Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (2024)

To select the best credit card processors, our team of small experts compared the pricing models and fees associated with some of the leading service providers on the market. We considered the options businesses had and how each provider stacked up for businesses with various sales volumes and average transaction sizes. We also considered the cost of options such as payment gateways, available integrations with point-of-sale systems, and the availability of hardware such as credit card scanners. We also reviewed customer feedback about each of the service providers we considered to help inform our best picks. Learn more about our methodology.

Are you a small business owner confused by the dizzying array of credit card processing fees, rates and features? Fear not, because Business News Daily’s team is on your side.

We performed a deep dive into the industry and compiled a curated list of the best credit card processors for every business type and size. Our reviews include summaries of the pros and cons, costs and standout features. Top picks include household names such as Clover and Square, but also lesser-known gems such as Stax and Merchant One. Browse our reviews to find the best credit card processor for your business.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (1)

What Is Credit Card Processing? Credit card processing refers to the steps involved in transferring funds from a customer’s credit card account to a merchant’s account during a transaction. The processor acts as a bridge between the merchant and the credit card network, verifying the details of the transaction and ultimately transferring funds.

Best Credit Card Processors

  • Clover Credit Card Processing:Best for POS Hardware
  • Merchant One:Best for Easy Approval
  • Stax:Best for High-Revenue Businesses
  • Payment Depot:Best for Wholesale Pricing
  • Square:Best for New Businesses
  • PayPal Credit Card Processing:Best for Easy Setup
  • Helcim:Best All-Inclusive Credit Card Processor
  • Sekure:Best for Personalized Service
  • National Processing:Best for Small Budgets
  • Flagship Merchant Services:Best for Flexible Terms

Find the Right Credit Card Processor for Your Business

Fill out this questionnaire to find vendors that meet your needs.

How We Decided

Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.

101

considered

35

reviewed

12

selected

Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.

101

considered

35

reviewed

12

selected

Compare Our Best Picks

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (2)

Our Top Picks for 2024

Clover Credit Card Processing

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (3)

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Merchant One

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (4)

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Stax

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (5)

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Payment Depot

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (6)

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Square

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (7)

PayPal Credit Card Processing

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (8)

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Helcim

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (9)

Sekure

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (10)

National Processing

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (11)

Flagship Merchant Services

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (12)

Rating9.1/108.8/109.0/108.6/109.2/107.7/109.4/108.9/108.3/107.9/10
Use case

POS Hardware

Easy approval

High revenue businesses

Wholesale pricing

New Businesses

Easy Setup

All-Inclusive

Personalized service

Small budgets

Flexible Terms

Starting price

from $14.95

$6.95 + $99 annual fee

from $99

from $59

none

none

none

contact for quote

from $9.95

contact for a quote

Free trial period

from 2.3% + 10 cents

from 0.29%

from 8 cents

from 7 cents

from 2.6%

from 1.9%

from 1.94%

contact for quote

from 0.12% + 6 cents

contact for a quote

Mobile applications

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

n/a

No

No

Integration options

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Bill pay tools

Same day

Within 2 business days

Same day

Within 2 business days

Within 2 business days

2 to 5 business days

Within 2 business days

Same day

Within 2 business days

Same day

Review Link
Read Clover Credit Card Processing Review
Read Merchant One Review
Read Stax Review
Read Square Review
Read Helcim Review
Read National Processing Review

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Our Reviews

  • Monthly fee: from $14.95
  • Processing fee: from 2.3% + 10 cents
  • Hardware cost: from $49

Editor's Rating: 9.1/10

866-342-4017Visit Site

Why We Chose It

Clover is well-known among small businesses for its best-in-class POS hardware, which is resold by many competing processors. We think this speaks to the quality of Clover’s products. You can choose from a range of POS devices, including card readers, terminals and handheld devices. The in-house hardware works seamlessly with Clover’s software and is ready to use right out of the box.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (14)

Clover offers a variety of POS devices. Source: Clover

We found that Clover’s POS software is equally robust. With Clover, you can easily take credit card payments and other digital payments. The company also provides tools for returns, digital receipts, quick tipping, inventory management, reporting and much more.

Clover ProsClover Cons
Variety of plans to choose from.Monthly subscription fees.
You are not charged per-employeeHigher processing fees than some competitors.
Best-in-class POS hardware.Hardware is pricier than alternatives

Key Details

Monthly pricing

Clover’s pricing structure depends on business type, as well as which software features and hardware that you choose.

StarterStandardAdvanced
Full-service dining$150$195$290
Quick-service dining$90$130$175
Retail shops$60$130$175
Professional services$14.95$50$120
Personal services$50$90$130
Home and field services$14.95$49$50

Processing fees

Clover’s processing fees depend on your plan and hardware bundle.

  • Starter: 5% + $0.10 for card-not-present transactions.
  • Standard: 5% + $0.10 for card-not-present transactions; 2.6% + $0.10 for card-present transactions.
  • Advanced: 5% + $0.10 for card-not-present transactions; 2.3%+ $0.10 for card-present transactions.

Hardware

Clover’s top-notch hardware line contains a variety of devices, including the following:

  • $49 card reader.
  • $599 handheld terminal.
  • $1,799 register.

  • Monthly fee: $6.95 + $99 annual fee
  • Processing fee: from 29%
  • Hardware cost: free options available

Editor's Rating: 8.8/10

855-794-1134Visit Site

Why We Chose It

We included Merchant One on our list for its high approval rates compared with most other processors. The company accepts 98 percent of applicants, including high-risk merchants and those with low credit scores. Unlike many credit card processors, Merchant One doesn’t turn away businesses based on predetermined criteria. In fact, Merchant One asserts that any legitimate business is likely to be approved.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (16)

Merchant One provides several useful software tools, including a virtual terminal. Source: Merchant One

We also like that Merchant charges a low monthly fee and relatively low processing rates. The company will also throw in a handheld POS terminal for free when you sign up for credit card processing service. Merchant One boasts a 4.9/5 on Trustpilot, indicating a high level of customer satisfaction.

Merchant One ProsMerchant One Cons
Fast approvalEarly termination fees may apply
No PCI fees for new customersNo in-house hardware
24/7 supportThree-year contract is required

Key Details

Monthly pricing

Merchant One charges $6.95 a month, plus a $99 annual fee. Other monthly fees may apply, depending on the exact terms of your plan.

Processing fees

Merchant One’s processing rates differ based on the exact type of business

  • In-person transactions: Between 0.29% and 1.55%.
  • Keyed-in transactions: Between 0.29% and 1.99%.

Hardware

Merchant One provides a POS device for free upon signup, as well as third-party devices for purchase.

  • Pax S80
  • Pax S500
  • FD-130
  • Verifone VX-520
  • Clover products

Why We Chose It

Unlike many processors, Stax doesn’t take a percentage of the sale. Instead, it charges a monthly subscription fee that varies by transaction volume, along with a small flat fee per transaction. In our view, this makes Stax ideal for high-revenue businesses that would otherwise spend a fortune on processing fees.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (18)

Stax’s dashboard displays key business statistics. Source: Stax

Stax is also flexible about integration, allowing merchants to mix and match its credit card processing services with different hardware. Stax’s software features include invoicing, a mobile app, e-commerce storefront tools and more.

Stax ProsStax Cons
Software is equipment-agnosticNo in-house hardware
Doesn’t take a cut of revenueSome additional fees may be assessed
Free hardware for new customersMonthly fees are higher than competitors

Key Details

Monthly pricing

Stax offers three monthly subscription plans:

Service PlanPriceDescription
Growth$99Dashboard, track refunds, reports, virtual terminal
Pro$159All features in the Growth plan, plus advanced dashboard, additional reports, invoices, hosted checkout, customer management, third-party integrations
Ultimate$199All features of the previous plans, plus business analytics tools, recurring invoices, one-click shopping cart, catalog management, dedicated account manager

Processing fees

Stax charges a small flat fee per transaction, on top of normal interchange fees:

  • EMV credit card terminal: $0.08 per transaction
  • Mobile credit card reader or online: $0.15 per transaction

Hardware

Stax includes a free terminal or mobile reader with its membership. Third-party POS hardware is also available for purchase, with prices ranging from approximately $100 to $350 for devices such as the Dejavoo Z8, Z9 and Z11

  • Monthly fee: from $59
  • Processing fee: from 7 cents
  • Hardware cost: contact for a quote

Editor's Rating: 8.6/10

(877) 755-3812Visit Site

Why We Chose It

For small businesses that process many transactions, credit card processing fees can add up quickly. However, we think that Payment Depot’s membership-based pricing and wholesale rates can help keep processing costs in check.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (20)

Payment Depot offers SwipeSimple hardware, among other devices. Source: Payment Depot

With Payment Depot, customers pay a monthly subscription fee, plus a small flat fee per-transaction. We like that there are no setup fees, cancellation fees, monthly fees or long-term contracts. Businesses that process a high number of payments stand to save the most when working with Payment Depot. The company partners with third-party vendors to offer processing software and POS hardware.

Payment Depot ProsPayment Depot Cons
Transparent pricingNot available outside the U.S.
No contractSeasonal businesses may pay more when volume is down
Membership-based wholesale pricingNo in-house hardware

Key Details

Monthly pricing

Service PlanPriceDescription
Starter$59Dashboard, ACH processing, surcharge, analytics, backup processing, breach protection
Starter Plus$79Everything in the Starter plan, plys invoicing, recurring charges for subscriptions, text-to-pay, API, QuickBooks integration
Growth$99Everything in the previous plans, plus upgraded dashboard and analytics, import/export data, automatic updates to credit card expirations

Processing fees

Payment Depot’s processing fees depend on your monthly subscription plan:

  • Starter: $0.15 per transaction
  • Starter Plus: $0.10 per transaction
  • Growth: $0.07 per transaction

Hardware

Payment Depot resells POS hardware from Clover, Dejavoo, First Data, Poynt, SwipeSimple and Vital Select (contact the company for a quote).

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (21)

  • Monthly fee: none
  • Processing fee: from 2.60%
  • Hardware cost: from $49

Editor's Rating: 9.2/10

Why We Chose It

Square is well-known among small businesses for its user-friendly hardware and software. The service is ready to go right out of the box, which makes it our best pick for new businesses. While other processors tack on extra fees, Square keeps it simple with interchange-plus pricing. There are no monthly fees, although paid plans are available if you want more features. Square’s popular POS hardware and software are easy to use, and work smoothly with top e-commerce platforms and a variety of third-party business apps.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (22)

Square offers a variety of hardware that makes accepting payments simple. (Source; Square)

Square ProsSquare Cons
No monthly feesHardware is incompatible with other processors
User-friendly hardware and softwareProcessing fees are high
Free reader includedSquare is stricter with high-risk businesses

Key Details

Monthly pricing

Square does not charge monthly fees for the majority of its features. However, speciality features are available on a monthly subscription plan for retailers, restaurants and other service-based businesses. These plans range in price from $29 to $69 a month.

Processing fees

Square’s credit card processing fees depend on the type of transaction, with discounts for paid subscribers.

  • Cards accepted using a Square Reader, Square Register, Square Stand, Square Terminal or Square for Restaurants: 6% + $0.10
  • Square for Retail Plus or Square Appointments: 5% + $0.10

For online, invoice and recurring payments, you’ll pay one of the following transaction fees:

  • Cards accepted using Square Invoices or the Square Online Store: 9% + $0.30
  • Square Online Store Premium Plan: 6% + $0.30
  • Virtual Terminal, Square Point of Sale App, Card on File: 5% + $0.15

Hardware

Square offers a wide variety of hardware for purchase:

  • Free Square Reader for magstripe upon signup.
  • $49 Square Reader for contactless and chip.
  • $149 Square Stand for contactless and chip
  • $299 Square Terminal
  • $799 Square Register

  • Monthly fee: none
  • Processing fee: from 1.90%
  • Hardware cost: from $29

Editor's Rating: 7.7/10

Visit Site

Why We Chose It

PayPal is a familiar name in secure payments, and consumers have long trusted the platform to send money to friends, family and businesses. For merchants, PayPal represents a plug-and-play solution to begin accepting payments. One standout feature for us is PayPal’s “pay now” button, which makes it simple for customers to complete a transaction. The platform also offers QR code transactions and email transactions for card-not-present sales.

PayPal ProsPayPal Cons
Well-known brand among consumersNot suitable for brick-and-mortar businesses
Plug-and-play solution for e-commerceProcessing fees are higher than competitors
No monthly feesNo employee management tools

Key Details

Monthly pricing

PayPal does not charge monthly fees.

Processing fees

PayPal maintains an extensive fee schedule, depending on the transaction type. Most include a small flat fee on top of the percentage take. Here are the fees for some of the most common transactions:

  • PayPal Checkout: from 49%
  • QR code: from 1.90%
  • Online and email: from 99%

Hardware

The new PayPal Zettle card reader retails for $29, while the terminal starts at $199.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (24)

  • Monthly fee: none
  • Processing fee: from 1.94%
  • Hardware cost: from $109

Why We Chose It

Helcim stood out as our top choice for businesses seeking a comprehensive solution for credit card processing and financial management. We like that Helcim offers POS software at no extra charge, empowering businesses to efficiently handle sales data, invoicing, subscriptions, payment links and hosted payment pages.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (25)

Helcim’s card reader is available in multiple colors. Source: Helcim

Helcim’s software is compatible with any device, offering merchants a flexible and cost-effective way to operate their businesses. Furthermore, we think that Helcim’s blend of affordable interchange-plus pricing and absence of monthly fees makes it an appealing option for small businesses aiming to maximize savings.

Helcim ProsHelcim Cons
No monthly feesFree hardware not included
Easy-to-use hardware built in-housePOS solution is limited in features
No contractsRates are higher than some competitors

Key Details

Monthly pricing

Helcim does not charge monthly fees.

Processing fees

Helcim offers businesses an interchange-plus pricing model, consisting of a small markup over the interchange rate, plus a small fixed fee.

  • In-person:94% plus 8 cents for transactions made on a physical Helcim terminal.
  • Online: 51% plus 25 cents for e-commerce sales, online invoice payments and virtual terminal transactions.

Hardware

Helcim offers two POS devices designed in-house.

  • $109 card reader
  • $349 terminal

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (26)

  • Monthly fee: contact for quote
  • Processing fee: contact for quote
  • Hardware cost: N/A

Editor's Rating: 8.9/10

Why We Chose It

Sekure is different from our other picks in that it acts as a credit card processing broker. The company will help connect you with a processor and negotiate credit card processing fees. With Sekure, you can choose from various payment methods and tailor a plan to fit your budget and transaction volume. We like that Sekure that guides you through the complexities of credit card processing. Whether you prefer interchange plus pricing, flat rate pricing, or a customized package, Sekure will find a suitable plan.

Sekure ProsSekure Cons
Variety of processing typesSekure is not responsible for bills and charges
Reimbursem*nt of cancellation feesPricing information is not publicly available
Customized solution

Key Details

Monthly pricing

Contact Sekure for a customized quote.

Processing fees

Contact Sekure for a customized quote.

Hardware

Sekure collaborates with various POS system providers:

  • Clover, Chargezoom
  • Payanywhere
  • Cluster POS.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (27)

  • Monthly fee: from $9.95
  • Processing fee: from 0.12% + 6 cents
  • Hardware cost: contact for a quote

Editor's Rating: 8.3/10

Why We Chose It

National Processing’s brand revolves around offering businesses clear and affordable rates for credit card processing. We included the company as a great choice for budget-minded businesses because of its low and transparent rates. The company will lock in your rate for the duration of your contract, allowing you to plan your future budget. By utilizing interchange-plus pricing, National Processing helps businesses save on monthly processing fees, especially if their transaction volume is high.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (28)

National Processing offers a register bundle that includes a cash drawer and other POS equipment. Source: National Processing

National Processing ProsNational Processing Cons
Low interchange-plus pricing for high-volume businessesEarly termination fees
Guaranteed rates for the duration of your termNo free equipment
Works with a variety of businessesSeveral incidental fees

Key Details

Monthly pricing and processing fees

National Processing bases its monthly fees and processing rates on your business type:

Monthly feeInterchange-plus price
Restaurant$9.950.14% + $0.07 above interchange
Retail$9.950.18% + $0.10 above interchange
E-commerce$9.950.29% + $0.15 above interchange
Nonprofit$9.950.12% + $0.06 above interchange
Cash discount$39.95N/A
ACH processing$150-1.5% + $0.48 above interchange
Subscription$590% + $0.09 above interchange
Subscription Plus (includes free terminal)$1990% + $0.05 above interchange

Hardware

National Processing resells a variety of POS hardware from third-party vendors. Prices can be obtained by contacting the company for a quote.

  • Dejavoo
  • SwipeSimple
  • Clover products

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (29)

  • Monthly fee: contact for a quote
  • Processing fee: contact for a quote
  • Hardware cost: contact for a quote

Editor's Rating: 7.9/10

Why We Chose It

Small business owners don’t want to be locked into long-term contracts with exorbitant termination fees. We included Flagship Merchant Services on our list because it offers no long-term contracts and no cancellation fees.

Flagship Merchant Services is a full-service payment processing company that charges on a month-to-month basis and has no cancellation fees. The credit card processor offers two pricing models: the interchange-plus rate and a tiered pricing model.

Flagship ProsFlagship Cons
No long-term contractsRates are not posted publicly
No cancellation feesSome additional fees are assessed
Choice of interchange-plus and tiered processing ratesPCI compliance fee not included

Key Details

Monthly pricing

Contact the company for a quote.

Processing fees

Contact the company for a quote.

Hardware

Flagship offers free hardware for new vendors, and the company also resells hardware from a number of vendors, including Clover and Verifone.

Credit Card Processing Rates

Credit card processing rates are typically expressed as a percentage of the sale plus a small per-transaction fee. Most rates average 2% to 4% of each transaction. The processor considers several factors to determine the processing fees it charges you, including your monthly processing volume, your average ticket size, your business’ industry and your processing history. It may also consider your business and personal credit.

The credit card processing industry is very competitive. Companies want to work with you, especially if you’ve been in business for a few years and process a high volume of payments each month. Many are open to negotiating a deal with you and advertise that they’re willing to meet or beat your current rates. But first, you need to understand what costs go into credit card processing rates and which are negotiable. All rates have three parts:

  • Interchange fees: This is a nonnegotiable rate set by the card networks and every processor pays the same amount. There are hundreds of rates, arranged by industry, card type, sales ticket amount and acceptance method. You can view interchange rate tables on the card networks’ websites.
  • Assessment fees: Like interchange rates, these are nonnegotiable and every processor pays the same amount. These rates vary by card brand.
  • Processor’s markup: This is the only negotiable part of the processing rate.

Here’s why you need to know this information:

  • If a company says it has lower interchange rates than other processors, it’s not true. All processors pay the same amount.
  • If a company posts links to interchange rate tables, indicating that this is what you’ll pay, you need to know that this is only a portion of the rates you’ll pay the processor.

Second, you need to identify which pricing model is best for your business. For most businesses, industry experts recommend interchange-plus pricing, but credit card processing companies prefer tiered pricing because they make more money with it. Some processors give you a choice of pricing models and may allow you to switch so that you can evaluate for yourself which one provides the best savings for your business. Here are the three most common:

Credit Card Processing Pricing Models

Tiered pricingInterchange-plus pricingFlat-rate pricing
Most plans include the following tiers, with different rates for debit and credit cards at each tier:
  • Qualified rate: Regular cards, swiped
  • Midqualified rate: Rewards, swiped
  • Nonqualified rate: Premium rewards, swiped rewards, keyed
Interchange-plus pricing has two parts:
  • Wholesale rate (interchange and assessment). These are not negotiable.
  • Processor’s markup (the percentage and per-transaction fee). You may be able to negotiate this part of the rate.
Flat-rate pricing is expressed as one of the following:
  • Flat percentage of the transaction
  • Flat percentage plus a per-transaction fee
It’s hard to know how much you’re paying the processor – or if you’re overpaying – because each processor decides which rates go into each tier.You can see the processor’s markup, which makes it easier to determine if you’re getting a good deal. This is usually the most cost-effective pricing model.Flat rates are higher than the prices in the other models but may save you money, because most have no additional fees and no contract.
This pricing model is a good choice if your customers prefer paying with debit cards.This is the pricing model most experts recommend for small businesses.This is the best pricing model for businesses with small tickets or low monthly volume.

Tiered Pricing

This is the most common pricing model, but it’s widely criticized by industry experts because it’s not as transparent as interchange-plus pricing. It attempts to simplify the interchange table by combining interchange rates, assessment fees and markups and then sorting them into tiers. Tiered pricing is also referred to as “bundled pricing” or “bucket pricing.”

Most processors categorize these tiers as qualified, midqualified and nonqualified transactions, although some plans may have only two or up to six tiers, with separate rates for credit and debit cards. The factors that determine the transaction category include the type of card ― whether it’s debit or credit and if it’s a regular, rewards, corporate, government-issued or international card ― and how the transaction is processed, whether you accept the card in person using a card reader, accept it online or key it in manually.

Did You Know?

Some processors have a special lower rate for PIN debit transactions.

Critics note a variance between processors as to which interchange rates fall into each tier, which makes it difficult to compare pricing between services. We found this to be true in our research as some processors categorize rewards cards as midqualified and others define them as nonqualified. This variance in tier categorization, sometimes referred to as “inconsistent buckets,” makes it difficult to determine how much you can expect to pay above the set costs for your processing:

  • Low rates advertised on processor websites are usually qualified debit rates. These only apply to nonrewards debit cards accepted in person with a card reader.
  • Qualified debit and qualified credit may be the only rates the sales rep quotes you, so it’s important to ask about the number of tiers, what they cost, which types of cards and acceptance methods each tier includes and what actions may cause a transaction to be downgraded to a lower tier.
  • The tiered pricing model is best for businesses whose customers prefer paying by debit card.

Interchange-Plus Pricing

Most industry experts prefer this model because it promotes pricing transparency. The interchange-plus pricing model may also be called “pass-through pricing” or “cost-plus pricing,” because the processor passes the interchange rates and assessment fees to you at cost and adds a markup.

The processor’s markup stays the same no matter what card type your customers pay with, so you can see how much you’re paying the processor. This makes it easier to spot savings when you’re comparing services. Also, many of the companies that offer interchange-plus pricing post their rates on their websites, which saves you time in gathering rates from the companies you’re interested in learning more about:

  • Many companies will quote you interchange-plus rates if you specifically request it, but some only offer this type of pricing to established customers, requiring you to process with them for a certain amount of time before you qualify. The best companies offer this pricing to all their customers.
  • The rate you’re quoted is only the markup. You’ll pay this amount in addition to the actual interchange rate and assessment fee.
  • Interchange-plus pricing is best for most businesses, and it’s the pricing model recommended by industry experts.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (30)

Some processors such as Square offer free equipment. Source: Square

Flat-Rate Pricing

This is the simplest pricing model. Most processors that use this model charge a fixed percentage rate for each sale, regardless of card type. Alternatively, some processors charge a fixed percentage rate and a per-transaction fee. There are usually different rates for cards accepted in person and online.

Mobile credit card processing companies commonly use this pricing model. There are typically no monthly or annual fees, making it a good option for small businesses that don’t process enough transactions to cover these costs. Most of the time, the only other fee is a chargeback fee, which is only triggered when a customer disputes a transaction.

  • If your business processes less than $2,500 per month, some credit card processors will refer you to a processor with flat-rate pricing.
  • Most companies that offer this pricing structure set you up as a submerchant under their master merchant accounts, allowing for fast setup.
  • Flat-rate pricing is best for businesses that have small sales tickets or process a low volume of credit card transactions each month.

Credit Card Processing Fees

In addition to processing rates, you’ll pay various fees to whichever credit card processor you choose. Some of these are one-time or per-occurrence fees and others are charged monthly or annually.

For a complete list and explanation of fees, including nonstandard fees that you should never pay, see our small business guide to credit card processing fees.

Common Credit Card Processing Fees

Most credit card processing companies charge these recurring fees:

  • The monthly fee (sometimes called a statement fee) usually ranges from $5 to $15. It may be higher if it includes PCI compliance and gateway fees.
  • The monthly minimum fee is normally $25, although this usually means the amount you pay in processing costs, not the minimum dollar amount of sales you must process per month.
  • PCI compliance is $100 per year on average, although some companies may prorate it and charge it monthly, sometimes including it into the monthly fee.
  • The payment gateway fee varies by the payment gateway you use. Most are charged monthly, although some companies also charge a small per-transaction fee.
  • Various network fees, such as Mastercard’s Merchant Location Fee and Visa’s Fixed Acquirer Network Fee, may be passed on to you as either monthly or annual fees.

These fees are also common but only charged per occurrence:

  • Batch fees are nominal daily fees that you pay when you close out the day’s sales, costing 10 to 30 cents and usually the same amount as your per-transaction fee.
  • Address verification service (AVS) fees are usually a few cents per transaction when you use this anti-fraud tool to verify the address and ZIP code of the cardholder.
  • Voice authorization is another antifraud tool with a small per-use fee. It’s rarely required, but you’re charged for each occurrence.
  • Chargeback fees are usually $15 or $20 per incident but may be as much as $45.
  • PCI noncompliance is a high monthly fee that you must pay if you fail to establish and maintain your PCI compliance.
  • A nonsufficient funds (NSF) fee is charged if you don’t have enough money in your business bank account to pay the fees you owe the processor.

Fees to Avoid

Some processors charge a variety of miscellaneous fees in addition to the standard fees listed above. Some of the worst are cancellation fees, club or membership fees and fees for what the contract vaguely defines as “additional services.”

Hidden Fees

Again, it’s important to read the entire contract before you sign anything to make sure no fees are tucked away in the fine print. As you read the contract, note every fee it lists. Then, before you sign the contract, ask your sales rep what each fee is for, how much it costs, how frequently it’s charged and if it can be waived. If the sales rep agrees to waive a fee, be sure to get this in writing, either in the contract or as an addendum.

What Credit Card Processing Features Do You Need?

No matter which credit card processing service you select, you should expect it to provide the basic services that you need to accept payments. The processor should:

  • Allow you to accept all major cards, including Discover and American Express, so you don’t lose sales from users of certain cards.
  • Comply fully with the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and help you attain PCI compliance.
  • Offer EMV-compliant card readers to reduce your vulnerability to fraud and to ensure that, in the event of a security breach, you aren’t held liable for using outdated equipment.
  • Provide readily accessible customer support that you can reach by phone 24/7 so that, no matter what hours your business keeps, you can get the assistance you need immediately.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (31)

Make sure that the credit card processor is compatible with POS equipment that you need. Source: Square

In addition to these criteria, we considered the following factors to evaluate each processing company.

  • Pricing: We looked at processing rates and account fees to find out how much it costs to accept credit card payments with each company. We also considered the pricing model the company uses and how transparent it is about its pricing.
  • Contracts and service terms: Standard processing contracts have lengthy terms and hefty early termination fees that make it difficult to switch providers. We looked for processors that offer month-to-month service with no cancellation fees, rather than locking you into a service.
  • Selection of processing types: Many small businesses want to accept payments wherever their customers are, so we considered whether the processor offers multiple processing methods. We looked for those that allow you to accept PayPal and automated clearing house payments in addition to all major credit cards.
  • Processing equipment options: This industry is notorious for bad leasing contracts, so we looked for processors that allow you to purchase credit card terminals and other processing equipment upfront. Also, whether you need a countertop credit card terminal or a mobile card reader, the processing equipment should allow you to accept chip cards, contactless cards and mobile wallets.
  • Third-party integrations: Because the ability to integrate with POS systems, accounting software and other commonly used business software saves you valuable time, it was one of the features we looked for in a processor.
  • Tap-to-pay capabilities: The pandemic changed the way people pay for things. Cash and credit card transactions are declining in favor of contactless payment methods. With this payment method, customers tap their credit or debit card, wearable device or mobile phone on a contactless payment terminal to complete the transaction. This can speed up the checkout process and keep customers feeling safe. Most newer POS terminals have built-in tap-to-pay capabilities.
  • Funds: We also considered how long it takes the processor to clear the account and deposit the transaction money in your business bank account and whether it offers additional funding options.

Benefits of Using Credit Card Processing

The main benefit of credit card processing is that it allows you to accept credit and debit cards and, in many instances, mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Acceptance of these payment types is increasingly important for nearly every type of business as many customers don’t carry cash anymore.

How Does Credit Card Processing Help With Business Finances?

In addition to preventing loss of business from customers who prefer to pay with cards, credit card processing helps you analyze your sales. Most services either connect with a POS system or provide an online dashboard that lets you run detailed reports on your sales. Many also integrate with accounting software, which saves you the effort of manually entering transaction data and reduces the risk of error due to manually entered data.

What Is Offline Credit Card Process and Why Does It Matter?

Online and contactless payment adoption rates are rising, but what happens if your internet goes down? Knowing that is a very real possibility, you should make sure your credit card processor can support you when you lose internet connectivity. That’s where offline credit card processing comes in. With offline processing, a customer still provides their payment card to the terminal, which encrypts and saves the card data. When your business is back online, the terminal sends the information to the merchant’s bank and card network. From the customer’s point of view, the transaction happened like normal.

Offline card processing isn’t only beneficial when the internet is down. It also enables you to accept payments outside your store. Most credit card processors, including the ones we reviewed, support offline card processing.

What Are the Other Benefits of Credit Card Processing?

Another important benefit is that credit card processors make it easy to accept payments across multiple sales channels:

  • In person: You can accept payments at your brick-and-mortar location with a payment terminal, card reader or POS system. You can also accept payments offsite with an app and mobile card reader.
  • Over the phone: Using a virtual terminal, you can record card details on your computer manually.
  • Online: You can accept online payments in various ways. On your website, you can embed a payment form or hosted payment page. On social media channels and in your text messages, invoices and emails, you can post payment links.
  • Cryptocurrency: Crypto is gaining popularity as more payment companies roll out services to support this method. Mastercard is a great example. The credit card company has teamed up with Bakkt, a company that makes digital crypto wallets, to make it easy for merchants in the U.S. to offer support for bitcoin payments. Merchants will also be able to offer customers cryptocurrency for rewards and loyalty programs.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (32)

Many credit card processors offer software tools, including virtual terminals. Source: Clover

Contracts

When you ask a processor to send you the contract to look over, the rep usually sends a “merchant application,” “merchant agreement,” or even a “pre-application form” for you to fill out. The term “application” is misleading, because it’s part of the contract and signing the application is signing the contract.

Although some applications include the terms and conditions and act as a full contract, most don’t. Some applications include links in the fine print to the terms and conditions and the program guide but, in most cases, you’ll have to ask your rep specifically for these additional documents.

You should read the full contract so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to and can verify the rates, fees and terms you were quoted:

  • Don’t enter your bank account information on an application until you’re ready to sign up with a company.
  • Don’t sign the application until you’ve thoroughly read the full contract and verified that the rates and fees are correct, waivers are noted and you understand the term length and cancellation policy.
  • Contracts usually have three parts: the merchant application, terms and conditions (or terms of service) and the program guide (or merchant operating guide). Make sure you get the full contract to review.

Here are some factors to look for as you review contracts.

Term Length

The industry is shifting away from three-year contracts in favor of month-to-month agreements and all the best processors offer this as an option. A processor should be confident enough in the quality of its service and the competitive value of its pricing that it doesn’t require its customers to sign lengthy contracts.

The only exception that justifies a contract is if you accept free equipment, in which case it’s reasonable for a company to expect you to remain a customer long enough for it to recoup its costs. We recommend purchasing your equipment instead, to avoid long-term contracts, but if you decide to sign a contract for this reason, the contract term length shouldn’t be excessive and the contract shouldn’t renew automatically for additional lengthy terms.

FYI

An excessive contract would span three years or longer and renew for additional two-year terms.

Even if the sales rep tells you that the service is a month-to-month plan with no cancellation fees, it’s still important for you to read the contract and make sure this information is consistent with what the contract says:

  • If the contract says the term is for three years or there’s an early termination fee (ETF), ask for a waiver or amendment that stipulates the service is provided on a month-to-month basis and waives all ETFs.
  • If the processor you want to work with has a lengthy contract, it’s worth trying to negotiate for better terms. Ask the rep if they can give you an amendment that puts you on a month-to-month plan and waives all ETFs.

Automatic Renewals

If you do choose a company with a traditional three-year contract, be aware that these contracts typically renew automatically for additional one- or two-year terms. It’s worth your time to ask for a waiver that puts you on a month-to-month plan after the initial term ends.

Early Termination Fees

There’s usually a very short window before a term expires in which you can cancel your account without incurring an ETF. Most early cancellation fees are a few hundred dollars but some are very expensive.

Scour any contract you sign for “liquidated damages,” which is either a percentage or the full amount of the projected revenue the processor expected to make on your account. This is a very punitive fee that can be exorbitant. The ETF may be disguised as an “early deconversion fee” (EDF), so look for this term in the contract text as well.

Personal Guarantees

Most application forms include personal guarantee clauses that grant the processor the right to perform credit checks. This guarantee also gives the processor the right to collect money from you personally if your business is unable to meet its obligations for any reason.

Did You Know?

In addition to holding you personally responsible for all expenses, some of these clauses hold your successors and heirs responsible for your debt if you pass away.

Additional Service Clauses

These indicate that the processor may sign you up for various additional services that cost extra and you have a very short period (typically 30 days) to cancel or opt out. Again, you may be automatically enrolled in additional services and you must figure out what they are and how to cancel them or you will be charged for them.

Frequently Asked Questions

As a small business owner, you must remain vigilant against credit card fraud. Though most headlines focus on data breaches at major retail chains, small businesses are vulnerable too. Small businesses can shore up their credit card processing security measures by doing two things.
The first step is to ensure that you comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Created by Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and JCB in 2006, this standard requires that businesses meet certain criteria to ensure their transactions are as secure as they can be.

The second action is to upgrade your card reader to accept EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) chip cards. Most credit cards have a chip embedded in one end of the card, and having the technology to read that chip makes the transaction significantly more secure because the chip is harder to counterfeit than the standard magnetic strip.

Credit card processing companies rely on fees to make their money, so there’s no way to completely eliminate credit card processing fees. If you feel you’re paying too much in fees, you can negotiate with credit card processors to reduce them. If you can accept cards in person instead of over the phone or online, you’ll also save money on fees.

Another option is to set a minimum transaction amount that customers must meet before they can pay with a credit card. By doing this, you can ensure you come out on top of the transaction, since it makes more financial sense to pay the fee on a $10 purchase than on a $2 one. Major credit card networks have rules about minimum transaction amounts, so verify that your policy complies with their rules.

Similarly, you can move the fee to your customers entirely by using cash discounts or surcharging. Many gas stations use this method, in which a gallon of gas is discounted if you pay with cash. Though this may cause potential customers to take their business elsewhere, it could encourage people who prefer paying with cash to frequent your store more often. If you go this route, check the credit card networks’ rules for surcharging to ensure you follow best practices.

Authorization holds vary depending on the status of the transaction and the card issuer’s self-imposed time limits. For most transactions, a merchant has up to 30 days to clear an authorization hold, though some credit card companies, like Visa and Discover, have significantly shorter time limits before such authorizations “fall off” the account. If you fail to complete a transaction hold, you run the risk of the credit card processing company charging you a misuse fee.

It typically takes 24 hours to three days to settle a credit card sale. The length of time depends on the merchant account provider and the type of merchant account you have. Thanks to advances in payment technology, the turnaround to clear credit card sales is faster than it used to be. If you choose a direct processor, like Chase — which is a combined processor and acquiring bank — you can expect shorter time frames.

Not all credit card processors work with every business. Industries that are prone to fraud and chargebacks may have a tougher time finding a company to process their sales. Some credit card processors work with high-risk businesses, but they charge more for their services, to mitigate some of the risk. They call their accounts high-risk merchant accounts and charge you more in processing and chargeback fees.

Tobacco and gambling are often perceived as high-risk businesses by credit card processors. Other industries a credit card processor may not work with include pawn shops, subscription services, alcohol sales and firearm dealers.

What to Expect in 2024

Consumers have high expectations for credit card payments, which means you should work with a credit card processor that helps you meet these standards. One requirement is a “fast, frictionless experience” that is also secure, according to 92% of the 7,000 North American and European consumers surveyed for an Ekata report.

One major development is the end of a class action lawsuit brought by small businesses against Visa and Mastercard. As part of the settlement agreement, the two processing giants have agreed to lower interchange fees, impose a five-year freeze on new rate increases and provide more flexibility for businesses to direct customers to their preferred payment methods.

Contactless and cashless payment methods are becoming increasingly popular. The events of the last few years have greatly influenced the economy and the way people make payments. According to PWC, global cashless payments are expected to nearly triple by 2030, and Grandview Research reports that contactless payments will grow 20% annually through the end of the decade. Business owners should expect increased demand for credit card processing as safety concerns and new technology continue to reduce cash-based transactions.

Services that allow consumers to pay for purchases in installments have also grown in popularity. So-called buy now, pay later (BNPL) has become a preferred payment method for a growing number of younger consumers. Notably, shoppers tend to spend more when going this route. We expect that cash-strapped consumers will continue to use this option.

In addition to a “fast, frictionless experience,” consumers expect their data to be secure. Although Visa found that EMV adoption has been highly effective in reducing incidents of card-present fraud, it is still rampant. Payment processing companies are projected to spend billions to detect and prevent fraud.

Progress in artificial intelligence (AI) is aiding small businesses in fortifying their security measures. AI algorithms can analyze transaction data, recognize patterns and promptly identify potential fraudulent activities in real time.

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Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (33)

Elsier Otachi, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Analyst

Elsier Otachi has spent more than 10 years immersed in the B2B and B2C worlds with a focus on SaaS technology, marketing and finance. She specializes in conducting hands-on reviews of essential business software and advising on the best marketing strategies to improve revenue and profitability. She is passionate about helping tech companies increase brand exposure while keeping up to date on the latest advances in business tools.Otachi's expertise has been utilized by outlets like Lifewire and HR.com and software companies like Automation Anywhere and Deputy. She also advises business owners and freelancers through helpful guides published by Fiverr. She holds a bachelor's degree in commerce and marketing, along with credentials from HubSpot, Semrush, The Global Leadership Network and others.

Best Credit Card Processors of 2024 (2024)
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