The Credit Card Processing Company Landscape

The Credit Card Processing Company Landscape

The Credit Card Processing Company Landscape

  • Most small businesses accept credit cards as a standard payment option, but as technology advances, customers expect other convenient payment options like digital wallets, mobile payments, debit card payments, and more.
  • Credit card processing companies, or merchant services providers, work as third-party intermediaries between a business and a credit or debit card network for payment processing, and can also handle other forms of digital payment.
  • Picking from among the many credit card payment processors available means nailing down your business’s specific needs, like budget, hardware and software integrations, and customer service requirements. 
  • Learn more about credit card processing and how to pick the right one for your business.

How Do I Choose a Credit Card Processing Company?

Whether you have a fully online ecommerce business or a brick-and-mortar business, you are going to need a payment processor to handle credit and debit card payments. This is because accepting credit card payments isn’t as easy as just interacting directly with the credit card issuing company or network. Networks like Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express work with third-party service providers, also referred to as merchant account providers, merchant services providers, or aggregators. These service providers manage payment processors that push transactions through payment gateways, which communicate payment information to your bank account. 

As a small business owner, you have options when it comes to which credit card processing company you want to use to handle your credit card transactions. In general, most companies provide you with everything you need to process credit card payments. This includes hardware like point-of-sale (POS) systems for physical swiping, chip reading, or contactless payments, and software for accepting online payments. 

Picking the right processing company for your business means considering a few factors alongside your business needs, such as:

  • What kind of fees do they charge? Credit card companies already charge transaction fees (usually a percentage of the charge), but there are also interchange fees, processing fees, monthly fees, and even early termination fees to consider. Do your research thoroughly to make sure you don’t miss any hidden fees or monthly minimums. 
  • What kind of POS system do I want to use? If your customers are making in-person payments, you’re going to need a credit card reader where they can swipe, insert the chip, or use contactless methods to pay. This credit card terminal is called a point-of-sale system, or POS system, and you’ll need to consider its functionality in your business. For instance, do you need iPads to do on-the-floor sales? Do you just want a virtual terminal? Do you want to accept digital payments through Apple Pay, Google Pay, or PayPal? 
  • What kind of integration does their proprietary software have? Depending on your business, you will probably want the POS software to integrate with your back office accounting software like Quickbooks. You may also have your own hardware that you want to use, which can limit which credit card processing companies you can work with. 
  • What kind of customer support do they offer? Even the best credit card processing companies will have off days when it comes to customer service, but if the company you’re considering has consistently low reviews, you probably don’t want to work with them. 
  • What kind of security do they offer? All merchant services providers should handle PCI compliance (standards set forth by the payment card industry) for you, but you’ll want to see what other types of security they offer. If they have a reputation for data breaches, steer clear. 

What Are the Fees and Costs of Processing Credit Cards?

While there are credit card processing companies that offer flat-rate pricing, most of them make their money by charging transaction fees. This should all be outlined in your initial contract, but you can ask the company for a sample monthly statement to see what kinds of fees they charge. 

A few common processing fees include:

  • Initial application fees: You may be charged to process your application.
  • Setup fees: If the company sends a representative to set up equipment, they may charge a fee.
  • Statement fees: These are incurred on a monthly basis and will be mailed to you.
  • Gateway access fees: Another monthly cost, this covers the data transaction between the payment processor and the financial institution that issues the payment.
  • Interchange fees: This is a fee pinned to every transaction as it is processed through the system. Look for companies that have interchange-plus pricing, which tells you exactly how much each credit card company charges for each interchange, as well as how much the payment processor charges.  
  • Chargeback fee: If a customer disputes a charge, you may be charged a fee for the ensuing chargeback, which is essentially a refund. 
  • Monthly minimum fee: This is an agreed-upon amount that the processor will collect from you each month, even if you’re not hitting your sales targets, especially for high-risk businesses. 
  • Non-qualified rates: Some credit card processors charge fees for specific types of transactions, like if a customer pays over the phone. This is something you should look out for, because they can be very high.
  • Early termination fees: If you cancel your contract early for whatever reason, including because you went out of business, some credit card processing services may still charge you the full amount of the contract. 

How Do I Get a Credit Card Machine for My Business?

Most credit card processing companies will provide you with the hardware and software needed to accept credit card payments. This may be as simple as providing you with a credit card reader that plugs into your tablet or mobile phone, but may also include printers, barcode scanners, computers, or monitors. Note that some may charge a set-up fee.

Best Credit Card Processing Options for Startups

Helcim

With 100% transparent pricing, no monthly fees, and a slew of payment options, including invoicing, in-person, and online, Helcim is great for startups. Plus they offer 24/7 customer support. 

Clover

A customizable POS system, mobile card reader, and easy setup make Clover a great choice for new businesses. They don’t charge based on your number of employees, so they’re great to grow with, too. 

Best Credit Card Processing Options with No Cancelation Fees

Payment Depot

Beyond having no cancelation or early termination fees, Payment Depot uses a membership-style pricing model and doesn’t charge markup rates or other hidden fees. In simple terms, you pay the same amount every month, which can be helpful if you go from low-volume to high-volume sales throughout the year. 

Payline Data

Payline Data offers online and in-person payment solutions, integrations to handle online transactions, and next-day funding. They offer a straightforward pricing structure and a number of solutions to suit your business needs. You can check interchange rates directly on their website, too. 

Best Credit Card Processing Options for Established Businesses

Stax by Fattmerchant

Stax offers an all-in-one processing solution and membership pricing that’s well suited to high-volume businesses. They charge a monthly subscription fee for transaction processing up to $500,000 per year, and can create custom solutions for anyone who has more processing volume than that. 

National Processing

With transparent pricing and a willingness to work with high-risk industries, National Processing is a good choice for established businesses. They’ll reprogram your existing hardware for free, and offer a free mobile card reader among other add-ons. They also integrate with many popular software programs, including accounting, customer relationship management (CRM), and online store programs. 

Best Credit Card Processing Options for Restaurants

Square

Square offers a number of options for restaurants, including an all-in-one POS system, free online sites for mobile ordering, delivery, or pick up, and more. They scale to meet the size of your restaurant, and integrate with apps to help you deal with inventory, accounting, and CRM. 

CDGCommerce

CDGCommerce provides terminals and POS systems, integrations with your reservation system, options for loyalty programs, and CRM options, on top of their membership pricing and no cancelation fees. 

Best Credit Card Processing Options for Ecommerce

PayPal

PayPal is everywhere in online shopping carts, and they’ve built a name for themselves for helping people accept online payments, whether for personal or business purposes. It’s as easy as setting up an account and copy-pasting the PayPal button onto your site in order to start receiving payments. 

Stripe

Stripe bills their company as “payment infrastructure for the internet.” They integrate with mobile apps via easy-to-use APIs and accept 135 different currencies, so you can scale your business across the globe easily. 

If you’re looking for business financing, including small business loans, business credit cards, or even how to establish business credit, Nav is your one-stop tool. Sign up for a free account today to compare your best financing options.

This article was originally written on July 29, 2022.

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