Merchant service providers give businesses the ability to process credit card payments.
Depending on the entity authorized to provide merchant services, these organizations are also referred to as merchant account providers, acquiring banks, acquirers, credit card processors—or just processors, for short.
Merchant services come in all different shapes and sizes. They can be independent service providers (ISOs), banks, or fully integrated systems for all of your hardware, software, and processing needs.
Without merchant services, businesses would not be able to accept credit cards and debit cards. Whether you operate in-person, online, or accept payments over the phone, you must find a merchant service provider to handle your processing needs.
Whether you’re a startup that’s accepting credit cards for the first time, or you’re looking for a new merchant service provider as an established business, this guide will steer you in the right direction.
The Top 10 Best Merchant Services
After researching dozens of merchant services on the market today, I’ve narrowed down the top ten options to consider for various use cases. The reviews below contain the features, benefits, pricing, and potential drawbacks for each provider on our list.
#1 – Flagship Merchant Services — Best Overall Merchant Service Provider
• Accept all major payment methods
• Free processing equipment
• Guarantee to beat other rates
• Merchant cash advances
• Get Started
Flagship Merchant Services is trusted by 25,000+ businesses. They have a wide range of payment processing solutions to accept payments online, in-store, via mobile, and MOTO (mail order and telephone order).
With Flagship Merchant Services, your business will be able to accept all major credit card networks and alternative payment types like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and more.
Since 2001, Flagship Merchant Services has been providing exceptional support to businesses across a wide range of industries.
Businesses opening an account with Flagship Merchant Services are eligible for free equipment, like a Clover Mini POS or EMV certified terminal.
This merchant service provider has solutions for retailers, restaurants, and ecommerce websites. They promise to beat the total processing costs of any other provider on the market. If they can’t deliver on that promise, you’ll get a $200 AMEX gift card.
In addition to payment processing, Flagship Merchant Services offers merchant cash advances, digital customer loyalty programs, gift cards, and a business management portal.
Get started and request a free quote based on your monthly processing volume.
#2 – Helcim — Best Merchant Services For Small Businesses
• $20 per month
• Interchange plus pricing
• No PCI fees
• No contracts
• Get 6 Months Free
Helcim’s merchant services are designed for small businesses. They make it easy for you to accept credit and debit cards in-person, online, and more.
Use Helcim’s services to set up recurring payments, send invoices, or collect payments over the phone with a Helcim virtual terminal.
Helcim’s card readers accommodate swipe, dip, tap, and chip payments. Accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Amex, Google Pay, Apple Pay, JCB, and more.
Other benefits of Helcim include deposits within two business days and the ability to securely store credit card information. You can use Helcim’s services for payment processing on your computer, smartphone, or tablet.
Sync Helcim directly with QuickBooks online to simplify your accounting.
Helcim’s price structure is simple and straightforward. Just pay $20 per month to access low interchange-plus pricing based on industry, pay method, and monthly volume. Helcim offers volume discounts, no PCI fees, and no long-term contracts,
For a limited time, new merchant accounts can get the first six months for free.
#3 – Square — Best For Flat-Rate Payment Processing
• Free magstripe card reader
• No setup fees
• No long-term contracts
• No chargeback fees
• Get Started
Square is one of the most popular merchant service providers on the market today. Millions of businesses trust Square for credit card processing and POS solutions.
In addition to point-of-sale, Square has services for online sales, delivery services, contactless payments, remote payments, and even marketing campaigns. Use Square’s platform to facilitate curbside pickup, digital invoices, appointments, and customer loyalty programs.
With Square for payment processing, getting started is easy. You’ll benefit from features like:
- No long-term contracts
- No early termination fees
- PCI compliance
- No setup fees
- No chargeback fees
- Real-time analytics
- Free card reader for magstripe cards
- Free dispute management
- Fraud prevention tools
As a flat-rate processor, you won’t pay any additional fees to accept American Express. All of your transactions will be processed at the same rate. The only factor impacting the cost is how the card is accepted (in-person vs. card not present).
In-person sales cost 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction. Ecommerce transactions and Square invoice sales cost 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Virtual terminal transactions, card on file transactions, and other card-not-present orders cost 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction.
While Square is a great option for those of you who want a flat-rate processor, these rates likely won’t be the cheapest solution for your business.
#4 – Fiserv— Best Merchant Services For Retailers
• POS solutions
• Customer rewards
• Customer insights
• Contactless payment acceptance
• Get Started
Fiserv provides financial services technology to financial institutions, corporations, consumers, and of course, merchants. Formally First Data, Fiserv is the world’s largest merchant acquirer.
The company has a wide range of services to accommodate small businesses to large merchants and global operations.
Fiserv has solutions for retailers, service-related businesses, ecommerce websites, and foodservice businesses.
They have plenty of POS systems for retail merchants based on your unique needs. From full countertop stations to flexible card readers that work anywhere in the store, Fiserv has it all. You’ll have the ability to customize your POS system with customer rewards, gift cards, and insights.
To get started, connect with a Fiserv consultant to discuss your needs.
#5 – Dharma Merchant Services — Best B2B Merchant Services
• Level 2 & 3 processing
• High volume discounts
• Interchange plus pricing
• Next day funding
• Get Started
Dharma Merchant Services is one of the few providers on the market with solutions built specifically for B2B merchants.
With Dharma, your B2B can accept Level 2 and Level 3 card data from business credit cards. By processing these types of transactions, you’ll benefit from lower processing fees. Merchants that process more than $100,000 per month be eligible for even lower rates with Dharma’s high-volume discounts.
All Dharma merchant accounts include:
- Online reporting
- Next-day funding (for card-present transactions)
- Customer databases
- Credit card storage
- Mobile processing (Apple and Android)
- Virtual terminal
- Online payment links
Dharma Merchant Services uses interchange-plus pricing for credit card processing. There are no long-term contracts, no hidden fees, and you’ll receive excellent support from Dharma’s tech team.
#6 – Fattmerchant — Best For Low-Cost Payment Processing
• Starts at $99 per month
• Chargeback notifications
• Supports multi-location businesses
• Sign Up Today
Fattmerchant works with a wide range of businesses. They have solutions for small businesses, medium-sized businesses, and multi-location businesses.
This merchant services provider is commonly used by organizations in retail, professional services, healthcare, food and beverage, and field service industries.
While Fattmerchant might not be as popular as some of the other providers on our list, they are still trusted by 6,000+ merchants.
Fattmerchant provides services to accommodate:
- Card present payments
- Mobile payments
- Ecommerce processing
- Online invoicing
- Business analytics
- Developer APIs
The subscription-style pricing structure gives merchants access to low interchange-plus rates.
Businesses processing up to $500,000 per year pay $99 monthly and $0.08 + interchange per transaction. Companies that process over $500,000 annually pay $199 per month and $0.06 + interchange per transaction.
Fattmerchant offers same-day funding, automatic chargeback notifications, terminal protection, and a wide range of hardware options.
#7 – PaymentCloud — Best For High-Risk Merchants
• No application fees
• No setup fees
• Ecommerce integrations
• Hardware options
• Apply For Free
Some businesses struggle to find a merchant service provider due to their industry. Certain payment processors and merchant services won’t consider merchants that fall into high-risk categories.
If your application has been denied by other merchant service providers, PaymentCloud will be a top option for you to consider. Whether you process payments online, in-person, or on-the-go, PaymentCloud has solutions to accommodate your needs.
PaymentCloud seamlessly integrates Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, 3DCart, PrestaShop, OpenCart, Volusion, WooCommerce, and more. There are no application fees and no setup fees.
Some examples of high-risk industries that work with PaymentCloud include:
- Adult businesses
- Electronic cigarettes and vaping
- Diet programs
- Bail bonds
- Debt consolidation
- Dating services
Just fill out a form online, choose your terminal or payment gateway, and get ready to start processing credit cards.
It’s worth noting that PaymentCloud does work with all businesses—including ones that do not fall into a high-risk category. But with that said, I’d really only consider them for high-risk credit card processing. Other businesses can get better rates elsewhere.
#8 – Payment Depot — Best For High-Volume Processing
• Transparent pricing
• No contracts
• No cancellation fees
• Free equipment
• Sign Up Today
Payment Depot is one of the most reputable and reliable merchant service providers on the market today. They’ve been called the “Costco of credit card processing.”
By paying a monthly membership, Payment Depot offers low processing rates. This is especially true for high-volume merchants.
Merchants switching to Payment Depot typically save up to 40% on credit card processing.
Payment Depot offers transparent pricing with no hidden fees. You’ll benefit from free equipment, no contracts, and no cancellation fees.
Here’s a quick overview of Payment Depot’s plans, pricing, and processing rates:
Basic — $49 per month
- $0.15 + interchange per transaction
- Process up to $25,000 per month
Most Popular — $79 per month
- $0.10 + interchange per transaction
- Process up to $75,000 per month
- Free terminal
Premier — $99 per month
- $0.07 + interchange per transaction
- Process up to $150,000 per month
- Free smart terminal or premium gateway
Unlimited — $199 per month
- $0.05 + interchange
- Unlimited processing
- Free Clover Mini and premium gateway
The processing rates for Payment Depot’s Unlimited plan are the lowest we’ve seen while conducting our research. But it only makes sense for high-volume merchants.
#9 – Stripe — Best For Online Credit Card Processing
• Ecommerce payment processing
• Fraud prevention
• Virtual cards
• Developer-friendly API
• Get Started
For businesses selling exclusively online, Stripe will be the best merchant service provider to consider. The solution is made specifically for ecommerce websites and internet businesses.
It’s trusted by millions of organizations, from startups to Fortune 500s and everything in between.
Stripe is a fully integrated payments API to accommodate whatever products or services you’re selling online. It’s highly flexible for traditional B2C ecommerce, subscription businesses, and even ecommerce marketplaces.
In addition to payment processing, Stripe has merchant services for fraud prevention, invoicing, and issuing virtual cards. Stripe can help you get financing and manage your business spending as well.
Stripe’s API is developer-friendly and built to scale. Your payment infrastructure is virtually limitless with Stripe.
It’s worth noting that this merchant service provider does offer terminals and solutions for in-person processing. But I’d only recommend that to merchants who are also selling online, with the online store as the primary focus of the business.
#10 – Worldpay from FIS — Best For Large Enterprises
• B2C and B2B ecommerce solutions
• Omnichannel payment processing
• Increase sales
• Improve customer service
• Get Started
Worldpay from FIS has a wide range of merchant service solutions. They support B2C ecommerce, B2B ecommerce, and omnichannel payment processing.
But above all, the provider specializes in large enterprise solutions.
Worldpay from FIS provides innovation and technology to help enterprises expand across the globe. They give you the resources you need to take control of your payment solutions and manage everything from a single provider.
In addition to assisting with payment processing, this merchant service provider helps you generate more sales and improve your customer service.
They also have solutions for small businesses, financial institutions, ISOs, software vendors, resellers, and more.
But overall, Worldpay is the best choice for global enterprises.
How to Find the Best Merchant Services For You
There are certain factors that must be taken into consideration as you’re evaluating prospective merchant services. The best merchant service provider for me might not be the best option for you.
This is the methodology that I used to pick the winners above. But overall, it depends on your specific needs.
Merchant service providers provide a wide range of resources to businesses. But not all of them offer the same solutions.
Every provider on our list offers credit card processing in one form or another. Other services to look for include POS solutions, hardware, virtual terminals, mobile payments, and ecommerce services. Some merchant services offer business financing, consulting, fraud prevention, customer loyalty solutions, gift cards, invoicing tools, chargeback management, and more.
Identify your top needs and make sure that the providers you’re evaluating can provide those services.
Credit card processing can add up quickly. That’s why it’s so important to find a cost-effective solution when you’re shopping around for a merchant services provider.
Flat-rate processing is a viable option for smaller businesses that want a simple and straightforward solution. But generally speaking, interchange plus pricing will give you access to the lowest processing rates.
In some cases, you’ll have to pay a monthly membership fee to access the lowest rates.
If you have a B2B merchant category code (MCC), look for a provider that can accommodate Level 2 and Level 3 card data. This is another way to keep your rates low.
Rates are commonly impacted by how much money you process per month or per year.
High-volume merchants will usually have access to the lowest rates. Depending on the merchant service provider, you might need to process anywhere from $500,000 per year to $150,000 per month to access those rock-bottom rates.
Funding and Support
How soon will you have access to your funds after you’ve settled the transactions? Look for merchant service providers that offer same-day or next-day funding.
You should also consider the level of support and service you’re getting. If you have a problem, how soon can you get in contact with an agent? How fast will your problem be resolved?
Make sure you understand the agreement with your merchant service provider. The best ones will offer free PCI compliance and won’t charge you for setups and cancellations.
What’s the best option for merchant services? It depends on what you’re looking for.
Flagship Merchant Services is our top recommendation. But there are plenty of other great alternatives to consider, depending on your unique circumstances.
Small businesses and retailers should consider Helcim, Square, and Fiserv. If you want to pay a subscription to access low processing rates, look into Fattmerchant or Payment Depot. B2Bs should use Dharma Merchant Services. Stripe is the best option for ecommerce websites.
We recommend PaymentCloud for high-risk merchants and WorldPay from FIS for large enterprises.
Regardless of your needs, you can find the best merchant services for your business using the recommendations and methodology in this guide.