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Credit Card Processing for Business: Your Top Ten Options

Choosing a Credit Card Processor for Your Business: Options for Every Need
Latest Update: November 23, 2016
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At Top Ten Reviews, we've been reviewing credit card processors since 2007.

We've spent thousands of hours learning about the payment processing industry so that we can share the information we've gathered with businesses like yours. We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so we're moving away from our traditional Top Ten format to bring you recommendations based on what's best for your business. Below we've outlined our recommendations for a variety of business needs. After you review our lists, be sure to read our full reviews for an in-depth look at what each processor offers and how it compares to companies with similar offerings.

The Best Credit Card Processing Companies We've Reviewed

Best Flexible Terms

Look for No Contract & No Early Termination Fees

There’s nothing more frustrating than being trapped in a lengthy contract with a service provider that isn’t meeting your needs. For this reason, we place a high value on processors that provide service on a month-to-month basis, with no lengthy contract and no early termination fee, which means that you can discontinue the service anytime without incurring expensive fees. It’s important to note that in order to avoid contractual entanglements, you want to purchase your equipment rather than lease or accept free equipment offers or free equipment placement programs, as these routinely require you to sign a contract.

For this category, we selected companies that don’t charge a setup fee or a gateway setup fee. Additionally, these companies can set up your account in two days or fewer, and they don’t charge an annual fee. They assign you a dedicated account representative so that you have a consistent, direct contact with the company and also provide a 24/7 customer service line that you can call if you need help outside of normal business hours. For these reasons, we’ve determined that the following credit card processing companies have the best flexible terms:

Flagship Merchant Services

  • Month-to-month service
  • Tiered and interchange-plus pricing plans
  • Robust customer service

No lengthy contract requirement and no cancellation fees make this processor a good option for businesses of all sizes. Its tiered rates are good, it’s interchange-plus rates are average, and its monthly fee is lower than average.

Read more here

National Bankcard

  • Month to month service
  • Low monthly fee
  • Lowest cost for a basic EMV-compliant terminal

As well as favorable terms, this processor offers extremely competitive pricing for both its interchange-plus and tiered pricing. It has one of the lowest monthly fees, though its PCI-compliance fee is average.

Read more here

CreditCardProcessing.com

  • Month-to-month service
  • Tiered and interchange-plus pricing plans
  • Low tiered rates, especially for swiped debit cards

Like the other companies in this category, this processor has favorable terms and provides service on a monthly basis with no penalty should you choose to cancel your account. It has good tiered rates and average interchange-plus rates.

Read more here

Best Flexible Pricing

Look for Multiple Pricing Models

Many credit card processors recommend tiered pricing, and it can be a cost-effective option for your company if debit card transactions comprise a good percentage of your monthly volume. When discussing tiered rates, it’s important to ask how many tiers there are, what the rates are for each tier and which cards fall into each tier. Most companies have three tiers each for credit and debit cards: qualified, mid-qualified and non-qualified. The promotional rate that you’re quoted is for qualified debit cards – which means that it is for a normal consumer debit card (no rewards) that you accept in person by swiping or dipping the card in a terminal. You want to specifically ask about the mid-qualified and non-qualified rates or surcharges, as many sales representatives fail to volunteer this information.

If you accept a mix of card types that include a fair amount of rewards, corporate, government or international credit cards, it may be more cost effective for you to look for interchange-plus pricing. This is the pricing model that most industry experts recommend for maximum savings. The credit card processing companies we included in this category offer both pricing models and allow you to switch between them in order to help you find the pricing model that works best for your business. Additionally, many processors are willing to negotiate with you on pricing, particularly if you’re willing to provide your current processing statements or quotes from competitors. The following credit card processing companies offer the best flexible pricing:

Flagship Merchant Services

  • Month-to-month service
  • No cancellation fee
  • Tiered and interchange-plus pricing plans

Like many companies, this processor prefers to quote you tiered rates but provides interchange-plus pricing upon request. Its monthly and gateway fees are lower than average.

Read more here

CreditCardProcessing.com

  • Month-to-month service
  • Tiered and interchange-plus pricing plans
  • Competitive pricing on basic EMV-compliant terminals

In addition to allowing you to choose between interchange-plus and tiered pricing, this processor has a low monthly fee. However, its annual PCI-compliance fee is higher-than-average.

Read more here

Cayan

  • Month-to-month service
  • Low tiered rates; low monthly fee
  • Flat-rate, interchange-plus and tierd pricing plans

Although it doesn’t post any pricing on its website, this processor offered our testers competitive quotes for both its interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans. It doesn’t have a monthly minimum amount of processing costs that you have to pay each month.

Read more here

Best Pricing for Basic EMV Terminals

Look for Low Prices & No Leasing Contracts

Because all merchants are now required to have EMV-certified equipment due to the October 2015 implementation of EMV regulations, we looked for the processors that offer the most affordable prices on basic EMV terminals. Purchasing equipment outright is a savvy move for a small business owner, since leasing usually ties you to a long-term, non-cancellable contract. Even though leasing programs are less-expensive upfront, the merchants that participate in them often end up paying the equipment purchase price several times over by the time the lease expires. More worrisome is that if you have to close your business and cancel your processing account, you may still be on the hook for your equipment.

“Free equipment offers” and “free equipment placement programs” are enticing deals that many credit card processing companies offer, but you should be aware that these routinely include a contract obligation that includes an early termination fee and also requires you to return the equipment at the end of your contract if you choose not to renew it. Before accepting such an offer, it’s important to consider whether being locked into a contract is worth the savings that you’re offered. Here are the companies that offer the best pricing for basic EMV terminals:

Flagship Merchant Services

  • Month-to-month service
  • Tiered and interchange-plus pricing plans
  • Robust customer service

With competitive pricing and fees and one of the lowest prices for a basic EMV-compliant terminal, this is a company worth considering. It has flexible terms and accepts a high percentage of applicants.

Read more here

National Bankcard

  • Month-to-month service
  • Low monthly fee
  • Lowest cost for a basic EMV-compliant terminal

In addition to offering the lowest price in our review for a basic EMV-compliant terminal, this processor offers competitive rates and fees, making it a sensible choice. It works with businesses of all sizes and accepts most businesses that submit an application.

Read more here

CreditCardProcessing.com

  • Month-to-month service
  • Tiered and interchange-plus pricing plans
  • Low tiered rates, especially for swiped debit cards

This company offered our testers the second-lowest price for a basic EMV-compliant terminal. It offers a choice of pricing plans and favorable contractual terms, making it a good option for growing businesses.

Read more here

Best Retail Credit Card Processing

Look for Interchange-Plus Pricing

Your customers present you with several different types of cards – debit and credit, consumer and business, regular and rewards. Some customers even present their cards using a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay or Android Pay. In order to accept any type of payment and get the best possible rate, we recommend choosing a processor that offers interchange-plus pricing. If you want to learn more about accepting credit cards in person, check out our merchant services review. The following companies offer interchange-plus pricing and are our top picks for best retail credit card processing companies:

Payment Depot

  • Innovative wholesale pricing
  • Membership fee includes PCI compliance
  • No Cancellation Fees

This company offers a membership-based pricing plan in which you pay a per-transaction fee and wholesale interchange-plus rates. This plan is most advantageous for companies that process larger sales tickets. Payment Depot charges a single fee for membership that you can choose to pay either monthly or annually.

Read more here

Helcim

  • Month-to-month service
  • Monthly fee includes PCI compliance
  • Lowest interchange-plus rates and transparent pricing

Not only does this company offer some of the best interchange-plus pricing out of the companies we reviewed, it clearly posts its rates and fees on its website. Helcim is one of the only processors that provides a rate guarantee in its application.

Read more here

Payline Data

  • Month-to-month service
  • No cancellation fee
  • Simple rate plans

Competitive rates and simple pricing plans make Payline Data a company to consider. It offers interchange-plus pricing to all of its merchants and applies the full dollar amount of your transactions to its monthly minimum, making it a solid choice for new businesses.

Read more here

Best Mobile Credit Card Processing

Look for Flat-Rate Pricing, No Fees & No Contract

Mobile processing makes it easy for very small businesses to accept payment cards because it’s very inexpensive to get started. mPOS (mobile point-of-sale) equipment requirements are minimal, and most processors offer pay-as-you-go pricing with no or few fees. Additionally, mobile processing allows you to accept credit cards from anywhere your cell phone has service, which means you can accept payments wherever your customers are: at farmers’ markets and trunk shows, at your customers’ homes or businesses, at events and more. You can also use mPOS in your store as an inexpensive way to add another checkout lane or in your restaurant to enable your servers to accept credit cards tableside. We recommend choosing a service that offers flat-rate pricing, no fees and no contract. If you choose a service that offers a card reader, you want to ensure that it is EMV compliant. You can read our mobile credit card processing review to learn more about this method of payment processing. Here are our top picks for best mobile credit card processing companies:

Square

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • No fees
  • EMV/NFC card reader available

This processor’s flat-rate processing costs make it a terrific option for businesses with small tickets. Additionally, because it doesn’t charge additional fees, doesn’t require a contract and has low equipment costs, it’s a particularly attractive option for new businesses. Square offers a Contactless + Chip Reader that connects to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Read more here

Cartwheel Register

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • Low processing costs; no fees
  • No hardware required; works using your cell phone and app

If you need to set up your credit card processing service quickly and want to use just your phone or tablet without additional equipment, Cartwheel Register is a good option. It uses an app and the camera on your mobile device to capture card data, then processes it as an online transaction so you don’t have to worry about EMV compliance. It has low, flat-rate pricing, no contract, and no monthly or annual fees.

Read more here

PayPal Here

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • Flat-rate pricing plan; no fees
  • EMV/NFC card reader with PIN pad available

This popular credit card processing company has good processing rates and no monthly or annual fees. There is no contract requirement, and in addition to accepting credit card payments, you can also accept PayPal payments. It offers an EMV-compliant card reader with a built-in PIN pad that uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone or tablet.

Read more here

Best eCommerce Credit Card Processing

Look for Flat-Rate or Interchange-Plus Pricing

It’s often more expensive to accept credit cards online than in person. This is because there’s greater risk in “card not present” transactions because you’re not accepting a physical card in a face-to-face setting. These transactions are also more expensive because most online customers prefer to use credit rather than debit cards, and most credit card users prefer to use their rewards cards. For these reasons, it’s advantageous to finding a processor that charges a flat rate or interchange-plus pricing because otherwise you can count on paying the high, non-qualified rates of tiered pricing.

You should be aware that although some companies charge no or few fees for online credit card processing, many companies charge all the standard fees plus a monthly gateway fee, and some charge additional per-transaction fees for gateway access. Although the majority of companies don’t charge any type of setup fee, a few charge a gateway setup fee for online processing. To learn more about this method of payment processing, check out our online credit card processing review. The following companies are our top picks for eCommerce credit card processing:

Square

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • No monthly fee, gateway fee or annual PCI-compliance fee
  • Business-support features for analytics and scheduling

Because Square doesn’t charge the fees that most online credit card processing companies do and has flat-rate pricing, this processor can be a cost-effective choice. You can use Square to accept payment on your website or use the service with a third-party eCommerce platform. It also gives you the option of creating an online store that it hosts for free.

Read more here

Amazon Payments

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • No monthly minimum
  • No monthly fee, gateway fee or PCI-compliance fee

This processor lets you leverage your customers’ comfort with paying for goods through Amazon to your advantage. Alternatively, you can use the service with other shopping platforms, though these may cost extra. It has flat-rate pricing with no contract and no monthly statement or gateway fees.

Read more here

Payment Depot

  • Innovative wholesale pricing
  • Membership fee includes PCI-compliance and gateway fees
  • No cancellation fees

If your average ticket size is large, you may find that the interchange-plus pricing model is more cost-effective for your business than flat-rate pricing. This processor offers simple pricing plans that charge the wholesale interchange rate plus a per-transaction fee for each transaction and a single membership fee that you can choose to pay monthly or annually.

Read more here

Best Nonprofit Credit Card Processing

Look for Special Nonprofit Rates or Discounts

Like other small businesses, it’s important for your nonprofit organization to select a credit card processing company that charges low rates and few fees and that doesn’t tie you to a lengthy contract. You want to consider whether you accept donations in person at a single location or at various events, on a website or over the phone, or if you manually key in card numbers from donation forms. You also want to look for a payment processor that offers special rates or discounts for nonprofit credit card processing, since this can be a significant cost-saver. Based on this criteria, here are our top picks for nonprofit credit card processing companies:

Helcim

  • Month-to-month service
  • Transparent pricing
  • Lowest interchange-plus rates

Helcim is a particularly good choice because it offers special discounted rates to nonprofits and doesn't have any minimum processing requirements that you have to meet each month. Its nonprofit package includes online payment tools that you can use to create a “Donate” button on your website. Unicef and Children’s Wish are some of its nonprofit customers.

Read more here

PayPal Here

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • Flat-rate pricing plan; no fees
  • EMV/NFC card readers with PIN pads are available

If you process a low volume of transactions or if you’re looking for a processor that works with a variety of popular fundraising platforms such as Blackbaud or Eventbrite, PayPal Here is a good option for your nonprofit organization. It offers pay-as-you-go, flat-rate pricing. Its nonprofit clients include Operation Smile and Team Rubicon.

Read more here

Dharma Merchant Services

  • Month-to-month service
  • Special rates for nonprofit organizations
  • Socially responsible company with B-Corporation and Green America certifications

If you process more than $10,000 per month, Dharma Merchant Services is worthy of consideration as it's a socially responsible company that caters to nonprofits. It offers reduced rates for nonprofits and partners with 4aGoodCause, which can help you create custom donation pages. Guide Dogs for the Blind and Institute for Financial Literacy are a few of its nonprofit clients.

Read more here

Best High-Risk Credit Card Processing

Look for Interchange-Plus Pricing

If your business is considered high risk, many processors may not work with you, so you want to look for a processor that caters to high-risk businesses. You should be aware that you may be charged higher processing rates, and depending on the risk associated with your business, the processor may insist on a reserve account to buffer against potential chargebacks. The best high-risk credit card processors offer interchange-plus pricing. Here are our top picks:

Payline Data

  • Month-to-month service
  • No cancellation fee
  • Interchange-plus pricing

This processor has transparent interchange-plus pricing and great customer support. It provides in-store, mobile and online processing solutions and also works with companies that have poor credit scores.

Read more here

Signature Card

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Lowest PCI-compliance fee
  • Waivers available for month-to-month service

In addition to working with businesses in high-risk industries, this processor also provides credit card processing services to businesses with low-credit scores. Although its rates are higher than some of its competitors, its fees are lower than average.

Read more here

The Transaction Group

  • High-risk specialist
  • Serves international companies
  • Interchange-plius pricing

This processor serves businesses located offshore or outside of the United States and specializes in providing credit card processing for businesses such as marijuana dispensaries and e-cigarette stores. This processor also serves merchants with bad credit. It requires its merchants to sign a three-year contract.

Read more here

Best Established Processors for Small Businesses

Look for a Variety of Processing Services

If you want to process with a direct payment processor, these are some of the largest, most established companies in the credit card processing industry. Each of them serves businesses of all sizes, from very small companies to multi-national corporations. Small businesses may be able to get competitive rates through these companies, but you’re likely to receive better rates if your company processes a high volume of transactions each month. Each processor offers a variety of pricing models to choose from and can provide processing services for retail, online and mobile businesses. The following companies are our top picks for best established processors for small businesses:

Chase Paymentech

  • Month-to-month service
  • Flat-rate, interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans
  • No annual PCI-compliance fee; no cancellation fee

If you want the additional convenience of processing where you bank, this processor is a good option. It doesn’t require you to sign a lengthy contract and doesn’t charge you for PCI compliance. If, after a year with this processor, your processing levels have increase, you can request a rate review to see if you qualify for better rates.

Read more here

Elavon

  • Month-to-month service
  • Flat-rate, interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans
  • Monthly fee includes PCI-compliance fee

Despite being one of the largest payment processors, our testers found consistently good customer service from this company. Its interchange-plus pricing is competitive with the best we reviewed.

Read more here

TSYS

  • Low per-transaction fee
  • Flat-rate, interchage-plus and tiered pricing plans
  • Competitive tiered rates

This processor’s tiered rates are competitive, but it offered our testers higher-than-average interchange-plus rates. It’s also one of the few credit card processing companies in our review that requires a three-year contract.

Read more here

Best Credit Card Processing Fees

Look for No Monthly Fees & No PCI-Compliance Fees

When you’re looking for companies that have the lowest credit card processing fees, mobile credit card processors are often your best bet since many offer pay-as-you go service and don’t require you to pay the fees that standard processors charge, such as monthly fees and annual PCI-compliance fees. Most also lack a monthly minimum, which is a set dollar amount of processing costs that many processors require you to pay each month. Some mobile credit card processing companies, such as those we’ve listed in this category, also don’t have chargeback fees.

Most mobile credit card processors charge flat-rate pricing in which you pay a flat percentage of the sale, and for this category, we’ve selected the few that don’t charge a per-transaction fee unless you manually key-in a sale. You can read our review to learn more about mobile credit card processing companies. The following companies are our top picks for best no-fee credit card processing:

Square

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • Per-transaction fee for manually entered cards only
  • Offers EMV/NFC-compatible card reader

This processor has simple flat-rate pricing with no additional fees. It has countertop hardware options if you want to use it in a retail setting, and it also offers online credit card processing.

Read more here

EMS+

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • Per-transaction fee for manually entered cards only
  • No minimum processing requirements

Low flat-rate processing costs and no fees makes this processor an attractive option. Like most mobile processors, it doesn’t require a contract or charge a cancellation fee. It offers retail and online processing though its parent company, Electronic Merchant Systems, though rates for these services aren’t posted on the company’s website.

Editor’s note: At the time of writing, this company doesn’t yet offer an EMV-compliant mobile credit card reader.

Read more here

Spark Pay

  • Pay-as-you-go service
  • No per-transaction fee
  • Two flat-rate pricin plans available

Spark Pay is the credit card processing branch of Capital One. It has competitive flat-rate pricing and can be used on the go or in a retail setting as it offers countertop hardware. This company also offers online credit card processing, though it has a different pricing model.

Editor’s note: At the time of writing, this company doesn’t offer an EMV-compliant mobile credit card reader. However, EMV-compliant wired and wireless terminals are available.

Read more here

Best Value Credit Card Processors

Look for Lowest Rates & Fees

Overall cost is often the most important consideration when choosing a credit card company, though many factors can influence your overall satisfaction with a company. If you’re looking for the cheapest credit card processing company, you need to know your average ticket size and monthly volume. In addition to considering rates, it’s also important to look at fees, contractual terms and equipment costs, as these factors can add additional expense to your overall processing costs. Although customer service doesn’t directly affect the cost of your processing, it’s important that you choose a responsive company that is helpful and prompt in responding to your inquiries and resolving any issues that arise. The following chart can help you identify some of the least expensive credit card processing companies to contact for quotes.

Average Ticket Size Average Monthly Volume Recommeneded Credit Card Companies
$1 to $49 $1 to $999 Square EMS+ Spark Pay
$1K to $4.9K Square EMS+ Spark Pay
$5K to $9.9K Square EMS+ Spark Pay
$10K to $24.9K Square National Bankcard Spark Pay
More than $25K National Bankcard Cayan Elavon
$50 to $199 $1 to $999 Square EMS+ Spark Pay
$1K to $4.9K National Bankcard Flagship Merchant Services Cayan
$5K to $9.9K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
$10K to $24.9K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
More than $25K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
$200 to $499 $1 to $999 Sqaure EMS+ Spark Pay
$1K to $4.9K Helcim EMS+ Spark Pay
$5K to $9.9K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
$10K to $24.9K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
More than $25K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
$500 to $999 $1 to $999 Square Cartwheel Register EMS+
$1K to $4.9K National Bankcard Cayan TransFirst
$5K to $9.9K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
$10K to $24.9K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
More than $25K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
More than $1K $1K to $4.9K National Bankcard Flagship Merchant Services CreditCardProcessing.com
$5K to $9.9K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
$10K to $24.9K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard
More than $25K Payment Depot Helcim National Bankcard

Editor’s note: These recommendations are based on the rates and fees that our testers received when calling for quotes as potential customers. When you call for quotes, your company may receive different pricing based on your business’s qualifications and specific need. As such, you may find that the companies that offer your business the best deals vary from our recommendations. For this reason, we urge you to call multiple processors for quotes specific to your business.

Five Tips for Picking a New Processor

Look for Low Rates, Few Fees & Favorable Terms

Reading our credit card processing reviews can provide you with a good idea of which processors you may want to request more information from, but it's still important to take the time to shop around and gather quotes that are specific to your business so that you find the best deal. Here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Start looking a month in advance. You want to look for a credit card processor well before you need to start processing so that you give yourself enough time to thoroughly research the companies you're interested in. By allowing extra time for this process, you won't feel rushed into making a hasty decision simply because you need to accept credit card payments in two days.
  2. Talk to more than one company. It's important to obtain quotes from multiple companies so you find the lowest pricing for your business's specific processing needs. Because your business's average sales ticket size, average monthly processing volume and other factors vary from those we used in our testing scenario, you may receive different rates than the ones we received. By speaking with several companies, you can gauge what the best pricing and terms are for your company.
  3. Evaluate customer service. As you're reviewing the processor's pricing and service terms, you're also evaluating the individual who, in most cases, will be your account manager for the life of your account. For this reason, it's important that you like this person. You want the person you're working with to be responsive and easy to reach, honest and forthcoming with information, and knowledgeable about credit card processing and the services the company provides. You should feel that the rep is respectful, and you should feel comfortable asking questions about the service.
  4. Request pricing quotes and contracts. After you've narrowed your choices to your top three or four processors, it's important that you request written quotes that include a complete list of fees as well as copies of the application or service contract, including Terms and Conditions and Program Guides. You want to obtain these documents before you sign anything so that you can read them through and ensure that the terms you were verbally quoted match the terms in the contract. Some reps balk at providing this information because they don't want to go to the trouble of filling out paperwork if you're not going to sign up with them. (They may worry that you plan to take the quote to another processor, or back to your existing processor to get better pricing). However, this is information you need in order to ensure that you make the best possible decision for your business, and you want to insist that the rep sends you this information.
  5. Read the contract. It's critical that you thoroughly read the application, contract and service terms. If there is any discrepancy from the information you were quoted over the phone, it's important to take it back to the rep and get it changed before you sign. For example, if the rep told you that the service is month to month, but the actual contract states there is a three-year term, you need to ask the rep to change that clause or send you a waiver that amends the term. If, per chance, a rep tells you that a clause doesn't need to be amended because it isn't enforced, keep in mind that if a term is in writing, and if you sign the document, you are agreeing to that term. A verbal assurance doesn't supersede the written, signed contract.

Once you've decided on the processor you want to use, you can follow up with the rep, sign the contract and purchase your terminal. After you start processing and receive your first statement, you may want to contact your rep if you have questions about how to read your statement or if you have questions about your processing costs or fees. After a few months, if you find that your processing volume is higher than you anticipated, some processors are willing to reassess your processing costs.

Consider Data Security

EMV and PCI Discourage Fraud

In addition to considering rates, fees, and contractual terms as you look for a credit card processing company that best suits your business, you need to look for a company that is PCI compliant and offers EMV-compliant processing equipment.

Data security is a huge issue in the credit card processing industry. Although the large breaches that you read about in the news, such as those sustained by Home Depot and Target, may lead you to believe that your business is too small for criminals to be interested in, that isn't the case. In fact, small businesses are most often the preferred targets of security attacks.

According to the PCI Security Standards Council, 80 percent of cyber security attacks are aimed at small businesses. Even more grim is the success that criminals have with their small business targets. Security experts from First Data, one of the world's largest payment technology companies, estimate that 90 percent of data breaches affect small businesses. Criminals target small businesses because many small business owners fail to prioritize data security. As a result, the data often isn't as secure as large companies that have the resources and personnel to put stronger security protocols in place.

Data Breaches Are Expensive
If your small business experiences a data breach and is found liable, the associated costs can be crippling. First Data estimates that on average, a breach costs a small business $36,000 and in some cases may exceed $50,000. Within six months of experiencing a data breach, 70 percent of those small businesses go out of business. Expenses include:

  • Liability for fraudulent charges, which means you pay for any charges made to the customer's card after it is compromised
  • Hiring independent forensic investigators to pinpoint the scope of the breach
  • Notifying affected customers by mail multiple times and providing them with a year of credit monitoring services
  • Paying PCI-compliance fines to the card brands and the acquiring (merchant) bank if you weren't in compliance when the breach occurred
  • Paying for the cost of providing your customers with replacement cards

Other costs may include legal fees, upgrading or replacing your point-of-sale system and hiring a Qualified Security Assessor to assist you in establishing your PCI compliance.

In addition to the expenses that you incur due to a data breach, you may also lose business due to negative press and the loss of your customers' trust in your business. Also, if your customers are unable or unwilling to pay you in cash, you may lose business due to your inability to accept credit cards while the investigation is underway. If the card brands revoke your processing privileges due to the breach, you may be permanently unable to accept credit cards.

Protect Your Business from Fraud
You can take two important steps to increase security, protect data and reduce fraud. First, comply with PCI data security standards; second, upgrade to EMV-compliant processing equipment.

  1. PCI Security Standards. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council has established guidelines called PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) to help businesses of all sizes protect payment data. Most processors require you to be PCI compliant and charge both a compliance fee for their efforts in helping you achieve PCI compliance and a noncompliance fee to discourage you from putting off annual compliance requirements. PCI DSS measures have proven to be successful in discouraging attacks, as 96 percent of merchants that sustained data breaches in 2011 were not PCI DSS compliant.
  2. EMV. Prior to October 1, 2015, customer losses resulting from cards that were compromised, stolen or counterfeit were dealt with by either the payment processor or the issuing bank. Now the costs for these kinds of fraud fall to the least EMV-compliant party, which in many cases is the merchant due to outdated equipment. As mentioned above, data breaches can be catastrophic for a small business, which is why it's important to upgrade to EMV-compliant equipment.

Choosing a company that helps you establish your PCI compliance (or takes care of this requirement for you), and that provides EMV-compliant equipment helps you protect your business from data breaches and other types of fraud. Read about EMV, PCI, fraud prevention and other articles about credit card processing on our website.

Methodology

Our team of reviewers has conducted extensive research into credit card processing since 2007, spending more than 2,000 hours learning about the processes, players and technology in this industry. In our testing, our reviewers examined more than 200 companies in order to find the best credit card processors in the United States.

 

  • We combed company websites in order to gauge transparency about rates, fees and contractual information.
  • We called and emailed each processor multiple times as small business owners to get quotes. Because many of the companies are very large with many sales representatives, multiple reviewers called each company, giving us the opportunity to compare the consistency of the information we received.
  • We requested contracts and scoured them for details about fees, terms and cancellation policies.
  • We emailed each processor as a representative of Top Ten Reviews, requesting information about their pricing and policies.

Using the data that we gathered from our testing, we ranked and rated each company on the qualities we feel are most important to the average small business’s satisfaction with a payment processor. Additionally, our firsthand experience contacting credit card processors taught us the importance of learning the jargon and knowing what questions to ask when calling for quotes. Through our lists, reviews and downloadable price negotiation worksheet, we hope to share this information with you so that you can gather the information that you need to choose the company that is the best fit for your business and can provide you with competitive pricing, favorable terms and excellent service.

Want more choices? Follow these links to read our full reviews on the following credit card processing companies

Amazon Payments – This eCommerce credit card processing service from Amazon.com has flat-rate pricing, which is posted on its website. It doesn't charge any monthly or annual fees. In addition, you have the option of adding an Amazon checkout button on your website or using the service with a third-party shopping platform. Read more here.

Cartwheel Register – If you're looking for an app-based mobile credit card processing solution that you can use with your iPhone or iPad and no additional hardware, this is a good company to consider. It doesn't require a contract and has a simple flat-rate pricing plan with low processing costs and no fees. Read more here.

Cayan – Formerly known as Merchant Warehouse, this full-service processor can set you up with retail, eCommerce and mobile credit card processing. It has interchange-plus, tiered and flat-rate pricing plans available. Although it's pricing is competitive, it doesn't post its rates or fees on its website. Read more here.

CDGcommerce – This company can provide you with retail, online and mobile credit card processing services. It charges few fees and has some of the lowest swiped flat rates. It doesn't require you to sign a long-term contract or meet a monthly processing minimum. Read more here.

Change Merchant Solutions – Like many of the credit card processing companies we reviewed, this processor provides several different types of processing services – mobile, retail and online. It offers both interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans and can audit your account to ensure that your rates don't increase. Read more here.

Chase Paymentech – This is the payment processing arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. It can provide you with every type of credit card processing, and it offers a full range of business banking services through Chase Bank. It works with companies of all sizes and doesn't charge an annual PCI-compliance fee. Read more here.

CreditCardProcessing.com – This full-service credit card processing company has good rates and allows you to choose between interchange-plus and tiered pricing, but its annual PCI compliance fee is higher than most. It doesn't require you to sign a lengthy contract and doesn't charge any cancellation fees. Read more here.

Dharma Merchant Services – With competitive interchange-plus pricing and no annual PCI-compliance fee, this credit card processing company is a good choice for community-minded businesses that process more than $10,000 per month. This processor posts its pricing details and account requirements on its website. Read more here.

Elavon – More than one million businesses of all sizes use this company for their credit card processing needs. It can set you up with any type of processing you might need and allows you to choose between flat-rate, interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans. It doesn't require a long-term contract and offers good customer service. Read more here.

EMS+ - The mobile credit card processing arm of Electronic Merchant Systems, this company offers some of the lowest flat-rate pricing. It posts its rates on its website and doesn't charge any monthly or yearly fees. There's no monthly processing minimum to meet and no lengthy contract requirement. Read more here.

Flagship Merchant Services – With no long-term contract requirement and no cancellation fee, setup fee or gateway setup fee, this full-service credit card processing company offers flexible terms to businesses of all sizes. It has tiered and interchange-plus pricing plans available and provides a dedicated account rep and round-the-clock customer service. Read more here.

FreeAuthNet – This credit card processing company is unique in that it charges a single monthly fee and offers interchange-plus pricing to all of its merchants. It posts its pricing on its website, doesn't charge any cancellation fees and doesn't have any minimum monthly processing requirements. Read more here.

goEmerchant – In addition to online credit card processing, this company can also set you up to accept in-person credit card payments in either a retail or mobile setting. It has a tiered pricing plan with higher-than-average rates and fees. It provides its merchants with 24/7 customer service and a dedicated account rep. Read more here.

Gotmerchant.com – This company provides retail and online credit card processing. It has competitive pricing on its tiered rate plan, which is posted on its website. Interchange-plus pricing is also available upon request, though its rates aren't as competitive as its tiered plan. It doesn't require a lengthy contract unless you accept equipment. Read more here.

Helcim – Offering some of the lowest interchange-plus pricing and few fees, this is one of the best credit card processing companies for retail and online transactions. Helcim posts all of its pricing on its website, doesn't require a lengthy contract, and is one of the only processors that provides its merchants with a rate guarantee. Read more here.

iTransact – This credit card processing company offers both interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans and doesn't require you to meet a monthly processing minimum. It has competitive rates and fees, but requires you to sign a lengthy contract that carries an early termination fee. Read more here.

Leaders Merchant Services – If your business processes a high volume of debit cards, you may find this company's tiered debit rates attractive. It has a low monthly fee and its PCI-compliance fee is lower than average. It requires a lengthy contract that includes an early termination fee. Read more here.

Merchant One – This processor offers competitive tiered rates for swiped debit cards and has a low monthly fee that includes PCI compliance. It requires its merchants to sign a long-term contract that includes an early termination fee. This is one of the few processors that charges an annual fee. Read more here.

Merchant Plus – If you want a choice of payment gateways and straightforward pricing for your eCommerce business, this processor is a good choice. It clearly posts its interchange-plus pricing plan on its website and charges a single monthly fee that includes gateway access and PCI compliance. Read more here.

Moolahs. It has a simple flat-rate pricing plan and doesn't charge any additional fees. It doesn't require a contract and provides Authorize.net payment gateway access to each of its merchants. Read more here.

National Bankcard – With some of the best rates for both its interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans, this processor is a good choice for retail and eCommerce businesses. It provides its merchants with dedicated account reps and doesn't require you to sign a long-term contract. It charges a low monthly fee and an average PCI-compliance fee. Read more here.

PayAnywhere – This mobile credit card processing company's card reader is available for purchase at Apple stores, is EMV-compliant and is equipped with NFC technology so you can accept payments made using mobile wallets like Apple Pay. It's one of the few mobile credit card processors that requires you to sign a long-term contract. Read more here.

PayJunction – With this full-service processor, you can accept credit card payments online and in person. It offers an interchange-plus pricing plan, but its rates are higher than most of its competitors. It doesn't charge monthly, annual, gateway or PCI-compliance fees, but it does charge a fee if you process less than $10,000 per month. Read more here.

Payline Data – Offering some of the best interchange-plus pricing plans, this credit card processing company can set you up to accept credit cards in person and online. It posts its rates and fees on its website, doesn't require a lengthy contract and provides its merchants with a dedicated account rep. Read more here.

Payment Depot – A unique membership-based pricing plan differentiates this credit card processing company from others. It charges a per-transaction fee over wholesale interchange rates for each transaction and then a membership fee that you can choose to pay either monthly or annually. Read more here.

PayPal – Providing a variety of credit card processing solutions to online, retail and mobile merchants, this payment processing company is a popular choice for small businesses. In addition to offering stand-alone processing services, it may also be offered as an add-on solution for your existing retail or online processing account. Read more here.

QuickBooks – If you already use this company's accounting software and want your transactions to be automatically added to your books, QuickBooks Payments may be a good option for you. It offers solutions for in-person and online transactions, including invoicing. It posts its pricing on its website and doesn't require a lengthy contract. Read more here.

Signature Card Services – Even through it provides credit card processing services to merchants with high-risk businesses or bad credit, this processor offers interchange-plus pricing. Its rates are higher than many of its competitors, but it has a low monthly fee and the lowest annual PCI-compliance fee. Read more here.

Spark Pay – As the payment processing arm of Capital One, this credit card processing company is a good choice if you want to work with a company that can also handle your business's banking needs. It offers both in-person and eCommerce processing solutions, doesn't require a long-term contract and posts its rates on its website. Read more here.

Square – Providing in-person and online processing, this company is a popular choice for small businesses due to its competitive flat-rate pricing and its lack of fees and lengthy contract. It provides analytic and appointment tools as part of its processing services. You can also subscribe to add-on software for marketing and employee management. Read more here.

The Transaction Group – In addition to offering credit card processing services to high-risk businesses, this company also works with international businesses. It offers an interchange-plus pricing plan, but its rates are higher than average, as are its fees. It requires its merchants to sign a contract that includes an early termination fee. Read more here.

TransFirst - Although this company was acquired by TSYS in April 2016, it continues to operate separately. It offers interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans and has lower-than-average rates and fees, with one of the lowest monthly minimums. It doesn't require you to sign a long-term contract. Read more here.

TSYS Merchant Solutions – As one of the industry's larger credit card processors, this company can set you up with any type of processing that you need. It works with businesses of all sizes and offers a variety of pricing plans. Its rates are competitive, but it requires a lengthy contract. Read more here.

 

Yowza Merchant – This company offers payment processing solutions for both in-person and online transactions. It has flat-rate pricing, charges a monthly fee and posts its pricing details on its website. In addition to its processing services, it also offers a cloud POS solution. Read more here.