8 Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies for Small Businesses

Fee structures include interchange-plus pricing and all-in-one monthly subscriptions.

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Because credit card processing companies come with various pricing structures, no one provider is the cheapest for all businesses. The least expensive choice depends on your industry, sales volume and typical transaction size.

Before making a decision, it's important to determine what capabilities and tools your business requires. Do you need a dedicated merchant account? Will you be accepting payments in-person, online or both? Narrow down the options based on these requirements, then see which provider will offer the cheapest payment processing for your business.

Here are eight affordable credit card processing companies to consider.

Helcim: Best volume discounts

Pricing:

  • In-person payments: Interchange plus 0.3% and 8 cents per transaction for businesses with $25,000 or less in monthly card transactions.

  • Keyed and online payments: Interchange plus 0.5% and 25 cents per transaction for businesses with $25,000 or less in monthly card transactions.

Pros:

  • No long-term contracts or cancellation fees.

  • No monthly subscription fees.

  • No setup fees.

  • Processing rates go down after your business processes more than $25,000 in payments per month.

Cons:

  • Doesn't work with high-risk merchants, meaning businesses that are more susceptible to fraud and chargebacks.

  • No 24/7 support.

Why we like it: Helcim is a fantastic choice for small businesses looking for low rates and no monthly subscription fees. Its interchange-plus fee structure is a cost-effective option, especially for businesses with high sales volumes, and its website makes it easy to find pricing information. The company's volume discounts, which are applied automatically as the amount you process increases, are a nice perk to have as your business grows.

For more information, read NerdWallet’s review of Helcim.

Square: Best for mobile payments

Pricing:

  • Tapped, dipped and swiped in-person payments: 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction.

  • Card-not-present transactions: 3.5% plus 15 cents.

  • E-commerce transactions: 2.9% plus 30 cents.

Pros:

  • No early termination, setup, refund or chargeback fees.

  • No PCI compliance fees.

  • No monthly subscription fee.

  • Free point-of-sale software.

  • Free mobile card reader.

Cons:

  • May be more expensive than an interchange-plus pricing model for some businesses.

  • Doesn't work with high-risk merchants.

  • No 24/7 support.

Why we like it: With clear, flat-rate pricing, free POS software and a free mobile card reader, Square is one of the cheapest credit card processing solutions, especially for smaller businesses. Businesses can use the payment service provider to accept a variety of payments, including both in-person and online. To process in-person payments, for example, you can use free POS software alongside one of its hardware options. Businesses can also opt for paid retail or restaurant POS software plans to access more features. You can accept credit cards on your website or e-commerce site using the company's API integrations too.

For more information, read NerdWallet’s review of Square’s POS system.

Stax (formerly Fattmerchant): Best for membership-style pricing

Pricing:

  • Flat monthly subscription: Starts at $99 per month.

  • In-person transactions: Interchange fees plus 8 cents.

  • Keyed-in transactions: Interchange fees plus 15 cents.

Pros:

  • No contracts.

  • Plans include PCI compliance.

  • 24/7 technical support.

  • Offers custom branding and same-day funding add-ons.

Cons:

  • Not ideal for low-volume small businesses.

  • Doesn't offer services for high-risk merchants.

Why we like it: Instead of charging interchange fees plus a percentage markup per transaction like some of its competitors, Stax requires its clients to subscribe to a monthly plan and charges interchange plus a fixed per-transaction fee, which is 8 cents for in-person transactions. This fee structure could help high-volume businesses save money, especially if they’d otherwise pay more than $99 per month in percentage markups and other fees.

Payline Data: Best for high-risk merchants

Pricing:

  • Swiping in-person plan: Interchange plus 0.2% and 10 cents per transaction; $10 per month.

  • Credit-cards-not-present plan: Interchange plus 0.4% and 20 cents per transaction; $20 per month.

Pros:

  • No long-term contract or cancellation fees.

  • No PCI compliance fees.

  • Offers high-risk merchant accounts.

Cons:

  • Must meet a monthly minimum of $25 in processing fees.

  • No 24/7 support.

Why we like it: Payline Data is a merchant account provider that offers interchange-plus pricing at very low rates. It has two plan offerings, one designed for brick-and-mortar retailers and one designed for e-commerce merchants. While paying for both plans isn't ideal for businesses that sell products both online and in-store, it could be one of the cheapest options for businesses that require only one or the other. It also offers high-risk merchant accounts for businesses involved in industries such as tobacco, online gaming, fantasy sports, self-storage and more.

For more information, read NerdWallet’s review of Payline Data.

Payment Depot: Best risk-free trial

Pricing:

  • Starter membership: Interchange plus 15 cents per transaction; $79 per month.

  • Most Popular membership: Interchange plus 10 cents per transaction; $99 per month.

  • Enterprise membership: Interchange plus 7 cents per transaction; $199 per month.

Pros:

  • Includes a free virtual terminal for keying in credit card numbers.

  • Can reprogram your existing terminal for free.

  • All memberships come with a 90-day trial during which your annual membership fee will be refunded if you cancel.

  • No cancellation fees.

  • Includes PCI compliance.

Cons:

  • Memberships have maximum processing limits.

  • Doesn't offer services for high-risk merchants.

  • No 24/7 support.

Why we like it: Payment Depot is a merchant account provider that operates on an interchange-plus pricing structure and charges its transaction fee based on your plan, not based on the terminal you use. It offers a 90-day trial, too; if you cancel your account before this period ends, it will refund your annual membership fee. Plus, all plans include free programming of any existing equipment you own and a free virtual terminal, which lets stores key in credit card numbers when the card isn't present.

For more information, read NerdWallet’s review of Payment Depot.

Stripe: Best selection of tools and features

Pricing:

  • For online payments: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.

  • For in-person payments: 2.7% plus 5 cents per transaction.

Pros:

  • No setup fees.

  • No monthly subscription fees.

  • 24/7 support.

  • More than 450 platforms and extensions available.

Cons:

  • Not a good fit for brick-and-mortar businesses that require a more robust POS terminal.

  • Doesn’t work with high-risk merchants.

Why we like it: With transparent, flat-rate pricing and no subscription fees, Stripe is one of the easiest payment processing solutions for online businesses. Although you may find an alternative provider with lower processing fees, it’s difficult to beat the lack of other fees, flexibility and included-payment tools within the company's platform. The payment service provider offers its own invoicing, billing, business data and tax calculation features, too.

For more information, read NerdWallet’s review of Stripe.

Dharma Merchant Services: Best for nonprofits

Pricing: 

  • Regular: Interchange plus 0.15% and 8 cents per in-person transaction; $25 monthly fee.

  • For nonprofits: Interchange plus 0.10% and 8 cents per in-person transaction; $20 monthly fee.

Pros:

  • No long-term contracts or early termination fees.

  • Includes access to a free virtual terminal and online reporting.

  • No PCI compliance fees.

  • 24/7 support.

Cons:

  • $25 monthly fee.

  • Doesn’t work with high-risk merchants.

Why we like it: Dharma Merchant Services charges nonprofits reduced monthly fees and processing rates, making it a top choice for these organizations. It's also a certified B Corp, meaning it's held to higher environmental and social standards. That’s a big plus for small businesses that pride themselves on working with socially responsible companies. Most notably, the merchant services provider has donated thousands of dollars to nonprofits over the years. The company also offers reduced rates for small businesses that process over $100,000 per month.

For more information, read NerdWallet’s Dharma Merchant Services review.

National Processing: Best variety of industry-specific plans

Pricing:

  • Restaurant: $9.95 per month; interchange plus 0.14% and 7 cents per transaction, though rates may vary.

  • Retail: $9.95 per month; interchange plus 0.18% and 10 cents per transaction, though rates may vary.

  • E-commerce: $9.95 per month; interchange plus 0.29% and 15 cents per transaction, though rates may vary.

  • Subscription: $59 per month; interchange plus 9 cents per transaction, though rates may vary.

  • Subscription Plus: $199 per month; interchange plus 5 cents per transaction, though rates may vary.

Pros:

  • No monthly minimums.

  • No long-term contracts or early termination fees.

  • Offers a cash reward if it can’t beat a business’s current rates. The business must process at least $10,000 in payments per month to qualify.

  • Offers high-risk merchant accounts.

  • Each plan includes free reprogramming of existing hardware plus a free mobile card reader.

Cons:

  • Other fees, such as PCI compliance fees, aren’t easy to find.

  • No 24/7 support.

Why we like it: National Processing, a merchant account provider with an interchange-plus fee structure, is a good solution for businesses that can afford the monthly payment and want to choose from a variety of plan options. Every plan includes free reprogramming of existing equipment and free hardware. The least expensive plans, for example, come with a free mobile card reader. The more expensive Subscription plan could be worth it for high-volume small businesses, especially because it comes with a free terminal.

Credit card processing company

Merchant account provider or payment service provider

Pricing structure

Processing fees

Monthly fee

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus.

0.3% plus 8 cents plus interchange for in-person payments.

N/A.

Square

Payment service provider.

Flat-rate.

Starts at 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction for in-person payments.

N/A, unless using specialty software.

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus and a monthly subscription fee.

Interchange fees.

Starts at $99 per month for a subscription.

Payline Data

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus and a monthly subscription fee.

Starts at 0.2% plus 10 cents plus interchange for in-person payments.

Starts at $10 per month for a subscription. Must meet a monthly minimum of $25 in processing fees.

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus and a monthly subscription fee.

Starts at 15 cents plus interchange per transaction.

Starts at $79 per month for a subscription.

Stripe

Payment service provider.

Flat-rate.

2.9% plus 30 cents for online payments.

N/A.

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus.

0.15% plus 8 cents plus interchange.

$25 monthly fee.

National Processing

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus and a monthly subscription fee.

Percentage markups vary from plan to plan.

Starts at $9.95 per month for a subscription.

How to choose a credit card processing company

Merchant account provider vs. payment service provider

Merchant account providers allow you to accept credit cards by providing you with a unique merchant account, a special bank account where credit card payments are deposited before being transferred to your business bank account. These accounts are highly scalable, customizable and cost-effective for businesses with high sales volumes.

Payment service providers allow you to accept credit and debit card payments by aggregating the funds from all of their clients into one merchant account. Then they transfer the payments to the respective business bank accounts. With these providers, you’re more likely to see transparent pricing and fees, along with a quick sign-up process. However, there's a greater degree of ongoing transaction monitoring and risk of account shutdown following transactions that appear to go against the terms of service.

Ultimately, merchant account providers tend to be most cost-effective for larger businesses that need to process many transactions, while payment service providers will be cheaper for smaller businesses with a smaller transaction volume.

Cost

Credit card processing fees: These fees fall into one of three pricing structures: tiered, interchange-plus and flat-rate. Generally, interchange-plus is the preferred pricing structure for processing fees because it’s the most cost-effective for businesses with high sales volumes. However, flat-rate pricing can be more predictable and easier to understand.

Fees: Depending on the processor, you may have to pay a variety of flat fees for their service. The most common is the monthly subscription fee that you’re charged to work with the processor. You might also be subject to flat fees for services like PCI compliance, setup, cancellation, funds withdrawal and more. Merchant account providers are often criticized for their lack of transparency with these types of flat fees, so you’ll want to be sure you’re clear on the terms of your contract.

Hardware or software fees: Chances are you’ll need to buy hardware and subscribe to a software plan to accept payments, such as a POS terminal that doubles as your register or a mobile card reader you plug into a smartphone or tablet. Sometimes, the POS system will include the software.

Each provider will offer a unique service plan. Some may include multiple terminals, some may require a minimum sales volume per month and some will provide 24/7 customer service. All of these details can contribute to the cost of any one processor.

To recap our selections ...

  • Helcim: Best volume discounts.

  • Square: Best for mobile payments.

  • Stax: Best for consistent monthly fees.

  • Payline Data: Best for high-risk merchants.

  • Payment Depot: Best risk-free trial.

  • Stripe: Best selection of tools and features.

  • Dharma Merchant Services: Best for nonprofits.

  • National Processing: Best variety of industry-specific plans.