While ecommerce has stolen the show in the business world, there are still instances where you’ll need to accept an order over the phone or by mail. Though these instances may be few and far between, it’s still important to set your business up to accommodate those customers. And it’s easier than you think with a virtual terminal.
A virtual terminal lets store owners manually key in credit card numbers when they receive phone or invoice orders. Secure virtual terminals are available from almost any payment processor, and they require no special equipment. Transaction fees are higher than in-person transactions, though: It’s usually 2.9% plus 15 to 30 cents per transaction.
What Is the Best Virtual Terminal for 2021?
- Square: Best overall virtual terminal for small businesses
- Payline Data: Best for small businesses with low monthly sales
- Dharma: Best for established businesses
- Shopify POS: Best for ecommerce
- QuickBooks Payments: Best for QuickBooks users
- PayPal Payments Pro: Best for manual entry payments
Most of the above options are best for smaller businesses processing under $10,000 – $15,000 monthly. If you are over that threshold, you would be better served with a membership-model processor like Payment Depot, which is ideal for most growing businesses, or Fattmerchant, which is best for recurring-billing. These are two of the providers we recommend in our guide to cheapest credit card processors.
How We Evaluated the Best Virtual Terminals
Virtual terminals are accessible through a payment processor’s website or mobile app—it’s just one way you can accept credit cards. Many merchant service providers also offer affordable and easy options for small businesses, which means more providers are doing away with long contracts, hefty termination fees, and strict requirements. We considered the ease of use and account setup for each virtual terminal, the fees per transaction, and additional features.
We chose the best virtual terminals based on the criteria below:
- Pricing: Virtual terminals have different fee structures, so we calculated the rates for each to find the best one for all types of businesses.
- Features: While some virtual terminals on our list are simply payment processors, others offer a toolbox of features to help you manage your business.
- Ease of use: We considered how simple it is to set up each virtual terminal, process payments, and get paid from your processor.
- Pros and cons: We looked at the pros and cons of choosing one virtual terminal over another and how those aspects could affect your business’ bottom line.
Square is our pick for the best virtual terminal because it’s easy to use, has no setup or monthly fees, and includes several useful features you’d have to pay for elsewhere such as inventory management and customer relationship management. It’s an all-in-one solution that also makes sense for many small businesses that need to occasionally take a phone or invoice order.
Square: Best Virtual Terminal for Small Businesses
Square is a full-featured virtual terminal for any business that accepts credit card payments. Its virtual terminal fees are 3.5% plus 15 cents or 2.9.% plus 30 cents per transaction. You can also use Square to build your own online store or accept payments on an existing online portal. Square’s fee structure is affordable for low-volume sellers. Plus, it has a suite of business management features that come second only to Shopify’s.
Full suite of business management features
Can be costly for high-volume sales
No monthly or setup fee
No support for PayPal, e-check, or ACH payments
Free card reader included
Square Virtual Terminal Pricing
Square is one of the most affordable virtual terminals for small businesses, requiring zero monthly or signup fees. Keyed-in payments are 3.5% plus 15 cents, which online and invoice payments come in at 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction, which is fairly standard. Square’s main fees break down as follows:
- 2.6% + 10 cents for in-person payments
- 3.5% + 15 cents for keyed-in payments
- 2.9% + 30 cents for online and invoice payments
Square Virtual Terminal Features
Square is packed with features that go well beyond the capacity of a virtual terminal and payment processor. With Square, you can use inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), analytics reporting, and other business tools.
Square Payment Types
With Square, you can accept all major credit cards. While you can also accept payments via contactless options and mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, you can’t do ACH or e-check payments with Square. PayPal payments cannot be accepted through Square’s virtual terminal, though that feature is available with some of Square’s Online store accounts.
Square has hundreds of integrations with third-party apps and platforms, including popular ecommerce, POS, accounting, web builder, and invoicing tools. Some options include BigCommerce, QuickBooks, ShopGo, Wix, and ZohoBooks.
Square POS Solutions
Square has a complete lineup of terminals, registers, and card readers to accept credit card payments in person at permanent and temporary locations. Square POS software is easy to set up and features an intuitive order and payment flow process that works well for all types of businesses. Stay on top of things even when you’re not there with real-time analytics and inventory management features help you avoid stockouts.
Square Customer Service
Square offers phone support for customers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday. Make sure you have your customer number handy. Merchants can also access Square customer support through email and Twitter at any time or self-serve with online articles, support documentation, and an active community forum.
Payline Data: Best Virtual Terminal for Small Businesses With Low Monthly Sales
Payline is a traditional merchant services provider with a virtual terminal for businesses that process payments online, by phone, and by mail. It’s an affordable option for small businesses that process under $10,000 in monthly sales. Similar to competitors on this list, the Payline virtual terminal comes with no long-term contract. Unlike Square, Payline requires a recurring fee starting at $20 per month and charges 0.4% plus 20 cents plus interchange fees per transaction for card-not-present charges.
Payline Data Pros
Payline Data Cons
Affordable processing rates for low-volume sellers
Lacks business management tools
No cancellation fees
Unexpected hidden fees
Requires a monthly fee
Payline Data Virtual Terminal Pricing
Payline monthly plans start at $10, but you’ll need to pay at least $20 per month to use its virtual terminal tools. Your exact fees for keyed-in payments depend on monthly processing volume and average transaction value, and you’ll need to submit a form to get a specific estimate. The $20 monthly plan comes with 0.4% plus 20 cents per transaction, while the $10 per month plan charges an affordable 0.2% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction.
Payline Data charges no cancellation fees, though there are additional charges for PCI compliance, chargebacks, and failing to meet account minimums.
Payline Data Features
A company like Payline is focused more on the payment service rather than POS features, like ones you can find with Square or PayPal. However, Payline offers affordable processing rates and flexibility that many competitors don’t. Payment features include next-day deposits, invoicing, recurring billing, ACH payments, and a payments page.
Payline Data Payment Types
Payline Data offers solutions for more than just a virtual terminal—you can administer online, in-person, and mobile payments. In addition to all major credit cards and mobile wallets, small businesses can process ACH deposits, subscription billing, and electronic invoices.
Payline Data Payment Integrations
Because Payline Data is so specific in its own features, it has a robust set of third-party integration options. In addition to strong integrations with Authorize.Net and QuickBooks, you can connect Payline to many online shopping carts, gateways, and open APIs and SDKs.
Payline Data Customer Support
Customer support is one of Payline’s standouts. It’s quick to respond, though only available during the week. You can contact phone customer support Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time. Any other time of day or night or on weekends, you’ll have to submit a ticket, but they’re often quick to respond. They’re also reachable via email, or you can visit their small selection of FAQ articles.
Dharma: Best Virtual Terminal for Established and High-Volume Businesses
Dharma is a merchant services provider that offers a virtual terminal through an app. It’s an ideal solution for established businesses processing more than $10,000 monthly that can get a merchant account. Dharma’s virtual terminal rates are the lowest of all featured on our list because of its interchange-plus pricing, rather than flat-rate fees.
Great customer support
Requires sales history and/or business credit history
Tons of POS integration options
Lacks POS, inventory control, and business management features
Affordable for high-volume sellers
Merchants have to pay a monthly fee
Like Payline, Dharma charges a $20 monthly fee and uses an interchange-plus pricing model. For online and phone orders, you’ll pay 0.2% plus 10 cents per transaction, slightly less than Payline. Reduced rates are available if you process more than $100,000 in monthly transactions. There are no cancellation or minimum fees. In-person processing rates are 0.15% plus 7 cents per transaction.
Dharma Virtual Terminal Features
While Dharma doesn’t have any added features of its own, it does partner with MX Merchant, which is a suite of free tools beyond the virtual terminal. You’ll be able to track customers in a database, run reports to analyze sales data, and you can purchase a mobile credit card reader to use for in-person transactions. You can also create custom receipts and use QuickPay to quickly process transactions over the phone.
Dharma Payment Types
With Dharma virtual terminal, merchants can accept all major credit cards as well as mobile wallet payments. Square offers a bigger variety of accepted payment methods.
Dharma’s top integration is with MX Merchant, but the virtual terminal boasts compatibility with almost any POS system out there. Other integrations include Authorize.Net and QuickBooks.
Dharma’s Customer Database
Dharma’s virtual terminal web app also offers a customer database where you can store credit card information, similar to Square. You can also view transaction history for each customer, so you can find past charges for refunds or to answer questions. There are also custom fields you can create, in addition to a notes section, so you can track each customer’s preferences, birthdays, and other information.
In a way, you can create custom reports with MX Merchant, but parameters are set. You can view sales, refunds, authorizations, type of tender, status of transaction, date, and more. It’s easy to use, as you simply check the boxes for each parameter in the reporting section, press the apply button, and you’ll have your report. It isn’t as robust of a reporting feature as Shopify or Square, though.
Shopify Payments: Best Virtual Terminal for Ecommerce Businesses
Shopify is an all-in-one online store builder that includes a comprehensive collection of business tools to allow you to run a retail and/or ecommerce business—one of those being a virtual terminal. With Shopify Payments, you can accept payments through a virtual terminal, email invoices, or taking orders over the phone. Shopify has several monthly plans to choose from.
Shopify POS Pros
Shopify POS Cons
Reliable platform with strong customer support
More expensive monthly plans than other virtual terminals
Complete business management toolkit
Processing fees are high, especially for low-ticket sales, despite monthly fee
Easy to use and get support
Like Dharma and Payline, Shopify charges a monthly fee, though at $29/month, its most basic plan is more expensive than the competitors’. Depending on the plan you subscribe to, your virtual terminal payment processing fees may vary.
Phone and online processing fee
In-person processing fee
2.9% + 30 cents
2.6% + 30 cents
2.4% + 30 cents
Shopify is both a website builder and a POS, so it has a full-fledged suite of tools for small businesses to manage inventory, sales, customers, and more across all channels. The virtual terminal comes with every plan level in Shopify Admin, the web app, but even if you choose the Basic Shopify plan, you’ll also get an online store, inventory management, and reporting functions.
Shopify Payment Types
Like most virtual terminals today, Shopify can accept major credit cards like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. Merchants can also process payments with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Shop Pay.
The Shopify App Store has one of the more comprehensive selections of third-party integrations out there. You can find free and paid options for marketing, reporting and analytics, conversion rate optimization, social selling, and more.
Shopify Online Store
Shopify offers the best ecommerce site builder on this list of virtual terminals, offering full customizability for your own online store. You can set up your store to accept credit card payments online, which is the same flat rate as phone orders. Designing your store and site is easy with Shopify, too, so you don’t need to have advanced skills.
Inventory Management in Shopify
Shopify has an edge over Square with its inventory system, as you have much more control over the information you can add for each product. Organize groups of products according to size, price, sale, etc. It’s connected to your payments, so inventory data is synced, even when you use the virtual terminal. If you need more complex inventory control, you can likely find an app to integrate with your Shopify account.
All Shopify plans come with access to an analytics dashboard. See your total sales, average order amount, number of orders, and which sales channels drive the most orders, similar to Square. Each plan level gives you a variety of reports to help you make the best business decisions based on customer behavior, marketing success, and types of customers (returning versus new) you’re getting.
QuickBooks Payments: Best Virtual Terminal for QuickBooks Users
QuickBooks Payments includes a virtual terminal that can handle invoices and payments over the phone. There are no monthly fees if you’re already using QuickBooks Online. Its flat-rate fee pricing structure is similar to Square, but it includes a seamless integration with QuickBooks, which runs automatic reconciliations and updates to your books.
QuickBooks Payments Pros
QuickBooks Payments Cons
Super simple and easy integration for existing QuickBooks users
Pricy compared to other virtual terminals
No monthly minimums
Requires a monthly fee if you’re not already a QuickBooks user
Subpar customer support
While technically speaking, QuickBooks’ virtual terminal requires no dedicated monthly fee, you do need to have a QuickBooks account to use it. This starts at $20 per month and comes with flat-rate processing fees. Keyed-in transactions are charged 3.4% plus 25 cents, which is slightly more expensive than Square but slightly less expensive than PayPal. Swipe transactions are 2.4% plus 25 cents, and invoices are 2.9% plus 25 cents.
Technically, the only features you get with QuickBooks’ virtual terminal is sending invoices for a customer to enter credit card details for payment, or you can take phone orders and key in a transaction. But you get additional tools with the rest of your QuickBooks account, including top-of-the-line accounting and bookkeeping software. These features include sales and expenses tracking, basic reporting, and automated linking of payments with your bookkeeping.
QuickBooks Payment Types
Like the other best virtual terminals, you can accept all major credit cards and mobile wallets with QuickBooks. You can also process ACH bank transfers.
QuickBooks has a healthy number of integration options, some of which are also on this list of best virtual terminals. Top integrations include Amazon Business Purchase, SOS Inventory, TSheets, and Fathom, but there are tons to choose from across almost every area of your business.
Automated Reconciliations in QuickBooks
As you accept payments from customers by phone or emailed invoice through QuickBooks Payments, your books will automatically update when you’re paid. No other option on our list includes this feature unless you add on the QuickBooks integration.
QuickBooks has a reporting feature, but because this is packaged with QuickBooks, the reports are more focused on profits, expenses, and balances. You can also run reports on taxes and sales. For more advanced reporting, you’ll have to upgrade your monthly plan.
Customer Communication in QuickBooks
One notable feature in QuickBooks Payments is the ability to communicate with customers through the invoice you send them, where they’ll pay using your virtual terminal. If a client has a question about an invoice, they can ask that question in a box on the invoice, and you’ll see it in your inbox. It streamlines the process for the customer and creates a better experience.
PayPal Virtual Terminal: Best Virtual Terminal for Manual Payments
PayPal is a payment processing solution that has a virtual terminal in addition to other online and in-person options. It’s easy to set up and handle a large volume of phone orders. You can also use PayPal’s online payment options for invoicing and your online store. At $30 per month, PayPal Virtual Terminal is pricy but a good choice if you’re accepting fewer phone orders totaling more than $100 each.
Strong security and data protection
Customer-favored bias in case of chargebacks
Makes it easy to accept international payments
Requires upfront cost
High processing fees plus monthly fee
PayPal Virtual Terminal Pricing
While many of PayPal’s services are sans a monthly fee, PayPal Virtual Terminal costs $30 per month, in addition to a 3.1% plus 30 cents processing fee. There are no setup, cancellation, or withdrawal fees. Online and ecommerce sales are 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction. In-person or card-present fees are 2.7% per transaction.
PayPal Virtual Terminal Features
With PayPal Virtual Terminal, you can process payments anywhere with an internet connection. Code-free setup without installation makes it easy to get up and running for any stage business. You can also process multiple virtual terminal instances at one time, which comes in handy when you have heavy call volume.
PayPal Payment Types
PayPal accepts American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Venmo, and PayPal Credit. Shoppers can also pay directly from their bank account. One of the biggest advantages PayPal offers is the ability to add a “Pay by PayPal” button to accept payments online.
You can add the PayPal button to your ecommerce site to enable shoppers to pay online easily. PayPal’s other integrations are expansive, including Shopify, Squarespace, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and nearly every other existing online checkout platform.
Debit Card From PayPal
Unlike most other companies that offer a virtual terminal, PayPal also has a branded debit card. You can use this like any other debit card, but it’s connected to your PayPal account instead of a bank account. Some purchases allow you to earn 1% cash back, which can help you recover the fees you pay using the PayPal virtual terminal. This also gets you quicker access to your funds, which brings us to …
PayPal’s Quick Deposits
When a customer pays you through PayPal, funds are typically available in your PayPal account almost immediately. You can then spend it anywhere else that also accepts PayPal. Transfers to your bank account, though, usually take one to two days. Instant transfers are also available at 1% of the transfer amount.
A virtual terminal can bridge the gap between online and in-person payments, so you can take orders and payments by phone, fax, and mail. Typically, keyed-in payments are pricier than card-present transactions, but the best virtual terminals have low and fair fees or offer plenty of features to make the investment worth it.
Square includes a virtual terminal with every free account. You also get helpful features for tracking customers, inventory, and more. Users are only charged a flat-rate fee per transaction, and you won’t have to apply for a traditional merchant account, which makes this the best virtual terminal for new small businesses. Visit Square to create a free account.