To capture every possible sale, you need to cater to your customers' preferred payment method, which means that you need to make it easy for them to pay with cards. Credit card processing services enable you to do this by accepting payments using terminals, card readers and point-of-sale (POS) systems. The top credit card processing services in our review – Flagship Merchant Services, CreditCardProcessing.com and National Bankcard – earn high marks for low fees, no contract requirements and fast application processes. To learn more, you can find timely articles about credit card processing in our learning center.
In our rankings and awards, we compared the costs, setup times, contract requirements, security compliance, acceptance of new payment technologies and customer service offered by credit card processing services. We evaluated each processor using the following categories:
Transaction Rates & Additional Expenses
Pricing largely determines your satisfaction with a credit card processing service. It's important to know what to expect to pay before you sign up with a service. The best competitors in the credit card processing field publish their charges and fees clearly so that you aren't surprised when you receive your bill. Here are some of the most common charges:
• Percentage rates for swiped and keyed-in cards: The type of card your customer uses and the transaction method you use determines this amount. Generally, debit cards are the least expensive to process and you get the best pricing when you swipe the card through a card reader. Knowing what type of cards your customers use most lets you find the plan that best serves your business.
• Per-transaction fee: Although this small, set fee for each transaction initially appears to be little more than loose change, it can add up quickly because as few as three to four transactions might cost you a dollar. This fee is especially important to consider if you run a high volume of small ticket transactions.
• Monthly fees: You should ask about fees for statements, gateway access and PCI compliance, which may be assessed monthly, quarterly or annually. Additional fees may include monthly service fees or other annual fees.
• Monthly minimum: Estimate the amount of transactions you expect to process each month so you know if you'll easily meet the monthly minimum or if you need to look for a service that doesn't have one.
If you evaluate these costs, get the pricing quote in writing, and thoroughly examine the contract or service plan, you can make sure you understand everything you're agreeing to and what the actual cost will be to your small business before you sign up for a service.
Because you want to feel confident that your application will be approved before you take the time to apply, it's helpful to know the average percentage of applications that the payment processor approves. It's also helpful to know how long it will take to set up your account so you can plan ahead and not be stuck without the ability to accept payments. Some credit card processors charge an application or setup fee, but the best companies review your application and set up your account for free.
Some companies require contracts that lock you into the service for up to three years and charge hundreds of dollars in early termination penalties. The most competitive payment processors don't require you to sign a contract and don't penalize you for closing your account.
Sensitive credit card information requires security protocols. You should work with a credit card processing provider that is fully compliant with security standards established by the Payment Card Industry and that assists you in establishing and maintaining your PCI compliance.
Credit card processors offer payment gateways that enable you to securely accept payments online. The gateway also provides security measures that help you prevent credit card fraud. Authorize is a popular gateway with a strong reputation.
Top credit card processing companies have shopping carts for your eCommerce needs and offer mobile credit card processing so you can accept credit card payments in person, online and on the go.
Because keeping your cash flow fluid is important, you should inquire about the length of time it takes a payment processor to deposit money from the transactions into your bank account. The best credit card processing companies can clear the account in one day.
Accepted Payment Types
In addition to being able to accept all major credit and debit cards, you want to stay current with emerging payment technology. Here are two payment types you want to be able to accept, particularly if you're updating or purchasing new equipment anytime soon:
• EMV Chip and PIN cards: These microchip-embedded credit cards will be standard by October 2015 due to new legislation, and you'll need updated equipment to be able to process them properly. If you don't update, you'll be liable for fraudulent credit card transactions.
• NFC (near field communication): Using this technology, you can accept payments from customers who prefer to pay using their phones with a mobile wallet like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard.
Help & Support
Because your credit card processing service is vital to your ability to capture sales, you need prompt customer support. The most competitive processors provide direct access to a dedicated account rep and 24/7 customer service.
The right credit card processing service helps you keep up with customers' buying preferences and make every possible sale. Finding the payment processor that offers you the best service for the best price will save you money and avoid stress for yourself, your employees and customers.