Credit card processing companies help merchants accept credit and debit card payments for the sale of goods and services. In exchange for fees based on transaction size and volume, you can start accepting transactions and access your funds as quickly as the next day. Research suggests that businesses accepting credit card payments not only experienced improvements in such areas as customer engagement and payment collections, but 73% of the companies surveyed said they experienced improved cash flow, and nearly half said their business costs were lower.
To identify the best credit card processing companies, we reviewed nearly 20 providers for cost, funding speed, and more. The best processing companies offer transparent pricing, don’t require you to sign a long-term contract, can get you approved in a matter of days, and offer ongoing transaction funding as soon as the next day.
The 6 Best Credit Card Processing Companies of 2021
Best Overall: Square
Square is a publicly traded credit card processing company that was founded in 2009 and is focused on making it easy and inexpensive for businesses to accept digital payments. The company offers credit card processing for many types of businesses, with a particular focus on retail shops, restaurants, and eCommerce. The company won’t require you to sign a long-term contract, offers a transparent fee structure, and makes funding simple with next-day transfers. We chose Square as the best overall credit card processing company based on its transparent pricing and quick funding speed.
Although not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Square has an A+ rating. While the company has low one-star customer reviews, Square is making an effort to address customer complaints, as evidenced by a recent response to BBB complaints related to the company’s person-to-person payment service.
Square has a helpful online support center and also offers live assistance. You’ll pay a single rate for every type of card—including American Express, which is unusual—and there aren’t any hidden fees. Pricing starts at a flat rate of 2.6% plus $0.10 per transaction for card-present (e.g., swiped) payments. Plus, custom pricing may be available depending on such things as the size of your business, payment volume, average transaction size, history with Square, and more.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Intuit QuickBooks Payments
QuickBooks Payments is a credit card processing service powered by Intuit, a publicly traded company founded in 1983. With QuickBooks Payments, you can accept not only credit and debit card payments, but also ACH transactions, all connected to your QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop account.
We chose Intuit QuickBooks Payments as the runner-up to the best overall credit card processing company based on its transparent pricing, good reputation, and quick funding speed. It wasn’t selected as the best overall because you need to be a QuickBooks client to use its services.
Intuit, Inc. is not BBB accredited and has an A+ rating and one-star customer review rating. With QuickBooks Payments, you won’t pay monthly or setup fees, there’s no long-term contract, pricing starts at a flat rate of 2.4% plus $0.25 per transaction for swiped payments, and you can get a discount if you process more than $7,500 per month. Plus, QuickBooks Payments offers next-day deposits. If you need assistance, you can browse the company’s vast library of digital resources, speak with a member of the QuickBooks community, or get live support.
Best for Quick Funding: PayPal
PayPal is a publicly traded credit card processing company that was founded in 1999 and offers a variety of payment solutions to both businesses and individuals. The company’s credit card processing services allow businesses to accept payments online, in-person, and over the phone.
When you accept payments, the funds will be available in your PayPal account as soon as the same day, confirmed via a conversation with a customer service representative. This quick funding speed is why we selected PayPal as the credit card processing company best for quick funding.
As a BBB-accredited business, PayPal has a B rating and one-star customer review rating. Customer complaints are centered on problems with the company’s services and issues related to billing or collections. PayPal offers a variety of services, so not all of these reviews and complaints were related to credit card processing.
You won’t be required to sign a long-term contract with PayPal and it offers transparent pricing with no hidden fees, with its flat-rate point-of-sale pricing starting at 2.7% per transaction. If you need assistance, PayPal has an extensive digital library and also offers live customer support.
Best for Flexible Pricing: CDGcommerce
CDGcommerce is a privately owned credit card processing company that was founded in 1998 and is focused on offering low rates and the best possible value to its customers. The company primarily focuses on providing credit card processing services to businesses in the retail, restaurant, service, e-Commerce, B2B, and non-profit industries. Its cost depends on your company’s needs, with its flat-rate pricing starting at 2.75% plus $0.30 per transaction for swiped payments. We chose CDGcommerce as a credit card processing company that’s best for flexible pricing based on its transparent, yet personalized pricing options.
Not only is CDGcommerce a BBB-accredited business, but it also has an A+ rating. While the company doesn’t have any BBB customer reviews, it also doesn’t have any complaints. There aren’t hidden fees, and you can get approved for both its flat-rate and interchange-plus plans in about one to three days. Although it’s not clear how long it takes to get funded, the settlement process generally takes a few days or less.
The company offers flat-rate pricing, a simple option that’s often good for new or small businesses, and also offers interchange-plus and wholesale pricing models for medium-to-large businesses. The latter two options are more complex but may be less expensive in the long run. So, it’s important to look for this type of pricing flexibility and ask potential providers for a detailed pricing analysis before making a decision. If you need assistance, you can contact CDGcommerce anytime online or by phone.
Best for Social Responsibility: Dharma Merchant Services
Dharma Merchant Services is a privately owned credit card processing company founded in 2007. The company provides merchant services to B2B, restaurant, and storefront businesses, and also offers discounted rates to non-profit entities. Not only is Dharma focused on providing its customers with fair and transparent pricing and services, but it also cares about making a difference in the world and its community. Dharma’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility is evident by its status as a B Corp and its promise to donate a percentage of its profits every year. This is why we chose Dharma Merchant Services as the credit card processing company that's best for social responsibility.
Dharma has an A+ rating but is not BBB accredited, and has no customer reviews. The company offers interchange-plus pricing, meaning you’ll pay a fixed rate and per-transaction fee above the interchange rate attached to the card your customer used. Although the pricing is more complicated than some other providers, Dharma offers a cost calculator that can help you estimate and compare costs. Plus, you won’t be required to sign a long-term contract, and next-day funding is often available. You can get support from Dharma by phone or email.
Best for Extra Features: Helcim
Helcim is a privately owned credit card processing company that was founded in 2007 and is focused on providing merchants with a transparent, smart, and affordable payment solution. You won’t sign a long-term contract, its pricing is transparent, and you’ll automatically receive discounts with a processing volume increase.
What makes Helcim unique is the variety of extra features it offers, such as inventory and customer management, online food ordering, invoicing, and more. For this reason, we chose Helcim as the credit card processing company best for extra features.
As a BBB-accredited business, Helcim has an A+ rating and no reviews. Helcim offers interchange-plus pricing, which means you’ll be charged a rate and per-transaction fee (e.g., 0.30% and $0.08) above the interchange rate (e.g., 1.5%) associated with your customer’s card (using the example rates, your cost would be 1.8% plus $0.08 per transaction). While flat-rate pricing is easier to understand, you may pay less under an interchange-plus pricing model. This is why you should shop around and compare costs before making a decision. You can get support from Helcim by phone or email.
What Is a Credit Card Processing Company?
A credit card processing company helps merchants accept credit and debit card payments from their customers. It’s a third party that acts as a go-between for the acquiring and issuing banks, the customer using their card, merchant accepting the card, and the payment network (e.g., Visa or MasterCard). Although some banks directly offer credit card processing services, banks often outsource these services to third-party credit card processing companies with better technology, infrastructure, and expertise.
How Do Credit Card Processing Companies Work?
Credit card processing companies help facilitate credit and debit card transactions between a cardholder, merchant, and payment network (e.g., Visa), as well as the issuing and acquiring banks. This includes making sure the cardholder is authorized to use the card at the point of sale, authorizing the transaction with the merchant, clearing and settling the transaction for the merchant, and handling any payment disputes and chargebacks. Given the number of parties involved, the process is quite complicated. For this reason, it’s vital for businesses to choose a reputable credit card processing company with a long history of successful business operations.
How Much Does Credit Card Processing Cost?
The cost of credit card processing depends on a number of factors, including the type of card (e.g., Visa), the merchant’s transaction volume and size, business type, and transaction risk. Basic fees include interchange fees, processing fees (paid to the credit card processor), and termination fees (paid to the credit card processor by a merchant for early contract termination).
Among processing companies, flat-rate pricing is the simplest structure, meaning the credit card processor charges a flat rate for all types of transactions. For example, Square’s standard flat-rate pricing starts at a rate of 2.6% plus $0.10 per transaction for card-present payments. Interchange-plus pricing is more complex, as the merchant is charged a rate and per-transaction fee above the interchange rate charged by the payment network. This means the cost varies based on the card network and brand. Using Helcim as an example, its weighted-average Visa rate for card-present payments is 1.97% plus $0.08.
How We Chose the Best Credit Card Processing Companies
We reviewed nearly 20 providers for cost, funding speed, customer reviews, and more before choosing our top picks. The best credit card processing companies that we could find offer transparent pricing and don’t require you to sign a long-term contract. In addition, the companies on our list can get you set up to start accepting transactions in a matter of days and fund transactions as quickly as the next day.
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Helcim. "Interchange Plus Pricing." Accessed June 17, 2020.
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