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10 Best Merchant Services for Small Businesses in 2024

Stephen Wright Stephen WrightFinance Specialist June 12, 2024
June 12, 2024
While looking for the best merchant services for your small business, you’ll run into enticing offers that include low rates and affordable merchant account fees. Yet, once you’ve signed up, you’ll discover complex fee structures that aren’t compatible with the pressures facing small businesses – and it will cost you more in the long run.

Every small business is different, requiring specific features like instant payouts, month-to-month contracts, or standardized equipment. Because of this, I tested dozens of merchant services for small businesses on their features, ease of use, pricing, and customer support to help you make the right decision for your business’s needs.

Leaders Merchant Services (LMS) stood out as the best payment processor for small businesses. Its industry-low rates and minimal fees are easy to understand, and there are no surprises, which makes it easy to calculate exactly how much you’ll spend.

Continue reading to discover how other merchant services compare to LMS and whether they could be the right choice for your small business.

Short on Time? These Are the Best Merchant Services for Small Businesses in 2024

  1. Leaders Merchant Services1 – Industry-low rates, negotiable pricing, and free hardware for cost-conscious SMBs.
  2. Paysafe1 – Zero-cost processing and a dedicated risk management team help cut merchant account fees.
  3. Payment Depot1 – No markups and a competitive interchange+ plan save SMBs on processing fees.

See 7 More Great Options | Comparison Table

What We Look For in the Best Merchant Services

When choosing the best merchant services for small businesses, it’s essential to focus on features that maximize efficiency and minimize costs. Here’s what to look for:
  • Low and negotiable rates. Finding a payment processor that offers low and negotiable rates helps to keep operating costs down. Plus, as your business grows, inadequate rates could take a greater bite out of your profits.
  • Zero-cost and interchange-plus pricing. You need to have options that minimize transaction fees. Zero-cost processing can offset 100% of your fees, while interchange-plus offers transparency and potentially lower costs for high-volume SMEs.
  • Limited account or hidden fees. Merchant services with numerous hidden fees can increase your costs, especially if you operate in a high-risk industry. You need to know exactly how much you’re paying and where you can cut costs if required.
  • No long-term contracts. Opting for a service without long-term contracts means you can change providers if your needs evolve without facing hefty cancellation fees.
  • Free or discounted equipment. Merchant services that offer free or discounted equipment are essential for startups and recently established SMEs, allowing you to start taking payments without a significant upfront investment.

Leaders Merchant Services (LMS) stands out by offering industry-low rates starting at a mere ~0.15% + $0 for swiped card transactions, which could substantially lower your overhead costs​. LMS also has negotiable pricing, allowing you to lower your costs further. You can also negotiate your contract terms and end up with a month-to-month contract with no exit fees.

LMS’ complimentary POS hardware are excellent options for cash-strapped small businesses. Although you’ll need to contact its sales team for specifics, you may be able to get top-tier hardware for free – as LMS is an official Clover and SwipeSimple provider. Better yet, with the SwipeSimple mobile app, you can use your mobile device to accept card payments with no hardware required.

Features and Benefits

  • Dedicated account manager. By assigning a personal account manager to every merchant, LMS ensures personalized support tailored to your small business needs.
  • $200 Meet or Beat policy. LMS promises that it can make an offer that meets or beats your current rates. If LMS’ promise isn’t met, you’ll receive $200.
  • Merchant cash advances. If your small business requires capital but doesn’t have the resources to put up collateral, you can get a cash advance from LMS and pay it back through a small commission on future sales.
  • 98% approval rate. Regardless of your credit score, transaction history, industry, or perceived risk, LMS’ high approval rate ensures that nearly any small business can access merchant services. Better yet, you can get accepted in under 24 hours.
Read our expert LMS review for more details.

High approval rate
Accepts in-person &
online payments
Quick payouts
Transaction fees on
cheapest plan
~0.15% + $0
Monthly fee on cheapest
plan
$9.00

Paysafe is great for small businesses processing in-person transactions due to its cash discount (zero-cost) plan. By pushing transaction fees onto the customers paying with cards and encouraging cash transactions, Paysafe allows you to cut almost 100% of your processing fees. The only fee you can expect is the plan’s subscription cost of $16.00/month, which is low compared to what many businesses pay in monthly processing fees.

Paysafe has a dedicated risk management team that employs robust security measures. It flags and blocks suspicious transactions and enforces address verification, end-to-end encryption, and tokenization. In doing so, Paysafe protects your customer’s credit card information while minimizing the chances of chargebacks, sparing you the cost of chargeback fees.

Features and Benefits

  • 260 payment methods. Paysafe supports an extensive range of over 260 payment methods, allowing your small business to cater to all customers, regardless of their preferred payment method. This is also great if you have online customers from other countries.
  • Enhanced security package. In addition to its built-in advanced security features, like BIN/IP checking, Paysafe allows you to purchase an insurance policy that protects you against the financial losses of a potential data breach.
  • All-in-one dashboard. It lets you take orders through a virtual terminal, view your transaction history, generate reports, process refunds, and access real-time insights.
  • MobilePay. Paysafe’s mobile app allows you to use your phone or tablet to easily accept credit and debit card payments, which is great if you want to save on the cost of paying for hardware.
Discover more by reading our in-depth Paysafe review.

High approval rate
Accepts in-person &
online payments
Quick payouts
Transaction fees on
cheapest plan
$0 (1%-4% surcharge to customers)
Monthly fee on cheapest
plan
$16.00
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Payment Depot is a great option for SMEs due to its competitively priced interchange-plus pricing plan. With no monthly fees or markups, you can expect to pay between 0.2%-1.95% per transaction if you process up to $150,000 annually. Or, you can try a subscription plan that starts at $79.00 a month and doesn’t mark up transaction fees – which can save you up to 40% in processing fees if you process at least $8,000 a month

For online payments, Payment Depot allows you to automatically verify a customer’s information. Payer authentication is an excellent feature for high-risk SMEs, giving you an extra layer of security. Plus, you get peace of mind knowing that your small business is less susceptible to chargebacks and excessive chargeback fees.

Features and Benefits

  • 24/7 support. Round-the-clock customer support ensures that any issues you encounter are quickly resolved. You can contact Payment Depot’s technical support team via phone or ticket.
  • Next-day funding. With next-day funding included free of charge, your small business enjoys faster access to capital and improved cash flow. Most other merchant services charge extra for next-day funding.
  • Free equipment. Every merchant receives a free Dejavoo terminal or mobile card reader, allowing you to start processing payments as quickly as possible. Better yet, you can negotiate multiple free terminals if required.
  • Risk monitoring team. A dedicated risk monitoring team is there 24/7 to actively safeguard your transactions, helping to prevent fraud and the likelihood of chargebacks.
Read our comprehensive Payment Depot review to find out more.

High approval rate
Accepts in-person &
online payments
Quick payouts
Transaction fees on
cheapest plan
0.2%-1.95%
Monthly fee on cheapest
plan
$0

Chase Payment Solutions is an attractive option for small businesses keen on transparent pricing. Its flat-rate pricing eliminates surprises, with rates ranging from 2.6% + 10¢ for card-present transactions to 3.5% + 10¢ for keyed-in transactions. Notably, Chase promises no monthly cancellation, software, or PCI compliance fees.

However, while the pricing is transparent, it’s also on the higher end. Chase only offers five POS systems for purchase, with no free equipment available​​. One of those options is the Chase Smart Terminal, which is modern but pricey and may be hard to use with other payment processors if you ever switch. You also may not be able to use certain other card readers, like Clover systems, with Chase.

Features and Benefits

  • E-commerce integrations. Chase offers robust e-commerce integrations with platforms like BigCommerce, making it easier to streamline payment processing and enhance your customer’s experience.
  • Chase Customer Insights. Chase provides valuable analytics into your card sales and customer behavior. It will even help you understand how your target customers shop at competing businesses.
  • Chase Business Bank Account. Opening a Chase bank account allows you to get same-day funding for free. Although the account requires a monthly fee, you can waive the fee by meeting a minimum balance. Having this account also lets you take payments via your iPhone.
  • Payment gateway. Chase allows you to use Authorize.Net, a trusted payment gateway for online payments. It includes access to 13 configurable fraud detection and monitoring filters that cover categories like location and payer verification.
Take a look at our in-depth Chase review for more information.

High approval rate
Accepts in-person &
online payments
Quick payouts
Transaction fees on
cheapest plan
2.6% + 10¢
Monthly fee on cheapest
plan
N/A

5. Sekure Payment Experts: Free Hardware and Same-Day Funding for Startup SMEs1

Sekure Payment Experts uses a large network of partners to provide custom solutions, so it can offer free POS equipment, virtual terminals, and same-day funding. You’ll get access to all three regardless of the plan you choose, whether that be its interchange-plus for 2.99% + 19¢ (in-person & online), flat-rate for 3.5% + 19¢ (in-person & online), or zero-cost processing plan ($39.95/month). Examples of free equipment include Chargezoom and Payanywhere.

Sekure’s PCI Plus program allows small businesses to skip the questionnaires, scans, and fees associated with PCI compliance – saving you both money and time. The program is free for “qualified merchants,” but you’ll need to contact its sales team to see if the term applies to you.

Features and Benefits

  • Personalized savings analysis. Before opening a merchant account, Sekure can analyze one of your monthly statements to help identify overpayments and reduce costs.
  • Comprehensive onboarding. An in-depth walkthrough of its features and tools ensures you understand how to utilize Sekure’s services from day one.
  • Breach forgiveness. If you are part of the PCI Plus program and your business is classified as PCI Level 3 or 4, Sekure will reimburse any breach-related costs up to $100,000.
  • Dedicated chargeback team. Sekure’s chargeback team is dedicated to resolving disputes and reducing the potential impact of chargebacks.
To find out more, read our extensive Sekure review.

High approval rate
Accepts in-person &
online payments
Quick payouts
Transaction fees on
cheapest plan
0% (4% passed to customer)
Monthly fee on cheapest
plan
$39.95

6. Square: Instant Payouts With a Square Checking Account1

Square has simple and transparent flat-rate pricing, with different plans for online or retail small businesses. Its starting plans don’t have monthly fees and have transaction fees of 2.5% + 10¢. Most merchants can also get a free mobile card reader too.

One great optional feature is Square’s checking account. Square’s FDIC-insured business checking account is ideal for low-volume small businesses as it provides instant access to your funds. Signing up takes a few minutes, and there’s no paperwork, credit check, or fees to worry about.

Unfortunately, Square’s account is best suited to low-risk businesses due to its handling of suspicious payments. The onboarding process is quick and easy regardless of your risk level, but customer reviews complain of accounts unexpectedly being frozen or even closed.

Features and Benefits

  • Same-day approval. Your merchant account will be approved within 24 hours, meaning you can start processing payments and generating revenue almost immediately.
  • Advanced business software. Square’s app marketplace allows you to integrate with many common platforms, such as the website builders Wix and GoDaddy or the account software tools Xero and KashFlow.
  • Numerous payment methods. You can accept various payment methods, including any US-issued and most internationally-issued magstripe or chip cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, After Pay, and more.
  • E-commerce tools. Square lets you sell products without a website using QR codes and buy buttons or create and launch an online store for free using Square Online.
Explore our expert Square review to learn more.

High approval rate
Accepts in-person &
online payments
Quick payouts
Transaction fees on
cheapest plan
2.5% + 10¢
Monthly fee on cheapest
plan
$89.00

Other Notable Merchant Services for Small Businesses

7. Helcim1

Helcim targets small online businesses by offering a fully hosted e-commerce platform, affordable card readers, and support for recurring payments. It offers two tiers: one for merchants processing up to $25,000/month and one for those processing more. The first plan’s fees are around 0.30% + 8¢ (in-person), while the latter has discounted markup and transaction fees.

Unfortunately, Helcim offers no options for same or even next-day payouts, taking at least 2 business days. Plus, if you accept ACH or EFT bank transfers, expect to wait 3 business days to set up and authorize new customers and 4 business days to receive the payment. Payment Depot or Chase Payment Solutions are better alternatives for SMEs requiring same or next-day payouts.

8. POS Pros1

POS Pros is well-suited for small brick-and-mortar businesses looking for cost-effective processing and top-quality POS hardware. When you open a merchant account with POS Pros, you can choose from over 25 POS systems. Although only select terminals are free, you can get a Clover Mini or Clover Flex for free – saving you hundreds of dollars while giving you access to specialized inventory or staff management software.

Despite offering a cash discount plan with no transaction fees, POS Pros is not the best choice for online businesses due to above-average transaction fees on its interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans. You can expect to pay 0.30% + 10¢ (in-person) per transaction on both its interchange-plus and tiered pricing plans in addition to $5.00/month.

9. PaymentCloud1

PaymentCloud is geared towards high-risk SMEs, offering high-risk merchants rates around Around 3.95% + 15¢. Its tiered pricing structure also caters to mid-risk and low-risk business profiles, with rates ranging from Around 2.1% + 15¢ to Around 2.7% + 15¢. No matter your risk profile, all of its plans are available for $14.00/month, making it a good choice for SMEs operating in industries more susceptible to chargebacks and fraudulent activity.

However, merchants should be wary of several hidden costs associated with a PaymentCloud account. Most contracts last two years and include an early cancellation fee of $495, while using the Authorize.Net payment gateway incurs a fee of $19.95/month. As a result, high-risk SMEs running an e-commerce store may save more with other processors on this list.

10. Stax1

Stax is a decent option for small businesses. It offers an all-in-one payment processing solution that streamlines your business’ operations. Integrations with business management tools like Zapier and QuickBooks, along with advanced analytics software, allow you to run your business from anywhere and make data-backed decisions.

However, due to its subscription-based pricing model, Stax may not be as cost-effective for low-volume businesses. Stax’s benefits primarily appear for businesses processing over $8,000/month. For businesses that don’t process such volumes, Payment Depot (a Stax subsidiary) will be the best alternative as it offers tailored services to low-volume SMEs.

These Are the Best Merchant Services for Small Businesses

Every small business has unique needs, making it essential to find a merchant service that aligns with your specific requirements. Whether you prioritize transparency, free hardware, or specialized services, there’s a solution tailored for you.

Leaders Merchant Services is my top recommendation1 if you’re an SMB looking for industry-low rates and negotiable pricing. It also gives you complimentary equipment and a dedicated account manager to help you make the most of its payment processing services.

For small businesses processing primarily in-person transactions, Paysafe is great due to its zero-cost plan1. In addition, you get access to a dedicated risk management team that can help reduce the risk of fraud and chargebacks.

Or, if your small business processes less than $150,000 a year, Payment Depot is the best option1. It offers transaction fees with no markups and online payer verification, so you don’t have to worry about fraudulent activity.

Here’s a quick comparison of my top merchant service picks for small businesses:
Best Feature Best For Monthly fee
on cheapest
plan
Transaction
fees on
cheapest
plan
Leaders
Merchant
Services
Industry-low
rates and negotiable
pricing
Recently
established
SMEs on a
budget
$9.00 ~0.15% + $0
Paysafe Zero-cost
processing plan
and a dedicated
risk
management team
Small
brick-and-mortar
businesses
processing cash
transactions
$16.00 $0 (1%-4% surcharge to customers)
Payment
Depot
No markups or
monthly fees
Small
businesses
processing less
than
$150,000/year
$0 0.2%-1.95%
Chase
Payment
Solutions
No hidden fees
on its simplified
flat-rate plan
SMEs prioritizing
transparent
pricing
N/A 2.6% + 10¢
Sekure
Payment
Experts
Free hardware,
virtual terminal,
and same-day
funding
Startup SMEs
looking for free
PCI-compliant
equipment
$39.95 0% (4% passed to customer)
Square Instant payouts
through its
checking
account
Low-volume
small businesses
with limited
access to capital
$89.00 2.5% + 10¢

FAQ

Which merchant service is best?

The best merchant service for small businesses depends on your business’s unique needs. However, there are standout features that tip the scales. Leaders Merchant Services is a great choice for new small businesses on a tight budget due to its industry-low rates and negotiable pricing. For brick-and-mortar SMEs, I recommend Paysafe because of its zero-cost processing plan.

What’s the cheapest way to take card payments?

For small businesses, the cheapest way to take card payments is through a credit card reader or POS terminal due to the increased transaction fees associated with online payments. For free equipment, I suggest Leaders Merchant Services. You get access to top-tier brands like SwipeSimple and can even use its free mobile app to accept payments – no hardware required.

What is the cheapest payment system for small businesses?

Aside from Leaders Merchant Services, Payment Depot is a great option for small businesses processing less than $150,000/year. You can save money in the long run with no monthly fees or markups and access to a free Dejavoo terminal.

How much should I be paying for merchant services?

How much you pay for merchant services depends on the processor you choose, the types of payments you accept, where you accept payments, and what additional features you’re utilizing. You can check out our guide to the best credit card processors in 2024 for an overview of what to prioritize in merchant services.

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