This article is part of a larger series on Payments.
Retail credit card processors let brick-and-mortar storefronts accept payments through a secure and reliable interface with low processing fees and fast deposits. The best processors offer flexible solutions so retailers can accept payments made curbside, on the go, throughout the sales floor, and via an online store. Small businesses need a system that is easy to use, works with popular point-of-sale (POS) systems, and offers quality customer support.
The best retail credit card processing companies are:
- Best overall: Helcim
- Best for mobile: Square
- Best for low processing fees: Payment Depot
- Best for B2B: CDGcommerce
- Best for growing startups: Payline Data
Looking for a high-risk processor? If your business sells CBD/cannabis products, alcohol, tobacco, or firearms or is in a gambling, travel, or legal and financial service, you may need a high-risk merchant account provider. Our top recommendation is PaymentCloud.
Top Retail Payment Processors Compared
Minimum Monthly Fee
$10 (in-person) $20 (online)
In-person Processing Rates
From Interchange + 0.30% + 8 cents
2.6% + 10 cents
From Interchange + 8 cents
Interchange + 0.25% + 10 cents
Interchange + 0.20% + 10 cents
Online Processing Rates
From Interchange + 0.50% + 25 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
From interchange + 15 cents
Interchange + 0.30% + 15 cents
Interchange + $0.40 + 20 cents
Available Payment Terminals
BBPOS Chipper, Clover Flex
Helcim: Best Overall Retail Payment Processor
Helcim is a credit card processing and merchant services company based in Canada. This processor offers affordable interchange-plus processing rates to independent merchants and includes automatic volume discounts so you always get the lowest rate.
Enrollment is easy—just complete a simple online form and get started right away. With no long-term contracts or cancellation fees, there is no risk of opening an account. Helcim also offers free tools for point of sale, invoicing, online store, customer management, recurrent billing, and a virtual terminal to support a variety of business types.
Helcim earned a 4.51 out of 5 in our payment processor ranking evaluation. It received points for the sheer number of included free tools and its 24/7 customer support. It took some hits for limitations in offline payments and charging a $15 chargeback fee, which is low (the industry standard is $25). But processors like Square don’t have these fees, so our scoring system reflects that difference. Overall, Helcim is a great fit for any non-high-risk business.
Helcim Standout Features
Helcim is an incredibly user-friendly processor with rates to fit all but the smallest businesses (if you process less than $5,000 per month, check out Square). We especially like how your rates automatically drop as your processing volume increases.
Merchants don’t need to contact Helcim to renegotiate rates; you will automatically receive the lowest rate you qualify for. It publicly lists in-person and online transaction costs for businesses that process more than $5 million monthly. So, no matter how big your business is, you’ll never need to haggle with a sales rep to know you’re getting the best rate.
Helcim’s standout features include:
- Free, built-in POS: Your Helcim account includes a free POS module. You can track your inventory, manage customers, set custom discount codes, and create an unlimited number of permission-controlled user accounts. The Helcim POS operates on hardware you already own, whether it is a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone. Competitor Square also offers a Free Retail POS if you want to compare a similar system and processor.
- Online store: Your Helcim account includes a free, integrated online store (like competitor Square). This site is an excellent tool to drive online sales for shipped products or BOPIS items.
- Invoices and subscriptions: Helcim users can create customer invoices for one-time sales or recurrent subscriptions. You can retain customer payment information to pay invoices and subscriptions with a card on file, or request payment via email or SMS text message with a payment link. Helcim will automatically send payment reminders for past due invoices until they are paid.
- Integrations: Helcim is compatible with a variety of accounting, billing, and shopping software and platforms, including QuickBooks. This makes it easy for merchants to streamline operations and connect with online shopping tools.
- Robust 24/7 customer support: Merchants can contact Helcim via phone, email, and an online contact form. You can also request a callback from a Helcim rep by providing your contact information and time preference. The platform also has an extensive Support Center that current and prospective customers can use to search for specific topics.
Find out at all this processor offers by reading our full Helcim review.
Square: Best for Mobile Payments & Microbusinesses
Square is a digital payments company based out of San Francisco. Since its founding in 2009, it has been a leading supporter of independent small businesses, enabling everyone from hobbyists to brick-and-mortar stores to easily accept card payments. Like Helcim, Square includes a free integrated online store and POS app. Though unlike Helcim and others on this list, Square is user-friendly for even the smallest merchants. If you process less than $10,000 per month, it is your best bet for payment processing.
The platform received a 4.49 on our payment processor scoring system. It earned points for its transparent flat-rate pricing, lack of long-term contracts and chargeback fees, and free online store and POS tools. It only lost points for charging monthly fees or higher processing rates for invoicing and card-on-file tools and having hard-to-reach customer service. If you don’t mind searching its comprehensive customer knowledgebase, however, you can usually find the answers to any questions you have.
Square Standout Features
Square is endlessly easy to ease—all you need to do is sign up for a free Square account and get a card reader. It will send you a free magstripe reader to insert into a smartphone or tablet; you can buy additional magstripe readers for $10 each. Contactless and NFC card readers are $49 each, or you can opt for the handheld Square Terminal, which includes a built-in receipt printer for $199.
This system is ideal for small independent merchants. While Square offers volume discounts for businesses that process more than $250,000 annually, these businesses may find lower rates elsewhere.
Square’s standout features include:
- No chargeback fees: Square is the only processor on this list that does not charge chargeback fees. Your flat-rate transaction fees are all you pay to use Square’s payment platform. So if a dispute arises, you’re only out the funds if you lose the dispute with the card issuer. Square does not charge you any additional fees.
- Dispute management: If a cardholder initiates a payment dispute or chargeback, Square’s Dispute Resolution Team notifies the merchant and populates their user dashboard with relevant information. Then, the merchant uploads necessary documentation, and Square forwards it to the customer’s bank and notifies the merchant when the issue is resolved.
- Square Online store: Like Helcim, Square includes a free online store in all its memberships. You create your Square Online store by working through the Square setup wizard, and you can start accepting online orders in a single afternoon. If you already have a website, you can add a Square payment link to it.
- Square Invoices: You can send digital invoices and receive digital payments via Square Invoice. You can send payment requests via email, SMS text message, or a shareable link. The basic free Square Invoice tool does not have any monthly fees—all you pay is a slightly higher transaction fee (2.9% + 30 cents). If you want to create and use custom invoice templates or add custom invoice fields, you’ll need a Plus membership at $20 per month.
- Multiple POS formats: Like Helcim, Square offers an integrated POS. The entry-level Free subscription has no monthly fees or long-term contracts. Users can choose from a Free POS optimized for retail businesses (Square for Retail) or restaurants (Square for Restaurants). Each POS system also offers higher-level subscription tiers with additional functions if you need them for $60 per month.
- Robust integrations: The Square App Marketplace includes hundreds of third-party integrations to support your business. You’ll find accounting integrations like Xero and QuickBooks Online and expanded inventory tools and ecommerce integrations like WooCommerce.
See more features by checking out our full Square Payments review.
Payment Depot by Stax: Best for Mid- & High-volume Merchants Wanting the Lowest Processing Rates
Payment Depot by Stax is a membership-based payment processor. The subscription format is a bit different from others on this list; users pay a monthly subscription fee and a flat interchange-plus rate on each transaction. The end result is that most Payment Depot customers save hundreds of dollars per month on their transaction costs compared to other processors. This makes the platform a terrific fit for midsize merchants that receive most of their payments by card or high-volume merchants that want to save on transaction fees.
The required monthly subscription might be a bit steep for small merchants, though. You’ll need to pay the monthly fee regardless of how many cards you process. Small or micro-merchants processing less than $10,000 per month will likely be happier with something like Square.
Payment Depot earned a 4.18 out of 5 on our payment processor ranking. The low rates and lack of a long-term contract and cancellation fee earned it high marks. The variety of available hardware also stood out. However, this processor took a hit in our evaluation because it lacks business management tools that others like Helcim and Square offer. But if getting the absolute lowest processing rates is your top priority, Payment Depot is the processor for you.
Payment Depot operates on Fiserv and TSYS networks and supports a wide range of card readers. You’ll find hardware options from Clover, Poynt, SwipeSimple, Dejavoo, and First Data. You’ll need to contact Payment Depot for pricing, but whether you are looking for PIN pad readers, mobile readers, simple tap and swipe readers, or full POS systems, Payment Depot has you covered.
Payment Depot’s standout features include:
- Mobile payment app: Payment Depot offers simple mobile payments through smartphones and tablets via integration with SwipeSimple. You can download the app from Google Play or the Apple App Store and accept cards manually or via the optional SwipeSimple tap, dip, and swipe card reader. Receipts are delivered by SMS text, email, or an optional remote printer. With the ability to save cards on file and spool payments in offline mode, this single integration makes Payment Depot an excellent choice for merchants that provide services outside a traditional brick and mortar.
- Virtual terminal: With Payment Depot’s virtual terminal, you can accept card payments via a computer or tablet you already own. You can key in cards manually, or use an optional Bluetooth-connected swipe, dip, and tap card reader.
- POS integrations: If you want a full-scale POS, Payment Depot offers two options: Clover and Vital Select. You can purchase terminals with cash drawers and card readers directly through Payment Depot for custom-quoted prices.
- Custom plan option: If none of the listed plans seem like a good fit for your business, you can contact Payment Depot for a custom quote. Once you get started, all accounts come with a 90-day risk-free trial, so you test drive the system before committing long-term.
See more of this platform’s features by reading our full Payment Depot review.
CDGcommerce: Best for High-ticket Items & B2B Sales
CDGcommerce is a payment processor that offers multiple membership types. Users can choose from a flat-rate fee model (similar to Square), an interchange-plus pricing model, or a wholesale model that pairs a monthly fee with low interchange-plus fees. These options ensure you get the best rates for your sales volume and customer type.
The wholesale option, in particular, is an excellent fit for jewelry stores or vehicle dealers that sell a small number of high-price items. The included Chargeback Collector tool further helps high-ticket businesses collect any money owed, even if they lose a chargeback dispute.
The system earned a 4.06 out of 5 based on our scoring criteria. It received excellent marks for its price and contract terms and lost some points because tools like card-on-file payments and invoicing require enrollment in PastePay.
Also, CDGcommerce’s low-cost wholesale subscriptions require you to pay subscription fees in one annual lump sum. Payment Depot uses a similar pricing structure (and its pricing is slightly higher), but its customers have the option of month-to-month payments.
CDGcommerce Standout Features
CDGcommerce has a lot of features to commend it to independent retailers. One that truly stands out is the Wholesale subscription option. For an affordable monthly subscription fee, users can lock in low interchange-plus transaction fees.
In-person Processing Rate
Monthly Processing limit
Interchange + 10 cents
Interchange + 10 cents
Interchange + 7 cents
Interchange + 5 cents
These fees are slightly lower than those of competitor Payment Depot. CDGcommerce also includes a lower-priced Basic tier that can support smaller merchants. However, users should be aware that, unlike Payment Depot, CDGcommerce requires monthly fees to be paid in a single annual sum. But if you don’t mind the lump-sum payment, you can lock in the lowest possible processing rates. This is especially helpful if your business sells high-value items or if you provide large wholesale orders to other businesses.
CDGcommerce’s standout features include:
- Chargeback support and fraud protection: CDGcommerce will notify you by email the moment a chargeback dispute is initiated so you have time to prepare your response. CDG representatives will help you compile information to make the strongest case possible to win the dispute.
- Chargeback collection: If you lose a chargeback dispute, you may still have rights as a merchant to collect the money from the transaction. CDGcommerce offers collections services to help you track these funds down. The collections tool is free to use; you won’t pay anything if nothing is collected—though you will split any recovered funds 50/50 with the collections agency (which is better than the $0 you would have had otherwise).
- Invoicing and recurring payments: Like others on this list, CDGcommerce supports invoicing, card-on-file payments, and recurring payments. This is one area where CDGcommerce can get a bit pricier than others; its invoicing and card-on-file tools require enrolling in its PastePay Cloud POS module (costs an additional $79 per month plus 25 cents per sale). If you need free or lower-cost invoicing tools, check out Square.
See what else this processor has to offer by reading our full CDGcommerce review.
Payline Data: Best Processor for Startups to Midsize Retailers
Payline is a merchant services provider that offers solutions for in-person, online, mobile, invoice, and recurring payments. Its pricing structure starts with a low monthly fee for in-person and online payments, ensuring that small businesses and startups don’t pay for payment types they won’t use. The interchange-plus transaction fees are also comparatively low, making this processor attractive to businesses processing less than $250,000 annually. Businesses that process more than that will likely find more savings with a provider like Payment Depot.
In our evaluation, this processor earned a 4.04 out of 5. It performed well for price, and we liked the virtual terminal options and automated recurring payments. But Payline lost some points because it does not support a built-in online store—you need an integration. And while it supports several popular ecommerce tools, we think the integrated and fully hosted online stores offered by Square and Helcim are easier for independent business owners.
Payline Data Standout Features
Payline combines low monthly fees with low interchange-plus rates to create an affordable processing solution for small to midsize businesses. The built-in tools are especially useful for service-based businesses that send invoices or have a subscriber-based customer model. The recurrent billing tools are easy to use with some nice automation features. But if your business is high-volume, you can likely get lower rates from Payment Depot.
Payline’s standout features include
- Ecommerce integrations: Payline integrates with popular ecommerce platforms Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, and more, so you can use whatever ecommerce tools you prefer and integrate your Payline account. If you have the technical know-how (or an employee that does), you can build further integrations using the open application programming interface (API) to build a custom integration solution.
- POS integrations: Payline integrates with several POS systems to support businesses of all sizes. Small, independent merchants will prefer the cloud-based Clover and Vend integrations. Midsize to enterprise-level businesses will be better supported by the NCR Silver or Oracle/MICROS systems.
- Invoice payments: Payline supports invoice payments with options for payment in full or scheduled partial payments until a project or service is complete. Payline invoices are sent via email or paid via a secure payment link on your website; currently Payline does not support SMS text invoice payments. If this is a feature you need, check out Square or Helcim.
- Recurrent billing: Payline’s recurrent billing module is one of the most automated on this list. You can set up your system to send monthly invoices to customers, or create a billing schedule where customer charges will automatically be paid with the card on file.
- Virtual terminal: Like others on this list, Payline includes a virtual terminal that customers can use to manually key credit card information for phone, mail, or invoice orders. You can choose from CardPointe, NMI, Transax, or Authorize.net gateways to host your virtual terminal. Each comes with different reporting and support features.
Learn more about this processor by reading our in-depth Payline Data review.
How We Evaluated Retail Payment Processors
Retailers need a merchant services provider that offers low transaction rates, flexible payment options, and a responsive support team. We evaluated dozens of processors to rate their overall cost, in-person and online functionality, and available integrations to choose the best options for various retail businesses. We also considered customer support hours and deposit speed to ensure users have access to the tools necessary to grow and sustain a retail business.
Based on our evaluation, Helcim is the best overall retail credit card processor, earning a 4.51 out of 5 on our scoring system. It offers competitive interchange-plus pricing, QuickBooks integration, solutions for accepting nearly every payment type, and 24/7 support. It doesn’t have long-term contracts and cancellation fees and works with many popular retail software products.
Click through the tabs below for our full evaluation criteria:
25% of Overall Score
30% of Overall Score
25% of Overall Score
20% of Overall Score
Helcim earned the highest score in our evaluation of the best retail payment processors. We loved the flexible, transparent pricing and the number of free business-supporting tools that Helcim includes. The platform offers a flexible credit processing service for online, mobile, and in-store purchases, and its low-cost interchange-plus pricing model is built to grow with your business. Head over to Helcim to start taking payments today.