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Best Credit Card Processing for 2016

We review the best credit card processing companies for your small business

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Credit Card Processing Reviews

The best credit card processing companies have enabled companies to quickly and easily accept card payments, thus providing increased convenience. In order to cater to this, businesses have had to ensure they are able to adapt to the needs of consumers and this is where merchant services, also known as credit card processing, has proven invaluable.

Best Credit Card Processing for Small Business: What to Consider

With a number of trusted credit card processing companies to choose from, it is important for businesses to do some research in order to determine the most suitable option for their needs.

There are a number of different factors that you should take into consideration when choosing a provider for your business. By doing this you can make a more informed decision with regards to which one is going to prove most suitable.

When you are comparing credit card processing in order to find the best one for your business, there are a number of key qualities and aspects you should look at. This includes:

  • Merchant application approval levels and speeds
  • Costs including application costs, startup fees, and monthly costs
  • Levels of security offered by the provider and whether the provider uses VeriSign SSL Certificates
  • The processing company's gateway service, which can affect the ease with which you can interact with the provider
  • The time that it takes to get the account set up with the provider
  • The levels of customer service and assistance you can expect
  • How appropriate and suitable the internet-based features are for your business
  • The suitability of the Point of Sale systems offered by the processing company

While my reviews of the top credit card processing companies should give you a good head start, you'll still need to determine which type of provider and which plan works best for your business. Some providers are smaller and more personalized while others are large conglomerates with a wider range of services. You're sure to find the right fit on my list.

Best Credit Card Processing Tactics to Save Money

Once you've decided to take the leap into accepting plastic from your customers, you may think you're stuck with whatever fees happen to accrue on your monthly credit card processing statement. There are, however, a couple of things you can do to minimize the costs, both as you're choosing a provider, and after your account is set up.

1. Read the Fine Print

Don't rush into automatically choosing the plan with the seemingly lowest fees. Depending upon a number of factors, such as whether you're going with tiered or Interchange plus pricing, fees can stack up beyond what you see in the plan summary. Don't stop asking questions of potential providers until you are crystal clear on how the fee structure works. My research found that Interchange plus is almost invariably the best choice of rate structure.

2. Don't be Afraid to Negotiate

The majority of top credit card processing companies are willing and able to engage in rate negotiation. They will often price match if you provide proof of a better deal somewhere else. Some fees cannot be negotiated - charges such as Interchange and FANF (Fixed Acquirer Network Fee) are set by card issuers, thus they are what they are. Processor margins, however, are almost always flexible.

3. Swiping is Cheaper

Swipe customers cards whenever possible. Manually keying the numbers in typically incurs a higher fee due to the higher risk of credit card fraud.

4. Enter the Zip Code and/or Security Code

Using security features as you're processing credit cards often translates to lower fees over time. This is due to you keeping your risk status lower than if you were to bypass these options during transactions.

5. Aim for EMV Compliance

EMV - or EuroPay, MasterCard, Visa - is the technology embedded in those little chips now common in many cards. According to the Small Business Administration, part of the move to EMV technology involves holding non-compliant merchants to a higher level of responsibility for fraud.

6. Set a Minimum Purchase Amount

Because you will be charged a per transaction fee in addition to a percentage, you can save a lot of money on credit card processing rates by avoiding small purchase amounts. There are regulations governing this practice, however, which I will cover in more detail next.

Each of these steps may seem like a lot of work for a tiny percentage of savings off your credit card processing rates. Over time, however, they add up to a lot of your hard-earned money staying where it belongs - in your pocket.

The Best Credit Card Processing Companies

Flagship Merchant Services Review

  • Pros
  • Competitive rates on services with no cancellation, application or set-up fees
  • Free smart phone credit card reader for new merchants along with free Authorize.net payment system
  • Very speedy account setup, which can be completed within a day in some cases
  • Cons
  • Service is only available to businesses in the USA
  • Provider is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau

With its competitive rates, no cancellation fees, and high approval rates, Flagship Merchant Services has proven to be a very popular choice amongst businesses looking for a reputable credit card processing service provider. Available to businesses in the USA, Flagship is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau but has developed a pretty good reputation for being a solid and reliable partner for card processing services.

There are no application or setup fees to pay with this provider, which is one of the things that will appeal to small businesses. The company also offers a free smart phone credit card reader as well as a free Authorize.net payment system online to new merchants that are approved for an account. Setting up your account is a very speedy process and, in some cases, can be completed within one day.

A good choice of online features is available from Flagship, including virtual terminals and enhanced security systems. For those looking for physical POS systems there is also a good choice, with both basic and more advanced systems and terminals to choose from based on the needs of your business.

The customer support system from this provider is also impressive, with telephone, email, and live chat support available. You can contact representatives around the clock, which means that you can get any questions or queries addressed at any time.

All in all, Flagship Merchant Services is a decent and reliable company to choose for your card processing needs and is suitable for businesses of all sizes within the US.

Leaders Merchant Service Review

  • Pros
  • Speedy application processing and approval times
  • Quick account and systems setup, which typically takes 3-5 days in total
  • Competitive rates on card processing services
  • No application or setup fees applied
  • A good selection of POS systems available
  • Cons
  • Competitive rates that are advertised are not available on all cards
  • Poor consumer rating on Yelp

With no startup costs, an excellent reputation, and some competitive deals when it comes to pricing, Leaders Merchant Services has become a popular choice amongst businesses looking for reliable and affordable credit card processing providers. This provider does advertise some great rates for its processing services, although you should bear in mind that these rates may not apply when it comes to processing certain debit cards that are non-regulated, which are typically those from small banks.

One of the great things about Leaders is that there are no setup or application fees to worry about, which is great for businesses that want to save some money. The time it takes to set up the account is also very good, averaging 3-5 days with a speedy application processing system in place. Approval rates are excellent, standing at 99 percent. Authorize.net is the gateway that is used by Leaders for internet transactions, and this provides businesses with a secure way to accept card payments online.

In terms of POS systems, Leaders offers a good choice to suit the needs of your business, from simple swipe systems through to wireless and PIN terminals. When it comes to customer service and assistance, Leaders offers around-the-clock support so you can always get help if you run into problems or have questions.

There are mixed results when it comes to consumer reviews for this provider. While it only scored 1 star overall on Yelp, the company clocked up a pretty decent 3 stars on TrustLink. In addition, it has been given a very good A- rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Many businesses have opted for Leaders Merchant Services as their partner for card transactions, and with its decent rates and excellent customer services this could be the ideal choice for your business.

Cayan Review

  • Pros
  • Great option for small, growing, or large businesses
  • Excellent approval levels, estimated to be 99%
  • Amongst the lowest monthly fees on the market
  • No application or startup fees
  • No outside equipment leases
  • Cons
  • Approval time is a little slower than some of its competitors
  • Some complaints regarding undisclosed fees
  • No rates or terms listed on the website

If you are looking for a solid credit card processing services provider with a high approval rating, a number of gateway options, and competitive costs, Cayan could be the ideal choice. With a long history in the payment processing industry, Cayan can help take your business to the next level by providing you with everything you need when it comes to accepting credit and debit card payments from customers. The company, formerly known as Merchant Warehouse, was founded in 1998 and changed its name in 2015 to reflect its new focus on contemporary technology and business needs. Its new flagship product is Genius, which can accept almost any type of payment imaginable.

The speed of approvals from this provider is decent, although it is a little slower than some competitors. However, this is a reliable company that enjoys a very good reputation and even offers discounted rates for online businesses. With an approval rating of 99 percent and no application fee, this has become the natural choice for a wide range of businesses. The monthly costs are also amongst the lowest you will find and there are no fees for cancelling your contract, which runs on a month-by-month basis. A variety of Point of Sale systems are available from Cayan, including PIN and wireless terminals as well as basic swiping devices.

The level of customer service and assistance that you get with this provider is also very good, with speedy response times and knowledgeable staff to answer your questions. They offer live chat, email, and phone support options. The provider has earned a very decent 3.3 rating with Indeed.com and has an excellent A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Cayan has the advantage of experience, and offers a wide range of options covering all kinds of payment processing needs from mobile swiping to POS to online gateways. Just make sure to clarify all possible fees before signing up in order to avoid any surprises. Overall, I found this to be an established company on the cutting edge, worthy of a spot on my list of the top five credit card processing companies.

Fattmerchant Review

  • Pros
  • No markups on Interchange
  • Transparency on terms and pricing
  • Company principals maintain public profile
  • Personalized, responsive customer service
  • Customizable subscription-based pricing model
  • Cons
  • Short company history
  • Pricing shown on website potentially confusing

Fattmerchant is shaking things up a bit in the world of merchant credit card processing. This startup was founded in 2014 by a young, energetic Orlando, FL woman. The entire company seems, thus far, much different from the typical conglomerate culture which saturates the industry. While it remains to be seen how Fattmerchant will fare over the long haul, the company is experiencing a very strong beginning.

One of the first things I noticed about this credit card processor is their transparency - and not just in pricing and contract terms. CEO Suneera Madhani makes a discerned effort to remain in the public eye. Her tone is not based upon a sales push, but rather as a way to build company reputation, particularly through social media.

Fattmerchant offers all of the standard features you expect - recurring billing, API integration, PoS, mobile, e-commerce, and secure processing. They also give you things you might not expect, like free equipment and next-day funding.

As far as pricing, Fattmerchant offers one of the most competitive structures available, claiming to save merchants 40% over other processors. The plans are set up with a monthly subscription fee plus Interchange and a per transaction fee. With zero markup on Interchange the rates are extremely competitive. In addition, the company is still small enough to provide unusually personal and attentive customer service.

While my research didn't turn up a plethora of consumer reviews due to the company's youth, Fattmerchant still gets my thumbs up because of their transparency, seemingly bright future, and savvy positioning as one of the best credit card processing companies for small business and beyond.

Payline Data Review

  • Pros
  • Competitive pricing
  • Unique benefits for charities
  • Giving-oriented corporate culture
  • No early termination fee
  • Excellent customer service
  • Cons
  • Not all pricing plans clear on website

Payline Data is one of the most unique players in the retail and online credit card processing industry. Their plans are competitive and customer service superior to many others, but what really sets them apart is their concerted effort to give back. The company was founded in 2009, and in that time has generated very little negative feedback surrounding its practices, which is highly unusual in the field.

Payline offers two pricing structures each for retail and e-commerce, plus a discounted Enterprise option for those businesses doing over $80,000 per month in credit card transactions. Their business model is based upon the commonly used Interchange+ protocol.

In addition to the typical payment processing options, Payline Data offers charities the opportunity to participate in their affiliate Commercial Co-Venture program. This program allows charitable organizations to earn even more for their cause via referrals. Registered 501(c)(3) organizations also get discounted pricing on their credit card processing services. In addition, the company gives each employee three additional paid days off per year in order to volunteer locally, and holds various employee events to benefit charity.

Of course, on top of all of this you will have the options you need to run your business effectively - reliable service, EMV-compliant equipment and/or virtual gateways, even high-risk merchant account availability. Payline Data has a stellar reputation, an innovative business model, and an impressive corporate culture. All of these factors procure its spot on my list of the top 5 credit card processing companies.

Deciding on the Best Merchant Credit Card Processing

There are so many options available for this crucial service that it can be difficult to choose. Sorting through not only all of the terminology and what it all means, but figuring out which company has just the right balance of features, affordable rates, equipment options, and customer service levels is overwhelming. I've compiled a list of credit card processing reviews which features a mix of various options and plans in order to help you make an informed decision.

Best Credit Card Processing Practices: Minimums

If you're going to become a merchant who accepts credit cards for your small business, you should be aware of laws pertaining to minimum purchase requirements. You also need to understand the ins and outs of processing credit transactions vs. debit.

...setting debit card minimums is probably against your contract terms with your credit card processing company.

It is legal to set a minimum purchase amount of up to $10 on credit card transactions. This issue was addressed by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and is enforced by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The law was enacted in response to merchant demand for better ways to lower their processing costs.

Part of the Dodd-Frank bill also addressed debit card processing fees, another point of contention between merchants and issuers. This portion of the law, called the Durbin Amendment, caps debit fees at 21 cents and five basis points (or .05%) per transaction.

These are important facts to know, however, they aren't the only details of which you should be aware. The law only sets clear standards for credit card transaction minimums. Many merchants set across-the-board minimums for both credit and debit transactions. There is nothing on the law books specifically regarding minimums for debit card processing. But don't take that as carte blanche to set them for both types of cards. The inconvenient fact is that setting debit card minimums is probably against your contract terms with your credit card processing company. This is because fees are generally lower for debit transactions, making it all around better for everyone if customers choose this payment option over credit.

How you handle minimums will also depend on what type of business you operate. A furniture store, for example, generally won't have to worry about this issue. By contrast, the mom and pop food shop on the corner could get nickeled and dimed out of business if they allow $1 or $2 transactions via plastic. However, you decide to deal with this issue, be sure you're clear on the terms of your arrangement with your choice of the best credit card processing companies for small business. While unlikely, a client could technically file a complaint with the processor regarding your practices.

More Advice on the Best Credit Card Processing

If you still find yourself struggling with your decision on which provider to use for your small business payment processing needs, be sure to check out these informative articles on a range of issues. From tools to help you run your business to help understanding how payment processing works, you'll find plenty of advice and information to use in your enterprise.

Credit Card Processing Review Recap

In order to keep up with the demands of customers, businesses now need to be able to offer fast and efficient credit card processing. With these prominent merchant services, you can look forward to reliability, affordability, and speedy service.

Finding the right processing company means that you can give your customers the facilities that they want as well as boost the success of your own business by offering popular payment options.

Of course, running a business involves a variety of financial strategies. So in addition to a good payment processor, you probably also need the best business credit cards. Maybe you're also looking to expand or open up your first brick-and-mortar, which means checking out the best small business loans could be just the ticket to making your future plans a reality.

Best Credit Card Processing FAQs

What are some mobile card reader features?

Mobile card readers come packed with some really useful tools.

  • Online Task Manager: This tool allows you to keep track of and manage transactions through an online account
  • Email Receipts: By giving you their email address, customers can receive electronic versions of their receipt
  • Customized Receipts: Businesses can customize their receipts with their company's name, logo, and design
  • Tip: Vendors and merchants can customize the app to automatically ask customers for a tip or gratuity
  • Save Customer Details: You can customize it to save customers details including names, addresses, and emails
  • Manage Cash Transactions: Merchants can alter and record cash transactions directly within the application
  • Credit/Refund: You can credit a customer's account or issue refunds

What types of fraud protection features are included?

Most of the credit card processing services come with address verification, real-time processing, SSL, and CVV. Address verification is a feature conducted by the payment gateway service-data which is entered online by the customer. The information is compared to the address held on file by the credit card company. Real-time processing is another validity ensuring feature which takes place once the information is filled out and the Enter key is clicked. On average, it takes less than a minute to carry out.

The SSL, secure socket layer, is a safeguard between your credit card information and potential internet thieves. Using a 128-bit encryption, the SSL is a mechanism to move information from one place to another. The final component, CVV2 (card verification value) is a set of 3-4 numbers printed on the back of each credit card. It's required to ensure that the person inputting the card info has physical possession of it.

What are the transaction fees?

Depending on the type of service you opt for the following transaction fees may apply:

Average Discount Rate: This discount rate is equivalent to the percent of the sale which the processing company retains for itself. It's usually slightly higher than the average discount rate when the card is present.

Transaction Fee: This fee is the mandatory charge on each individual transaction. The fee remains standard whether the transaction totals $.25 or $25.

Address Verification Fees: This one is self-explanatory. When address verification is needed, the fee is applied.

Other fees may be included in the service you select. To get the most up-to-date information, consult the service's website directly.

Will the payment process be secure?

Having a secure electronic process is the primary concern when using a payment processing service for your business. With the rise in identity theft in the last decade, it's more important than ever for you and your clients to be armed with a heightened level of security. When selecting a service, check to make sure it is in compliance with all PCI (payment card industry) rules and regulations regarding payment software. All institutions and merchants which process or store sensitive credit card information are required to have a secure platform which can be accountable in the event that an individual's information is compromised.

What is a credit card reader?

Credit card readers come in all shapes and sizes and are essential for credit card processing. From fixed readers to mobile and payment terminals, a credit card reader has a magnetic stripe which is able to ascertain the information of a credit card. Fixed credit card readers connect the information through a USB, PS/2, or RS-232 connection and can be used bi-directionally or on a multi-track. Mobile credit card readers are the latest development and can be used on-the-go via smartphone, tablet or portable device. Compatible with Apple and Android, these readers are usually plugged in through the headphone jack. It's the ideal money to ring up purchases if you're a traveling merchant or need to process payment without access to your regular card reading equipment.

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Advertiser Disclosure

In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.

Advertiser Disclosure

In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.