Best merchant services of 2021

Asia's Tech News Daily

The best merchant services let you take payments both online and in person, in order to better support your business.

The best merchant services

Click the links below to go to the provider’s website:

1. Square

2. PayPal

3. Quickbooks Payments

4. Payline

5. Stripe

The need to take card payments online and off has become paramount for the modern business. But to do that requires payment processing, a service that’s usually supplied by a merchant service provider.

Physical transactions start with a card reader, either a standalone device with a pinpad for your countertop or as a dongle for your smartphone — meaning an app on your mobile device can run the transaction through. Additionally (or alternatively, for online-only businesses), you can process credit card through an ecommerce site when someone simply enters their card details. The right merchant service will then process the transaction for you.

A service like this is merely one part of your point of sale (POS) system, which can do much more than simply process transactions, however. The best POS systems can manage your inventory, ensure you’re on top of compliance-related payment regulations, and help your business avoid fines and other administrative costs (such as chargeback fraud), all while offering advanced security features that protect from data theft and cyber breaches.

POS processing fees tend to be cheaper, on the grounds that the customer is physically present and so the chances of fraud are less than anonymous online transactions. But PoS processing in a brick and mortar store may require additional equipment, not least the card reader itself.

Fees can also vary according to sales volume, and it’s worth keeping an eye on transaction fees. While some merchant services may charge seemingly high monthly fees, these often come with very low individual transaction costs that make them very competitive.

Overall, the market for merchant services is a competitive one, and there’s plenty of choice out there. The challenge is to find one that works best for your business model. To help you, we’ve identified the best merchant services for both online and offline businesses.

  • We’ve also highlighted the best payment gateways.

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(Image credit: Square)

1. Square

Best merchant service for small retail

Reasons to buy
+Simple one tier pricing model+Available free card reader+No monthly fees

Reasons to avoid
Higher transaction fees

Square offers a merchant service designed to “start selling fast.” It will attract smaller and new businesses with its promises: quick setup, no long term contracts, and no monthly fees, and the service even includes a free mag-stripe reader.

Square offers a robust feature set including being able to send invoices (even from a mobile device) to customers for payment, storing the card information for regular customers, plus support for third-party e-commerce platforms such as Wix and Ecwid. It also boasts the ability to take keyed-in payments directly via the Square Virtual Terminal without a card reader, and an offline mode for those occasions when an internet connection is not available.

Square further offers a variety of card reader hardware, beyond the free mag-stripe reader, such as paid devices that can handle card chips, and NFC payments.

The pricing is simple, with a single tier, and only transaction fees.

Square – versatile merchant services for all
With a Square point of sale system, you’ve the option of choosing between its proprietary hardware (e.g., Square Terminal, Square Register) or directly installing its POS app on your iOS or Android device. You also get a free magstripe reader and further, you can add accessories such as cash drawers or bar code scanners.

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Square – versatile merchant services for all
With a Square point of sale system, you’ve the option of choosing between its proprietary hardware (e.g., Square Terminal, Square Register) or directly installing its POS app on your iOS or Android device. You also get a free magstripe reader and further, you can add accessories such as cash drawers or bar code scanners.

View Deal

(Image credit: PayPal)

2. PayPal

Best merchant service for start-ups

Reasons to buy
+No monthly fees+Best for online transactions+Receive payments from outside the US

Reasons to avoid
Limited POS features

PayPal offers a business version of the ubiquitous online transaction tool, and it claims to be in use with over 17 million firms.

It features the secure transactions that PayPal is known for including fraud protection and risk modeling, a customer service team, and allows a variety of payment methods including mobile and in-store credit cards. Logically, it also provides support for acceptance of PayPal from its 200 million account holders.

The basic service is better suited for a lower volume of transactions, and especially well developed for ecommerce that can only be attractive to online start-ups and small businesses. However, more advanced options include a merchant account and Point of Sale (POS) features and functionality, which may require a monthly fee.

PayPal’s transaction fees are competitive with similar services, though this may not be so true with higher sales volumes.

PayPal – quick and easy card processing
Like all of the best credit card processing companies, PayPal regularly features deals and incentives. Take a look at the latest methods for processing credit and debit card payments, including point of sale, QR codes and a mountain of other small business-friendly options

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PayPal – quick and easy card processing
Like all of the best credit card processing companies, PayPal regularly features deals and incentives. Take a look at the latest methods for processing credit and debit card payments, including point of sale, QR codes and a mountain of other small business-friendly options.

View Deal

(Image credit: QuickBooks)

3. QuickBooks Payments

Merchant services with integrated accounting option

Reasons to buy
+Multiple plans available+Clear pricing+Real-time integration with QuickBooks accounts

Reasons to avoid
POS not so strong on features

QuickBooks Payments is another option worth considering, as the company has expanded from simply providing accounting software to the arena of online payment processing, and now full merchant services.

Options include a card reader for store purchases, phone payments, and online processing. What is especially useful is its direct integration into the QuickBooks accounting software, which means even POS purchases appear immediately in your accounts in real-time.

Charges are provided upfront and are relatively straightforward. There’s a Pay-as-you-Go payment plan with no monthly fee. However, there is also a Pay Monthly subscription option available for desktop users, which reduces card swipe transactions and may especially benefit volume users.

A free card reader is provided at sign-up for taking card payments, but if you’d also like to be able to deal with NFC payments from Apple or Android devices, you will need to buy the all-in-one card reader, though it’s relatively inexpensive.

50% off for 3 months.

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QuickBooks – Accounts and merchant services QuickBooks benefits from having the muscle of Intuit behind it. While there’s the cloud-based convenience of accounting there are merchant services too, depending on what kind of business needs you have. Small and medium-sized businesses will find it comes bristling with lots of features and there’s also 50% off for 3 months.

View Deal

(Image credit: Payline)

4. Payline

A suite of services for the small business

Reasons to buy
+Integrated business loan service+Payments available in 1-2 days+Competitive rates

Payline is a merchant service that promises to make it easy to accept credit card payments, and offers a variety of plans to suit any company’s needs. It offers a variety of services including mobile, online, in-store, enterprise and integrated payments, and also Payline Medical for the healthcare field, and business loans as well.

Payline offers a Payline Gateway, that can be used as a plugin on a business website to accept payments, and also a ‘virtual terminal,’ that is used to manually enter payments received over the phone or through the mail.

Payline offers pricing based on the service. A swipe falls under Payline Start, which has a monthly fee with an additional small charge per transaction, which includes AMEX as well for an additional per transaction fee .

For a keyed-in, or online transaction, Payline Connect is also a monthly subscription, with slightly more expensive transaction fees, with AMEX also included. With Payline Connect there’s a further option for the aforementioned Payment Gateway for an additional monthly fee.

Payline – small business specialist gateway
Payline has packages to suit both small business and enterprise options for bigger concerns. Swiping In-Person 0.2%, $0.20 per transaction / $20 per month. Credit cards not present plan costs 0.4%, $0.20 per transaction / $20 per month. Try the free cost calculator.

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Payline – small business specialist gateway
Payline has packages to suit both small business and enterprise options for bigger concerns. Swiping In-Person 0.2%, $0.20 per transaction / $20 per month. Credit cards not present plan costs 0.4%, $0.20 per transaction / $20 per month. Try the free cost calculator.

View Deal

(Image credit: Stripe)

5. Stripe

A developer-first payments technology platform

Reasons to buy
+Built-in APIs and developer tools +Mobile payments

Reasons to avoid
Tech understanding needed

Stripe is yet another merchant service designed for online and offline businesses, with the company claiming to handle billions of dollars worth of transactions annually. The main difference between this service and many others is that it isn’t an out-of-the-box solution. Instead, you’re provided with a range of flexible tools to customize your own payment processes.

Designed for larger firms, it offers a plethora of APIs that allow you to create your own subscription services, on-demand marketplaces, or crowdfunding platforms. It supports a range of development languages, including Ruby, Python, PHP and Java.

Furthermore, Stripe supports more than a hundred currencies, and offers features such as mobile payments, subscription billing and one-click checkout. Users also get access to a dashboard where they can visualize transactions. Clearly, then, this is a feature-rich payment gateway, although Stripe does demand a lot more technological knowledge from the user than most providers.

Stripe offers a particular advantage to merchants based in Europe, as card processing fees for European cards are 1.4% + a small fee per transaction. For non-European cards processing fees are a more standard 2.9%, plus a small charge per transaction. Additionally, for larger volume needs, it has a customized plan with volume discounts.

current best deals.

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Stripe – easy access card payment processing
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to start processing card payment then Stripe has a range of options. It features a complete payments platform with simple, pay-as-you-go pricing currently set at 2.9% plus 30¢ per successful card charge. Check out Stripe’s current best deals.

View Deal

  • We’ve also showcased the best accounting software for small business and best tax software.
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