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The Best Credit Card Processing:
Find a Partner that will Lower Your Rates
Finding the company who will give you the best credit card processing out there is a daunting one. What makes the best the best? Simply put, they will have the best rates, clearest terms, and best customer service & support to help you when you need it. We’ve analyzed our criteria of the top credit card processing companies in the industry, and we want to let you know what we’ve found.
Here in this chapter, the last part of our Ultimate Guide, we’re putting the puzzle pieces together. Who can we recommend based on lots of research and industry knowledge?
We considered the current processing rates from the top names in the business and offer you more in-depth comparison on the credit card processing industry leaders. We compared the industry’s top leaders based on the most important criteria for the business owner. We looked for the best rates (naturally), good customer service, transparent fees, month to month contracts & ease of use for both the customer and your employees.
Now it’s time to evaluate. Who is the best for you? Keep on reading below to see who made the cut.
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Best For Online Businesses:
For your online business, we recommend using PayPal or Stripe to process your fees. These are for 2 main reasons.
1) It is their speciality - online processing is what they do, so they are good at it. Their rates are competitive & they are easily recognizable.
2.) For the ease of use that it gives your customer. PayPal is a brand that people trust, and so many people have PayPal accounts - so you’re more likely to make a sale if it’s easier for your customer.
Be advised, there may be some customer service issues, though, which can be common with such a big company.
PayPal is an easy payment platform to integrate, highly accepted & recognized, and has consistently low online processing fees at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction if within the US. There are no start up costs or contracts. It enables you to accept PayPal, Venmo & all major credit cards.
Stripe is another option for web-based businesses. It’s got some powerful tech that can integrate for in-app purchases - making it convenient for your customers. Some of the biggest names in online & no-cash business use Stripe, such as Amazon, Target & Lyft. It’s not for the faint of heart, though - it will take some tech & code savvy knowledge in order to integrate it with your website or app. It’s important to note if you need another way to accept payments besides online, Stripe might not be the best option for you.
Best For Brick and Mortar Retail:
If you are currently locked into a contract that will cost you significant dollars to break, your best bet for the time being is to stay with your current processor. However if you are looking for someone new, we recommend Shift.
With the Zero Fee pricing structure and free terminals, Shift is a great choice for your brick & mortar retail business. There are no long term contracts - you can go month to month. You also get great customer service. If you process with them, you will also get a free terminal! Their Zero Fee model will save you TONS of money in processing fees.
But wait, aren’t you recommending yourself as the best processor for Brick and Mortar retail?
Absolutely! Brick and Mortar retail processing is what we were founded on and we believe in our product. We believe that there’s no better processor out there than Shift to either completely eliminate your processing fees or carve them down to the bare minimum. Thousands and thousands of businesses have already saved what amounts to Millions of dollars. Isn’t it time you checked it out for yourself?
If you don’t want to completely eliminate your fees, then our runner up in this category is Dharma Merchant Services. They use interchange-plus pricing, which is one of the cheapest ways to process credit cards, if you process enough to offset the membership costs. Dharma Merchant Services also are very transparent with their terms and fees. They have U.S. based customer service and have generally good reviews overall.
Best For Mobile Processing:
Square is a great option for you if you’re needing a mobile processor. Square has no monthly fees, no contracts and they are up front about costs. Their low rate for mobile processing combined with their easy to use equipment & software makes it a good way to accept payments - especially if you process less than $3k a month. What’s more, you can use the card reader & free POS app with your smartphone or tablet so equipment doesn’t have to cost you a lot. The Square POS system is also very user friendly for your customers as well. Square also has the ability to expand into different commerce options, if your business expands. While their software and equipment is proprietary, you will still get the best rate. If you start processing more that 3k a month, though, it might be time to look elsewhere. Want to know more about mobile processing? We’ve done the research for you.
PayPal is our runner up, solely because it's easy to use for your customer and it’s consistently low rates. There is no offline component, however, so you’ll have to use wifi or your data when you decide to use their mobile payment platform.
Best For High Volume:
Whether you process LOTS of credit card transactions, or you process a lot of high price tickets, Shift could really save you money with the Zero Fee processing model. Now, I know we are talking about ourselves here - but hear us out! We’ve seen what else is out there, and we believe in our product. It’s scary to think about how much business owners are being ripped off by unscrupulous processors every single day, and we want to put an end to it.
We are very competitive in our industry. We have no contracts, so you can go month to month & not worry about costly long term contracts. We are clear about fees (there are none for the business owner), and terms. We also offer free equipment and have access to the top brands in POS software, making it a one-stop shop for you.
But, hey, no judgment here. If you don’t want to go with us, then we’d recommend Dharma Merchant Services. They have clear terms as well, no contracts & fairly low pricing. Their customer service reviews generally say that Dharma means what they say and are a good company to work with.
Best For Manual Transactions:
If your business doesn’t have website check-out capabilities, but you take orders over the phone, then we recommend Stripe. Stripe is able to do the heavy lifting for keyed-in transactions at a decent rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
If you process less than $10k a month, Square’s virtual terminal and keyed-in rates 3.5% +$0.15 a transaction - are one of the lower ones out there, and there is no monthly fee for an account.
Best For Low Volume & Micromerchants:
If you process less than $5k/month, PayPal or Square are going to be your best bet when it comes to accepting credit card payments. Their rates are consistent & low for low volume - their equipment is easy to use and software is intuitive. Their equipment doesn’t cost a lot either and they have no monthly minimum that you have to process.
Best For Startup Businesses:
We have two companies we recommend for Startups. The first thing to consider is how much you think you’ll make per month.
If you think you’ll process less than $5k/month, Square will be a good place to start. You may find it difficult to get a good deal from the “Big Guys” in the credit card processing industry - they might make you pay a fee if you don’t meet a monthly minimum or try to lock you into a contract. They have to try and offset the cost of taking you on as a client, they make money through processing credit cards. If you don’t process enough, then they will lose money with you. However, Square is a processor that was made for this type of processing. Square also has inexpensive equipment that can grow as your business grows, month to month contracts and no minimums to meet.
Shift is a great fit if you think you’ll process over $5k a month. We have personalized customer service, which is imperative for a startup! Everything that can go wrong with your startup will go wrong, it’s nice to know that Shift will be consistent. We at Shift also use a Zero Fee processing pricing model and offer free equipment - which means less money you have to spend and free you up to focus on other aspects of your new business!
Best For High Risk Businesses:
If you are in an industry that is considered “high risk,” consider checking out Shift Processing. High Risk industries are industries that can have a lot of chargebacks and fraudulent charges, so it can be difficult to find a processor who wants to take one on. The categories within what is considered “High Risk” industries are extensive, some of which include CBD dispensaries and airlines. For a more in depth look at the high risk industry, click here to learn more and to see if your industry is considered high risk. Shift Processing really values each client they serve and will work hard to help you, regardless of what your industry is.
If you don’t want to go with us, check out Host Merchant Services. Even though they aren’t on our extensive list in Chapter 6 - they are pretty competitive when it comes to high risk accounts. Most high risk processors want to have a long term contract and will hit you with early termination fees. Host Merchant Services has low start up fees, transparent pricing and good customer service, especially for a high risk account merchant. Because they use the interchange-plus pricing model, it will be more expensive to process with them if you process less than $10k/ a month.
Best For Small Businesses:
If you process anywhere from $5k/month to $30K/month, Shift will be a great option for you. Shift uses the Zero Fee pricing model, meaning that it won’t cost you (as the business owner) anything to process with them. Instead, the cost is offset by offering your customers a cash discount to pay that way, or just incur the fee to pay with a credit card. Shift also provides free terminals and has access to the top names in POS software. What’s especially important for a small business is the personalized customer service they offer. It’s very important to choose a processor that is supportive and can help so that there is not a bunch of run-around stuff when a problem arises.
But, hey, we understand if you don’t want to go with us and save the most money. If you want to look further, then we suggest Dharma Merchant Services. With transparent terms and great customer service reviews, they are a good runner up. However, with the membership/interchange plus pricing model, note that these types of merchants start to become competitive if you process around $10k or more per month. Anything less than that and you will actually be spending MORE money to process with them because of the monthly membership fee. Remember, they make that money whether you process enough or not.
Best For POS Systems:
Not only do you have to find a good rate for processing, but you also will have to find (and pay for!) a POS system that will integrate into your workflow. Finding the right POS systems to combine with your credit card processor and terminal can be a royal pain. That’s why Shift wins this category.
No matter if you run a retail business, food truck, restaurant, or vet’s office, we’ve got you covered. Shift can set you up or work with many of the top POS systems out there. This means they’ve got your processing AND software needs taken care of. Even if you don’t want to (or can’t) change your current POS system but want to move processors, we can help you. We will be a one stop shop for you & save you money no matter which POS system you use.
But aren’t we a Zero Fee processor? So then what’s up with the $19.99 a month for the POS system software? I’m glad you asked! Shift has worked hard to eliminate your processing fees and also offers free equipment. However, we don’t have our own POS software that we can offer you. The $19.99 month fee is passed on to us from the equipment manufacturer. We are working hard on a solution to make the monthly software cost as low as possible and (fingers crossed) hopefully $0 in the near future.
Square POS System starts at $60 a month after you buy the equipment, and only the first month of Clover POS software is free after you buy an expensive register. The Shopify POS system starts at $29 a month. So $19.99 is still a low price to pay, especially when you don’t have to pay processing fees, equipment fees & the tons of other fees that credit card processors like to hit you with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions we come across when we are talking about the best credit card processing.
Which credit card processing is cheapest for small business?
The “Zero Fee” pricing model is cheapest for small business owners. There are no fees charged to the business owner with the zero fee model or the cash discount processing model, making these the cheapest options on the market. See how much money we can save you!
How does this work? The processing fees are passed on to the customer by offering a cash discount if they choose not to pay with a credit card. This is what we do here at Shift - work hard to save you money!
There are TONS of factors that contribute to getting the lowest price for credit card processing - it has everything to do with your type of business & how much volume you process! And it’s not just the cost per swipe you have to consider (see how much we can save you in transaction fees) - there are other costs that might not be obvious up front - like will you have tons of monthly fees even after you get a good rate? Will you have access to great customer service? Determine the value of what you are paying.
What is a good credit card processing rate?
The lower rate, the better - and generally, the more you process, the lower you rate will be. The lowest rate out there is interchange. Mark up from a processor is always on top of interchange, whether it’s a small cost per swipe combined with a hefty membership fee or all bundled together for a flat rate- processors make their money somewhere. A really good processing rate is the lowest processor mark up you can negotiate, since you can’t negotiate the interchange. Interchange is set by the card brand.
What are the top payment processing companies?
Shift Processing is among the top payment processing companies, including: Payline Data, HelCim, Square, PayPal, Quickbooks, Stripe, Due, Payanywhere, Clover & others. See our link here as we compare the top payment processing processing companies in the credit card processing industry. If you’re looking for information on mobile processors like Square & Clover Go - click here for our comparison on mobile processors.
What is the cheapest way to process credit cards?
The cheapest way to process credit cards is to use a processor that uses the “Zero Fee” pricing structure - which is what Shift Processing does best! This works by transferring the cost of the credit card transaction onto the consumer - you do this by giving them a choice: offer a cash discount or pay the current price - most people will still pay with credit cards. You still get the business by offering this way to accept payments, but with none of the additional costs or fees that go along with it.
Whew- what a wild ride it’s been! Hopefully, you have learned a lot through reading the Complete Guide To Credit Card Processing. We’ve talked about how credit card processing works & the major players in the game, plus how to avoid processing fees. We’ve covered online processing, mobile processing, high risk accounts, how to choose the best credit card processor (Get our free information guide!), compared the top companies & finally made some recommendations for you based on your business type!
Credit card processing involves a lot of moving parts and, despite our best efforts, answers won’t always be cut and dry. Make the best decision you can with the information you have so you can save the most money & get the best service. Trust us, it’s out there. And remember, you can download this entire guide as a PDF to refer to later - and, as always, you can contact Shift today so we can start saving you money!
How to Avoid Credit Card Processing Fees
Online Credit Card Processing: No Storefront, No Problem, right?
Accepting Mobile Credit Card Processing Payments on the Go
High Risk Merchant Account: Can I accept domestic payments with no reserves?
Choosing the Credit Card Processing for Small Business That’s Right for You
Credit Card Processing Companies: We Compare the Industry Leaders
The Best Credit Card Processing: Find a Partner that will Lower Your Rates