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Best Credit Card Processing Companies of 2021

By
Donna Fuscaldo
,
Business News Daily Staff
| Updated
Nov 11, 2021

We've researched and compared the 10 best credit card processing companies available for small businesses. Find a partner to help grow your business.
Best for Easy Approval
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98% approval rate
Fast turnaround
Mobile payment support
Best for Small Business
Flat-rate pricing
QuickBooks integration
Robust accounting features
Best for POS
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Robust POS features
Flat-rate pricing
No long-term contracts
Best for High-Risk Businesses
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Services for high-risk merchants
High approval rate
Month-to-month pricing
Best for High Volume
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Wholesale rates
Membership pricing
No early termination fees
We've researched and compared the 10 best credit card processing companies available for small businesses. Find a partner to help grow your business.

Best Credit Card Processors


  • For small businesses that process less than $5,000 per month, the most affordable card processing option is usually to select a processor that charges a flat rate for each transaction and doesn't charge monthly or annual fees.
  • Businesses that process more than $5,000 per month should look for a processor that offers interchange-plus pricing and charges few monthly or annual fees.
  • Look for processors that are transparent with their pricing, clearly posting rates and fees on their websites.
  • This article is for startups and small business owners who are looking for a credit card processing service.

Credit Card Processing Review Summary

Processors researched 35
Lowest processing rate 1.7% + $0.07
Highest processing rate 3.5% + $0.35
Pricing model Flat and interchange-plus

Nearly every business these days needs to accept credit cards and debit cards, but choosing a credit card processing company for your small business can be difficult – there are hundreds to choose from. We've spent hundreds of hours researching the credit card processing industry; we looked for credit card processors that offer transparent pricing, with reasonable rates and few credit card processing fees, reliable customer support, and no long-term contracts. Read our recommendations below and our credit card processing guide to find the best credit card processor for your business.

Best Credit Card Processing for Small Business

To select the best credit card processing provider for your small business you have to weigh your needs against the actual costs to accept payments. After all, prices and services vary from one credit card processor to the next. The best ones offer transparent and low pricing, little in the way of fees, flexible terms, and the ability to expand as your business grows.

The credit card processors that stood out to us support a variety of payment methods, provide e-commerce and reporting tools, and get funds from credit card sales into your bank account as fast as possible. Sure, they may not be the lowest cost providers, but all the extras make them better options for small business owners. Here's a look at 11 credit card processors worthy of consideration:

Credit card processing company Best use case Pricing structure Contract structure Penalty for early termination Time to deposit Multiple payment methods supported Round the clock support
Merchant One Easy approval Flat rate Monthly No Within 2 business days Yes Yes
ProMerchant High-risk businesses Flat rate and interchange-plus  Monthly No Within 2 business days Yes Yes
Clover POS Flat rate Monthly No Same day Yes Yes
Fattmerchant Small businesses Flat rate Monthly No Same day Yes Yes
Payment Depot High-volume businesses Flat rate Monthly No Within 2 business days Yes Yes
Square Growing businesses Flat rate Pay as you use No Within 2 business days Yes No
Helcim Established businesses Interchange-plus Monthly No Within 2 business days Yes Yes
National Processing Low transaction rates Flat rate Monthly Yes Within 2 business days Yes Yes
Flagship Merchant Services Flexible contracts Flat rate and interchange-plus Monthly No Same day Yes Yes
Chase Merchant Services All-sized businesses Custom Flexible N/A Within 2 business days Yes No
Paysafe Online businesses Custom Month to month Yes Within 2 business days Yes No

 

Find the Right Credit Card Processor for Your Business

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Our Reviews

Merchant One: Best Credit Card Processor for Easy Approval

Merchant One doesn't charge a separate PCI compliance fee.
Merchant One works with businesses regardless of low credit scores.
Prices for its credit card processing services aren't listed online.
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Your financial standing alone shouldn't hurt your chances of buying property, getting a business loan and accepting credit card payments. Nor should a complicated and slow-moving process hamper your growth. Merchant One doesn't throw roadblocks in your way, making it our best pick for easy approval.  Merchant One provides credit card processing solutions that offer a variety of processing and POS features. Whether you're accepting payments online or in-store, Merchant One can support your business. Merchant One is one of the few credit card processors that will look at more than your credit score when reviewing your application. Merchant One claims to have a 98% approval rate and says its willing to work with all companies.

Editor's score: 8.7/10

Besides its flexibility (and empathy for) small business owners with credit issues, we also chose Merchant One as one of our best picks because of its flat-rate pricing plans. The credit card processor charges $6.95 a month plus 0.29% to 1.55% for in-person transactions and 0.29% to 1.99% for keyed-in transactions. We also liked that Merchant One doesn't charge a PCI compliance fee or early termination fee. While those are two common fees that many processors in the industry charge, it's a nice bonus that Merchant One doesn't tack those fees on.

Speed is of the essence when it comes to accepting credit card payments. You don't want to wait days to be operational. Merchant One says it can approve applications within 24 hours.

Accepting multiple types of payments is becoming increasingly important for merchants as for many, e-commerce sales contribute significantly to their overall sales. Merchant One helps merchants prepare by providing everything necessary for a small business owner to accept payments online and in-store. The credit card processor sells Clover POS hardware, it offers high-speed processing, and it allows merchants to sell gift cards and create loyalty programs. We also like that you can launch text message marketing campaigns through Merchant One's platform.

Merchant One has all the mobile capabilities small business owners can expect from a credit card processor, including the ability to accept payments from your mobile device anywhere there is internet access. If you sell your products or services online, Merchant One offers customers a free shopping cart, online account management, and the ability to access sales data remotely.

Customer service is also top-notch at Merchant One. You are assigned a dedicated account manager who can help you set up your system and offer support once you begin accepting payments. There's also 24/7 customer support.

Read Merchant One Review

Fattmerchant: Best Credit Card Processor for Small Business

Fattmerchant charges a monthly fee, interchange-plus pricing and a flat per-transaction fee to process payments. There are no other fees.
You can analyze sales in real time through Fattmerchant's dashboard.
The flat-rate pricing model best suits businesses that process at least $7,000 per month in transactions.

Fattmerchant provides fair and simple pricing with its flat-rate pricing model. It uses the interchange-plus pricing model, but instead of charging a markup percentage to the interchange fee that credit card issuers charge, it adds a per-transaction fee. Add the ability to analyze sales and a comprehensive platform that offers several other features, and it's easy to see why we chose Fattmerchant as the best credit card processor for small businesses.

Editor's score: 9.5/10

Fattmerchant offers two plans, depending on how much your business processes per year. With the first plan, which is for businesses the process less than $80,000 annually, you pay 2.9% per transaction and then 8 cents for swiped cards or 15 cents per transaction for cards whose number you key in.

The second plan is best suited for businesses that process more than $80,000 per year.  Its monthly subscription fee starts at $99. This fee covers the expenses associated with credit card processing, including statement fees, PCI compliance, customer support and account maintenance.

Fattmerchant also supports mobile payments, enabling merchants to accept digital payments and get paid right away. The feature is part of its subscription model, it doesn’t charge anything extra on top of the credit card company fees.

Coupled with the two merchant processing plans Fattmerchant offers its "omni" software solution. Small business owners can choose from three plans. This software is designed to give you better insight into your sales, customers and order trends.

The Starter plan is $49 per month, and with it, you can run sales reports, track refunds, and accept payments over the phone and the internet, thanks to a virtual terminal. The next tier is the Growth plan, which is $89 per month. You get everything from the Starter plan, plus the ability to create and send invoices. You also gain access to a dedicated account manager. The most comprehensive plan, Pro, costs $129 a month. It gives you everything in the Growth plan, and you can send recurring invoices, schedule payments, and add custom branding. There's also a shopping cart, management tools for your product catalog, and the ability to manage customer information.

When it comes to offering credit processing at an affordable rate, Fattmerchant delivers. You get flat-rate pricing, no hidden fees and tools to help support your business, making it worthy of consideration.

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Clover Credit Card Processing: Best Credit Card Processor for POS

Clover offers low flat-rate pricing.
Clover's point-of-sale hardware is available through several resellers.
First Data is your merchant acquirer with Clover.
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Small businesses that accept and process payments in-store and online need a credit card processor that has it all: great processing rates and robust POS solutions. Clover checks both boxes, making it our pick as the best processor for POS systems.

Editor's score: 8.75/10

Clover provides small businesses with everything they need to run a retail or restaurant operation. Its POS software and hardware are robust and widely available, while its credit card processing rates are predictable due to the company's flat-rate pricing.

Clover offers two pricing plans. Register Lite is best suited for businesses that have less than $50,000 in annual credit card sales – it costs $9.95 a month. You will also pay 2.7% and 10 cents for in-person purchases and 3.5% plus 10 cents for virtual or card-not-present purchases.

The Register plan, Clover's second plan, costs $39.95 a month and is geared toward merchants that have more than $50,000 in credit card sales annually. You pay a transaction fee of 2.3% plus 10 cents for in-person purchases and 3.5% plus 10 cents for online and keyed-in purchases. You can purchase or lease Clover POS equipment, or you can buy it on your own. Clover has a lot of resellers, so it's worth shopping around to find the best deal for your POS hardware.

Clover also offers a virtual terminal, which enables you to accept payments without POS hardware. It costs 3.5% and 10 cents per transaction. Business owners will appreciate Clover's Rapid Deposit service, which means merchants get access to credit card sales in minutes instead of the standard one or two days. Clover charges a 1% per transaction fee for this service.

On the POS software side, Clover offers several features that small businesses need to support operations, including reporting and integrations with QuickBooks and Xero. We like that Clover allows you to create and sell gift cards. There are more than 70 design templates to choose from, or you can create your own custom gift card.

With Clover, e-commerce isn't an afterthought. Its tools help you build a website, as well as sync and manage orders, inventory, and customer data. Clover has partnerships with BigCommerce and Ecwid and integrates with Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, Etsy, eBay, and other online marketplaces.

For small businesses that want POS and credit card processing from one vendor, Clover stands out. It has a low flat-rate pricing model, robust POS software and a network of POS equipment resellers, making it our best pick for POS.

Clover is expanding its offering geared toward restaurants by unveiling a new integration with Grubhub. Instead of needing a separate device to accept Grubhub orders, restaurants can now do it on their Clover POS terminal. Restaurant owners can also sign up for Grubhub directly from Clover's terminal. Clover’s parent company, Fiserv, also recently acquired BentoBox, a digital platform designed to help restaurant owners grow. BentoBox’s services, including web design, online orders and marketing, will be integrated into the Clover platform.

Clover is making it easier for its credit card processing customers to handle an influx of business this holiday season, adding more apps to its marketplace. For retailers and merchants that are still not online, Clover added integration with Online Order by 4 Leaf Labs. This app helps you create a website and mobile app from the ground up. Buy Now Depot's Advanced Online Ordering and Delivery Platform helps business owners manage their inventory and gives them advice and guidance on how to handle logistics and shipping. Finally, Clover added a Zoomifi integration, which makes it easy for customers to book appointments online.

Read Clover Credit Card Processing Review

ProMerchant: Best Credit Card Processor for High-Risk Businesses

ProMerchant will work with small businesses that fall into high-risk categories.
It offers flat-rate and interchange-plus pricing.
You will need to contact ProMerchant directly to get a price quote.
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Small businesses in certain industries can have a difficult time finding a credit card processor that will work with them. However, one option can be ProMerchant, a full-service credit card processing company located in Boston. ProMerchant is willing to work with businesses in industries deemed high risk. It's our best pick for high-risk businesses.

ProMerchant has two pricing models: fixed rate and interchange plus, giving small business owners a choice over the rate that is most affordable to them based on their monthly sales. The card processor doesn't list its prices online, which means you must contact the company for a quote. (There's an online form you can fill out to be contacted by a representative.)

Editor's score: 8.5/10

ProMerchant boasts a high approval rate. According to the company, it considers factors beyond one's credit score – such as sales, operations, and growth potential, among other things – when evaluating applicants for a merchant account. According to the company, if you apply online, ProMerchant can notify you of its decision sometimes the same day. (Otherwise, the average time it takes to hear back on your application is two business days.) It also offers overnight delivery of free terminals and next-day access to online processing tools.

Another strong advantage of ProMerchant is that billing is month to month; there are no long-term contracts you're required to sign, which means you can cancel without incurring hefty termination fees.

When you sign up with ProMerchant, you're assigned a dedicated account team. It also offers email and telephone support.

Read ProMerchant Review

Payment Depot: Best Credit Card Processor for High Volume

Payment Depot offers membership pricing and wholesale rates.
You're not bound by a lengthy contract.
Payment Depot can be pricey, especially if you don't have a high volume of transactions.
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Small business owners who process a high volume of credit and debit card transactions must be careful when choosing a credit card processor. If you select the wrong one, it can get expensive very quickly. That's not the case with Payment Depot. Its membership-based pricing and wholesale rates help keep your processing costs in check, which is why we chose Payment Depot as our best pick for high volume.

Editor's score: 8.25/10

With Payment Depot, customers pay a flat rate each month and then a low per-transaction fee. There are no setup fees, monthly fees or long-term contracts. There's no cancellation fee if you close your account and go with a different processor. Businesses that process a high volume of payments each month stand to save the most when working with this credit card processor.

Payment Depot offers four plans based on your monthly processing volume. The Basic plan, which is for businesses that process $25,000 or less each month costs $49 plus 15 cents per transaction. The Most Popular plan is for businesses that process up to $75,000 a month; it costs $79 a month, plus there is a 10 cent per-transaction fee. Payment Depot's Premier plan costs $99 per month and is for companies that process up to $150,000 a month. It costs 7 cents per transaction. The Unlimited plan has no monthly processing limit and costs $199 per month. The per-transaction fee drops to 5 cents. We like that Payment Depot offers several pricing plans and is upfront about pricing on its website.

When you sign up with Payment Depot, you receive a merchant account, which allows you to accept payments in-store, online and via mobile devices. Payments are typically deposited into your account in one or two business days. Payment Depot also provides integrations with QuickBooks, Shopify, WooCommerce and 3dcart.

Businesses that process a lot of credit card sales need a processor that is easily accessible. Payment Depot assigns a dedicated account rep to your account who serves as your main point of contact. Support is available Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.

Small business owners who process a lot of payments each month need a credit card processor that can do it quickly and cheaply and that's where Payment Depot comes in. In addition to wholesale rates and membership pricing, there aren't any lengthy contracts or monthly fees, which is why we chose it as our best pick for high volume businesses.

Read Payment Depot Review

Square: Best Credit Card Processors for Growing Businesses

There are no monthly or annual fees for Square's credit card processing service.
Its basic POS app is free and can be augmented with advanced features as your business grows.
Its customer service isn't as robust as some of its competitors.
Visit Site

Small businesses don't always remain small. Some need a credit card processor that can grow with them. Square stands out in that regard due to its low rates, a free e-commerce app, and point-of-sale (POS) software that expands to support your expanding business's needs, making it our best pick for growing businesses.

Editor's score: 8/10

One of the reasons Square stands out for growing small businesses is its low flat-rate pricing model. Square charges 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person payments and 3.5% plus 15 cents for card-not-present transactions. The cost for purchases through your Square online store, Square online checkout, e-commerce API, or via an invoice is 2.9% and an additional 30 cents. There are no monthly, gateway, setup, PCI compliance, early termination or annual fees, nor is there a chargeback fee, which we like. Most processors have steep chargeback fees.

We were also impressed with Square's credit card processing app. Not only can you process payments from nearly anywhere, but its POS software features help you track and manage inventory, collect and analyze customer data, and run reports on sales and inventory. The app works on both Apple and Android devices. It also integrates with several business applications, enabling you to combine your sales data with other accounting and management functions.

Square's retail- and restaurant-specific features support your business as it grows. Its inventory-and order-management tools help you meet demand now and predict future orders, and its e-commerce store enables you to sell products online for free. A bonus, Square's online stores can synchronize with your inventory and social media accounts.

Square's POS software also has a lot of accounting features we like for growing businesses – the ability to track invoices, accept payments and manage sales from one dashboard will appeal to business owners that want a central location from which they can assess their business.

Square Capital is the company's lending arm, and it provides small business owners with merchant cash advances, with funding as soon as 24 hours. You need to establish a processing history with Square to be eligible for the short-term loans, though, but these loans may be useful as your business expands.

Another aspect growing small businesses may like about Square is its Mastercard business debit card. Dubbed the Square Card, it makes it easy to access the cash from your transactions. There are no signup fees, annual fees, monthly fees, minimum balance fees or overdraft fees. Another perk: You get an instant discount of 2.75% when you use this card to shop with other Square sellers.

May 2021: Your business can now accept ACH payments on your Square Invoices. This provides a secure alternative way for businesses to accept payments with lower processing fees. With the service, when your business sends a Square Invoice, customers can click on the payment link, provide their bank details and complete the payment online.

Read Square Review

Helcim: Best Credit Card Processor for Established Businesses

Helcim posts its rates and fees on its website, so you know exactly what you will pay.
The monthly fee includes PCI compliance, virtual terminal access, an online store and more.
Some of its competitors offer lower online processing rates.
Visit Site

Helcim is an option for businesses that process more than $5,000 per month and want better rates than what flat-rate plans offer. We selected Helcim because in addition to being one of the most transparent credit card companies in the industry, it provides interchange-plus pricing to all of its merchants and posts its complete rates and fees on its website so you know exactly what you'll pay. Its rates are low, it offers volume-based discounts, and it's one of the few companies with a rate lock, guaranteeing its margin won't increase over the life of your account.

Editor's score: 8.3/10

It has in-person, online, and mobile processing, plus more advanced solutions such as invoicing, recurring payments, a hosted online store and payment pages, and online food ordering. The company provides services on a month-to-month basis, charges no early termination fee and has 24/7 phone support.

Read Helcim Review

National Processing: Best Credit Card Processor for Low Transaction Rates

National Processing has some of the lowest interchange-plus rates of the companies we evaluated.
All customers are assigned a dedicated account representative.
National Processing charges a termination fee. Closing your account without paying this fee can be tricky. You'll need to provide the company with a quote for lower pricing elsewhere and allow National Processing to "meet or beat" it.

National Processing is our best pick for low transaction rates because it charges interchange-plus rates that beat many of its competitors. It also has a rate-lock guarantee that ensures you don't unexpectedly pay more to process card payments.

Editor's score: 8/10

This credit card processor offers three pricing models for retailers, restaurants, and e-commerce companies – all three plans cost $9.95 per month and include the rate lock guarantee. Restaurants pay 0.14% plus 7 cents per transaction, retailers pay 0.18% plus 10 cents per transaction, and e-commerce businesses pay 0.3% plus 15 cents per transaction.

Like other credit card processors, National Processing charges fees. It does charge customers a a PCI compliance fee, which some processors do not charge. You aren't forced to sign a long-term contract with National Processing, which is another plus. However, National Processing does charge a termination fee. The company will waive this fee if your business is sold or closed, or if National Processing can't match or beat a rival's credit card processing rate. You'll also pay the fee if you leave without considering National Processing's counteroffer. The company will pay you $500 if it can't beat your current rate. However, you won't pay National Processing an annual fee or have to meet a monthly minimum.

National Processing, similar to other credit card processors we evaluated, provides customers with a merchant account. With this account, you can process payments in person, online or via mobile devices. You can also send one-time and recurring invoices and accept payments via its billing software. Through the software, you can gain access to tools that lower the likelihood of fraud and chargebacks. Additionally, with this credit card processor, you get ACH processing, QuickBooks integration and a virtual terminal. With a virtual terminal, you can accept credit card payments when customers enter their information on your e-store or when they pay by digital invoice on your website.

National Processing's customer service was another reason we selected it as a best pick. We like that you get a dedicated account representative who is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. MT. Tech support is available 24/7.

When it comes to processing payments, you want to pay the lowest price possible, but you don't want to sacrifice service. With National Processing, you don't have to. You get price stability due to its flat-rate pricing and rate-lock guarantee, and you get the flexibility of no long-term contracts.

Read National Processing Review

Flagship Merchant Services: Best Credit Card Processor for Flexible Contracts

There are no long-term contracts or cancellation fees to pay with Flagship.
Flagship customers can choose between interchange-plus and tiered processing rates.
Flagship charges a PCI compliance fee.

Small business owners don't want to be locked into a long-term contract with exorbitant fees to pay to get out of it. They want flexibility and freedom, which they get with Flagship Merchant Services, our pick for the best credit card processor offering flexible contracts.

Editor's score: 9/10

Flagship Merchant Services is a full-service payment processing company that charges on a month-to-month basis and has no cancellation fees. The credit card processor offers two pricing models: There's the more popular interchange-plus rate or a tiered pricing model.

Pricing with the latter model can get confusing as there are multiple tiers. Flagship doesn't list its prices online for either pricing model. You will need to contact the company to get a customized quote.

Flagship Merchant Services also sells a variety of credit card processing hardware so you can easily accept payments in-store, on the go and online. For example, Flagship sells a simple credit card terminal with a built-in PIN pad for new businesses, or for more established businesses, Flagship offers a comprehensive POS system. It sells terminals and POS equipment from Verifone and Clover, among other vendors. It is possible to get free equipment from Flagship (a free Clover Mini credit card processing terminal); however, you must sign a three-year contract. We recommend that you purchase your card processing reader or terminal, though, so you can keep your month-to-month service terms. Your Flagship account also comes with an online reporting tool that you can use to analyze your sales data.

Flagship offers good customer service. You get a dedicated account representative, who is available during regular business hours. (Flagship is based in Birmingham, Alabama.) If you need help with your account after hours, 24/7 technical support is also available – you can visit Flagship's site, provide your contact info, and submit your request.

Read Flagship Merchant Services Review

Paysafe: Best Credit Card Processor for Online Businesses

Paysafe supports e-cash payments.
You can make recurring payments and send invoices with Paysafe.
To compare its interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans, you will need to contact the company.

Whether your business accepts e-invoice or online payments, you need a credit card processor that understands e-commerce, can process a variety of payments, works with a variety of POS devices, and can transform your smartphone into a mobile checkout device. Paysafe is our pick as the best credit card processor for online businesses.

Editor's score: 8.35/10

We like that Paysafe enables business owners to accept cash for online purchases, an attribute that not all credit card processors have. Using Paysafe's "eCash" service, customers can pay cash for their purchases by entering a 16-digit code. That opens up new opportunities for you to do business with customers who've been wary to buy online, or who previously couldn't. With Flagship's eCash service, you can reach international customers and consumers who don't have a credit card or bank account.

If you need a POS system, Paysafe offers Clover POS hardware. Paysafe includes PCI compliance without charging you a fee (many other processors charge a separate fee for PCI compliance), plus you can send invoices and set up recurring payments. Paysafe's focus on PCI compliance stood out to us. You don't want to face hefty fines because you didn't follow the proper security protocols. We like that both Paysafe's out-of-the-box and customizable checkout platforms place a lot of focus on protecting consumers from security breaches.

Paysafe is the parent company of Skrill and Neteller, two e-money transfer services. Through the two digital wallets, customers can make real-time payments at more than 25,000 online merchants in more than 40 currencies. Paysafe has been expanding the capabilities of both Skrill and Neteller, enabling customers to withdraw money from the digital wallets and send it to a cryptocurrency address. The fiat-to-crypto feature is available in 10 countries, including Canada and U.K. The company is planning to roll it out in additional locations soon.

Paysafe doesn't disclose pricing on its website. You must fill out an online form or contact the company to get a quote.

E-commerce is booming, and that trend won't disappear – small businesses will increasingly need to accept different forms of payments. To do that successfully, they need a credit card processor capable of accepting different payment methods. Paysafe stands out in that regard, making it our best pick for online businesses.

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Chase Merchant Services: Best Credit Card Processor for All-Sized Businesses

Chase offers both flat-rate and interchange-plus pricing.
Chase Merchant Services has POS and e-commerce capabilities.
The flat-rate pricing can be expensive if your business has a high sales volume.

Whether you're growing or an established business, Chase Merchant Services has a credit card processing plan for you. Chase offers flat rate plans and interchange-plus pricing depending on your sale volume. We like that you can continue to grow with this credit card processor and that it works with you to lower your fees, which is why we chose it as our best pick for established businesseall-sized businessess. 

Editor's score: 8.1/10

Chase Merchant Services is a popular payment processor, serving businesses of all sizes both in the U.S. and abroad. It supports many industries and is ideal for established businesses that seek competitive pricing and tools to boost their growth further.

There are several pricing options Chase Merchant Services offers depending on the size of your business. The flat-rate plans are best suited for businesses that process less than $5,000 a month and have an account with Chase. Chase Merchant Services charges 2.6% plus 10 cent, for in-person transactions and 3.5% plus 10 cents for manually entered, or keyed-in, transactions.

If you process more than $5,000 a month in credit card sales, Chase offers interchange-plus pricing. Chase doesn't list its interchange-plus pricing on its website, but instead requires you to contact a sales representative. According to Chase Merchant Services, they will work with you to lower your credit card processing rates and will review your recent statements to find ways to reduce your card processing costs. After a year as a customer, you can request a pricing review to see if you can gain more savings.

We also selected Chase Merchant Services as the best credit card processor for established businesses because it is competitively priced and offers a lot of options for growing enterprises. Its mobile credit card processing solution is one example of that. Merchants can accept payments through the Chase Mobile app or the Chase Mobile Checkout app, which works on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. You can also create product catalogs, email and text receipts, provide refunds, do a host of other functions directly from the mobile app.

You have a choice as to which payment gateway you want to use. You can use Chase's own Orbital Gateway or a partner payment gateway, such as Authorize.net. Chase Merchant Services integrates with more than 140 apps, including Shopify, Volusion and WooCommerce.

Chase Merchant Services has been in the credit card processing market for decades and continues to be a popular choice for small business owners. Its flexible and competitive pricing, robust mobile apps, and full suite of services make it our best pick for established businesses.

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Costs, Fees and Equipment for Credit Card Processing

Cost is one of the most important factors to examine when deciding which credit card processing service to use. You don't want to overpay thousands of dollars for the convenience of accepting credit and debit cards from customers.

What Costs Should You Expect for Credit Card Processing?

There are usually three sets of costs involved when choosing a credit card processor. These include:

  • Rates. These are the processing fees that you pay for each transaction. Rates are typically a percentage of the total sale amount. In addition to the rate, card processors charge you a few cents on top of the per-transaction rate. 
  • Fees. Processors charge account service fees. Most processors charge these fees monthly, which are reflected on your statement; others, though, may be levied quarterly or annually. 

Credit Card Processing Rates

The rate you pay a credit card processor comprises three parts: the interchange rate, the card brand's assessment fee and the processor's markup. The interchange rate and the assessment fee are set by the card networks, and everyone pays the same amount – this portion of the rate is non-negotiable. Each processor sets their own margin, though, so that portion is negotiable.

From these three parts, processors create their rate structure or pricing model. Here are the three main rate structures to know:

  • Flat-rate pricing. For businesses that process less than $5,000 per month or have very small sales tickets, flat-rate pricing is usually the most affordable option, because all you pay is a fee for each transaction – there may be no monthly or annual account fees to pay. (However, some fees, such as a PCI compliance fee, may still apply.) 
  • Interchange-plus pricing. For businesses that generate a lot in credit card sales, interchange-plus pricing is the model industry experts recommend. The reason is that the price you're quoted is the processor's markup (remember, this is the only aspect of pricing that is negotiable) – so you know exactly what the processor's cut is for each transaction, which you can easily compare as you evaluate pricing from multiple processors. 
  • Tiered, or bundled, pricing. With a tiered pricing model, the processor bundles the interchange rates, assessment fees, their markup and separates them into three tiers: qualified, midqualified, and nonqualified. They usually only advertise the qualified rate (which applies to regular debit cards accepted in person using a card reader) and only discloses the other tiers if you specifically ask for them. It's impossible to determine the processor's markup with a tiered pricing model, and the number of tiers (and the types of transactions that go into each tier) vary by processor, so it's difficult to know if the rates you're offered are good or not.

What Is the Average Fee for Credit Card Processing?

The average credit card processing fee ranges from 2% to 4% of each sale. Here are some of the factors that determine the per-transaction cost:

  • The type of card your customer uses (debit, credit, rewards, premium rewards, corporate)
  • How you accept the card (in-person using a card reader, manually keyed in, online)
  • The pricing structure your processor uses (flat rate, interchange plus, tiered)

What Fees Come With Credit Card Processing?

In addition to the processing fees you pay per transaction, there can be several additional fees you must pay, and where it gets especially confusing is that each processor may charge a fee or fees that another processor may not charge ‒ it's hard to know which fees are standard and which ones are superfluous. [Check out some tricks to help you lower your credit card processing fees]

Processors that charge flat rates usually don't charge account service fees, but there are still some incidental fees to be aware of. Here are some examples:

  • Monthly fee. This fee, which is sometimes called a statement fee, covers customer service and statement preparation. It ranges from $5 to $15 per month, though it may be higher if it covers additional services like PCI compliance and gateway fees. 
  • Payment gateway fee. This is also a monthly fee. It covers the usage of the payment gateway, which allows you to accept payments online. The cost varies, depending on the payment gateway, but is often comparable to the monthly fee ($5-$15 monthly). 
  • Monthly minimum fee. Some processors require you to generate a certain dollar amount in processing fees each month. For some processors, the monthly minimum is $25, but some processors set it higher. If you meet this number, you're charged the difference. 
  • PCI compliance fee. All full-service processors require merchants to complete a PCI compliance questionnaire each year. Not all processors charge this fee, but for those that do, the average cost is $100 per year. If you don't complete your PCI questionnaire, you're charged an expensive PCI noncompliance fee until you do. 
  • Network fees. These fees are charged by the card networks and are passed on to you as either monthly or annual fees. Examples of these fees are Mastercard's Merchant Location Fee and Visa's Fixed Acquirer Network Fee.

There are some incidental fees to be aware of ‒ fees you pay that are triggered by a certain action. Here are some examples:

  • Chargeback fee. When a customer disputes a transaction, you're charged this fee. It usually costs $15 or $20 per incident, but it may be as high as $45. Some processors, but not all, refund this fee if you win the dispute. 
  • Address Verification Service (AVS) fee. AVS is an anti-fraud tool that verifies the address and ZIP code of the cardholder. It usually costs a few cents per transaction. 
  • Voice authorization. This is another anti-fraud feature that requires you to call the credit card company to provide them with additional information about the transaction. It's rarely required, but you're charged for each occurrence. 
  • Batch fee. This is a small daily fee you pay when you close out the day's sales. It usually costs the same amount as your per-transaction fee, which is typically between 10 and 30 cents. Not all processors charge this fee. 
  • Non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee. This is a fee you are charged if you don't have enough money in your business bank account to pay the fees you owe the processor.

What Equipment Does a Business Owner Need to Process Payments?

At a minimum, you'll need either a phone or tablet credit card reader or a credit card terminal. Additional hardware, also called peripherals, like cash drawers, receipt printers and barcode readers can be added to your system.

When you're shopping for a card reader or terminal, look for one that lets you accept magstripe cards, chip cards, and contactless cards and mobile wallets. The best credit card readers have these capabilities and typically cost less than $100 (usually between $20 and $50). If you prefer a credit card terminal, a basic one with these capabilities usually costs $200 to $300.

TipTip: The best credit card reader for small business owners may be a mobile credit card reader used with a smartphone or tablet and the processor's app, of course. It's an affordable choice, and you save further because you can email or text receipts to your customers, so you don't have to buy a receipt printer (or paper)!

What Is Credit Card Processing, and How Does It Work?

Credit card processing is the method used to transfer money from a customer's credit card account (or bank account, in the case of debit card transactions) to a merchant's account to pay for a purchase. The process is simple and fast for both the merchant and the customer; it only takes a few seconds for the transaction to be complete. Behind the scenes, however, the process of moving money is complex, as the data must travel between the merchant, their processor, the credit card brand's network, the customer's bank and the merchant's bank.

Why Do Businesses Need Credit Card Processing?

Credit card processing allows you to accept payments from your customers who pay using a credit card, debit card, or a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay. You need to be able to accept these payment methods because that's how most customers prefer to pay. Cash use continues to decline, particularly in light of the pandemic as customers and merchants opt for contactless and online payments. With contactless payments, consumers tap their mobile device, contactless credit or debit card, or wearable on the payment terminal to checkout. This payment method is quick and safer than handing cash to a cashier or swiping a credit card. Most of the top POS providers and credit card processors support tap-to-pay.

What Are the Benefits of Credit Card Processing for Businesses?

There are a few additional benefits to accepting your customers' preferred payment method. First, customers can spend more when they shop with a credit card than when they pay cash. Second, you won't lose potential sales from customers who don't carry cash.

What Are the Basics Business Owners Should Know About Credit Card Processing?

You have a lot of options when it comes to credit card processing, but there are some processors that are accessible for nearly every business – even for solopreneurs and freelancers.

If you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer just starting out, consider a mobile credit card processing company like Square, which has flat rates, no contracts, a free mobile credit card processing app and affordable card readers that connect to a phone or tablet. Then, as your business grows and your processing volume increases, you can add more equipment and features, or you can switch to a more advanced payment processing service.

Here's why we like mobile credit card processors for new businesses:

  • Low startup costs. You already have a smartphone or even perhaps a tablet; the only thing you need to buy to start accepting credit cards is a card reader. Some processors give you a free swiper when you sign up, but you want a model that accepts chip cards and contactless payments. These readers cost less than $100 (usually $20 to $50). 
  • Pay-as-you-go fees. Most flat-rate processors only charge you when you run a card – you pay a flat rate for each transaction. This rate looks higher than what some processors advertise, but that's because you aren't paying monthly account service fees. If you opt for a full-service processor, look for one that has interchange-plus pricing ‒ it's more transparent and economical than tiered (or bundled) pricing structures. 
  • No monthly minimum. Some processors have a monthly minimum, which means you're required to process enough sales each month to generates a certain dollar amount in processing fees. If you rarely accept credit cards, don't yet know yet how much you'll process each month or have a seasonal business, you don't want to work with a processor that charges this fee. 
  • No contract. Standard credit card processing contracts have three-year terms and automatically renew for additional one-year terms with just a 30-day window at the end of the term to cancel. If you want to cancel your account but miss that window and then cancel, you're charged an expensive early termination fee. If you choose a full-service processor, look for one that has month-to-month terms. The best credit card processors don't make you sign a lengthy contract to keep your business.

Why is support for offline transactions beneficial to merchants? 

The Internet is usually reliable, but outages do occur. If you are a merchant that relies on the internet to process payments, you're out of luck if your provider doesn’t support offline transactions. Thankfully, most do. 

With this type of transaction, the customer checks out like normal, with the card data encrypted and stored on the terminal until an internet connection is established. Once the merchant is back online, the information is sent to the merchant’s bank account and card network. That means your business won't lose sales during an internet outage. If you want to accept card payments outside your establishment, this feature also proves handy. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Credit Card Processing Secure?

As a small business owner, you must remain vigilant against credit card fraud. Though most headlines focus on data breaches at major retail chains, small businesses are vulnerable, too. Small businesses can shore up their credit card processing security measures by doing two things.

The first measure is to ensure that you comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Created by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and JCB in 2006, this standard requires that businesses meet certain criteria to ensure their transactions are as secure as they can be.

The second action is to upgrade your card reader to accept EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) chip cards. Most credit cards have a chip embedded into one end of the card, and having the technology to read it makes the transaction significantly more secure, because the chip is harder to counterfeit than the standard magnetic strip.

How Can You Avoid Credit Card Processing Fees?

Credit card processing companies rely on fees to make their money, so there's no way to completely eliminate credit card processing fees. If you feel that you're paying too much in fees, you can negotiate with credit card processors to reduce them. If you can accept cards in person instead of over the phone or online, you'll also save money on fees.

Another option is to set a minimum transaction amount that customers must meet before they can pay with a credit card. By doing this, you can ensure you come out on top of the transaction, since it makes more financial sense to pay the fee on a $10 purchase than a $2 one. The major credit card networks have rules about minimum transaction amounts, so verify that your policy complies with their rules.

Similarly, you can move the fee to your customers entirely by using cash discounts or surcharging. Many gas stations use this method, where a gallon of gas is discounted if you pay with cash. Though this may cause potential customers to take their business elsewhere, it could encourage people who prefer paying with cash to frequent your store more often. If you go this route, check the credit card networks' rules for surcharging to ensure you follow best practices.

How Much Are Credit Card Processing Fees for Consumers?

Consumers usually don't pay credit card processing fees. Some processors advertise surcharging programs that pass processing fees to your customers, but these programs aren't popular with consumers, and it could be risky for you.

Before implementing such a program, you need to know your customers and determine if they would accept it or if it would lead them to shop elsewhere. As mentioned above, the credit card networks have rules for surcharging that you must follow.

How Long Can a Merchant Hold an Authorization?

Authorization holds vary depending on the status of the transaction and the card issuer's self-imposed time limits. For most transactions, a merchant has up to 30 days to clear an authorization hold, though some credit card companies like Visa and Discover have significantly shorter time limits before such authorizations "fall off" the account. By failing to complete a transaction hold, you run the risk of being charged a misuse fee by the credit card processing company.

What Are the Typical Credit Card Processing Fees?

Credit card processors charge a variety of fees. Some are etched in stone; others are negotiable. On the non-negotiable front is the interchange fee. It's the fee charged by card-issuing banks on every transaction made with their credit cards. That fee is passed on to the merchant. The amount charged is based on what type of credit card the customer uses, whether the transaction is in person or online, and the amount of the purchase. The riskier the payment method is, the more you'll pay in interchange fees.

The assessment or service fee is another non-negotiable cost. Payment processors must pay it to the card networks, and they pass that fee on to the merchant.

The payment processor's markup is the fee you can negotiate, depending on your vendor. This is the fee the payment processor charges to use its services.

What Should I Look for in a Credit Card Processor?

When looking for a credit card processor that is right for you and your business, consider the fees the processor charges, the terms of the contract, and the service it provides. You don't want to be stuck with a payment processor that doesn't have live customer support or is impossible to reach when you have a problem. You also want one that will work with you to ensure you remain PCI compliant, that offers EMV-supported card readers and that accepts multiple payment methods.

What Pricing Structures Are Available for Credit Card Processing?

There are three main credit card processing models: tiered pricing, interchange-plus and flat-rate pricing. With tiered pricing, the credit card processor charges you the interchange rate, an assessment fee, and its markup in different tiers. There are usually three tiers, but some vendors have up to six. The rates might vary by transaction type and credit card. It's difficult to compare the costs of vendors with tiered pricing.

Interchange-plus pricing is a structure in which credit card processors charge you the interchange rate, the assessment fees and their markup. You know exactly how much you are paying for the transaction, since the markup stays the same regardless of the type of card or transaction.

With a flat-rate pricing model, the vendor charges you a fixed percentage of each sale – it doesn't matter if your customer is using a Visa, Mastercard or any other credit card. There could also be a per-transaction fee that's dependent on whether it was an in-person or card-not-present payment.

How Long Does It Take to Settle Credit Card Sales?

It typically takes 24 hours to three days to settle a credit card sale. It depends on the merchant account provider and the type of merchant account you have. Thanks to advances in payment technology, the turnaround to clear credit card sales is faster than it used to be.

Does online credit card processing work the same as in-store processing?

In-store and online credit card processing work in the same manner, the only difference is the consumer doesn't swipe a credit card. Instead, he or she inputs their credit card information while checking out online. This typically includes providing the card number, expiration date, the CVV number and the shopper's billing address. Most credit card processors support both in-person and online payments. The latter is becoming more important as e-commerce and mobile commerce become more popular.  

Should I avoid tiered credit card processor pricing?

Most of the time, the answer is yes. With tiered pricing, credit card processors bundle the interchange rate, assessment fees and markup into one pricing plan. Because it is bundled together, it's difficult to tell what you are paying for each item. It also makes it hard to comparison shop. Unless the vendor is willing to break out its fees, it's best to avoid a tiered pricing structure.  

Did the COVID-19 pandemic have any impact on how small businesses accept payments?

Without a doubt, the pandemic had a big impact on how consumers pay for products and services. Before the onset of COVID-19, contactless and digital payments were a nice add-on. A convivence that was more novelty than anything else. But once the pandemic struck, and staying apart was the norm, contactless payments became vital. Same for mobile payments and online shopping. Small businesses were forced to adapt by acquiring contactless payment terminals, accepting different digital and mobile payment methods, and embracing e-commerce as the main way to conduct business.

The pandemic also made cryptocurrency more popular with consumers in the U.S. and around the globe. It is now becoming a payment method at a handful of large restaurant chains and retailers, including Burger King, KFC, New Egg, AMC and Microsoft. Mastercard is also getting involved, making it easier for small business merchants to accept bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The payment company recently inked a deal with Bakkt, the crypto digital wallet company, to offer that ability as well as to build loyalty and reward programs around cryptocurrencies.

When it comes to credit card processing, what are the steps involved?

Processing a credit card payment is the same for most product categories and business types. It starts with the customer selecting an item to purchase. The credit card he or she is paying with is then swiped, scanned or inputted into a payment terminal. The data is then transmitted to be approved. Once it goes through the authorization, which happens in seconds, the transaction will either go through or be declined. If there are enough funds to cover it, the transaction is authorized and completed. The merchant closes out all the credit card transactions at the end of the day. The credit card processor's acquiring bank then gets to work collecting the money from the credit card issuers. The sales are then deposited into the merchant's bank account, typically in two days or less.

IS SOCIAL MEDIA DRIVING SALES FOR SMALL MERCHANTS? 

Social media is becoming a popular way to shop. During the pandemic, it was a necessity. Now, it’s a convenience many consumers have grown accustomed to. It makes sense. Billions of people spend hours each day checking their Facebook or Instagram feeds and logging on to Google. A recent Square survey of consumers found that among social media platforms, shoppers favor Facebook, Instagram, and Google over everyone else. Facebook is the undisputed leader, with 75% of Square Online Checkout links coming from the popular social network. Merchants have also seen an uptick in activity from Instagram minisites.

Community Expert Insight

Part of our research involved reaching out to small business owners and asking them to tell us about their experiences with the credit card processors they use and what they like about them.

David Ciccarelli, CEO of Voices.com chose PayPal as his business's first credit card processor more than 15 years ago. His business initially used PayPal's payment buttons that redirected customers to a PayPal payment page. Now, he uses its secure webform that allows Voices.com customers to stay on the company's website. In addition to the ability to design the user experience, Ciccarelli likes that PayPal continually updates and improves its systems.

"As an online marketplace, we exclusively accept credit cards online and appreciate all the built-in fraud prevention and security controls that PayPal has in place. Despite being one of the oldest payment processors on the web, PayPal has remained relevant, updating their systems, reporting and security protocols each year," Ciccarelli told Business News Daily.  

Lisa Chu, owner of Black N Bianco, was impressed with Stripe's security protocols, and it was one of the factors that led her to choose it as the credit card processor for her business, which accepts credit cards online and in person. Chu notes that Stripe isn't the cheapest processor but feels that it's worth the price.

"The only gripe I have about Stripe are the transaction fees. They are not high, but they certainly are not the lowest," she said. "However, its ease of use, integration capabilities and secure transactions make it one of the best credit card processors. I would recommend it to every business."

Rod Holmes, managing partner and director of sales for Pilot Digital Marketing, uses Intuit for his business's payment processing services. Since his business uses QuickBooks accounting software, using its parent company to accept credit cards and facilitate ACH transactions made sense.

"There's no bookwork," said Holmes. "This was the most important factor for me when we were just getting started and I didn't have an office manager. When an invoice is paid online, all the bookwork associated with the transaction is done automatically. No integrations. No hassles. It just works."

He also likes that Intuit has an ACH option, which allows his customers to pay their invoices via bank transfer, which is less expensive than credit card processing – particularly for high-dollar invoices.

Homes said that although he now gets a great credit card processing rate, he had to negotiate for it, calling Intuit several times asking for better pricing.

"I agreed to use their system for two months and then they'd evaluate our usage and our rate. I called on day 60 and they cut the rate. I called again in 90 days and they cut the rate. I've called probably four or five times and they cut the rate each time," he said.

Key takeaway: The small business leaders we heard from value security, reliability and convenience, though cost is also a chief concern.

What to Expect in 2021

Consumers have high expectations when it comes to credit card payments therefore, you want to work with a credit card processor that helps you meet these standards, which includes a "fast, frictionless experience" that is also secure. That's according to 92% of the 7,000 North American and European consumers surveyed for an Ekata report.

Mobile technologies are fulfilling these expectations, playing an important role in the payments industry in 2021. That is particularly true in the wake of the pandemic. With stores shuttered, consumers had no choice but to shop online. They relied on their mobile phones and digital wallets to get the job done.  Now, with stores reopened, mobile phones are still the way to pay. 

Recent data from Square backs that up. According to the company, just 5.4% of Square sellers were cashless in February 2020 – but that percentage jumped to 23.2% in April. As states relaxed their restrictions and more retail locations reopened, the percentage dropped back down and settled at 13.4% in August.

Square economist Felipe Chacon said he believed the findings showed "a significant and stabilizing increase in cashless adoption rates compared to pre-pandemic, with business owners increasingly reliant upon contactless and online payments and consumers utilizing those alternatives." He suggested that COVID-19 will impact how people conduct business for years to come.

It will certainly have an impact this holiday season. By all estimates, it is expected to be a strong one as consumers make up for last year when shutdowns forced families to keep celebrations muted. A recent Fiserv survey of consumers revealed that 64% plan to visit stores this holiday shopping season. What's more, they are in the market for gift cards. To be ready for the influx of foot traffic this holiday season, small businesses need to make sure they have contactless payment methods available to customers. They also need to have gift cards on hand to satisfy demand.

COVID-19 is also driving the growth of installment payments. Now, paying for purchases as small as $50 in installments is all the rage. Known as Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), it has become a preferred payment method for a growing number of consumers. It doesn’t hurt that shoppers tend to spend more going this route.

The credit card processors recognize this and are starting to integrate BNPL support into their POS systems. Square is one of them. In August, it spent $29 billion to purchase AfterPay, which lets consumers make installment purchases for items at the point of sale. When announcing the deal, Square said it is integrating Afterpay into its Seller and Cash apps so even tiny merchants can offer BNPL at checkout. Stripe, a competing payment processor, already supports Afterpay. Even Walmart is getting into the game, scrapping its layaway program for a buy now pay later one. All of this means more credit card processors should begin to offer support for this popular payment method. 

In addition to a "fast, frictionless experience," consumers expect their data to be secure. Though EMV adoption has been extremely effective in reducing incidents of card-present fraud, it is still rampant. According to Juniper Research, over a five-year period – from 2018 to 2023 – retailers will lose $130 billion to card-not-present fraud.

Payment processing companies are projected to spend close to $10 billion by 2023 to detect and prevent fraud. In a TSYS blog, Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs at the Electronic Transactions Association, explained the technologies that processors are investing in to prevent fraud, writing, "These tools are powered by technological advancements like machine learning, biometrics, geolocation tools and artificial intelligence. They are critically important in the fight against increasingly sophisticated criminals."

Our Methodology

To help you find the right credit card processing solution, we researched and analyzed more than 100 options. Here's an explanation of how we chose our 2021 best picks.

Locating the Best Services

To find the best credit card processors for small businesses, we began by polling business owners about which credit card payment processing companies they use or have worked with. We also asked business owners what they liked and disliked about these vendors, and whether they would recommend them to other small businesses and why.

Choosing the Best Services

Next, we created a comprehensive list of more than 100 credit card processors suitable for small businesses. Our list included those mentioned by the small business owners we spoke to, the processors we were familiar with and those that contacted us asking to be considered. In addition to these providers, we looked at credit card processing companies that appeared on reputable online sources, such as merchant services review sites and business websites.

Researching Each Service

We then researched these vendors and narrowed our list down based on different use-case scenarios (i.e., the best picks categories). Our research consisted of reviewing each processor's website, watching videos, reading how-to guides, and browsing help resources.

Analyzing Each Service

From our narrowed lists, we contacted the companies' sales and customer support reps to get a better idea of the quality of service they offer and to find information that isn't readily available online. We compared pricing, contract terms and features to select our best picks, which are Fattmerchant, Square, Payment Depot, National Processing, Clover, Chase Merchant Account Services, Flagship Merchant Services, Paysafe, ProMerchant, and Merchant One.

Donna Fuscaldo
Donna Fuscaldo
Business News Daily Staff
Donna Fuscaldo is a senior finance writer at business.com and has more than two decades of experience writing about business borrowing, funding, and investing for publications including the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, Bankrate, Investopedia, Motley Fool, and Foxbusiness.com. Most recently she was a senior contributor at Forbes covering the intersection of money and technology before joining business.com. Donna has carved out a name for herself in the finance and small business markets, writing hundreds of business articles offering advice, insightful analysis, and groundbreaking coverage. Her areas of focus at business.com include business loans, accounting, and retirement benefits.
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