Best Retail Merchant Account Overall

a business owner accepting a credit card payment at a retail store

Choose Wisely!

Selecting the best merchant account for your retail business is a crucial decision that can significantly impact your bottom line as well as your mental health. Your choice will contribute to many areas of your operations, including ringing up sales, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, your profits. The best retail credit card processors stand out by offering transparent and competitive pricing, minimal to no monthly fees, easy-to-use hardware, and flexible, penalty-free cancellation policies. Moreover, they distinguish themselves through their commitment to providing excellent customer support and offering modern, secure payment acceptance technologies.

In an industry where clarity and fairness are not always given, finding a great retail merchant services provider can significantly enhance the operational smoothness of your retail business. This article aims to guide retail business owners through the process of identifying merchant account providers that not only meet but exceed expectations. We'll start by outlining what you should look for when selecting the best retail merchant account providers, and then conclude with recommendations based on over a decade of monitoring the small business credit card processing industry.

Top Qualities of the Best Retail Merchant Service Providers

Pricing Transparency: Do you understand the rates and fees?

The importance of selecting a retail merchant account provider that openly discloses its pricing on its website cannot be overstated. The worst rated credit card processors we have reviewed almost never openly market their pricing. This is because they capitalize on the fact that most business owners do not understand how credit card processing rates and fees are assessed. Such confusion allows shady providers to overcharge unsuspecting businesses.

The most ethical providers openly disclose their pricing for anyone to see right on their websites. Among these merchant account providers, most will market either a flat-rate for all transaction types or Interchange-plus pricing. In particular, Interchange-plus pricing stands out for its transparency over other models like tiered or flat-rate pricing. This model passes the fees set by credit card networks directly to the business owner, and then the merchant account provider adds its own markup, offering a clear picture of where your costs are coming from. Providers that utilize Interchange-plus and openly share their pricing structures on their websites have shown a commitment to operating ethically. This level of openness is crucial in avoiding providers that may rely on less transparent pricing schemes, which can often lead to unexpectedly high fees difficult to exit service contracts. We always recommend selecting providers that market Interchange-plus

Leases, Contracts, and Service Commitments

Contract flexibility is a vital factor to consider when choosing a merchant account provider for your retail business. Opting for a provider that offers month-to-month agreements, rather than binding you into long-term contracts, is almost always the right choice, no matter what the sales agent is telling you. Flexible contracts allow you to switch credit card processors without incurring hefty penalties in the form of Early Termination Fees (ETFs) or binding equipment leases.

It's crucial to scrutinize any provider's cancellation policies to ensure they don't include prohibitive penalties or hidden fees for canceling your merchant services with them. Prioritize providers that promote transparency and flexibility in their contractual terms. Doing so will help you safeguard your business against unexpected financial burdens and maintain the freedom to adapt your payment processing services as your business needs evolve.

Card Readers and POS Systems

The best merchant account providers for retail businesses offer more than just the ability to accept traditional credit and debit card payments; they also provide the technology to support emerging payment methods, such as mobile and touchless payments. Their hardware options should be robust and reliable, as well as user-friendly, ensuring that your staff can operate them with minimal training. Equally important is the hardware's compatibility with your existing systems, which allows for seamless integration and can enhance the overall efficiency of your operations.

By choosing a provider that stays at the forefront of payment technology, you ensure that your retail business can meet the demands of modern consumers, providing a smooth, secure, and versatile payment experience that can help drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. Choose a provider that offers a suite of options specifically catered to the needs of retail businesses.

What are Their Clients and Employees Saying?

Checking the reputation and reviews of retail merchant account providers before engaging their services is an absolute must. Choose a provider that has consistently positive feedback on reputable websites that specifically focus on the merchant services industry and can provide a thorough rundown of their findings, such as here on our website. Avoid review websites that only list “top” providers or only offer user reviews. Nearly all of those websites are either “pay-to-play” rankings or full of fake user reviews. Trusting a real expert is safer than trusting user reviews nowadays.

Negative reviews, while not the sole factor to base your decision on, can highlight potential red flags or areas where a provider may fall short of your specific needs. Therefore, dedicating time to research and consider the experiences of peers in the industry can guide you toward a merchant account provider whose proven track record aligns with your expectations for exceptional service and support.

Our Retail Merchant Account Recommendations

The credit card processing needs of one retailer to the next can vary greatly. Understanding this, we have provided several selections below to cover as many variables as possible. The choices are in no particular order.

Host Merchant Services

Host Merchant Services (HMS) is a long-standing, top-rated merchant account provider that best serves retail businesses that require payment acceptance for multiple registers or locations, or have sophisticated POS needs. If your business is busy and fast-paced, HMS can tailor its services and hardware to meet the demands of your operations.

Host Merchant Services logo

Why we like HMS:

  • Large selection of POS options.
  • Knowledge sales and support staff.
  • Has maintained excellent ratings for over a decade
  • Offers Interchange-plus pricing.
  • No cancellation fees.
  • Fast approval and next day funding.

See our Host Merchant Services Review or visit the HMS website for more details.


Helcim is another provider that has consistently held top scores since we first reviewed the company in 2012. This credit card processor best serves small retail shops, mobile retailers, and retail businesses that also sell products online. Helcim offers some of the best and most transparent pricing that we have found among the hundreds of providers that we have reviewed. In fact, the company has no monthly fees and automatic volume discounts. This means that if you don't process anything in a given month, there will be no fees. Additionally, as your sales grow, Helcim automatically lowers its markup over Interchange in an effort to keep your processing costs fair.

helcim logo

Why we like Helcim:

  • Extremely competitive and fair pricing.
  • Caters its services to specific retail payment processing needs.
  • Provides all features and services at no additional costs.
  • Responsive and knowledgeable customer support.
  • No contract or cancellation fees.

See our Helcim Review or visit the Helcim website for more details.

CDG Commerce

Another of the best providers that we have consistently monitored for 10+ years is CDG Commerce. Much like Helcim, CDG best serves the needs of smaller retailers. However, where the companies differ, is that CDG offers a much broader range of POS and software integration options. CDG also offers a flat-rate pricing option that can make processing costs easier to understand and more predictable for low volume businesses.

cdg commerce logo

Why we like CDG:

  • Competitive pricing with either Interchange-plus or flat-rate.
  • Numerous POS Options that can be tailored for specific processing requirements.
  • Wide range of software integration options for those using industry specific management systems.
  • Consistent, top-rated customer support.
  • No contracts or commitments.

See our CDG Commerce Review or visit the CDG website for more details.


Lastly, for businesses that are just starting out and need a quick and easy way to test their ideas, Square provides the fastest and easiest way to start taking payments. From its humble beginnings as an iPhone app with a card reader that plugged into a headphone jack, Square has come a long way and now offers a variety of service and card options that serve small retailers well. However, the ease of use and quick setup come at a cost of higher processing fees and less available customer support.

square credit card processing logo

Why we like Square:

  • Great option for brand new businesses.
  • Quick and easy setup, often within the same day.
  • Great technology that is easy to use.
  • Simple and transparent pricing.
  • No contract or commitments.

See our Square Review or visit the Square website for more details.

Reader Comments

Tell Us What You Think


Copyright © 2024, Inc. (Digital Fingerprint: 0d38c6720f0d78a701b74d58653af608). Getting paid to re-write this page? Click here to earn a reward.

Any unauthorized copying and reproduction of the content of this page, including all meta data and computer code, is strictly prohibited. While the information in the above article is believed to be accurate as of its publish date, the author and publisher make no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the contents. The author and publisher shall in no event be held liable to any party for any direct, indirect, punitive, special, incidental or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of this material, which is provided “as is,” and without warranties. Any and all use of trade names and/or marks are for identification purposes only and shall not be construed as a claim of affiliation, or otherwise, with, Inc. ("CPO") in any form. The sole purpose of the material presented herein is to alert, educate, and inform readers. It is not intended as legal or financial advice. We may earn revenue if you obtain services from a provider that we recommend. See this page to learn how we support our operations.