What to Know Before Getting Started
Many business owners on a budget shop for a merchant account with a simple mission: How can I accept credit cards for the lowest cost possible? Which company has the lowest rates? How can I keep the largest possible percentage of my sales? For these businesses, specialized features and software are secondary concerns. What matters most is being able to take cards for the smallest possible amount.
If you’re one of these business owners, then the following ranking of the top five cheapest merchant account providers is for you. These processors offer the lowest per-transaction rates, setup fees, and recurring monthly costs for accepting credit cards. This list includes traditional merchant account providers as well as unconventional providers and mobile payment options. Each payment processor has a positive reputation among merchants and third-party reviewers as well as transparent pricing and live customer support. Businesses on a budget can’t go wrong with any of these providers.
It’s important to understand that there is no single cheapest option for all businesses; rather, each provider has advantages and drawbacks for certain merchant sizes. For example, high-volume merchant with multiple locations will be better served by large, traditional processors, while single-register locations might be better off with a free mobile phone or tablet app. Please also note that the rates and fees quoted below are accurate as of this article’s publication but may have changed in the time since. In order to be sure that you find the right fit for your business, be sure to contact multiple providers to see what services they offer for your specific business type.
Advertising Disclosure: Our unbiased articles are supported in part by helping you find highly reviewed merchant accounts. You can learn more here.
Why We Chose These Merchant Account Providers
Active since early 2014, Fattmerchant is a merchant account provider leading the industry’s move toward flat-rate, subscription-style pricing. The company’s products and services include EMV-compatible countertop terminals, a virtual terminal, an online payment gateway, an online shopping cart, mobile phone processing, QuickBooks integration, online invoicing, and recurring billing. Fattmerchant is capable of serving all standard-risk retail, mobile, and internet-based business types and offers free equipment for all accounts.
Fattmerchant offers multiple pricing plans with different rates, but all of its plans consist of “membership-style” pricing, a newer pricing model that charges a fixed monthly fee and only a few cents above interchange per transaction. In other words, none of Fattmerchant’s plans charge a percentage-based fee on each transaction, meaning that merchants will not pay more to process a large transaction than they will a small transaction. Fattmerchant currently offers a $69 monthly plan that charges interchange plus $0.25 per transaction, a $79 monthly plan that charges interchange plus $0.15 per transaction, and a $99 monthly plan that charges interchange plus $0.08 per transaction.
Transparent Merchant Services
Transparent Merchant Services is a Scottsdale, Arizona-based merchant services company that, like Fattmerchant, offers a “membership-style” pricing structure to its merchants. Rather than adding a percentage-based markup to each transaction, the company charges interchange plus a fixed, low dollar amount for each payment and a flat monthly fee. Transparent’s “Pro” plan is intended for businesses that process 500 or fewer transactions per month and charges interchange plus $0.19 per transaction plus a monthly fee of $49.97. The company’s “Elite” plan is intended for businesses that process over 500 transactions per month and charges interchange plus $0.09 per transaction plus a monthly fee of $99.97. Transparent Merchant Services also charges an annual $99 PCI compliance fee, but it does not charge any early termination fees or other fees.
Transparent Merchant Services is able to provide retail, mobile, and e-commerce payment solutions, and its pricing structure is ideal for merchants with large average tickets. Our review gives Transparent an “A” rating at this time, and the BBB assigns the company an “A+.”
Based in Alberta, Canada, Helcim is an all-purpose processor that can supply in-person, mobile and online credit card processing for merchants in both the U.S. and Canada. Helcim’s transparent pricing structure is based on whether the merchant requires retail (countertop) processing, a virtual terminal, or mobile phone processing. The company’s retail plan charges interchange plus 0.18% per transaction and $12 per month, while its virtual terminal plan charges interchange plus 0.36% per transaction and $25 per month. Helcim’s mobile phone processing plan charges interchange plus 0.18% and $30 per month and includes a free card reader upon activation. Helcim does not charge a PCI compliance fee, early termination fee, or any other recurring monthly fees.
Helcim’s products and services include a virtual terminal, traditional POS equipment, secure data storage and access, recurring billing, email invoicing, and a payment gateway that can be directly integrated with a website, shopping cart, billing system, or other application via an API. The company is known for its transparent pricing structure and frequently receives positive merchant reviews related to its sales and support staff. CardPaymentOptions.com gives Helcim an “A+” rating at this time, and the BBB also assigns Helcim an “A+.”
For more information, see the Helcim Website.
Secondary Merchant Account Options
Payline Data is an excellent low-cost merchant account provider for most business types and sizes. The Chicago, Illinois-based company offers two pricing plans to all of its merchants: the “Simple” plan, which costs interchange plus 0.5% and $0.10 per transaction and $5 per month, and the “Pro” plan, which charges interchange plus 0.2% and $0.10 per transaction and $20 per month. The Simple plan will be more cost-effective for smaller merchants ($5,000-$10,000 in monthly sales), while the Pro plan will be a better fit for businesses that process over $10,000 per month. Payline Data also charges a $99 annual PCI compliance fee, but it does not charge any other monthly fees or termination fees.
Payline’s products and features include traditional and tablet-based POS solutions, a QuickBooks-integrated online payment gateway and virtual terminal, automated recurring billing, payment tokenization, online shopping carts, mobile processing, and customizable sales analytics. The company consistently receives praise from merchants for its transparent sales policies, helpful customer support, and affordable pricing model. Our review of Payline Data gives the company an “A+” rating, while the Better Business Bureau gives Payline an “A” at this time.
Dharma Merchant Services
Based in San Francisco, California, Dharma Merchant Services is a highly rated merchant account provider that places a corporate emphasis on social consciousness and community outreach. The company’s products and services include countertop terminals, a tablet-based POS system (via a partnership with ShopKeep), mobile device payment processing, an online payment gateway (Authorize.Net), QuickBooks integration, small business financing, and custom fundraising pages for non-profits. The company extends special pricing to non-profit organizations and donates a percentage of its profits to non-profits of its choosing every year. Dharma is best suited to provide significant savings for merchants who process over $10,000 per month.
Dharma scores highly in our review and elsewhere due to its positively reviewed customer service, transparent marketing practices, competitive interchange-plus rates, and fair service agreements. The BBB currently assigns a rating of “A+” for Dharma Merchant Services, while CardPaymentOptions.com also gives the company an “A+.”
Based in Orange, California, Payment Depot is a merchant account provider that, like Transparent Merchant Services, utilizes a membership-style pricing plan. The company charges a fixed dollar amount per transaction with a flat monthly fee, and it offers three different pricing tiers. The company’s “Basic” membership charges interchange plus $0.25 per transaction with a monthly fee of at least $16.58, although each business will receive a custom quote for its fixed monthly rate. Payment Depot’s “Most Popular” membership charges interchange plus $0.15 per transaction with a monthly fee of $33.25 or more, while its “Best Value” membership charges interchange plus $0.10 per transaction with a monthly fee of $49.91 or more. Payment Depot does not charge any early termination fees, PCI compliance fees, or other hidden recurring fees.
Payment Depot provides products and services for the retail, restaurant, B2B, mobile, and e-commerce industries. Our review of Payment Depot gives it an “A” rating at this time, while the BBB also gives Payment Depot an “A.”
If your business offers low-cost, transparently priced merchant accounts, please leave a comment in the comment section below or contact us through our contact page in order to get listed in this article.