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7 Best Virtual Terminals of June 2024

The right virtual terminal can save you time and money when you need to manually enter credit card transactions.
By Lisa A. Anthony, Karrin Sehmbi
Last updated on April 10, 2024
Edited byRyan Lane
Fact checked and reviewed

⏰ Estimated read time: 6 minutes

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Virtual terminals let businesses manually enter payment details without a card reader or point-of-sale hardware. If your business often receives phone, fax, email or mail orders from customers, you’ll need a virtual terminal to accept those card payments and a company to process them.
Most payment processing companies offer their own virtual terminals, and the best option is typically to stick with a single provider to avoid unnecessary complications. Still, make sure to consider a service’s overall costs — as well as factors like deposit speed, customer support and online payment options — to determine which virtual terminal is the best fit for your business.
Here are NerdWallet’s top picks for the best virtual terminals.

Our Nerdy picks for

Best Virtual Terminals

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Estimates assume an average interchange fee of 1.81% + $0.10, based on our latest available data. Estimates provided reflect online and in-person transactions, but exclude any keyed transactions. Estimates are based on the lowest monthly plan and processing fees for each provider.

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Square POS

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on Square POS's secure website

Get an estimated monthly cost for your business.
5.0/5

Best for Overall virtual terminal

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 2.9% + $0.30

$0.00

and up.

Get an estimated monthly cost for your business.
Learn more

on Square POS's secure website

Stax by Fattmerchant

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on Stax by Fattmerchant's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Subscription pricing model

In-person: 0% + $0.08

Online: 0% + $0.15

Plus interchange

$99.00

and up.

Learn more

on Stax by Fattmerchant's secure website

Clover POS

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on Clover POS's secure website

4.0/5

Best for POS flexibility

In-person: 2.3% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.10

$14.95

and up.

Learn more

on Clover POS's secure website

Shopify Retail POS

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on Shopify POS's secure website

4.5/5

Best for E-commerce integration

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 2.9% + $0.30

$39.00

and up for e-commerce plans with POS Lite; Can upgrade to POS Pro for an extra $89.

Learn more

on Shopify POS's secure website

TouchBistro

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on TouchBistro's secure website

3.5/5

Best for Restaurants

N/A

Quote-based.

$69.00

and up.

Learn more

on TouchBistro's secure website

Dharma Merchant Services

4.5/5

Best for Surcharging option

In-person: 0.15% + $0.08

Online: 0.2% + $0.11

Plus interchange

$15.00

for most industries; $12 for nonprofits.

U.S. Bank Merchant Services

4.5/5

Best for Fast deposits

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 2.9% + $0.30

$0.00

and up.

Our pick for

Overall virtual terminal

Business owners can sign up for a free Square account and immediately begin accepting payments with a virtual terminal. Since there are no monthly fees, you’ll just need to pay payment processing costs (3.5% plus 15 cents per manually keyed-in transaction). Square’s low barrier to entry and free sales reports make it a quick and easy solution for a variety of small businesses that need to bill customers remotely.

Square POS

Learn more

on Square POS's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

and up.

Our pick for

Subscription pricing model

Stax is a payment processor that charges monthly subscription fees and a small fee (15 cents per manually keyed-in transaction) on top of interchange rates. But if your small business has a high volume of sales, this subscription pricing model could be cost effective for you. Stax’s subscription plans include access to a virtual terminal.

Stax by Fattmerchant

Learn more

on Stax by Fattmerchant's secure website

Monthly fee
$99.00

and up.

Our pick for

POS flexibility

Clover’s virtual terminal doesn’t come with a monthly subscription cost, but you do have to pay processing fees (3.5% plus 10 cents per manually keyed-in transaction). If you accept in-person transactions, it also syncs up with Clover’s POS devices. You can choose from a simple card reader, countertop terminal system with a customer-facing screen or a handheld POS system.

Clover POS

Learn more

on Clover POS's secure website

Monthly fee
$14.95

and up.

Our pick for

E-commerce integration

Shopify users can accept payments over the phone by logging into the Shopify mobile app and entering customers’ card info. This is convenient for online-first small businesses that already use Shopify to power their site and process online transactions. Shopify doesn’t charge a separate rate for keyed-in transactions.

Shopify Retail POS

Learn more

on Shopify POS's secure website

Monthly fee
$39.00

and up for e-commerce plans with POS Lite; Can upgrade to POS Pro for an extra $89.

Our pick for

Restaurants

TouchBistro offers customizable POS plans for a variety of restaurant types, including quick service, fine dining and bars, and allows you to accept transactions over the phone. Restaurants can choose from a range of add-ons, too, including online ordering, reservations, loyalty programs, marketing tools and profit management.

TouchBistro

Learn more

on TouchBistro's secure website

Payment processing fees
N/A

Quote-based.

Monthly fee
$69.00

and up.

Our pick for

Surcharging option

Manually keyed-in transactions often have the most expensive processing fees, and Dharma Merchant Services’ surcharge option lets you pass those costs (0.2% and 11 cents plus interchange) along to customers who choose to pay with credit card. Online payment processing comes with a monthly fee and includes free access to a virtual terminal through MX Merchant, a separate payments platform.

Dharma Merchant Services

Monthly fee
$15.00

for most industries; $12 for nonprofits.

Our pick for

Fast deposits

Having to wait for credit card funds to be deposited into your business account can disrupt cash flow. If your business uses a U.S. Bank checking account, though, you can access same-day deposits with U.S. Bank Merchant Services. Transactions keyed into the virtual terminal cost 3.5% plus 15 cents each.

U.S. Bank Merchant Services

Monthly fee
$0.00

and up.

What is a virtual terminal?

A virtual terminal is an online application that makes it possible to process card transactions from anywhere with an internet connection, even when you aren’t face-to-face with a customer.
These transactions are usually initiated by phone, email or fax orders, making virtual terminals a convenient alternative if you can’t accept cards in person with POS hardware or online through an e-commerce site. Many payment processors and POS software providers include virtual terminals as part of their services. Standalone options may also be available, but choosing a company with strong overall payments infrastructure can make sense — especially since some don’t charge a subscription fee to use their terminals.
After setting up an online account with your virtual terminal provider, you’ll log in and navigate to its payments section. Exact directions and information needed varies based on provider, but generally you’ll enter the following information to process transactions:
  • 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?

Many payment processors give you access to a virtual terminal for free. If there are no monthly subscription fees, that means you’re typically just responsible for payment processing fees.
At a minimum, those include interchange rates and per-transaction fees or markups. Card-not-present transaction fees are usually higher than in-person fees because they’re considered to have a greater potential for fraud. While some payment processors treat virtual terminal transactions as online transactions, others charge more expensive transaction rates for manually keyed-in transactions.
For example, Square and U.S. Bank Merchant Services charge 3.5% plus 15 cents per manually keyed transaction compared to 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions. That means, for a $1,000 purchase, you’d pay about $6 extra in fees if it was manually entered instead of processed online.
Separately, if you plan to use POS software for in-person or online sales, make sure to factor those monthly costs in too.

What businesses use virtual terminals?

Businesses that accept payment information from customers who are not physically there — card-not-present transactions — use virtual terminals. They’re also an option when a mobile card reader is required (but unavailable) or when customers prefer contactless payments.
Businesses that may 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.

How to choose a virtual terminal

Here are some factors to consider to choose the right virtual terminal for your small business.

Payment processor and POS integrations

If you already have a POS system, your best option is generally to use your existing provider’s virtual terminal (if they offer one). However, if more than about a quarter of your transactions are entered manually, looking for a different payment processor that offers a more robust virtual terminal or lower transaction fees could be a smart choice.

Price

The cost of credit card processing is important to consider when evaluating your options. There are a variety of payment processing 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.
This credit card processing fees calculator can help you get a good idea of the cost of each plan based on your volume of manual transactions.
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 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.

Payment speed

The money your customers pay you doesn’t immediately get transferred to your business’s bank account. Ideally, you’ll receive the funds the next business day and have an option to pay extra for same-day deposits.

Fraud and chargeback protection

Virtual terminal transactions carry a higher risk of fraud and chargebacks because the customer isn’t making the purchase in person and credit card numbers can be keyed in wrong. Make sure your payment processor offers fraud and chargeback protection tools in some capacity, especially if you aren’t familiar with the company. Many processors include security tools in their services or offer advanced security tools as an add-on.

Customer support

At a minimum, you want support available during the hours you'll be submitting transactions. Getting 24/7 phone and/or chat support is ideal, but isn’t always available. Searching through customer reviews of a product may give you some insight into a provider’s quality of service and general response times.
Last updated on April 10, 2024
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