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Credit Card Processing

by Lori FairbanksLast Modified: April 18, 2018

Intro
Best Picks
Pricing
Methodology
Reviews
Five Tips for Picking a New Processor
Common Credit Card Processing Questions & Answers
Consider Data Security
Downloadable Guides
Infographic
Map
Services
Compare Quotes

At Business.com, we've been reviewing credit card processors since 2007.

We've spent thousands of hours learning about the payment processing industry so that we can share the information we've gathered with businesses like yours. We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so we're moving away from our traditional Top Ten format to bring you recommendations based on what's best for your business. Below we've outlined our recommendations for a variety of business needs. After you review our lists, be sure to read our full reviews for an in-depth look at what each processor offers and how it compares to companies with similar offerings.

Best Picks

Best Flexible Terms
Best Flexible Pricing
Best Nonprofit
Best Retail
Best Mobile
Best eCommerce
Best High-Risk
Best Established Processors
Best CCP Fees
Flagship Merchant Services

Best Flexible Terms

Flagship Merchant Services

There’s nothing more frustrating than being trapped in a lengthy contract with a service provider that isn’t meeting your needs. For this reason, we place a high value on processors that provide service on a month-to-month basis, with no lengthy contract and no early termination fee, which means that you can discontinue the service anytime without incurring expensive fees. It’s important to note that in order to avoid contractual entanglements, you want to purchase your equipment rather than lease or accept free equipment offers or free equipment placement programs, as these routinely require you to sign a contract.


For this category, we selected companies that don’t charge a setup fee or a gateway setup fee. Additionally, these companies can set up your account in two days or fewer, and they don’t charge an annual fee. They assign you a dedicated account representative so that you have a consistent, direct contact with the company and also provide a 24-7 customer service line that you can call if you need help outside of normal business hours. For these reasons, we’ve determined that the following credit card processing companies have the best flexible terms:

Flagship Merchant Services

Best Flexible Pricing

Flagship Merchant Services

Many credit card processors recommend tiered pricing, and it can be a cost-effective option for your company if debit card transactions comprise a good percentage of your monthly volume. When discussing tiered rates, it’s important to ask how many tiers there are, what the rates are for each tier and which cards fall into each tier. Most companies have three tiers each for credit and debit cards: qualified, mid-qualified and non-qualified. The promotional rate that you’re quoted is for qualified debit cards – which means that it is for a normal consumer debit card (no rewards) that you accept in person by swiping or dipping the card in a terminal. You want to specifically ask about the mid-qualified and non-qualified rates or surcharges, as many sales representatives fail to volunteer this information.

Helcim - Credit Card Processing

Best Nonprofit Credit Card Processing

Helcim - Credit Card Processing

Like other small businesses, it’s important for your nonprofit organization to select a credit card processing company that charges low rates and few fees and that doesn’t tie you to a lengthy contract. You want to consider whether you accept donations in person at a single location or at various events, on a website or over the phone, or if you manually key in card numbers from donation forms. You also want to look for a payment processor that offers special rates or discounts for nonprofit credit card processing, since this can be a significant cost-saver.

Payment Depot

Best Retail Credit Card Processing

Payment Depot

Your customers present you with several different types of cards – debit and credit, consumer and business, regular and rewards. Some customers even present their cards using a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay or Android Pay. In order to accept any type of payment and get the best possible rate, we recommend choosing a processor that offers interchange-plus pricing. If you want to learn more about accepting credit cards in person, check out our merchant services review. The following companies offer interchange-plus pricing and are our top picks for best retail credit card processing companies:

Square

Best Mobile Credit Card Processing

Square

Mobile processing makes it easy for very small businesses to accept payment cards because it’s very inexpensive to get started. mPOS (mobile point-of-sale) equipment requirements are minimal, and most processors offer pay-as-you-go pricing with no or few fees. Additionally, mobile processing allows you to accept credit cards from anywhere your cell phone has service, which means you can accept payments wherever your customers are: at farmers’ markets and trunk shows, at your customers’ homes or businesses, at events and more. You can also use mPOS in your store as an inexpensive way to add another checkout lane or in your restaurant to enable your servers to accept credit cards tableside. We recommend choosing a service that offers flat-rate pricing, no fees and no contract. If you choose a service that offers a card reader, you want to ensure that it is EMV compliant. You can read our mobile credit card processing review to learn more about this method of payment processing.

Amazon Payments - Accept Credit Cards Online

Best eCommerce Credit Card Processing

Amazon Payments - Accept Credit Cards Online

It’s often more expensive to accept credit cards online than in person. This is because there’s greater risk in “card not present” transactions because you’re not accepting a physical card in a face-to-face setting. These transactions are also more expensive because most online customers prefer to use credit rather than debit cards, and most credit card users prefer to use their rewards cards. For these reasons, it’s advantageous to finding a processor that charges a flat rate or interchange-plus pricing because otherwise you can count on paying the high, non-qualified rates of tiered pricing.

You should be aware that although some companies charge no or few fees for online credit card processing, many companies charge all the standard fees plus a monthly gateway fee, and some charge additional per-transaction fees for gateway access. Although the majority of companies don’t charge any type of setup fee, a few charge a gateway setup fee for online processing. To learn more about this method of payment processing, check out our online credit card processing review.

Payline - Credit Card Processing

Best High-Risk Credit Card Processing

Payline - Credit Card Processing

If your business is considered high risk, many processors may not work with you, so you want to look for a processor that caters to high-risk businesses. You should be aware that you may be charged higher processing rates, and depending on the risk associated with your business, the processor may insist on a reserve account to buffer against potential chargebacks. The best high-risk credit card processors offer interchange-plus pricing.

Chase Merchant Services

Best Established Processors for Small Businesses

Chase Merchant Services

If you want to process with a direct payment processor, these are some of the largest, most established companies in the credit card processing industry. Each of them serves businesses of all sizes, from very small companies to multi-national corporations. Small businesses may be able to get competitive rates through these companies, but you’re likely to receive better rates if your company processes a high volume of transactions each month. Each processor offers a variety of pricing models to choose from and can provide processing services for retail, online and mobile businesses.

Square

Best Credit Card Processing Fees

Square

When you’re looking for companies that have the lowest credit card processing fees, mobile credit card processors are often your best bet since many offer pay-as-you go service and don’t require you to pay the fees that standard processors charge, such as monthly fees and annual PCI-compliance fees. Most also lack a monthly minimum, which is a set dollar amount of processing costs that many processors require you to pay each month. Some mobile credit card processing companies, such as those we’ve listed in this category, also don’t have chargeback fees.

Most mobile credit card processors charge flat-rate pricing in which you pay a flat percentage of the sale, and for this category, we’ve selected the few that don’t charge a per-transaction fee unless you manually key-in a sale. You can read our review to learn more about mobile credit card processing companies.

Pricing

Methodology

Our team of reviewers has conducted extensive research into credit card processing since 2007, spending more than 2,000 hours learning about the processes, players and technology in this industry. In our testing, our reviewers examined more than 200 companies in order to find the best credit card processors in the United States.

 

  • We combed company websites in order to gauge transparency about rates, fees and contractual information.
  • We called and emailed each processor multiple times as small business owners to get quotes. Because many of the companies are very large with many sales representatives, multiple reviewers called each company, giving us the opportunity to compare the consistency of the information we received.
  • We requested contracts and scoured them for details about fees, terms and cancellation policies.
  • We emailed each processor as a representative of Top Ten Reviews, requesting information about their pricing and policies.

Using the data that we gathered from our testing, we ranked and rated each company on the qualities we feel are most important to the average small business’s satisfaction with a payment processor. Additionally, our firsthand experience contacting credit card processors taught us the importance of learning the jargon and knowing what questions to ask when calling for quotes. Through our lists, reviews and downloadable price negotiation worksheet, we hope to share this information with you so that you can gather the information that you need to choose the company that is the best fit for your business and can provide you with competitive pricing, favorable terms and excellent service.

Reviews

Five Tips for Picking a New Processor

Look for Low Rates, Few Fees & Favorable Terms

Reading our credit card processing reviews can provide you with a good idea of which processors you may want to request more information from, but it's still important to take the time to shop around and gather quotes that are specific to your business so that you find the best deal. Here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Start looking a month in advance. You want to look for a credit card processor well before you need to start processing so that you give yourself enough time to thoroughly research the companies you're interested in. By allowing extra time for this process, you won't feel rushed into making a hasty decision simply because you need to accept credit card payments in two days.
  2. Talk to more than one company. It's important to obtain quotes from multiple companies so you find the lowest pricing for your business's specific processing needs. Because your business's average sales ticket size, average monthly processing volume and other factors vary from those we used in our testing scenario, you may receive different rates than the ones we received. By speaking with several companies, you can gauge what the best pricing and terms are for your company.
  3. Evaluate customer service. As you're reviewing the processor's pricing and service terms, you're also evaluating the individual who, in most cases, will be your account manager for the life of your account. For this reason, it's important that you like this person. You want the person you're working with to be responsive and easy to reach, honest and forthcoming with information, and knowledgeable about credit card processing and the services the company provides. You should feel that the rep is respectful, and you should feel comfortable asking questions about the service.
  4. Request pricing quotes and contracts. After you've narrowed your choices to your top three or four processors, it's important that you request written quotes that include a complete list of fees as well as copies of the application or service contract, including Terms and Conditions and Program Guides. You want to obtain these documents before you sign anything so that you can read them through and ensure that the terms you were verbally quoted match the terms in the contract. Some reps balk at providing this information because they don't want to go to the trouble of filling out paperwork if you're not going to sign up with them. (They may worry that you plan to take the quote to another processor, or back to your existing processor to get better pricing). However, this is information you need in order to ensure that you make the best possible decision for your business, and you want to insist that the rep sends you this information.
  5. Read the contract. It's critical that you thoroughly read the application, contract and service terms. If there is any discrepancy from the information you were quoted over the phone, it's important to take it back to the rep and get it changed before you sign. For example, if the rep told you that the service is month to month, but the actual contract states there is a three-year term, you need to ask the rep to change that clause or send you a waiver that amends the term. If, per chance, a rep tells you that a clause doesn't need to be amended because it isn't enforced, keep in mind that if a term is in writing, and if you sign the document, you are agreeing to that term. A verbal assurance doesn't supersede the written, signed contract.

Once you've decided on the processor you want to use, you can follow up with the rep, sign the contract and purchase your terminal. After you start processing and receive your first statement, you may want to contact your rep if you have questions about how to read your statement or if you have questions about your processing costs or fees. After a few months, if you find that your processing volume is higher than you anticipated, some processors are willing to reassess your processing costs.

Common Credit Card Processing Questions & Answers

Have a credit card processing question of your own?

Business payment history is the lion's share of what goes into your business credit scores. Other factors are outstanding judgments, liens, etc. But the big one is payment behaviors. Pay on time or early, as in full as you possibly can (i. e. go beyond the minimum amount to as full as your budget can stand), and that will help build your business credit. Another piece of the business credit puzzle (it happens to be true for consumer credit as well) is to check your reports - not just...

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Sharyl, it is definitely nice to be able to do business on a cash basis, however, in a B2B environment some of your potential customers may be getting paid in 30-60 days and therefore the velocity of their cash flow is mismatched with your credit policy. You are thus missing out on additional business. Although credit applications and follow-up of customer accounts are tedious and increase the risk of non-payment, it will remain an integral part of B2B activity. Instead of offering no terms, I...

Read More ▼

Hi Aspire, I am assuming you are looking to accept debit payments on your own website using a self-hosted application without a third party gateway - right? If that's the case, then you will need to have a secure server. Check with your hosting company first. You may also need to purchase (web hosting company should be able to provide this) encryption software to integrate into an e-commerce application. And depending on which e-commerce application or platform you choose, there are a...

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Depending on your needs, you can either adapt a Shopping Cart system or go "custom". Custom allows you the greatest flexibility. If you go that route, you can backend to just about any provider. Personally, I've found Elavon the easiest to build an interface. (Elavon is the provider-of-cfhoice through COSTCO.) And, yes, SSL is a definite must. You should note that SSL has really nothing to do with e-commerce. You can use it for anything. Essentially, SSL encrypts all communications...

Read More ▼

I'm not a big fan of giving employees expense cards, unless they are vetted and you can be sure there won't be issue. Having the employee submit a receipt and request for reimbursement forces them to do better receipt logging. As far as how many credit cards you should open, I can't provide much there. Just keep it simple and don't play the Points Game. Focus on building value for your customers and you'll make more money than the points will give you!

Read More ▼

Consider Data Security

EMV and PCI Discourage Fraud

In addition to considering rates, fees, and contractual terms as you look for a credit card processing company that best suits your business, you need to look for a company that is PCI compliant and offers EMV-compliant processing equipment.

Data security is a huge issue in the credit card processing industry. Although the large breaches that you read about in the news, such as those sustained by Home Depot and Target, may lead you to believe that your business is too small for criminals to be interested in, that isn't the case. In fact, small businesses are most often the preferred targets of security attacks.

According to the PCI Security Standards Council, 80 percent of cyber security attacks are aimed at small businesses. Even more grim is the success that criminals have with their small business targets. Security experts from First Data, one of the world's largest payment technology companies, estimate that 90 percent of data breaches affect small businesses. Criminals target small businesses because many small business owners fail to prioritize data security. As a result, the data often isn't as secure as large companies that have the resources and personnel to put stronger security protocols in place.

Data Breaches Are Expensive
If your small business experiences a data breach and is found liable, the associated costs can be crippling. First Data estimates that on average, a breach costs a small business $36,000 and in some cases may exceed $50,000. Within six months of experiencing a data breach, 70 percent of those small businesses go out of business. Expenses include:

  • Liability for fraudulent charges, which means you pay for any charges made to the customer's card after it is compromised
  • Hiring independent forensic investigators to pinpoint the scope of the breach
  • Notifying affected customers by mail multiple times and providing them with a year of credit monitoring services
  • Paying PCI-compliance fines to the card brands and the acquiring (merchant) bank if you weren't in compliance when the breach occurred
  • Paying for the cost of providing your customers with replacement cards

Other costs may include legal fees, upgrading or replacing your point-of-sale system and hiring a Qualified Security Assessor to assist you in establishing your PCI compliance.

In addition to the expenses that you incur due to a data breach, you may also lose business due to negative press and the loss of your customers' trust in your business. Also, if your customers are unable or unwilling to pay you in cash, you may lose business due to your inability to accept credit cards while the investigation is underway. If the card brands revoke your processing privileges due to the breach, you may be permanently unable to accept credit cards.

Protect Your Business from Fraud
You can take two important steps to increase security, protect data and reduce fraud. First, comply with PCI data security standards; second, upgrade to EMV-compliant processing equipment.

  1. PCI Security Standards. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council has established guidelines called PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) to help businesses of all sizes protect payment data. Most processors require you to be PCI compliant and charge both a compliance fee for their efforts in helping you achieve PCI compliance and a noncompliance fee to discourage you from putting off annual compliance requirements. PCI DSS measures have proven to be successful in discouraging attacks, as 96 percent of merchants that sustained data breaches in 2011 were not PCI DSS compliant.
  2. EMV. Prior to October 1, 2015, customer losses resulting from cards that were compromised, stolen or counterfeit were dealt with by either the payment processor or the issuing bank. Now the costs for these kinds of fraud fall to the least EMV-compliant party, which in many cases is the merchant due to outdated equipment. As mentioned above, data breaches can be catastrophic for a small business, which is why it's important to upgrade to EMV-compliant equipment.

Choosing a company that helps you establish your PCI compliance (or takes care of this requirement for you), and that provides EMV-compliant equipment helps you protect your business from data breaches and other types of fraud. Read about EMV, PCI, fraud prevention and other articles about credit card processing on our website.

Downloadable Guides

Overview of Credit Card Processing
Overview of Credit Card Processing

Consumers expect to be able to pay for anything with plastic. Our guide to credit card processing makes it easy for you to make this happen.

Download Now

There’s a television commercial for a major credit cardcompany that shows people zipping through a checkoutline to make purchases. Then along comes some guytrying to pay with cash, and everything slows down,causing the cashier considerable angst’not to mentionthe customers at the back of the line. These days, almost everybody uses plastic to pay foreven the smallest items. There was a time when youcouldn’t use a credit card to buy anything under $10.Now, you can buy a pack of gum and put it on yourcard. Consumers are so used to the convenience ofcredit and debit cards that it’s no longer an option for amerchant to take plastic-it’s a necessity.

More Customers? Increased Revenue?
More Customers?  Increased Revenue?

Yes, Please!

View Infographic

It’s become fact that businesses see increased traffic and revenue when they accept credit cards as a form of online or in-store payment.  Furthermore, new technologies are making it easier and more affordable to include credit card payments.  Don’t miss out on the chance to increase your bottom line – find out who you’re losing and how you can gain from adding credit cards to your payment mix. Our Benefits to Credit Card Processing infographic is completely free. Simply register your email to download it now.

Credit Card Processing Fees
Credit Card Processing Fees

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Fees (and How to Find the Best Rates)

Get the Whitepaper

When you accept credit cards, you lose part of every sale to the credit card processing company’s fees. Do you know what elements make up those fees or how the banks decide how much to charge you? In this whitepaper, you’ll learn what types of charges make up your credit card processing fees and what you can do to make sure your business is paying the lowest possible rate.

How Digital Banking is Transforming Fraud Detection
How Digital Banking is Transforming Fraud Detection

How Digital Banking is Transforming Fraud Detection

Download Now

The financial services industry has and continues to undergo a massive transformation due to an increasingly digital world.  New market entrants with agile infrastructures and digital mindsets are driving increased competition and putting pressure on banking profitability. Evolving regulations, such as PSD2 in Europe, will add more competition by enabling consumers to give third parties direct access to their account and payment data. Increased customer disintermediation- driven both by digital channels and these new competitors- make it harder for financial organizations to build relationships and brand loyalty using traditional method.

Understanding Credit Card Processing Infographic

Understanding Credit Card Processing
Credit: Grant Reinero

Map

Flagship Merchant Services
100 City Square
Charlestown, MA
Flagship Merchant Services
Payment Depot
238 W Chapman Ave.
Orange, CA
Payment Depot
CreditCardProcessing.com
30721 Russell Ranch Road
Westlake Village, CA
CreditCardProcessing.com
Elavon Credit Card Processing
Two Concourse Parkway
Atlanta, GA
Elavon Credit Card Processing
EMSplus
5005 Rockside Rd
Cleveland, OH
EMSplus
Moolah
34700 Pacific Coast Highway
Capistrano Beach, CA
Moolah
Square
1455 Market Street
San Francisco, CA
Square
Chase Merchant Services
270 Park Avenue
New York, NY
Chase Merchant Services
Fattmerchant
100 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL
Fattmerchant
Payline - Credit Card Processing
225 W Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL
Payline - Credit Card Processing
Helcim - Credit Card Processing
701 5th Ave.
Seattle, WA
Helcim - Credit Card Processing
National Bankcard
538 Broadhollow Road
Melville, NY
National Bankcard
Gotmerchant.com
P.O. Box 751
Fate, TX
Gotmerchant.com
goEmerchant
1 Mall Drive
Cherry Hill, NJ
goEmerchant
CDGcommerce
860 Greenbriar Circle
Chesapeake, VA
CDGcommerce
Cartwheel Register
2929 Canton St.
Dallas, TX
Cartwheel Register
Dharma Merchant Services
500 W 8th St.
Vancouver, WA
Dharma Merchant Services
PayAnywhere
250 Stephenson Hwy
Troy, ME
PayAnywhere
Leaders Merchant Services
725 Via Alondra
Camarillo, CA
Leaders Merchant Services
PayJunction
1903 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA
PayJunction
Merchant One
524 Arthur Godfrey Road
Miami Beach, FL
Merchant One
The Transaction Group
2455 Las Calinas Blvd.
St. Augustine, FL
The Transaction Group
iTransact
314 South 200 West
Farmington, UT
iTransact
NextPay
Edificio 4, Piso 3, Sabana Sur
San Jose,
NextPay
Nationwide Merchant Solutions
195 Main St.
New Milford, NJ
Nationwide Merchant Solutions
National Transaction Corporation (NTC)
11951 NW 37th Street
Coral Springs, FL
National Transaction Corporation (NTC)
National Processing
1020 W 600 S
Lindon, UT
National Processing
MSI Merchant Service
406 Bay Road 2
South Easton, MA
MSI Merchant Service
Merchant Solutions LLC
12 N Main St.
West Hartford, CT
Merchant Solutions LLC
Maverick BankCard
28720 Roadside Drive
Agoura Hills, CA
Maverick BankCard
Flint
805 Veterans Blvd
Redwood City, CA
Flint
First Data
5565 Glenridge Connector, NE
Atlanta, GA
First Data
Federated Payments
One Huntington Quadrangle
Melville, NY
Federated Payments
eMerchant
78 Discovery
Irvine, CA
eMerchant
Electronic Transfer, Inc.
3107 E Mission Ave.
Spokane, WA
Electronic Transfer, Inc.
Electronic Payment Systems
6472 S. Quebec St.
Englewood, CO
Electronic Payment Systems
Electronic Payment Exchange
1201 N Market Street
Wilmington, DE
Electronic Payment Exchange
Electronic Cash Systems (ECS)
29883 Santa Margarita Pkwy
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Electronic Cash Systems (ECS)
Planet Payment
670 Long Beach Blvd
Long Beach, NY
Planet Payment
Sekure Merchant Solutions
1501 Broadway
New York, NY
Sekure Merchant Solutions
eData Financial Group
20423 State Road 7
Boca Raton, FL
eData Financial Group
Sterling Payment Technologies
PO Box 20427
Tampa, FL
Sterling Payment Technologies
Tidal Commerce
2625 Butterfield Rd
Oak Brook, IL
Tidal Commerce
Total Merchant Services
21650 Oxnard Street
Woodland Hills, CA
Total Merchant Services
TransNational Payments
9550 W. Higins Road
Rosemont, IL
TransNational Payments
SecurionPay
Sihleggstrasse 23
Wollerau,
SecurionPay
E-Commerce Exchange
2321 Rosecrans Ave.
El Segundo, CA
E-Commerce Exchange
Currencycloud
31 West 34th Street
New York, NY
Currencycloud
2Checkout
855 Grandview Avenue
Columbus, OH
2Checkout
SumupLondon,
Sumup
Transparent Merchant Services
4040 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ
Transparent Merchant Services
Change Merchant Solutions
22136 Clarendon St.
Woodland Hills, CA
Change Merchant Solutions
US Merchant Systems (USMS)
48073 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA
US Merchant Systems (USMS)
Velocity Merchant Services (VMS)
3051 Oak Grove Rd
Downers Grove, IL
Velocity Merchant Services (VMS)
Signature Card Services
2101 W Burbank Blvd
Burbank, CA
Signature Card Services

Services

List of 78Credit Card Processing

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