Best merchant services of 2018


Small businesses need to understand their customers, and clearly while cash used to be king when it comes to payments, the reality is that it no longer is. In a 2017 survey of over 1000 consumers conducted by TSYS, 45% preferred debit cards, 33% go with debit cards, and paying with cash is in a distant third place at 12%.

Therefore for a business to keep its competitive edge, you need to offer the options for payment that your customers prefer, and that is debit and credit cards. 

As a business, accepting cards for payment is streamlined by setting up a merchant account. A merchant account acts as an intermediary to navigate the complexities of payment processing, and ensures that you receive funds as quickly as possible, and helps avoid your business being the victim of a scam. 

Let’s take a look at the best merchant services available to bring your business up to speed to accept payments. 

1. Payline

A suite of services for the small business

Choice of two plans

Integrated business loan service

Payments available in 1-2 days

Monthly and transaction fees

Payline is a merchant service that promises to make it easy to accept credit card payments, and offers a variety of plans to suit each businesses needs. They offer a variety of services including mobile, online, in-store, enterprise and integrated payments, and also offers 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 two plans. The lower tier is Payline Start, which has a $5 (£4) monthly fee with an additional 0.5% per transaction (+0.8% for AMEX). Their higher tier, Payline Shop is $9.95 (£7) monthly, with a less expensive 0.3% per transaction, although AMEX still commands the higher 0.8% fee. 

2. Payment Depot

Become a member in the wholesale merchant service plan

Higher plans include equipment

Fixed transaction fees

Higher upfront monthly cost

Payment Depot allows the small business owner to become a member, and then offers wholesale rates to its club of members. For the monthly fee, the higher plans even include credit card reading equipment. Payment Depot is trusted by such notable businesses as Subway, Sprint and Domino’s Pizza. 

The lowest tier is the Basic plan that is $49 (£37) monthly, with a fixed $0.15 (£0.11) transaction fee, and covers up to $25,000 in transactions monthly making it ideal for a smaller business. There are also three higher plans, each with a more expensive monthly fee, but with a lower transaction fee, and a higher monthly transaction limit. 

Flagship Merchant Services

3. Flagship Merchant Services

Included credit card reader

Monthly contract for stable pricing

Higher cost provider

Flagship Merchant Services is a full service provider. It offers a month to month contract that can be canceled at any time. In addition, each account includes a dedicated account representative, and online reports that can be imported into accounting software. For bricks and mortar retail the firm offers a free credit reader, and for online transactions it includes shopping card setup for your business website.

Signup is fast, and you can be accepting credit card payments within 24 hours, and there are no cancellation fees. Final rates require a quote, which is based on a tiered pricing structure. The rates start at 0.38% plus $0.19 (£0.14) for each transaction in addition to the monthly fee. 

4. PayPal Merchant Services

A solution from the household name in online transactions

No monthly fees

Integrates in acceptance of PayPal

Receive payments from outside the US

Higher cost provider

PayPal Merchant Services is the business version of the ubiquitous online transaction tool. It features 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 the 200 million account holders. 

The service is better suited for a lower volume of transactions. This is because the fee structure does not require a monthly charge, and there are no long term contracts. However, the cost is 2.9% and $0.30 (£0.22) for an online payment, and 2.7% per US swipe, with a higher cost for keyed sales. PayPal Merchant Services is also notable that it can accept non-US payments, although at a cost higher than 4% making this a costly solution to use routinely. 

Square Payments Processing

5. Square Payments Processing

The merchant service for the startup business

Simple one tier pricing model

Available free card reader

No monthly fees

Higher transaction fees

Square Payments Processing is a merchant service designed to accept “every payment.” It will attract smaller and new businesses starting out with its promise of quick setup, no long term contracts and no monthly fees.

Additional features include being able to send invoices (even from a mobile device) to customers for payment, storing the card information for regular customers, support for third-party eCommerce platforms such as Wix and Ecwid, the ability to take key-in payments directly via the Square Virtual Terminal without a card reader, and an offline mode for those occasions where an Internet connection is not available.

Square also offers a variety of card reader hardware, including a free model that can only read magstripes on cards, and paid devices that can handle card chips, and NFC payments.  

The pricing is simple, with a single tier, and only transaction fees. For a “swipe, dip or tap,” the cost is a fixed 2.75%, and invoices or eCommerce payments are slightly higher at 2.9% plus $0.30 (£0.22) per transaction. 



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