Best Merchant Services Providers to Take Your Business to the Next Level

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In 2021, it’s necessary for your business to be able to accept credit card payments. This means that your business needs to register with one of the best merchant services providers. These types of companies come along with a credit card processor. 

Merchant services providers are the official middlemen between you and the credit card companies’ banks, letting you accept and process these payments. Irrespective of the type of business you own and the type of hardware you use in operating your business, having a merchant account is essential.

There are various types of merchant accounts you can choose for your business, such as high-risk, local, direct, and offshore. Also, there are different types of the best merchant services providers that offer great accounts like payment gateways, check guarantee services and cash advances.

If you’re confused by the whole topic, do not fret. In this article, I’ll give you everything you need to know about the best merchant services providers and credit card processing services including some of the best merchant account services available on the market along with the fees and additional services available. 

1. Payment Cloud

A great solution for high-risk businesses

PaymentCloud, one of the best merchant services providers for small businesses, provides a 98% approval rating, gateway setup, free cost comparison, and account setup, especially for those in high-risk industries.

Such companies include tobacco companies, debt consolidation, e-commerce, transport services, and diet programs. Its system can work well with EMV, NFC, swipe, and contactless payments. This enables every type of merchant to use it. 

Merchants applaud PaymentCloud’s flexible user policies. Policies such as no setup fees, no cancellation fees, and next-day payments make it a common choice amongst merchants. It also provides expert same-day setup, and live tech support for those who might have one issue or the other. 

Finally, PaymentCloud supports many other types of business applications, such as BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, WordPress Woo, Magento, and lots more. That’s why it is one of the top payment processors for businesses that aim to have a simple, one-dashboard platform for all of their business needs.


  • No application or setup fees
  • Excellent for high-risk industries
  • Loads of integrations


  • No free hardware
  • Need to call for pricing quote


  • On average 0.30%

Contract length

  • Varies based on company

2. Leaders

Industry-leading credit card processor with value-added services

Leaders is one of the best merchant services providers in the industry and has been in business for 20 years. It is a subsidiary of the trusted Paysafe Group Subsidiary. It offers its customers lots of reasons to love it, as it provides some of the best credit card processing rates available. I’m talking about rates starting at only 0.15%. 

Additionally, Leaders has a 98% approval rating, therefore if you have a hard time getting approved, Leaders is a great option you should check out. 

To add to that, Leaders has a strong $500 Assurance guarantee. This means that if within the first six months of your contract, the company can’t save you money, you will receive $500 as compensation.

Leaders works with the credible Clover point of sale system, and it also works well with QuickBooks. New small and medium-sized enterprises will find the glossary of terms very helpful, and 24/7/365 customer support is excellent and prompt in responding to any issues. 

Also, Leaders provides value-added services, including loyalty programs, business cash advances, check guarantee services, gift cards, and point of sale systems.


  • $500 Assurance Program 
  • Integrates with QuickBooks
  • Rates starting at 0.15%


  • Long contract terms
  • Pricey early termination fee


  • From 0.15%

Contract length

  • 3 years

3. Flagship

Solid reputation of merchant services excellence

The best merchant services providers for small businesses have basically the same type of options needed for your online store. That’s what Flagship has its focus on. It has been voted as the top merchant account service for eight consecutive years. Flagship provides payment solutions for all business types: in-store, online, MOTO, mobile. 

Also, it has payment options including Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, EMV, and NFC. So, Flagship is also one of the best mobile credit card processing solutions available. It offers no-commitment contracts and also zero cancellation fees.

Flagship allows businesses to select a free hardware option from either the Clover Mini point of sale system or the EMV certified terminal when you register for a merchant account. You can equally receive merchant cash advances up to $150,000, same-day funding, and a strong business management dashboard where you can handle all of your merchant services digitally. 

Finally, Flagship offers a processing rate guarantee. This means that you’ll receive a $200 AmEx gift card as compensation if the company can’t provide the lowest total processing costs.


  • Excellent reputation
  • Lowest rates guarantee
  • Month-to-month contracts


  • No pricing info on the site
  • Restocking fee applied to returns


  • From 0.35%

Contract length

  • Monthly


Fast approval and funding for faster processing

This is yet another Paysafe Group subsidiary and one of the best merchant services providers in the industry. However, runs its own operations through free equipment programs, easy online applications, and, most of all, same-day deposits with its same-day funding program. also offers same-day approval. So, businesses can start taking all types of payments immediately, including DMV, NFC, and contactless payments.

If you have any problems, you can contact its technical support at any time of day or night using the toll-free number. Also, you can get a free quote for payment processing and merchant services. does not offer long-term contracts and has zero cancellation fees. This makes it one of the best credit card processing companies for enterprises that do not know which credit card processing company to go for.


  • No long-term contracts
  • Same-day approval
  • Same-day funding


  • Not locked into a monthly fee (so it can increase)
  • Rates can get expensive for large sales volume


  • From 0.35%

Contract length

  • Monthly

5. ProMerchant

No-commitment, credit card processing services

If you’re in search of one of the best merchant services providers for your small business, then ProMerchant is a good option for you. This is due to its month-to-month contracts and zero cancellation or setup fees.

Therefore, you can try it out without any form of payment. Also, ProMerchant equally provides new businesses with a free EMV terminal after their registration.

Businesses can pick either interchange plus fixed percentage rates and transaction fees, or interchange plus flat monthly charges and transaction fees.

With this choice, merchants can choose the type of plan that best suits their revenue style. And since its contracts are on monthly basis, you can always change (it is great for seasonal businesses). 

ProMerchant provides same-day approval, and within 72 hours of your initial contact. And to add to that, you will receive the same rate structure for American Express as you can for Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. This proves that ProMerchant is one of the best online payment processor options in the market.


  • Month-to-month contracts
  • No public complaints
  • Fast, same-day approval


  • Not clear about leasing/selling equipment
  • Not the cheapest processor


  • From 0.50%

Contract length

  • Monthly

6. Cardconnect Paradise

Secure, feature-rich payment processing provider

CardConnect Paradise is part of the First Data company and is supported by Wells Fargo Bank, so you are sure that you’re working with one of the best merchant services providers. It also provides some of the strongest security features in the country, such as P2PE, tokenization, and total PCI compliance.

Therefore, it is one of the best credit card processing services for businesses that are interested in having secure financial transactions. 

When it comes to merchant services and payment processing, CardConnect Paradise works with e-commerce, mobile retail, MOTO, B2B, enterprise-level, and just about any type of business.

Merchants can handle credit card and debit card payment processing, including POS equipment integrations, virtual terminal processing, and mobile phone processing. 

CardConnect Paradise equally provides excellent mobile optimization, reporting features, and automatic reconciliation. This is why it is one of the most complete merchant services providers in the country.


  • Lots of value-added services and features
  • Strong security features
  • Interchange plus pricing structure


  • Long, multi-year contracts
  • Very high termination fees


  • Varies based on services required

Contract length

  • Multi-year

7. FiveStars

Credit card processing integrated with a rewards program

This is not just a credit card processing company, it is one of the best merchant services providers in the industry.

FiveStars allows small businesses that have physical locations to take advantage of payments in driving participation in various loyalty programs. Through this means, a customer database can be built for hyper-targeted marketing campaigns.

FiveStars promises that it will match any rate offered by any other company. It has no hidden fees and can work well with your current POS system.

FiveStars is an excellent all-inclusive payments platform that is useful for retaining your customers. Therefore it is excellent for small and local businesses in various sectors such as retail, salon and spa, and food.


  • Integrated customer retention tools
  • Will match any rate
  • Integrates with your current POS


  • For brick and mortar stores only
  • Can’t purchase FiveStars Payments as a standalone service


  • Starts from $279 per month

Contract length

  • Varies

8. Square

Fast, dependable, affordable mobile processing

Square has completely changed the industry since it introduced a mobile, affordable, and convenient POS system even for small businesses. Since then, it has emerged as one of the best merchant services providers, as it constantly makes additions and improvements.

Its latest improvement has earned Square the title of the best mobile credit card processing option in the industry. 

Square has proven to be a great choice for businesses due to its credit card processor that is capable of processing all types of payments, including EMV chip cards and contactless payment options such as NFC and e-wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

This was done through the packaging of this handy reader into a pocket-sized and surprisingly powerful piece of hardware.

It provides a credit card processor that has a flat rate for both dip and tap transactions, has zero additional fees, a wireless connection, and can process payments in about two seconds.

The dock lets you keep the Square reader on your countertop, and it can also come with you easily wherever you go. Also, you will receive a free magstripe reader just in case.


  • Extremely compact, mobile design
  • Flat rate fees and no additional fees
  • Fast processing


  • Not a good fit for high-risk industries
  • Merchant services are limited


  • 2.6%+$0.10

Contract length

  • Per transaction (no-contract)

9. Chase for Business

A name trusted for decades for secure financing

If you’re talking about reputation and credibility, you can’t get much better than Chase for Business. It is easily one of the best merchant services providers in the world as it processes a jaw-dropping $1+ trillion every year.

Chase for Business provides wonderful solutions for every business size, from new startups to some of the largest companies around the world. It offers secure transactions as it has in-built fraud protection features, next-day funding, and 24/7 customer service. 

This company also gives businesses the ability to process payments online, in person, or over the phone. Therefore, merchants can accept magnetic stripe cards, contactless card payments, EMV chip, mobile payments, and PIN debit card transactions all from one terminal.

Chase for Business equally provides virtual terminals for web-based payment options and flexible processing solutions for its customers that have online stores.


  • Next-day funding
  • No long-term contracts or monthly fees
  • Large direct processor


  • Doesn’t process NFC payments
  • Free hardware comes with a long-term contract


  • 2.6% discount rate+$0/10

Contract length

  • Monthly

10. First Data

Data-driven processing and merchant services

Although First Data works with every type of company, this company is one of the best merchant services providers for small business services. This is due to the fact that it wants to give small and medium-sized enterprises excellent business tools aimed at helping them grow their services and getting the most out of all aspects of their business. 

Features like real-time analytics, insights, and reporting, and built-in loyalty programs and gift cards all assist smaller merchants in appearing to be a big enterprise. 

First Data also integrates the reputable Clover point of sale system. You can pick from the full Clover Station, the Clover Flex, the Clover Mini, and the Clover Go, depending on what you want for your business. First Data equally provides merchant services, such as check acceptance, cash advances, and business insights. Finally, it also offers industry-grade data security. 


  • Excellent real-time analytics
  • Wide range of merchant services
  • Competitive rates and interchange + pricing


  • Have to lease equipment
  • Pricey extras fees


  • Varies based on customer needs

Contract length

  • Monthly, 1-5 year contracts

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What are merchant services?

Merchant services is a general term used to refer to merchant processing services that provide businesses with the ability to accept payments using a customer’s credit card. The transaction is actually facilitated by the merchant services provider (MSP) while maintaining the security requirements. 

Merchant services providers are equally known as credit card processors (CCP). They are the middlemen between your business and your customer’s credit or debit card account.

This is how it works:

  • A customer has to swipe their credit card or enter their credit card details to buy something from your store.
  • Your point of sale software will send the information to your chosen merchant services provider.
  • The merchant services provider will reach out to the customer’s credit card provider to know if they have enough credit to pay for what they bought.
  • The credit card provider contacts the customer’s bank, and then (hopefully) gives the merchant services provider a reply approving the transaction.
  • The merchant services provider will then complete the transaction and sends a receipt to you for the customer.

2. What is the best credit card processing company for a small business?

It’s not uncommon for people to pay using their credit cards these days. Therefore when you have credit card processing facilities, you’re ultimately boosting your revenue.

Small businesses can go for a conventional credit card reader, online credit card processing, or a mobile credit card processor that can work with a smartphone or tablet.

If you make a lot of face-to-face sales, then conventional card readers are the best. However, if a majority of your credit card transactions happen online, then you should go for an online credit card processor and payment gateway.

For sole traders and mobile businesses, such as electricians or entertainers, a mobile credit card processor that integrates with their smartphone is the best option. 

Since every business is different and unique, there is no one credit card processor that would be the best for everyone.

What would be best for a large retail store with lots of branches will not be the best for a small online store. With that being said, these are some indicators to look for that will help you in choosing the best credit card processors for your business:

  • An experienced credit card processor that serves your sector.
  • A credit card processor that can take care of all your needs at once. For instance, if you have both a physical and an online store, you should look for a merchant services provider that processes both face-to-face and online transactions. 
  • Hidden fees. Lots of companies use the ‘bait and switch’ method. This is where the price that is advertised doesn’t include all of the real costs. 
  • You should compare fees carefully. This is due to the fact that the pricing models are hardly different, so it can be tough to compare similar things. A merchant services provider that appears to offer fair pricing at first glance might actually cost more in the long run because of its pricing model.
  • You should note the minimum monthly transaction amount and be sure that you can meet up with it. 
  • Also, know whether the rates are going up or down depending on your volume of sales. If you have lots of transactions, then you need a credit card processor that lowers its fee as your sales increase. However, if you only make few high-value sales every month, then you need the lowest fees to apply to the lowest sales volume.

3. Merchant services fees and rates 

It can be difficult to understand the fees and rates for the best merchant services providers. It appears as if each merchant services provider makes use of a different pricing system and has a different method of calculating your fees. And this makes it tough to compare one merchant services provider to the other.

These are the major fees and rates you should take note of:

Interchange fees: They are the highest fees you will pay. Interchange fees are mostly a percentage of each transaction plus a flat fee. For example, 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction. When there are uncommon transactions such as foreign currency transactions, the interchange fees will be higher.

Assessment fees: They are usually a percentage of the estimate of your monthly sales volume. For example, 0.1% of sales up to 1,000 sales, then 0.11% of the next 1,000 sales, and so on.

Terminal fees: Terminal fees are the cost of giving out a physical payment terminal for your store. This means that terminal fees do not apply to online stores. These fees can get up to thousands of dollars, so my advice is that you should buy a terminal altogether to avoid this extra charge.

A monthly or annual service charge: Although not all merchant services providers charge this fee, it’s necessary to know so you can look out for it.

Payment gateway fees: Payment gateway fees are applicable to only people who have online stores. These fees are the cost of your online point of sale (POS) software, which is your digital payment terminal.

Monthly minimum fee: There is a monthly minimum fee you have to pay if you don’t make a certain minimum amount of transactions each year.


Now that you know about and understand what merchant services providers are all about, you are in a better position to review them and find out the best one for the kind of business you run. 

A quick recap: if you have a high-risk business and you’re looking for a payment solution, Payment Cloud is the best option. If you want a company with fast approval rates, then you should choose And if your main focus is security, Chase for Business is the best option for you.