Credit Card Processing Companies for Small Businesses

When looking for the best credit card processing options for small businesses, merchants should use as much guidance as they can get.

After all, there are a lot of these companies to choose from.

It’s important to understand how credit card processing for small businesses works as well as how to find the best merchant account providers to meet your specific needs.

Finding the right credit card processing company doesn’t have to be hard, but it can be a pretty involved process.

Our Top Picks for the Best Small Business Credit Card Processors

PaymentCloud
Small Business
Easy Application
Excellent Consumer Ratings
Excellent customer support
Few public complaints
Free cost comparison
Free gateway setup
Full Service Solutions
High-risk specialist
Live customer support
Next Day Payments
No Cancellation Fee
No setup/start up fee
No application fee
Competitive rates and fees
Wholesale rates
98% merchant account approval rate
Integration capabilities with various shopping carts, accounting software, & CRMs
Quick and easy merchant account set-up – usually within 24 hours
Dedicated account representative – have your own representative for all issues
Equipment leasing service – latest technology software and hardware available
Next day deposits – payments transferred to your account within 24 hours

summary

4/5

Best for

High-Risk Merchants

Specializes in

High Risk

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee: None

Monthly Fee: None

Swipe Rate: Unknown

Keyed-in Rate: Unknown

Early Termination Fee: Unknown

Contract Terms:

PaymentCloud offers comprehensive services to a wide range of industries. Low-risk and high-risk companies alike can benefit from the company's services. In addition to serving high-risk firms, they also cater to those with a lower risk tolerance.

PaymentCloud places a high value on providing "white glove" service to all of its clients, regardless of their size or type of business. Every business is assigned an accountant and has access to 24/7 assistance in order to provide a level of customer service. The majority of their customers are based in the United States.

Customers of PaymentCloud benefit from low prices, check services, and quick approvals. PaymentCloud's partner program also accepts agents and ISOs.

Easy Pay Direct
Small Businesses (over $50,000/mo in Processing)
Good for high-risk industries
Very few negative reviews
Single Point of Contact for Multiple Merchant Accounts

summary

5/5

Best for

E-commerce companies, SaaS companies, "high-risk businesses", & established small/medium businesses ($500,000+ in annual sales)

Specializes in

Easy Pay Direct has unique gateway software and banking solutions to optimize payments for eCommerce, SaaS, information products, supplements, and CBD amongst other verticals.

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee:  $99

Monthly Fee: $24.95

Swipe Rate: 1.59% + $0.17

Keyed-in Rate:  2.39% + $0.29

Early Termination Fee: $0 (domestic accounts)

Contract Terms:

1 Year 3 Years

Easy Pay Direct was created in 2009 in Austin, Texas. Brad Weimert is the company's founder and CEO. The key advantages of Easy Pay Direct are their patent-pending payment gateway and broad network of back end financial partners. They provide a point of contact for many merchant accounts.

Easy Pay Direct serves eCommerce and 'Card Not Present' merchants (CNP). They are particularly interested in the following areas: SaaS, eCommerce, informational products, supplements, CBD, and a variety of others. The corporation refers to these industries as 'special needs,' rather than 'high-risk,' which is a frequent designation for these industries. There are various internet indicators that Easy Pay Direct serves several other such verticals quite well.

They service over 60,000 businesses, including Frank Kern, DigitalMarketer.com, InfusionSoft, Samcart, and others.

Helcim
Small Business
Exclusive interchange-plus processing rates
No long-term contracts or early termination fees
Extensive account fee disclosures
Excellent customer support
Processing costs decrease with business growth
Accepts international payments

summary

4.88/5

Best for

Small businesses

Specializes in

Online, retail, service industries

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee: $0

Monthly Fee: $20

Swipe Rate: Variable

Keyed-in Rate: Variable

Early Termination Fee: $0

Contract Terms:

Month-to-month

Everything we create, from money to software, is for you. Helcim created a great reputation for trustworthiness, transparency, and outstanding customer service by putting you and first prioritizing your success.

Merchants throughout North America, as well as industry-leading magazines, concur that Helcim delivers peace of mind while also assisting you in growing your business.

CDG Commerce
Small Business
350+ Technology Integrations
24/7 US-based tech support

summary

5/5

Best for

Nonprofit organizations.

Specializes in

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee: $0

Monthly Fee: $10 (Support Fee)

Swipe Rate: 2.75% + $0.30

Keyed-in Rate: 2.90% + $0.30

Early Termination Fee: None

Contract Terms:

No Contract Required

After 20+ years, CDGcommerce is still serving merchants because of the pride they take in the services they provide and the impact those services have on their customer's businesses.

CDGcommerce was founded in 1998 with the goal of providing professional merchant services with an unrelenting focus on always putting our merchant's best interests first.

What if a professional company was there from day one to manage your online business? You'd have more time, energy, and money to put into growing your business.

That's just what having a seasoned veteran can do for your enterprise

eMerchantBroker
Small Business
High approval rate for high-risk businesses
Variable Rates Depending on Volume

summary

4/5

Best for

eMerchantBroker is best for any size business that is considered high-risk. It's considered one of the top payment processors for high-risk businesses that would otherwise have difficulty finding a standard merchant account provider. 

Specializes in

eMerchantBroker specializes in credit repair, collections agencies, adult websites, travel and timeshare, firearms and guns, bankruptcy and bad credit, online and in-person smoke shops. They also work with electronic cigarettes and other companies that fit into the high-risk merchant account category.

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee: $0

Monthly Fee: Undisclosed

Swipe Rate: 3.00% + $0.15

Keyed-in Rate: 4.00% + $0.25

Early Termination Fee: Up to $595

Contract Terms:

1 Year 3 Years

A wide range of high-risk businesses, including the adult content sites listed above, credit repair, foreign payments, CBD, and firearms, are served by eMerchantBroker's payment gateways and check processing services.

eMerchantBroker has been BBB-accredited since 2012 and now has an A+ rating. Customer ratings are mostly good, with only two complaints out of 50.

Payline
Small Business
Easy Application
Excellent Consumer Ratings & Customer Support
Few public complaints
Free credit card terminal
Live Customer Support
No Account Setup Fee or Cancellation Fees
Same Day Setup
Free virtual terminal
Dedicated account representative
Next day deposits

summary

4.5/5

Best for

Standard Risk Businesses

Specializes in

MOTO and Online

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee: $0

Monthly Fee: $10 (swipe), $20 (keyed)

Swipe Rate: 0.20% + $0.10/transaction

Keyed-in Rate: 0.30% + $0.20/transaction

Early Termination Fee: $0

Contract Terms:

Month-to-month

In the US, Payline is a merchant account provider that specializes in offering payment processing solutions for e-commerce, MOTO (mail order/telephone order), and other standard and high-risk enterprises.

Payline serves a wide range of clients, including small businesses, large corporations, and independent sales organizations (ISOs). When it comes to Payline's all-inclusive solution, you may choose from many types of hardware and software solutions, as well as a personal account manager and chargeback protection measures.

Among the many benefits that Payline offers its clients are round-the-clock customer service, reasonable prices, ACH services that are available immediately, Quickbooks connections, and an API that is both flexible and comprehensive.

High-risk enterprises with a good history and strong finances are also served by Payline's lower risk and bricks and mortar locations.

Small Business Credit Card Processing Buyers Guide: How to Choose The Absolute Best Merchant Account for Your Needs [And What to Watch Out For]

What are Small Business Merchant Accounts?

Whether you’re just opening a new small business, or you’ve had one for years, you need a merchant account to process payments.

Your merchant account will allow you to not only process payments for your business, but it gives that money a place to go.


That’s really important.

Once money hits your merchant account, it is then transferred to your business bank account, where you have access to it.

Small businesses don’t necessarily have to have merchant accounts - there are other options - but they’re not preferable, and if you keep reading, we’ll talk about why.

What do Merchant Account Providers do?

For lack of a better explanation, merchant account providers do just that - they provide merchant accounts.

These accounts make it possible for merchants (aka business owners like yourself) to process payments, thereby directing that money into your merchant account, and eventually, into your business bank account.

Simple.

Why do Small Businesses Need Merchant Accounts?

As a small business owner, it’s in your best interest to accept as many forms of payment as you possibly can.

There are a lot of payment methods out there, but these are the ones people tend to like best:

  • Credit cards (EMV chip and Magstripe)
  • Debit cards
  • Checks and electronic checks
  • ACH
  • EBT
  • Digital Wallet (Google Pay, Apple Pay, etc.)

There are plenty more, but you get the idea.

You definitely want to avoid only accepting cash, which can cost you a lot of business.

The right small business merchant account gives you a lot more options, including being able to accept payments in your brick and mortar store (if you have one), as well as online.

Merchant Accounts vs. Payment Aggregators - What’s the Difference?

Now that you know about merchant accounts, let’s talk about an alternative - payment aggregators.

The term,

payment aggregator

refers to a company like PayPal or Stripe, which you may be familiar with, instead of a merchant account and/or payment processing company.

A payment aggregator is a way to process a merchant’s payments under one “master” merchant account.

At first, it sounds great! And it seems like choosing a payment aggregator offers a lot of benefits, such as:

  • No waiting for underwriter approval - these accounts can be opened instantly.
  • No worrying about submitting a lot of paperwork - you probably won’t need any at all.
  • No fluctuating fees - most provide their services with a flat fee attached.
  • No startup fees - they’ll approve you for free.

But there’s a lot they don’t tell you.

Here are the cons to choosing a payment aggregator over a small business merchant account provider:

  • It can take a while for your money to transfer into your business bank account.
  • Any suspicion of fraud could spell serious trouble to the tune of holds being placed on your funds.
  • Sometimes fraud alerts (even if they’re wrong about the fraud) can lead to account closures, leaving you high and dry with no way to process payments at all. And it can take months to get these types of issues resolved so you can get paid.
  • Business growth means increased fees, which you don’t need.
  • The company may even start limiting how many transactions you can process per month, which can stunt any growth you may be experiencing.
  • Any shopping cart data you may have gotten is given to the payment aggregator. That means losing valuable information, like what part of the checkout process is frustrating enough to your customers to get them to abandon their carts.
  • You lose control over the checkout process, and you could end up losing money if customers don’t like what they see during checkout.

With the right merchant account provider, none of this is a concern.

What are the Benefits of Small Business Merchant Accounts?

  • Underwriting
  • The Ability to Accept Payments in Multiple Currencies
  • Increased Sales
  • Avoiding Bad Checks
  • Happy Customers

Underwriting

Any time a merchant account provider approves a merchant’s application for payment processing, they are assuming some level of risk.

They assume this risk because if a customer wants a refund (which they can ask for anytime within 6 months of the purchase date), the bank has to issue that refund.

The bank needs to know that it can recoup those funds from you.

That’s the purpose of underwriting and why applying for a merchant account is a process with multiple steps.

Accept Payments in Multiple Currencies

If your small business is a barbershop on the corner, then being able to accept more than one currency for payment probably isn’t a big deal for you.

But it is a big deal to the person who just opened up a jewelry store down the street, but who also wants to sell their products online.

If your small business has aspirations of worldwide domination (no exaggeration there at all), a merchant account is the way to go.

Increased Sales

One thing is for sure - when customers have the option to pay with a credit card, they tend to spend more money.

That’s a fact that’s been proven by research.

If a person who visits your small business spends $20 more than they would have if they had to pay in cash, and that happens over and over again, it translates into a lot of growth for your business.

Avoiding Bad Checks

Remember bad checks?

You’d accept a check from a customer, having absolutely no idea whether they had the funds to back it up. Then a few days later, your bank would slap you with a fee and no money for what you sold.

Terrible. And that’s why a lot of merchants stopped accepting checks.

We’ve learned a thing or two about how to solve this problem over the years.

Today, physical checks can be instantly transformed into electronic checks with the right merchant account providers. If a check is bad, you’ll know it right away - before the customer leaves your store.

Happy Customers

This is what it all boils down to, isn’t it?

Now more than ever, people want options. They know there are a lot of ways to pay (see the list above), and they want to take full advantage of that list.

When you consider the fact that 1 out of 3 Americans has their own side hustle, it’s good to be able to accept multiple forms of payment because their money could be anywhere, like in a mobile wallet account.

What Types of Fees Come With Opening a Merchant Account?

It’s good to be aware of the fees you’ll be paying for your merchant account.

Keep in mind that every small business merchant services provider is different, but here’s a quick rundown of what you might see:

  • Application fees or account setup fees
  • A monthly or annual account fee
  • A monthly minimum fee (in case you don’t process enough payments)
  • A PCI compliance fee
  • A statement fee
  • An early termination fee
  • Chargeback fees

What Types of Businesses Need Small Business Merchant Accounts?

This could be a much longer list, but here are some small businesses that need merchant accounts:

  • Catering services and restaurants
  • Website design businesses
  • Business consulting services
  • Bookkeepers and tax prep professionals
  • Couriers
  • Barbershops and hairdressers
  • Cleaning services
  • Gyms and personal trainers
  • Real estate brokers
  • Graphic design services
  • Food trucks
  • Gardeners and landscapers

How to Choose the Best Merchant Services for Your Small Business

As you’ll soon find out, you’ll have a lot of options for merchant account providers for your small business.

But how do you go about choosing the best one to meet your needs? Here’s a checklist.


  1. Make sure they have the hardware/software you’re looking for.

    For instance, if you know you need a POS system, don’t let someone try to sell you on a payment gateway just because they don’t offer POS systems and they’re trying to win your business anyway. They should care about what you need.

  2. Look for the add-ons that will help you manage your business and grow.

    Maybe you read about software that can help you manage your inventory, or your employees’ schedules. If it sounds like something you need, then you probably do.

  3. Ask for complete transparency when it comes to your prices and fees.

    There are a lot of confusing terms in the payment processing industry that you might not necessarily understand. You’re not wrong to ask for clarification on something if you don’t understand it. And any merchant account provider you work with should be 100% upfront about everything from the get-go. (Refer to the above list for an overview of what you should see in your contract)

  4. Be sure to understand the MSP’s processing rates and pricing model.

    (Pro tip - Interchange Plus is the most transparent)

  5. Steer clear of misleading sales claims that make grand promises.

    For example, their website may say something like, “Transaction fees as low as 0%!” but yet, they never actually give you any real information about what

    your

    fees will be. That’s a red flag.

  6. Look for month-to-month contracts

    , or at the very least, a contract that’s easy to get out of without a huge early termination fee attached to it.

  7. Excellent customer service and support are critical

    , but it’s not always available with every merchant account provider. You want to know that if something goes wrong, you need tech support, or some other issues arise, your payment processing company will be there to lend a hand.

How to Open a Small Business Merchant Account

Now that you’ve gotten the basics down, it’s time to open your small business merchant account. Here’s what you need to know.

The Application Process

Most companies have done a good job of streamlining the application process.

We’ve seen everything from a 1-minute application that you fill out online to over-the-phone applications.

Once you apply, you’ll undoubtedly be given a list of documents and other information that you’ll need to submit. Here’s a list:

  • Your business EIN number
  • Information about the products and/or services you provide
  • Personal information about yourself (name, address, social security number, etc.)
  • Your business plan
  • References, if requested
  • Bank statements to show your payment processing history (if you have one)

Submitting Your Application

Once you have everything they’ve requested, it’s time to submit. But first...

Tip #1: Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s

Check over everything to ensure that the information you’re providing is complete.

It doesn’t hurt to add some additional info either. For instance, have you invested $100K of your own money into your business?

Let them know that. It shows them that you’re serious.

Tip #2: Be Ready to Explain Potential Problems

Do you have poor credit? Does your business? Have you filed for bankruptcy in the past?

These are just examples of things you’ll want to be upfront and honest about.

Here’s the bottom line - the underwriter will find out about

everything

. It’s best if you tell them ahead of time to show that you’re honest and trustworthy.

Tip #3: Provide Any Requested Information - Even if it Doesn’t Make Sense

Are you unsure about providing information about your grandmother’s residence 20 years ago? It doesn’t matter. Give it to the underwriter anyway.

Hint - no one will ask you for that, but they may ask you for things that don’t quite make sense. But there’s a reason. Give it to them, and don’t ask why they need it.

Tip #4: Be Realistic in Your Monthly Volume Expectations

You don’t want to downplay your sales volume. Let them know how much you expect to process each month.

Are you about to release a new, eagerly-anticipated product? Tell them about that too.

Tell them everything.

And when the situation changes, tell them about that too.

Awaiting Your Approval

The hardest part is waiting to see if your merchant account will get approved.

Fortunately, you probably won’t have to wait very long. A lot of merchant account providers can approve accounts in as little as 72 hours; or even faster if you’re considered low-risk.

It’s OK to ask how long it will take to get approved. Then busy yourself until you get the word that you’re good to go.

Summary: The Best Credit Card Processing for Small Businesses

  1. PaymentCloud
  2. Helcim
  3. Easy Pay Direct
  4. CDGcommerce
  5. eMerchantBroker
  6. Payline
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