This article is part of a larger series on Payments.
A virtual terminal lets store owners manually key in credit card numbers when they receive phone, invoice, or mail orders. The best virtual terminals also let you send invoices and create recurring payments, making them good for billing.
Secure virtual terminals are available from almost any payment processor and require no special equipment. Merchant account transaction fees are higher than in-person transactions, though—it’s usually 3.5% plus 10 cents to 15 cents per transaction.
The best virtual terminals are:
- Square Payments: Best overall
- Helcim: Best for retailers
- Chase Payment Solutions: Best for B2B sales
- PayPal: Best for freelancers, occasional sellers, and cross-border sales
- Clover: Best for businesses that want to choose their merchant service
- Payment Depot: Cheapest option for established high-volume businesses
- PaymentCloud: Best for high-risk businesses
- Payline Data: Best for medical businesses, educational services, and nonprofits
Best Virtual Terminals Compared
Square Payments: Best Overall Virtual Terminal for Small Business
Square Payments is the built-in payment processor for Square POS that’s great for small businesses, from startups to shops with a physical location and an online store—even restaurants and salons. The virtual terminal also comes free with every Square POS account that supports almost all payment methods (B2B payments processing requires third-party integration).
With 4.41 out of 5 in our review, Square topped our scores for feature set, checking off our full list of tools for handling one-time and recurring bills, managing customers and invoices, and taking payments. It’s easy to use on both web and mobile, although the limited customer support hours and limited ability to accept Level 2 and 3 payments brought down its overall score.
The downside to Square’s extensive feature set, especially for those businesses that do high-volume sales, is the transaction fee, which is the highest on our list. If you have consistent sales of over $5,000 per month, do a price comparison against Payline Data, Payment Depot, or Helcim, which offer interchange-plus pricing.
As you consider costs, however, keep in mind all the tools Square provides that you may otherwise have to pay for. As your business grows and you’re processing over $250,000 annually, you can apply for lower, custom rates through Square. Here are the standard fees:
- Monthly subscription fee: $0
- Virtual terminal monthly fee: $0
- Keyed-in (virtual terminal) transaction fees: 3.5% + 15 cents
- In-person (swipe, dip, tap) transaction fees: 2.6% + 10 cents
- Invoice transaction fees: 2.9% + 30 cents
- Ecommerce transaction fees: 2.9% + 10 cents
- ACH/bank transfer fees: 1% with $1 minimum
Virtual Terminal Features
Square comes with free POS software for handling inventory and managing customers. It integrates with the virtual terminal, so you can itemize sales, calculate taxes, input discounts, and save customer information. Most of the other virtual terminals on our list are more basic, requiring you to manually input the items and prices unless you tie them to a POS system.
And like most Square products, the virtual terminal is free, easy to set up, and user-friendly. Your inventory gets automatically updated, and changes in your online store are also reflected in the virtual terminal. If you integrate with QuickBooks or other accounting software, the information from the virtual terminal is tied in as well.
Helcim: Best for Retail
Helcim is on our list of best merchant services and leading retail credit card services. You will find other providers in our list that offer interchange-plus pricing; however, Helcim’s structure is a little different, with automatic volume discounts and no monthly fees.
As such, it’s a better choice for growing retailers with high-volume (but lower-ticket) sales because merchants do not need to apply for better rates as their transaction volume increases.
Since our last update:
Helcim launched Helcim Bank Payments in March 2022, allowing merchants to accept ACH and EFT payments with Helcim.
Earning 4.23 out of 5 on our evaluation, Helcim lost points for not catering to high-risk businesses (check PaymentCloud for that) and lack of 24/7 support. Nonetheless, Helcim earned high scores in all categories. The virtual terminal handles phone sales, invoices, and recurring payments. Like Payment Depot, Helcim also has a chargeback reimbursement program.
Helcim’s free monthly plan and automated volume discounts set it apart from the other payment processors on our list. Card-not-present transaction rates, including virtual terminals, range from Interchange plus 0.2% + 10 cents per transaction (if your sales average more than $5,000,000 a month) to 0.5% + 25 cents (for average sales of $2,500 and below a month).
This is considerably cheaper than Payline Data’s 0.75% + 20 cents, but more expensive than Payment Depot’s interchange + 15 cents (although note that you have to pay at least $59 in monthly fees).
Virtual Terminal Features
Helcim offers a simple virtual terminal that lets you put in credit card information. You can also store it to look up later. All the services on our list share this feature, but many of those we evaluated did not. In addition to one-time sales, you can easily send invoices or set up recurring payments to automatically bill customers at a schedule of your choosing. Helcim’s virtual terminal can also be set up to accept multiple currencies.
The virtual terminal also works on any device, making it a great tool for taking payments on the sales floor and at the register. You also get a mobile app and a free POS system that can work on your existing smartphone, iPad, or tablet. Finally, it accepts ACH payments, something you don’t find with some payment processors on our list, like PayPal.
Running a retail store? Learn more about Helcim’s strong features for retailers in our Helcim review.
Chase Payment Solutions: Best Virtual Terminal for B2B Sales
We recommend Chase Payment Solutions for businesses that do B2B sales and those that need the support of an established bank, including checking, credit cards, and even loans. The system supports Level 2 and 3 data processing through its proprietary virtual terminal platform, Orbital.
Since our last update:
Chase has been aggressively building out its small business merchant services, which now support a wide range of payment processing methods, plus a unique and advanced analytics tool that comes free with every merchant account.
Chase climbs to the third spot on our list, also improving its overall score for this update, 4.04 out of 5, after points were adjusted to reflect B2B payments and the required checking account, which can cost anywhere from $0 to $15 per month. It lost points for the chargeback fee of $25 to $100 (where Square, for example, waives it).
That said, Chase offers excellent features and is one of our top picks for the best small business checking accounts. It also works with some high-risk businesses(while Helcim does not).
Chase Payment Solutions Pricing
You don’t need to have a Chase Business Checking account to sign up for a merchant account with Chase. Those who do, however, have access to free same-day funding. Otherwise, merchant accounts are free to use, but the use of virtual terminals may cost extra (not disclosed).
The transaction rates vary by platform, but for virtual terminals, they are 3.5% + 10 cents per keyed-in transaction, which is slightly less than Square’s keyed-in rate. Like PaymentCloud (and possibly Payline Data), there may be room to negotiate for better rates. Some influencing factors are sales volume and whether or not you process B2B sales, which are more secure and usually have lower rates.
- Monthly fee: $0
- Virtual terminal fee: Not disclosed
- Online fee: 2.9% + 25 cents
- In-person fee: 2.6% + 10 cents
- Keyed-in fee: 3.5% + 10 cents
- ACH Processing: $25 per month for 25 transactions, 25 cents for each additional, or 1% for certain platforms
- Chargeback Fee: $25–$100
Virtual Terminal Features
Chase lets you have a choice of virtual terminals. If you prefer to use Authorize.net with Chase, you can start accepting payments over the phone. However, Chase has its own—Orbital Virtual Terminal. It lets you process purchases and refunds and allows splitting of shipments, something we did not find in other virtual terminals, but which makes it well suited for sales that might need a deposit.
Unlike many virtual terminals on our list, Chase supports Level 2 and Level 3 card processing, which can get you better rates. You may also be able to process international currencies and electronic checks like PayPal. All you need to do is discuss this when setting up your account.
Another advantage Chase has over other merchant services is that, with a Chase bank account, you can get your funds the same or next day. Square charges extra for this, while PayPal will send money immediately but only to your PayPal account.
Get more details about what the provider offers for your business in our Chase Payment Solutions review.
PayPal: Best Virtual Terminal for Solopreneurs & Occasional Sellers
PayPal is by far the most recognized payment processor in the world with easy integrations that let you put a payment button just about anywhere. Its virtual terminals can process most types of payment methods, including cross-border transactions. The system is popular for solopreneurs, occasional sellers, and hobbyists who have low sales volume and would not mind the flat-rate payment processing fees.
For this update, we gave PayPal’s virtual terminal a score of 3.89 out of 5 with an advantage in international scope and its many integrations with other popular small business software. However, it’s a simpler tool, lacking inventory and POS like Square, although you will get these free with a regular PayPal Zettle account. The use of its virtual terminal will also cost you $30 a month.
PayPal takes a big hit for not processing ACH payments and imposing additional fees for invoicing and recurring billing tools and chargeback protection. It charges $30 per month for use of the virtual terminal, which pales in comparison to Square, which offers similar tools (POS, payment processing) for free.
However, Square’s transaction rates are slightly higher with PayPal offering 3.09% + 49 cents per transaction for standard virtual terminal rates. It also offers a discounted transaction fee of 2.39% + 49 cents for nonprofits.
- Monthly fee: $0–$30
- Standard card-present fee: 2.99% + 49 cents
- Virtual Terminal fee: $30 per month plus
- Standard: 3.09% + 49 cents
- Charity: 2.39% + 49 cents
- Payment Gateway (Payflow): $0–$25/month
- Recurring Billing: $10 per month
- Invoicing: 3.49% + 49 cents
- Chargeback Fee: $20
- Chargeback Protection: 0.4%–0.6% per transaction
Virtual Terminal Features
PayPal’s virtual terminal is a simple tool but the system itself gives you access to a lot of free tools, such as the free POS software, Zettle, and its mobile app. However, the virtual terminal does not integrate with PayPal’s POS solution, limiting its ability for inventory tracking or itemizing sales. That said, you still have access to these tools through PayPal and a multitude of other third-party apps.
One of PayPal’s strengths, of course, is its international reach—200 currencies, with international exchange. It also comes with an application that lets your customers make installment payments rather than paying in full. Combine all these with international payment processing, you have a system that can take payments in any currency and through any venue.
Considering if PayPal is right for you? Read our PayPal review for more details about its full set of features.
Clover: Best Virtual Terminal for Choosing Your Own Merchant Service
Clover is a highly popular POS system because it’s offered by so many merchant services. As such, you can shop around for the payment processor that works best for your business. Its system comes with a free virtual terminal which you can subscribe to without the hardware at $14.95 a month. It provides you with Clover software, dashboard, and end-to-end encryption of all payments you accept over the phone, in person, or through an invoice.
For this update, Clover’s overall score slightly improved to 3.88 out of 5. It’s a feature-rich system and, with the right merchant service, extremely affordable. Clover lost points for requiring a monthly fee to access the virtual terminal feature, and for not monitoring its resellers, so you get a mix of great and terrible. However, the virtual terminal integrates with the POS system, handles invoices and recurring payments, and is generally easy to use. You will also find Clover on our list of the best mobile payment processors.
Clover’s pricing is difficult to pin down because it has hundreds of resellers, many of whom offer discounted or even free Clover systems. The transaction rates similarly vary. When purchased directly through the Clover website, POS prices are from $0 to $44.95 per month, depending on your system, plus transaction fees of 3.5% + 15 cents for keyed-in transactions, which is on par with Square.
- Monthly Plan:
- Starter: $0 (Payments only)
- Standard: $14.95
- Advanced: $44.95
- Virtual Terminal (no hardware): $14.95/month, 3.5% + 10 cents keyed-in rate (Fiserv)
- Card-present fee: 2.3%–2.6% + 10 cents (Fiserv)
- Default transaction rates and chargebacks by Fiserv but will vary by payment provider
Virtual Terminal Features
Like the other virtual terminals on our list, you can access Clover from any device over the web and process payments or refunds on the spot. It only processes credit or debit, unlike Square and Helcim, which handle ACH payments, or PayPal and Chase, which can accept e-checks. You can also request payments via email and receive payments online.
Clover is unique in that you can use its virtual terminal with hundreds of different payment providers. (Chase and Payment Depot, on the other hand, require you to use them as a merchant service and select a virtual terminal.) Like PaymentCloud and Chase, Clover can integrate with some CRM software, such as Zoho.
Read our Clover review to discover more about what it can do for your business.
Payment Depot by Stax: Cheapest Option for High-volume Sales
If you do high-volume sales, then a payment processor with interchange-plus pricing can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars, even when considering a monthly fee. Payment Depot is one of our top picks for the cheapest credit card processing companies, and that includes virtual terminals. While it does not work for high-risk businesses or businesses outside the US, it is worth considering for any business with high-ticket sales. It offers a choice of free third-party virtual terminals and makes our list for the strength of the payment processing.
Payment Depot earned 3.81 out of 5 in our evaluation. The virtual terminals generally don’t include inventory—check Square for that. Like most on this list, it loses points for not supporting high-risk businesses. It lost the most points for its steep monthly fee. However, chargeback protection is included in its membership price, and it fares well for ease of use, integrations, and reputation.
Payment Depot Pricing
Since our last update:
Payment Depot is now Payment Depot by Stax and updated its terms of service in February 2022, naming Stax as its merchant services provider. With this, pricing has been updated to match Stax’ low interchange plus 8–15 cents per transaction with a lower subscription plan that ranges from $59–$99 per month.
The best thing about Payment Depot’s price is that there is no percentage markup. You only pay a flat fee of 8 cents to 15 cents per transaction, plus the interchange price that every processor charges. No other virtual terminal on our list does this. (Some, like Square, Chase, and PayPal fold the interchange charge into their rates.)
If you process high-dollar-value transactions, you could save thousands of dollars. It also offers a calculator to help you determine how much you’re paying. Note, though, that plans run from $59 to $99 per month, depending on your monthly processing. These are the highest monthly fees of any option on this list, but plans include a free virtual terminal and may also include equipment.
Virtual Terminal Features
Unlike most of the products on this list, Payment Depot does not have its own virtual terminal, but gives you a choice of several, depending on your plan. Usually, you get Authorize.net or SwipeSimple. For higher plans or specific situations, you may do better with PayTrace or NMI. Your sales representative will help you find the best one, along with POS software and equipment.
Because of the choice of virtual terminals, the specific features will vary. However, Payment Depot itself integrates with QuickBooks, POS systems, and other software. It reprograms your POS equipment for free.
We give Payment Depot kudos for customer support. I sent a question via the contact form and got a call minutes later. The support person was friendly, helpful, and did not try to hard-sell me anything. Other FSB reviewers have had similar experiences, and the user reviews also call out the great service.
While we prefer Chase Merchant Services for B2B sales, Payment Depot also offers credit card processing with Level 2 and 3 rates. It does this through PayTrace, which requires you to upgrade to a higher membership plan.
If you feel that subscription pricing fits your business, discover all the great features this provider offers in our Payment Depot review.
PaymentCloud: Best Virtual Terminal for High-risk Businesses
While it can serve traditional merchants, PaymentCloud specializes in working with high-risk businesses such as Mail Order Telephone Order (MOTO) that can highly benefit from a virtual terminal solution. It has relationships with over 10 banks that can handle high-risk customers and transaction rates are naturally steeper. But what’s unique with PaymentCloud is that it can adapt its fee structure (interchange-plus, flat rate, tiered) based on the merchant’s preference.
PaymentCloud earned an overall score of 3.78 out of 5, standing out for its ability to support all types of merchants and flexible fee structure. On the other hand, it lost points primarily because it charges fees for a number of its services including payment gateway integration and customization, monthly subscription, and chargebacks.
PaymentCloud is the only virtual terminal provider on our list that does not have any publicly disclosed pricing. However, this does not come as a surprise—most high-risk merchant account providers do not disclose pricing because rates are customized to each business. A quick call with a PaymentCloud representative, however, gave us an overview of their rates:
- Monthly fee: $25–$30
- Medium-risk transaction fee: 2.69%–3.29%
- High-risk transaction fee: 2.95%–4.25%
- Payment gateway fee: $15 per month (average)
- Chargeback fee: $25
- Early termination fee: Waived
It negotiates with its partner banks to get you the best rates it can, and even adjusts its fee structure to match your needs; plus, it does not charge application, setup, or annual fees.
Aside from credit cards, PaymentCloud also accepts electronic check payments and credit and debit cards (like PayPal and Chase). Some of the virtual terminals on our list, like Square and Helcim, process ACH transfers instead.
Virtual Terminal Features
Advanced security is one key feature of PaymentCloud’s virtual terminals. It provides PCI compliance, fraud protection, data encryption, and multiple security verifications such as Visa 3D Secure, Mastercard SecureCode, JCB International J/Secure, and American Express SafeKey.
But like any typical virtual terminal, PaymentCloud can process credit card information but does not let you ring up itemized sales. You can use it to send and accept invoice payments, set up recurring transactions, and send digital receipts. The platform is also specifically designed to connect with CRM software like Salesforce unlike most providers in our roundup.
Note that the signup process can take longer than other virtual terminals, such as Square or PayPal, which are sign-up-and-go, but that’s because of the nature of being a high-risk business. However, you can be assured that PaymentCloud will assist you through the application process to make sure you have all the documents needed to get approved by one of their partner banks.
PaymentCloud offers more than what’s covered here. Learn more about why we recommend it for high-risk businesses in our PaymentCloud review.
Payline Data: Best Virtual Terminal for Medical, Nonprofit & Educational Services
Payline Data services a wide range of businesses but has a particular focus on the medical industry, with HIPAA-compliant tools, ACH transfer, and special pricing. It also has special considerations for nonprofit and educational services. Payline Data merchants get access to its virtual terminal application with a one-time $10 fee and works as well as most and can handle invoices and recurring payments.
All things considered, Payline Data earned an overall score of 3.68 out of 5, and though slightly lower from the previous update, earns much of its score on the strength of Payline as a payment processor. Payline Data stands out for its compatible features for nonprofit, medical, and educational institutions, while also offering interchange-plus pricing, which makes it a better deal than most for high-volume businesses.
Payline has a monthly fee (with a one-month free trial), and in return offers low interchange-plus pricing. The fees run $20 for online transactions and $10 for in-person transactions. The virtual terminal has a one-time fee of $10, after which, it costs nothing.
For online and virtual terminal sales, it charges interchange + 0.75% + 20 cents. Compare this to Payment Depot, which has only an 8 cents to 15 cents transaction fee but a higher monthly membership.
Payline stands out from the rest, however, in its special pricing for medical facilities, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions.
- Transaction fee for medical: Interchange + 0.2% + 10 cents
- Transaction fee for nonprofit, educational: Interchange + 0.1% + 10 cents
The Payline Data website says it provides payment processing for high-risk businesses adding a 0.1% per transaction fee; however, according to a Payline rep, it actually refers high-risk merchants to PaymentCloud, which is on this list.
Virtual Terminal Features
Payline Data offers virtual terminals through CardPointe, NMI, Transax, and Authorize.net. All provide tokenization and PCI compliance. Some offer customer management and allow for subscriptions, recurring payments, and electronic invoicing.
On top of reduced rates, Payline’s virtual terminal is HIPAA-compliant to protect patient data, something we did not see in other virtual terminal software. Nonprofits and educational services can benefit from the ACH transfer capability. An additional benefit for nonprofits is they get a free hosted payments page.
Payline Data also comes with strong fraud and chargeback protection (through Verifi). In addition to data to help you discover fraudulent transactions, it alerts you to chargebacks faster and gives you 72 hours to resolve the dispute before it becomes a chargeback.
Running a nonprofit, medical, or educational organization? Check out more features in our Payline Data review.
Calculate Your Estimated Virtual Terminal Fees
Find out how much you would pay in monthly merchant payment processing fees with our recommended providers.
Guide: This calculator assumes that you are using a virtual terminal on your laptop/desktop computer with a card reader to accept payments. Please indicate below your estimated monthly sales volume for card-present transactions (payments using a card reader) and card-not-present transactions (payments accepted online and over the phone).
How We Evaluated Virtual Terminals
We’ve looked at dozens of payment processors that offered virtual terminals and narrowed them down. All of our picks also include invoicing and recurring payment tools. From there, we took a close look at the pricing, toolset, and ease of use to come up with a list that offers the best value for the price while being easy for most managers and employees to work day by day.
We found Square to be the best virtual terminal for small merchants with simple, competitive pricing and excellent sales and inventory features. Its fees are higher than interchange-plus companies like Helcim, but it offers free tools that can grow with your business.
Click through the tabs below for our full evaluation criteria:
30% of Overall Score
We awarded premium points for providers that offer low transaction fees. In addition, we also considered additional charges for accessing the terminal, chargeback fees, and merchant accounts. Helcim and Square lead this category with 4.5 out of 5.
25% of Overall Score
These cover payment types, recurring billing, inventory and customer management, and B2Bs. Helcim received a perfect score for this category, while Square, PayPal, Chase, and Clover come in second.
25% of Overall Score
We looked for fast deposit speed, dispute management, and in-person payments. We also considered when customer service was available. Chase did well in this category, only missing points for supporting high-risk businesses.
20% of Overall Score
This score takes into account usability as a whole, from affordability to stability of the software, account freezes, processing limits, and whether it integrates with other applications. We also considered input from real-world users. All of the providers did well here, but Square received a perfect score.
Best Virtual Terminal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why use a virtual terminal?
A virtual terminal removes the need for specialized hardware. It is accessible through a web-based platform (computer or mobile device) so merchants can accept payments over the phone, from information sent via email, and even in person. The platform is, by default, PCI-compliant, so you can also safely store card information to set up recurring payments.
Virtual terminals are very flexible as they can be integrated to your shopping cart, website, and even CRM (depending on your provider). It can accept all forms of payment methods from card payments, to ACH, e-checks, and invoices.
Do I need a virtual terminal?
If you often accept payments online, over the phone, or via email, and prefer not to invest in additional hardware, then a virtual terminal may be your best option.
Learn about the other options for accepting payments online.
How do I choose the best virtual terminal for my business?
Most of the providers in our list offer free virtual terminals. They vary in fees and available payment options. To get the best virtual terminal for your business, consider your sales volume and your preferred payment methods.
- Providers with flat rate fees like Square will be more cost-effective to occasional sellers or to businesses with less than $10,000 in monthly sales.
- Merchants that process large volumes of sales per month will save more with providers offering interchange plus rates like Helcim.
How much do virtual terminals cost?
Some processors will charge a monthly fee for virtual terminal software. However, the best merchant accounts offer virtual terminals for free, so you just pay a processing fee with each transaction.
Note if you are keying in payments instead of using a card reader, the fees will be higher.
Cost consideration for virtual terminals:
- Virtual terminal monthly fee: $0–$40
- Merchant account monthly fee: $0–$199
- Transaction fees:
- Chargeback fees: $0–$100
Virtual terminals are a great addition to any business, allowing you to take orders over the phone or by email. Most payment processors offer these for free or with a small monthly fee. The best handle multiple payment types, including cryptocurrency and ACH transfers, and have some form of fraud or chargeback protection that goes beyond PCI compliance.
Overall for small businesses, we find Square offers the best virtual terminal in the industry. It provides reasonable rates, has a free POS system, and is super easy to use. Plus, its wide range of products, including payroll processing, makes it a solid choice for growing businesses. Best yet—it’s free to use! You only pay a by-transaction rate. Sign up for Square today.