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6 Best Virtual Terminals for Credit Card Processing in 2023

Emma Ayres Emma AyresFinance Specialist October 18, 2023
October 18, 2023
Virtual terminals aren’t just for e-commerce and mail-order businesses – they’re also a great option if you don’t have the budget for POS hardware or want to accept multiple payment types remotely.

At least, that’s what good virtual terminals do. The truth is that many virtual terminals only accept keyed-in payments, so you don’t get the payment flexibility you need. Others deliver the basics but not enough to provide a viable alternative to a fully-fledged POS system. Unfortunately, because many credit card processing companies aren’t transparent about the software they offer, it can be hard to research your options before you commit to a lengthy contract.

I’ve researched dozens of payment processors to find the best virtual terminals for credit card processing on the market today. In the end, I discovered that Stax provides the most well-rounded virtual terminal despite offering one of the lowest cost pricing models for high-volume businesses.

Short on Time? These Are the Best Virtual Terminals for Credit Card Processing in 2023

  1. Stax – A proprietary virtual terminal that works seamlessly with the rest of Stax’s exceptional payment software.
  2. Payment Depot – A budget-friendly virtual terminal with industry-leading features.
  3. Leaders Merchant Services – Widely-used virtual terminal with state-of-the-art fraud prevention tools.

See 3 More Great Options | Comparison Table | FAQ

What We Look For in the Best Virtual Terminals for Credit Card Processing

While virtual terminals can be a great tool to have, they’re not all created equal. Here are the key features I looked for during my research.
  • Multiple payment methods. All virtual terminals allow you to take keyed-in payments, but the best ones offer additional payment options like ACH transfers and eChecks, and even the ability to charge stored cards and log cash payments.
  • Competitive pricing. Virtual terminals usually come with an additional monthly fee plus a higher markup and transaction fee for keyed-in payments. Every option on this list has competitive pricing that won’t eat up your budget.
  • Third-party integrations. Integrations make it easy to automate your business’s back office by syncing sales to your accounting software, updating your inventory in real time, and more.
  • Numerous customer support channels. Software tools aren’t infallible, so you need to know that someone’s available to help if things go wrong. Each virtual terminal on this list is covered by a great level of customer support, including documentation and developer tools.

A Note on Virtual Terminal Transaction Fees

Because you’ll have to input card details manually, almost every credit card processor will charge virtual terminal transactions at their card-not-present, or CNP, rate. Because of the increased risk of fraud, this rate is almost always higher than chip-and-pin, swiped, or contactless transactions – even if the customer is present.

If you’re planning to use a virtual terminal for your business, make sure you get an up-to-date fee breakdown before you sign any contracts. This will ensure you can budget accurately for your payment processing bill.

1. Stax: Best Virtual Terminal For Payment Flexibility

Stax’s proprietary virtual terminal does what a lot of similar tools promise (and fail) to deliver – it provides a viable alternative to a physical POS suite. It combines this with up to 40% lower processing fees for high volume businesses and access to a world-class range of other payment tools, making it an easy decision to place Stax at the top of this list.

As well as accepting the standard keyed-in payments, you’ll also be able to process ACH transactions and charge customer cards you have saved in your card vault. Plus, on Stax’s Pro plan and above, you can use the virtual terminal to create payment links that allow customers to pay via Google Pay and Apple Pay.

Stax’s virtual terminal is set up to work seamlessly with the rest of its software tools, too. Whenever you set up a new customer in the virtual terminal, their details will be automatically saved to Stax’s CRM tool for future use. Depending on how you take payments through the virtual terminal, Stax’s software will also automatically update your inventory count, saving you a lot of time on admin tasks.

Features and Benefits

  • Budget-friendly pricing. Stax’s virtual terminal is included in your monthly fee. Plus, Stax’s CNP transaction fees work out to be significantly lower than the competition as it doesn’t charge any markup on wholesale interchange rates.
  • QuickBooks Online Pro sync. With this optional add-on, transactions that run through the virtual terminal will be added to QuickBooks Pro in real time. This means that your payment information, invoices, and products and services will always be up to date.
  • Buy now, pay later schemes. Set up your own “buy now, pay later” schemes via Stax’s virtual terminal. You can set up and send digital invoices and schedule payments on stored cards, giving customers even more flexibility on how they can pay.
  • Third-party integrations. By connecting Stax’s virtual terminal to project management tools like Calendly, you can automate tasks like call scheduling, payment reminders, and more. You can automatically add new customers to your Mailchimp mailing lists, too.
Read more about Stax’s great software in our expert review.

Virtual terminal cost No extra fee
Accepted payment methods
  • Keyed-in cards, stored cards, ACH
  • Apple Pay, Google Pay (Pro plan and above)
Virtual terminal integrations
  • 15+, including QuickBooks Online Pro, Mailchimp, and Asana
  • Custom integrations with developer kit
CNP transaction fees on cheapest plan 0% + 10¢ (online)
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $99.00

2. Payment Depot: Best Value Virtual Terminal

Payment Depot is a great choice for budget-conscious businesses. You can expect the same subscription-style pricing structure as Stax, but with lower monthly fees. It’s ideal for small or growing businesses that need to keep their payment processing costs as low as possible. However, unlike Stax, Payment Depot doesn’t offer proprietary software. Instead, you’ll get the fantastic SwipeSimple virtual terminal.

The SwipeSimple virtual terminal is included in your monthly Payment Depot fee, so you don’t need to worry about additional software costs squeezing your profits. On top of that, you’ll only pay the wholesale interchange rate and a low flat fee on CNP transactions, which makes using a virtual terminal with Payment Depot one of the best value options available.

Plus, if you’re looking to use a virtual terminal to avoid steep POS hardware costs, this credit card processor has you covered. Payment Depot offers a free Dejavoo terminal to all merchants, so you’ll be able to accept cards, Google Pay, and Apple Pay in person. This means you won’t have to use your virtual terminal for in-person transactions, saving you money on the more expensive CNP transaction fees.

Features and Benefits

  • Multiple payment options. SwipeSimple’s virtual terminal allows you to take keyed-in payments and record cash transactions, and you can also charge cards that customers have saved to their account. You can even create scheduled payments, payment plans, and subscriptions on the virtual terminal, making it even more convenient for customers to pay you.
  • Inventory management. The SwipeSimple virtual terminal has an item catalog that’s automatically updated whenever you sell an in-stock item. This helps you to streamline remote transactions by removing the need to manually search your inventory before each sale.
  • Custom discounts. By setting up discounts in your dashboard ahead of time, you can simply select the applicable discount from a dropdown menu when you run a sale – no need to remember discount codes or percentages.
  • Custom tips. In your SwipeSimple settings, you can set up three custom tip amounts. Whenever you send a payment link or invoice via your virtual terminal, customers will see a prompt asking if they want to leave you a tip.
See other ways you can save money in our in-depth Payment Depot review.

Virtual terminal cost No extra fee
Accepted payment methods Keyed-in cards, stored cards, cash
Virtual terminal integrations None, but Payment Depot integrates with 10+ e-commerce platforms, gateways, and accounting tools
CNP transaction fees on cheapest plan 0% + 10¢ (online)
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $79.00

3. Leaders Merchant Services: Best Virtual Terminal for Payment Security

Leaders Merchant Services (LMS) offers the industry-leading Authorize.net virtual terminal, which has some of the best security and fraud detection tools on the market. Not only are LMS and Authorize.net both PCI compliant, but Authorize.net uses state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption to keep all your information safe.

What sets Authorize.net apart from other virtual terminals is its Advanced Fraud Detection Suite (AFDS). This scans incoming transactions for potential fraud based on four filters – transaction size, transaction velocity, IP address, and physical address. Each filter can be customized to suit your business’s specific sales patterns, and you can decide whether you want flagged transactions to be processed, held for manual authorization, or automatically rejected.

This level of security offers a great safety net for high-risk businesses, as it’ll help you to lower your chargeback transactions and keep your fraud rates low. Plus, it’s ideal for taking payments over the phone or online as it can be harder to detect the signs of fraud when the customer isn’t present.

Features and Benefits

  • Competitive rates. LMS’s custom pricing means you only pay for exactly what features you need, giving you access to some of the lowest CNP fees in the industry.
  • Multiple payment methods. The Authorize.net virtual terminal allows you to accept keyed-in cards transactions and ACH transfers, giving your customers more ways to pay.
  • Extensive developer toolkit. If you have access to an experienced software developer, you can extend Authorize.net’s functionality by building custom integrations.
  • Card capture. You don’t need to make a sale to store a customer’s card details in your system. Ideal for service businesses that need to set up new clients in their database, Authorize.net’s virtual terminal allows you to capture card details and store them for later use.
See more great security features in our Leaders Merchant Services review.

Virtual terminal cost $25/month
Accepted payment methods Keyed-in cards, stored cards, ACH transfers
Virtual terminal integrations
  • 140+, including BigCommerce, Recurly, and JotForm
  • Custom integrations with developer kit
CNP transaction fees on cheapest plan ~2.9% + 30¢
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $9.00

4. Flagship Merchant Services: Best Quick-Start Virtual Terminal

With the aforementioned Authorize.net virtual terminal being an industry leader, it’s not surprising that it’s used by Flagship Merchant Services too. With its multiple payment methods, and fantastic security, it complements Flagship’s flexible pricing structure and ability to support small and large businesses alike.

Authorize.net also offers 140+ integrations. Not only can you connect your virtual terminal to popular e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce and BigCommerce, but it also works with industry-specific online booking tools like Clock PMS and Checkfront. Plus, if there aren’t any pre-built integrations that work for you, you can use Authorize.net’s fantastic developer kit to build a custom solution.

On top of that, Flagship can get you set up in less than a day. Its online application process only takes a few minutes, or you can just as easily apply over the phone. You won’t need to wait around for any equipment to be delivered – simply set up your Authorize.net account once you’re approved and you’re ready to start taking payments. Just be aware that Flagship’s pricing isn’t all that transparent – you’ll have to contact customer support for a quote.

Features and Benefits

  • 24/7 support. From helping you set up your virtual terminal to troubleshooting integrations, Flagship has you covered. You’ll get a 24/7 technical support phone line, plus a dedicated business manager during business hours.
  • Fraud detection. Authorize.net offers an advanced fraud detection suite that uses customizable filters. When it detects a suspicious transaction, it will automatically hold it for review or decline it based on your preferences.
  • Same day funding. For an extra fee, Flagship will pay out any received funds on the same day. Otherwise, you can expect to wait two days for money to reach your account.
  • Meet-or-beat guarantee. If you’re in the market for a new processor, it’s worth getting a quote from Flagship. It guarantees to meet or beat your current rates and will give you a $200 gift card if it can’t.
Read our review to see how Flagship can help your business.

Virtual terminal cost $7.95/month
Accepted payment methods Keyed-in cards, stored cards, ACH transfers
Virtual terminal integrations
  • 140+, including BigCommerce, Recurly, and JotForm
  • Custom integrations with developer kit
CNP transaction fees on cheapest plan 1.98% + 0.21¢ (online)
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $7.95

5. Luminous Payments: Best On-The-Go Virtual Terminal

Offering the NMI virtual terminal, Luminous Payments focuses on helping small, local businesses grow. And with NMI’s unique payment technology and Luminous Payments’ free device reprogramming, small businesses can save a ton of money. However, the lack of pricing transparency makes it difficult to weigh this processor up against the competition, so you’ll have to get a quote to see whether it offers good value for your business.

As with most other virtual terminals, NMI’s software allows you to take keyed-in payments, charge cards stored on file, and send digital invoices that allow customers to pay when it’s convenient for them. You can also quickly set up payment links, which gives your customers even more payment methods to choose from.

The thing that sets NMI apart is that it’s one of the few virtual terminals that can accept contactless payments. By downloading the NMI virtual terminal to your Android smartphone, you’ll be able to accept contactless card payments, Google Pay, and Apple Pay.

Features and Benefits

  • Developer toolkit. If you want to extend the functionality of the virtual terminal, you’ll be able to use NMI’s fantastic developer toolkit. This resource contains a ton of documentation, SDKs, and an API library to help you build a custom payment solution. Plus, you can connect your virtual terminal to your POS devices using NMI’s EMV kernel developer toolkit.
  • Recurring billing. Ideal for subscriptions or payment plans, NMI will allow you to easily set up recurring billing schedules.
  • Automatic level 3 processing. NMI will automatically grant the discounted level 3 processing rates to all CNP transactions that qualify, helping B2B businesses save money on virtual terminal processing.
  • Automatic card updater. For an extra monthly fee, NMI will automatically update Visa, Mastercard, and Discover card details stored on file to prevent failed payments. This is a great feature to have if you regularly take automatic payments from your customers.
See how Luminous Payments can help your business in our expert review.

Virtual terminal cost $6/month
Accepted payment methods
  • Keyed-in and stored cards
  • Google Pay, Apple Pay, contactless (via app on Android smartphones)
Virtual terminal integrations
  • 125+ shopping carts including WooCommerce, Wix, and Salesforce
  • Custom integrations with developer kit
CNP transaction fees on cheapest plan 1.9% + 5¢ (qualified)
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $10.00

6. Helcim: Best Virtual Terminal for New Businesses

Helcim is ideal for brand new businesses. With transparent pricing and no monthly fees, plus a virtual terminal that’s available at no extra cost, Helcim has a lot to offer businesses that need room to grow. Its virtual terminal is easy to use and intuitive, making it a good choice for businesses that don’t have a lot of experience with payment processing.

Helcim’s proprietary virtual terminal has everything you’d expect. It lets you take keyed-in transactions and ACH transfers, and you can charge cards that customers have stored on file. You can also easily set up invoices and attach them to your virtual terminal transaction, which can save you time on administrative tasks.

Another option you’ll have is downloading the virtual terminal to your tablet or smartphone for taking payments on the go. Plus, if you need more payment options, you can seamlessly connect one of Helcim’s Bluetooth card readers to extend the virtual terminal’s functionality. Just bear in mind that Helcim’s card readers can’t be reprogrammed to work with another payment processor, and you don’t get any free hardware for signing up.

Features and Benefits

  • Payment links. Helcim’s virtual terminal allows you to request payments from customers via email or text message, making it even more convenient for customers to pay you.
  • Volume-based discounts. Helcim offers discounted pricing for businesses that process over $25,000 each month. This will help you to save money in the long run.
  • Customer portal. Customers can create an account to manage their payment method and invoices. Whenever you create a new invoice, customers will receive an automatic notification, so they’ll never miss an invoice again.
  • Recurring payments. Helcim gives you multiple ways to set up recurring payments in the virtual terminal. You can choose between flat payments, prorated payments, and even free trials, making it easy to build a payment schedule that suits your business.
Read our full Helcim review to see more great features.

Virtual terminal cost No extra fee
Accepted payment methods Keyed-in cards, stored cards, ACH transfers
Virtual terminal integrations
  • 5
  • Custom integrations with developer kit
CNP transaction fees on cheapest plan 0.50% +25¢ (virtual)
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $0

Choosing the Best Virtual Terminal For Credit Card Processing

As companies hunt for budget-friendly options to costly POS equipment, they are more and more leaning towards virtual terminals for processing payments. However, it’s crucial to recognize that every virtual terminal doesn’t offer the same features or ease of use. You should strive to pick a virtual terminal that lets you comfortably receive payments customized to your company’s requirements.

Stax’s virtual terminal is one of the best in the industry. This proprietary virtual terminal is designed to work seamlessly with the rest of Stax’s software tools, making it effortless to set up digital invoices or payment links at the touch of a button.

If you’re looking to keep your costs as low as possible, then take a look at Payment Depot. This processor includes the popular SwipeSimple virtual terminal in your monthly fee, and it’s one of the few virtual terminals that allows you to record cash payments. Plus, with budget-friendly pricing and free hardware, Payment Depot is ideal for businesses on a budget.

Finally, Leaders Merchant Services is ideal if security is your top priority. LMS offers the Authorize.net virtual terminal, which comes with some of the most advanced fraud detection and prevention tools on the market.

Here’s what you need to know about the best virtual terminals on today’s market:
Best Feature Best For Monthly fee on cheapest plan Transaction fees on cheapest plan
Stax Virtual terminal with seamless connection to Stax’s other proprietary software High-volume businesses that need modern payment software $99.00 0% + 10¢ (online)
Payment Depot Virtual terminal included in your monthly fee Budget-conscious businesses $79.00 0% + 10¢ (in-person)
Leaders Merchant Services Industry-leading fraud detection and prevention tools High-risk businesses that need an extra safety net $9.00 ~2.9% + 30¢
Flagship Merchant Services Get set up with the popular Authorize.net virtual terminal within a day Businesses that need to start processing payments quickly $7.95 1.98% + 0.21¢ (online)
Luminous Payments Take contactless payments without needing POS hardware Businesses that want to accept multiple payment methods on a budget $10.00 1.9% + 5¢ (qualified)
Helcim Intuitive virtual terminal that can easily connect with mobile card readers New businesses that lack experience with payment software $0 0.50% +25¢ (virtual)


What is a virtual terminal for processing credit cards?

A virtual terminal is a browser-based application that allows users to accept payments by keying in card information. Certain options, like Stax’s virtual terminal, will also allow you to charge cards stored in a card vault or key in bank information to process ACH transfers. Others, like the NMI virtual terminal offered by Luminous Payments, let you accept additional payment methods like digital wallets without needing any POS hardware.

What is the difference between a virtual terminal and a payment gateway?

A payment gateway is usually used for e-commerce, so it will have a customer-facing interface that allows customers to input their own card information or connect a digital wallet. With a virtual terminal, merchants will have to input customer card information themselves. Some terminals can connect to invoicing software that can generate and send invoices or payment links to customers.

How much does a virtual terminal cost?

This depends on the payment processor – for instance, some subscription-style processors include a virtual terminal in your monthly fee. Most of our top credit card processors in 2023 charge a small monthly fee to use a virtual terminal, but you’ll usually get a free POS device that evens this out. One thing to note is that virtual terminals take “card-not-present (CNP) payments,” so you’ll usually pay a higher per-transaction fee due to the increased risk of fraud.

Is it illegal to take card payments over the phone?

It’s not illegal, but it does come with some increased risks. If you take card payments over the phone, there are more systems involved (such as your telephone line or VOIP provider) that need to be secured against cyber attacks. On top of that, because you cannot see the cardholder and their payment card, it’s difficult to spot signs of fraud. Because of this, it’s best to use a virtual terminal with a payment processor like LMS that offers advanced fraud detection and prevention systems to keep your business safe.

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