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Top 10 Best Merchant Services Providers & Credit Card Processing Companies in USA

Paul Kilinga
Best Merchant Services Providers

It's 2024, so your business should be able to accept credit card payments, which means your business needs a merchant account that comes along with a credit card processor. 

Merchant account services act as a middleman between you and the credit card companies' banks allowing you to accept and process these payments. Regardless of the type of business you run and the hardware you use to get the job done, a merchant account is essential.

There are several types of merchant accounts available including local, high risk, offshore, and direct. There are also multiple types of merchant services that come bundled with the accounts such as check guarantee services, payment gateways, and cash advances.

If the whole subject has got your head spinning, don't worry. 

From fees to additional services available, here's everything you need to know about merchant services and credit card processing along with some of the best merchant account services available on the market this year. 

Our Top 10 Best Merchant Services Companies & Providers in USA:

  • Leaders Merchant Services - Best merchant service provider overall
  • Paysafe - Best for businesses and corporations looking to scale up
  • Merchant One - Best for merchant and payment processing solutions
  • Clover - Best for restaurants, retailers
  • Stripe - Best for online businesses with international customers
  • Stax - Small businesses with high transaction volumes
  • Square - Best for mobile payment processing, lightning-fast
  • Payment Depot - All business types and sizes
  • Luminous Payments - Best for small & medium sized businesses
  • CreditCardProcessing.com - Best for fast funding and no commitment
Show more

The Best Merchant Services Providers - An In-Depth Look

  • 1
    Leaders Merchant Services

    Leaders Merchant Services

    • Best forAdditional value-added services, low rates
    • RatesStarts at 0.15%
    • Contract Length3 years

    Leaders is one of the best credit card processing services in the industry. It’s been around for 20 years, and its parent company is the reputable Paysafe Group Subsidiary. Leaders gives businesses a lot of reasons to love it, including some of the best credit card processing rates in the industry. We’re talking about rates that start at just 0.15%. Plus, Leaders has a 98% approval rating. So, businesses having a hard time getting the green flag will find Leaders’ process refreshing.

    What's more, Leaders offers a solid $500 Assurance guarantee. This states that if the company can't save you money within the first 6 months of your contract, you'll be awarded $500 in compensation. Leaders works with the reliable Clover point of sale system, and it also integrates with QuickBooks. New SMBs will appreciate the helpful glossary of terms and 24/7/365 customer service for troubleshooting any issues. Additionally, Leaders offers value-added services such as business cash advances, loyalty programs, gift cards, check guarantee services, and point of sale systems.

    Pros
    • $500 Assurance Program
    • Integrates with QuickBooks
    • Rates starting at 0.15%
    Cons
    • Long contract terms
    • Pricey early termination fee
  • 2
    Paysafe
    • Best forBusinesses and corporations looking to scale up
    • RatesQuote-based
    • Contract LengthFrom month-to-month to three years

    Paysafe is a comprehensive payment solution that is transforming how businesses handle transactions. It accepts global payments in 17 currencies, including credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, POS systems, cash cards, and installment payments. The scale-based pricing starts at 15% for low volume, 3.9% per volume, and 9.5% for higher volume. There's also a fixed fee of 1.5 euros per transaction. Paysafe offers various services, including online, digital wallet, and in-person payments, and additional benefits like POS systems, receipt management, and currency conversion. This makes it a versatile choice for businesses of all sizes and types.

    Paysafe offers several tools to assist businesses with their in-store payment processing. One of the notable equipment offerings is Paysafe's Android tablet POS (Point of Sale) system, which facilitates on-the-spot payment acceptance. This POS system, combined with Paysafe's sophisticated in-store payment structure, allows businesses to provide their customers with various payment options, including installment payments and mobile purchasing. For detailed pricing, contact Paysafe directly for a tailored quote.

    Pros
    • Flexible pricing
    • Integrates with major Ecommerce platforms like Shopify
    • Advanced security measures including tokenization
    Cons
    • Customer support response can take up to 24 business hours
    • No clear application process mentioned for setup
  • 3
    Merchant One

    Merchant One

    • Best forBusinesses seeking merchant and payment processing solutions
    • Rates0.29%-1.55% per swiped card transaction
    • Contract Length3 years

    Merchant One is a credit card payment processing company that offers solutions to small and large businesses in various industries. The company partners with Clover to resell its state-of-the-art POS systems, provides its customers with free training on using them, and services the hardware in-house. This ensures a high-quality user experience.

    While Merchant One has excellent reviews on Trustpilot, several complaints indicate issues with customer service, billing, and contract terms. Nevertheless, Merchant One’s dedicated managers will respond to queries and guide you on setting up your account and processing transactions.

    Why we chose Merchant One - We chose Merchant One because it’s able to process both POS and mobile phone credit card payments.

    Our experience - We liked that Merchant One provides a dedicated account manager and offers lower card payment processing fees than some of its rivals.

    Pros
    • Assigned account managers
    • State-of-the-art technology
    • Tailored solutions for different businesses
    Cons
    • Free trial unavailable
    • Billing and pricing issues noted
  • 4
    Clover
    • Best forRestaurants, retailers
    • Rates2.3% - 2.7% + $0.10
    • Contract LengthStarts from 1 year

    Many top credit card processing companies sell Clover’s point-of-sale systems. But did you know that Clover itself offers credit card processing through parent company Fiserv? That’s right. While Clover is primarily known for its POS hardware, it also offers a range of other services including payment processing, gift cards, invoicing and payroll solution, and working capital financing.

    That said, if you’re looking for a payment processor that offers Clover devices, you should compare Clover to the many other payment processing companies that are authorized to resell Clover products. Clover’s flat-rate processing may seem convenient, but it looks less attractive when you consider the hundreds of poor reviews it has received from small business owners that have used its service.

    Pros
    • Predictable, flat-rate processing
    • Access to all Clover hardware
    • Large app store
    Cons
    • Poor customer service reputation
    • Monthly fees
  • 5
    Stripe
    • Best forOnline businesses with international customers
    • RatesStart at 2.9% + 30¢ for every successful card charge for online processing
    • Contract LengthNo contract

    Fortune 500 companies and one-person startups use Stripe to process credit card payments online. Stripe also enables you to build ecommerce stores, create custom checkouts, and even incorporate a company. Its many features allow Stripe to be an all-in-one way to accept credit cards and other payments online and set up an online business.

    Accepting payments from 195 countries via digital wallets and other payment options, Stripe is more than just credit card processing. It is a full checkout and payment solution especially suited for online businesses, without the need for a traditional merchant account.

    Pros
    • Lots of features and potential add-ons
    • 24/7 support and optional help from Stripe developers and consultants
    • Customizable checkout flow
    Cons
    • API integration requires coding knowledge for customization
    • In-person credit card processing with Stripe Terminal has fewer features than online version
  • 6
    Stax
    • Best forSmall businesses with high transaction volumes
    • RatesNo percentage-based transaction fees
    • Contract LengthMonth-to-month

    Stax by Fattmerchant offers payment processing for small businesses. It offers a monthly subscription and eliminates percentage-based transaction fees. So it can be a good option for businesses with high monthly transaction volumes.

    Stax also has a software dashboard called Stax Pay that includes built-in analytics, an API, and support for e-commerce payments. All Stax customers receive 24/7 customer support by email, and the service doesn’t charge early termination fees.

    Pros
    • No percentage-based transaction fees
    • Includes swiped and keyed-in payments
    • 24/7 customer support
    Cons
    • Software requires an additional monthly subscription
    • Pricing structure is expensive for low-volume businesses
  • 7
    Square
    • Best forMobile payment processing, lightning-fast
    • Rates2.6%+$0.10
    • Contract LengthNo contract

    Square revolutionized the industry when it introduced a POS system that was mobile, convenient, and affordable, even for small businesses. Since then, the company continues to make additions and improvements, and the latest one has earned Square a reputation for being the best mobile credit card processing option out there. With a credit card processor that can process all types of payments, including EMV chip cards and contactless payments like NFC and e-wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, Square does it one better by packaging this handy reader into a pocket-sized and surprisingly powerful piece of hardware.

    The Square credit card processor comes with a flat rate for both dip and tap transactions, zero additional fees, wireless connection, and the ability to process payments in just 2 seconds. The dock allows you to keep the Square reader on your countertop, and it’s also designed to easily come with you wherever you go. Plus, you get a free magstripe reader just in case.

    Pros
    • Extremely compact, mobile design
    • Flat rate fees and no additional fees
    • Fast processing
    Cons
    • Not a good fit for high-risk industries
    • Merchant services are limited
  • 8
    Payment Depot

    Payment Depot

    • Best forAll business types and sizes
    • RatesFrom $49 monthly and $0.15 transaction fee
    • Contract LengthNo long-term contracts

    Payment Depot is a cost- and user-friendly merchant service with comprehensive equipment solutions and features to help you run your business. It uses a monthly subscription membership model and charges wholesale rates to keep your expenses low. Moreover, it saves you money by not marking up the interchange rates or taking a cut from your sales. There’s a custom option for processing annual transactions of $500,000.

    All business types and sizes can use Payment Depot, which is highly rated in online reviews. It’s scalable and has several options for customer support. There are no cancellation fees, and its satisfaction guarantee means you can be eligible for a partial refund after 90 days.

    Pros
    • Positive online reviews of the service
    • Extensive equipment solutions
    • Doesn’t mark up interchange rates
    Cons
    • Live chat agent took long to respond
    • Can’t view package features without registering
  • 9
    Luminous Payments

    Luminous Payments

    • Best forSmall & medium sized businesses
    • RatesCash discount, Interchange Plus (IC+), flat rate & custom plans
    • Contract LengthNo cancellation or termination fees

    Luminous Payments is ideal for small businesses that process a significant amount of their transactions in cash. With its Cash Discount plan, you can offset up to 100% of your processing costs, which means more money to expand your business. You can get a free quote over the phone or online, receive approval, and get set up within 1-2 days.

    If you need to purchase payment terminals or POS equipment, you can buy hardware at cost directly from Luminous Payments. While it does not feature rates on its website, its flexible pricing gives businesses plenty of options to choose from. It does not charge cancellation or setup fees and promises to pay you $1,000 if you do not save money on your payment processing costs.

    Pros
    • No cancellation or setup fee
    • Offset up to 100% of processing costs with cash discounts
    • Flexible pricing and quick funding
    • Free, easy application process
    Cons
    • Opaque rates and equipment costs
    • Limited number of reviews
    • Not accredited with the BBB
  • 10
    CreditCardProcessing.com

    CreditCardProcessing.com

    • Best forFast funding, no commitment, SMBs
    • RatesFrom 0.35%
    • Contract LengthMonthly

    CreditCardProcessing.com is another Paysafe Group subsidiary, giving it credence and street cred automatically. But the company stands on its own as well with free equipment programs, easy online application, and, most of all, same-day deposits with its same-day funding program. CreditCardProcessing.com also offers same-day approval. So, businesses can start taking all types of payments immediately, including DMV, NFC, and contactless payments.

    You can reach tech support at any time of day or night via the toll-free number, or get a free quote for payment processing and merchant services. CreditCardProcessing.com also provides no long-term contracts and no cancellation fees, making it one of the best credit card processing companies for businesses that aren’t sure which CCP provider to choose.

    Pros
    • No long-term contracts
    • Same-day approval
    • Same-day funding
    Cons
    • Not locked into a monthly fee (so can increase)
    • Rates can get expensive for large sales volume

What Are Merchant Services?

Merchant services is a broad term that refers to merchant processing services giving a business the capability to accept payment using a customer's credit card. The merchant services provider (MSP) is the one who actually makes the transaction happen while complying with security requirements. 

Merchant services providers are also referred to as credit card processors (CCP). MSPs act as the intermediary between your business and your customer’s credit or debit card account.

This is how it works:

  • A customer will swipe their credit card or enter their credit card information to make a purchase from your store.
  • Your point of sale (POS system) software sends the data to your chosen MSP.
  • The MSP contacts the customer's credit card association to check that they have enough credit to pay for the purchase.
  • The card association checks with the customer's bank, and then (hopefully) sends the MSP a reply approving the transaction.
  • The MSP completes the transaction and sends you a receipt for the customer.

Tips for Choosing the Best Merchant Service Provider 

With many options available on the market, there are vital factors to consider when choosing a merchant service provider:

Cost

Merchant services offer different pricing models and rates. It is important to review what’s on offer to determine if it fits your needs. Hidden costs or unexpected processing fees may drain your budget.

Payment options

Check whether the merchant service provider offers several payment solutions for processing transactions from debit cards, credit purchases, and mobile payments. There might also be an Independent Sales Organization (ISO)—a third-party credit card processing service—managing transactions on your behalf, but for a share of your sales.

Equipment/Hardware

Ask what equipment is offered, such as card readers, POS systems, and handheld devices, like tablets. They may be included in your contract, or you may have to pay for them separately. The setup should take a few business days to finalize.

Customer support

When something goes wrong, you’ll need help managing your merchant account or when conducting transactions. Your merchant service should have a comprehensive customer support system to resolve challenges faster and prevent any business disruptions.

Ease of use and scalability

Consider how straightforward it is to use the merchant service and whether you’ll need to scale your business in the future

 When to Invest in Merchant Services

Merchant services are vital for Ecommerce and service-oriented businesses. Digitization has reduced cash transactions in favor of credit cards, debit cards, and digital payments. Therefore, it’s recommended to find a solution that can handle in-person and online transactions while meeting all the legal and financial requirements for transferring funds from the buyer to your seller account.

Failing to invest in a merchant service solution means that customer experience will be diminished, and your business won’t earn the revenue that matches its potential. Merchant services are flexible to fit your business model. For example, if you’re in retail, you may prefer mobility, meaning you’ll want portable options that can process customer transactions on the spot. High-risk businesses—those that experience a lot of credit card chargebacks—can also find a solution, albeit expensive, for processing their customer transactions.

Another reason to invest in merchant services is the extensive features, such as invoicing tools, app integrations, virtual terminal, shopping cart, payment processing hardware, and more. Many merchant services are scalable, enabling you to take advantage of the services and features to grow your business.

However, there are cost considerations, and each merchant service provider has its own rates and fees that may work well for you or hurt your budget. Try different pricing options, such as flat fees, monthly rates, or per-charge transactions, to determine what works best for your business.

Merchant Services Fees and Rates

Merchant service fees and rates depend on the merchant account service fees, payment processing fees, and equipment costs. Some merchant account providers have setup fees, but the better ones don’t. A provider may offer bundled pricing, per-transaction pricing, or a flat monthly rate, and there may also be markup fees.

The standard merchant account service fees include the following:

  • A gateway fee of around $10 per month or from $0.10 per transaction to process online credit card payments.

  • A statement fee of $5 for billing statements and customer support.

  • A PCI compliance fee of around $100 annually for securing customer data.

  • A chargeback fee starting at $15. 

Payment processing fees involve an interchange rate plus pricing, which is usually from around 1.5% per transaction. Finally, the payment method can also affect the cost. Swiping the card may be charged differently compared to an online transaction. 

Equipment costs include POS systems, card readers, and other appliances needed for your business, and they may be expensive. You can opt for a virtual terminal like PayPal to save money.

Types of Merchant Service Providers

Merchant service providers offer various different services and come in 3 different types:

Merchant account provider

If you’re looking to receive money from a credit or debit card transaction, you need a solution that processes the funds from your account and deposits them into the seller’s bank account. A merchant account provider is a bridge enabling that transaction. Some merchant account providers only offer a merchant account but not with any card processing capabilities.

Payment services provider

Payment processing services, like PayPal, offer alternatives to dedicated merchant accounts. They offer lower account fees because you won’t receive a unique merchant identification (ID). These services are different because you’re not bound to the contract agreements found with a merchant account.

Payment gateway provider

Online transactions are only possible through a payment gateway. This is a technology that automatically connects all parties involved to process payments instantly. Payment gateway providers can either open a merchant account for you on their service or link to your existing merchant account to conduct transactions.

What Are the Benefits of Accepting Credit Cards Online?

Accepting credit cards and other forms online is crucial for your business as many customers prefer to pay that way. It opens new revenue streams, enhances customer experience, and offers a fast, secure payment option. It’s straightforward to set up if you find the ideal merchant service provider, and the cost is competitively priced. 

People enjoy the convenience of shopping online and having items delivered or services rendered, so having a credit card payment processing solution makes it easier for the customer. You can integrate Buy Now buttons on your website to get a sales lead to purchase something using a credit card. The credit card option may entice impulse buyers to perform the transaction or spend more than they would if they were using cash.

You can maintain cash flow through credit card payments that are settled immediately rather than being vulnerable to the risk of bad checks. If you’re sending invoices, some online payment processors generate links or instant payment buttons for customers to input their credit card data and settle the transaction immediately.

What Are Payment Processing Contracts?

A payment processing contract is an agreement between a merchant and a payment processor—such as a merchant services provider—that outlines the fees, rates, and liabilities involved in providing the service. The contract lengths range from month-to-month to three-year terms, and there may be a termination fee if you decide to end the contract early.

The contract will detail the fees owed to credit card companies like Visa or MasterCard for processing transactions, this is known as the interchange rate. It will describe the Payment Card Industry and Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance fees, which are essential for showing that your business is secured for debit and credit card payments. 

The payment processing contract will also present equipment leasing costs for hardware like credit card readers. These provide instant and safe processing of a swiped or keyed-in card.

Since salespeople aren’t required by law to disclose all fees involved, you might end up signing an expensive contract filled with hidden fees. Therefore, you’ll have to check what fees you’ll be obligated to pay per month and per transaction with the merchant service provider.

How To Set Up a Merchant Service Account

Once you’ve registered your business and opened a business bank account, you can search for a merchant service provider to open a merchant account. Compile your business records and financial statements, and get a copy of your credit score to provide insights on whether your business will be a credit risk for the provider.       

Compare merchant service providers to select one that suits your business’s needs. Determine what payment method you’d like to use, from card transactions, ACH, online payments, and mobile transactions etc. Check the features and the customer support available. Analyze the pricing, fees, and contract lengths to avoid signing long-term deals that don’t work for your business.

Finalize your application, submit it for review, and wait for the outcome. Review the contract terms before signing the deal. Wait a while, and you’ll be notified if you’ve successfully opened an account.

What is the Best Credit Card Processing Company for a Small Business?

Paying by credit card is the norm these days, so adding credit card processing capabilities can be a real boost to your income. 

Small businesses can choose online credit card processing, a conventional credit card reader, or a mobile credit card processor that integrates with a smartphone or tablet.

Conventional card readers can be best if you make a lot of face-to-face sales. If most of your credit card transactions take place online, then an online CCP and payment gateway will be the most useful. 

Sole traders and mobile businesses, like electricians or entertainers, might find that a mobile CCP that works with their smartphone serves them best.

There isn’t one credit card processor that is the best for everyone, because every business is different. What’s best for a large retail store with many branches isn’t necessarily best for a small Ecommerce business. 

However, here are some things to look for to help you find the best credit card processors for your business:

  • A CCP that has experience serving your sector.

  • A CCP that can service all your needs in one—for example, if you have an online store and a brick and mortar store, look for an MSP that can process both face-to-face and online transactions.

  • Hidden fees. Many companies practice ‘bait and switch’ where the price you see advertised doesn’t include all of the real costs.

  • Compare fees carefully. Because there are a few different transparent pricing models, it can be difficult to compare like with like. An MSP that seems to offer great value at first glance might actually cost more in the long run, especially if comparing a flat rate pricing model. 

  • Check the minimum monthly transaction amount and make sure that you expect to meet it.

  • Pay attention to whether the rates go up or down according to your volume of sales. If you make a lot of transactions, you'll want a CCP that lowers the fee as sales increase, but if you make just a few high-value sales per month, you'll want the lowest fees to apply to the lowest sales volume. 

What to Expect in 2024

Advances in financial technology (fintech) mean that 2023 will see greater innovations in the merchant services sector. There may be next-generation Application Programming Interface (API) integrations, cryptocurrency use, and blockchain technology adoption to record transactions and store data.

Global economic problems like inflation, high-interest rates, and recession will challenge merchant service providers, as many businesses will struggle with cash flow issues and diminished revenues. Merchant service providers will need to evaluate their pricing structures to remain competitive and retain their customers.

Customer experience will always be at the forefront of any business operation. Therefore, merchant services should develop novel solutions, provide ample customer support, and find opportunities to reward customers through loyalty programs. 

Mobile payments and wallets have become predominant in the smartphone age, and better user interfaces and solutions should be developed to make using merchant services on mobile phones convenient.

Other Merchant Service Providers We Reviewed

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Here are some other Merchant Services Providers we’ve reviewed, so you can choose the best one for your needs:

Our Methodology: How We Rated the Best Merchant Services

Every business has specific needs, and you must find a convenient and affordable merchant service with top features that are tailored to your company’s requirements. 

We’ve selected the top merchant services on the market that are consistently mentioned and conducted detailed reviews. Furthermore, we’ve rated the best merchant services using the criteria below:

  • Pricing and rates

  • Best and extensive features

  • The business type that would benefit from the service

  • Service contract lengths: short, month-to-month, three years, contractless services

  • Free equipment included in the contract, such as card readers

  • Types of credit and debit cards allowed

  • Ability to perform an online transaction

  • Approval and funding speeds

  • Same day approval

  • Same day funding

  • Usability on handheld devices plus mobile payments

  • Quality of customer support and its availability 24/7

  • Merchant software user interface and experience

Bottom Line

Our picks for the top 10 best merchant services are Leaders Merchant Services, Paysafe, Merchant One, Flagship, Clover, ProMerchant, Stripe, Square, Chase For Business and creditcardprocessing.com.  

Merchant services can streamline your business operations by processing card and online transactions faster and more securely. By utilizing merchant services, you can provide your customers with superior service and a positive user experience. 

The services are convenient, agile, and competitively priced, giving businesses multiple options for solving their payment needs.

Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need a merchant account?+-

Merchant accounts are bank accounts designed for business or commercial purposes, enabling companies to process electronic payments from credit and debit cards or another payment method, such as mobile. It’s particularly essential to have a merchant account if you’re running an online business, as it’s the only way to collect customer payments.

How much should merchant services cost?+-

The cost of merchant services depends on your merchant account provider, service fees, assessment fees, and the interchange rate for processing various brands of credit and debit cards. Service fees can be monthly, per transaction, or related to leasing equipment.

Can I accept credit cards without a merchant account?+-

Yes. You can open an account with a payment service provider like Stripe or PayPal to process your credit card transactions. Moreover, you can use a mobile payments app and a card reader to swipe your credit card and finalize the transaction.

What if my business doesn't qualify for a merchant account?+-

There are alternatives to using a merchant account. If your business doesn’t qualify, you can try payment service providers like Stripe, set up in-store POS systems like Square, or use mobile payments software to handle all your card transactions. High-risk businesses can search for merchant account services that cater to their needs but charge higher fees.

What is the difference between a merchant account and a payment gateway?+-

A merchant account is similar to a bank account. It is where the money from a transaction is sent after processing a customer’s credit card. Whereas, a payment gateway is a technological pathway where the buyer’s funds are transferred from their account into your merchant account to complete a purchase transaction.

What is a payment gateway?+-

A payment gateway is an application or technology enabling you to provide the financial information needed to perform a transaction and for the merchant to process your funds to complete the purchase. It connects a customer to the issuing bank and processes the credit card type to send money to the acquiring bank of the merchant account.

Paul Kilinga
Paul contributes to Top10.com as a technology and business writer. He has over 5+ years of experience crafting informative, research-driven articles for B2B and B2C audiences. Paul's work has appeared on such websites as TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide and Southeast Asia's Tech Collective in domains as diverse as cybersecurity, eCommerce and entrepreneurship, in addition to gracing the blogs of a slew of private B2B SaaS and tech start-ups.