What to Know Before Getting Started
Starting a New Business?
Selecting a credit card processor is often more complicated than most people expect. How much should you be paying in fees? Should you lease or buy equipment? Should you be locked into a service agreement for anything length of time? These considerations and several others are imporant to understand before signing up with any merchant account provider. Mistakes are easily made and can be very costly to your business. Along with seeing our top choices for payment services below, be sure to checkout this post to avoid common traps in the merchant services industry.
Considerations For Current Business Owners
Changing merchant accounts can be an expensive, complicated, and time consuming process. Are you really going to save as much as promised? Do you need to buy to new equipment or sign new lease agreements? Will there be other less accountable costs such as those associated with employee retraining? Before selecting one of our choices below, you may want to consider renegotiating your fees with your current payment processing vendors using the help of a contingency-compensated consultant. It can result in a dramatic decrease in costs without the pains of switching. In some cases business owner have also obtained substantial refunds of prior overcharges along with saving thousands in future processing costs. See this post to learn more about this little-known alternative to changing merchant account provider.
Selling Products Online Can Be Complicated
Launching an online store to sell your products can be a complicated process. First, you’ll need a website. You could hire a designer to build one, or you could build it yourself if you have the knowledge and time. Once you’ve created a quality website and found a web host, you’ll need to find a payment processor to ensure that transactions flow smoothly and securely through your site. In addition to these concerns, there’s also search engine optimization and marketing to consider so that your website can be found easily in search results and convert leads more effectively.
Use an All-In-One Solution for Simple E-Commerce
You might save money by mixing and matching services for each phase of this process, but you certainly won’t save time. That’s why there are now companies that provide all of these solutions in one place—from setup to security to marketing. These complete e-commerce solutions typically charge a monthly subscription fee and a small per-transaction fee in exchange for providing all of the features you’ll require in one service package. You’ll find this option attractive if you just want to get your online store up and running without a long-term IT commitment or a complex web marketing strategy.
Find the Best
Below is a list of the highest-rated complete online store providers. These companies can help you build your online store and begin accepting payments in a short period of time, and most of them are designed to scale up with you as your internet storefront draws more traffic. Please note that these online store builders all have different strengths and weaknesses, and you should be sure to carefully consider which solution is the right fit for your business’s needs.
In addition to the list below, here are some other resources you may find useful:
If you are a merchant with an existing business who would like to add a simple online payment option to your website, please see our list of best PayPal alternatives.
See an in-depth breakdown of PayPal vs. Square.
See an in-depth breakdown of PayPal vs. Stripe.
Our unbiased articles are supported in part by helping you find highly reviewed merchant accounts. You can learn more here.
Why These Merchant Account Providers
Best Overall Option
Based in Calgary, Alberta, Helcim has been providing traditional credit card processing, mobile payment solutions, virtual terminals, and online payment gateways since 2009. The company is rare among merchant services providers in that it fully discloses its pricing on its website for anyone to view. Helcim uses interchange-plus pricing, which adds a fixed markup on top of wholesale rates for optimum transparency. It also offers a fully hosted e-commerce solution for all Helcim Commerce users.
Helcim does not charge monthly minimum fees, statement fees, application fees, or PCI compliance fees. The company offers month-to-month contracts and does not charge early termination fees. Helcim offers 24/7 support for merchants and has numerous positive testimonials across the internet, including in the comment section of its “A” review on CPO. Helcim also maintains an “A+” rating with the BBB.
For more information, see the Helcim Website.
Shopify is a well-known e-commerce platform based in Ottawa, Ontario. The company’s payment processing platform, Shopify Payments, is powered by Stripe and functions as the preferred payment option provided by the company. In addition to online credit card acceptance, Shopify provides completely customizable store templates, a secure, on-site shopping cart, integration with over 70 different payment gateways, unlimited hosting and bandwidth, online marketing tools, and email support. Shopify also provides point-of-sale (POS) equipment for merchants with physical locations.
Shopify offers different service packages at the following pricing tiers: $14/month (Starter), $29/month (Basic), $79/month (Professional), $179/month (Unlimited), and a custom Plus plan for merchants who sell over a million dollars in merchandise per year. Shopify’s online per-transaction fees decrease with each upgraded package, starting at 2.9% plus $0.30 for the Starter package and ending with a low custom rate for the Plus plan. Merchants can integrate their existing merchant accounts with Shopify, but they will pay an additional 2% per transaction on the Basic plan and an additional 1% per transaction on the Professional plan.
For more information, visit the Shopify website.
Other Merchant Account Options
The providers in this section may not have been researched as thoroughly or may lack a quality that prevented them from being listed above. We have listed them here to provide a broader view of potential merchant account options. Are you a decision maker with your company and believe that you should be listed below? Tell us here.
What is BigCommerce?
Operating out of Austin, Texas, Bigcommerce is an online store provider with a service offering that is similar to Shopify. Bigcommerce provides an online shopping cart and self-hosted checkout, a customizable web store with a huge number of plugins and add-ons, marketing assistance, and inventory management. Bigcommerce utilizes Stripe and SecureNet as its backend processors.
Bigcommerce integrates with over 50 payment gateways and also provides a payment processing service called Bigcommerce Payments. Unlike Shopify’s policy with Shopify Payments, Bigcommerce does not charge merchants extra for utilizing other merchant accounts besides Bigcommerce Payments. Bigcommerce Payments offers a free Starter plan that charges a flat 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction and an Elite plan that charges $9.99 per month in addition to 2.65% plus $0.30 per transaction. Bigcommerce also does not charge any termination fees, and merchants are free to cancel at any time.
What is Square Market?
Newly launched by mobile payments startup Square, Square Market is a service that provides merchants with the ability to set up and conduct transactions through a limited online storefront within the virtual Square Market. Merchants do not need to use Square’s mobile service to create online stores in the market, and setup is free for anyone who’s interested. Square Market merchants are able to upload pictures, pricing, and product information to their stores, but the layout themes are not customizable and there are very few options for product images.
Square Market Pricing
Square is an appealing option for merchants who have already cultivated a strong social media presence, as it allows product listings to be linked to directly through Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. By creatively coordinating social media and the Square Market, a small merchant may be able to conduct most of his or her business online without ever having to create a traditional e-commerce website. Square Market charges the standard Square fee of 2.75% per transaction for all transactions and no other fees whatsoever, making it a low-risk investment for curious merchants.
Square Market Reviews
Square Market is not recommended for medium-sized or large merchants, and it should not be used as the centerpiece of any e-commerce strategy. It is a cheap, useful tool, though, for merchants who simply want to take their businesses online. We currently give Square as a whole company a “D” rating, and the BBB gives Square an “A+” overall.
What is Volusion?
Volusion is another Austin, Texas-based online store provider with a service offering that is very similar to that of fellow ATX company Bigcommerce. Volusion provides an all-inclusive internet store builder that provides online payment processing, web design templates, marketing tools, social media management, and sales analytics for e-commerce merchants. The company also offers internet merchant accounts through First Data as a complementary service to its web hosting packages.
Volusion’s costs come from two sources: its payment processing agreement and its actual online store costs. The standard Volusion merchant account is an agreement through First Data with a $99 early termination fee, a monthly minimum fee of $25, a $17.99 monthly gateway fee, a $10 statement fee, and a $3.41 monthly PCI Compliance fee. Additionally, this account charges 2.17%-3.96% plus $0.34 per transaction. As a separate series of costs, Volusion provides four tiers of web hosting features for monthly costs of $15 (Mini), $35 (Plus), $75 (Pro), and $135 (Premium).
Overall, Volusion’s contract appears to be by far the most expensive of the companies on this list, and we’ve found a moderate number of complaints related to the company’s policies on other consumer protection websites. For this reason, we give Volusion a “C” rating overall. We’ve included Volusion in this list in order to show where it ranks in comparison to other well-known options, and we want to be clear that we would not recommend it above the other companies on this list at this time. The BBB awards Volusion an “A+” grade.
If your company provides online stores for e-commerce merchants, please let us know in the comment section below or get in touch with us directly.