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: Square
- Best for the lowest processing rates: Helcim
- Best subscription service: Payment Depot
- Best for high-ticket items and B2B: CDGcommerce
- Best for same-day deposits: Chase Payment Solutions
- Best for international and online payments: PayPal
Accept payments anywhere customers are; In-person, Online, Remote, Buy Now Pay Later
Accept payments anywhere customers are; In-person, Online, Remote, Buy Now Pay Later
Retail Payment Processors Compared
Square: Best Overall Retail Credit Card Processor
Square is our top pick for the best credit card processors for retail businesses. Not only does Square have a competitive flat-rate processing fee, but it also offers a free POS and online store, pre-integrated with Square payments. Additionally, every Square user gets a free magstripe reader. It also has additional affordable hardware options—the least expensive of any on this list.
Square Afterpay lets customers buy now and pay in four installments, a big asset for larger online and in-person sales. In addition, it has over 200 native integrations, including other POS systems, accounting, ecommerce, delivery, loyalty, and more.
It received a 4.8 out of 5 in our expert evaluation, earning points for its transparent flat-rate pricing, lack of long-term contracts and chargeback fees, and free online store and POS tools.
The merchant account lost points for its high processing rates for companies processing large sums each month. (It does offer custom pricing if you process over $250K per year.) Its customer service is hard to reach, but it does offer a comprehensive customer knowledge base that answers most questions about the service and software.
Helcim: Best for the Lowest Processing Rates
Helcim is a credit card processing and merchant services company that, like Payment Depot, offers interchange-plus pricing, with rates broken up into seven tiers, adjusted based on a three-month processing average of your card processing volume. This processor offers affordable interchange-plus processing rates to independent merchants and includes automatic volume discounts as you increase your sales volume, so you always get the lowest rate.
Rates start at 0.4% + 8 cents per in-person transaction (0.5% + 25 cents per online transaction) and go down from there. 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 up to $1 million monthly and more. 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 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.
Discover all that this processor has to offer and more on its pricing structure by reading our full Helcim review.
Payment Depot: Best Subscription Service
Payment Depot is a subscription-based payment processor where 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.
Payment Depot reduced its pricing plans from multiple options to one option, which is $79 per month with a $250,000 annual processing limit. Customers processing more than $250,000 annually will receive a custom quote. The required monthly subscription might be a bit steep for small merchants, but it is ideal for midsize businesses that process over $15,000 per month.
In terms of hardware, 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 earned a 4.5 out of 5 on our payment processor ranking. Although it took a hit for having a monthly fee, the low rates, lack of a long-term contract, and $0 cancellation fee earned it high marks. The variety of available hardware and POS integrations also stood out. This processor also took a hit in our evaluation because it lacks same-day deposit and has few native business management tools, like a POS system and ecommerce store, that Helcim and Square offer.
See more on 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 depending on your processing volume. Users can choose from a flat-rate model (similar to Square), an interchange-plus pricing model, or a wholesale model that pairs a monthly fee with low interchange-plus fees. The wholesale plan is really where CDGCommerce sets itself apart, offering the lowest rates for businesses that process lots of high-ticket sales and B2B sellers—even lower than Payment Depot’s.
We recommend businesses that process more than $200,000 use the paid, wholesale plan. Retailers that process less should consider another of CDGCommerce’s plans or Square for their processing needs.
CDG earned a 4.4 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.
See what else CDGcommerce has to offer and a breakdown of its pricing by reading our full CDGcommerce review.
Chase Payment Solutions: Best for Same-day Deposits
Chase offers some of the best retail credit cards for consumers. Chase Payment Solutions is Chase Bank’s merchant account service for businesses. With Chase Payment Solutions, you not only get a flat-rate pricing structure, ideal for small and midsize businesses, but Chase also offers same-day deposits for Chase banking customers. That means money appears in your account on the same day you make your profit—there is no waiting around.
To sign up for Chase Payment Solutions you have to work with a sales representative, who will pair you with the best products for your needs, including hardware.
Every Chase Payment Solutions account comes with Chase Customer Insights, which combines Chase’s merchant account acquiring data and its card issuing data. The result is actionable insights not only based on your businesses’ transactions but how it compares against similar businesses in your area.
Chase Payment Solutions earned a 4.34 out of 5 in our evaluation. The service includes a basic POS system that is user-friendly and easy to set up, flat-rate pricing, affordable hardware, a good menu of integrations, same day-deposits, and all for no monthly fee.
However, Chase did lose some points as its POS option is very basic and doesn’t include many integrations. Additionally, its chargeback fee is the highest on our list, and it has limited native online payment tools. We recommend Square if you need a free credit card processing option that includes a POS system and affordable hardware for lower flat rates.
To learn more, read our full Chase Payment Solutions review.
PayPal: Best for International & Online Payments
PayPal is an extremely popular payment processor that often makes our lists for best merchant services. Here, we chose it as the best for international organizations doing cross-border sales because of PayPal’s wide reach—over 200 countries and 25 currencies. PayPal is best suited for online and invoices but offers a free mobile POS, Zettle, and an inexpensive card reader. It’s developing a handheld POS terminal which is scheduled to launch sometime this summer.
Like Square, PayPal has a BNPL system, PayPal PayLater. Unlike Afterpay, customers get a choice between four payments or monthly installments. PayPal says its PayLater order values are 20% higher than standard PayPal orders.
PayPal earned 4.3 out of 5 on our rubric. It scored well across the board, particularly for pricing and popularity. It excels in integrations and has offline mode and business management tools. It lost points for customer service hours and because it charges a monthly fee for its virtual terminal, whereas others, like Square, offer this free.
How to Choose a Payment Processor for Your Store
Choosing the best payment processor for your store is not only about price (although that is important). Want to ensure the processor is the best fit for you? Be sure to consider all of the following:
- Price: There are two kinds of pricing: flat rate and interchange-plus. Interchange-plus is usually cheaper but can fluctuate, so you may not know exactly how much you are paying in processing fees until you get your bill. On the other hand, many interchange-plus merchant accounts charge a membership fee, which could end up costing you more if you don’t process enough.
- Contract: Nowadays, you can easily find a payment processor that allows month-to-month accounts, although high-risk merchants usually need to sign a contract. Some may require a contract if you use their hardware. If you choose a processor with a contract, read it carefully for exit fees.
- Tools: Business tools like POS systems, virtual terminals, and even same-day payouts, can add to your overall price, so consider what the payment processor offers as far as free tools.
- Reputation: A great price is no good if you are hit with hidden fees, your account gets frozen without warning, or the processor itself isn’t reliable. Check out our reviews and third-party user reviews and talk to fellow shop owners about their experiences.
- Security: At the bare minimum, you need a payment processor that is PCI compliant, but also look for chargeback protection, fraud alerts, and other technology that keeps your business and customer data secure.
See our merchant account application guide for more tips and a step-by-step walkthrough:
Retail Payment Trends (& How They Affect Your Choice)
The nature of card payments is changing; tap-to-pay has become commonplace, and now the market is looking toward convenience for payments.
- Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL): According to a study by PayPal, BNPL encouraged over 70% of shoppers to complete a purchase. It also leads to higher overall ticket amounts. Most providers offering BNPL services charge you a higher processing fee, but the entire ticket amount is paid out to you immediately, even if the customer is making monthly payments.
- Buy Online Pay in Store (BOPIS): According to a ResearchandMarkets.com report, the BOPIS market is expected to grow to $703.2 billion by 2027. BOPIS transactions in the US in 2022 accounted for 9% of ecommerce sales, and that’s expected to grow. This function may be found in your POS system, but check if your payment processor supports it. (Learn more about BOPIS.)
- QR Codes: QR codes are those squarish blocks that customers can scan with their phone to pull up checkout information and pay from their phones. This contactless form of payment provides quick and secure checkout and is great, especially for restaurants, so customers can pay when they’re ready without waiting for waitstaff.
- Seamless Checkout: The easier it is for your customer to check out, the less likely they’ll abandon a cart. That means providing their favorite ways to pay (like PayPal vs a credit card) and allowing them to set accounts and keep their card information stores. Thus, when looking at a payment processor, look not only for those that let you store card information but that will update expired cards so that customers aren’t left with renewing their account information in the middle of a purchase.
Discover other retail trends in our article on retail statistics for 2023.
What Do Retailers Need to Process Credit Card Payments?
Accepting credit card payments online or in-store is easier than ever. You need just a few things for a complete credit card payment system.
- Payment processor: This can be a merchant account plus a payment gateway, or it can be a direct payment processor like Square. The payment processor accepts the payment and transfers the money into your account for a small fee.
- POS system: If you are selling in person, especially for retail or restaurant, then a point-of-sale system is the easiest way. You can load your sale items, track payments, customers, and inventory, as well as collect and process credit card payments.
- Virtual terminal: This is best for mail order/telephone order (MOTO) sales and service industries. A virtual terminal lets you collect and process payments from your computer screen without all the bells and whistles of a POS system.
- Online store: Selling online is practically a must, even for brick-and-mortar stores. The best online stores sync with your POS system for inventory, sales, and customer tracking.
- Mobile payments: Some payment processors have a mobile POS system, while others have a much simpler interface that simply takes the payments and lets you type in what they are for. These are good for on-location services like home repair or for selling at farmers markets.
- Hardware: If you accept credit cards in person, hardware completes your credit card payment system. Sometimes, this is as simple as your mobile phone with the app loaded. However, there are full-scale POS systems with barcode scanners, registers, and even scales. Talk to your payment processor about what they offer.
Get more details in our article on accepting credit card payments.
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.
Take a look at our evaluation details and the team who did the evaluating:
Retail Credit Card Processing Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
This depends on your needs and the payment processor you choose. Keep in mind that the cost is not just the payment processing fees, but also the software and hardware you use to collect the payments. In general, we suggest planning up to 5% of your budget for retail payment processing.
Merchant credit card processing simply means signing up with a merchant payment provider so that you can accept credit cards, debit cards, and other forms of electronic payment. The payment provider (sometimes called the merchant account) handles the transaction between you, the card, and the customer’s bank, and places the money (minus a fee) into your bank account.
The cheapest way depends on your business type and how much you process in a month. For example, if you are a brick-and-mortar store that processes under $10,000 in a month, then a flat-rate payment processor with a free POS system is your cheapest option.
For over $10,000 in processing fees, interchange-plus pricing may be a better bet. However, you should also factor in any membership or other fees as well as POS costs.
Naturally, the more free tools you get, the lower your overall expenses, but also consider chargeback fees, especially if you sell online. To get the best credit card processing for small businesses, look for services that offer things like POS systems and virtual terminals.
It’s hard to have a retail sales business without accepting credit cards. Fortunately, there are credit card processors that work for even the most casual retailer. When looking for the best credit card processing for small business, consider not just price, but tools offered, reliability, and customer support.
Square earned the highest score in our evaluation of the best retail payment processors. We loved its flat-rate, transparent pricing, and the number of free business-supporting tools it has to offer. The platform offers tons of a wide range of integrations and is consistently our top pick for POS systems, for retail and beyond.