transactions. Lower rates are available for higher volume levels.
Hardware: Card reader is $109. Stands, printers and other equipment available through Helcim Shop.
Why we like it: Helcim’s transparent pricing, lack of monthly fees and volume discounts are what pushes it to the top of the list. It's easy to sign up for an account online by providing some basic information. And without a contract or cancellation fees, there’s no penalty to close your account. Funds from your transactions are deposited within one to two business days. Customer support is available weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time and on the weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. You can sync data with both QuickBooks Desktop and Online. Other integrations include WooCommerce, Magento and Zone 4.
Square: Best flat-rate option
Payment processing: Flat-rate pricing model that charges 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction, 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed transaction and 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction.
Software: Free option.
Hardware: Free card reader. A register costs $799 or $39 a month for 24 months.
Why we like it: Square is our top pick for flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees, low transaction rates and free virtual terminal. It can accommodate all types of credit card transactions. You receive your funds as fast as the next business day for free, or you can pay a fee to receive funds instantly. Square offers free dispute management for chargebacks and doesn’t charge processing fees for customer refunds. Free phone support is available during the week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time. Square integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, Stitch Labs and other popular apps.
Dharma: Best for e-commerce
Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate, a processing fee is charged. For Visa, Mastercard and Discover, that’s 0.15% plus 8 cents per in-person transaction. Rates for American Express in-person transactions are 0.30% plus 11 cents. And you’ll pay 0.2% plus 11 cents for keyed and online transactions.
Software: $25 monthly fee.
Hardware: Terminals start at $229 and a Clover Mini standalone device can be purchased for $749.
Why we like it: Dharma specializes in helping e-commerce businesses and has one of the lowest rates for card-not-present transactions. Businesses with monthly card sales over $100,000 or more than 5,000 transactions may qualify for volume discounts, as well as restaurants with average ticket amounts of less than $25. Funding is guaranteed in two business days. Customer support to process your card transactions is available 24 hours a day. You can export data into an Excel file to import into QuickBooks.
Stripe: Best flat rate for online sales
Payment processing: Flat-rate pricing model that charges 2.7% plus 5 cents per in-person transaction and 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction.
Software: Free option.
Hardware: Card readers cost $59 and up. A POS register is $249.
Why we like it: Stripe is best for online sales because it supports processing payments in multiple currencies, allowing customers to charge in their native currency and businesses to receive funds in theirs. Payments are typically processed in two business days. Stripe integrates with a large number of apps and automatically syncs with QuickBooks and NetSuite. You can use the developer tools in Stripe Terminal and pre-certified card readers to build your own in-person checkout system.
Payment Depot: Best for large transaction amounts
Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate, 15 cents per transaction is charged. This could be less depending on the plan selected.
Software: Plans starting at $79 per month.
Hardware: Free and up. Terminals and POS systems from Clover, Ingenico and other brands available for purchase.
Why we like it: Payment Depot offers membership plans that give businesses access to wholesale interchange rates at a set fee per transaction. It’s an independent sales organization that handles merchant accounts for Wells Fargo Bank. You can get access to next-day deposits based on the membership plan you select. Support is available 24/7 through the bank. Payment Depot integrates with Shopify, OpenCart, QuickBooks, PrestaShop, Shift4Shop, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento, Zen Cart, Revel, NCR and Authorize.net.
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PaymentCloud: Best for high-risk businesses
Payment processing: Rates determined on a case-by-case basis.
Software: $10 and up monthly.
Hardware: A card reader and terminal included with the account. Mobile POS systems, terminals, POS registers, kitchen printers, kiosks and other devices can be purchased.
Why we like it: PaymentCloud specializes in services for high risk industries, although they also offer services to low and medium risk businesses. Payment processing is available for in-person, online, mobile, keyed and cryptocurrency transactions. It has over 10 banking relationships that can be used to secure a merchant account for your business. Next-day payment processing is offered as part of retail POS services. The platform integrates with QuickBooks and most shopping carts including BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Shopify and Magento.
National Processing: Best for customized rates
Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate, fees based on business type are charged. For example, 0.14% plus 7 cents per transaction for restaurants, 0.18% plus 10 cents per transaction for retail businesses and 0.29% plus 15 cents per transaction for e-commerce business are applied.
Software: $9.95 per month or more based on industry.
Hardware: A mobile reader is included with most plans at no additional cost. Based on the plan you select, a terminal and PIN pad may also be included. A large number of POS devices are available including Clover hardware.
Why we like it: National Processing customizes its fees based on industry and risk. For example, the rate a restaurant pays is less than that of a retail organization. Also, processing services are offered for some high-risk businesses. You can expect to receive your funds in two days with an opportunity for next-day deposits. Phone support is available 24/7. Integrations are offered for popular business apps including QuickBooks, WooCommerce, Ecwid, Zendesk, BigCommerce, OpenCart and Shopify.
QuickBooks Payments: Best for QuickBooks loyalists
Payment processing: Pricing varies. QuickBooks Online users pay 2.4% plus 25 cents per in-person transactions; 3.4% plus 25 cents per keyed transactions; and 2.9% plus 25 cents for invoiced transactions.
Software: Free and up.
Hardware: A PIN pad costs $389 and a hardware bundle that includes a cash drawer, receipt printer, wired barcode and PIN pad is $900. Additional devices available.
Why we like it: For loyal QuickBooks users, QuickBooks Payments can process online, in-person and invoiced transactions. Payment for the next business day is typically available when the cutoff time of 3 p.m. Pacific time is met. Phone support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. QuickBooks Payments integrates with Shopify, Amazon, eBay, WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, Walmart and Etsy shopping carts.