BEST OF

Best Virtual Terminals for Small Business of December 2022

The right virtual terminal can save you time and money when you need to manually enter credit card transactions.

Oct 25, 2022

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Virtual terminals are web apps that allow computers, tablets or smartphones to process card payments without a card reader or point-of-sale hardware. They are primarily for businesses receiving phone, fax, email or mail orders and allow for the manual entry of the customer’s card details for payment processing.

The following payment processors offer some of the best virtual terminal options for businesses that regularly enter credit card transactions manually. Because they have different pricing models, the cost of each service for your business will depend on transaction amounts, sales volume and other factors. In addition to cost, deposit speed, customer support and online payment options are also important in determining which virtual terminal is the best fit for your business.

Best Virtual Terminals for Small Business

Our pick for

Best overall

Square
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on Square POS's secure website

Square POS

Square

Payment processing fees

2.6% + 10¢

in-person; 2.9% + 30¢ online.

Monthly fee

$0

Free plan; $29 and up Plus plan.

Shop now

on Square POS's secure website


Why we like it

Square offers a robust virtual terminal without the need for special equipment or devices. You access it through an online dashboard that works on both Mac and Windows POS systems. Some free features include recurring payment options; email, text or print receipts; and a library of products, taxes and discounts.

Pros

  • No monthly fee.

  • App and card readers are compatible with iOS and Android devices.

  • No long-term contracts.

  • All plans include a free online store.

Cons

  • Live chat or phone support is limited to weekdays.

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Our pick for

Best POS flexibility

Clover
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on Clover POS's secure website

Clover POS

Clover

Payment processing fees

2.3% + 10¢

or 2.6% +10¢ in-person, depending on plan; 3.5% + 10¢ online.

Monthly fee

$40

Starter plan; $44.95 Standard and Advanced plans.

Shop now

on Clover POS's secure website


Why we like it

Clover offers a wide range of plans to select from, including a virtual terminal with no additional monthly fee. You’ll pay applicable processing rates per each transaction, and depending on the plan you select, Clover may charge a monthly software fee. You can request payments by email, set up tax rates and apply them automatically, and have customers pay online.

Pros

  • App works with iOS and Android mobile devices.

  • Next-day deposits to your bank account in most cases.

  • Online payment option.

  • 24/7 phone support.

Cons

  • Differing pricing structures depending on business type.

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Our pick for

Best subscription pricing model

Stax by Fattmerchant
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on Stax by Fattmerchant's secure website

Stax by Fattmerchant

Stax by Fattmerchant

Payment processing fees

0% + 8¢

plus interchange in-person; 0% +15¢ plus interchange keyed.

Monthly fee

$99

and up

Shop now

on Stax by Fattmerchant's secure website


Why we like it

Stax (formerly Fattmerchant) has a free virtual terminal with all of its monthly subscription packages. You’ll pay the monthly fee plus the applicable interchange rate for each card transaction. Features allow you to customize invoices, automatically send receipts and also set up recurring payments.

Pros

  • No contract required.

  • Option for same-day access to funds, including holidays and weekends, as an add-on.

  • Set up an online store through an add-on.

  • Mobile app is compatible with Android and iOS devices.

Cons

  • Technical support is through a ticketing system.

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Our pick for

Best customizable add-ons

Dharma Merchant Services

Dharma Merchant Services

Dharma Merchant Services

Payment processing fees

0.15% + 8¢

plus interchange in-person; 0.20% + 11¢ plus interchange online.

Monthly fee

$25

Why we like it

Dharma Merchant Services includes free access to its virtual terminal, MX Merchant, with every account. Dharma uses an interchange-plus pricing model for payment processing and also charges a monthly fee. A customer database allows you to store payment information, and you'll have the ability to create quick-payment links on your website.

Pros

  • No long-term contract.

  • Mobile app is free and compatible with iOS and Android devices.

  • Two-day funding for card-not-present transactions.

  • 24-hour customer support help lines.

Cons

  • Invoicing and recurring billing is an additional monthly fee.

  • Account closure fee of $49 is charged.

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How do virtual terminals work?

After setting up an online account with your payment processor, you’ll log in and navigate to the virtual terminal. There, you'll enter a customer’s credit card information into an online form, submit the transaction for processing, and receive payment.

The exact information needed varies, but generally transactions require the following:

  • Card number.

  • Expiration date.

  • CVV/CVV2 number (the three- or four-digit number on the back of a card).

  • Customer name.

  • Billing ZIP code.

There may also be an area on the screen to write a note to the customer, as well as an option to email or text a payment confirmation.

Processing fees are deducted from the payment before the transaction funds are transferred to your business account.

How much does a virtual terminal cost?

Depending on the pricing model used by the processor, a virtual terminal could include some of the following fees:

  • Monthly fee.

  • Terminal fee.

  • Processing fees.

  • Interchange fees.

  • Margin fees.

  • Assessment fees.

Regarding processing fees, remember that card-not-present transaction fees are higher because they are considered to have a greater potential for fraud.

How much you will pay each month depends on the processor you select and your volume of credit card transactions. For example, one processor may require a monthly fee of $25 and charge 2% plus 10 cents per transaction, while a competitor that doesn’t require a monthly fee may charge a higher transaction rate of 2.5% plus 20 cents.

What businesses use virtual terminals?

Businesses that accept payment information from customers who are not physically there — card-not-present transactions — use virtual terminals. It’s also an option when a mobile terminal is required or when customers prefer contactless payments.

Businesses that use virtual terminals include:

  • Mail-order and telephone-order businesses, also called MOTO businesses.

  • Restaurants, diners and cafes that process phone and online orders.

  • Delivery-based businesses such as food and beverage stores, florists and gift shops.

  • Mobile businesses such as food trucks, pet groomers and photographers.

  • Freelancers such as web designers, artists, SEO specialists and bookkeepers.

What to look for in a virtual terminal

If you already have a point-of-sale system for your business and you want to add a virtual terminal for limited use, then your best option would generally be to use your existing provider. However, if more than about a quarter of your transactions are entered manually, a payment processor that offers a robust virtual terminal could be a smart choice.

Price

The cost of credit card processing is important when evaluating your options. There are a variety of pricing models, such as flat-rate, interchange-plus and membership plans. Because each payment processor has different pricing, it’s not easy to make a quick side-by-side comparison.

You can get a good idea of the cost of each plan based on your volume of manual transactions. Start by estimating the number of manual transactions you do each month and the total dollar amount. Next, based on the processor's pricing model, calculate how much you would be charged for your transactions. Finally, add in any additional fees the processor charges to get your total expense for the month.

For example: Say a processing service charges $100 monthly to use its platform, and its virtual terminal option is free. Its processing fees are 2% of the transaction total plus 10 cents per transaction. If you do about 80 manual transactions a month for a total of $4,000, you would pay the monthly fee of $100 and processing fees of $80 (2% of $4,000) plus $8 (10 cents x 80 transactions) for a total of $188.

A company with a high volume of phone orders could benefit from a membership-based model with lower processing fees, while a business that does a small volume of phone orders may pay less with a flat-rate model and no monthly fee.

Other factors to consider

  • Payment speed. You want to get your money quickly from your transactions — ideally the next business day, with an option for the same day. If there’s a fee for same-day payments, remember to add that into your calculations.

  • Customer support. At a minimum, you want support available during the hours you'll be submitting transactions. Getting 24/7 support is ideal.

  • Integration with other apps. It will save you time if your virtual software works with your accounting software. If a third-party service is necessary for integration, add that fee to your calculation.

Last updated on October 25, 2022

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Virtual Terminals for Small Business of December 2022