Merchant services allow businesses to accept credit and debit card payments at a point-of-sale (POS) system, online, or through invoices. Technically, there is no way to accept card payments for free. However, there are merchant service and payment service providers with no setup fees, contracts, or monthly fees and more affordable alternative payment options.
Top 7 Free Merchant Account Services 2019
|Merchant or Payment Service Provider||Best For:|
|Square||(Best Overall) Small businesses wanting low processing rates & free suite of business management tools|
|PayPal||Nonprofits & small businesses wanting free POS & low processing rates for mobile sales|
|Chase Merchant Services||Small businesses wanting a low-cost traditional merchant account with no contract|
|QuickBooks||QuickBooks customers who want to accept ACH & e-check payments for free|
|Stripe||Small online businesses that need a free ecommerce checkout|
|Due||Freelancers and service providers wanting free time tracking & invoicing software|
|Cash App||Free peer-to-peer payments for individuals|
How We Evaluated Free Merchant Accounts
New businesses need a merchant account that has minimal startup costs, transparent billing practices, and can scale as you grow. Processing fees can become very costly, especially with a provider that has variable fees, unclear billing practices, or monthly minimums. Although there are no “free” merchant accounts, we prioritized services that don’t come with a monthly fee.
We used the following criteria to determine the most affordable merchant services and payment processing companies:
- Cost: We only considered merchant services and payment processing companies that don’t charge a monthly fee and have competitive processing rates.
- Startup fees or monthly minimums: We only considered merchant services and payment processors that don’t require businesses to process a certain amount of payments each month, and solutions that have little or no startup cost.
- Hardware costs and capabilities: For in-store and mobile payments, we considered the costs of card readers and other necessary equipment and their built-in features.
- Fast payment funding: We looked at how quickly each solution makes funds from transactions available to businesses.
- Ease of use: We looked at how easy each solution is to set up and start using.
- Business management features: We considered extra features like free POS systems, sales reports, employee management, and more when determining the overall cost-effectiveness of each solution.
- Integrations: We considered what other software programs each merchant service and payment processing solution integrates with.
Based on the above criteria, Square is our top pick for free merchant accounts. There’s no application or approval process to use Square payments, plus Square comes with low, flat-rate fees, a free POS app, and a free card reader. When it comes to keeping startup costs low, you can’t beat Square.
Square: Best Overall Free Merchant Account for Small Businesses
Square is a free payment processing and POS solution. Unlike traditional merchant accounts that require an application and approval process, anyone can sign up for Square and receive the same processing rates. Square’s low startup costs and processing rates, sleek interface, and advanced POS features make it the best free merchant account for small businesses.
Square Merchant Services Pricing
Square offers flat-rate payment processing at just 2.75%. We did the math, and this rate is one of the most affordable options for businesses that have a low average transaction size (below $20). Square has no monthly fees, minimum processing requirements, annual fees, or PCI compliance fees. Businesses receive a free magstripe card reader in the mail after signing up for Square and can use that to process payments on Square’s free POS app.
Specific Square payment fees include:
- In-person processing fees: 2.75% (lower rates available with certain hardware and software purchases)
- Online processing fees: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction
- Monthly fees: $0
- Monthly minimums: $0
- Hardware costs: Free magstripe card reader, extras are $10 each; chip reader available for $35; and contactless reader available for $49
- Payment funding: One to two business days, or pay 1% extra for instant funding
Square Payment Processing Features
In addition to low processing rates, Square provides businesses with an unbeatable value when you consider the total package. Square’s free POS app has all the essential functions you need to manage a basic retail, cafe, or food truck business. With many of the other merchant accounts and payment processors on our list, you would need to invest in a separate POS or business management software.
Square In-person & Mobile Payments
Square is a leader in the mPOS space, offering an advanced mobile app for accepting payments on the go. Square can be used on any Apple or Android smartphone or tablet to accept mobile and in-person payments for the same 2.75% flat fee. One of the biggest advantages of using Square over another payment processor is Square can accept payments even when offline, which is an ideal feature for mobile businesses like vendors and food trucks.
Square in-person card processing features include:
- A competitive flat-rate fee of 2.75%
- Free mobile POS app
- Accept all major credit and debit cards
- Receive funds within one to two business days, or instantly for a 1% fee
- Offline payments—no internet connection required to process credit cards
- Digital receipts with email and text options
- Tipping features that can be turned on or off
- Automated customer directory—Square remembers customers based on payment method
Note: Square has recently changed its flat-rate fee of 2.75% to 2.6% + 10 cents per transaction. We will update the pricing and our ranking of providers in the next update of this article.
Square Online Payments, Ecommerce & Invoicing
In addition to mobile and in-person payments, Square has easy-to-use solutions for online, ecommerce, and invoice payments. All online payments processed through Square have the same 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction fee, which is a competitive rate and the same as PayPal, Stripe, and others. Square integrates with major ecommerce platforms such as BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento, WordPress, and more. Square also has free invoicing software to create and send professional invoices.
Square online payments features include:
- Competitive 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction processing fee
- Accept all major debit and credit cards
- Create a basic online store for free
- Free invoicing software
Square Free Business Management Features
In addition to its free payment platform, Square also has a free POS system. When you set up a Square account, you automatically receive both the Payments and the POS system. They work together in the same app. Similar POS systems can cost upwards of $40 per month, so this is a great value. The POS includes basic inventory management, sales reports, and a customer directory.
Businesses can also create a free basic online store with Square, and sell digital gift cards at no extra cost. Some POS systems work based on licenses, so you need to pay extra to use the program on multiple devices. With Square, you can download and use the Payments and POS app on an unlimited number of smartphones and tablets.
Most Popular Square Integrations
Square has a lot of features you can add on as needed for a monthly fee, such as loyalty programs, email marketing, employee management, payroll, and more. Square also has integration partnerships with many outside programs including QuickBooks, Xero, WordPress, Zip Recruiter, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and many more.
What Square Is Missing
If you sell expensive products and have a high average transaction, or have a high monthly sales volume ($20,000 or greater), Square’s payment processing rates may be too high for you. You may be able to find lower processing rates from another company.
Square has excellent reviews for POS and average reviews for payment processing. Users like how easy Square is to set up and use to accept payments. Some reviews cite difficulty reaching Square’s customer service and resolving merchant account issues in a timely manner. Visit our Square reviews page for more information.
PayPal: Best Free Merchant Services for Nonprofits
PayPal is an electronic payments company that offers low-cost, user-friendly payment processing for individuals and small businesses. PayPal has a sleek mobile POS app and extremely competitive payment processing rates, with even lower rates available for nonprofit organizations, making PayPal a great fit for small nonprofits and businesses alike.
PayPal Merchant Services Pricing
PayPal has lower processing rates than Square, at just 2.7% for in-person payments. Nonprofits receive an even lower processing rate of 2.2%. In terms of price, PayPal offers the most affordable credit card processing. Like Square, PayPal has no application process, monthly fees, or monthly minimums.
- In-person processing fees: 2.7%
- Online processing fees: 2.9% plus 30 cents
- Monthly fees: $0
- Monthly minimums: $0
- Hardware costs: Mobile swipe reader: $14.99; chip and swipe reader: $24.99; chip and tap reader: $59.99; and more available through the website
- Payment funding: Same-day funding available
PayPal Payment Processing Features
In addition to having the lowest processing fees, PayPal also offers a decent amount of extra features like same-day funding, a mobile POS app with product management, and the ability to accept PayPal payments. PayPal payments may not play a big role for businesses that sell in-person, but for online sellers, having PayPal as another payment option is a great asset.
Specific PayPal free merchant account features include:
PayPal In-person & Mobile Payments
PayPal offers flat-rate fees for mobile and in-person payments. PayPal has the lowest flat-rate fee of any solutions on our list for card payments at 2.7%. Businesses can get this rate for debit and credit card payments by using any of PayPal’s swipe, chip, or tap card readers. PayPal also has a free basic POS that businesses can use to customize receipts, add return policies, manage inventory, upload product photos, add up to 1,000 users with different access levels, and view custom sales reports.
PayPal Online Payments, Ecommerce & Invoicing
Most people think of PayPal as an online payment tool, even though its in-person payment rates are excellent. PayPal offers a pretty standard 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction processing rate for online payments. Businesses can use PayPal to install a free online checkout on most websites. If you want to create a custom or branded online checkout to accept online payments, you can do so with PayPal for $30 per month.
PayPal also has a free invoicing tool that any size business can use to create and send custom invoices. There is no monthly or upfront cost for this; businesses just pay the flat 2.9% plus 30 cents transaction fee that is automatically taken out of each invoice when paid.
PayPal Free Business Management Features
In addition to just processing payments, PayPal offers a user-friendly mobile POS app, invoicing software, business loans, and more. While these solutions are not robust enough for a large or quickly growing business, they are great for freelancers, nonprofits, and other small organizations that are looking to keep costs to a minimum.
What PayPal Is Missing
PayPal is free to use and has extremely competitive processing rates. However, if you are a retail or restaurant business, you will likely need to invest in a POS program that has more detailed inventory and reporting capabilities than PayPal’s mobile app and dashboard. If you do need an affordable solution that has payment processing with more detailed POS features, we recommend Square.
PayPal has decent reviews. Users like that PayPal is convenient and easy to use. In theory, PayPal offers very fast funding, but some users report delayed fund transfers. However, users still like that PayPal offers competitive processing fees. Visit our PayPal review site for further details.
Chase Merchant Services: Best Low-cost Traditional Merchant Account
Chase Merchant Services is the only traditional merchant account on our list. Similar to Square and PayPal, Chase Merchant Services has no monthly or setup fees. Chase has competitive flat-rate fees for online, mobile, and in-person transactions, making Chase a good option for any business that wants to work directly with a bank.
Chase Merchant Services Pricing
Chase has no application, setup, or monthly fees. Like the other solutions on our list, Chase is an affordable option for small businesses with flat-rate payment processing fees. Chase also has affordable options for card reader hardware. Chase offers month-to-month billing with no contract period, cancellation fees, or monthly minimums (as do the other solutions on our list).
Specific Chase Merchant Services pricing includes:
- In-person processing fees: 2.89%
- Online processing fees: 2.9% plus 25 cents
- Monthly fees: $0
- Monthly minimums: $0
- Mobile card reader: $49 one-time rental fee or $95 to purchase outright*
- In-store card reader: $125 one-time rental fee or $220 to purchase outright*
*Purchasing card reader hardware outright also gives businesses access to lower processing rates of 1.99% plus 15 cents for debit cards and 2.99% plus 15 cents for credit cards.
Chase Merchant Services Payment Processing Features
In addition to competitive processing rates, Chase offers a mobile app for accepting payments on the go and a detailed reporting tool on their website and mobile app. Plus, Chase offers banking solutions for small businesses, so you can have your business checking and merchant services all in one place.
Chase Merchant Services In-person & Mobile Payments
Chase offers competitive processing rates at 2.89%, or lower if you purchase Chase’s card reader hardware outright. Chase’s in-store card readers accept chip and swipe payments along with contactless and eWallet payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay. All in-store and mobile card readers can distinguish between credit and debit cards.
The Chase Mobile Checkout app has functions to process payments, issue refunds, and look up transactions. Businesses can also issue and redeem gift cards and look up gift card balances. There are also reporting tools to view transaction summaries, sales overviews, chargebacks, fees, and more.
Chase Merchant Services Online Payments
Chase has a pretty standard online transaction fee of 2.9% plus 25 cents. Chase integrates with a few payment gateways to integrate your payment processing with different ecommerce solutions. For example, Chase works with Authorize.net and has their own proprietary Orbital Gateway. They also have a virtual terminal solution for accepting payments by phone or mail.
Chase Merchant Services Free Business Management Features
Chase offers reporting tools on daily sales and transactions. Since you are working directly with a bank, Chase also offers reports and insights into chargebacks. However, aside from the mobile checkout app and desktop reporting, Chase does not have many other business management tools like Square does.
What Chase Merchant Services Is Missing
The biggest flaw with Chase is the lack of other business management tools. Chase is strictly for payment processing. If you are operating a brick-and-mortar or online retail store, you will need a separate POS system.
Chase Merchant Services Reviews
There are not many reviews online for Chase Merchant Services. However, those available are a mix of positive and negative. Businesses like the month-to-month billing and like working directly with a bank and traditional payment processor. Some reviewers state problems with funds being withheld or not being able to resolve customer service issues. Visit our Chase Merchant Services review page for more information.
QuickBooks: Best Free Merchant Services for ACH Payments
QuickBooks offers a payments solution that allows businesses to accept mobile, in-store, invoice, online payments, and free ACH payments. QuickBooks Payments is free to use, has competitive fees for invoice and keyed-in payment processing, and processes ACH and e-check payments for free. QuickBooks Payments is a convenient and free solution for accepting ACH payments.
QuickBooks Merchant Services Pricing
Like the other solutions on our list, QuickBooks Payments has no monthly fee and no monthly processing minimum. Bank transfer, ACH, and e-check payments are free, even if a customer uses one of those payment methods on an invoice. All card payments, whether keyed-in by the business or entered by the customer during an invoice payment, pay a flat rate. Keyed-in payments are 3.4% plus 25 cents per transaction. Invoice payments are 2.9% plus 25 cents per transaction.
QuickBooks Payment Processing Features
With QuickBooks Payments, all invoice payments, mobile selling, in-store sales, and even online payments connect seamlessly within QuickBooks, making it an ideal solution for businesses that use QuickBooks for accounting or POS. This seamlessness dramatically cuts your payment processing and record-keeping time since everything is recorded automatically. This includes inventory counts, customer updates, sales figures, job costs, invoices, and whatever other key business data you track in QuickBooks.
QuickBooks In-person & Mobile Payments
QuickBooks has a mobile POS app called GoPayment. GoPayment offers businesses mobile payment processing, sales tracking, and business management tools right on your phone or tablet. Like Square, the app also comes with a free mobile card reader. All sales directly sync to your QuickBooks data.
QuickBooks also has a full POS system for retailers that includes inventory and customer tracking and is available for a one-time purchase of $960. However, if you just need payment processing or invoices, you can use QuickBooks’ free features. QuickBooks’ free mobile POS app and paid POS all have a flat 2.4% plus 25 cents per transaction fee.
QuickBooks Online Payments, Ecommerce & Invoicing
QuickBooks lets businesses accept ACH, e-check, and online bank payments for free, even through invoices. This is a huge feature, as other payment processing companies like Square don’t even offer ACH payments. Companies like PayPal, which offer a similar kind of bank payments, do so at a fee. If you’re able to run your business primarily through invoicing and ACH payments, using QuickBooks could be a huge cost-saver.
QuickBooks Free Business Management Features
QuickBooks is well-known for accounting software for businesses of all sizes as well as personal use. While the accounting software is not free, there are affordable QuickBooks plan options. The free mobile POS QuickBooks GoPayment app syncs with your QuickBooks account to track sales and reports in real-time. With the app, you can also create lists of frequently sold products or services and create customized electronic receipts.
What QuickBooks Is Missing
When it comes to payment processing, QuickBooks covers all the basics with mobile and online options for credit, debit, and ACH payments. Unlike QuickBooks’ accounting software, QuickBooks Payments is free to use; businesses just pay a flat transaction processing fee (except for ACH payments, which are free). However, QuickBooks Payments is really geared towards QuickBooks software customers. If you don’t use QuickBooks for accounting, the payment processor probably isn’t the best fit for you.
Reviews for all of QuickBooks products are generally positive. Users like that QuickBooks Payments offers predictable fees and is easy to use. Aside from the free mobile app and ACH payment processing, QuickBooks’ card processing fees are slightly on the higher side.
Stripe: Best Free Merchant Account for Ecommerce
Stripe is a free payment processing system that allows businesses to create custom online checkouts. In addition to basic checkouts, Stripe can manage subscriptions, recurring fees, and store card data. Stripe’s detailed online features, zero startup and monthly fees, and competitive processing rates make it a solid choice for ecommerce businesses.
Stripe Merchant Services Pricing
Like all the solutions on our list, Stripe is free to use. There are no startup fees, monthly fees, or processing minimums. Like Square and PayPal, Stripe is also a plug-and-play solution that doesn’t require an application and has a pay-as-you-go plan that is great for small businesses.
Stripe Payment Processing Features
Stripe offers the same online payment processing rates as Square and PayPal, but with more customizable solutions for ecommerce. In addition to credit and debit cards, Stripe has the ability to accept international payments, ACH, AliPay, and more. Stripe has integrations with many popular ecommerce platforms and a lot of developer tools that make it easy for businesses to build subscription and automatic billing solutions.
Stripe In-person & Mobile Payments
Stripe is primarily an online-only payment processing solution. If you need a solution for in-person payments, regardless of whether or not you also sell online, Stripe is not the solution for you. If you need multichannel payment processing, consider using Square or PayPal. Stripe has a new feature called Stripe Terminal that is for in-person payments, but it is an invite-only solution that also requires custom development.
Stripe Online Payments, Ecommerce & Invoicing
Stripe has a ton of features and resources available for creating online checkout solutions. Businesses can use one of Stripe’s existing tools or create their own using Stripe’s API guides and libraries. With Stripe, businesses can create and send one-off invoices, store and save payment methods, create an embeddable checkout, and integrate with over 450 online platforms.
Stripe Free Business Management Features
In addition to basic payment processing, Stripe has free features for creating recurring billing, invoices, and viewing sales reports and analytics. Stripe will not give you the same kinds of reports that QuickBooks or Square will, but it will provide basic insights. Stripe has a platform called Sigma that offers detailed analytics, but at a sliding scale fee based on the number of payments your business processes each month.
What Stripe Is Missing
Stripe is only an online solution, so if you sell in-store, in-person, or through multiple channels, this is not the right solution for you. However, if you are a small or startup ecommerce business that wants a professional or customized online checkout with affordable rates, Stripe is a great choice.
Stripe is a platform that can be as straightforward or customized as you want. Reviewers like the many different payment options available with Stripe and how flexible the program is. Some reviewers say that Stripe’s customer service has room for improvement. Visit our Stripe review page for more details.
Due: Best Free Merchant Account for Time Tracking & Invoicing
Due is an invoicing and online payment processing tool designed for freelancers and very small businesses. In addition to free invoicing tools and flat-rate payment processing, Due has a free time tracking tool that makes it a good choice for freelancers and businesses that bill by the hour or project.
Due Merchant Services Pricing
Like the other payment processing solutions on our list, basic Due accounts have no monthly fee, processing minimum, or startup fees. Due has a flat-rate payment processing fee of 2.8% per transaction, which is slightly lower than other solutions on our list for online transactions. Like most of the other solutions on our list, deposited funds are available within one to two business days.
Due Payment Processing Features
Due offers online and invoicing payments for freelancers and small businesses. With Due, you can accept all major payment methods at a 2.8% flat fee. Due’s invoicing program lets you create an unlimited number of custom invoices, is mobile-friendly, works with every kind of sales tax, has recurring payment options, custom branding, reports, and data export features.
Due In-person & Mobile Payments
Due is strictly for online and invoice payments. Like Stripe, if you need to accept multichannel, mobile, or in-store payments, Due is not the best fit. If that’s the case, we recommend Square or PayPal.
Due Online Payments, Ecommerce & Invoicing
Due is for invoicing and billing, not ecommerce, so it’s not a good fit for trying to integrate with an online shopping cart. But if you are a designer, writer, consultant, or any type of freelancer or small business owner who charges per project, Due is a great fit. In addition to free invoicing tools, Due provides free time tracking tools so businesses can monitor productivity, see how long projects are taking, and even track time for non-revenue generating tasks.
Due Free Business Management Features
Due is primarily for invoicing—there are no POS or inventory management features. However, Due is the only solution with time tracking features on our list. Due offers productivity insights and efficiency analytics that are great for freelancers and service providers.
What Due Is Missing
Due is perfect for invoicing, but overall has a very limited use case. If you are a retail business, require any type of traditional online or in-person checkout, or need inventory management, Due is not a good fit. If that’s the case, we recommend Square, PayPal, or QuickBooks. Due also does not offer phone support, which can be frustrating when trying to get timely assistance.
People who use Due like that it is super easy to use to create professional invoices and track projects. However, some reviewers are not happy with the fact that Due does not offer phone support. Visit our Due review page for more details.
Cash App: Best Free Peer-to-Peer Payments
The Cash App is a mobile payment service developed by Square that is designed for peer-to-peer payments, as opposed to business transactions. Cash App is free to use for sending and requesting funds—there isn’t even a processing fee. However, it’s limited to debit payments, making Cash App a good free option for personal payments.
Cash App Merchant Services Pricing
Cash App doesn’t offer traditional merchant services, but it is free to use. Cash App users can send, receive, and request funds for free for personal use. Unlike all of the other payment processing solutions, Cash App does not charge a transaction or percentage fee.
Cash App Payment Processing Features
Cash App’s features are extremely limited, as it is not designed for businesses, but personal use. When you sign up for the Cash App, you receive a custom URL where you can receive payments that you can send to request funds.
You can also send or request funds from other people using the Cash App by entering their phone number, email address, or $Cashtag (username) if they have a Cash App account. Fund transfers are instant. You can get a free Cash App debit card to use funds directly from your Cash App account, or transfer them to your bank in a few business days.
Cash App In-person & Mobile Payments
Cash App is only for online peer-to-peer payments, and does not offer any in-person or POS functions. If you need free retail features like mobile payment processing and POS, we suggest you look into Square, which is owned by the same company as Cash App, but is designed for businesses.
Cash App Online Payments, Ecommerce & Invoicing
With the Cash App, you can send and request funds directly or share your personal Cash App URL. Unlike other business-oriented solutions on our list, the Cash App is strictly for payments, so there is no shopping cart, invoicing, or ecommerce functionality.
Cash App Free Business Management Features
Cash App does not include any features like reporting or sales tracking. It’s designed for personal use, not business, so it does not offer any of the extra management features that the other solutions on our list have.
What Cash App Is Missing
Cash App offers bare-bones, completely free online payments. But that is it. There are no POS, business management, ecommerce, or integrations available. Cash App also only supports credit and debit card payments.
Cash App Reviews
Cash App is primarily used on mobile devices. Its reviews on the Apple App Store are very positive. Users like that it is simple, easy, and free. However, Cash App does not have any extra features, and because it’s a free personal app, customer service is not readily available.
Although there are no true merchant services that are 100% free, there are many options that have no monthly fees, startup fees, or processing minimums and come with competitive pay-as-you-go transaction processing fees. Many of these options even offer free POS solutions, business management tools, invoicing software, or ecommerce integrations.
Square is our top choice for free merchant accounts because, in addition to having no application process, monthly fees, setup fees, and minimal hardware fees, Square has all the basic tools that you need to run a mobile, in-store, online, or multichannel retail business.
Square comes with a free, top-of-the-line mobile payments app and has other business solutions you can add as you go for a truly affordable, all-in-one payments and POS solution. Visit Square to create your free account.