business.com receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure
ArrowFinance

The Best Credit Card Processors for Restaurants in 2024

Updated Feb 15, 2024
Best for POS
  • Restaurant-specific POS tools
  • Sleek POS hardware
  • No early termination fee
  • Restaurant-specific POS tools
  • Sleek POS hardware
  • No early termination fee
Best for Flexible Pricing
  • Flat-rate pricing
  • 98% approval rate
  • Dedicated account manager
  • Flat-rate pricing
  • 98% approval rate
  • Dedicated account manager
Best for Quick Service Restaurants
  • Fast processing times
  • Processing fee passed to customers
  • Quick applications decision
  • Fast processing times
  • Processing fee passed to customers
  • Quick applications decision
Best All-in-One Platform
  • Robust restaurant software features
  • Proprietary POS hardware
  • Low and transparent fees
  • Robust restaurant software features
  • Proprietary POS hardware
  • Low and transparent fees
Best for New Restaurants
Square
Square logo
  • User-friendly POS hardware
  • No monthly fee option
  • Highly rated mobile app
  • User-friendly POS hardware
  • No monthly fee option
  • Highly rated mobile app

Table of Contents

Open row
Mike Berner
Mike Berner
Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations at business.com
Share this on FacebookShare this on twitterShare this on LinkedIn

We researched the top processors to help you find the best credit card processing company for your restaurant. The best processors have low fees, make it simple to get paid and provide customer support when you need it. When choosing our top processors for restaurants, we looked for providers with low rates and fees, online ordering and point-of-sale (POS) devices for tableside payment. This guide dives into our best picks as well as information on pricing, features and contracts for restaurant credit card processing.

What Is Credit Card Processing?

Credit card processing is the process of transferring funds from a cardholder’s account to a merchant’s account when a credit or debit card is used for a purchase. Although the front-end process is quick and straightforward, behind the scenes, it becomes intricate as data navigates between the restaurant, processor, credit card network and multiple banks. [Read more in our guide to credit card processing.]

Compare Our Best Picks

BDC Ribbon
Our Top Picks for 2024
Clover Credit Card Processing
Merchant One
ProMerchant
Square
Rating (Out of 10)9.28.98.58.99.1
Best for

POS

Flexible pricing

Quick Service Restaurants

All-in-one platform

New Restaurants

Pricing model

Subscription plus flat rate

Subscription plus flat rate

Choice of subscription and interchange-plus or zero-cost plan

Interchange-plus

Flat rate

Monthly fees

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Contract term

Month to month

3 years

Month to month

Month to month

Month to month

24/7 support

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

PCI compliance fee

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

Variety of payment types

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Reporting tools

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Payout

1-3 days

Next business day

N/A

2 business days

2-3 business days

Early termination fee

No

Sometimes

No

No

No

Review Link
Scroll Table

Reviews

Clover Credit Card Processing: Best Restaurant Credit Card Processor for POS

  • Clover’s POS hardware includes devices for tableside ordering.
  • The POS software can be used for takeout, online ordering and curbside pickup.
  • Clover has some extra fees, such as a monthly platform fee and application fee.
Editor's Rating: 9.2/10

866-342-4017

Visit Site

Clover offers a POS and credit card processing solution that is ideal for restaurant owners. Many of Clover’s merchants are restaurants, and the company offers a variety of restaurant-specific tools. These include online ordering, takeout and curbside pickup capabilities as well as integration with DoorDash.

The company’s POS software and hardware are standard in the industry and resold by many other payment processors. Clover’s restaurant packages include fixed registers as well as handheld devices for tableside orders and payments. Clover’s restaurant credit card processing software also includes a bill splitting feature for customers to pay separately.

Beyond these restaurant tools, Clover integrates with more than 500 third-party apps. We like how you can use the platform to ask for customer feedback, create customer profiles and email your customers personalized offers based on their purchase histories. Clover also enables you to offer your diners physical and digital gift cards and a “buy-now, pay-later” option through Synchrony SetPay.

Clover offers a variety of pricing plans depending on your type of restaurant. These cost as low as $14.95 for some Starter plans and up to $310 for certain Advanced dining plans. Processing rates vary from 2.3% to 3.5% plus 10 cents per transaction.

Merchant One: Best Restaurant Credit Card Processor for Flexible Pricing

  • Merchant One sports a 98% approval rate and a quick application process.
  • It can work with a variety of restaurants, even those with lower credit scores.
  • You must speak to a sales representative to get the exact transaction rates for your business.
Editor's Rating: 8.9/10

855-794-1134

Visit Site

Merchant One provides credit card processing solutions for restaurants and adjusts its pricing based on factors, such as restaurant size and credit. It offers a wide range of services, including entire POS systems with terminals and credit card readers that you can use to take tableside payments. Merchant One also offers a high approval rate, which is especially useful for a new restaurant trying to get off the ground. With these benefits, Merchant One is our best pick for flexible pricing.

Merchant One is also a reseller of restaurant-oriented Clover POS hardware. Other Merchant One tools that should prove useful for restaurant owners include high-speed processing, gift and loyalty card programs and the ability to launch text message marketing campaigns. Merchant One boasts 24/7 customer support and provides you with a dedicated account manager to help you throughout the setup process.

Merchant One’s rates range from 0.29% to 1.99% per keyed-in transaction and 0.29% to 1.55% per card-present transaction. It also charges a monthly fee starting at $6.95, plus an annual $99 fee.

ProMerchant: Best Restaurant Credit Card Processor for Quick Service Restaurants

  • ProMerchant software pairs with simple POS devices for fast processing.
  • Restaurants can pass along processing costs automatically to customers through Zero Cost.
  • ProMerchant’s software lacks some features of other competitors.
Editor's Rating: 8.5/10

855-383-3680

Visit Site

ProMerchant stands out by offering a credit card processing solution that is well-suited for quick service restaurants. You can choose from several third-party POS devices, including the Ingenico Desk 3500 and PAX A920. The Ingenico is a dual-mode terminal, meaning that it can run over both a standard phone line and the internet. Transaction times are fast, with a built-in, high-speed thermal printer for receipts. This means that a busy restaurant wastes less time during checkout.

ProMerchant has month-to-month agreements with no early cancellation fees. You can choose between interchange plus rates and the Zero Cost plan. The innovative Zero Cost plan passes the processing cost to customers automatically, effectively eliminating this cost for the merchant. However, you would still have to pay any monthly or incidental fees. Not all processors offer this option, and ProMerchant stands out for providing this plan for restaurants.

ProMerchant’s application process is straightforward and most restaurants get a decision within 24 hours of applying. When approved, ProMerchant sends free equipment via overnight mail, and your restaurant can start accepting payments within 72 hours. ProMerchant also sells mobile credit card readers and Clover POS systems. Transactions settled by 8:30 p.m. Eastern time are paid the following day, which represents a faster turnaround than most other restaurant credit card processors that we examined.

 

Helcim: Best Restaurant Credit Card Processor All-in-One Platform

  • Helcim offers restaurants free software that includes POS capabilities as well as customer and employee management tools.
  • Helcim follows interchange plus pricing with no monthly fees.
  • The hardware offerings are more limited compared with other providers.
Editor's Rating: 8.9/10
Visit Site

Helcim goes beyond most credit card processors in the tools it offers to support restaurants. Its software possesses advanced capabilities, such as POS services, customer management, inventory management and employee tracking and management.

We like that you can use Helcim’s quick-order online store to create a website that is specifically geared toward restaurant owners. Helcim’s suite of restaurant features allows you to set up an interactive menu so customers can order for takeout or delivery. This allows restaurant owners to fully control the customer experience without needing to rely on a third-party delivery app.

Helcim provides two hardware options ― a handheld credit card reader and a handheld terminal, both of which are ideal for taking payments at the side of a table. Helcim’s software can also be installed on computers, tablets or laptops for an inexpensive full-featured POS system. All of these offerings from one vendor can help satisfy a restaurant owner looking for an all-in-one processing service.

We also appreciate Helcim’s low and transparent interchange plus rates with no monthly fees. The application process only takes a few minutes and many get approved by the next day. There is no long-term contract; so you can cancel at any time with no early termination fee.

Square: Best Credit Card Processor for New Restaurants

Square
Square logo
  • There are no monthly or annual maintenance fees on the entry-level plan.
  • The app includes a full suite of restaurant POS features.
  • Square charges a per-transaction fee as part of its in-person processing rate, making small restaurant tickets more expensive to process.
Editor's Rating: 9.1/10

Square is widely used among restaurants for its easy-to-use credit card processing software and POS hardware. The company offers a restaurant-specific POS solution at an affordable price point. Nearly any business can apply and receive approval for credit card processing, making Square a great choice for new restaurants.

With Square, customers receive a Square POS app and digital gift cards for free. For brick-and-mortar restaurants, it offers attractive and highly functional POS hardware, including tabletop registers and handheld devices for tableside payments. On the software side, Square offers contactless order and delivery as well as quick response code payments.

Additionally, Square features employee and customer management tools and other specialized functions for restaurants. Square has also integrated Tap to Pay on the Apple iPhone into its own app. This means that you can accept contactless payments without additional hardware. Square has excellent integration with hundreds of other third-party apps.

Square’s software services are free to use on the most basic level. The company also offers several subscription plans with more advanced features, ranging from $29 to $69 per month. Additionally, Square charges flat processing rates of 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person payments, 2.9% plus 30 cents for online payments and 3.5% plus 15 cents for keyed-in transactions.

Pricing for Restaurant Credit Card Processing

Credit card processing rates are typically represented as a percentage of the sale, along with a small per-transaction fee. On average, these range from 2% to 4% for each transaction. The processor evaluates several factors to determine the fees, such as your monthly processing volume, average ticket size and processing history. Additionally, your business and personal credit may also come into consideration.

No matter your business’s size or type, credit card processing fees work the same way across the board. Interchange fees are a nonnegotiable fee set by the card networks and every processor pays the same amount. However, a restaurant may not pay the same interchange fees as a retailer. You can view interchange rate tables on the card networks’ websites. Assessment fees vary by card brand and every processor pays the same amount. Processor fees are taken by the credit card processor; this is the only negotiable part of the processing rate.

Did You Know?Did you know
Some rewards credit cards carry higher processing fees for merchants.

Credit card processing companies offer several pricing models for restaurant owners, the most prevalent being tiered pricing. This model aims to simplify the interchange table by consolidating interchange rates, assessment fees and markups and then grouping them into tiers. It is also commonly known as “bundled pricing” or “bucket pricing.”

The interchange plus pricing model, also known as “pass-through pricing” or “cost-plus pricing,” is favored by most industry experts due to its emphasis on pricing transparency. In this model, the processor passes on the interchange rates and assessment fees to you at cost and adds a fixed markup. Flat-rate pricing involves charging a fixed percentage rate for each sale, regardless of the card type used. Some processors may combine this with a per-transaction fee.

Apart from processing rates, you will encounter several fees when you select a credit card processor. Some of these fees are one-time or per-occurrence charges, while others are billed on a monthly or annual basis. These can include the statement fee, monthly minimum fee, Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance fee, payment gateway fee and network fee. Batch fees, chargeback fees and nonsufficient funds fees may be assessed on a per-occurrence basis.

In addition to the standard fees mentioned earlier, some processors impose various miscellaneous fees. Among the most egregious are cancellation fees, club or membership fees and fees for vaguely defined “additional services” mentioned in the contract. It is crucial to thoroughly read the entire contract before signing anything, and you must ensure that no hidden fees are tucked away in the fine print. For a comprehensive list and detailed explanation of fees, including nonstandard charges that should be avoided, refer to our small business guide to credit card processing fees.

Features of Restaurant Credit Card Processing

No matter which credit card processing service you select, you should expect it to provide the basic services that you need to accept payments. Restaurants require a different set of features than other types of businesses, including the ability to accept payments online, over the phone and in person. Integrations with third-party restaurant software are also desirable.

POS Hardware

To accept credit cards in person, a restaurant must have credit card processing equipment. Credit card processing hardware takes many forms. The most basic hardware options are mobile readers that allow you to accept payments using a smartphone. If you are on a tight budget or if you run a food cart or similar small restaurant business, then you may want to consider a mobile processing solution, such as a Square reader.

Handheld readers and tablets are popular in the restaurant industry, given their usefulness for accepting tableside payments. You might also consider full registers for restaurants where customers order and pay at a counter.

TipBottom line
Some credit card processors, such as Square, Helcim and Clover, build their own equipment.

Online To-Go Ordering

Rather than dining in, many restaurant customers prefer ordering from a smartphone app or internet browser. The best credit card processors include software that allows you to build a website for your restaurant, complete with an interactive menu, checkout page and online payment technology. You can also accept orders over the phone by using a virtual terminal to key in credit cards. Virtual terminals are included in many processors’ software packages.

Multiple Payment Methods

Restaurant patrons generally expect to be able to pay with any credit card that they have in their wallets. Credit card processing software should allow you to accept all major card brands, including Discover and American Express. Additionally, credit card processors empower you to accept a variety of payment methods so you don’t lose out on sales. These include chip-enabled credit cards, tap-to-pay technology and mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. These modern payment methods are faster and more convenient for diners, enabling you to speed up your restaurant’s operations.

Security

Cybercrime plagues businesses of all sizes and restaurants are no exception. Credit card processing software includes security measures to protect you and your customers from data theft. The best options adhere to the PCI Data Security Standard and assist you in achieving PCI compliance. EMV-compliant hardware also helps minimize your vulnerability to fraud. In case of a security breach, you won’t be held liable for using outdated equipment.

Third-Party Integrations

Many restaurants now use apps designed for the food service industry. These include third-party delivery services, such as DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats. Many diners also now use online reservation software to secure tables at their favorite establishments. You may also use POS and accounting software to streamline your restaurant’s operations. Today, many of the best credit card processors for restaurants also integrate with these additional apps.

How to Choose Restaurant Credit Card Processing Software

Restaurant owners can follow this checklist to choose a credit card processor that works best for their business.

1. Conduct preliminary research.

First, put together a preliminary list of the leading credit card processing companies for restaurants. Our guide identifies five of the best options for restaurant owners, and you can also check out our full list of the best small business credit card processors. You should also know your restaurant’s average monthly sales volume and other business statistics because these numbers will factor into how much you pay for processing services.

2. Examine rates and fees.

Review the rates charged by each processor on the list. Some credit card processors merely take a percentage of the sale while others take both a percentage of the sale and a small flat fee (interchange plus pricing). A processor with a flat-rate pricing model may only charge a monthly subscription fee. Estimate how much you would pay under each processor and rule out any options that don’t fit within your budget.

Did You Know?Did you know
Under the interchange plus pricing model, the credit card processor takes a percentage of the translation plus a small, fixed fee.

3. Identify your restaurant’s processing needs.

How do your diners typically pay for their food? Do they order at a counter or with a server while seated at a table? Does most of your restaurant’s business come from online delivery channels? These are questions that you should ask yourself before committing to a credit card processor. Make sure you review which features are included in the software because not all processors provide the tools to accept online orders and other niche services.

4. Choose your hardware.

Some credit card processors offer their own proprietary hardware, while others integrate with third-party hardware. Either way, the hardware should help facilitate your restaurant’s processing needs. If you expect to take payments beside a customer’s table, then make sure that your processor offers handheld devices. Some credit card processors offer free equipment while others charge separately for POS hardware. This equipment can be pricey, so ensure that whatever you choose falls within your budget.

5. Decide if you will lease or buy equipment.

Some credit card processors offer free equipment while others sell or lease the hardware that restaurants need to accept payments. Purchasing equipment is often more cost-effective and less constrictive in the long run compared to other equipment alternatives. While “free” is always alluring, remember that accepting free equipment often requires you to stay locked into a contract.

6. Consider customer testimonials.

Customer reviews are a powerful source of unbiased information. Independent review sites, such as Trustpilot, are composed of user-generated content on customer service. Many credit card processors and other software services talk a big game on customer service, but not all of them follow through. In recent years, many business apps have transitioned to automated customer service systems or live chat options. This may not suit restaurant owners who need immediate assistance in the event of technical difficulties.

7. Review the contract.

Unlike many business software services, credit card processing is much more complicated when it comes to the fine print. Often, you are required to sign a contract. It is crucial to read the contract thoroughly to verify the rates, fees and terms that were quoted to you. This ensures you have a clear understanding of the agreement before proceeding.

Contracts typically consist of three components: the merchant application, terms and conditions (or terms of service) and the program guide (or merchant operating guide). On many application forms, you will find personal guarantee clauses that allow the processor to conduct credit checks. These clauses also give the processor the authority to collect money directly from you personally if, for any reason, your business becomes unable to fulfill its obligations.

FYIDid you know
An excessive contract is one that extends for three years or more and renews automatically for additional two-year terms.

Benefits of Using Restaurant Credit Card Processing Software

The primary advantage of credit card processing is the capability to accept various payment methods, including credit and debit cards and increasingly popular mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. This flexibility in accepting different payment types is crucial for almost every type of restaurant, as many customers now prefer cashless transactions and rely on digital payment options.

Speeds Up Service

Restaurants of all kinds rely on speedy operations to increase throughput and generate more sales. Swiping or tapping a credit card is usually much faster than dealing with cash payments and fetching change for customers. Choosing the right combination of credit card processing software and hardware ensures seamless service and fast payment.

Helps You Collect More Tips for Workers

Although tipping in the United States has traditionally been reserved for sit-down restaurants, many credit card processing devices now include tip screens for all types of establishments. In recent years, fast-food and quick-service eateries have provided customers with the option to leave a tip. This can help boost employee pay without impacting your bottom line.

Enhances Restaurant Security

In recent years, many restaurants have stopped accepting cash payments and switched entirely to credit cards and mobile payments, largely for security reasons. Going cashless makes your restaurant less of a target for robbers, which keeps your employees and customers safe. It also prevents employee theft, which can sometimes come with a cash-based business.

Creates Incentives for Diners

Many credit cards offer additional rewards for dining-related purchases. Accepting all credit card brands is one way for you to bring in more customers and generate more sales at your restaurant.

Allows You to Charge No-Shows

To encourage diners to make more responsible reservations, many restaurant owners now require them to hand over credit card information during their booking. This lets you charge a no-show fee for customers who decide to skip their reservation with no prior notice.

Streamlines Your Finances

Because credit card payments are electronic, you don’t need to worry about bundling and depositing large amounts of cash into your business bank account. Instead, you can sync your credit card processor with your accounting software to ensure that all transactions are automatically recorded.

Enables You to Accept Payments Offline

Most credit card processors, including the ones we reviewed, offer support for offline card processing. In an environment such as a restaurant, you may lose power or internet connectivity when diners are in the middle of a meal. Credit card processing software allows you to continue accepting payments in the event of an outage. Once power is restored, the payments process normally.

Ensures You Don’t Miss Sales

Credit card processors make it easy to accept payments across multiple sales channels, which is often crucial for a restaurant’s sales. You can accept payments at your restaurant’s physical location with a countertop payment terminal, card reader or POS system. Using a virtual terminal, you can input credit card details for customers that call in orders from home. You can also accept payments over the internet using several methods, including through a website or third-party delivery app.

FAQs About Credit Card Processing for Restaurants

Restaurant owners must ensure that they choose the right credit card processing hardware. POS devices not only take care of the hardware side of credit card processing but also impact the customer experience. Mobile card readers, handheld terminals and countertop terminals are the three options offered by many credit card processors. All three offer different benefits, depending on the type of restaurant that you run. A small food cart or food truck may prefer an inexpensive, mobile-first solution while a restaurant with table service may require a handheld device for tableside payments.

Credit card processors sometimes won’t take on businesses that they consider to be high-risk, such as gambling or tobacco-related businesses. Restaurants, however, are not generally considered to be high-risk by credit card processors.

The downside of accepting credit cards is that you need to pay fees to both the processor and the credit card company. Because many restaurants are already low-margin businesses, this can represent a significant bite out of profits. In some U.S. states, it is illegal for businesses to add a surcharge for credit card use, but many others allow the practice. Be sure to look into your state’s laws to ensure that you follow all local laws and procedures.

When a diner uses a credit card to pay, the credit card issuer will place a temporary hold on the account for the cost of the meal. This initial amount does not include any added tip. You will need to adjust the total to reflect any tips for waitstaff, at which point the hold is lifted and the customer is officially charged.

The U.S. Fair Credit Billing Act allows diners to charge back meals for reasons as simple as being unhappy with the quality of the food or service. You can help prevent these disputes by giving customers a carefully itemized bill. If a customer is unhappy with a meal, you may agree to remove it from the bill or offer a substitute.

Mike Berner
Mike Berner
Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations at business.com
Mike Berner is a staff writer at business.com and Business News Daily, where he specializes in finance topics including business loans, accounting, and credit card processing. Mike has a deep background in the financial world, having written hundreds of articles and blog posts on financial markets, business and investing. He holds a B.A. in economics and a B.B.A. in finance, both from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Prior to his writing career, he performed financial analysis and research as an economic analyst.
BDC Logo

Get Weekly 5-Minute Business Advice

B. newsletter is your digest of bite-sized news, thought & brand leadership, and entertainment. All in one email.

Back to top