Trying to choose the best credit card processing company can be overwhelming. This is especially true when you are a new small business owner who has never even heard of a “merchant account” before — but the truth is that even seasoned CEOs can get dizzy while researching the payment processing industry. (Trust us, we’ve spoken to them.) There are so many processing companies; they all seem to be doing more or less the same thing, and they all have both glowing testimonials and terrible complaints. How are you supposed to choose the best company under these circumstances? Who can you trust?
We get it. We’ve been reviewing credit card processing companies for years. We hear from dozens of small business owners every day all trying to answer the same question: Which merchant services solution is the best of my business?
And our answer is always the same: It depends.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. But over the years we’ve found that there are some good guidelines to follow. Using these guidelines, we’ve created this list of the best small business credit card processing companies, whittling down the field of providers to a manageable number. Some of these payment processors are good for eCommerce via your website, while others are best for mobile payments on your smartphone. Some work for retail with a credit card machine, or for phone orders with a virtual terminal. There are processors on the list for large transactions, for iPad POS, and for high-risk businesses. (I told you, when it comes to the best payment processor for your business, it depends.) All of them follow some simple rules that we live by here at Merchant Maverick, which we’ll discuss in detail below.
Here’s a quick look at our list of the highest-ranking credit card processing companies for small businesses. (They’re great for medium and large business too, for the record.)
Credit Card Processing For Small Businesses: What You Need To Know
Small businesses looking for credit card processors need to stay focused and flexible. Know what you need at this stage in your business. Even if you have the perfect processor right now, don’t hesitate to switch processors if you outgrow what your current processor can do for you.
If you don’t know much about credit card processing, here are some resources to check out before you go any further.
- The Beginner’s Guide To Payment Processing
- The Complete Guide To Credit Card Processing Fees & Rates
- Trading Ease For Transparency With Interchange-Plus
- PCI Compliance Fees: A Fair Processing Charge Or A Junk Fee
- Does Your Merchant Account Have An Early Termination Fee?
How to Choose the Best Credit Card Processing Company
When it comes to picking the best credit card company for your business, it helps to follow these four simple rules, which we relied on heavily to formulate our list of best credit card processors. You can use them in your search as well.
Rule 1: Transparency is the best policy
For a credit card processor to make it onto our list of recommendations, there can be no hidden fees and no surprises. That’s why we insist that our featured merchant account providers use a pricing system that separates wholesale from markup cost (interchange-plus, aka “pass-through” pricing). The interchange rates are set by the credit card brands (Visa and Mastercard foremost) and are the same for every credit card processor. It’s the markup that really matters here. In addition to using this cost-plus pricing model, all our top picks make in-depth fee disclosures upfront. All of our top-rated processing companies will also meet or beat your current rate if it’s lower than their advertised price. And all new businesses are guaranteed a fair starting rate thanks to the standardized public rate disclosures.
Rule 2: No pressure, no commitment
We do not tolerate high-pressure sales tactics or long-term commitments. Some salespeople will say anything to get you to sign the dotted line — and then will force you to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars when the company doesn’t live up to its promises. We only recommend companies that employ honest, respectful sales reps and offer service with no long-term contract commitments (with the exception of high-risk processors). You should be able to accept credit cards without making a deal with the devil.
Rule 3: Look for value and savings
Some credit card processing companies only give you barebones service, but they do so at rock-bottom prices. Others charge a bit more, but provide valuable software as part of the service. Which is best for you? That depends on your budget and your wants/needs. The cheapest credit card processor isn’t always the best. Likewise, you don’t always get what you pay for. It’s important to determine the value of a merchant account for your particular business needs. The topic of credit card processing fees is way too broad for us to cover completely in this post, but, if you’re interested, we have an in-depth resource that explains everything you could ever want to know about card payment processing rates and fees.
Rule 4: Reputation matters
We carefully consider every complaint we find to figure out what went wrong. We then weigh these conclusions against the number of businesses the credit card processor services to make decisions about which companies we feel comfortable recommending. Our top-rated merchant account providers have extremely low complaint counts and numerous independent reviews validating good practices. A proven track record of satisfaction is imperative for us.
That’s not so much to ask, is it? We don’t think so, and we never settle for less.
The 7 Best Small Business Credit Card Processing Companies
It’s hard to make superlative claims in an industry this large, but we truly believe these merchant services providers are the best around, especially when it comes to setting up accounts online and over the phone. Each has excellent products, services, marketing, and sales practices. Take a look and see what you think.