Best Merchant Services of 2021

These merchant services are at the top of our list based on overall cost, terms, customer support and integrations.
Lisa AnthonySep 27, 2021

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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 receiving the payment in a merchant account.

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.

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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.

Software: Free.

Hardware: Card reader is $199.


  • Low processing fees.

  • Transparent pricing.

  • Volume discounts.

  • No contracts.

  • No cancellation fees.

  • No monthly fees.

  • Free virtual terminal.

  • Fully hosted online store options.


  • Customer support isn’t available 24/7.

  • No free card reader.

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. Mountain time and on the weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain time. You can sync data with both QuickBooks Desktop and Online. Other integrations include Magento, Rezgo, WooCommerce, Great Exposure Inc. and WHMCS.

Square: Best flat-rate option

Payment processing: Flat rates are charged and include 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction; 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed transaction; and 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.

Software: Free option.

Hardware: Free card reader. A register costs $799 or $39 a month for 24 months.


  • No monthly fee.

  • Low transaction rates.

  • No long-term contracts.

  • Quick setup.

  • Free card reader.

  • Free virtual terminal.

  • Free dispute management services for chargebacks.

  • No processing fees on customer refunds.


  • 24/7 phone support is available only with a premium product.

  • Readers are not compatible with Windows devices.

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. Free phone support is available during the week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time. And if you choose a premium product, you can get support 24/7. Square integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, Stitch Labs and other popular apps.

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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 transactions and 0.2% plus 11 cents per keyed and online transactions. Processing rates for American Express transactions are higher.

Software: $25 monthly fee.

Hardware: A card reader is $29 and a Clover Mini stand-alone device can be purchased for $749.


  • Low processing rates.

  • Pricing transparency.

  • Free cost analysis.

  • Specializes in e-commerce.

  • Reduced rates for processing $100,000 or 5,000 transactions monthly.

  • 24-hour help lines.

  • Virtual terminal included.


  • Monthly fee.

  • Account closure fee of $49.

Why we like it: Dharma specializes in helping e-commerce businesses. It offers one of the lowest rates for card-not-present transactions and also have volume discounts for businesses that do over $100,000 in card sales every month or over 5,000 transactions. Funding is guaranteed in two business days. Customer support to process your card transactions quickly 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 rates include 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.


  • No monthly fees.

  • Low transaction rates.

  • Supports over 135 currencies.

  • You can terminate your account at any time.

  • Full-featured developer platform is offered.

  • Support is available 24/7 by phone request, chat and email.

  • Tools available to customize payment flows and form designs on your website.


  • No free reader.

  • Virtual terminal allows the customer to enter card information, but not the merchant.

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 integrate Stripe Payment into an existing in-person system by using Stripe Terminal and buying a card reader.

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.


  • Simple and transparent pricing model.

  • Custom plans are available.

  • Free virtual terminal.

  • Satisfaction guarantee with option for refund of membership fee.

  • Customer support is available 24/7.


  • High-risk businesses not accepted.

  • A 20% restocking fee for returned terminals.

Why we like it: Payment Depot offers a membership plan that gives 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, 3dcart, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento, Zen Cart, Revel, NCR and

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Payline Data: Best for high-risk businesses

Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate, fees of 0.2% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction and 0.4% plus 20 cents per card-not-present transaction are charged. High-risk pricing starts at 1.5% per transaction.

Software: $10 monthly for in-person transactions and $20 monthly for card-not-present transactions.

Hardware: Readers and other devices available through Ingenico and Clover.


  • Competitive, transparent pricing.

  • First month is free.

  • Offers high-risk merchant accounts.

  • No long-term contracts.

  • No cancellation fee.


  • $25 monthly processing minimum.

  • $10 more a month to access a virtual terminal.

  • Customer support is not available 24/7.

Why we like it: Payline offers payment processing for in-person, online, mobile and keyed transactions at very competitive rates. It also has over 20 banking partnerships that can help get merchant accounts for high-risk business. You can typically expect your funds to be deposited the next business day. If you need assistance, customer support hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time, Monday to Friday. Payline integrates with QuickBooks and most shopping carts and POS systems.

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 free with most plans. Terminals and PIN pads are included for an additional monthly cost. Devices are supplied through Clover.


  • Customized rates.

  • No monthly minimum fees.

  • High-risk payment processor.

  • 24/7 phone support.

  • Offers a virtual terminal.


  • Monthly fees.

  • Two-year contract with possible early termination and restocking fees.

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 available 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, or you can pay $900 for a hardware bundle.


  • No contract.

  • No cancellation fees.

  • Competitive pricing.

  • Instant deposits are available for an extra 1% fee.

  • Invoice formatting lets customers pay online.


  • New customers and QuickBooks Desktop users may pay additional fees.

  • 24/7 phone support is not 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.

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