How to Avoid Scammy Credit Card Processors
Finding the right merchant account provider for your business can be a frustrating experience. The credit card processing industry is riddled with processors that charge hidden fees, use deceptive sales tactics, and hide unsavory contract terms. Even if you read through your merchant account contract before signing, you might find that the rates you end up paying are much higher than you expected. This is because unethical processors pray upon widespread naiveté of how processing fees are calculated and assessed. If you do not take the time to research, you can easily fall victim to one of these unscrupulous processors.
Aside from getting fair rates, you will also want to find a provider that can identify your business’ needs, supply a solution that fits your sales environment, stay within your budget, and meet your customers’ payment expectations. Lastly, you will want to work with a processor that continues to care about you after you have become a customer. This means supplying high-quality support, such as dealing with problems like customer chargbacks, assisting you with data compliance like PCI protocols, and providing assistance with software plugins like syncing Quickbooks with a merchant account.
Watch Out For Phony Processor Recommendation Websites
Just like there are numerous unethical credit card processors, there are just as many “rating and review” websites that are in the pockets of these providers. Most of them buy ads in Google search and you will find them at the top of the search results page when you research credit card processors. They are fairly easy to spot because the page is usually just a list with “rankings” of processors that provide very little justification or reasoning behind their choices. The content is thin and they often list the worst rated providers (according to our research) as the best. Also be wary of websites or publications that cover numerous other types of services or topics outside of credit card processing. They typically hire freelance writers who do little research, don’t actually understand the industry, and are motivated to write articles as fast as possible in order to get paid for more articles. Stick with websites like this one that focus specifically on credit card processing and payment services.
Why We Are Different: Tens of Thousands of Hours of Research, Over a Decade of Experience
Not only did we originally work in the credit card processing industry prior to leaving it to run this website, we’re business owners ourselves and we’ve researched nearly every merchant account provider currently in operation. The top of the list begins with processors that will work for most businesses and then we get more specific to industries and needs as we go down the page. You may see some of the same picks repeated more than once. This is because the best providers often also serve a wide array of needs and industries. Our goal with this list is to make your life as a business owner easier and we welcome your feedback in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
Below we’ve compiled a list of top rated merchant account providers in the United States and Canada according to our research. The companies in this list supply industry-leading products and services to a wide range of large and small businesses. We chose providers with fair and transparent pricing, positive merchant feedback, and excellent customer service. You can expect the providers below to understand your business and provide the appropriate solution for a fair price without trapping you in an unnecessary long-term service agreement. You don’t have to take our word for it, though, we encourage you to contact multiple companies on this list and compare their pricing and services in order to get the best option for accepting credit cards your business.
We Recommend Getting Two Quotes
For most of the categories below, we’ve chosen a top recommendation followed by another pick. We suggest contacting both providers to compare and contrast services and fees. Most of the providers in this list will be virtually equal, so going with the one that feels right for you is the best choice.
Do you think your merchant services company should be on this page? Tell us in the comment section
Table of Contents – Recommendations For:
- U.S. Businesses Processing Over $120,000/yr
- U.S. Businesses Processing Less Than $120,000/yr
- Mobile & New Ventures
- Restaurant Touchless Payments & Ordering
- “High-Risk” Payment Processing
- International & Cross-Border Payments
- Canadian Payment Processing
- All-In-One E-Commerce Store & Payments
- Clover Point-of-Sale
- PayPal Alternatives
Don’t see your industry or need in this list? Let us know in the comment section below.
U.S. Businesses Processing Over $120,000/yr
One of Our Longest-Standing 5-Star Recommendations
CDG has consistently ranked as one of our top choices for nearly a decade. The company has simple, straight-forward, transparent Interchange pricing for larger businesses. This makes it an excellent choice for high volume businesses that want affordable and transparent rates.
Personalized Service & Support
At CPO we prefer smaller credit card processing providers because they have better service and support. Unlike large corporate credit card processors where you call into a call center and speak with a virtually anonymous customer service representative among countless others, with small providers you have they same person available to you for your customer service calls. CDG Commerce is no exception to this and provides excellent, tailored service and support
- Beauty & Wellness
- Food & Beverage
- Online Sellers
- Professional Services
- Software & Apps
- Recurring Billing & Subscriptions
Services Hardware for Most Needs
CDG does a great job serving various business types using modern payment hardware and technology, both its own proprietary systems as well as offering integrations with over 350 apps and platforms. They have solutions for virtually any processing requirement.
Compare CDG with PaymentCloud
PaymentCloud offers many of the same products and service as CDG while also achieving high marks in our review. We recommend getting competitive quotes between the two.
U.S. Businesses Processing Less Than $120,000/yr
- Software Integrations
- High Volume & Enterprise
- Professional Services
- And most other industries
Why Host Merchant Services?
Host Merchant Services has consistently scored as top performing merchant account provider for several years in our review of the company. This processor has consistently achieved high marks on everything from fast account approval, low rates and fees, and solid customer support. Host Merchant Services also offers a wide array of software integrations with customer relationship management systems, virtual software, and open source e-commerce platforms. Not only does the company offer these integrations, but can also implement such needs for its merchant customers with a dedicated technical team, thereby making setup seamless and easy.
We recommend Host Merchant Services to nearly any industry that is in need of a reliable and helpful payment processor.
Host Merchant Services Pricing
Host Merchant Services has received only positive feedback on public forums, with most reviewers singling out the company’s customer service for praise. Host offers interchange-plus pricing with no early termination fees to all of its merchants, meaning that users will enjoy the most transparent pricing model and can cancel service without a penalty. The BBB gives Host an “A+” rating, and CPO also gives the company an “A+.”
Compare Host Merchant Services with CDG Commerce
Although we list CDG Commerce as our top recommendation for businesses processing over $120,000 per year, they also serve new and lower-volume businesses just as well. We recommend comparing quotes between Host Merchant Services and CDG Commerce.
Mobile Payments & New Ventures
- Brand new business ventures
Square Offers Ease and Flexibility
Beware Funding Holds
Before signing up with Square, we highly recommend reading Square’s prohibited industries list (found at the end of this article) as running afoul with this policy can cause a business owner a great degree of grief and frustration.
Square Doesn’t Serve These Industries
Compare Square with Helcim
Although you will see Helcim listed as our top choice for Canadian merchant accounts, the company also serves U.S. businesses and has a great mobile card reader that connects to any device. The cost to get started with Helcim is higher so it may not be the best option for brand new businesses with no revenue, but it’s an excellent option for businesses looking for lower overall processing fees and better customer service.
Bar and Restaurant Touchless Ordering
- Single and Multi-Location Restaraunts.
- Counter Service & Table Service.
- Owners Seeking Touchless Ordering and Payments.
Serving an Urgent Need in a Hugely Impacted Industry
Toast makes our top pick for restaurants due to this company’s technology forward philosophy, which has enabled it to quickly serve the critical need of a touchless payments. With Toast, restaurant owners can shield their customers and employees from contagions through the elimination of passing menus and cards back and forth. Not only does the company serve this need with an easy-to-use platform, but also does it in a very cost effective manner without sacrificing quality in its services or customer support. Restaurant owners should feel confident that their POS expectations will be met and exceeded with Toast.
Compare Toast with ___________?
We currently working to find a comparable restaurant POS merchant account provider to compare with Toast. Do you think your company should be here? Do you have a recommendation for us? Please tell us in the comment section below.
High-Risk Payment Processing
Quick Approvals For Most Business Types
Based in Woodland Hills, California, PaymentCloud is a merchant account provider that specializes in serving businesses of nearly any type. This includes “high-risk” industries such as CBD and adult entertainment. The company’s products and services include point-of-sale solutions, mobile phone swipers, an online payment gateway and virtual terminal, EMV-compatible terminals, and merchant cash advances. PaymentCloud also provides a dedicated account rep to all of its customers for the life of the account, which means top-notch customer support.
Custom Pricing Plans
The company has not received any negative complaints on consumer forums regarding predatory fees and optimizes rates according to each merchant’s business type and processing history. The BBB does not maintain a profile for PaymentCloud at this time, but CPO gives the company an “A.”
Compare PaymentCloud with eMerchant Broker
You will also find eMerchant Broker directly below this section as our top merchant account provider recommendation for international payments. As a cross-border payment facilitator eMerchant Broker also has to cover the high-risk payment processing space. The company is an excellent option to compare quotes against PaymentCloud.
International & Cross-Border
- International business doing business within the U.S. or Canada
- Multi-national organizations
- “High-risk” offshore processing
- International e-commerce
- International Travel and Tourism
Payments Without Borders
eMerchant Broker has remained one of our top recommendations for international and cross-border credit card processing for several years. In addition to facilitating payments across the globe, the company can also approve numerous “high-risk” domestic and international business types. If you are having trouble getting a merchant account eMerchant Broker may be your best and only option to get the services you need.
Compare eMerchant Broker with _________?
We are currently researching the best international and cross-border options for comparing with eMerchant Broker. If you have a suggestion that we should consider, please leave it in the comment section below.
Canadian Merchant Accounts
Recommended For Canadian:
- Beauty & Wellness
- Food & Beverage
- Online Sellers
- Professional Services
- Software & Apps
A No-Brainer For Canadian Credit Card Processing
Helcim has consistently ranked as our top Canadian merchant account providers for nearly a decade running. The company is technology forward and focused on customer experience. In addition to offering hardware and services tailored to a wide array of common industries, the company offers a flexible virtual terminal, online store builder, e-commerce tools, and invoicing tools. Helcim offer some of the most competitive pricing found in the industry.
Simply visit Helcim’s website for more information or to start an application.
E-Commerce Store Builders
- Online Retail
- Online Wholesale
- Subscription & Recurring Payment Plans
- Facebook & Instagram Integration
- eBay, Amazon, and Walmart Marketplace Integration
- Appointment-based Services
Bring Your Business Online Quickly
Gone are the days of hiring expensive web developers to build an e-commerce store for your business or idea. Shopify ranks as our top pick for creating professional online stores quickly and at just a fraction of the cost of custom web development. This service can be used for the simple sale of a single product via easy-to-create “Buy Now” buttons all the way up to selling thousands of products requiring enterprise level software integrations.
Shopify can integrate with various merchant account providers or you can quickly start accepting payments through the company’s own “Shopify Payments” service, which integrates seamlessly. Shopify Payments is also available to businesses outside the United States including Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Compare Shopify With Square
Square’s Online Store builder has seen a lot of improvements in the last few years. Although it’s not as robust as Shopify and does not offer as many features, you can get started with no up-front costs and no monthly fees. Only pay 2.9% + $0.30 when you make a sale.
Top For Clover POS
Go Through National Processing for Clover POS
Clover Point-of-Sale by Fiserv (formerly known as First Data) is one of the most popular point of sale systems in the retail and restaurant industries. In fact, it is so common that you have likely paid for something through a Clover POS system. Although Fiserv itself doesn’t have the best reputation, the vast majority of complaints come from either signing up directly through Fiserv, or work with one of its poorly rated resellers. This is why it is of the utmost importance to choose a well-rated reseller if you want to use a Clover system.
National Processing makes our top recommendation due the company offering fair pricing, transparent terms, and stellar customer support. Business owners can rest assured that that they are getting the system they need and the service they want through this reseller. Whether its for convenience store, restaurant, or food truck, we feel confident recommending National Processing to our readers.
Top PayPal Alternatives
Square Makes The Cut Again
How To Get Started With Square
Simply visit the Square Website to get more information or to start an application.
Other PayPal Alternatives You May Want To Consider
Additional Merchant Account Options
The options below are listed to provide a broader view of the industry and should be considered only if the above options are not ideal for your situation.
Supporting Holistic Support for Merchant of All Shapes and Sizes
Card Z3N offers and abundance of options that are tailored to merchants across different industries regardless of their size, level of risk, or specific needs. The company’s Z3N Gateway acts as the fulcrum for e-commerce merchants. Card Z3N also offers unique merchant services for in-store transactions for small to mid-sized businesses, B2B/B2G focused transactions, and enterprise level merchants. Card Z3N’s other services include ACH payment processing, mobile POS, and recurring billing services that meet different facets of any merchant’s needs.
About Card Z3N
Based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, Card Z3N holds the distinction of serving both standard and high risk merchant types. Card Z3N’s expertise in serving high risk merchants allows them to offer competitive rates, even to start-ups. The company also provides discounted rates to merchant processing over $100,000 per month for well-established larger scale businesses. In addition to facilitating payment processing, Card Z3N also provides merchants with simplified online payroll services.
Card Z3N offers merchants with phone support, a live chat feature, and a troubleshooting ticket form to instigate a customer service request. Card Z3N currently has an “A” rating with the BBB and has fewer than 10 complaints online.
For more information, visit the Card Z3N website.
Based in Orange, California, Payment Depot is a versatile payment processor for all standard-risk merchant types. The company was founded in 2013 and offers Clover POS products, a virtual terminal, mobile phone processing, an Authorize.net payment gateway, and chargeback monitoring. Payment Depot is a pioneer of membership-style pricing, which offers transparent wholesale transaction rates (with no markups) in exchange for a fixed monthly fee.
Payment Depot Reviews
Payment Depot offers multiple pricing plans depending on merchant volume and does not charge any equipment lease fees, PCI compliance fees, or termination fees. Payment Depot also offers next day funding to most business types. Payment Depot has earned an “A” rating in our review as well as an “A+” rating with the BBB.
Centurion Payment Services
Payment Processing For Any Business
Founded in 2012, Centurion Payment Services is a Miami, Florida-based merchant account provider that serves both standard and high risk businesses as well as a free SEO program for online merchants wishing to improve their online search presence. Centurion Payment Services offers an online payment gateway and virtual terminal as well as EMV-compliant payment processing equipment for face-to-face purchases. The company offers 24/7 customer support and free equipment setup for all merchants.
Centurion CBD Pricing
Centurion currently offers CBD merchants a per-transaction fee of 6.95% plus $0.30 and a monthly fee of $35. The company does not charge a setup fee or impose processing limits, and it does not require a cash reserve in many cases. Centurion can serve merchants who sell CBD vape products, but not those who sell CBD flower or pre-rolled products. Centurion’s CBD e-commerce solution can be used with popular platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce.
Centurion Payment Services Reviews
Centurion has not received any public complaints for the entire time that it has been operational. The company claims to offer interchange-plus pricing, no reserve, single-day approval, no PCI compliance fees, and no start up fees. The BBB does not assign a rating rating to Centurion Payment Services, while CPO gives the company an “A.”