Businesses understand the importance of accepting credit cards in the current era. Even yet, opting to become a credit card merchant remains a big deal for small businesses. Customers, at times, carry less cash, thus relying on debit and credit cards to pay for their purchases. This leaves e-commerce merchants with no option than to find the best credit card processing for small business no monthly fee.
First-time business owners can find the credit card processing industry bewildering. Understanding various terms, including balance transfer from credit card or finding the best banks to open free checking accounts without deposit for their credit funds, makes everything complicated. Besides, dozens of credit card companies offer processing services, each with varying rates, contract terms, and different average credit card processing fees.
Credit card processing providers with good deals for small businesses often have prohibitively expensive offers for large businesses. The opposite is also true. This adds to the confusion of finding the best credit card processing for small business no monthly fee.
Understanding the Types of Credit Card Processing Providers
With the introduction of low-cost providers, two main categories of companies can provide credit card processing services. It can either be traditional merchant account providers or payment service providers. Understanding the difference between the two is of immense importance.
Payment Service Providers
Unlike traditional providers, payment service providers process credit card transactions but do not provide their customers with their businesses’ merchant ID numbers. The providers instead aggregate the account with others from different merchants. This resultant lowers costs such as PCI compliance and monthly account fees.
A major limitation to this is that the accounts are vulnerable to being shut down or can be frozen with a slight hint of fraud. Resuming the services with the account is also difficult since most PSP service providers limit one-on-one customer service. PSP can be a good choice for credit card processing for small business no monthly fee since they won’t have to pay several recurring fees to keep their accounts open. Common PSPs include Stripe and Square.
Traditional Merchant Accounts
Traditional merchants come with a lot of features not common with PSPs. However, a primary distinction is the presence of a merchant identification number that remains unique to every business. The merchant number uniquely identifies the business to the processors, thus makes it easy to trace credit card and bank associations.
Whereas this might not appear much important, having a unique merchant ID greatly reduces the risks of fraud and thus improving the stability of the account. This doesn’t mean that there are zero risks that your funds can be put on hold, especially large transactions, but there are high chances that the account won’t be frozen completely.
Traditional merchant accounts offer several ancillary services such as PCI security scans, support for eCheck payments, and customizable online payments. However, these services are available at some fee. Account owners will have to pay monthly fees and processing fees. This is probably why they might not provide the best merchant services for small business.
How To Select the Best Credit Card Processing Provider for Small Business
Small business should employ specific criteria when searching for the best credit card processors on the market. Among the key considerations, include;
- Pricing : Checking the price of the credit card processing company should be a priority, more so because you are looking for a cheap service provider, possibly with no monthly fees. This doesn’t have to be complex, however, since there are several variables used to analyze when making a cost comparison between various providers. The flat-rate processing is, however, easy to analyze and has little to no variability.
- Contracts : As a small business, going for long-contracts with expensive termination fee for those who close their accounts early isn’t a prudent idea. Most traditional merchant providers offer such terms. Taking the month-to-month contract is a good idea, and is available from most companies. With this, you can close the account and switch to a different provider without restrictions.
- Hardware : You will need equipment to process your client’s credit cards unless you are operating a purely eCommerce small business. Most companies mentioned below have various EMV credit card readers, POS systems, and mobile card swipers. These equipment are availed free or at competitive prices.
- Ecommerce support : Online shopping is slowly surpassing the power of traditional retail shopping. The good thing, however, is that most credit card processors offer ecommerce support. This includes a payment gateway for sending payment data to processors and virtual terminals that allows merchants to enter transactions to the business’s computer or mobile device. Merchants also have an option of integrating their website with developer tools and online shopping carts and customize the interface between the credit card services and the website.
- Customer Support : All credit card processors offer customer support, but some offer better services than others do. Vendors offering 24/7 support, for instance, are reliable compared to those that are active only during weekdays and working hours.
Top 5 Credit Card Processing Provider for Small Business
1. Flagship Merchant Services
The Flagship Merchant Services is undoubtedly the best credit card processor of choice for those who want flexible terms. When searching for credit card processing companies without monthly fee for your small business, it is important to find one with flexible terms. This will make it easy to switch things as your business grows. This is a better option than being locked into a three-year processing contract with high termination fees.
- Month to month contracts : Flagship Merchant Services offers its clients flexible terms. Customers can sign up for the month-to-month terms with no termination fees. By offering such, the company shows great confidence towards their quality of service and pricing. They are sure that clients will enjoy their services to extend their contracts. As for the pricing, the company allows clients to choose between the interchange plus and tiered pricing. Sector experts advice that small businesses should go for interchange-plus pricing as it offers great transparency. On the other hand, businesses with high volume transactions will save money with the tiered pricing, especially since the Flagship Merchant Services offers special rates for these transactions.
- Unmatched flexibility : As mentioned, Flagship Merchant Services offers month-to-month contracts to all their customers. Besides, there are no early termination fees, unlike other standard credit card processors, which offer three-year contracts with automatic two-year renewal and a 30 to 90 days cancellation window. This makes standard payment processing companies difficult to exit. The early cancellation fees with liquidated damage clauses make them overly expensive. The only benefit of standard credit card processors is that they offer free equipment. For instance, the Clover Mini POS system gives free card readers with a standard three-year contract. Well, it might be hard to turn down the freebie, but it is better to purchase the equipment and maintain month-to-month terms.
- Affordability : Credit card processing companies charge their processing rates based on several factors. Among them include the type of business, average monthly sales volume, how the business accepts credit cards, and much more. Based on your business’ monthly sales volume, you can negotiate for reduced processing rates. You can check from their website about how their tiered and interchange pricing plans work. Also, note that they have other additional fees.
- Payment options : Flagship Merchant Services is a full-service processor. Therefore, clients can choose their preferred payment methods that suit their business model. For instance, you can opt for a credit card terminal, point of sale system for those with a physical store, payment gateway for online stores, mobile card reader for on-the-go sales or virtual terminals for purchases made by phone. Since you are working with one company to accept payments from different sales channels, all the funds are channeled to a single merchant account. This streamlines the sales and accounting process.
- 24/7 customer service
- No cancellation fees
- Interchange plus pricing is an option
- Equipment pricing
- Unpredictable tiered pricing
2. Helcim Credit Card Processors
The Helcim Credit Card Processors is a preferred payment processor by small businesses. For small businesses still making their way up through the market, pricing of acquisitions is among a priority concern. Apart from the competitive transaction fees, it is prudent to find a transparent company that clearly indicates what you are paying for. It is also important to ensure that the rates won’t increase after a specific period.
- Transparent pricing, Locked rates : Helcim Credit Card Processors offers full-service credit card processing for all customers using interchange-plus pricing option. Most experts recommend this over tiered model due to its transparency, enabling customers to know exactly what they are paying for apart from the base interchange fees. Nearly all credit cards processors claim to offer maximum transparency since they use interchange pricing. However, not all publish their fees and rates online like Helcim Credit Card Processors. The company posts all its fees, rates, and any other additional costs, making it easy to compare pricing between various providers with confidence. The interchange-plus rates for all in-person credit card transactions are comparably low than average fees charged by competing companies. Besides, there is a guarantee that the rate won’t increase during the existence of your account. Helcim also displays its monthly fees for online and retail/in-person services, listing all the features included in each.
- Affordability : As mentioned, Helcim uses interchange pricing that is comparably lower. There are volume-based discounts that businesses enjoy for monthly transactions exceeding $25,000.
- Monthly fees : Like other full-service credit card processors, Helcim Credit Card Processors charges monthly fees for its services. Though higher than its competitors, the Helcim Credit Card Processors monthly fees include PCI compliance, access to Helcim commercial platform, invoicing and several customer management tools that are usually charged separately by other card processing companies.
- Terms of service : Helcim Credit Card Processors provides month to month contracts. You can cancel the contract anytime without incurring termination fees. However, to avoid such inconveniences, it is wise to read the terms of service, contract, and program guides deeply before signing up.
- Customer and technical support : Helcim is among the few companies in the market that offer 24/7 email and telephone support. However, note that you will enjoy talking to in-house customer support during working hours. Off-hours customer support is usually outsourced.
- Clearly outlined pricing and fees
- No outbound sales team
- Compatible with various options
- Good customer support
- Not an ideal choice for micro vendors
3. Square Credit Card Processors
Small businesses that rely on mobile credit card readers should consider the Square Credit Card Processors. New ventures and small scale businesses find working with mobile credit card processing companies a low-risk point of accepting debit and credit cards payments. This is because there are no long-term commitments and no monthly fees, and the only fee incurred is the processing fee.
- Simple rates with no account fees : For small and new businesses, the Square Credit Card Processors offers easy to use, simple and transparent fees. Pricing is arguably a major confusing aspect of using a credit card to accept payments. That aside, Square’s pricing uses a flat-rate model, meaning that regardless of your business brand or type of customers, fees charged remains at the same rate. However, note that rates may vary depending on the type of payment processing equipment used. For instance, payments made through Square software vary from online cards or Square card readers. Fortunately, there are custom rates that users who surpass $250,000 annually enjoy. That aside, there are no monthly, setup, PCI compliance, hidden or early termination fees charged.
- Flexibility : Square Credit Card Processors is one of the most flexible credit card processing companies. First, this is because users are not docked into long term contracts. Secondly, it processes payments on a pay as you go basis, thus merchants can close their accounts any time without the risk of incurring penalties. This makes it a good choice for those undertaking seasonal businesses.
- Instant payouts : Customers can choose how fast they want to receive the payments in their accounts. Square Credit Card Processors accounts are linked to customer’s business bank accounts. The company takes an average of two days to process and deposit money in the accounts. However, if you need the funds faster, customers can schedule for instant deposits but have some limitations. For instance, new merchants are limited to a maximum of $500 daily. Besides, instant deposit services cost 1% of the amount deposited.
- Multiple processing equipment : Like PayPal, Square Credit Card Processors offers merchants a wide array of processing hardware for use with their POS. These include the basic credit card reader for Magstripe, a card reader for contactless and chip, Square terminal, and Square register.
- Chargeback protection
- Excellent customer service
- Chargeback protection
- Easy application process
- Simple pricing
- Not good for rapidly growing businesses
- Large companies pay high fees
4. Stripe Online Payment Processor
If you are in the market for the best online credit card processor, the Stripe Online Payment Processor should be your option of choice. This processor can easily connect to e-commerce stores and online platforms with several customizable options. The service is also scalable, thus accommodates your growing business.
- Connects with e-commerce platforms and websites : As mentioned, this is probably the best online processor. It is designed for developers and those relying on online credit card payments.
- Compatibility : Among the outstanding features about Stripe Online Payment Processor is that it works with various extensions and integrations. You can integrate into several business software applications, including shopping carts, invoicing systems, and CRM software, among many others. Connecting requires a few clicks, thus no programming expertise needed.
- Easy signup and use : The application process for Stripe Online Payment Processor is very simple. Businesses can sign up directly or through third parties that integrates with Stripe within few minutes. You will be required to fill in the business bank information, activate the account, and select a processing method. Stripe doesn’t give their clients individual merchant accounts, thus no need to fill out application forms and submitting them for credit checks.
- Payout schedule : The first payment may take a maximum of 10 days for the funds to reflect in your bank account. Afterward, payment takes between 2 and 7 days. Most customers qualify for the two-day rollout schedule, but businesses in high-risk sectors have to wait for 7 days. Stripe also accepts several credit card options, digital wallets, in-app payments, and global payments. The company also helps its customers save time by automating payment submission to recurring bills, subscriptions, and more.
- Easy application and easy to use
- Affordable option
- Secure payments
- Flat rate pricing
- Long payout schedule
- Quite technical
5. PayPal Credit Card Processor
Small businesses operating low volume monthly payments should go for the PayPal Credit Card Processor. Most businesses regardless of their size, currently accept credit and debit payments. Businesses with average volume payments amounting to less than $2500 per month should consider traditional yet cost-effective payment processing companies.
- Pay as you go with no minimums : Small business with few credit card transactions per month will not benefit from credit card processing services that charge several account fee with monthly minimums. However, this shouldn’t prevent such startups from seeking and using credit cards at all. It is best to find a processing company with pay as you go terms such as the PayPal Credit Card Processor. Small business owners will find this option ideal due to its affordable nature and transparent pricing. Compared to other companies, the rates offered by PayPal Credit Card Processor are friendlier, especially for low volume sales. The company doesn’t charge setup or application fees, PCI compliance fees, or monthly fees at all. That aside, the company doesn’t necessitate any long-term contracts, thus no termination fees if you opt to quit their services.
- Ease of use : Compared to other credit card processing companies, it is easy to start accepting payments with PayPal Credit Card Processor. There are no hoops experienced when setting up the account, and no technical skills are required to use their services. The registration process is very straightforward and takes minutes to complete. Unlike other card processors, both the merchant and customer can use PayPal. Therefore, there is no need to apply for a merchant account or waiting for a credit check to open the account. Similarly, you don’t need to start learning how to use fancy software to complete intriguing checkout systems.
- Extreme flexibility : The best thing about PayPal Credit Card Processor is that it provides multiple ways that small businesses can use credit cards. Consultants, service providers, online store owners, home-based businesses, micro businesses, and other types of ventures can get paid with credit cards online or in person. Merchants can accept online credit card processing, in-person payments, or multi channel credit card processing. Online payments can be made as invoices, from Facebook messenger or through websites. In-person payments require the use of a card reader that is connected to a smartphone with the PayPal app.
- Choice of card processing equipment : PayPal Credit Card Processor offers its customers a choice of four credit card readers to select from. They include the mobile card reader, chip and tap reader, chip card reader, and chip and swipe card reader. All readers are compatible with cash drawers, stands, cases, and third party receipt printers.
- Easy to use
- Convenient for small businesses
- Multiple card reader options
- Compatible with many business solutions
- Secure funds transfer
- Funds are easily put on hold
- Extra costs make transactions expensive
The Bottom Line
As you might have seen, pricing and the entire credit card processing aspect is quite complicated. There are dozens of assortment fees, wild interchange rates, and much more to consider before finding one that suits your small business. That aside, there are several credit card processing companies proclaiming to offer the best services for small business without monthly fee.
It may be difficult to settle on one, especially with the fact that not all companies disclose their rates and fees fully. Fortunately, the credit card processing companies outlined above disclose their processing fees and rates, making it easier to compare. All companies offer excellent services, are reasonably affordable and better suited to small businesses.