Comparing The Best Merchant Accounts For Small Business Credit Card Processing

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The Traits of an Excellent Merchant Account

Below we’ve compared the top-rated merchant account providers in the United States and Canada according to our own research. The companies in this list supply industry-leading products and services to a wide range of large and small businesses. We compared 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, 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 at your business.

We Recommend Getting Two Competing Quotes

For most of the categories below, we’ve highlighted a top-rated credit card processor followed by another option of equal quality. However, no two merchant account providers are going to be identical so we suggest contacting both providers to compare and contrast their services and fees to determine which is best suited for your particular point of sale requirements. Going with the one that feels right for your business is going to be best choice even if it isn’t our first recommendation.

How to Avoid Scammy Credit Card Processors

Finding the best merchant services provider for your business can be a frustrating experience. Hidden fees, fine-print contracts, and shady merchant account providers are everywhere. 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 this industry, you can easily fall victim to an unscrupulous sales agent or processor.

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 chargebacks, assisting you with data compliance like PCI compliance, and providing assistance with software plugins like syncing Quickbooks with a merchant account.

Watch Out For Phony 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 these ads at the top of the search results page when you research credit card processors. Phony review websites are fairly easy to spot because the pages containing top picks are usually just a list with “rankings” of processors that provide very little justification or reasoning behind their choices. The content is thin and the worst rated providers (according to our research) are often listed 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.

Who We Are

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 and has ever existed over the last ten years. Not only do we keep track of merchant services providers, but we also track their owners to raise potential flags when they start new credit card processing companies.

The top of the list begins with processors that will work for most businesses and then we get more specific to industries and processing 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.

Now For The Comparisons:


U.S. Businesses Processing Over $120,000/yr

CDG Commerce

One of Our Longest-Standing 5-Star Recommendations

CDG Commerce has consistently ranked as one of our top choices for nearly a decade. The company has simple, straight-forward, transparent Interchange with a small markup or zero-markup monthly-fee-based 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 smaller providers, like CDG Commerce, you have the same person available to you for your customer service calls. This means getting your questions answered quickly so that you can get back to making sales.

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.

Recommended For:

  • E-Commerce
  • Automotive
  • Mobile
  • Beauty & Wellness
  • Contractors
  • Healthcare
  • Invoices
  • Food & Beverage
  • Online Sellers
  • Professional Services
  • Retailers
  • Software & Apps
  • Wholesalers
  • Recurring Billing & Subscriptions

Compare CDG with PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud offers many of the same products and service as CDG Commerce while also achieving high marks in our review. We recommend getting competitive quotes between the two.

Contact CDG Commerce

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CDG Commerce

Low Rates & Fees

No Cancellation Fees

Compatible With Numerous Apps

Sales & Support:

U.S. Businesses Processing Less Than $120,000/yr

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 for 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+.”

Recommended For:

  • Retail
  • E-Commerce
  • Software Integrations
  • Mobile
  • High Volume & Enterprise
  • Professional Services
  • And most other industries

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.

Contact Host Merchant Services

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Host Merchant Services

Low Processing Rates

Month-to-Month Agreement

Approves Most Industries

Sales & Support:

Mobile Payments & New Ventures

Square

We often get asked why we recommend Square when the company has thousands of complaints from users on our very own review of the company. The reason for this is, despite having numerous complaints, Square is still one of the best options for brand new first-time businesses ventures. This is especially true when starting revenues will be very low or hard to predict. Square is the easiest card acceptance option when it come to sign-up and approval. The service has simple pricing and enables almost anyone to accept credit cards quickly, if not immediately. Generally speaking, Square is a great service to test waters of your card payment needs. However, once you are processing over $120,000 per year, seeking out a traditional credit card processing company with almost certainly guarantee lower fees and better support. Be sure to bookmark this page for when your business is ready to move to the next level. 

Square Offers Ease and Flexibility

Square’s ease of sign-up comes with some drawbacks, aside from higher than average processing fees. Many users have reported processing with Square without first understanding the company’s policies regarding funding of sales or the types of businesses that are permitted to accept card payments through its services. When these users run afoul with such policies, they are often surprised and file complaints in anger. Though Square is not truly at fault in many of these cases, it could do a better job preemptively guiding users away such pitfalls. With millions of users, the company has struggled with providing high-quality customer support as well as effectively communicating its policies. 

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

Square’s Prohibited Business Types

  • Any illegal activity or goods
  • Paraphernalia that may be used for illegal activity
  • Buyer or membership clubs, including dues associated with such clubs
  • Credit counselling or credit repair agencies
  • Credit protection or identity theft protection services
  • Direct marketing or subscription offers or services
  • Infomercial sales
  • Internet/mail order/telephone order pharmacies or pharmacy referral services (where fulfilment of medication is performed with an Internet or telephone consultation, or a physical visit with a physician including re-importation of pharmaceuticals from foreign countries)
  • Unauthorised multi-level marketing businesses
  • Inbound or outbound telemarketers
  • Prepaid phone cards or phone services
  • Rebate based businesses
  • Up-sell merchants
  • Bill payment services
  • Betting, including lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, Fantasy Football, off-track betting and wagers at races
  • Financial institutions offering manual or automated cash disbursements
  • Prepaid cards, cheques, insurance or other financial merchandise or services
  • Sales of money-orders or foreign currency by non-financial institutions
  • Wire transfer money orders
  • High-risk products and services, including telemarketing sales
  • Service station merchants
  • Automated fuel dispensers
  • Adult entertainment oriented products or services (in any medium, including Internet, telephone or printed material)
  • Sales of (i) firearms, firearm parts or hardware, and ammunition; or (ii) weapons and other devices designed to cause physical injury
  • Internet/mail order/telephone order of age restricted products (e.g., tobacco, alcohol)
  • Occult materials
  • Hate or harmful products
  • Escort services
  • Bankruptcy lawyers or collection agencies engaged in the collection of debt
  • Airlines, air carriers, cruise ships and steam ships, with the exception of (a) small charter airlines that (i) only use small propeller driven aircraft with fewer than 15 seats per aircraft and (ii) are not used in connection with corporate aviation programmes and (b) on-board purchases,
  • Car rentals, including construction equipment rentals
  • Branded accommodation
  • Unsolicited vendors that require immediate payment for the future provision of products or services (e.g. door-to-door salesmen)
  • Use of transaction proceeds as investment in the future maturity or value of goods

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 than Square.

Contact Square

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Square Payments

Instant Account Approvals

Easy to Use

Mobile, POS, and E-Commerce Payments

Bar and Restaurant Point-of-Sale

Toast

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.

Recommended For:

  • Single and Multi-Location Restaraunts.
  • Counter Service & Table Service.
  • Owners Seeking Touchless Ordering and Payments.

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.

Contact Toast POS

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Toast Point-of-Sale

Serves Specific Industry Needs

Easy Deployment

Touchless Ordering & Payments

High-Risk Payment Processing

PaymentCloud

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.”

Recommended For:

  • Annual Memberships
  • Adult Novelties/Lingerie/Content
  • Alcohol/Wine/Liquor Online
  • Airline/Jet Charters (Travel)
  • Auctions
  • Bail Bonds
  • Business Opportunity
  • CBD
  • CNP Tobacco
  • Continuity/Opt-in/Opt-out
  • Consulting/Marketing/Advertising
  • Credit Counselling
  • Credit Repair
  • Dating Websites & Matchmaking Services
  • Direct Marketing
  • Discount buying clubs
  • Doc/Tax Prep
  • Ebooks/Software Downloads
  • eCigarettes & Accessories
  • Extended Warranty &
  • Protection Services
  • 501c3’s
  • Fantasy Sports
  • FFL Dealers
  • Future Fulfillment
  • Furniture/Home
  • Improvements
  • Gift Certificate & Stored Value
  • Grants
  • Guns & Ammo/Firearms Accessories
  • Herbal Supplements
  • Hotel Reservations
  • Investment Advice
  • Mentoring Programs
  • IPSP’s
  • Memberships/subscriptions
  • Micro loans
  • MLM
  • Multi-Currency
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Pharmacy
  • Poor Credit
  • Precious Metals
  • Property Rentals
  • Psychics/Fortune Tellers
  • SEO Management
  • Sports Info (forecasting)
  • Stun Guns
  • Tax Resolution
  • Event Ticketing (future fulfillment)
  • Timeshare
  • Advertising
  • Tech Support
  • TMF Merchants
  • Travel Services
  • Telemed/Online Pharmacy
  • Warranty Services
  • Web Design/Development/SEO/PPC
  • Vacation Rentals
  • Vapes/Cigars/Tobacco

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.

Contact PaymentCloud

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PaymentCloud

Fast Approval of Most Industries

Competitive Rates

No Cancellation Fees

Sales & Support:

International & Cross-Border Payments

eMerchantBroker

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.

Contact eMerchantBroker

eMerchant Broker Logo

eMerchant Broker

Quick Approval For Most Businesses

Domestic and International Processing

Highly Rated Customer Support

Sales & Support:

Canadian Merchant Accounts

Helcim

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. 

Recommended For Canadian:

  • Automotive
  • Mobile
  • Beauty & Wellness
  • Contractors
  • Healthcare
  • Invoices
  • Food & Beverage
  • Online Sellers
  • Professional Services
  • Retailers
  • Software & Apps
  • Wholesalers

Contact Helcim

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Helcim Payments

No Monthly or Annual Fees

Super Low Processing Rates

POS, Mobile, and Online Payments

Sales & Support:

E-Commerce Store Builders

Shopify

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.

Flexible Payments 

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.

Recommended For:

  • Online Retail
  • Online Wholesale
  • Subscription & Recurring Payment Plans
  • Facebook & Instagram Integration
  • eBay, Amazon, and Walmart Marketplace Integration
  • Appointment-based Services

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.

Contact Shopify

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Shopify

Easy to Use Store Builder

Integrated Payment Options

Mobile and Point-of-Sale Options

Top Provider for Clover Point-of-Sale

National Processing

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. Fiserv itself doesn’t have the best reputation but the vast majority of complaints come from either signing up directly through Fiserv or 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 Clover reseller. Whether its for convenience store, restaurant, or food truck, we feel confident recommending National Processing.

Contact National Processing

national processing logo

National Processing

Best Option For Clover POS

Competitive Rates & Fees

Highly Rated Customer Service

Sales & Support:

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.

Card Z3N Logo

Card Z3N

Rating: Excellent | Our Review | Visit Their Website | (702) 623-3528

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.


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Phillip Parker
Phillip Parker
Credit Card Processing
12 min read
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