Credit card processing companies provide you the tools you need to accept credit card payments, whether in a brick-and-mortar store, online, or using a mobile device. There are many options that are suitable for startups needing an easy solution, ecommerce operations, and established businesses that need a traditional merchant account — or all the above.
Top 6 Credit Card Processing Companies 2019
|Credit Card Processor||Best For|
|Square||(Best Overall) Small businesses wanting no monthly fee, low rates, and POS software|
|PayPal||Retailers with lower monthly sales that want the lowest fixed in-person rate (2.7%)|
|Shopify||eCommerce businesses that require an all-in-one payment processor, online shopping cart, website, and POS software|
|Dharma||Businesses with transactions of $20 and higher and $10,000 monthly sales that need low rates and POS software integrations|
|Fattmerchant||Seasonal sellers who need a traditional merchant account, and a pause feature for off-seasons|
|Stripe||Companies that want to create custom integrations for online subscription-based businesses or in-app payments|
Which Payments Provider Is Right For You?
How We Evaluated Credit Card Processing Companies
There seems to be an endless number of credit card processing companies out there, which makes it hard for many business owners to figure out which one is best. We’ve whittled the large list down to the best credit card processing options for a variety of businesses, from startups to mom-and-pop shops to big businesses.
Based on what businesses need from credit card processing companies, we considered the following criteria:
- Pricing: Whether a company offers fixed rates or interchange-plus fees, it should be affordable for your business type
- Device compatibility: We considered how each credit card processor works with your equipment, such as credit card readers and mobile devices
- POS features & integration: A credit card processing company should offer integration to work with your point-of-sale (POS) system or offer its own POS software
- Customer support: We looked at how credit card processing companies handle support, be it technical or customer relations, including how well it handles disputes, and customer support availability
- Additional features: We evaluated extra features and add-on services from each provider, such as offline support and payroll
- User reviews: It’s important to consider what current users think about each service, so we looked at several reviews for each credit card processing company
Taking all the criteria above into consideration, we chose Square as the overall best credit card processing company for businesses. It’s a good choice for most because it’s easy to use, there are no setup or monthly costs, the fees are fair, and you’re getting more for your money than just credit card processing. Square includes a powerful POS system built into its mobile and web app so that you can manage your business easily.
Square: Best Overall Credit Card Processing Company for Businesses
Square is a credit card processing company that has a free POS app and fixed-rate transaction fees. You can start taking payments right away with a free Square account, making it a great solution for startups. The app is intuitive, and both software and hardware are more stable and reliable than any other option.
Square is one of the most affordable credit card processing companies when you’re getting started. There are no costs to sign up, no monthly fees, and you can accept credit cards any way you need to, including in-person, from a mobile phone, keying in numbers manually with a virtual card reader, or online. The fee structure is easy to understand too, although it might be more expensive than a traditional credit card processing company for small businesses that pull in high monthly revenue.
|In-person Transaction Fee*|
|Online & Invoices Transaction Fee*|
|Keyed-in Transaction Fee*|
|Square Terminal Transaction Fees*|
|Square Register Transaction Fees*|
Square offers more than just a payment gateway and credit card processing, so you can do more with it than accept credit card payments. It’s a full POS option, so you can track sales, save customer information, manage inventory, and run reports. Square integrates with QuickBooks so that you can manage your accounting too.
With Square, you can process payments using any method, whether that’s online, in person, or over the phone. There are plenty of hardware options Square offers, including its terminal and register, free magstripe card reader for your mobile device, or the virtual terminal through the web app. Square works on iOS and Android devices, and the POS has an offline mode so that you can keep taking credit cards even when there isn’t a connection ― processing will occur for all those cards once you do have a connection.
POS Features in Square
You won’t need to find separate POS software to integrate with Square as it has built-in POS features to help you manage your business. Set up your inventory, create customer profiles, and track each sale from Square’s web or mobile app. You can integrate other software with Square, such as Mailchimp for email marketing or Stitch Labs for more robust inventory control.
Square’s Customer Support
Square’s customer support team is available by phone from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time during weekdays. The support center is helpful when you can’t reach someone by phone as its full of tips, FAQs, troubleshooting articles, and guides. Plus, Square updates any current known issues on a bar at the top of the page.
What Square Is Missing
The biggest downfall to using Square as your credit card processing company choice is that you have no room for negotiation in the fees you pay. Whereas Fattmerchant can offer lower rates to businesses with a higher volume of monthly sales. The fixed rate remains fixed, so if your small business grows and you’re making more money per month, you’ll pay the same rate, which can eat up a lot of your profits.
Many users who have left Square reviews seem happy with how easy it is to get started and use Square. The offline option is a big plus for reviewers who know they can still make sales, even if an internet connection isn’t available. However, common complaints include the level of customer support from Square, especially as it relates to chargebacks. Many users feel Square doesn’t advocate strongly enough for the merchant.
PayPal: Best Credit Card Processing Company for Low In-person Fixed Rate
PayPal is a credit card processor with a low in-person fixed rate. It’s a great option for businesses with transactions averaging $10 to $20 each, and $10,000 or less in monthly sales. Also, the ability to accept PayPal on your website and in person can drive sales up for some retailers.
Depending on which sales channel you’re using, the fees vary for PayPal. If you only ever accept card-present payments and your small business typically processes $10,000 or less per month, you’ll pay less than you would with Square. Like Square, PayPal has no startup fees. However, if you require a virtual terminal and other services, you’ll have to pay $30 per month for PayPal Payments Pro.
|Monthly Fee (Standard)|
|Monthly Fee (Pro)*|
*PayPal Payments Pro is needed for the virtual terminal, so it’s included in the virtual rates example only
**American Express charges are 3.5%
***These examples are assuming a customer is paying with a Visa debit card, in-person and virtually
PayPal is a household name when it comes to online payments and having the credit card processor as a payment option can drive sales. For merchants that want to add a PayPal button to their websites, it’s easy to do, and it only costs you per transaction. The POS app, PayPal Here, gives you enough basic features to help you manage your business too.
You can integrate PayPal as a payment option using your online shopping cart, create a button on your website, or you can create a customized integration. PayPal Here, along with a PayPal credit card reader, will allow you to accept credit card and PayPal payments in person. Whether you need to accept credit cards in person, online, by phone, or using mail order, PayPal allows it.
POS Features in PayPal
The PayPal Here app offers some basic POS features, but none are as robust as other all-in-one credit card processing companies, like Square and Shopify. You can create an inventory, manage sales, and create custom receipts. There are also helpful reports to show you how your business is doing.
PayPal’s Customer Support
The PayPal customer support center includes a knowledge base and a forum, which are both great starting points for any questions you might have. There’s also phone and email support so that you can speak directly with a customer service rep if you have questions or issues. Unless your business is done primarily through eBay, chargeback assistance from PayPal can be helpful ― PayPal doesn’t cover eBay sales.
What PayPal Is Missing
Compared to other services like it, such as Square, PayPal limits you as a merchant if you need a virtual terminal. While Square allows you to manage online, in-person, and virtual sales from one free account, PayPal requires you to pay a $30 monthly fee to have access to a virtual terminal, which can eat up cost savings.
Most users seem to leave positive PayPal reviews, citing the company’s fair rates, ease of use, and having a name that customers trust as many will pay with PayPal rather than enter their credit card information online. The negative reviews typically relate to dispute issues ― often siding with the customer rather than the merchant ― and phone customer support can be hit or miss.
Shopify: Best Credit Card Processing Company for eCommerce Businesses
Shopify is more than a credit card processing company. It’s also an ecommerce solution, POS system, and mobile payment option. It’s a suitable choice for any company that wants an all-in-one payment provider. The different plans give you more options and better rates, the higher you go.
Pricing for Shopify is a little more complicated than other aggregators like Square and PayPal. The monthly plan starts at $9 and goes up to $299 but, as you go up the tiers, the rates decrease. So, for the $9 plan, you pay 2.9%, plus 30 cents per transaction, but that’s only online rates. The Advanced Shopify plan costs $299 per month, but online rates drop to 2.4% plus 30 cents and 2.4% for in-person payments. For this price comparison, we’ll stick with the Basic Shopify plan, but you can read more about all the plans and pricing in our Shopify guide.
|Monthly Fee (Basic)|
Shopify’s features are comparable to its direct competitors in many ways. Its focus is the ecommerce sales channel, but you can also use Shopify as your credit card processor for in-person, keyed-in, and mobile sales. The POS features are powerful, and you’ll get a hosted website, prebuilt themes, and plenty of integration options.
Shopify lets you sell your goods online, in person, in a store, from your phone, social media, and using a manual keyed-in method for phone and mail orders. The web app can be accessed from any browser, and the mobile app is compatible with iOS and Android devices. Like Square, Shopify has a built-in POS, so you won’t need to integrate it with a separate POS system.
POS Features in Shopify
You’ll find all the basics of a POS system in Shopify’s app. The Basic plan includes inventory control, customer profiles, and reports. You can also apply discounts to individual products, the whole ticket, or apply store credit. For more advanced reports, gift cards, and calculated shipping, which is important for ecommerce businesses, you’ll have to upgrade to a higher tier.
Shopify’s Customer Support
The support section for Shopify might be able to answer your question without you having to contact anyone, but if you still need help after going through the help files, you have four options. You can email, live chat, call, or talk to someone on Twitter, and help is available 24/7. Wait times for the live chat option can be a bit long, however.
What Shopify Is Missing
In a way, Shopify offers rate shopping with its own credit card processor, but you’ll need to bring in big sales each month to make up for the higher monthly fee as you move up to another tier. As far as its features are concerned, Shopify is mostly complete, but it’s better suited for a retailer than a restaurateur as there’s no built-in tipping option like with Square.
In Shopify reviews, you’ll find most users are satisfied with the features, rates, and support they get from the credit card processing company. However, many merchants complain about having funds frozen for 90 days and their accounts shut down, which is common with aggregators because high-risk merchants aren’t vetted first, and then not supported by Shopify.
Dharma: Best Credit Card Processing Company for Average Transactions of $20 & Higher
Dharma is a traditional merchant services provider, and it offers the lowest rates of any payment processor on our list, but it isn’t for everyone. It’s an ideal choice for an established company that’s processing at least $10,000 monthly in credit card sales and has an average ticket of $20 or more.
Dharma’s interchange-plus pricing structure is familiar to businesses that already have merchant accounts. Dharma only charges a $20 monthly fee, plus 0.15% to 0.20% and 7 to 10 cents per transaction depending on how a card is charged. The monthly fee makes this a more expensive option compared to Square or PayPal for businesses doing small amount transactions, but the higher each ticket is, the more cost savings you’ll see with Dharma.
*This rate is based on Visa debit.
**These fees can vary, but they’re set by credit card companies.
***These examples are assuming a customer is paying with a Visa debit card, both in-person and virtually.
As a merchant services provider, Dharma makes it possible for you to accept credit cards online, at a store, or on the go with the MX Merchant Express mobile app. There are no added fees to use the MX Merchant web app or the Express mobile app, so you won’t have any surprise charges. Those apps include basic POS features, but Dharma can also integrate as a payment provider with many POS systems, but you may need to connect a payment gateway as well.
The great thing about the MX Merchant web app and its companion mobile app is that both work on iOS or Android devices or any browser. Because Dharma uses fixed rates for virtual credit card processing, there’s no need to get a mobile card reader. However, a card reader is likely to make customers feel more secure. You can use Dharma as your credit card processing company, whether you take cards in person, online, from your mobile phone, by mail, or phone orders.
POS Features With Dharma
The MX Merchant app comes at no added cost to Dharma merchants, and it includes a virtual terminal for accepting keyed-in credit card payments, a customer database where you can store customers’ credit card numbers, which is great for recurring subscription payments, contact information, and reports so that you can track sales, refunds, and more.
Dharma’s Customer Support
Dharma offers dedicated support to each of its merchants, so you’re likely to get a hold of someone on the phone right away. The credit card processor offers 24-hour phone lines, unlike Square, which is only available 12 hours per day.
What Dharma Is Missing
Dharma has some of the lowest rates for many companies, but it won’t offer cost savings for merchants that merchants that are processing lower transactions, and it doesn’t have an option suitable for those smaller businesses. It also doesn’t have the wealth of POS features you can find in Square or Shopify.
Overall, the Dharma reviews online are positive with users commenting on the low rates and attentive customer support. Dharma doesn’t support high-risk merchants, so there are some negative reviews from those who weren’t approved for an account with Dharma.
Fattmerchant: Best Credit Card Processing Company for Seasonal Sellers
Fattmerchant is a credit card processing company that uses subscription-based and interchange-plus pricing. It’s a great choice for established businesses or a seasonal business that expects to make $10,000 or more in monthly sales that need to pause their account during offseason. The $99 fee makes it too pricey for most startups.
When you compare Fattmerchant’s interchange-plus pricing to Dharma’s, it seems as though Fattmerchant is a better deal ― interchange, plus 8 cents vs interchange, plus 0.15 percent, plus 7 cents, respectively ― but you have to keep in mind the $99 monthly fee from Fattmerchant ― $199 for businesses making more than $500,000 annually.
If you have higher ticket sales and you’re making at least $10,000 monthly, it could be a better choice compared to Square. If you sell online and in person, however, you’ll need a separate account for each sales channel, which doubles your monthly payment.
*This rate is based on Visa debit
**These fees can vary, but they’re set by credit card companies
***These examples are assuming a customer is paying with a Visa debit card, in-person and virtually
Fattmerchant offers plenty of tools to help you manage your business and accept payments the way you want. You can accept credit cards through POS hardware, a web app, on your website, through a virtual terminal, or using a card reader with your mobile phone or tablet. Seasonal sellers will want to make use of Fattmerchant’s pause feature during offseason.
However you want to sell your products and accept payments, Fattmerchant can help. It offers an application programming interface (API), which allows you to connect to a POS system of your choice. You can also hire a developer to use Fattmerchant’s development library to create a custom payment solution for your website, mobile app, or hardware, much like Stripe.
POS & Pause Features in Fattmerchant
Fattmerchant’s portal called Omni includes a dashboard where you can see your year-to-date profits, refunds, and more data as it relates to sales. You can also set up website payments and connect other apps. A seasonal business can pause an account with Fattmerchant for $25 per month rather than $99 when you aren’t making sales. This can save you the time and hassle of having to reopen a new one when you’re ready to sell again.
Fattmerchant’s Customer Support
You’ll find a helpful knowledgebase with articles and tips on Fattmerchant’s website. These could be enough to help troubleshoot any issues you have. Otherwise, there’s a 24/7 tech support phone line, or you can email with your questions.
What Fattmerchant Is Missing
Fattmerchant doesn’t have a suitable plan for a startup business that might not be making enough sales or microsellers that have small tickets like $10 to $20 per transaction. The $99 monthly fee per sales channel could be too expensive for many small businesses.
Most of the Fattmerchant reviews seem to be from satisfied customers. The pass-through interchange rates are mentioned frequently, and many established businesses claim they’re saving money having switched credit card processing companies. There are some complaints out there from those who have experienced reviews of high-risk transactions and had their accounts frozen and funds held.
Stripe: Best Credit Card Processing Company for Customizing Payment Integrations
Stripe is a different kind of credit card processing company in that it targets businesses that need customized payment solution, such as crafting a payment flow that fits a business’ look and feel. The pricing is standard for online aggregators, and you can sign up instantly for an account.
Stripe offers a variety of pricing structures for different business needs. The standard structure is the fixed-rate fee for online transactions of 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction, similar to PayPal. If you choose in-person credit card processing, you’ll pay $59 per device per month, but your rate goes down to 2.7%, plus 5 cents per transaction. Recurring billing, international rates, and multiparty payments, such as for marketplaces, all have different fees.
|Monthly Fee (Standard)|
|Monthly Fee (Terminal)*|
*These examples are assuming a customer is paying with a Visa debit card, in-person, and online
Stripe is one of the most developer-friendly credit card processing companies with several features to help you create a custom payment platform either online or in-person. Using Stripe’s tools and a dev’s coding knowledge, you could have your own app with built-in payments. There are also plenty of third-party integrations, so you can likely use Stripe as your credit card processing company with the POS system of your choice.
The list of integrations that work with Stripe are numerous. Whether you’re looking for an accounting, email marketing, or inventory management solution, you’re likely to find it works with Stripe. You can set Stripe up for in-person, online, and mobile app payments. A virtual terminal is available in Stripe’s web app (under Payments), but the company encourages you to use it only occasionally and when necessary.
Developer Features in Stripe
Using Stripe’s tools, you can create embeddable checkouts, buttons galore, and customize the whole shopping process for your customers on your website or in an app. In fact, Shopify’s payments system uses Stripe. The tech-forward company can work as a credit card processor only, but it’s better suited for a larger company that wants to design its own POS and payments platform.
Stripe’s Customer Support
Customer support with Stripe starts at the developer documentation page. You’re likely to find an answer to your technical question there and, if not, you can speak with a member of Stripe’s development team on IRC (Freenode) at the #stripe channel. Stripe offers 24/7 support by phone and live chat but for customers only. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for an email response, but Stripe typically answers within 24 hours.
What Stripe Is Missing
For all that Stripe is, there’s a lot that’s missing from this credit card processor. Seeing as how it’s similar in price structure to Square, you might expect the same features. However, Stripe doesn’t include POS features, mobile credit card readers, or a “real” virtual terminal, all of which are available from Square.
In Stripe reviews online, there are plenty of happy customers who sing the praises of Stripe’s automated fraud prevention (Radar, offered at 4 cents per transaction) and the vast array of developer tools. However, there are some negative reviews regarding customer support’s often slow responses and that integrating Stripe isn’t exactly user-friendly.
The Bottom Line
You have a lot of choices when it comes to credit card processing companies. While a traditional merchant services provider works well for larger, established businesses that are processing tens of thousands of dollars per month, a fixed-rate option is going to be a better solution for a smaller company that brings in small transactions and monthly totals.
We chose Square as the best credit card processor because it is a suitable choice for most businesses that want to accept credit cards online, in person, using a mobile device, and using a virtual terminal. The rates are fair for low transaction amounts, and you get many business management features with no monthly fee. Go to Square’s website to open your free account today.