The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers

Offshore Merchant Account Providers

Ordinary payment processing is complicated. But finding good offshore, international, or high-risk payment solutions can be a real nightmare. If you fall into one of these categories, you’ve likely had your merchant account applications denied at least a few times. Even worse, perhaps you’ve had your processing service terminated and your money withheld from you for months. We understand your struggle. We’ve seen hundreds of businesses go through the exact same thing, and we’re here to help you find the perfect offshore merchant account for your high-risk business.

If you’re just looking for a run-of-the-mill high-risk merchant account for your business, you’ll want to check out our article The Best High-Risk Merchant Account Providers. The high-risk category often includes business types that you wouldn’t normally associate with the term “high-risk,” such as airlines or online furniture sales. While these types of businesses are usually treated as high-risk by banks and processors, they can usually be approved for a domestic merchant account by working with a high-risk specialist.

For our purposes, we’ll use the terms offshore merchant account and international merchant account interchangeably, as they mean the same thing. Both terms refer to a merchant account that is underwritten by a bank or processor that is situated in a different country from the one where the business is located. The most common reasons for needing an offshore account include the following:

  • You do a significant amount of business in a foreign country and need to accept payments in the local currency.
  • Your business has offices in multiple countries, and you need separate merchant accounts for each location.
  • Your business is considered to be so risky that you cannot obtain a regular high-risk merchant account in your own country.

Below, we’ll discuss the factors to evaluate when considering an offshore merchant account and several special features that you’ll want to include in your service. We’ll also profile four offshore merchant account providers that we feel offer superior service and overall value in comparison to their competitors.

Factors To Consider When Selecting An Offshore Merchant Account

While many offshore merchant account providers also specialize in high-risk accounts more generally, not all high-risk processors work with international merchants or provide offshore accounts for domestic merchants. Many high-risk specialists only work with US-based businesses, and only provide accounts through US-based banks and processors. Before you apply for an offshore account, you’ll want to confirm that the company you’re considering works with businesses located in your country. This information might be spelled out explicitly on the provider’s website, or you might have to talk to their sales staff to get a confirmation.

Providers that specialize in setting up offshore merchant accounts can usually get you an account in just about any country around the world, though obviously, there are exceptions. As a US-based merchant, don’t expect to set up your offshore account in a place like Afghanistan or North Korea. It’s simply not going to happen. With the exception of countries limited by political considerations or a high level of instability, however, the possibilities are wide open.

In most cases, you should aim to get an account in a country where you expect to do a significant amount of business. On the other hand, if your business is going to operate exclusively in the United States, an offshore account serves mainly as a last resort for getting a merchant account when you simply can’t get approved for a domestic high-risk account. Banking regulations are more relaxed in certain other countries, and the willingness on the part of banks and processors to work with high-risk businesses is also more favorable. At the same time, you should be aware that setting up an offshore account under these circumstances, while it might be your only option for accepting credit cards, can present some serious risks to you as well. Your ability to pursue a legal remedy against a foreign bank or processor might be severely limited – or even nonexistent. At a minimum, you should consider legally registering your business in the country where your account will be located. Even with legal standing in the country, however, be aware that it might be extremely inconvenient and expensive to pursue a legal action outside of your own country.

There’s also an increased risk that you could become the victim of fraud or identity theft. Banks in other countries collect the same personal data about you and your business that US-based banks do, but they don’t always do as good a job of protecting it. You’ll want to keep an especially close eye on your merchant account, your business account, and any personal accounts about which you’ve released information to get approved for an offshore merchant account.

High-risk merchant accounts are notorious for including higher processing rates and account fees, and offshore accounts can be even worse. Providers know you’re particularly desperate and some, but not all, will take advantage of your situation by charging you as much as they think they can get away with. We recommend that you shop around and compare multiple quotes when looking for an offshore account. Don’t accept the first offer from a bank or processor just because they’re the first one that hasn’t rejected your application due to the nature of your business.

Note that merchant account providers who market offshore accounts often downplay or fail to mention these risk factors, so it’s up to you to look out for yourself. Do your own independent research, compare multiple offers, and thoroughly review all contract documents before you sign up for an account.

Special Features Of Offshore Merchant Accounts

For the most part, you’ll want the same services and features for an offshore account that you would want for a traditional merchant account. This includes processing hardware such as credit card terminals and POS systems for retail merchants, and a robust payment gateway for eCommerce merchants. You’ll also want an online account dashboard of some kind that allows you to monitor your sales in real-time. While online account access is now a standard feature in the United States, you might not always find this feature with an offshore account. Mail-order and telephone-order (MOTO) businesses often find a virtual terminal to be the most cost-effective method for inputting transactions. Depending on the needs of your business, a smartphone- or tablet-based mobile processing system might also be important. Almost all providers offer some type of mobile processing system these days, either as a proprietary product or through a partnership with a third-party provider. Be aware that very few mobile processing systems have begun to offer EMV-compatible card readers, and you’ll often be stuck with a magstripe-only reader.

In addition to these basic merchant account features, there are several special features that your offshore merchant account might (or might not) include. How important these features are to your business will be determined by how you intend to use your account. Extra features to look for in an offshore merchant account include the following:

  • Multi-Currency Support: If you’re going to do business in a foreign country, it only makes sense that you’ll want your customers to be able to pay in their local currency. Multi-currency accounts allow you to maintain balances in multiple currencies and can save you a ton of money in currency conversion costs.
  • Currency Conversion Services: Having an offshore account will invariably require you to convert funds into your own local currency at some point. Most offshore account providers include built-in currency conversion services that allow you to convert foreign funds when it comes time to transfer them to your business account. While these services can sometimes offer you much lower conversion fees than what a bank would charge you, it still pays to shop around for the best deal on this service. You might save money by using an international transfer service such as TransferWise or OFX.
  • Expanded Anti-Fraud Features: Offshore merchant accounts invariably involve a higher degree of risk of fraud than their traditional counterparts, so you’ll want as many extra services to avoid it as you can get. Most offshore account providers offer a number of enhanced anti-fraud features as a standard part of their service. These features automatically detect suspicious activity, hopefully stopping any fraudulent activity before it can affect your business. Providers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) features to improve their ability to detect potential fraud beyond what would be possible with a traditional algorithm.

With these considerations in mind, let’s take a brief look at four of our overall favorite offshore merchant account providers:

Durango Merchant Services

Durango Merchant Services is a small merchant account provider headquartered in Durango, Colorado. Established in 1999, the company specializes in providing high-risk and offshore merchant accounts to hard-to-place businesses. They work with a wide variety of banks and processors to find a suitable account for almost any business. While they can’t place 100% of the merchants who apply to them, their track record is very good, and their sales process is so transparent and honest that we’ve even seen praise for the company from merchants who’ve been turned down for an account.

If you need an offshore account, Durango has you covered. Their accounts include multicurrency support as well as enhanced anti-fraud features to keep you protected. They can set up accounts in countries as diverse as Germany, Panama, Spain, and many others.

Durango doesn’t try to set you up with expensive leases when it comes to processing equipment. Instead, they offer a variety of terminals for sale right on their website. Options include both wired and wireless models, with some offerings that support NFC payments. They also sell the iPS Mobile Card Terminal, which connects to a smartphone to provide mobile payments capability in conjunction with the iProcess mobile app. If you’re using a virtual terminal, they sell the MagTek DynaMag, a USB-connected magstripe card reader that attaches to your computer. Unfortunately, it’s Windows-only. Durango currently doesn’t offer any POS systems for sale.

The company supports eCommerce through its proprietary Durango Pay payment gateway, which integrates with the numerous processors the company uses and includes support for most of the popular online shopping carts. Durango’s gateway also features an Authorize.Net Emulator, which allows it to interface with any shopping cart that works with Authorize.Net (see our review).

Because Durango works with such a wide variety of third-party processors to set you up with an offshore merchant account, they don’t list rates or fees on their website. These will vary tremendously depending on which processor they set you up with. While we normally like to see more transparency from merchant account providers, in this case, it’s understandable. Depending on your qualifications, you can expect either an interchange-plus pricing plan or a tiered one. Merchant accounts through Durango don’t seem to have standardized fees. Again, these will depend on the terms that your backend processor imposes.

Durango assigns a dedicated account manager to every one of their merchants, which means you’ll be talking to the same person every time you have an issue. While this can sometimes be problematic outside of regular business hours and when your account manager isn’t available, overall it provides a much higher level of service than you’ll get from a random customer service representative.

Pros

  • Direct sales of processing equipment
  • Reasonable rates and fees based on your business and your backend processor
  • Dedicated account manager for customer service and support

Cons

  • No support for POS systems
  • USB card reader not compatible with Mac computers

For more information about Durango Merchant Services, read our complete review.

SMB Global

SMB Global logo

SMB Global is a new high-risk provider that was spun off from one of our favorite providers, Payline Data in 2016. Headquartered in South Jordan, Utah, the company specializes in providing merchant accounts to high-risk and offshore businesses. Using a variety of backend processors, they’re able to approve a merchant account for almost any high-risk business (including those selling CBD oils). They have an excellent reputation for fair prices and top-notch customer service.

As a newly-established business, SMB Global is still a little rough around the edges, lacking a mobile processing system and credit card terminals for retail merchants. At the same time, they offer a full range of services for eCommerce merchants, including a choice between the NMI Gateway and Authorize.Net.

Because they work with so many banks and processors to get you approved for an account, the company doesn’t offer any pricing information. Processing rates, account fees, and contract terms will all vary widely depending on which backend processor is handling your account. While we highly recommend that you request an interchange-plus pricing plan, be prepared to have to accept a tiered plan instead, particularly if you haven’t been in business for very long. Likewise, you can also expect to have a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee if you close your account early. As a high-risk merchant, you should be prepared to have a rolling reserve included in your account agreement.

SMB Global requires a minimum processing volume of $50,000 per month for an offshore merchant account, although they will occasionally waive this requirement if your business has a very strong financial history. Offshore accounts support multi-currency processing, allowing you to avoid cross-border fees. They also feature dynamic currency conversion, letting your customers pay in either their local currency or the currency in which you bill them.

Pros

  • Offers international merchant accounts to a wide variety of industries
  • Reasonable pricing and contract terms
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • No mobile app
  • No information available about credit card terminals or POS systems

For a more detailed look at SMB Global, be sure to check out our full review.

Host Merchant Services

Host Merchant Services is a relative newcomer to the merchant accounts business, first opening in 2009. The company is headquartered in Newark, Delaware and has a second office in Naples, Florida. While they primarily cater to traditional, low-risk businesses, they can accommodate several categories of high-risk businesses and also offer offshore accounts. Their interchange-plus-only pricing and a full range of products and services make them an excellent choice – if you can get approved. A former web hosting company, HMS is ideally suited for eCommerce merchants. They use TSYS as their primary backend processor, but can also work with several international banks and processors to get you an account.

For retail merchants, HMS offers a variety of Verifone and Equinox (formerly Hypercom) terminals. Terminals are offered for sale, and the company does not lease its equipment. While prices are not disclosed on the HMS website, you should be able to negotiate a very reasonable deal on terminals, especially if you need more than one. If you already have a compatible terminal, they’ll reprogram it for free.

HMS also offers a variety of POS systems that utilize either tablets or touchscreen displays. Choices range from an 8” tablet-based system up to a 17” touchscreen monitor. The company’s Starter, Plus, TouchStation Plus, and Custom POS options should meet the requirements of just about any business that needs or wants a POS system.

If you need a mobile processing capability for your business, HMS has you covered, offering the ProcessNow mobile payments system via a partnership with TSYS. ProcessNow works with either iOS or Android phones, but the current card reader is magstripe-only and requires a headphone jack to plug into.

As a tech-focused company, eCommerce is HMS’ specialty. The company has recently introduced their proprietary Transaction Express payment gateway, which includes a free virtual terminal. HMS also supports a large number of third-party gateways, including Authorize.Net.

HMS uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively for its low-risk merchants, but you might have to pay tiered rates if you have an offshore account. While they don’t disclose their rates on their website, they’re based primarily on monthly processing volume and are very competitive. Fees are not disclosed either, but include a $24.00 annual fee, a $14.99 monthly account fee (which includes PCI compliance), a variable payment gateway fee ($5.00 per month for Transaction Express, $7.50 per month plus $0.05 per transaction for Authorize.Net) and the usual incidental fees (i.e., chargebacks, voice authorizations, etc.). High-risk and offshore merchants should expect to pay higher fees than these, and possibly additional fees as well. In particular, be prepared to have a rolling reserve included as part of your account.

HMS provides customer service and support via 24/7 telephone and email. Chat is available via the HMS website during regular business hours. They also feature an extensive collection of articles and blog posts on their site for customer education. Support quality appears to be well-above-average, based on the almost complete absence of complaints about it on the BBB and other consumer protection websites. If your business falls into one of the categories of high-risk activities that the company can accommodate, HMS is an excellent choice for an offshore merchant account.

Pros

  • Full range of products and services for retail and eCommerce businesses
  • Exclusive interchange-plus pricing plans (for low-risk businesses)
  • Excellent customer service and support

Cons

  • Rates and fees not disclosed on website
  • Can only accommodate a small number of high-risk business categories
  • Mobile card reader not EMV-compliant

For more information, see our complete review.

Easy Pay Direct

Easy Pay Direct logo

Easy Pay Direct is headquartered in Austin, Texas and has been in business since 2000. The company’s primary product is their proprietary EPD Gateway, but they also provide full-service merchant accounts for international, high-risk, and traditional non-high-risk merchants. High-risk merchants will have to pay a premium in terms of processing rates and account fees, whether they’re partnered with a domestic or offshore bank or processor. However, the additional expense is entirely reasonable under the circumstances.

Like most offshore merchant account specialists, Easy Pay Direct works with a variety of banks and processors, both domestic and international, to find one that’s a match for the needs of your business. You’ll have to pay a $99 account setup fee to get started, but considering the extra effort required to underwrite a high-risk or offshore account, we feel the expense is justified in this case. Processing rates will be under a tiered pricing plan, but you should still have some room to negotiate your rates, especially if you have a high monthly processing volume. Contracts generally follow the industry standard, or a three-year initial term that automatically renews for one-year periods after that. One very positive feature about Easy Pay Direct’s contracts is that they do not have an early termination fee, even for high-risk businesses. While this isn’t quite the same thing as true month-to-month billing, it does make it much easier to close your account without penalty if you have to.

One helpful feature offered by Easy Pay Direct is called load balancing, where a business can divide its incoming funds among multiple merchant accounts. This is particularly helpful for high-risk businesses that often exceed the monthly processing volume limits imposed by the processor underwriting their account. Just be aware that you’ll usually have to pay separate monthly fees for each account, so it might not be cost-effective for some merchants. Also, be aware that you might not need this feature if you opt for an offshore account. Underwriting guidelines in some (but by no means all) foreign countries are more relaxed, and you might not have a monthly processing limit imposed on your account at all.

Although Easy Pay Direct doesn’t get as much attention as other, better-known processors, it’s a solid choice for merchants in the high-risk category or those who need an offshore account. We particularly recommend the company for high-risk eCommerce businesses due to the robust feature set of their EPD Gateway.

Pros

  • Load balancing feature for high-risk merchants
  • No equipment leases
  • No early termination fee

Cons

  • $99 account setup fee
  • Three-year contract with automatic renewal clause

Check out our full review of Easy Pay Direct for more information.

Final Thoughts

Having a hard-to-place business doesn’t mean you have to run your company through Bitcoin. You can accept credit card payments just like any other business by finding a payment processor that will set you up with the right acquiring banks. At the same time, you need to be fully aware that, for a US-based business, signing up for an offshore merchant account is a risky endeavor. You’ll want to be very cautious and carefully research any provider you consider, even the ones we’ve recommended above. Take extra care to protect your sensitive personal financial data and be sure your account includes additional fraud prevention features. You might also want to consider registering your business in the country where your merchant account is located – just in case. Having a merchant account in Panama might sound very tempting if you’ve been repeatedly turned down by domestic providers, but it will be very expensive to have to travel there in person if you later run into legal troubles with your account provider.

Of the four offshore merchant account providers we’ve reviewed above, Durango Merchant Services is undoubtedly the best all-around provider of the group. They disclose more detailed information about offshore accounts than any of the other providers. SMB Global is also an excellent choice. While the company itself is very new, they have an impressive track record from their days operating as the high-risk division of Payline Data. Finally, both Easy Pay Direct and Host Merchant Services offer a solid line-up of products and services for both eCommerce and retail merchants. If you need an offshore account to break into the world of accepting credit cards, they both have everything you need to get started.

Finally, we can’t caution you strongly enough that selecting and setting up an offshore merchant account involves a higher level of risk on your part, and you’ll need to be extra cautious in choosing a company to go with. Relaxed underwriting guidelines and a general lack of monthly processing limits make offshore accounts very tempting to merchants who’ve had a hard time getting their business approved for a traditional account, but these advantages come at a price. If anything goes wrong in your relationship with your provider, you might face some real challenges in pursuing a legal remedy. You should also be aware that if this happens, the US-based provider that brokered your account will not be able to help you in most cases.

Do your homework! Research your provider thoroughly and review all contract documents very carefully before signing up. While these steps won’t eliminate the chance of things going sideways somewhere down the road, they will shift the odds considerably in your favor.

The post The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies

Business owners today know that it’s more important than ever to be able to accept credit cards. Customers carry less cash, and rely on credit and debit cards for the majority of their purchases. If you’re an eCommerce merchant selling online, taking “plastic” is just about your only option. Unfortunately, you can’t accept credit cards unless you have a merchant account, and merchant accounts aren’t free. In fact, they can be very expensive – especially for a small business – if you choose the wrong provider.

The credit card processing industry can be very bewildering, especially for a first-time business owner. There are dozens of companies providing processing services, and each of them offers different processing rates, fees, and contract terms. A provider that’s a good deal for a very small business might be prohibitively expensive for a larger one, and vice versa. Naturally, merchants want to cut through the confusion and get a quick answer to the question “Which one is the cheapest?” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save money, especially for a new business that has to count every penny. However, if you look up “cheap” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you’ll note that while cheap can mean “charging or obtainable at a low price,” it can also mean “of inferior quality or worth.” If you’ve ever been disappointed with a product purchase when you thought you were getting a good deal, you know that these two definitions often go together.

Here’s a quick look at some of our favorite low-cost credit card processors. Some are free to use. You just pay for the transaction you process. We don’t cover all of these in-depth in this post, but you can check out our complete reviews for all the details. 

The Overall Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies for 2018

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Best Choice For Small-ticket, Canada, Mobile, eCommerce  All businesses, Mobile, Retail eCommerce, Mobile Canada, Restaurants Large-ticket, All-in-one, Recurring billing
POS and Other Features Included Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Rate Matching/ Negotiable No Yes No Yes Yes
Pricing Structure Flat Rate Interchange-Plus Flat Rate Interchange-Plus Subscription
Retail Rates 2.75% 0.30% + $0.10 2.70% 0.20% + $0.10 0.00% + $0.08
Basic Monthly Fee $0 $0 $9 $9.95 $99

Before we delve into specific processors, there are two important points that you need to understand:

  1. The company offering the lowest processing rates or fees isn’t necessarily the cheapest. The total percentage of your credit card sales that you’ll have to fork over to your merchant account provider isn’t an easy thing to calculate in advance with any precision. Variable processing rates and hidden (or at least unanticipated) fees can easily result in you paying much more than you thought you were going to for processing. Companies offering flat-rate pricing fare much better in this regard, as their simple pricing structure makes it relatively easy to estimate your monthly processing costs.
  2. The “cheapest” processor isn’t necessarily the best one for your business. While you naturally want to be able to accept credit cards while paying the least amount of money for the privilege, companies offering the lowest rates often cut corners in other aspects of their service to make those low rates possible. Poor customer service, for example, is a common problem among the least-expensive processors. If you want the best overall, you might also check out our top picks for small business credit card processing.

Types Of Providers

With the advent of new, low-cost providers, there are now two broad categories of companies providing credit card processing services. These include traditional (or full-service) merchant account providers, and payment services providers, who offer credit card processing, but without some of the features of a full-service merchant account. It’s very important that you understand the difference between the two.

Payment service providers (PSPs) can process your credit card transactions, but they don’t provide you with a unique merchant ID number for your business. Instead, your account is aggregated together with other merchants. This lowers the cost of things like monthly account fees and PCI compliance, but it also means that your account is much more vulnerable to being suddenly frozen or shut down for the slightest hint of fraud. Getting your account working again is complicated by the fact that most PSPs provide little in the way of one-on-one customer service. For a very small business, a PSP may very well be more affordable than a full-service merchant account, especially since you won’t have to pay so many recurring fees just to keep your account open. Be aware, however, that you’ll constantly be running the risk of suddenly losing access to your account and not being able to accept credit cards at all with a PSP. If your business processes a high number of credit card transactions on a daily basis, the loss of business you’ll incur if your account is frozen is quite high. Popular PSPs include PayPal, Square, and Stripe.

Traditional merchant accounts include a number of features you won’t find with most PSPs. The primary distinction is that you will be assigned a merchant identification number that is unique to your business. This number automatically identifies you to processors, issuing banks, and credit card associations. While it might not sound like much, having a unique merchant ID number helps to lower the risk of fraud and improves the stability of your account. While you still might have to endure a hold on funds for an unusually large transaction, the chances of your account being completely frozen for no apparent reason are much less than they are with a PSP. Merchant account providers also offer a host of ancillary services, including PCI security scans, customizable payment gateways for online payments, support for ACH (eCheck) payments, and many others. These bells and whistles don’t come cheap, of course. You’ll pay more in monthly fees than you will for an account with a PSP. However, you’ll also pay lower processing rates, especially if your merchant account provider offers interchange-plus pricing. For many medium-sized and larger businesses, a full-service merchant account will actually be less expensive than a PSP.

How We Chose

We used a number of criteria to determine which processors offered the lowest overall costs and the best service in most situations, including the following:

  • Pricing: Since we’re profiling the cheapest processors in the industry, it should come as no surprise that pricing would be our top criterion. It isn’t that simple, however. Pricing can be very complex, and there are a lot of variables to analyze in making a cost comparison between one provider and another. Fortunately, flat-rate pricing is relatively easy to analyze, as there’s usually little or no variability in the processing rates. Interchange-plus pricing, on the other hand, is very complex, as there are a bewildering number of possible rates charged under the “interchange” portion of the processing rate formula. To get a better idea of just how complicated processing rates can be, check out our Complete Guide to Credit Card Processing Rates & Fees.
  • Contracts: No one wants to be stuck in a long-term contract with an expensive early termination fee if you close your account early, but that’s what many traditional merchant account providers will offer you. All the companies profiled here – including both PSPs and full-service merchant account providers – offer month-to-month contracts. You can close your account and switch to a different provider any time you want, and with no penalty.
  • Hardware: Unless you’re running an eCommerce-only business, you’re going to need some equipment to process your customers’ credit cards. Most of the companies profiled here offer a variety of EMV-compliant credit card terminals, POS systems, and mobile card swipers. Equipment is offered for sale at competitive prices – sometimes it’s even free! You can also buy your own equipment and have it reprogrammed to work with your provider’s service. Note that Stripe is eCommerce-only and PayPal only offers a mobile payment solution through their ancillary service, PayPal Here.
  • eCommerce support: Buying online continues to overtake traditional retail shopping, and all our profiled providers offer support for eCommerce. This includes both a payment gateway to send payment data to the processor and a virtual terminal to allow you to enter transactions on your computer or mobile device. Each provider also offers options for integrating your website with online shopping carts and developer tools for customizing the interface between your site and their services.
  • Customer support: While every provider offers customer support and service, some do a much better job at it than others. We looked for vendors that provided 24/7 telephone support, as well as an online knowledgebase that allows merchants to troubleshoot common problems on their own. As we’ve noted, some PSPs don’t provide very good customer support at all. That’s one of the trade-offs you’ll have to be aware of if you want to go with the “cheapest” option for credit card processing.

Remember, there isn’t a single processor out there that can offer the lowest costs to every merchant. What might be a very inexpensive solution for you might not be such a good deal for someone else. Also, paying the least amount of money for processing won’t be of much use to you if you have to worry about your account suddenly being frozen or shut down, or if the customer service behind your account isn’t adequate to solve technical problems for you when they arise. That said, here are our six top choices for the cheapest credit card processing companies:

Square Payments

Everyone has heard of Square (see our review) by now. With its free Square Reader, app-based payment system, and simple pricing structure, it’s one of the most popular processing services on the market for small businesses. Square’s pay-as-you-go system allows businesses that ordinarily couldn’t afford a merchant account to accept credit cards.

Retail businesses love Square for its low-priced card readers, which replace traditional credit card terminals with a smartphone-based system that’s both affordable and mobile. In addition to a card reader, you’ll need the free Square app, a smartphone, and an Internet connection. Square’s original card reader is free and you’ll receive one when you open your account. However, it can only read magstripe cards and requires a headphone jack to function. Most users will want to shell out a few extra bucks for a newer, EMV-compliant reader. The Square reader is only $49.00, and supports both EMV and NFC-based payment methods. It also uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone or tablet – no headphone jack required.

 

Cheapest Mobile Credit Card Processing Company

The Essentials:
✓ $0 monthly fee
✓ 2.75% for all card-present transactions
✓ Exceptional POS app included free
✓ Free credit card reader available
Proprietary software suite includes:
• Point of sale software
• Inventory management
• Mobile app
• Virtual terminal
• Invoicing/billing
• API for custom solutions
Visit the Square website
Read our Square review

Square’s pricing structure is about as simple as it gets. There are no monthly fees whatsoever for a basic account, and none of the types of “hidden” fees that traditional merchant account providers like to tack on. While some advanced features require a monthly subscription, these are entirely optional, and most businesses probably won’t need them. Square’s processing rates are also very simple:

  • 2.75% for all card-present transactions (including magstripe, EMV, and NFC)
  • 2.90% + $0.30 for all invoices and eCommerce transactions
  • 3.50% + $0.15 for all virtual terminal and keyed-in transactions

That’s it! You don’t have to worry about non-qualified transactions, batch fees, or anything else. Funds are deposited into the user’s account within 1-2 business days in most cases. Billing is month-to-month, so you don’t have to worry about long-term contracts and early termination fees. You can quit anytime you want without penalty.

This all sounds great – and it is – if you’re a small business that has to watch every penny and can’t afford to shell out a significant amount of money every month just to have a merchant account. For a larger business, however, Square’s pricing actually isn’t the best deal available. Flat-rate pricing is deliberately on the high side because it has to pay for all the other services that most providers bill you separately for. At a certain point (roughly $10,000 per month in processing volume), you’re actually better off going with a full-service merchant account provider that offers interchange-plus pricing. Yes, you’ll have to pay those pesky account fees, but your processing rates will be so much lower that you’ll save money overall.

Besides high processing rates, Square has a few other drawbacks as well. We’ve already mentioned that your account is much more likely to be frozen or terminated unexpectedly, but what makes this situation worse is that Square’s customer service isn’t so great. The company didn’t even have telephone support for several years after it launched, but it does now. Unfortunately, it’s only available during business hours, and the large number of complaints about it suggests that the quality of support you’ll receive if you call in with a problem is inconsistent at best.

But is it really the cheapest way to go? Well, it depends. For a very small business that doesn’t have a high processing volume, Square’s lack of account fees and predictable pricing can make it very affordable. On the other hand, a larger business with a high processing volume will end up paying much more under those flat-rate prices than it would with an interchange-plus pricing plan.

Square keeps costs low by aggregating accounts together rather than issuing each user a unique Merchant ID number. Because of this, you won’t get a true full-service merchant account. The trade-off is that there’s a much higher chance that your account will be frozen or terminated without notice if fraud is suspected. This might be a minor inconvenience to a retail business that mostly deals in cash and only occasionally takes credit cards, but it’s catastrophic to an eCommerce business where cash isn’t an option.

PROS:

  • No monthly account fees
  • Low-cost EMV-compliant card readers available
  • No long-term contracts or early termination fees

CONS:

  • Not a full-service merchant account; no unique Merchant ID number
  • Frequent account holds and terminations
  • Flat-rate pricing is more expensive than interchange-plus for larger businesses

For a more detailed look at Square, be sure to check out our full review.

Payline Data

Payline Data (see our review) covers all the bases for small business transactions, from mobile and online payments to in-store sales. They offer easy-to-understand pricing plans that are very affordable, especially for low-volume sellers. However, the company’s website fully explains all of the extra features and their associated costs, so you know up front what you’ll have to pay. Payline also stands out from the crowd for their corporate philosophy of charitable giving and support for non-profits through discounted pricing and their “Commercial Co-Venture” program.

 

Cheapest Merchant Account Provider

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Outstanding $0 monthly fee option
✓ Exceptional ecommerce shopping cart compatibility
Proprietary software suite includes:
• Excellent mobile processing app
• Easy integration API for customization
• Virtual terminal
• Billing management
Visit the Payline website
Read our Payline review

For brand-new or mobile businesses, Payline Start is the most affordable plan. There’s no monthly fee, and pass-through markup rates are set at 0.30% + $0.10 per transaction. In addition to the free virtual terminal, you’ll also receive a free Ingenico GX5 card reader and the Payline Mobile app to go with it. If you’re looking for value, but want better equipment and lower rates, the Payline Shop plan might be right for you. This plan includes the same features as the Payline Start plan, but lowers your processing rate. The plan costs $10 per month, and markup rates are set at 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction. Mobile businesses and small to medium retailers will benefit the most from this plan.

For more information, see our complete Payline Data review.

CDGcommerce

No account setup fees. No PCI compliance fees. No gateway fees. No monthly minimums, either. There’s a lot of things that CDGcommerce (see our review) doesn’t charge you for, making them a very affordable option for small businesses and those just getting off the ground. They also offer month-to-month contracts with no early termination fee, so in the unlikely event that you aren’t happy with their service, you can close your account without penalty.

So, what do you pay for? Besides processing charges, you’ll only have to pay a $10.00 monthly account fee. This gets you both a full-service merchant account and a payment gateway. You can select either CDG’s own proprietary Quantum gateway or Authorize.Net. Either way, there’s no fee for using the gateway, and no additional per-transaction processing fee. While this is a great deal, you also have the option of adding the cdg360 security package for an extra $15.00 per month. It comes with customized security alerts, PCI-DSS vulnerability scans, and $100,000 in data breach/theft protection. It’s well worth paying a little extra for, especially for eCommerce merchants.

Good Option for Online Payment Processing

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Free payment gateway option with activation within an hour
✓ Exceptional ecommerce shopping cart compatibility
✓ Over 20 years with excellent reputation
Proprietary fraud prevention suite includes:
• Automatic high-risk order detection
• Dialverify phone order verification
• Cardholder authentication (VbV/MSC)
• Chargeback defender
• Easy integration and API for customization
Visit the CDGcommerce website
Read our CDGcommerce review

We don’t recommend leasing a credit card terminal, but CDG has a program that’s very different from traditional leases, and is actually a good deal. For only $79 per year (for terminal insurance), CDG will provide you with a terminal and keep it updated. This works out to $6.58 per month, a fraction of what most terminal leasing companies will charge you. If you need a wireless terminal, you’ll also have to pay $20.00 per month for wireless data and an additional $0.05 per transaction in processing fees.

You won’t need to negotiate with CDG to figure out your processing rates. All their rate plans are interchange-plus and are fully disclosed on their website. The company offers a choice between Simplified and Advanced pricing plans, with Simplified pricing being designed for merchants processing less than $10,000 per month, and Advanced pricing being for those processing $10,000 or more per month. Here are their current rates:

Simplified Pricing:

  • Online: interchange + 0.30% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Retail (swipe or POS): interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Mobile: interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Non-profit: interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction

With very low account fees and competitive interchange-plus processing rates, CDGcommerce offers a great combination of price and value. If you’ve been using Square or PayPal and want to upgrade to a full-service merchant account, they’re an excellent option.

PROS:

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts or early termination fees
  • Free payment gateway with virtual terminal
  • Excellent customer service

CONS:

  • Only available to US-based merchants

For more information, see our complete review here.

Dharma Merchant Services

Headquartered in downtown San Francisco, California, it should come as no surprise that Dharma Merchant Services (see our review) is far more socially responsible than just about any other merchant account provider in the industry. For you, that enlightened corporate philosophy translates into fair and transparent pricing, reasonable contract terms, and excellent customer support.

Because they don’t try to squeeze extra money out of struggling small business owners, you won’t have to pay an account setup fee or an annual fee. There’s no monthly minimum, either. You will pay a $10.00 monthly fee and a $7.95 per month fee for PCI compliance. Other fees (most of which are per-occurrence, such as chargeback fees) are fully disclosed on their website. Like many of our other favorite processors, Dharma doesn’t have long-term contracts, either. Billing is month-to-month, and there’s no early termination fee if you close your account.

Dharma Merchant Services review

Good Option for Nonprofits and B2B Payments

The Essentials:
✓ Provides discounted rates for nonprofits
✓ Exceptional customer service
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Proven track record with nonprofits
Free MX Merchant Software includes:
• Level 2 and level 3 data for lower interchange rates on B2B processing
• Virtual terminal
• Invoicing/billing
Visit the Dharma Merchant Services website
Read our Dharma Merchant Services review

The company uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively and lists their rates right on their website. Here’s their current processing rate information:

  • Storefront: interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Virtual: interchange + 0.35% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Restaurant: interchange + 0.20% + $0.07 per transaction

If you need a terminal, Dharma will sell you either the First Data FD-130 or Verifone Vx520. They’ll also reprogram your existing terminal, if you have one. Need a POS system? Dharma offers the Clover Mini, and will sell it to you outright rather than leasing it. If you need a mobile payments system instead, Dharma offers the Clover Go for $99.00, plus a $10.00 monthly fee. For $139, you can upgrade to the Clover Go Contactless, which connects via Bluetooth instead of your phone’s headphone jack.

Dharma doesn’t have a minimum monthly volume requirement, but they do acknowledge that their fees and rates aren’t the lowest on the market for businesses that process less than $10,000 per month. You’re still free to sign up if you need a full-service merchant account, but they recommend either PayPal or Square if you don’t.

PROS:

  • Transparent interchange-plus pricing
  • Minimal account fees
  • Full range of services and equipment for both retail and online businesses
  • Great customer support

CONS:

  • Not a good fit for low-volume (less than $10,000 per month) accounts

For more information on Dharma, see our complete review here.

Helcim

Headquartered up in the Great White North, Helcim (see our review) provides outstanding service and affordable prices to both Canadian and US-based merchants. They offer interchange-plus pricing exclusively, and their website features one of the most detailed and transparent explanations of their rates and fees that you’ll find anywhere.

Transparency and honesty are major themes with Helcim, which is something you won’t often find with many other providers. Reading their website will give you a quick education on all the sneaky, misleading tricks that other companies use to squeeze more money out of their merchants. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about this kind of behavior with Helcim. Not only do they fully disclose their processing rates, account fees, and contract terms, but they also provide all their services at fair, competitive prices.

 

Good Option for Canadian Businesses

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pricing
✓ Exceptional reputation in Canada
✓ High-quality all-in-one payment platform
✓ Great educational material
Proprietary Helcim Commerce solution includes:
• Point of sale software
• Inventory management
• Billing and invoicing
• Virtual terminal
Visit the Helcim website
Read our Helcim review

Unlike many of their competitors, Helcim encourages merchants to buy their credit card terminals outright rather than leasing them. The company offers a number of popular models, most of which are EMV-compliant. For a little extra cash up front, you can also get an NFC-capable terminal that supports Apple Pay and other similar mobile payment methods. If you already have a terminal, they’ll reprogram it to work with their system for free. Unfortunately, Canadian EMV-compliant terminals are not designed to be transferred or resold, so Canadian customers will have to use the rental option or buy a new machine. Renting on a month-to-month basis (which is not the same as leasing) is usually the best choice for Canadian merchants.

Helcim offers three basic pricing plans: a Retail Plan, an eCommerce Plan, and a combined Retail + eCommerce Plan. The Retail Plan costs a flat $15.00 per month. This fee covers PCI compliance, and there are no account setup or statement fees. There’s also no monthly minimum. All swiped transactions are processed at a rate of interchange + 0.25% + $0.08 per transaction.

Helcim’s eCommerce Plan works the same way, but it costs $35.00 per month. This gives you access to the company’s proprietary Helcim Payment Gateway, which includes support for recurring billing, a customer information storage system, shopping cart integration, and a customizable payment gateway API. The plan also includes a virtual terminal that allows mail order or telephone order businesses to key in transactions on any computer. All online (i.e., card-not-present) transactions are processed at a rate of interchange + 0.45% + $0.25 per transaction.

The Retail + eCommerce Plan includes all features of the other two plans, and costs $50.00 per month. Processing rates are the same as for the other two plans.

There are few downsides to Helcim’s services. One way they’re able to keep costs so low is to exclude high-risk merchants from signing up. This policy lowers the company’s overall risk profile, but it also means you’ll be out of luck if you meet their high-risk criteria. Because they charge a monthly fee (albeit a very reasonable one), they’re also not quite as affordable as Square, PayPal, etc. if you’re processing below $2,500 per month. We’re also still waiting for the company to introduce an EMV-compliant mobile card reader. They currently offer a basic, magstripe-only reader that requires a headphone jack to communicate with your smartphone or tablet.

PROS:

  • Extremely transparent fee structure
  • Very competitive rates for businesses processing over $1,500 per month
  • Excellent customer service and support

CONS:

  • Not suited for very small businesses processing less than $1,500 per month
  • Not available for high-risk merchants
  • Mobile card reader isn’t EMV-compatible

For more information, see our complete review here.

Popular (But Less Reliable) Inexpensive Options

PayPal

Everyone has heard of PayPal (see our review). And just about everyone uses it. With an active user base of almost 200 million customers in 200 markets around the world, it’s a good bet that most of your customers use it, too. But can the company fill all your processing needs? The short answer is yes. PayPal has all the features you would need to run a business – either retail or eCommerce – using just their payment processing services and equipment. But would this be cost-effective? Here’s where it gets complicated. While the company offers flat-rate pricing and no monthly fees for its basic accounts, those flat-rate prices are kind of on the high side. Also, if you need features such as a virtual terminal, your account isn’t free. Instead, it’s $30.00 per month, plus your processing charges.

PayPal doesn’t offer true, full-service merchant accounts. Instead, they function as a payment service provider (PSP), which keeps costs relatively low, but also means that they’re quick on the trigger to freeze your account if they suspect that fraud has occurred. Like most PSPs, they don’t have long-term contracts and don’t charge early termination fees. Billing is month-to-month, and an account that doesn’t have a monthly fee is good for a business that only processes credit card transactions occasionally.

PayPal’s basic rate for online transactions is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. International payments and transactions processed through their virtual terminal cost more, while registered charities and mobile payments get a discount. PayPal fully discloses their rates on their website, so you’ll always know in advance what you’ll be paying.

While PayPal is designed primarily for eCommerce businesses, the company also supports retailers through integration with numerous third-party mobile POS systems and their own mobile payments system, PayPal Here. The latter now includes a Bluetooth-enabled EMV card reader. While many companies offer a free virtual terminal, but charge a monthly fee for the payment gateway needed to use it, PayPal does just the opposite. Their PayFlow Payment Gateway comes with no monthly fee, but if you also need a virtual terminal, you’ll pay $30.00 per month for it. There’s also a small additional per-transaction processing charge.

While these are all great features, there are also some not-so-great things about PayPal that you should be aware of before you sign up. Customer support through their telephone support line is very inconsistent. Some customer service representatives are quite knowledgeable and helpful, while others are not. Fortunately, the company provides an online knowledgebase that should help you solve common problems on your own. As we’ve mentioned, sudden account holds or terminations are also a possibility. If you simply can’t afford to lose access to your account temporarily, consider a different option.

For some businesses, PayPal is really all you need. If you don’t need a virtual terminal or any of the other features of the $30 PayPal Payments Pro plan, you can avoid monthly fees altogether and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. For larger businesses and those with more specialized needs, PayPal makes an excellent secondary payment option on top of your regular merchant account.

PROS:

  • No monthly fees (for standard account)
  • Transparent flat-rate pricing
  • Most customers have a PayPal account

CONS:

  • High flat-rate processing charges
  • Frequent account freezes, holds, and terminations
  • Inconsistent customer support

For more detailed information about PayPal, see our complete review here.

Stripe Payments

Stripe logo

Just like Square is popular with small retail businesses, Stripe (see our review) is the darling of the eCommerce world. The company functions as a payment service provider (PSP), aggregating accounts and keeping costs low for their clients. There are no monthly fees, and their flat-rate processing plan is extremely simple.

Stripe is so focused on eCommerce that they don’t offer much of anything to retailers. There are no credit card terminals, POS systems, or even mobile payments systems for your smartphone or tablet. So, if you’re a retailer, you can skip right on ahead to the next company profiled below. Stripe is not for you.

eCommerce-only merchants, on the other hand, will find a very robust variety of services to help them sell online. Integration is the name of the game at Stripe, and their payments processing service works with just about every online shopping cart on the market. They also have a vast library of APIs that allow businesses to customize the interface between Stripe and their websites. If you’d like to sell your products through your own app as well as on your website, they offer an impressive in-app purchasing capability.

So, how much does all this techy goodness cost? The short answer is not much – at least under certain circumstances. Since all your transactions will be processed online without a physical card being swiped or dipped, Stripe charges a flat 2.9% + $0.30 for all credit and debit card transactions. eCheck (ACH) and Bitcoin payments are charged a mere 0.8% per transaction. This is the same rate that Square and PayPal also charge for online transactions. There are no additional account fees, although you will be charged $15.00 for each chargeback. Chargeback fees are unavoidable with any processor, but unlike most companies, Stripe will refund your money if the chargeback investigation comes out in your favor.

You also won’t have to worry about long-term contracts or early termination fees, as Stripe bills on a month-to-month basis. This is a useful feature for a growing eCommerce business, as Stripe’s flat-rate pricing suffers the same flaw that plagues Square and PayPal: for a high-volume business, their flat-rate pricing is actually more expensive than what a full-service merchant account can provide through interchange-plus pricing.

While Stripe has some very impressive features, it also has a few serious drawbacks. Like other payment service providers (PSPs), account holds and terminations occur frequently and without notice. Stripe uses a machine learning-enabled algorithm to scan accounts for possible fraud, and it’s definitely programmed to err on the side of caution. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could call up a human customer service representative on the phone and resolve the situation. Unfortunately, you can’t – Stripe doesn’t offer telephone support at all. Instead, you’ll have to contact the company through email and wait for a response. Judging from the many complaints about Stripe’s customer service, the quality of those responses leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite its shortcomings, Stripe is a good choice for a new eCommerce venture. You’ll enjoy pay-as-you-go service with no monthly fees, and you won’t have to worry about long-term contracts. The company’s extensive library of developer tools can offer you options that you might not be able to find with other providers. Just be aware that when your business grows beyond a certain point, you’ll need the security and reliability of a full-service merchant account. You’ll also save money on processing charges by switching to interchange-plus pricing.

PROS:

  • Simple flat-rate pricing structure
  • No additional fees or long-term contracts
  • Huge API library for developers

CONS:

  • Flat-rate pricing is more expensive than interchange-plus for high-volume merchants
  • Frequent account holds and terminations
  • No telephone customer support

For more information, see our complete review here.

Final Thoughts

As you’ve probably noticed by now, pricing for credit card processing is a ridiculously complicated subject. With dozens of interchange rates and a wild assortment of fees, trying to figure out how much accepting credit cards is going to cost your business inevitably comes down to guesswork. While you can make a reasonable estimation based on your processing history and your business type, it’s not realistic to expect that you’ll be able to come up with a precise figure. Fortunately, the companies we’ve profiled here fully disclose their processing rates and fees, making your job of estimating your costs much easier.

We’ve only listed six of the most popular and most affordable processors here, so be aware that the cheapest processor for your particular business might not be one of them. There are plenty of other providers out there who are also competing for your business, so check them out, too!

Here are a few very general rules of thumb regarding merchant account pricing:

  • If your business has a low processing volume, you’ll want to find a provider with low monthly and annual fees. One of the most appealing aspects of Square or PayPal is that they don’t charge any monthly fees. This is a great feature if your business is seasonal or you only occasionally have a need to accept credit cards. Processing rates won’t be as important for low-volume merchants.
  • If your business has a high processing volume, fees aren’t as important, and you’ll want to get the lowest processing rates you can find. Paying one or more monthly fees for a merchant account is an insignificant expense for a larger business, but higher processing rates can make a serious dent in your profits.
  • Carefully analyze both the percentage rate and the per-transaction processing fee when evaluating rates. While you’d ideally like them both to be low, which one is more important will depend on your average transaction size. If you process a lot of smaller transactions, a $0.30 per transaction fee can add up quickly. On the other hand, if your transactions are usually larger, you won’t need to be as concerned with the per-transaction fee, and should try to get the lowest percentage rate you can find.

While all the companies we’ve profiled here provide excellent service at an affordable cost, some are better suited to particular types of businesses than others. Square, for example, works best for very small retail businesses. PayPal and Stripe, on the other hand, are a better fit for small eCommerce merchants. Full-service merchant account providers like Helcim, CDGcommerce, and Dharma are more well-rounded, but CDG is a better fit for smaller businesses, while Helcim and Dharma work better with larger ones. For a side-by-side comparison of some of the companies listed here (and a few other excellent providers), please see our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.

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15 Best Touchscreen POS Systems

touchscreen cash register

Touchscreens are everywhere, and the point-of-sale industry is no exception. Touchscreen POS systems are more intuitive and easy to learn than traditional legacy POS software, and many cloud-based systems employ the same kind of iPad and Android tablets that your employees already use every day at home. Whether you’re running a restaurant, a retail outlet, or another type of business, a modern touchscreen POS system helps keep your sales moving and your business data secure. Besides simple point-of-sale features, most of these cloud-based systems also have advanced reporting capabilities, business management features, and integrations with other popular business software.

Arguably, the only problem with touchscreen point of sale systems is that there are so many different products to choose from. Do you go with a proprietary-hardware solution like Clover, an Android POS system like Toast, an iPad POS like Revel, or an open-source POS like Vend? In my opinion, the most important consideration when choosing a touchscreen POS is not just iPad vs. Android. More important are your industry type, your specific business needs, and user reviews. To help you get started in your search, I’ve put together this list of my favorite highly rated touchscreen POS systems, sorted by industry. Most of these are iPad-based, though I included some Android and open-source options as well.

To make it easier to find the best touchscreen system for your business type, I’ve sorted the following 15 POS systems into restaurant, retail, and hybrid (systems that can be used for either restaurant or retail) categories. Be advised that the order in which I’m listing these excellent systems does not indicate their ranking.

Restaurant POS Systems

The following restaurant point of sale systems can be used by just about any type of food industry business, from drive-thrus to fine dining:

1. Breadcrumb

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts $99/month/location
  • Must use with Upserve payments (interchange plus $0.15 fee)
  • Multi-location support
  • Online ordering

breadcrumb by upserve pos logo

Cloud-based Breadcrumb POS by Upserve (see our review) is a highly versatile restaurant POS, suitable for full-service restaurants, take-out, delivery, bars, and multi-location eateries. With Breadcrumb’s acquisition by Upserve in 2016 (Breadcrumb was previously owned by GroupOn), the company has expanded its restaurant management infrastructure, making this POS a complete business management system for just about any type of restaurant.

Breadcrumb is not the cheapest restaurant POS in town, but nor is it short on features. Some of the system’s strongest features include table management, employee management, customer management, and tableside ordering. Breadcrumb also recently teamed up with GrubHub to offer online ordering and delivery (at the $249/month/location “Pro” subscription level).

One thing Breadcrumb users really like about this system is that it is specifically designed with restaurant employees in mind. While we find Breadcrumb to be a very solid all-around POS/restaurant management system, a couple potential downsides are 1) you can’t use your own merchant account (you need to use Upserve Payments) and 2) there are occasional issues with outages. Learn more in our Breadcrumb by Upserve review.

2. Toast

  • Android POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $79/month
  • Must use with Toast credit card processing
  • Multi-location support
  • Exceptional customer service

toast pos logo

Android-based Toast POS (see our review) is another robust, cloud-based POS system for restaurants. It can accommodate any size or type of restaurant, and features like tableside ordering, labor management, and inventory management make Toast a force to be reckoned with on both the front and back end. Toast is intuitive and easy to use for servers, while also providing detailed reporting, customer data, and menu options.

Although we love Toast’s strong feature set and the fact that it uses Android tablets instead of iPads (cheaper hardware costs, less of a theft risk), keep in mind that if you want every single feature Toast offers, it’s gonna cost ya. For example, online ordering, table management, delivery management, and gift card support all carry an extra monthly charge. You also can’t choose your own credit card processor to use with this POS and must use Toast’s in-house processor (which Toast users seem to like, at least). What really sets Toast apart from a lot of other cloud-based POS systems, however, is their excellent customer support – an indispensable quality in any POS, given the inherent complexity of a system that lets you take payments, process orders, and manage almost all aspects of your business.

3. TouchBistro

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $69/month
  • Compatible with multiple payment gateways
  • Best for single-location businesses
  • Locally installed system (not cloud-based)

touchbistro POS

Elegant and easy to use, Ontario-based TouchBistro (see our review) has the distinction of being the top-grossing POS Application on Apple’s App Store in over 35 countries. TouchBistro is one of the few systems on our list that, while tablet-based, is not cloud-based; rather, your store data is stored locally on your restaurant’s iPad or Mac.

TouchBistro is not a full “restaurant management system” like Toast or Breadcrumb, but it’s good at what it does, and can readily handle the POS needs of just about any size/type of eatery, from a food truck to a full-service restaurant. Since TouchBistro stores data on local servers, it’s probably best for single-location restaurants (if coordinating data between locations is important to you). Keep in mind, though, that you will need an internet connection to process credit cards.

Some great features of TouchBistro include table management, menu management, kiosk option, tableside ordering, split-payment option, bar tabs, and sales reports. Customer service doesn’t seem to be as responsive as some users would like, though 24/7 support via phone and email is included in the standard cost. TouchBistro is compatible with Mercury, Cayan, Moneris, PayPal and several other gateways.

4. Lavu

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $69/month with annual contract or $79/month without
  • Can use in-house payment processing or BridgePay, Heartland, PayPal, Nets, or Vantiv Integrated Payments
  • Multi-location support
  • Option to install in-house server backup in case you lose your wireless connection

lavu pos logo

Lavu (see our review) is yet another highly popular iPad POS system for restaurants, used in more than 20,000 restaurant terminals across 88 countries.

Lavu is not the most advanced restaurant POS there is, but it is equipped to handle the needs of most small-to-medium restaurants (or cafes, bars, coffee stands, etc.). Some features that make this POS system a hit include its customizable table layout and menus, easy employee management, advanced menu management, and useful integrations. Lavu also has renowned customer service, which is included in the standard monthly fee. You can add both a loyalty program and gift cards onto your subscription for just $40 a month.

Customers have complained about occasional glitches with the Lavu software, but the company releases frequent updates to solve any bugs or complaints. Affordable and highly customizable, Lavu is a strong and growing contender in tablet POS systems for restaurants.

Retail POS Systems

The following POS systems are suitable for retail store establishments, such as clothing boutiques, toy stores, electronics shops, and many others.

5. Lightspeed Retail

  • iPad and web browser POS for retail
  • Pricing starts at $99/month (billed annually)
  • Integrates with Vantiv Integrated Payments (Mercury), Cayan, and izettle
  • Multi-location support
  • Bike rental store add-on

lightspeed retail pos logo

Lightspeed Retail (see our review) is one of the most fully featured tablet POS systems out there for retail. While Lightspeed can support up to enterprise-level size businesses, this cloud-based system is ideal for small and medium-sized businesses that want powerful functionality — think unlimited inventory, integrated eCommerce, work order management, and customer relationship management. Lightspeed Retail also makes it easy to transfer inventory between different store locations.

Lightspeed is among the pricier systems on this list, and various integrations to extend its functionality, such as eCommerce, can make it even more expensive. So, it’s not going to be the right POS every business. But if you want a super robust POS that you can operate from any desktop browser (meaning, you don’t have to buy expensive iPad registers), Lightspeed Retail might just be right for you. The POS is especially suited for apparel businesses but can accommodate virtually any type of retail setup, including rentals.

Note that there are several Lightspeed products in addition to Lightspeed Retail. These include Lightspeed Onsite, Lightspeed Restaurant, and Lightspeed eCommerce.

6. Vend

  • iPad and web browser POS for retail
  • Pricing starts at $69/month
  • Compatible with Vantiv, PayPal, and Square
  • Multi-store support
  • Apple Pay-capable

vend pos logo

Vend (see our review) was actually the very first web browser-based POS system when it was introduced back in 2010. Today, it is still a big force to be reckoned with in the retail POS world, used by more than 20,000 businesses in 100 countries.

Cloud-based and scaleable for retail stores both small and large, Vend uses an HTML5 browser (such as Google Chrome), or an HTML5 iPad app, for all operations. If the internet goes down, Vend can keep operating locally using the cache and will sync back up with the cloud once the connection resumes. Being browser-based means you can run Vend on a PC, Mac, or iPad. Some features on Vend we really like include customer management, eCommerce, built-in loyalty program, inventory management, and a good selection of third-party software integrations. Vend doesn’t have as much functionality as a POS like Lightspeed or Revel – for example, Vend doesn’t have item modifiers – but it is cost-effective and a good choice for a store (or even chain of stores) that doesn’t need every single “business management” feature out there.

Note that Vend’s email support is free, but 24/7 phone support costs an extra $19 per month, unless you have the multi outlet subscription ($199/month billed annually).

7. Shopify POS

  • iPad POS system for retail (Also supports mobile sales on iPhone and Android phones)
  • Pricing starts at $9/month for mobile and Facebook sales, or $54/month to also include Retail Package for in-store sales
  • Integrates with Shopify Payments and many outside processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Instant syncing with your Shopify online store

shopify pos logo

Shopify (see our review) started as an online shopping cart for businesses who wanted an easy way to sell their products online. Eventually, Shopify extended their offering to include a POS system for in-person sales. As you might expect, Shopify POS does a great job integrating online and offline sales for retail businesses that also do eCommerce with Shopify.

Shopify’s pricing structure is a little convoluted, but the most important thing to know is that if you have a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need to purchase the Retail Package, which costs $45/month on top of whatever other package you select — the $9/month Shopify Lite plan, the $29/month Shopify Basic plan, or another higher-tier plan. The Basic plan plus the Retail Package will cost $74/month and provide pretty much everything most retailers need for both online and in-store sales. You also have the option to get better credit card processing rates at higher price tiers.

Most Shopify POS features are comparable with other top iPad retail solutions, and they have strong customer service too. The thing that really sets Shopify apart is their seamless online/offline sales integration. So, if you already use Shopify for online sales or would like to, this might be the right POS for you.

8. Quetzal

  • iPad POS for independent fashion retailers
  • Pricing starts at $75/month per location
  • Integrates with Evo Payments International, Velocity, CardSmith, National Discount Merchant Services, Vantiv, and Moneris
  • Multi-store support (max. 10 locations)
  • Clothing/shoe matrix

With its exclusive focus on fashion retailers, Quetzal (see our review) is an iPad POS that’s tailor-made (ha-ha) for stores that sell clothing, shoes, and/or accessories. This aesthetically appealing system has a streamlined iOS aesthetic; the interface seriously looks like it could have been designed by Apple itself, and Quetzal even has an iTunes app that lets managers check in on their store from their Apple Watch. Quetzal also uses a compact, sleek register, Star Micronics’ mPOP system.

Of course, functionality is more important than aesthetics when it comes to a POS, but Quetzal doesn’t come up short in terms of function either. We like the clothing/shoe matrix, in-depth sales reports, “tag cloud,” loyalty program, employee leaderboard, and “sales thermometer,” in particular. At only $75/location price is right as well, especially as there is no charge for additional users or terminals. A couple downsides are that after setup and installation, customer support costs extra, and also there is no QuickBooks integration.

While it doesn’t have a huge marketshare of the overall retail POS segment, Quetzal’s niche focus makes it a functional, affordable, and visually appealing choice for emerging independent clothing brands.

Hybrid POS Systems

These POS systems are flexible in that they are equally suited to retail and restaurant environments. Service-based industries such as beauty salons, rental businesses, and hospitality businesses also often use hybrid POS systems.

9. Shopkeep

  • iPad POS for retail and quick serve restaurants
  • $69/month/register ($29/month/register for fourth register and beyond)
  • Integrates with Shopkeep Payments and outside processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Matrix inventory feature

shopkeep pos logo

Shopkeep (see our review) is an affordable and enjoyable-to-use POS system that runs locally from an iPad and syncs data back to the cloud. Shopkeep is used in both retail and restaurant environments, and while it’s more feature-rich on the retail side of things, it will more than meet the needs of most quick-service/coffee carts/food truck businesses.

Some things about Shopkeep we especially like include its comprehensive register functionality, in-depth reporting suite, mobile app to view your business stats on the go, and unlimited inventory matrix (which includes raw goods management). Shopkeep also offers unlimited 24/7 customer support (though premium phone costs an additional $30 per month). This POS integrates with MailChimp for email marketing, QuickBooks for accounting, and BigCommerce for eCommerce.

Shopkeep is a wise choice for a small-to-medium retail business or restaurant that doesn’t need extensive restaurant-centric features like table management. Note that ShopKeep is currently only available on iPad but is in the works to make its service available on the Clover Station via a recent partnership with First Data.

10. Revel Systems

  • iPad POS for retail, restaurants, hospitality, and more
  • Supports numerous payment processors
  • Custom pricing based on industry and individual business needs
  • Multi-store support
  • Ethernet internet connection

revel systems logo

Revel Systems (see our review) is arguably the holy grail of iPad POS systems. Revel is powerful enough that franchises like Cinnabon use it, and flexible enough that it can support businesses in virtually any industry, from brewpubs to gas stations. It’s also the only iPad POS system that offers a “wired” ethernet connection for a faster an more reliable internet.

Revel POS pricing is determined by which industry-specific package you choose, but depending on your needs, you can expect to pay about $80 to $200/month per location. Myriad add-on applications and integrations extend Revel’s functionality to make it do just about anything you can imagine, though this naturally increases the system’s cost as well. Some of Revel’s more impressive features include its kiosk mode, digital menu board, and ability to accept mobile payments (including ApplePay, PayPal, Bitcoin, and others). Because Revel is so powerful and customizable, initial system setup can take a while.

Revel can manage multiple locations and up to 500,000 SKUs. It is optimized for mid-sized businesses, particularly busy quick-serve restaurants that can afford one of the best iPad POS’s money can buy.

11. ERPLY

  • Web browser/iPad/Android/Windows POS for retail and restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $200/month/location
  • Compatible with all big-name payment processors, (though currently promoting PayPal as a preferred processor)
  • Multi-store support
  • Strong inventory features

erply-logo

ERPLY (see our review) originated in 2009 as a retail POS system, though it has eventually expanded support to food service too, now offering food-centric features such as kitchen printing and sell by weight. Whether you run a retail business or restaurant, ERPLY is especially powerful in the inventory management department, with functions like automated ordering, supplier management, and multichannel (online, in-store, phone, email) inventory tracking and transfers.

ERPLY gives you a lot of flexibility as a business owner. Using just about any payment processor under the sun, you can accept traditional swipe, chip card, and mobile payments, including Apple Pay, PayPal, and Android Pay. You also have the option to use pretty much whatever device you want, even without a reliable internet connection, or run ERPLY right from your browser.

It’s actually kind of hard to come up with a feature ERPLY doesn’t have. An open API architecture allows customizability and the ability to develop your own software integrations and customize it to meet your needs (or, have ERPLY make these integrations/customizations for you). Being such a versatile piece of software, it’s one of the pricier cloud-based POS systems. If you have a larger or franchise business, or you just want the flexibility and horsepower this system offers, you might try ERPLY out for size.

12. talech

  • iPad POS for retail and restaurants
  • Standard subscription is $62/month/location (billed annually upfront)
  • Compatible with multiple payment processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Kiosk mode

talech POS logo

talech (see our review) is a smaller player in the iPad POS world, but with their affordable price point and impressive set of more than 100 features, they can certainly give their larger competitors a run for their money. talech is used by both retail and restaurant businesses, but restaurants, in particular, will find a lot of useful features, including table management, coursing, and the ability to split the check by table positioning (seat).

Advanced inventory management, self-service (kiosk) mode, and the ability to generate purchase orders are some more features that set talech apart from some of its competitors in both the retail and restaurant spheres. talech also made it possible for restaurant owners to integrate an online ordering system so that you can manage in-person and online orders all from your iPad POS terminal.

One caveat: being 100% cloud-based, talech is unable to take credit card payments in the event of a WiFi outage, and you also won’t be able to access your back office. However, it’s possible to circumvent such issues by getting a specialized backup router.

13. Bindo

  • iPad POS for retail and restaurants
  • Custom pricing depends on industry and number of SKUs
  • Works with nearly any payment processor
  • Multi-location support
  • “Favorites” grid displays most popular items as register buttons

Bindo POS logo

Bindo (see our review) is a hybrid POS whose varied and easy-to-use features make it suitable for retail or restaurant environments. A reasonable pricetag, clean interface, robust eCommerce storefront, and thoughtful inventory reporting suite make this an especially versatile touchscreen POS option. While fewer than 5,000 businesses use new-ish POS, customer support (included at all price levels) is responsive to these customers’ needs and tech support (also included) issues frequent updates to fix any software glitches.

As with most other fully cloud-based systems, you’ll need fast internet to experience the best functionality. More than one customer has also complained about being stuck in a leasing contract with Bindo for equipment they were not satisfied with (though in general, we do not recommend leasing POS equipment). Since Bindo works with most standard iPad POS equipment and offers a 14-day free trial, it is likely that you’ll be able to test out Bindo using your current equipment before you commit to purchasing.

14. SalesVu

  • iPad POS for restaurant and retail
  • Basic restaurant and retail packages start at $75/month
  • Works with Vantiv, Evo, and WorldPay
  • Multi-location support
  • Allows items to be charged by decimal and fractional quantities

SalesVu (see our review) is another affordable and feature-rich iPad POS system that can be used in many industries, including service industries and traditional retail and restaurant environments. Since this system allows you to ring up transactions in fractional amounts, it’s especially useful for hourly professionals such as therapists or dog walkers, and businesses that sell items based on weight, like fro-yo shops. SalesVu also has an appointment booking system that health, beauty, and hospitality businesses will appreciate. Like the majority of touchscreen POS’s on this list, SalesVu is best suited for smaller to medium-sized businesses, though it has the capacity to scale up if you open a second or third location.

SalesVu runs locally on iPad registers and syncs all your data to your account in the cloud. Though you can use the SalesVu POS app without an internet connection, you’ll need internet to process credit card transactions; however, you can use a specialized router with a 4G wireless modem with a data plan so that you can switch to 4G without any interruption if your main internet connection goes down.

Another cool thing about SalesVu is that it will run on an iPhone, allowing you to take mobile sales on the go. The basic mobile POS app without any frills is free, similar to Square. Which brings us to the final favorite touchscreen POS on our list …

15. Square Register

  • Proprietary POS hardware with free cloud software for retail, restaurants, service industry
  • Hardware costs $49/month for 24 months or $999 one-time payment
  • In-house credit card processing is 2.5% + $0.10/transaction or lower for high-volume businesses
  • Multi-location support
  • Best for businesses with average transaction of $40 or higher
  • Ethernet support for more reliable internet connection

While Square‘s popular free POS mobile app has been around for some time, the Square Register is a relatively new product, released in October 2017. There are still no monthly service fees, but rather than selling on your smartphone or iPad, you’re ringing up sales on fully featured POS hardware that you purchase as a complete package from Square. With a concept similar to that of Clover Station (which I didn’t include on this list because it is locked into First Data’s less than stellar payment processing), the Square Register is sleek, proprietary POS hardware that works right out of the box, complete with a customer facing screen and built-in credit card terminal. The Square Register hardware itself costs $49/month for 24 months, or you can simply purchase the system outright for $999.

Note that Square Register users have a different credit card processing rate than the standard Square mobile processing rate. With Square Register, businesses are charged 2.5% + $0.10 on every transaction, vs. 2.75% (+ $0.00) with regular Square. This pricing setup may at first blush look like Square Register has cheaper rates, but if you have a lot of small transactions you’ll actually pay more with Square Register than with the Square mobile POS. For this reason, Square Register is a more appropriate solution for larger businesses with average ticket sizes of $40 or higher. Larger businesses processing more than $250,000 per year and with an average ticket size of $15 or higher may also qualify for lower rates.

As for the specific business type, 100% cloud-based Square can work with just about any industry. Square has a built-in 24/7 online booking system for service-based industries, as well as restaurant-centric features such as suggested tipping amounts and online food orders.

Finally, Square Register is not to be confused with Square’s iPad-only, $60/month solution, Square for Retail (see our review).

Final Thoughts

When sorting through your options for touchscreen POS systems, the plethora of choices may at first seem overwhelming. But that’s why we’re here to help you sort out the stinkers and lead you to the very best tablet point of sale systems. And really, you can’t go wrong with any of the POS software systems on this list. Just check that the touchscreen POS system you’re considering meets your business’s needs in terms of functionality and budget, and test it out with a free trial before purchasing. And of course, don’t forget to check user reviews and complaints on the BBB and other consumer review sites. If you need further help choosing a touchscreen POS system, please contact me in the comments section and I’ll give you some further guidance.

The post 15 Best Touchscreen POS Systems appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How You Can Accept Bitcoin

bitcoinBitcoin is quickly becoming a brand new payment way of both on the internet and brick-and-mortar stores. Although it features a lengthy approach to take, the resilience from the cryptocurrency proves that it could be not going anywhere soon. There are many firms that offer the opportunity to accept Bitcoin payments, although not all are trustworthy. Transpire with this information is to provide a fast background about Bitcoin, discuss why you should start accepting it, and provide a brief listing of vendors that provide Bitcoin acceptance.

Table of Contents

What’s Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is really a person-to-person virtual currency. Outdoors source payment network enables users to switch bitcoins online by deducting a delegated amount in one digital wallet and adding exactly the same add up to another. Since it is a worldwide network and isn’t associated with anyone economy or banking institution, bitcoins can be bought or exchanged for dollars, euro, yen, or any other currency.

How do you use it?

Bitcoins are sent in one wallet to a different, bypassing any organizations like banks, as simply as you transmits an e-mail. Miners secure the network by verifying each transaction and posting these questions public ledger.

Do you know the advantages of choosing Bitcoin?

Is cheaper to make use of
With no overhead of the bank, you will find virtually no processing charges with Bitcoin. Charge card companies charge between three and 5 % of every purchase only to make use of the service. It is much more to wire money in one country to a different.

Faster for big purchases
Because banks aren’t involved, there’s no freeze on funds or perhaps a wait here we are at large payments to slow transactions. Bitcoin miners frequently verify transactions in a few minutes.

Global currency
Bypass the lines and need for exchanging one currency for an additional by utilizing Bitcoin all over the world.

Market exposure
Since Bitcoin continues to be relatively recent, individuals inside the network take presctiption the quest for places to invest their bitcoins. Accepting Bitcoin provides exposure to a different market of consumers.

Accounting transparency
Once transactions are verified, they’re logged onto a web-based ledger that’s visible towards the public. For companies or non-profits with concerned parties, Bitcoin makes spending practices simple to audit.

Just how much will it cost?

Bitcoin is free of charge for individual users and may potentially be free for businesses to make use of, for the way it’s recognized (having a processor or without). However, because the need for a person bitcoin varies when transformed into another currency (similar to the worth of an american dollar against a Euro varies), some costs or extra earnings might occur every day.

How you can Accept Bitcoin

You are able to accept Bitcoin payment in any kind of 3 ways.

Peer-to-peer
Using cell phones or perhaps a tablet, you are able to accept payment from one Bitcoin wallet to a different.

QR code
Some companies opt to put a QR code at checkout for purchasers to scan and send payment.

POS hardware terminal
Merchant providers use companies to simply accept Bitcoin payment, convert it, and deposit it into designated accounts.

Trustworthy Bitcoin Processors

For individuals individuals opting to make use of the purpose of purchase hardware, I suggest the next Bitcoin processors:

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What PayPal’s Bitcoin Integration Method for Online Retailers

Bitcoin1

There’s quite a bit happening around the PayPal front right now (take a look at our lately updated PayPal review here) — it’s not only getting ready to spin removed from its longtime parent company, eBay, but PayPal now enables its retailers to simply accept Bitcoin payments.

For individuals who have no idea about Bitcoin, it’s an online currency, sometimes also known as a cryptocurrency. Bitcoins aren’t printed or minted. Actually, they merely ever exist as records of transactions, collected inside a virtual wallet. They’re processed more than a network, and also the entire platform is open-source, meaning it’s very easy for anybody to get involved with the procedure and begin earning Bitcoins. Take a look at our help guide to accepting Bitcoin to learn more.

PayPal initially announced support for Bitcoin in September of 2014 using a partnership with Braintree, confirmed within the SEC filing from April 2015. (Also worth mentioning: eBay initially purchased Braintree in 2013. Using the approaching split, Braintree will come under a brand new entity known as PayPal Holdings, that will oversee eBay’s payments segment from the business.) Furthermore, PayPal has partnered with three major Bitcoin processors: Coinbase, BitPay and GoCoin.

What Bitcoin Acceptance Method for Retailers

The takeaway is the fact that PayPal, clearly among the greatest names in online payments, clearly thinks that Bitcoin may be the coming trend. Let’s take particular notice at what it really method for retailers, whether you possess an online shop, a brick-and-mortar location, or both.

Who Controls Bitcoins

Banks don’t control Bitcoins like they are doing other currency. Actually, Bitcoins are unregulated, that is a benefit: Not one institution controls the woking platform, and thus unlike national currencies, a financial institution simply can’t print more (resulting in devaluation and perhaps inflation).

Bitcoin can also be semi-anonymous. Every transaction is distributed to some Bitcoin address and put into an open register (known as the blockchain), but the master of that address isn’t known. You are able to setup multiple Bitcoin addresses, further obscuring your data. This is actually the Internet we’re coping with, which means you should absolutely learn on how to safely handle Bitcoin payments and safeguard yourself.

However, though, additionally, it means there isn’t any way of recovering Bitcoins in fraudulent transactions. It’s like cash in this way (except, obviously, that Bitcoins don’t really possess a physical form). And Bitcoins aren’t safe from cost fluctuations, either. By penning this, just one Bitcoin is equivalent to $236.61 U.S. dollars, but prices spiked greater than $600 within the summer time of 2014, have arrived at $1,100 formerly.

Payment Charges

Among the key benefits of Bitcoin is always that the payment processing charges tend to be, reduced than individuals assessed by banks along with other institutions. In some instances, there aren’t any transaction charges whatsoever.

However, that’s a specific item if you use the Bitcoin network, no intermediary like PayPal or Braintree. In September, Coinbase announced on its blog that retailers using Coinbase via Braintree to simply accept Bitcoins would pay a set 1% fee — which continues to be a great deal under the two.9% + $.30 normally assessed by PayPal and Braintree.

If the transaction charges are going to remain low (or nonexistent) as Bitcoin gets to be more popular remains seen, however if you simply have knowledge about Bitcoin and transaction charges, we’d like to learn about it! Drop us a line within the comments.

Time for you to Process Transactions

Because Bitcoins aren’t controlled like other currency, time to process transactions is shorter — nearly immediate in some instances. You are able to send money in one continent to a different within ten minutes, for much under a wire service with no worries about frozen funds. PayPal works nearly immediately too, causeing this to be an excellent fit for retailers who would like their cash immediately.

Mobile Payments and Bitcoin

An advantage of Bitcoin being digital is the fact that it’s perfectly suitable for mobile apps. For those who have a Bitcoin wallet application installed, you are able to send money or make payments utilizing a QR code or NFC. Which means retailers whose systems are established to handle both Bitcoin and mobile payments can readily accept payments at brick-and-mortar locations plus online stores.

The way forward for Bitcoin

In the realm of retail, PayPal’s Bitcoin integration means merchants convey more payment options with almost no try to do on their own part. However, PayPal (by extension, its subsidiary Braintree) is way from the only method to accept Bitcoin. Actually, Stripe, Shopify and Square all offer Bitcoin integration. Menufy, a web-based ordering system for restaurants, also enables restaurants to simply accept Bitcoin.

Like a number of other technologies, like mobile wallets, NFC, and beacons, Bitcoin continues to be hovering around close to digital scene for quite some time. There are many proponents who choose what Bitcoin means — namely freedom by means of a really digital, mobile presently. It certainly has the ability to alter the way we consider spending cash on the internet and e-commerce generally. But at this time, it isn’t prevalent.

That certainly looks going to change. Much like Apple finally backing NFC payments with Apple Pay has resulted in an uptick in mobile payments, PayPal offering Bitcoin integration may be the catalyst that pushes Bitcoin in the forefront on the web stage.

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Manley is definitely an independent author and editor who loves e-commerce, internet marketing, technology, and social networking. Not so long ago, she earned a journalism degree, but she continued to uncover that they could work at home, researching, editing, and covering the items she found most fascinating. When she’s not associated with her laptop, Melissa usually can be based in the kitchen, studying a magazine, or doing something from the nerdy persuasion.

Melissa Johnson

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The Top 5 Payment Gateways for Online Credit Card Processing

Online payment gateway

Setting up an eCommerce business involves making a lot of choices, but one important decision you might have overlooked is choosing the best payment gateway to allow your customers to actually make purchases on your site. Pick a good gateway, and you’ll be able to accept just about any payment method imaginable, interface with the online shopping cart of your choice, and, perhaps most importantly, easily be able to migrate your customer payment data to a different system if you later decide to change gateway providers. If you pick a not-so-great gateway, you may someday find yourself with a product that no longer meets the needs of your business – and no easy way to switch to a better one.

If you’re new to eCommerce, your first question might be “Just what the heck is a payment gateway, anyway?” Admittedly, payment gateways are something of a nebulous subject. Merchants are often unsure about what they do, and why they might need one in the first place. They’re also often confused with merchant accounts, which is a related (but separate) merchant service that you’ll also need to accept credit cards and other forms of payment.

We’ll try to keep it as simple as possible. A payment gateway is a software application that establishes a communication link between your eCommerce website and your merchant account provider’s payment processing system. Much like your computer’s BIOS and other operating system functions, payment gateways run in the background, and your customers won’t have to interface with them directly. The primary purpose of a payment gateway is to allow your customers to make purchases on your site using the payment method of their choice. While almost every gateway will support credit card purchases, the better ones will also allow customers to pay using eChecks, debit cards, their PayPal account, and even contactless payment methods such as Apple Pay. Most gateways also maintain a secure database of your customers’ payment method data, shipping and billing addresses, and other information. With this database, returning customers won’t have to re-enter their payment method information every time they make a purchase. This feature naturally translates to increased sales due to the convenience it offers your customers. For more details about payment gateways and how they work, see our article The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway.

Merchant accounts, on the other hand, process payment transactions and disburse the funds to you after a customer makes a purchase. Both retail and eCommerce businesses need a merchant account to accept credit card payments, although today payment service providers (PSPs) such as Square and Stripe can offer basic credit card processing without the need for a full-service merchant account. If your business is strictly retail and you don’t make any sales online, you can stop reading now. You won’t need a payment gateway. eCommerce merchants, on the other hand, will usually need both a payment gateway and a merchant account. This is because their transactions will all be in a card-not-present environment where they won’t be able to verify their customer’s identity or have access to the magstripe or EMV-chip data that helps to prevent fraud in the traditional card-present environment of a retail location.

With so many different choices of merchant account and payment gateway providers on the market, you might wonder what the best way is to set your business up with both of these services. There are two methods you can use: an integrated approach, or a non-integrated approach. Under the integrated approach, you’ll use the same provider for both services. For example, an account with a payment service provider (PSP) like Stripe includes both payment gateway functions and transaction processing services. The non-integrated approach, on the other hand, requires you to sign up for each service separately. The easiest way to do this is to use the payment gateway offered by your merchant account provider. Often this will be a proprietary product, such as the Quantum Gateway provided by CDGcommerce. While most providers will charge you additional fees for a payment gateway, CDGcommerce will let you use their gateway for free. Many providers also offer access to third-party gateways, which may be a better option if you need more advanced features than what the proprietary gateways have to offer or simply want to have more flexibility to change your merchant account provider at some point in the future. The majority of merchant account providers (including CDGcommerce) offer Authorize.Net as one of their payment gateway options. Signing up for the Authorize.Net gateway through your merchant account provider is often less expensive than going with the company directly, as providers can negotiate discounted rates and fees for their customers.

Another way to take the non-integrated approach is to sign up for your merchant account and payment gateway separately. For example, let’s say you’ve found a great merchant account provider that offers significantly lower processing rates than you’ve been able to find elsewhere. Unfortunately, they don’t offer a gateway that includes all the features you need for your business. You can always sign up for a third-party gateway and integrate it into your merchant account. While this may be the best option for some merchants, be aware that there are two disadvantages to this approach. For one thing, you’ll have to make absolutely sure that the two services are fully compatible with each other before you sign up. Also, you will almost always end up paying more money with this approach. Watch out for gateway setup fees and additional per-transaction charges for using a third-party gateway.

So, which approach is right for your business? There’s simply no clear-cut answer to this question, unfortunately. As a general rule, however, smaller businesses will usually save money by signing up with a payment service provider (PSP) that doesn’t charge monthly fees for either transaction processing or the use of their payment gateway. The trade-off, of course, is that you will pay higher per-transaction processing costs, as most PSPs only offer flat-rate pricing. Upgrading to a full-service merchant account and adding in a payment gateway will cost you more in monthly fees, but you’ll usually save money on processing charges – at least if your provider offers interchange-plus pricing. Larger businesses that have a higher monthly processing volume can more easily afford the extra fees and will save money overall because of the lower processing rates available from full-service merchant account providers. Because of the number of variables involved, there is no easy way to determine what your processing volume needs to be for a full-service merchant account plus a gateway to be more cost-effective than simply going with a PSP. We recommend that you take a close look at the total percentage of your transactions each month that goes to paying for merchant services and compare this to what you would pay under a different provider.

How We Chose:

While all payment gateways offer the basic function of processing transactions over the internet, there’s a lot of variability beyond that. The best gateways on the market offer a combination of fair pricing and a robust feature set that will meet the needs of most eCommerce merchants. In evaluating how well each gateway stood up against the competition, we used the following criteria:

  • Pricing: While everyone wants to save money, we firmly believe that pricing should be evaluated in terms of overall value rather than simply trying to find the cheapest option available. Trying to save a few dollars can easily result in being stuck with a product that doesn’t fully meet your needs. Nonetheless, there are some things to look out for. Many gateway providers, for example, charge a gateway setup fee when you first open your account. While this is a one-time charge, it’s mostly a junk fee that you should avoid paying. You’re more likely to get hit with a setup fee if you sign up directly with a gateway provider. Merchant account providers often waive this fee if you get your gateway through them. Monthly gateway fees (usually around $15.00 – $25.00 per month), on the other hand, are very hard to avoid. Unless you sign up with a company like CDGcommerce, which doesn’t charge a monthly fee for their gateway, you can expect to pay this on top of whatever monthly fee you have to pay for your merchant account. Gateway processing charges (typically $0.05 per transaction) are another thing to look out for. Some companies will charge you separately for this, while others will include it in their processing rates. You might also have to pay PCI compliance fees, particularly if you’ve signed up directly with a gateway provider. Usually, however, these fees are included in your merchant account pricing.
  • Contracts: Most payment gateway providers will bill you on a month-to-month basis, with no long-term contract and no early termination fee (ETF) if you close your account. However, your merchant account provider might include both of these provisions, so read all your contract documents very carefully before signing up. It won’t do you much good to be able to drop your payment gateway whenever you want if you’re stuck in a three-year contract for your merchant account.
  • Features: Obviously, you’ll want a gateway that includes the features you’ll need to run your business. Confirming that a gateway will meet your needs, however, isn’t always as easy as it should be. Companies naturally tend to play up the unique features of their services, but in most cases, they won’t disclose the limitations or shortcomings of those services. For starters, you’ll want to confirm that the gateway supports all the payment methods your customers use. For example, almost every gateway on the market will support Visa and MasterCard credit card purchases. Support for less-common cards isn’t as easy to find. If your customers use Diners Club (as unusual as that may be), you’ll want a gateway that supports it. Support for multiple currencies is also important for some merchants, and you’ll obviously need a gateway that supports the specific currencies your customers use. If you prefer a particular online shopping cart for your site, you’ll need a gateway that is certified to integrate with it. If you need to customize the integration between your site and your gateway, access to an API that allows you to do that will be essential. Finally, we recommend that you choose a gateway that allows for easy and convenient data portability in case you need to switch to a different gateway.
  • Security: No eCommerce merchant ever wants to have their site hacked and their customer’s sensitive payment data exposed in a data breach. Your gateway provider doesn’t want this to happen, either, which is why every gateway on the market comes with a number of security and encryption features to keep your account safe. Some of these features, however, are more effective than others. Look for point-to-point encryption (P2PE) and a gateway that meets Level 1 PCI compliance standards. Other features, such as data breach insurance, are also useful to have.
  • Customer support: Like any other software product, payment gateways are prone to occasional hiccups and glitches – often at the most inconvenient times. The eCommerce world runs around the clock and isn’t limited to just regular business hours. For this reason, you’ll want a gateway that’s backed up by 24/7 customer support. While options like email and online chat are nice to have, you really should be able to talk to a customer service representative via telephone when a problem arises.

Before we dive into our specific recommendations, let’s be clear about one thing: there really isn’t a perfect gateway out there that will meet the needs of every merchant. Even the best gateways fall short of perfection in one aspect or another. Nonetheless, there are several gateways that provide a significantly better combination of features and services than others. Here are our recommendations:

Authorize.Net

Authorize.Net logo

Originally founded in 1996, Authorize.Net is one of the oldest and most experienced payment gateway providers in the industry. Thanks to partnerships with a host of merchant account providers, they’ve also cornered the lion’s share of the market for payment gateways. There’s a good chance that your merchant account provider offers Authorize.Net as their payment gateway.

But, does being the biggest gateway provider also make them the best? Well, maybe. With over twenty years in business to perfect their product, they’ve definitely managed to add a lot of bells and whistles to their core product. Their gateway can accept all major credit cards (yes, even Diner’s Club), debit cards, eCheck payments, and even digital payment methods such as PayPal and Apple Pay. They can accept international transactions from just about any country in the world, although your business must be based in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, or Australia. Their Advanced Fraud Detection Suite (AFDS) can protect your site from card-not-present fraud – a common issue with eCommerce. Best of all, their gateway seamlessly integrates with a huge number of third-party eCommerce platforms.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, there are a few things to watch out for. Pricing can be on the high side if you sign up directly with Authorize.Net, with a $49.00 gateway setup fee, a $25.00 monthly gateway fee, and a $25.00 fee for chargebacks. If you already have a merchant account, you’ll still pay an additional $0.10 per transaction for the use of their gateway. International transactions also pay an additional 1.5% for processing. If you don’t have a merchant account, Authorize.Net will set you up with one, but it uses a flat-rate pricing plan of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. While this is the same as what you’d pay for PayPal or most other payment service providers (PSPs), you can get lower rates by signing up with a merchant account provider that offers interchange-plus pricing.

The good news is that you can usually get a better deal on the Authorize.Net gateway by signing up with a partner merchant account provider. Most providers will waive the setup fee, and they’ll often charge a lower monthly gateway fee and per-transaction processing fee (typically $0.05 per transaction). However, Authorize.Net does have one major weakness: data portability. Or, rather, the lack of it. Their Customer Information Manager (CIM) is a powerful feature that allows you to store customer data, including credit card numbers, securely. Unfortunately, it’s difficult and very expensive to download that data and take it with you if you ever decide to switch to a competing payment gateway. This is a serious limitation, especially considering that other providers (such as Braintree) offer you the freedom to take your customer data with you if you want to. You’ll want to very carefully evaluate whether Authorize.Net will be able to meet the long-term needs of your business before you sign up.

PROS:

  • Broad support for multiple payment methods and currencies
  • Strong security and fraud prevention features
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts

CONS:

  • Pricing is expensive for merchants who sign up with the company directly
  • High flat-rate pricing for optional merchant account
  • Data portability is unusually difficult and expensive

For a more in-depth look at Authorize.Net, check out our full review.

Braintree Payment Solutions:

Braintree Payment Solutions logo

Founded in 2010, Braintree Payments Solutions is now a PayPal company. They offer an integrated approach to eCommerce, with each account including both a payment gateway and a full-service merchant account. It’s available in 44 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and most of Europe. Payments can be accepted in over 130 currencies, including Bitcoin if you’re particularly adventurous.

Standard accounts at Braintree follow a pay-as-you-go pricing model, with no account setup fees, monthly fees, or even gateway fees. All transactions are processed at a flat rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Billing is on a month-to-month basis, with no long-term contracts or early termination fees. While the flat-rate pricing is not particularly cost-effective for larger businesses, the lack of monthly fees makes it a great deal for smaller companies. Braintree addresses this limitation by offering enterprise pricing for larger businesses (presumably with interchange-plus rates), but you’ll have to process over $80,000 per month to qualify for it.

Braintree’s gateway includes some excellent standard features, including its Drop-In UI for customer checkouts and support for recurring billing. It’s also compatible with a huge variety of third-party integrations, including shopping carts, accounting software, and analytics. Developers can further customize the gateway using Braintree’s client and server SDKs. Perhaps the best feature Braintree has to offer is that they provide complete data portability for free. If your needs change and you want to switch to a different provider, you’re free to take your customer data with you.

While Braintree offers an excellent service at a fair price, it’s not for everyone. If you already have a separate merchant account (particularly if you’re stuck in a long-term contract), their gateway-only option is quite expensive at $49.00 per month and $0.10 per transaction processed over the gateway. There’s also almost no support for card-present (i.e., retail) transactions, although they do support a handful of third-party mPOS solutions.

PROS:

  • Pay-as-you-go pricing with no monthly fees
  • Simple flat-rate pricing for standard accounts
  • Free, unrestricted data portability

CONS:

  • No support for eCheck (ACH) payments
  • Gateway-only option is expensive

Check out our full review of Braintree for more information.

PayPal:

PayPal Logo

You might not think of PayPal as a payment gateway provider, but their Payflow Payment Gateway is actually a very capable product. In fact, PayPal offers a host of merchant services for eCommerce businesses, and you can integrate most of them with the merchant account, shopping cart, or another service you’re already using.

Offering PayPal as an additional payment method is the simplest option, as it’s free to set up and there are no monthly fees or long-term contracts. Pricing is pay-as-you-go and based on a flat rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (4.4% + $0.30 per transaction for international transactions). While this is certainly the least expensive option, realize that as a payment service provider (PSP), PayPal is not giving you a full merchant account. Instead, your account is aggregated with those of other sellers so that you won’t have a unique merchant ID number for your business. The downsides to this arrangement, of course, are that your account won’t be nearly as stable as a merchant account, plus account freezes and holds on your funds are more common. PayPal is rather notorious for withholding seller’s funds at the slightest suspicion of fraud, so it’s better to use them as a backup payment method rather than relying on them entirely for your transaction processing needs.

If you already have a merchant account through a different provider, the Payflow Payment Gateway is designed to integrate with it and expand your payment options. There are two pricing plans for the Payflow gateway: Payflow Link and Payflow Pro. Payflow Link (the best choice for most merchants) is practically free. There are no gateway setup or monthly fees. You pay an extra $0.10 per transaction, and that’s it. You can use a PayPal-hosted payment page or a template embedded on your website. Payflow Pro, on the other hand, offers full customization and additional PCI compliance features. However, it’s rather expensive, with a $99.00 setup fee and a $25.00 monthly fee after that. You’ll also still pay $0.10 per transaction with this option.

PROS:

  • No setup or monthly fees (for Payflow Link)
  • Simple, transparent flat-rate pricing with no hidden fees
  • Easy to setup and begin accepting payments

CONS:

  • Flat-rate processing charges are higher than most merchant accounts offer
  • Elevated risk of account holds, freezes, and terminations
  • Inconsistent quality of customer support

For more detailed information about PayPal, see our complete review here.

PayTrace:

PayTrace logo

While they’re not nearly as well-known as the other heavy hitters in the payment gateway industry, PayTrace offers a solid product with lots of specialized features, particularly for merchants in the B2B sphere. Unlike other merchant services providers who offer a broad range of products and services, PayTrace is a payment gateway provider first and foremost. They don’t offer merchant accounts or any hardware, so you’ll have to go with a third-party provider for these items. Although the PayTrace gateway is their primary product, the company also offers a virtual terminal and a mobile payments app.

PayTrace offers both Basic and Pro pricing plans, with the former being suitable for small eCommerce businesses and the latter offering specialized options for larger B2B merchants. The Basic plan has no setup fee and costs only $15.00 per month after that. You’ll also pay $0.30 per transaction processed over the gateway, which is in addition to any processing charge you pay to your merchant account provider. The Pro plan requires a $75.00 setup fee, and $20.00 per month after that. However, your gateway processing fee drops to $0.10 per transaction. You’ll also be able to process Level II and Level III credit card data, which will save you up to 1.0% in processing charges due to the lower interchange rates for these transactions. Processing Level III data requires some additional data input on your part and is mostly useful for B2B transactions, but if you process a lot of these types of transactions, the savings could be significant.

The PayTrace gateway also supports additional features such as eCheck (ACH) processing and recurring billing. However, these are optional features requiring additional fees, and are only available under the Pro plan. PayTrace bills on a month-to-month basis only, so there’s no long-term contract and no early termination fee to worry about. Be aware, however, that your merchant account provider might not be so generous. As always, we highly recommend that you read all contract documents thoroughly before signing up for a merchant account. The same advice goes for payment gateways, even though gateway providers are generally much more flexible about contract terms.

Like most gateway providers, PayTrace also offers a customer information database so returning customers don’t have to re-enter their payment method data every time they make a purchase. Unfortunately, it’s only available under the Pro pricing plan. Data portability is supported, although PayTrace notes on its website that “only truncated payment information is available for export from the system.”

PROS:

  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts
  • Integrates with most merchant account providers and shopping carts
  • Supports Level II and Level III credit card data for B2B merchants

CONS:

  • High per-transaction processing charge under Basic pricing plan

To learn more about PayTrace, check out our full review.

Stripe Payments:

Stripe logo

Much like Braintree, Stripe Payments is a tech-focused merchant services provider that specializes in serving the eCommerce community. Those services are tightly integrated into their payments system, so the company doesn’t offer a discrete Stripe-branded payment gateway. Instead, it’s built into their overall payments platform and comes with every Stripe account. For small businesses, this is a very affordable approach, as there’s no separate account setup fee, no monthly gateway fees, and no additional per-transaction processing fee. You also don’t have to worry about trying to integrate two or more third-party services into your website. Another advantage is that Stripe includes several additional features for free that most gateway providers charge extra for, including eCheck (ACH) processing and recurring billing.

Stripe’s pay-as-you-go pricing couldn’t be simpler. Credit card transactions are processed at a single flat rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. eChecks are 0.8%, up to a maximum of $5.00. Stripe also supports digital payment methods such as Bitcoin and Apple Pay. Qualified nonprofit corporations get a discount on these rates, and enterprise users (i.e., those processing over $80,000 per month) can also negotiate volume discounts on their processing rates. Like most of its direct competitors, Stripe bills month-to-month only and doesn’t impose long-term contracts or early termination fees.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? If you think that there must be a catch – of course there is. Stripe is a payment service provider (PSP), and so they don’t provide true full-service merchant accounts. Like other PSPs (i.e., Square or PayPal), funding holds and account freezes or terminations are distressingly common. Customer service is another weak point, with almost all communications between Stripe and its merchants being conducted via email.

The best thing about Stripe is that it’s designed specifically for eCommerce merchants. Most providers are more focused on the retail sector, and their support for eCommerce always comes at a higher cost in the form of gateway fees and additional per-transaction charges. With Stripe, new eCommerce merchants get everything they need to start accepting payments as soon as their account is approved. While a Stripe account covers all the basics, you can also add or customize features through their huge API library or supported third-party integrations. Stripe also supports data portability, so you can easily take your customer information with you if you decide to change providers later.

PROS:

  • Pay-as-you-go pricing with no setup or monthly fees
  • Simple, transparent flat-rate pricing structure
  • No long-term contracts or early termination fees
  • Huge API library for developers

CONS:

  • Flat-rate pricing is more expensive than interchange-plus for high-volume merchants
  • Frequent account holds and terminations
  • No telephone customer support

For more information, see our complete review of Stripe Payments here.

Final Thoughts:

If you’ve been reading this far, you’ve probably concluded that selecting a payment gateway provider can be a very complicated decision. While that’s sometimes true, it doesn’t have to be all that difficult. Gateway providers offer a dizzying array of options, customizations, and add-ons, but in most cases, you won’t need all of them. Take a close look at what your business needs are today, and consider how those needs might expand over time as your business grows. For example, if you don’t need recurring billing, there’s no reason to pay extra for it. If your needs change later, you can always add it to your service. Level II and III credit card data processing is another feature that a sales agent might try to upsell you on. Yes, the rates are lower, but you still pay extra to access them, and if you don’t take many B2B transactions, you’ll wind up paying extra for something you don’t use.

You’ll also want to put some thought into whether the integrated or non-integrated approach will work best for you. Payment service providers (PSPs) like PayPal or Stripe are an excellent way to add credit card processing to your business without spending any money up front. However, once your business grows large enough, the high flat-rate pricing will end up costing you more money than you’d pay with a traditional merchant account offering interchange-plus pricing. Since there’s no long-term contract to worry about, it’s relatively easy to make the switch once this happens. However, you’ll probably have to find a merchant account provider and a new gateway.

Although there are no hard and fast rules, we recommend providers such as PayPal or Stripe for new, low-volume eCommerce businesses. Braintree is also a good option, especially if you’d like to get all your merchant services from the same company. When you’re ready to step up to a full-service merchant account, Authorize.Net is a good option. However, we recommend getting their gateway through a third-party provider rather than the company itself due to the generally lower costs. PayTrace is also an excellent choice if you already have a merchant account, especially if you run a lot of B2B transactions.

Much like merchant account providers, there is no single “best” gateway provider. Even the companies we’ve profiled here have their shortcomings. Every business has different needs, and it’s up to you to decide what features your business needs the most. Fortunately, most payment gateway providers offer a similar set of standard features that cover the most common requirements of a majority of businesses. They also provide a very high degree of customization to make their service work with your business, although in many cases you’ll have to have developer skills (or hire one) to implement them. If you’ve had any experience with the providers profiled in this article or you want to highlight a gateway provider we haven’t mentioned, please feel free to tell us about it in the Comments section below.

The post The Top 5 Payment Gateways for Online Credit Card Processing appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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PayPal Versus Stripe

Paypal-vs-Stripe

PayPal and Stripe are tools to deal with online payment processing, but they’re also a lot more. Using its slew of interconnected products varying from mobile payments to financing services, I believe it’s reliable advice that PayPal is really a household name. And Stripe, while much more of a “behind the scenes” processor whose name customers don’t always recognize, includes a lengthy listing of extremely popular clients and partners. So within the PayPal versus. Stripe debate, that has the benefit?

First, let me explain that neither PayPal nor Stripe provides the least expensive payment processing rates around. For any fundamental payment processor with lower rates, you’d need to be obtaining a regular credit card merchant account. You&#8217ll acquire some fundamental eCommerce support, which can be recommended that you&#8217re centered on cost and never so much on features.

However if you simply&#8217re searching for features and versatility, you&#8217re in the best place. PayPal and Stripe’s strengths lie within their myriad eCommerce features, including support for digital goods, subscriptions, as well as mobile application payments. However, even though these two services do essentially exactly the same factor, they are doing do it diversely.

If you’re unsure which of those online payment processors suits your company, or simply want a little more context for prior to deciding, continue reading in my comparison of both companies&#8217 selling points: features, prices, customer support, and much more. For those who have something to include or perhaps your experience is different from my conclusions, you can leave me a comment!

Services and products

Champion: Stripe

PayPal&#8217s core offering happens to be its payment processing: allowing anybody to create a payment to some merchant utilizing their own PayPal balance or perhaps a debit or credit card.  But nowadays, retailers using PayPal obtain access to a number of supplemental services where you can exceed selling on eBay.

You will find three service plans for PayPal:

  • Express Checkout: Add PayPal like a supplemental checkout option additionally for your standard payment processor for normal PayPal rates.
  • Payments Standard: Get online payment processing and invoicing for normal rates.
  • Payments Pro: Get the standard PayPal features Along with a Virtual Terminal and located checkout page for any fee every month plus processing fee.

You will discover much more about these different plans here.

PayPal’s other services include:

  • PayPal Here: PayPal’s mPOS application
  • POS software integrations
  • Located payment page (with PayPal Pro subscription)
  • PCI compliance
  • PayFlow Payment Gateway
  • Online &amp in-application invoicing
  • Virtual terminal
  • Digital goods
  • Subscriptions
  • Donation collection tools
  • Buy now buttons
  • Mass payout
  • PayPal Credit: Provide no-interest financing to customers

Plus, PayPal offers SDKs along with other developer tools so that you can create custom integrations &#8212 as well as power your personal mobile payments application with support for Android Pay and Apple Pay.

Like PayPal, Stripe&#8217s primary function is online payments. The organization offers retailers a boatload of features to enhance its core offering, but unlike PayPal, they&#8217re much more of supplements than capabilities beyond payment processing. Listed here are Stripe’s primary features:

  • Payment processing
  • Located payment page
  • PCI compliance
  • Customizable checkout
  • Subscriptions
  • Marketplace tools
  • Platform-building tools
  • Coupons and free trials
  • Customizable reporting tools
  • Buy buttons in mobile phone applications

It bears mentioning that Stripe states convey more than 100 features &#8212 and that i&#8217m inclined to think it. It&#8217s a really robust platform that may focus on almost any type of internet companies. Plus, past the general features, you&#8217ll also find Stripe&#8217s Atlas suite of tools, made to help worldwide entrepreneurs begin a business in america. Stripe also offers a strong API for simple integration with a number of other applications. You may also integrate stripe with mPOS apps &#8212 if you&#8217ll be having to pay exactly the same rate, that is considerably greater than most mPOS apps. However, the integrations do support Android and Apple Pay too.

PayPal versus. Stripe: Featuring Do You Want?

Since we&#8217ve covered the fundamentals, it&#8217s time for you to consider what&#8217s essential for your company.

Sigma is Stripe&#8217s reporting tool, and I wish to call focus on it since it&#8217s easily probably the most robust and different reporting tool I&#8217ve seen. PayPal will generate reports for you personally &#8212 but nobody besides Stripe enables you to definitely make your own custom SQL queries to create reports. This isn&#8217t just selecting from the pre-generated listing of options &#8212 if you’re able to ask it using SQL, you can aquire a report. Should you&#8217re after a little serious business data, it&#8217s difficult to ignore it. PayPal&#8217s reports are fairly advanced (also it&#8217s a lengthy list), but they’re not customizable. A minimum of nothing like Stripe&#8217s.

I continue being surprised by Stripe&#8217s insufficient an online terminal. You are able to by hand enter transactions with the dashboard, but the organization positively discourages by using this feature greater than from time to time. Additionally, it leaves you responsible for PCI compliance. PayPal&#8217s virtual terminal comes at a price &#8212 along with a greater processing rate &#8212 but based on your company, it may be an excellent tool. Most omnichannel platforms provide a virtual terminal nowadays. On the other hand, Stripe is mainly for online commerce.

An associated note: Stripe generally handles PCI compliance for you personally, meaning no charges or additional work. If you possess the PayPal Standard plan, you&#8217re instantly PCI compliant too. However, around the PayPal Pro plan you aren&#8217t. Rather, PayPal provides you with transparent redirects to assist, and also you much complete a yearly self-assessment in addition to quarterly scans and much more. It won&#8217t set you back more past the monthly plan you&#8217ll have to put more work in it.

Something which Stripe recommends to obtain around PCI compliance concerns for manual transactions is applying an invoicing service. You&#8217ll need to find an add-on service that integrates with Stripe &#8212 for instance, Zoho Invoice, or Flint. This will be significant because Stripe doesn’t have native invoicing support. PayPal enables you to send invoices out of your computer or from inside the PayPal Here application.

However, there&#8217s without doubt that Stripe has probably the most capable tools for designing checkout processes and managing subscriptions. PayPal has some solid management tools for subscriptions and recurring billing, however, you do not have control of the checkout process around the Standard plan,  and the professional Plan&#8217s checkout tools just don&#8217t appear to stack facing Stripe&#8217s.

While PayPal and Stripe offer methods to exactly the same problem (online payments), they do it in Completely different ways. PayPal may be the entry-level solution &#8212 something which anybody (or at best, almost anybody) with a fundamental knowledge of eCommerce or technology can use. However, there is also much more tools to consider your company beyond only the Internet: an mPOS, invoicing, POS integrations, and much more. Unless of course you&#8217re searching at something completely custom, the majority of PayPal&#8217s features don&#8217t require specialized understanding.

To obtain the most from Stripe, you&#8217re have to a developer, because it wasn’t created for the layperson. It&#8217s intended for companies that require a very customizable and tech-based solution for payment processing. If you want a plentiful variety of features, Stripe may be the obvious champion as well as your emphasis is particularly online payments. If your priorities lie elsewhere (simplicity of use, or omnichannel commerce), you may be very likely to think about PayPal.

Charges and Rates

Champion: PayPal

Both PayPal and Stripe charge merchants the same per-transaction processing fee: 2.9% + $..30. Additionally, Stripe will also support both ACH and Bitcoin, charging .8% per transaction, limited to $5 maximum.

Stripe charges nothing extra for accepting worldwide cards, because of its subscription services, or its located payments page. This really is certainly a perk. However, if you are planning to make use of Connect, Stripe&#8217s platform-building suite, you&#8217ll encounter additional charges.

PayPal&#8217s base subscription bills you nothing monthly &#8212 however, you don&#8217t obtain a located payment page. To achieve that, you have to change your intend to PayPal Payments Pro. There is also PayPal&#8217s virtual terminal (which has a different prices plan for transactions). However, if you would like recurring billing/subscriptions, there&#8217s yet another fee.

  • PayPal Payments Pro + Virtual Terminal: $30/month
  • Virtual terminal prices: 3.1% + $.30
  • American Express prices for Pro and Virtual Terminal: 3.5%
  • Recurring billing: $10/month

Forty dollars per month for located payment page and recurring billing appears just like a lot. However, you need to do will also get the virtual terminal &#8212 an element Stripe doesn&#8217t support. Plus, should you&#8217re once subscription management, you don&#8217t must have PayPal Payments Pro. A $10/month add-on is much more reasonable, otherwise ideal.

It&#8217s also worth mentioning that PayPal is really less expensive in other situations. Particularly, PayPal provides a non-profit discount for 501(c)(3) organizations, in which you&#8217ll pay 2.2% + $.30 for transactions. And let’s say you sell low-value digital goods (under $10 typically), PayPal really provides a micro payments plan that can save you money within the typical rates. You&#8217ll pay 5% + $.05 per transaction &#8212 and since the transaction fee is gloomier, you find yourself saving cash although the percentage fee is greater. There&#8217s additionally a Mass Payout option, where one can s finish a bulk wave of payments for just twoPercent, limited to $1 per transaction.

If you want an mPOS, PayPal Here’s also less expensive than dealing with Stripe &#8212 2.7% per swipe, instead of 2.9% + $.30. Again, based on your average ticket size, this might mean substantial savings. (However, if you are using Shopify Payments, that is operated by Stripe, you will get 2.7% on swiped transactions. However that means building on Shopify&#8217s platform, not Stripe&#8217s.)

You’ll find a lot of PayPal’s prices here, or take a look at Stripe&#8217s prices.

I truly dislike PayPal&#8217s cost because of its located payment page, virtual terminal, and recurring billing, considering that other available choices available &#8212 not only Stripe &#8212 with lower prices. However I like that exist nonprofit prices, there&#8217s a micropayments choice for retailers who sell digital goods, and you obtain a flat percentage rate for mPOS transactions. Which makes PayPal much more flexible on prices compared with Stripe.

Simplicity of use

Champion: PayPal

Both Stripe and PayPal allow customers to pay retailers. But because a merchant, your experience is going to be a great deal different. While PayPal has tools for developers, it&#8217s created for almost anybody so that you can setup and begin taking payments. For those who have no training with code, establishing Stripe will probably be much more complicated. You might be able to setup the fundamentals yourself (we&#8217ve seen reading user reviews affirming this). However, if you want something more complicated than the usual fundamental eCommerce site, you probably wish to just bite the bullet and employ a developer. Otherwise, you&#8217ll be fairly limited in you skill.

Here’s a good example: You’ve most likely seen PayPal’s ubiquitous “Buy it now” button, which enables you to definitely order and purchase products on numerous sites. To be able to integrate a “Buy it now” button to your site, all that you should do is copy the related code from PayPal’s website and paste it to your website. Stripe includes a similar “Pay with card” option, however it requires you because the merchant/developer to create the necessary coding framework.

Now, if you’re a developer, there&#8217s no doubt that Stripe is the foremost choice. You can perform a lot with PayPal nowadays. But that can be done a lot more with Stripe. Again, Stripe was created first of all for developers&#8230so this will make lots of sense. However if you simply&#8217re not tech savvy and also you don&#8217t have quick access to a person using the requisite skills, PayPal will probably be the smarter option.

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee

Champion: Tie

Neither PayPal nor Stripe needs a contract (both services are pay-as-you-go), which means no early termination fee for either service either. Yay!

Sales and Advertising Transparency

Champion: Tie

Both PayPal and Strike are extremely upfront regarding their charges and services. Neither company employs any schemes or gimmicks which will catch you unexpectedly if you notice your bill. As pointed out, PayPal’s charges could be a little trickier to wrap the mind around due to their complexities. Still, they all are clearly organized around the firm’s website which means you certainly couldn’t give them a call “hidden charges.” Both services will also be pretty much known, so that they don’t have to junk e-mail the web with annoying advertising, and also you&#8217re not getting salespeople pounding at the door (or perhaps your email inbox).

Customer Support and Tech Support Team

Champion: PayPal

PayPal offers a number of ways to achieve an assistance repetition. Included in this are:

  • Self-Help Center
  • Online Community
  • Email support
  • Developer Center: PayPal&#8217s dev documentation most likely isn&#8217t as thorough as Stripe&#8217s, however it exists.
  • Phone support (available Mon–Fri 5 a.m.–10 p.m. PST): Word in the pub (see “Negative Reviews and Complaints”) would be that the quality of PayPal’s phone support is sporadic.
  • Twitter – The @AskPayPal account fields service and support questions Mon–Fri 9 AM – 5 PM CST
  • Facebook: You are able to&#8217t publish towards the page, however, you can discuss posts and message PayPal directly for those who have questions.

Stripe, however, provides more limited support:

  • Understanding base
  • Email support
  • Developer Docs: Stripe&#8217s documentation is frequently a good option to understand more about what particular features can perform, even though you aren&#8217t a developer. This a part of Stripe&#8217s support is much more comprehensive compared to knowledgebase, which&#8230really isn&#8217t everything surprising. Again, this can be a developer-focused option, and Stripe&#8217s invested its sources accordingly.
  • Freenode-based chat support (#stripe)
  • Facebook: No posting towards the page permitted, however, you can message Stripe.
  • Twitter: There&#8217s no dedicated support account, however, you can tweet @Stripe or check @StripeStatus for outage notices and updates.

Stripe’s support is decent, sure, but PayPal provides you with a choice to obtain on the telephone about actual payment-related issues. Whether or not the quality isn’t terrific, the significance of getting live phone support can’t be understated.

Negative Reviews and Complaints

Champion: Tie

Both services are usually loved, but it is easy to locate complaints online. Here are the primary complaints about PayPal:

  • Withheld funds, freezing of accounts, and termination of accounts
  • High transaction charges (when compared with traditional payment processors)
  • Sporadic phone support
  • Limited seller protection

You&#8217re likely to visit a similar thread of complaints about Stripe. Listed here are the most typical issues retailers encounter:

  • Ended accounts, frequently with funds inside
  • Unresponsive customer support
  • Frequent chargebacks

Both PayPal and Stripe possess a pretty careful approach with regards to accepting online payments, which could cause account freezes and chargebacks for many retailers. It is because they&#8217re both third-party processors &#8212 they aggregate accounts into one large account. Around the one hands, it&#8217s simple enough to on line. Alternatively, the minimal underwriting means that you&#8217re in a and the higher chances of the sudden hold or termination. Regrettably, that&#8217s something&#8217ll suffer from when you purchase ANY third-party processor. It may sound frightening, but people build effective companies being worn by these types of services constantly. If you believe you may be a higher-risk merchant, or else you know your profession is on either company&#8217s listing of prohibited companies, you should most likely consider using a traditional credit card merchant account or perhaps a high-risk processor for example Durango A Merchant Account (DMS) rather.

You may also check our guide: How to prevent merchant holds, freezes, and terminations.

Positive Testimonials and reviews

Champion: Tie

It may sound frightening, but people build effective companies being worn by these types of services constantly, even with the connected risk. Finding reviews that are positive associated with a service is commonly tougher than finding complaints because individuals are more inclined to speak up if they’re unhappy with something, but you’ll be able to locate them.

Stripe&#8217s list of high-profile users, for example Reddit, Mashable, Foursquare, Squarespace, and Shopify speaks by itself. Clearly, it’s the darling of tech-savvy companies. But dig just a little much deeper and also you&#8217ll find more feedback using their company users. Here’s what individuals like about Stripe:

  • Fast and simple signup
  • No “fine print” charges
  • Nice API to utilize
  • Great documentation
  • All services incorporated in a single cost point

You&#8217ll have some similar praises for PayPal, particularly about its payment processing and prices. I&#8217m not very surprised at the possible lack of praise because of its API or even more advanced features &#8212 though they did show up over a couple of reviews. Listed here are the highlights:

  • Easy setup
  • Broadly recognized/reliable payment form
  • Offers multiple products/services besides payment processing
  • Transparent prices

Final Verdict

Champion: Tie

Within the finish, I don&#8217t think it&#8217s simple to draw a obvious champion within the PayPal versus. Stripe debate.

Ultimately, the selection depends upon your requirements. For those who have developing experience (or someone in your payroll using the requisite skills) and wish to develop a customized online storefront or perhaps a complex platform for any SaaS subscription product, Stripe is the foremost choice. If you’re not really a developer, don&#8217t possess the way to hire one, or don&#8217t have very complex needs, PayPal is probably more appropriate. If you don&#8217t obtain a located payment page with no $30/month subscription, PayPal does have a superior amount of consumer trust, therefore it&#8217s a lesser concern if PayPal redirects your clients to the site to accomplish the transaction.

Bear in mind that you simply aren&#8217t just searching for the way to consider payments online. Almost any service available can perform that. Concentrate on the features you’ll need, not only now but later on. An mPOS, invoicing, flexible checkouts, subscriptions &#8212 whatever can help you run your company easier.

However, either service requires you to definitely sign an agreement, and that means you can check out one of these simple services (or both services) without getting to commit. Need to see which runs better? It could take some work, however, you can totally test them out both out as lengthy while you&#8217d like.

Which, my pal, is fairly awesome.

What exactly are your ideas on Stripe versus. PayPal? Have you ever attempted both services? Which did you go searching for? We like to listen to readers, so please leave us your comments!

The publish PayPal Versus Stripe made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best PayPal Alternatives

PayPal alternatives for merchants

Thanks to its long-standing relationship with eBay, PayPal has become one of the most recognizable names in payments. And with over 165 million users, it’s got consumer trust. You don’t have to be an eBay seller to accept payments through PayPal — you can set up your own online store, open up a brick-and-mortar location, and even take payments on the go.

But should you? There are several advantage to PayPal, including the ease of setup and its accessibility. Unfortunately, it’s also known for placing holds on accounts if it gets even the slightest suspicion that not everything is hunky-dory. And its rates, while competitive among similar services, are not the lowest in the industry.

Are you a small merchant looking to get started quickly? Are you tired of your current processor and looking to switch to one that has fewer hoops to jump through?

Whether this is your first foray into merchant payments or you’re shopping around for PayPal alternatives, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at how PayPal stacks up against some of our other top-rated payment options, including other pay-as-you-go processors and some traditional merchant accounts, and see which one is best for you.

Don’t forget to check out the full reviews for each of these PayPal alternatives. Need help choosing a payments provider? We can help! Contact us here.

PayPal

Paypal-Logo-2015In our 2015 review of PayPal, we gave it 4 stars. We like PayPal. It’s convenient, trusted, and easy to use. However, we have a hard time endorsing PayPal as anyone’s standalone, sole payment option.

Pricing

There are no monthly charges or hidden fees with PayPal — you pay just 2.9% + $0.30 per swipe. Since there are no contracts, there’s no early termination fees. You also don’t pay any PCI compliance fees. If you use the PayPal Here mobile processor, you pay just 2.7% per swipe (excluding keyed/scanned transactions).

You can get volume discounts, too: At $3,000 per month, rates drop to 2.5% + $0.30; at $10,000 it falls to 2.2% + $0.30. If you process more than $100,000, you get to call 1-855-787-1012 and ask for special pricing.

If you need features beyond credit card processing (such as a virtual terminal to accept mail and fax orders), you can upgrade to a Pro account for $30 a month. However, those orders will process for a higher (and undisclosed) fee.

We like this setup — a lot. However, the flat fee still isn’t as transparent as an interchange-plus setup, nor as low.

Without a doubt, one of the most attractive features of PayPal is how quickly you have access to your money — it’s almost instantaneous. And if you have the PayPal debit card, you can spend that money anywhere you can swipe a card.

Customer Support: Fair

When it comes to any sort of payment processing, you need to know that there’s someone standing by who can help you when trouble arises. PayPal’s customer service can be spotty, but overall, we’d rate it fair.

The problem is in PayPal’s phone support. Sometimes your representative is competent, sometimes…not so much. The good news is that in a lot of cases, PayPal’s other resources, including its Quick Questions, Community Help Forum, and @AskPayPal Twitter account, can get you the answers you need, so you may not ever need to pick up the phone.

Reliability: Fair

PayPal lets just about anyone open up a merchant account and get approval very quickly. That makes it great for new businesses. It’s also a great solution when you don’t have the sort of volume that merits a traditional account. However, this “we welcome anyone” approach results in greater risk, and therefore a very active risk department dedicated to finding and stomping out fraud.

Paypal’s tendency to put holds on accounts or even terminate them isn’t as bad as some of the other pay-as-you-go processors (we’re looking at you, Stripe and Square), but it’s enough to earn just a “Fair” rating in the reliability department.

That said, PayPal is a spectacular backup, especially if you want to take payments on the go and your merchant account’s offering is a bit lacking. No monthly fees mean you aren’t losing money on a service you only use sporadically.

Integration & Implementation Options

With the basic PayPal account, you get your standard payment buttons and a variety of shopping cart integrations, including an in-house solution. However, your site will redirect your visitors to PayPal to complete the transaction. You can upgrade to the Pro account to get a hosted payment page on your own site along with PayPal’s virtual terminal for orders by mail, fax, and phone.

PayPal also offers one-touch checkout for in-app and web purchases.

We like that you can set up secondary accounts and set permissions. PayPal also equips you for recurring billing and handles customer information storage for you.

There’s also a substantial list of partners and integrations for you to choose from. You can check out the full list of PayPal partners here.

Other Features

We’ve already mentioned PayPal’s mobile reader, PayPal Here. You pay just 2.7% per swipe (or 3.5% for keyed-in transactions). The reader is free if you order it from PayPal; you can also buy it at a store and PayPal will reimburse you. We’re still waiting on details about PayPal’s EMV reader, but we’ll keep you updated before the big liability shift on October 1, 2015. We do know it’ll accept chip-and-pin cards as well as contactless payments (such as Apple Pay and Android Pay).

You can send invoices from PayPal — and you don’t pay until you get paid. Invoices run you 2.9% + $0.30. You can even send invoices from within the mobile app.

PayPal also offers special nonprofit pricing, at 2.2% + $0.30 per swipe and no monthly fee.

Payline Data

payline-data-logoPayline Data earned a perfect 5-star rating from us for its fair pricing on merchant accounts, and great  customer service — but on top of all that, we love its commitment to charitable giving. Payline donates 10% of its profits from your account to a nonprofit partner of your choosing.

Pricing

Payline Data uses an interchange-plus format on top of monthly fees. For small-volume processors, there’s the Simple plan; for higher volumes, the Pro plan.

Simple (Under $5,000 per month)

  • $5 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.50%
  • $0.10 per transaction

Pro (Over $5,000 per month)

  • $20 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.20%
  • $0.10 per transaction

The nice thing is, the $5,000 mark is the break-even point for both plans, so you’d pay exactly the same. If you come in under that $5k mark more often than not, go with the simple plan. If you go beyond the $5k regularly, go with the Pro plan.

We like that Payline makes your funds accessible within 24 hours. Next-day funding is the fastest you’re going to get apart from PayPal, so you really can’t do better if you need a merchant account.

Customer Support: Excellent

You can reach the Payline team by phone and email, but there’s also a substantial knowledge base if you’re more prone to solving the problem yourself. Overall, the team has really great reviews, as befitting a 5-star processor.

Reliability: Excellent

The complaints against Payline Data are virtually nonexistent, which is great to see. We have full confidence in the company’s ability to handle your business fairly, with minimal risk for a potential hold or freeze. (We hope you understand, no processor is immune to risk — and no merchant immune to a hold. However, traditional merchant accounts are less susceptible to risk than pay-as-you-go providers.)

Integration & Implementation Options

Payline makes it very easy for you to set up recurring billing for your clients. We also really like Payline Shop Professional ($79/month), which includes your merchant account, as well as a shopping cart, gateway, web hosting, a domain name and SSL security. As far as comprehensive eCommerce solutions go, this is spot-on. Comparable services through shopping carts will run you the same, or higher, and may not include everything that Payline does.

On its own, the Payline gateway is $10 per month. It supports a customer information vault as well as invoicing. There’s a virtual terminal, too. The virtual terminal allows you to use a USB swiper, although no USB chip card reader is currently available.

In addition, you’ll find payment buttons, tools for recurring billing, customer info storage, and fairly good support for third-party shopping cards as well as Payline’s in-house option. The one thing that’s lacking is a hosted payment page.

Other Features

If you need mobile processing, Payline again has two solutions. If you process less than $5,000 per month on the app, you get a Flint account. Flint uses your device’s camera to scan credit cards rather than swiping — there’s no reader required. Debit rates are just 1.95%; credit cards 2.95%. Above that $5k threshold, you should use the ROAMpay X Mobile app with Payline, which will support EMV when the switchover happens in October.

For retail shops, there’s an iPad POS through Vantiv Mobile Checkout as well, and that will run you $69 per month. You can accept Apple Pay transactions in store with a future-proof terminal (supporting EMV and NFC) and also integrate Apple Pay for in-app payments.

Payline stands out from the rest of the options in this list in part because it also offers high-risk processing. Merchants who operate in an industry that’s deemed high risk (such as antiques, how-to programs, and even selling on eBay), typically make merchant account providers — and pay-as-you-go solutions — skittish. A high-risk account means you pay more, but you’re far less likely to encounter those dreaded holds and freezes…or worse, an account termination.

In addition to allowing merchants to donate to a charitable partner, nonprofit organizations can set up accounts with Payline and get discounted rates. There’s also a Payline Commercial Co-Venture program: In essence, you refer clients to Payline, Payline will create a solution for them, and you get recurring donations to your organization.

CDGCommerce

cdgcommerce-logoWe like CDGCommerce, a traditional merchant account provider, quite a lot — enough to give it a perfect 5-star rating. However, the service is only available in the U.S., for merchants who sell primarily in the U.S.

Pricing

Head to the CDG site and you’ll find an advertised rate of 1.7% + $0.25 for payment processing (1.95% + $0.30 for online processing). However, if you visit the site through this link, you’ll also find a special rate offer for our readers: interchange plus 0.30% + $0.15. There’s no monthly minimum processing, and no ETF. (If you do ever want to cancel, you’ll have to follow the steps to provide proper notice of cancellation).

Beyond that, the only other fee you must pay is the $10 statement fee. There’s no PCI compliance, and the CDGcommerce gateway is free to use.  You can get volume discounts, but they’re not advertised. You’ll have to negotiate with CDG directly if you think you qualify.

Merchants will typically have funds deposited in their account within two days. That’s not as fast as PayPal, and slower than some other merchant account providers, as well.

Customer Support: Excellent

On top of the spectacular rates, CDGcommerce excels in the customer service department. You can get live chat, email, and phone support 24/7. The volume of BBB complaints against CDG is incredibly low, but what really sets this company apart is the fact that the CEO has actually responded to user complaints found on the Internet. The level of dedication to customers is outstanding.

Reliability: Excellent

As we’ve said, complaints against CDG are incredibly low. Every processor will occasionally face a situation where it must put a hold on a company’s account. However, everything we’ve seen indicates that CDG is careful to minimize these instances.

Integration & Implementation Options

CDG offers its customers a USB-based card reader. That means you don’t need a traditional credit card terminal, which is actually quite convenient. The USB readers do not support EMV, but we were told that the upgrade, when available, will be optional. (Go here to learn about EMV and your liability for processing cards when the new rules take effect October 1, 2015.)

And while we have repeatedly and vocally spoken out against terminal leases, here we have probably the best rental terms you can get: just pay $79 annually for insurance and return the device when you no longer need it. The terminal is EMV-ready and compatible with NFC payments, so unless you have a really good reason for sticking with USB, you should consider upgrading.

You can also have the company reprogram your existing terminals…for free.

CDGcommerce offers extensive reporting options, which we like to see. There’s also an optional  security service for $15 monthly, which includes $100,000 of data breach insurance —  a worthwhile investment.

With this provider you also get a virtual terminal to use with the Quantum gateway. There’s no payment buttons or in-house shopping cart. What’s interesting is that Quantum has a feature that lets it emulate an Authorize.net gateway, which ultimately increases your options for third-party shopping carts.

Other Features

For mobile processing, you get a free reader, which runs on CDG’s ProcessNow mobile app (available for Apple devices running iOS 7.0 and higher and Android devices running OS 4.0 and higher). Swipe rates for mobile are 1.70% + $0.25 per transaction (2.9% + $0.30 for keyed and other nonqualified transactions).

There’s no nonprofit pricing here. If you want to accept Apple Pay and other contactless payment methods, you’ll need the future-proof terminal.

We like that CDGcommerce helps merchant reduce the headaches that  come with dealing with chargebacks thanks to its Chargeback Defender, which lets you know about chargebacks pending — even before the fees are debited from your account. The platform also helps you rebut it and has a built-in tool to detect previously issued refunds, so that the funds aren’t deducted twice. It’s not something we see so openly advertised, and it’s a very useful tool.

PayJunction

PayJunction-logo-squarePayJunction is a 5-star processor for its customer service and reliability, but we also really like that it makes it easy for merchants to go paperless. It’s not just environmentally friendly; it’s easier for merchants to securely manage their records.

Pricing

We really like that PayJunction is another month-to-month service provider with interchange plus. There’s no ETF, no PCI compliance fees, and no charges for the gateway. However, if you process under $10,000 monthly, you can expect a $35 monthly fee. The gateway also includes check (ACH) processing at 0.75%.

For new processors, PayJunction offers interchange plus 0.75% — but established merchants may be able to get lower rates, as the company offers match or beat your existing rates. This isn’t uncommon in the industry, but most processors don’t meet our high standards for quality of service, too.

Admittedly, the 0.75% markup is high — but there’s no per-transaction fee, which could be a major benefit to small-ticket merchants.

Something else we definitely like: next-day deposits.

Customer Support: Excellent

You don’t get to be a 5-star processor without great service. PayJunction’s support options include its knowledge base, phone, and email. Something we haven’t seen here before is the option for remote support. Basically, it means that someone at PayJunction will remotely access your computer to either walk you through a process and show you what to do, or handle it for you. It’s actually a really useful tool.

Reliability: Excellent

Complaints about PayJunction are few and far between — and the ones you will find have been thoroughly addressed by a company representative. We like that. We can’t say that you won’t ever have an issue with PayJunction, but if you do, you can expect it to be handled quickly, fairly, and in-house.

Integration & Implementation Options

Among the many features available, PayJunction provides a hosted shopping cart for free, and it has good third-party integrations as well. We’ve already mentioned the free payment gateway/virtual terminal. You can also expect features for recurring billing info storage. Combined with the paperless feature and you really do have everything you need in a single browser-based interface. All that’s missing are payment buttons and a hosted payment page.

Other Features

A couple of noteworthy additional features: PayJunction’s customer management system, which serves as a directory for your clients and their information. It also lets you create groups of clients and account numbers.

PayJunction will also set you up with digital signature collection — by providing a signature capture device, the company really does allow you to go paperless. No reason to bother with signed receipts, ever again. For eCommerce and other card-not-present transactions, there’s email signature capture, where customers sign using their computer cursors.

PayJunction also lets merchants create teams and set permissions, which is always a handy feature to have.

If you need mobile processing, you can opt for PayJunction’s partner company, iPay. You’ll have to set up your gateway, and the app is only available for iOS devices — but it’s better than nothing. The mobile reader doesn’t support EMV.

You can get free equipment if you provide two months of billing statements — so in other words, this offer applies only to established merchants.

For EMV, you’ll need a traditional credit card terminal, but PayJunction stresses that for low-risk merchants, this upgrade is optional. The site actually has a very detailed explanation of EMV and how it affects merchants, which you can find here.

There’s no additional nonprofit pricing, but there is a feature you can set up on your site to accept donations.

Braintree

Braintree-payments-logoBraintree is actually a wholly owned subsidy of PayPal, picked up in 2013. For that reason, you’ll see a couple of similarities, as well as some noteworthy differences. While PayPal hovers at a 4-star rating, we wholeheartedly endorse Braintree with a perfect 5-star rating. This is another option that’s very developer-friendly, with a comprehensive suite of tools that make it easy to get started.

Pricing

This should come as no surprise (it’s a PayPal company), but Braintree’s fees are just 2.9% + $0.30. There are no fees, no contracts, nothing. If you process over $80K per month, you will likely qualify for a discounted rate. While not advertised, Braintree also offers interchange-plus pricing for some high-volume merchants.

Interesting to note, Braintree has an offer of $50k in free payment processing. There’s no contract, no deadlines, no monthly minimums. Seriously. Learn more here.

It bears mentioning that Braintree deposits take 2-4 business days (2 days for most cards; 4 days for American Express). That’s a bit longer than most of the other options here..

Customer Support: Great

Whereas PayPal’s customer service can be spotty, especially over the phone, Braintree has an outstanding reputation. The low volume of complaints against Braintree is astounding considering its size and its parent company. There’s a good knowledge base, but also solid phone support — and even a 24/7 emergency line. However, you won’t get as much personalized attention as the merchant account providers in this list.

Reliability: Excellent

The number of incidents we found of Braintree freezing accounts was exactly zero. The company also has a list of noteworthy clients and some pretty amazing customer case studies.

Integration & Implementation Options

Braintree offers an impressive array of features at no extra cost, including a marketplace solution, and a simple checkout option (PayPal actually built its One Touch feature on Braintree’s original offering).

Something else we really like is the fact that you can take your customer data with you if you ever decide to leave Braintree, which means your recurring billing won’t be interrupted.

What you won’t find are a virtual terminal, an in-house shopping cart, a hosted payment page, or payment buttons. However, Braintree does offer an impressive list of integrations for a variety of services, including shopping carts.

Other Features

Braintree’s v.zero SDK (software development kit) has Bitcoin and Apple Pay integration, both of which we like. You can also incorporate native in-app payments as well as a “check out with PayPal” option. However, Braintree doesn’t offer nonprofit pricing right now.

You’ll also have to look elsewhere for mobile processing — if you’d like to keep all the transactions in a single account, Inner Fence is your best option. Just provide a code to Inner Fence to link it with your Braintree account.

We gave Inner Fence 3.5 stars on our last review, mostly because we felt it under-delivered in some areas while over-delivering in others, creating an interesting dichotomy, to say the least. We also took issue with the pricing model. In addition to the fees you pay to Braintree, Inner Fence charges you a percentage of each transaction plus a monthly fee. A “Professional” account will run you $79 a month with a 0.9% transaction fee. That includes support for up to 10 terminals…but you get only one free card reader. With Braintree’s free $50k in processing we can almost say the cost might be worth it for low-volume merchants, but not really.

If you’re willing to forgo the convenience of all your funds going to the same account for the sake of better rates, here’s a great opportunity to try Braintree’s parent company offering, PayPal Here — or our top-rated mobile processor, Flint.

Stripe

Stripe-logoWe had high hopes for Stripe in our 2015 review update. However, what we found was enough to downgrade Stripe’s rating to 3.5 stars, so please bear that in mind. Whereas PayPal is a good option for anyone, Stripe is particularly suited to developers, with easy implementation for all sorts of eCommerce and Internet operations.

Pricing

Stripe’s pricing is on par with PayPal, at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. There’s no monthly fees, there’s no ETF, no PCI compliance. The suite of tools Stripe offers — at no additional charge — is actually a huge value, especially for low-volume merchants.

You can get volume discounts (undisclosed rates) but to do so you need to process at least $80,000 per month.

As far as payment schedules are concerned, Stripe takes two days to deposit your funds in your account for US-based merchants. Canadian and Australian merchants have to wait four to seven days, and all other countries will be on a seven-day delay. Still, this is a major improvement over Stripe’s former deposit schedule, which was seven days across the board.

Customer Support: Poor

One of the sources of Stripe’s review score was its poor customer support. There were numerous complaints on our site and elsewhere from customers about their awful experiences. Stripe doesn’t offer any sort of phone support, just a knowledge base and a Freenode-based chat support (#Stripe).

Reliability: Poor

The other reason we downgraded Stripe’s rating was the reliability factor. The number of complaints about held funds (something we admit is common with this type of payment processor) rose dramatically. Access to your money is critical to a business, and nothing to mess around with.

Integration & Implementation Options

Stripe’s poor support is such a letdown because of how many other great features it offers — which we’ve said before are actually a solid value for the cost. Stripe gives you a hosted payment page through Stripe Checkout, as well as payment buttons, in-app payments, the ability to set teams and permissions, and even marketplace solutions. Checkout, as far as industry offerings go, is actually one of the best payment flow options out there.

There’s no virtual terminal, in-house shopping cart or payment buttons, but the third-party shopping cart integrations are great. Get the full list of integrations here.

Other Features

Stripe supports in-app Apple Pay integration, as well as BitCoin, both of which we like. There’s no nonprofit pricing right now, and no mobile processing.

If you want mobile processing, however, you’ll have to look at Inner Fence, and link your Stripe account. If you want to incorporate mobile payments and don’t want to deal with Inner Fence, allow us to point you at Flint, our 5-star rated option for mobile. You can also consider some of our other mobile options.

Quick Comparison

Paypal PaylineData CDGCommerce PayJunction Braintree Stripe
Monthly Fee $0 $20 $10 $0 $0 $0
Pricing 2.9% + $0.30 0.20% + $0.10 + interchange 0.30% + $0.15 + interchange 0.75% + interchange 2.9% + $0.30 2.9% + $0.30
Customer Service Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Great Poor
Reliability Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Poor
Gateway Payflow Payline Data Quantum PayJunction Braintree Stripe
Features
Virtual Terminal X X X X
Included Shopping Cart X X X
Hosted Payment Pages X X X X
Payment Buttons X X
Recurring Billing X X X X X X
Info Storage X X X X X X
Shopping Cart Compatibility Excellent Good Good Good Excellent Excellent
Availability
US X X X X X X
Canada X X X X
Mexico X X X
UK X X X
Europe X X X
Other X X X

Want More PayPal Alternatives?

PayPal has such great recognition and a solid suite of tools for newbie merchants that in some cases, it seems the obvious choice. However, if you’re like most merchants, you will eventually reach a point where you experience some major growing pains — or you might encounter the dreaded account hold. At that point, it’s time to start looking for a provider that can deliver what you want, and more importantly, what you need.

The list of PayPal alternatives doesn’t end with those mentioned in this blog post, of course. Even if they aren’t direct PayPal competitors, there are plenty of merchant account providers to choose from when your business is ready to graduate from a third-party payment processor like PayPal. Check out this handy chart of top-rated merchant account providers. Don’t forget to also look at our mobile processing options!

Need help deciding? Want to get the lowest rates? Contact us and we’ll help you sort out your options!

The post Best PayPal Alternatives appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Payment Methods

Alternative Payment MethodsBeing able to accept credit and debit cards is the lifeblood of any business. For brick-and-mortar locations, it’s worth knowing this: About half of all Americans carry just $20 in cash with them on a daily basis, and about 80% of Americans carry less than $50 daily. This means if you don’t accept credit cards, you could be missing out on sales.

If you sell online, you have to have a way to accept credit and debit cards, period. And it’s crucial that you have a professional system that shoppers will trust with their payment details. For most people that means a merchant account with an established payment gateway.

But are cards and cash — and all the traditional ways of doing business — the only options?

Of course not. There’s no shortage of companies devoted to changing the way we think about paying for things. New technology is bringing concepts like using phones to make payments into the mainstream. Having multiple ways for customers to pay is a good thing, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of convenience to you — or higher fees!

Let’s take a look at some alternative payment methods that you can integrate into your business now, what it’ll take to do so, how secure they are, and how popular they are.

1. Apple Pay

apple-pay-logoApple Pay was not the first company to offer contactless mobile payments, but it was the first to make them popular. Apple Pay uses NFC (learn more about this technology here) and the TouchID fingerprint reader to enable contactless in-store payments, as well as in-app purchases. With iOS 9, it also supports loyalty cards and rewards programs.

Compatible devices:

  • iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and later models
  • Apple Watch (with iPhone 5 and later models)
  • iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3

Apple claims to support credit and debit cards from most major banks in the U.S. and the U.K. (A press release from Apple says that with support for Discover added this fall, the app supports 98% of credit card purchase volume.) That’s good news. The launch of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is also good, because it means consumers with older iPhones will likely start upgrading their older devices, expanding the potential user base.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t actually publish usage statistics. A survey done in June 2015 found that 13 percent of users with an Apple Pay-capable phone had used the feature; another 11 percent had plans to do so. We know that Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year (the first quarter Apple Pay was available) — but not all of those were necessarily the 6 or 6 Plus. Still, it’s safe to say there are likely several million Apple Pay users across the country, even if some studies suggest that Apple Pay adoption rates are decreasing.

You’re still going to have to have a way to process credit cards to accept Apple Pay, so you’ll need a merchant account, a functioning POS, and an NFC-enabled terminal. The good news is Apple doesn’t charge any fees for Apple Pay transactions, so you only pay the standard credit and debit card processing fees.

Mobile payments like this have several measures for security. First, merchants never actually handle buyers’ credit card numbers. Instead, Apple Pay generates a single-use code (this is called tokenization). Even if a hacker gets the information, it’s useless because the number is good for one time only. Second, when consumers tap their phones to the terminal, they have to confirm the purchase with the TouchID fingerprint sensor.

Finally, the phone itself provides some security. The card numbers aren’t stored on the device — they’re kept in the cloud and the device can be locked remotely if it’s ever stolen. The CPU never handles the processing of the NFC transaction, either. A secure element or a separate chip bypass the rest of the system to communicate directly with the NFC-capable unit.

2. Samsung Pay

samsung-pay-logo-2015Samsung Pay is (you guessed it!) the Korean company’s response to Apply Pay. It is also an NFC-powered contactless payments app. It works on a handful of Samsung Galaxy devices:

  • Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, and later models.
  • Galaxy Note 5 and later models.

Samsung Pay just launched in September of 2015, which means it’s quite new. We’ll update you with usage numbers when we have something reliable and representative to report. But we do know that Samsung had sold an estimated 45 million Galaxy S6 phones (including the Edge and Edge+ variants), plus the Note 5 (for which sales numbers aren’t available right now). The potential user base is very large, but we’ll see how it pans out.

At this point it’s worth noting that the app requires consumers to be on one of five networks (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular) and have a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express card issued by Bank of America, U.S. Bank, or Citi. The app also accepts merchant credit cards issued by Synchrony Financial. You still earn any rewards or points linked to those cards, but specific loyalty cards and coupons aren’t supported. There’s no in-app payments feature either, though Samsung hasn’t ruled it out.

Again, you need an established way to process credit cards and a compatible POS, and you won’t pay any additional fees for Samsung Pay transactions. But your existing credit card terminal might already accept this particular type of payment. That’s because Samsung Pay uses both NFC and something called magnetic secure transmission (MST). Basically, it allows the phone to emulate a traditional card with a magnetic stripe. That means you don’t need an NFC-capable terminal — but if you don’t have NFC, you can’t accept Apple Pay or Android Pay (next on this list), which limits your options.

Most EMV terminals are also equipped for NFC, so the machine you just got as a result of the liability shift most likely supports these contactless payments. But if your terminal isn’t EMV capable, that’s another issue entirely.

Samsung Pay relies on a fingerprint scanner as well. Users need to launch the app, swipe their fingerprint, and then pass their devices close to the terminal. That’s not quite as intuitive as Apple Pay from a user-friendliness standpoint, but apps evolve and change. At this point it’s just too early to say anything definitively.

3. Android Pay / Google Wallet

android-pay-logoAndroid Pay, like Samsung Pay, is very new, launching in September 2015. At the same time, it’s much older than that: Android Pay is the successor to Google Wallet, Google’s contactless payment solution/mobile wallet, which launched in 2011.

Android Pay works on any Android smartphone (Samsung, HTC, LG, and Motorola, just to name a few) running the KitKat OS (Android 4.4) or higher. It’s NFC-powered, with support for debit and credit cards as well as loyalty/rewards programs. An in-app payments feature is set to launch later.

These days, Google Wallet has become a P2P payments app — an easy way to send money to friends and family for free.

The wallet supports Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards from a handful of banks, including Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Citi, PNC, Wells Fargo, and USAA (check out the full list here; more banks will be added as time goes on).

By now, you should have a good idea of what to expect as a merchant: You need a way to process credit cards, a compatible POS, and of course, an NFC-capable terminal. Payments are kept secure with tokenization. Users also need to enable the lock screens on their phones — which can then be unlocked using fingerprint readers, PINs, swipe patterns, and more.

4. LevelUp

LevelUp-logoThe alternative mobile payments technique to NFC is the QR code. QR codes work a lot like traditional barcodes, but they can hold a lot more information — like payment data. The biggest difference is that instead of an NFC-enabled terminal, you need a barcode reader.

LevelUp is the leader in QR code-based mobile payments with its app, but it also builds custom white-label apps for businesses. In addition to the QR codes, LevelUp works with NFC and iBeacon. The LevelUp app works for both iOS and Android. In addition to phone-based payments, LevelUp also supports loyalty programs. You can even link any loyalty programs you have set up through Apple Pay into LevelUp (there’s also support for one-touch signups using TouchID).

Despite having been around for a while (it launched in 2011), LevelUp is admittedly a small player. It has some 14,000 partner businesses, including some major names. The app has over 100,000 downloads in Google Play, which isn’t much compared to a lot of other apps. But the company does have white-label solutions, so it’s difficult to accurately gauge numbers.

LevelUp is a little bit vague on pricing, but if you dig around, you’ll find that payments are processed for a flat 2% fee. That’s good, considering Square charges 2.75% and PayPal 2.7% per swipe. It’s not necessarily as low as you’ll get with merchant accounts, but rates vary a lot based on the type of business you run and what kind of cards you process. A flat 2% should be convenient for most people. LevelUp will also charge a 25% cut of any incentives you offer through its campaigns feature.

To accept payments, you need a compatible POS and LevelUp’s proprietary scanner ($50 each). If your POS isn’t compatible, you can get the LevelUp tablet for $100 according to the pricing page on the website.

As far as security goes, LevelUp offers PCI compliance and encryption, as well as tokenization. In fact, LevelUp uses a triple token system: the token your phone generates goes to a token on the LevelUp servers, which in turn routes to a token on the Braintree servers, which is the payments service LevelUp uses to store credit card data.

5. CurrentC

CurrentCCurrentC_App is another QR code-based payments method. It’s developed by the Consumer Merchant Exchange, led by Walmart and some other heavy-hitters in the retail business. Unlike LevelUp, users can pay using either their bank accounts, store cards, or gift cards. For merchants, that means significantly lower fees. (It’s not well advertised, but you can also add merchant credit and debit cards.) CurrentC also links up with loyalty cards and lets you redeem coupons and discounts in the app.

CurrentC is still in test mode, but the website promises it’ll be ready to roll out across the country soon. One advantage for CurrentC is that it’s widely available for consumers — whereas Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are only available for the most recent smartphone models, and Android Pay requires a recent version of Android (which not all smartphones get), CurrentC should be available for download even on budget smartphones.

In terms of user experience, CurrentC is a bit clunky. Depending on the location, users have to scan a QR code generated by the register, or the cashier has to scan one generated by the user’s phone. If that doesn’t work, then you’ll have to enter a code. With some retailers, you can use Bluetooth Beacons instead of QR codes.

As far as security goes, CurrentC requires you to put in a PIN every time you open the app or switch between apps. You can also lock the device remotely if it ever goes missing. Like the other services we’ve discussed here, the app uses tokenization — it generates a random one-time use transaction ID and doesn’t pass personal data onto the merchants.

CurrentC is odd in that it also collects some personal health information — it’s disclosed in the privacy policy, which you can read here. While it seems fairly innocuous, I highly recommend that you understand what data is collected and how it’s used.

As far as requirements to accept CurrentC go, you’re really just going to need a POS and barcode scanner capable of reading QR codes. CurrentC also has a way to allow gas stations to accept payments at the pump by inputting a code. Restaurants can use the app too, with a feature that enables consumers to leave a tip.

I’m hoping when CurrentC gets a broader release that the MCX will be a bit more forthcoming about information. There’s no disclosure of processing fees, for example. The support website, which is hidden from the main site, has much more information about how the app works, which I find a bit frustrating because it took some digging to uncover it.

6. PayPal

Paypal-Logo-2015As a retailer, accepting PayPal has a huge advantage for you. It’s widely recognized by consumers, so they feel secure paying with it. In fact, PayPal has more than 170 million users worldwide, and it’s the payment method of choice on eBay. PayPal lets users link credit cards, debit cards, or bank accounts to make their payments. There’s also a free P2P payments tool, so consumers can send money to friends and family for free.

Merchants can use PayPal to accept payments on a website and through a smartphone or tablet when they’re on the go or in stores.

For retailers, PayPal doesn’t offer a full POS in its own right — it has a decent set of features, but if you need more capabilities, you can always turn to one of PayPal’s partner POS systems, which you can learn more about here. You can build a register out of a tablet, a cash drawer, and a receipt printer, if you want one. You’ll pay just 2.7% per swipe.

For online retail, PayPal integrates with a lot of shopping carts. For most online transactions, the company charges 2.9% + $0.30. That’s higher than you’ll pay with a solid deal from a merchant account provider in most circumstances, but it comes with a super easy setup. (Just beware that you’re at a higher risk of potential holds or freezes on your account given the nature of PayPal’s business — no contracts, available to everyone, pay as you go.

You can also build a “Pay with PayPal” feature into apps, with PayPal’s One Touch Feature included so that users don’t have to re-enter their usernames and passwords, which adds to the convenience of using PayPal.

However, if you want a hosted payment page, you’re going to have to shell out $30 a month for the PayPal Payments Pro plan. You’ll also get a virtual terminal for that cost. If you have the standard PayPal plan (which has no monthly fees), your customers will be directed to the PayPal page to complete the payment, then back to your site.

If you’re using PayPal Here, the company’s mobile solution, you should know that PayPal does offer an EMV reader that also supports NFC payments. It’s $150, but you can get $100 in rebates when you process $3,000 in 3 months. That’s not the best deal — Square is able to offer an EMV capable reader for $30, or an EMV/NFC-capable reader for $49, with a rebate available for select retailers. Even if you don’t qualify for Square’s rebates, Square’s EMV/NFC reader at full price is the same as PayPal’s reader when it’s discounted.

Like PayPal, Square lets merchants accept credit card payments on the go and in stores. You can also accept Square online, provided you use either the Square marketplace or build a site using one of Square’s 2 (yup, that’s right, 2) partners. Square’s rates are comparable to PayPal — just a flat 2.75%, no per-transaction fees.

7. Pay with Amazon

Pay with AmazonLike PayPal, Pay with Amazon (also known as the bulkier “Login and Pay with Amazon”) lets users pay on your site using their login credentials for another site — in this case, Amazon. They can use whatever payment methods they have stored on their Amazon accounts.

While PayPal is universally known, Pay with Amazon seems to be less common — but that doesn’t mean you should discount it. Amazon had 244 million active users in 2014. That’s roughly 70 million MORE users than PayPal. You won’t be limiting your audience if you choose Pay with Amazon over PayPal.

Pay with Amazon charges you 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction. That’s identical to PayPal’s rates for online transactions. You can even do recurring billing for subscription packages. Plus, Pay with Amazon is entirely pay-as-you-go: no contract, no early termination fee, no monthly fees.

However, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no mobile support, so if you also sell in person, either at events or in a store, you’re going to have to look elsewhere for a solution. To accept Login and Pay with Amazon, you just need a compatible shopping cart. Fortunately, you have several great options: You can choose from Xcart, Magento, and Shopify, among others. Check out the full list here.

There are some other advantages here. First, Amazon offers a growth guarantee: If you sign up for the service, and you don’t see an increase in sales over the course of 30 days, the company will refund your processing fees up to $100,000. That’s a nice option if you’re really not sure about switching.

Plus, the Login and Pay with Amazon feature gives you a hosted payment page for free. More good news: You get the same fraud protection used by the Amazon.com site, so you’re not liable for any fraud-related chargebacks. (However, that’s not to say you’re protected against everything; you can still expect a $20 fee for any service-related chargebacks.)

One downside is the time it takes to get your money, which has been a pain point for a long time for sellers on the Amazon marketplace. First, there’s an initial 2-week holding period. After that, Amazon will settle your account daily — but it still takes 3-5 days to transfer funds from your account to your bank. With PayPal, your money is available pretty much immediately…and if you have the PayPal debit card, you can spend it anywhere at any time, not just online.

8. Bitcoin

bitcoinOut of all the alternative payments here, Bitcoin is most definitely the most “alternative” option. Unlike cash or credit, Bitcoins don’t have any physical form. No coins, no paper money. Bitcoin exists solely on the web. Unlike other currencies,which are centralized and controlled by governments, it is entirely self regulated. A network of computers handles the processing and records the transactions in a public register (more on that in a moment).

There’s a lot of info available about what Bitcoin is and how it works. You can start here to learn more. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know to accept Bitcoin.

First, not accepting Bitcoin certainly won’t cost you any business. The estimated userbase is 5-10 million people worldwide, with an estimated 110,000 daily Bitcoin transactions as of June 2015 (nearly double the approximate 60,600 daily transactions in June of 2014). However, if your target demographic is young and hip to the digital scene, that’s certainly a reason for you to consider accepting Bitcoin.

One nice advantage to accepting Bitcoin is that generally speaking, the fees are incredibly low, especially compared to PayPal or credit card processing rates. Some processors can even take Bitcoin and convert it into US dollars and deposit it in your bank account. However, the fees also vary, and the value of Bitcoin fluctuates. From October 2014 to October 2015, the value of 1 Bitcoin has hit as low as $177.28 USD and spiked as high as $427.24.

Security works much differently with Bitcoin, too. Every transaction is kept as part of a public ledger, but the users’ personal details are anonymous, which makes it harder to steal someone’s identity. No PCI compliance is required. There’s no opportunity for chargebacks, but at the same time merchants can’t alter charges, either. And you can encrypt and secure your Bitcoin wallet in other ways as well.

To accept Bitcoin, you just need to find a processor. Good news is, there are a lot of them. Even PayPal has a way to accept Bitcoin, through the PayPal Payments Hub. Braintree, a PayPal-owned company, also accepts Bitcoin via a partnership with Coinbase.

9. E-Check/ACH

Cash, debit, and credit are the most popular kids on the block when it comes to payments. Checks lag far behind other options — an April 2014 report by the Fed found that just 3% of people prefer to pay primarily with check, compared to 43% of people who favor debit cards.

That’s not to say checks are totally irrelevant. Some people don’t have debit cards. Or sometimes your debit card gets cancelled and you’re stuck waiting for the new one to arrive, but you need to make a purchase. And you can (sort of) use checks to pay online, thanks to e-checks. Those type of transactions are also called ACH transactions because they’re routed through the Automated Clearing House, which is an electronic network of banks that also handles direct deposit and electronic bill payments. You don’t have an explicit check number with e-checks, but you still have to provide your routing and account numbers, much like the old-fashioned bit of paper.

The numbers on the popularity of ACH are a bit sketchy. In 2014, the ACH handled more than 23 billion electronic payments totaling more than $40 trillion. The problem with that number is that it includes all those direct deposits and bill payments — mortgages and utilities, especially. It’s not a completely accurate depiction of the eCommerce scene.

One of the big advantages to this payment method is how much more affordable it is compared to standard credit card processing rates. ACH fees, depending on who processes them, might be a percentage of 0.5% or 1%, or a flat fee, which is typically in the range of $0.25 to $0.75. That’s not bad at all, especially if you get the flat fee. Assuming a 1.85% rate on credit card processing fees for a $250 transaction, that’s $4.63 in fees compared to a maximum of $2.50 with a 1% rate for ACH.

There are a lot of ways to accept ACH. For one, both Amazon and PayPal allow customers to link and pay with their bank accounts, though you, as the merchant, will end up paying the standard 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (for a $250 transaction, that means $7.55).

If you have a virtual terminal, you should be able to enable this feature, but fees will vary based on your provider. Some of the services that we’ve reviewed that support ACH/e-checks include:

  • PayJunction
  • PaySimple
  • Forte Payment Systems

Another merchant account provider that supports e-checks is PayStand. We haven’t reviewed PayStand in depth (partly because it just launched publicly in 2014), but right off the bat we’re impressed by the level of transparency on the site and the depth of information available. We’re less impressed by the claim that its credit card rates — 2.49% + $0.30 — are wholesale, especially given the additional $99 monthly fee for the basic plan. However, PayStand also gives you very low-cost ACH transactions and free Bitcoin processing, as well as mobile processing. The service is promising and some merchants are sure to find value in Paystand’s offerings.

You also don’t need to sell exclusively online to accept ACH. If you have a retail setup, you can get a scanner to convert checks into e-checks. That means transactions will be a bit easier — there’s no forwarding checks to banks and waiting to find out if they clear.

ACH is definitely a great backup option to have, but probably not the best choice for a sole payment option. There are a couple of reasons not everyone will want to use ACH payments:

  • One, ACH takes a bit longer to process than debit or credit. So it takes longer for you to get your money and consumers have to wait longer for the transaction to process.
  • Two, it’s not the most secure for consumers, because they have to provide both their account numbers and routing numbers. While the rate of fraudulent transactions is low — just 3 of every 10,000 ACH transactions are rejected for being unauthorized — online payments are the least secure form of ACH transfers (compared with direct deposits, P2P transfers, and online bill pay).

And frankly it’s easier for a lot of people to plug in a card number and a 3-digit security code than it is to root around for your checkbook to get the account and routing numbers.

10. Dwolla

dwolla-accepted-here-logoDwolla is technically a third-party ACH service, but it’s a standout in the field for a few reasons. One, Dwolla’s basic features are entirely free to use. That means ACH payments, recurring payments, and the ability to distribute large numbers of payments (e.g., employee paychecks). And there’s an option of sending money to family or friends, as well, so there’s definitely a consumer base.

Two, with the tiered service plans (starting at $25/month and going up to $1500/month) you get a range of extra features that make Dwolla even more attractive. That includes next-day transfers (a big plus) and the option for white-label payments. That means, basically, you’ll get a hosted payment page. Customers don’t leave your site and don’t get any indication that they’re using Dwolla.

Paying $1,500 per month for the service sounds outrageous, until you consider that you’re not paying any transaction fees. If you’re doing substantial business with ACH payments, you could easily wind up saving money in the long run. And having a hosted payment page is nothing to sneeze at — or the next-day transfers, the higher limits, payment profiles, etc. (There’s also a $250/month option that gives you more than the basic package but not quite as many perks. That’s good if your business isn’t quite enterprise-scale.)

Now, if you don’t want to shell out $250 or $1,500 monthly for all the fancy tools, or don’t care about a hosted payment page, the basic $25/month plan still gives you next-day transfers. If you want to keep your fees even lower, you can forgo the next-day payments all together.

Customers have the option to create a full-fledged Dwolla account or use the simpler Dwolla Direct. The Direct account is a lot less involved compared to Dwolla’s original setup. Customers can get themselves set up in under a minute and they can link their online banking credentials to pay instead of linking their accounts directly.

As far as security goes, Dwolla uses tokenization and TLS 128-bit encryption. There’s also two-factor authentication — and you’ll have to enter your PIN whenever you move money or make a change to an account.

Adding Dwolla to your options for online payments is easy with the custom API, and creating an account is free, so you can give it a try and get a feel for it before you even set up Dwolla for your business.

Alternative Payment Methods: So Where to Now?

If you are looking for alternatives to credit cards and traditional merchant accounts, there’s no better time to get started. Technology is changing the way we think about payments and how we handle money in general: everything from mobile wallets that replace credit cards to decentralized digital currency. There are alternative payment methods to appeal to every market segment, and options to appeal to every sort of business. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you and your customers.

Have questions about your options for payment processing? Leave a comment and let us know. We’re always happy to hear from you! We can also help you lower your processing fees or even choose a processor.

The post Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Payment Methods appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Revel Versus Lightspeed

revel-vs-lightspeed

If you’re a completely independent business proprietor utilizing a traditional reason for purchase system, you may choose to save lots of money by varying your POS towards the cloud. You’ll also bring your business towards the twenty-first century should you embrace cloud POS technologies like mobile payments and real-time inventory syncing. There are plenty of cloud-based POS systems available, however a couple you may consider for the local retail or food business include Revel Systems and Lightspeed POS.

Thousands of retailers all over the world use Revel or Lightspeed, that are both iPad POS systems. All of them are very well-considered services, however they vary from one another in certain important ways. Continue reading to learn which POS we believe is much better, and why.

Note: Lightspeed offers two cloud-based POS systems, Lightspeed Retail and Lightspeed Restaurant, plus an eCommerce product along with a desktop product (Onsite). Within this breakdown, we’ll concentrate on the two cloud POS products, Retail and Restaurant, and just how they rival Revel.

Web-Located or Licensed:

Hybrid (both).

Both Revel and Lightspeed are web-located, and can still function with no Web connection. This kind of POS runs in your area from your iPad application and syncs data to the cloud if you have a web connection. However, you’ll need internet to be able to authorize charge card payments.

Like the majority of other web-based POS’s, Revel and Lightspeed sell their professional services monthly so there’s no commitment with no fee for ending your contract if you’re unhappy using the service. (Lightspeed has a choice of annual billing in a slightly lower cost point.)

Software and hardware Needs:

Both Revel and Lightspeed will operate on any recent-gen iPad (iPad, iPad Small, iPad Air, etc.). Lightspeed Restaurant may also operate on an apple iphone or ipod device Touch, whereas you can run Lightspeed Retail on any computer (using a internet browser). You can buy peripheral equipment just like an iPad stand, cash drawer, hands scanner, and receipt printer through Revel or Lightspeed or source this equipment yourself.

Specific Type and size of economic:

With multi-location support and the opportunity to house up to 500,000 SKUs, Revel is an extremely effective POS appropriate for mid-sized to large companies. Both restaurant and retail companies use Revel, (particularly including big names like Cinnabon and Goodwill). For any small mother-and-pop store, though, Revel would most likely be overkill, because you wouldn’t finish up using many of the advanced features.

Lightspeed is much better suited to promising small to medium companies, operating within the 1-7 register range. Her capacity to aid limitless registers, however this choice is not broadly marketed.

When it comes to kind of companies offered by each POS, Revel is particularly aimed toward restaurants and quick service, although it also functions as well for retail companies and salons. Lightspeed Restaurant works together with almost any food-related business, from bakeries, to food trucks, to fine dining while Lightspeed Retail serves any kind of brick-and-mortal store, single- or multi-location.

Prices:

Champion: Lightspeed

Regardless of whether you have only one register or you’re a bigger business with multiple registers, Lightspeed will probably set you back less dollars monthly than Revel will. For small restaurant companies, Lightspeed Restaurant is particularly cost-efficient, charging 1-register companies only $69/month or $59/month if billed yearly.

Despite costing more overall, Revel’s prices structure now is easier than Lightspeed’s—Lightspeed charges extra for such things as extra users, printers, and “advanced reporting” (includes widgets showing various store metrics in your desktop—quite frankly, these aren’t everything helpful), whereas Revel’s cost tag is-inclusive. 

Find more prices information of these two POS’s below.

Revel:

Note: Revel&#8217s prices is susceptible to change on the per-situation basis and could be customized for your specific needs. Below is really a rough estimate.

  • first terminal: $119 monthly
  • second terminal: $79 monthly
  • Each additional terminal: $50 monthly

Lightspeed Restaurant:

Small:

  • $69/mo ($59/mo if billed yearly)
  • 1 register
  • 2 printers

Medium:

  • $119/mo ($102/mo if billed yearly)
  • 3 registers
  • 4 printers
  • API access

Large:

  • $239/mo ($205/mo if billed yearly)
  • 7 registers
  • Limitless printers
  • API access

(Request an estimate in excess of 7 registers.)

Lightspeed Retail:

Small

  • $89/mo ($76/mo if billed yearly)
  • 1 register
  • 5 employees

Medium

  • $149/mo ($128/mo if billed yearly)
  • 2 register
  • 10 employees

Large

  • $259/mo ($222/mo if billed yearly)
  • 4 register
  • 20 employees

Simplicity of use:

Champion: Lightspeed

Both programs are relatively simple to use after initial setup. You are able to train employees on fundamental functions of either system in under each day, although the more complicated back-finish functions will take some longer to understand. It goes for Lightspeed and Revel. However, overall, Revel includes a steeper learning curve and takes longer to setup when compared with Lightspeed.

Revel and Lightspeed both have a fluid, intuitive interface. Despite the fact that Lightspeed’s interface is visually simpler, when you are to understand each system, we believe Revel’s POS is nearly as simple to use as Lightspeed’s.

Product Features:

Champion: Revel

This can be a difficult area to choose a obvious champion because both POS systems are full of many features that stretch the systems’ functionality beyond those of pure point-of-purchase, which makes them both true business management solutions. Both systems offer features like restaurant table management, advanced inventory management, gift certificate functionality, as well as in-depth reports. But overall, Revel is really a better quality POS, offering more functions when compared with Lightspeed (which isn’t really everything surprising thinking about its heftier cost tag).

Instead of listing the exhaustive quantity of features for every POS, I’ll lead you to the net pages for Revel features, Lightspeed Restaurant features, and Lightspeed Retail features. Generally, Lightspeed Retail has more features than Lightspeed Restaurant, but nonetheless less features than Revel.

Here’s a brief listing of features Revel has that Lightspeed doesn’t (neither LS Restaurant nor LS Retail have these functions):

  • Appointment scheduling (essential for service-based companies)
  • Digital menu boards
  • Kitchen display system
  • Self-service kiosks

Integrations:

Champion: Revel

Revel presently provides more integrations than Lightspeed, though they don&#8217t differ tremendously in this region. Both integrate with QuickBooks and Xero, but LS Restaurant lacks integration with e-mail marketing programs, whereas Revel integrates with MailChimp (Observe that LS retail does support MailSync for e-mail marketing integration).

Some notable integrations Revel doesn’t tell Lightspeed include PayPal and Bitcoin as payment options.

Customer Support and Tech Support Team:

Champion: Lightspeed

Both POS’s offer many forms of support incorporated within their monthly subscription packages. Including phone support, live chat, email support, an internet-based understanding bases. Previously, Lightspeed support continues to be rated as increasing numbers of responsive and consistent in comparison to Revel’s. But Revel has lately walked up its customer support and it is now reporting a 93% client satisfaction rating (though some Revel users still complain about slow support for complex issues).

Neither company includes a+ support while Lightspeed’s technical support has become good reviews, even individuals who discuss how great the standard continues to be report more than usual wait occasions. Overall, Lightspeed continues to have better support ratings (per reading user reviews), however this might change soon as increasing numbers of customers experience Revel&#8217s recent upgrades.

Reviews and Complaints:

Champion: Tie

Reviews of these reason for purchase systems vary wildly from godawful to glowing—look no beyond your comments ought to on the Revel and Lightspeed reviews many people think these items are the most useful POS systems ever, yet others do a comparison towards the brainchildren of Satan themself. Overall, though, both products have pretty comparable reviews, with a lot of high quality ones, plenty of bad ones, and plenty among, leading to a typical user rating of approximately a &#8220B&#8221 for systems (should you&#8217re in to the whole letter grade factor).

Obviously, Lightspeed offers multiple products, that makes it hard to compare Revel versus. Lightspeed in this region. To help complicate the problem, we rate Revel Systems at 4.5 stars, Lightspeed Retail at 4 stars, and Lightspeed Restaurant at 4.5 stars. It&#8217s worth noting that users of both Lightspeed Retail and Lightspeed Restaurant praise the amount of customer support, that is perhaps the most crucial aspect to the software service. LS Restaurant is really a newer product than Retail and therefore doesn’t have as numerous reading user reviews yet, however if you simply take a look within the iTunes store, you can observe the comments are generally favorable.

Among Revel users, poor customer support has previously been a major complaint. However, as pointed out, they have recently walked up their customer service so that almost all customers now appear to become having a positive support experience.

Final Verdict:

Champion: Draw

Yes, it&#8217s type of anticlimactic, however i just can&#8217t pick a complete champion as it pertains to these two systems. Revel has more features—including kiosk mode, appointment scheduling, kitchen view, and QuickBooks integration—while Lightspeed has a less expensive cost point and somewhat superior customer care.

Really, the selection will mainly rely on your particular situation, budget, and small business. For any small mother-and-pop restaurant or store, Lightspeed is most likely the greater approach to take. For bigger, multi-register/location stores and restaurants, too as service-based companies, Revel may well be a better fit.

All joking aside, don’t simply take my word for it—register for any free trial offer of Lightspeed Retail, and/or Lightspeed Restaurant, or plan a Revel live demo prior to committing either to POS.

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