This article is part of a larger series on Payments.
If you plan to accept credit card payments in your restaurant, you’ll need a payment processor or merchant account. Most restaurant POS brands offer built-in payment processing, though many also work with multiple providers, so you can shop for the best transaction rates. The best merchant accounts for restaurants are compatible with multiple popular POS systems and offer chargeback protection along with competitive rates for restaurants of all sizes.
The best payment processors for restaurants are:
- CDGcommerce: Best overall restaurant credit card processor
- Square: Best for small restaurants and food trucks that want built-in processing
- Stax by Fattmerchant: Best for midsize restaurants that process less than $500,000 annually
- Payment Depot: Best for restaurants that do a high volume of online sales
- Dharma Merchant Services: Best for restaurants that do a high volume of on-site sales
- Payline Data: Best for restaurants with large catering services
Top Restaurant Credit Card Processors Compared
Monthly Subscription Fee
In-person Transaction Fee
Online Transaction Fee
From Interchange + 5 cents*
From 2.9% + 30 cents*
2.6% + 10 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
Interchange + 8 cents
Interchange + 15 cents
Interchange + 8 cents
Interchange + 15cents
Interchange + 0.15% + 8 cents
Interchange + 0.25% + 8 cents
Interchange + 0.20% + 10 cents
Interchange + 0.40% +20 cents
*Varies by subscription type, see detailed pricing table
**Refunded if you win the dispute
Looking for a POS with built-in processing? Top-rated restaurant POS Toast includes payment processing in its baseline system. For more options, explore our guide on the best restaurant POS systems.
CDGcommerce: Best Overall Restaurant Payment Processor
CDGcommerce is a merchant services provider that offers three different subscription types to support restaurants of all sizes. Mom-and-pop restaurants with low sales volumes can get simple flat-rate pricing, while high-volume restaurants can get competitive interchange-plus pricing. CDGcommerce uses TSYS as its back-end processor. This network is compatible with hundreds of POS systems, including popular restaurant systems like TouchBistro, Revel, Lightspeed, Lavu, and Aloha.
Back-end processor: One of several companies that connect credit card brands to banks. The major back-end processors in the US are TSYS, Worldpay, Chase Paymentech, Elavon, and Fiserv. Most payment processors and merchant service providers use at least one of the major back-end processors to facilitate credit card transactions.
Based on our payment processing scoring criteria, CDGcommerce earned 4.47 out of 5. It received high marks for its payment flexibility, month-to-month memberships, and comprehensive chargeback support. The system only lost points because it charges an extra fee for Amex transactions (to avoid these fees, consider Square), and we couldn’t accurately gauge user satisfaction. There are no public reviews of CDGcommerce on major review sites, though it also doesn’t have any complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, where it has an A+ rating.
CDGcommerce Standout Features
CDGcommerce’s price and POS integrations make it a great fit for restaurants of all sizes. But one aspect that sets it head and shoulders above its competitors is its chargeback monitoring tools. If chargebacks are a major concern for your restaurant, you’ll love CDGcommerce’s active chargeback monitoring and robust chargeback assistance. You’ll also be rewarded for your legwork; CDGcommerce refunds chargeback fees if you win the dispute.
In the News:
Chargebacks and “friendly fraud” have increased as restaurants expand their ecommerce operations.
CDGcommerce’s standout features include:
- Chargeback monitoring: In the event of a chargeback, CDGcommerce emails you immediately. Its customer service team will help you compose your response to the card brand to ensure you present the strongest case possible.
- Collections support: It won’t be worth your while to send a charged-back dinner for two to collections, but if your restaurant does a lot of private events or catering, a chargeback dispute can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars. If you lose a large chargeback dispute, CDGcommerce will send the disputed amount through its collections arm to get you back 50% of the disputed funds. CDGcommerce is the only provider on this list with such a feature. If it is unable to collect your debt, you pay nothing.
- Online and mobile payment options: You can accept online, mobile, and in-person payments through the same processor. If your restaurant also has a food truck or sells homemade sauces at the local farmers market, you can process those off-site payments using a mobile card reader. You can also choose to process your online payments through integrations with popular gateways Authorize.net, PayPal Payflow Pro, and Braintree.
- Quick approvals: You can apply for a CDGcommerce account through its sales team, and approvals only take one to three business days. This is pretty fast for the industry, but if you need to start taking payments immediately, check out Square.
- No cancellation fees: You can stop using CDGcommerce at any time without incurring a cancellation fee. If your business grows or slows or your needs change, you are not tied to a long-term contract.
Find more things to like about the provider by reading our CDGcommerce review.
Square: Best for Small Restaurants Wanting Built-in Processing
Square is an incredibly easy to use payment processor that operates on POS terminals and mobile devices. All you need to get started taking Square payments is a card reader and a Square account that connects to your bank account. Small restaurants don’t need to complete invasive questionnaires or wait days for account approval; you can start accepting Square payments in a single day.
Its flat-rate transaction fees remain the same no matter what type of card your customers use. That’s right—you won’t pay higher fees to process Amex cards or rewards cards. Square users also don’t pay chargeback fees on disputed transactions.
Square earned an overall score of 4.31 out of 5 in our evaluation, with high marks for ease of use and affordability. Square has the fewest fees of any system in this guide. These features also make it our top recommendation in our list of the best merchant services for small businesses.
The system lost some points because it supports fewer POS systems than others; only Square POS and TouchBistro users can get Square integrated in their POS. If you use a different POS, you’ll find a better fit with Payment Depot or Dharma Merchant Services; they support the most POS integrations on this list.
Square Card Readers
Square Standout Features
Square is a different type of processor than others in this guide. As a payment facilitator, Square manages credit, debit, and mobile wallet payments directly from bank to merchant without using a back-end processor. You can accept in-person swiped, dipped, and tapped payments, as well as invoice and online payments for affordable fees. If your business is mobile, like a food truck or a caterer, or you prefer to process delivery payments in the field, you can use Square card readers on cellular-enabled devices to avoid paying card-not-present fees.
- POS compatibility: You can use Square Payments on the Square for Restaurants POS, which offers a free baseline system that operates on iPads. For a monthly fee of $60, you can add table management and multiple user permissions. Square Payments is also compatible with TouchBistro if you prefer a different POS layout.
- Free online ordering site: Square users get access to a free online ordering site that integrates with the Square for Restaurants POS. You can accept online orders for pickup or delivery and accept online payments for online orders.
- High volume discounts: Square’s flat-rate transaction fees are a bit higher than others on this list. But if your restaurant processes more than $250,000 annually, you can contact Square directly for a custom quote to lower those fees.
- Free invoicing tools: If your restaurant does a lot of private events or off-site catering, you can send professional-looking invoices for deposits and payments directly from your Square dashboard. Invoice payments incur the same in-person and online transaction fees as other Square payments, or a 1% fee for online ACH payments. For a monthly fee of $20, you can unlock more features, like the ability to convert estimates into invoices or add custom invoice fields.
See more of what Square has to offer by reading our Square Payments review.
Stax by Fattmerchant: Best for Midsize Restaurants Processing Less than $500,000 Annually
Stax by Fattmerchant offers midsize independent restaurants a unique proposition: Instead of paying high transaction fees, they pay a monthly flat rate plus a few cents per transaction. For businesses that process up to $500,000 annually, Stax processes card and mobile wallet payments with a markup of 8 to 15 cents on top of interchange. The bulk of your fees are paid in a flat monthly subscription fee, making it incredibly easy to budget for your transaction fees.
Large restaurants that process more than $500,000 annually can contact the Stax sales team for a custom quote—though the approval process can be lengthy, which is why we don’t recommend Stax for brand-new restaurant businesses. For fast and easy approvals, small independent restaurants are better off with Square.
Stax earned a 4.21 out of 5 in our evaluation. The cost-effective subscription model earned a lot of points, as did the same-day funding options. And we couldn’t ignore the large number of positive user reviews. Stax could have scored higher if it offered more robust chargeback support (like CDGcommerce) or if the approval process was simpler (like Square).
Stax by Fattmerchant Pricing
Stax offers three small business plans. Rates vary depending on what tools you need to support your business.
In-person transaction fee
Interchange + 8 cents*
Card-not-present transaction fee
Interchange + 15 cents*
*Transaction rates based on received quotes; rates may vary at Stax’s sole discretion.
Stax by Fattmerchant Card Readers
BBPOS Chipper 2X
PAX A920 Payment Terminal
Dejavoo Z8, Z9, Z11
EMV-compliant Bluetooth-enabled swipe, dip, and tap reader for mobile or on-site payments
Handheld reader for tableside payments
Countertop, POS or Wi-Fi connected card reader
Stax by Fattmerchant Standout Features
Stax by Fattmerchant offers a straightforward fee structure. Like Square and CDGcommerce, there are no cancellation, statement, and batch fees. Like Payment Depot users, Stax customers pay a monthly subscription fee based on their sales volume, plus interchange rates on their transactions. Stax does not add a percentage markup, so there is no complicated math to figure out what you’ll pay for each transaction.
- Same-day funding option: Most Stax by Fattmerchant customers receive one- to two-day turnaround on their bank deposits. But if you are willing to accept deposits on a debit card rather than in your bank account, you can get same-day funding. This can be a big help to restaurants that struggle with cash flow to pay vendors and employee tips.
- Chargeback support: Like CDGcommerce, Stax by Fattmerchant will notify you when a customer initiates a chargeback dispute. You can organize your response and supporting documents in your Stax dashboard. When you’re ready, you can send your response directly through the same dashboard. Though these tools are slightly less robust than what CDGcommerce offers, if chargebacks are a rare occurrence in your business, they may be all you need.
- Text2Pay mobile payments: You can send payment requests to customers directly from a smartphone and receive payment via SMS text. This feature is handy for delivery-heavy restaurants.
- Omni terminal: This optional virtual dashboard unlocks additional features like a virtual terminal (to process payments over the phone), ACH payment processing, and detailed reporting. It can also track your customer reviews in real time. Most restaurant POS systems already have many of these features, but if yours doesn’t, you can add the terminal for $49 to $129 per month. If you want ACH processing for no monthly fee, check out Payline Data.
Payment Depot: Best for High-volume Online Sales
Payment Depot offers wholesale transaction fees to subscribers paying a monthly subscription fee, similar to Stax by Fattmerchant. Payment Depot’s monthly fees are lower than Stax’s (though transaction rates are the same), and the provider includes a free online payment gateway for no additional cost. So, you can add a payment link directly to your website and only pay interchange fees with a minimal 15-cent markup.
Other processors charge a higher markup on online payments, so if your restaurant does a high volume of online orders, you’ll see an immediate savings with Payment Depot. In fact, it claims on its website that its restaurant customers save an average of 40% when they switch from traditional processors.
In our evaluation, Payment Depot earned an overall score of 3.94 out of 5. This accessible processor rated well for its general popularity among small businesses and its overwhelmingly high customer ratings. However, it stumbled when it came to reporting features and chargeback support. Both features are serviceable—but not as robust as others on this list. If strong chargeback support is a must for you, try CDGcommerce or Stax by Fattmerchant.
Payment Depot Pricing
Monthly subscription fee
Annual processing limit
In-person transaction rate
Interchange + 8 cents*
Card-not-present transaction rate
Interchange + 15 cents*
*Transaction rates based on received quotes; rates may vary at Payment Depot’s sole discretion.
Payment Depot Card Readers
Poynt Smart Terminal
Mobile or Countertop Tap, Dip, and Swipe Reader
Cloud-based tap, dip, swipe, or PIN-enabled card reader
Mobile POS Terminal with built in card reader
Payment Depot Standout Features
Payment Depot regularly appears on our annual list of the cheapest credit card processors. In addition to competitive interchange-only rates, Payment Depot has historically offered a 90-day money-back guarantee to new customers. Like Dharma Merchant Services, Payment Depot uses both the TSYS and Fiserv for back-end processing and supports a wide range of popular POS systems.
- All-in-one pricing: Your Payment Depot account includes in-person and online payment tools for a single monthly fee. With a minimal additional markup on interchange fees, Payment Depot will be the lowest-cost processor for high-volume restaurants, especially those that need to reduce the costs of processing online payments.
- No long-term contract: Like the other providers on this list, Payment Depot lets you cancel at any time, though it advises that a cancellation takes 30 days to process. So, you won’t pay a cancellation fee, but you’ll be on the hook for at least one month’s subscription fees if you choose to cancel.
- 24/7 customer support: Like CDGcommerce, Payment Depot offers customer support via phone and email 24 hours a day. Customer reviews frequently mention Payment Depot’s speedy response time and supportive staff when they have questions or problems. This is great news for restaurant managers who need to resolve payment problems when sending the Saturday night credit card batch.
- Money-back guarantee: Payment Depot offers new customers a 90-day money-back guarantee. If after 90 days you are not pleased with your Payment Depot account, you can cancel and receive a full refund of the monthly subscription fees you paid.
Take a closer look at this processor by reading our Payment Depot review.
Dharma Merchant Services: Best for High-volume On-site Sales
Dharma Merchant Services provides some of the lowest interchange-plus processing rates available to restaurants of any size. Combine that with an affordable $25 monthly subscription fee, and you’ve got an incredibly affordable solution for high-volume restaurants looking to save on transaction fees. The baseline rates are already low, but if your restaurant processes more than $100,000 per month, you can negotiate even lower fees. And if you accept only in-person transactions, you may be approved for next-day funding.
The processor earned a 3.89 out of 5 on our restaurant payment processing criteria. Its low fees and free mobile processing app earned it a lot of points, but it took hits for its cancellation fee ($49), average two-day funding timeline, and limited customer service hours. If you need your customer service reps available 24/7, try CDGcommerce or Payment Depot instead.
Dharma Merchant Services Card Readers
EMV-compliant swipe, tap, and chip terminal with Wi-Fi option
Wireless and 4G enabled, EMV-compliant on-site terminal
Countertop swipe, tap, and chip terminal
Dharma Merchant Services Standout Features
Like Payment Depot, Dharma Merchant Services relies on both TSYS and First Data for back-end processing. This enables Dharma to integrate with a wide range of POS systems. Any POS that is compatible with either First Data or TSYS should be compatible with it, but be sure to confirm with your POS provider before making a switch.
- Extensive POS integrations: Dharma easily integrates with popular POS systems like Revel Systems, TouchBistro, and Lavu. This processor is particularly appealing to Clover POS users who want more favorable processing terms than they can get by purchasing their POS directly from parent company Fiserv.
- Next-day funding option: We previously mentioned that Dharma Merchant Services averages a two-day turnaround on funding. This is true. But if your restaurant only accepts card-present transactions—no online transactions and no card-not-present transactions—then you may get approval for next-day funding.
- Free mobile processing app: Like Square, Dharma Merchant Services includes a free mobile payment app. All you need is a smartphone and a compatible card reader to process in-person, off-site payments. This is a great tool for food trucks or restaurant groups that do off-site catering.
- Custom rates for high volume: Dharma Merchant Services offers even lower rates of $20 per month and interchange plus 10 cents per transaction for restaurants that process over $100,000 per month. This cutoff point is higher than most other providers on this list (Square, for example, offers lower rates starting at $250,000 per year). This is why we recommend Dharma specifically for high-volume restaurants. Busy independent restaurants in major cities typically have no trouble hitting these numbers.
Learn more about this provider by reading our Dharma Merchant Services review.
Payline Data: Best for Restaurants With Large Catering Services
Payline Data offers small businesses interchange-plus transaction fees with affordable monthly subscription fees. All accounts include a free virtual terminal with no gateway fees for online transactions and ACH payment processing at no additional cost. If your restaurant performs a lot of off-site catering and private events, these tools will allow you to process large phone payments and accept direct bank deposits with much lower rates than you’d pay with traditional credit card payments.
The system earned a 3.73 out of 5 in our evaluation. It scored points for its free ACH payment processing tools and included virtual terminal. Its fees are also competitive, though it suffered from not offering 24/7 live customer support. And while its rates are low, most high-volume restaurants will pay less with a wholesale processor like Stax by Fattmerchant or Payment Depot.
Payline Data Card Readers
Ingenico iSC Touch250
Ingenico iPP 320/350
Electronic signature-enabled tap, swipe, dip and PIN-compatible card reader
EMV-Compliant, Wi-Fi-enabled tap, swipe and chip card reader
Ethernet-connected Point-to-Point Encrypted chips and swipe enabled card reader
Payline Data Standout Features
In addition to competitive interchange-plus fees, Payline integrates with several ecommerce platforms—Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento and more. If you want a sharp-looking online ordering site that combines catering services, takeout and delivery orders, and merchandise, these integrations provide you with a lot more flexibility than your basic online ordering system.
Payline’s standout features include:
- Low monthly fees: Like Payment Depot and Stax by Fattmerchant, Payline Data customers pay a monthly subscription fee. But Payline Data’s fees are much lower: $10 per month for in-person transactions and $20 for online transactions. This enables small restaurants to pay for only what they need. If you don’t need online processing, you can pay only $10 per month. Even if you need both, the combined fee of $30 per month is still lower than Payline Data’s competitors.
- First month free: Payline Data welcomes new customers by waiving the first month of subscription fees. You’ll still pay processing fees on each transaction, of course, but this free month is a risk-free way to see if Payline Data is a fit for your restaurant. Since there is no long-term contract, you can cancel at any time.
- ACH payment processing: Payline Data includes ACH payment processing for free in its baseline subscription. This is great for catering companies that tend to bill customers in several lump sums. By accepting payments directly from a client’s bank account, you pay lower fees and avoid the potential for chargeback or fraud claims.
- Next-day funding: Payline Data offers next-day funding to its clients. This is a huge benefit to restaurants that need to pay vendors and employee tips on a daily basis.
Take a closer look at this processor by reading our full Payline Data review.
Restaurant Credit Card Processing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is it better to shop around for a processor or use processing built in to a restaurant POS?
Established restaurants or existing restaurants expanding into new locations will benefit from shopping for the best rates. If your restaurant is high-volume or has a high check average (over $40 per person), you’ll also benefit from shopping around for the best rates.
On the other hand, new restaurants that don’t have an established sales history to show their sales volume and check average are usually better off using payment processors that are built in to their restaurant POS. You won’t need to worry about not being approved for a merchant account, and you’ll usually get 24/7 year-round live customer service this way. You can always shop for lower rates after your restaurant has been operating for a year. If you start your restaurant using a free POS or one with no long-term contracts, there is little risk in switching processors and POS brands as your business grows.
What is a good processing rate for restaurants?
A good processing rate for your restaurant is the one that allows you accept credit, debit, and mobile wallet payments while still turning a profit. Every restaurant is different, so a good processing rate for a mom-and-pop breakfast spot with low check averages will likely be higher than a good processing rate for a high-volume restaurant that serves three meals a day.
It’s important to remember that the rates you are quoted as a new business will not be the rates you pay forever. As your sales grow, you will have a documented history of your sales volume and check average, so you can negotiate lower rates with your processor or shop for a new one.
How can I get the lowest processing rates for my restaurant?
The best way to get low processing rates for your restaurant is to process as many transactions as possible in person. Avoid manually entering credit card payments. If a customer’s card is declined, avoid multiple swipes; instead, request a different form of payment. Get a signature with every transaction, and update your card readers to EMV-compliant and point-to-point-encryption (P2PE) enabled readers.
After you have been open for a year, use your sales history to get rate quotes from several processors. Even if your POS contract prevents you from switching to a new processor right away, you can use the documented quotes from other processors to negotiate lower rates with your current processor.
Learn more about how credit card processing fees work.
How We Evaluated the Top Restaurant Payment Processors
We compared several popular payment processors based on what’s important to independent restaurants, including cost, chargeback protection, and compatible POS systems. We also considered our retail and restaurant experts’ personal evaluations of each software, alongside customer reviews from popular review sites.
Based on the above criteria, CDGcommerce emerged as the best restaurant payment processor with an overall score of 4.47 out of 5. Based on our personal experience working in and with independent restaurant businesses that rely on payment processors, CDGcommerce is also one of the top tools that we personally recommend.
Click though the tabs below for a full breakdown of our scoring criteria:
35% of Overall Score
When it comes to payment processing, cost is hands down the most important factor for restaurants. We looked for processors that offer locked-in rates, transparent pricing, volume discounts, and no or low chargeback fees. We also looked for month-to-month contracts and contracts with no cancellation fees, since a restaurant’s needs can change over time.
20% of Overall Score
Most restaurants run their transactions through a POS system, so we looked for processors compatible with multiple systems. We also looked for online payment tools, tableside card readers, and the ability to process in-person payments in the field.
25% of Overall Score
In addition to general features like one day deposits and chargeback monitoring, we also considered features important to restaurants, like after hours customer support and customer data analysis.
20% of Overall Score
This score combines our judgment of price, ease of use, and feature set with the reviews of real-world users.
CDGcommerce earned the top rating for restaurant payment processing for its flexible payment plans and wealth of compatible POS systems. It also provides the strongest chargeback protection tools of any system on this list—an absolute must for any restaurant that accepts online or mobile payments. To find the best plan for your restaurant, contact CDGcommerce to get started.