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Square Invoices Review: Features, Pricing, Alternatives

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As a small business owner, invoicing is one of the most important parts of your business, albeit the most time-intensive and frustrating parts of your workday. But the sooner your invoices go out, the faster you get paid. That makes it imperative that small business owners and entrepreneurs figure out a way to generate, send, and track invoices that takes the stress and hassle out of the process. This is where Square Invoices comes in handy by helping to take the grind out of invoicing.

Square Invoices lets small business owners create customer invoices effortlessly, all from within the program’s easy-to-use online portal. Best of all, your clients can pay a Square invoice through a variety of methods, which removes barriers that could make it take longer for your money to make it to accounts receivable.

Of course, you’re going to want to read a Square Invoices review or two before diving into a new platform to handle your invoices. It’s best to make sure you’re aware of whether or not a Square invoice fee comes along with the free platform and to let your clients know how to pay a Square invoice from your business. We’ll dive into the specifics of the Square Invoices platform, as well as how onboarding a Square invoice system for your business might be the right move for you.

What is Square Invoices?

Square Invoices is a platform that helps businesses get invoices paid. Square, the company behind Square Invoices, has already built a reputation as a versatile point of sale option for credit card processing. Their platform now does much more than help people pay with a credit card—including inventory management, customer relationship management, and sales analytics.

Square Invoices takes this a step further by helping small business owners invoice clients and vendors without having to manually create, track, and account for each invoice they submit. The platform lets you send a Square invoice to a client as a one-time or recurring event. Plus, Square Invoices also allows you to store credit card information, which means that you can invoice your clients with the payment information on file (so long as they provide consent, of course).

Square Invoices does much more than help you get paid. You can track a Square invoice from creation to payment, as well as add attachments and receipts to your files. If you opt for Square Invoices Plus, your invoices are customizable as well, which means you can recreate an existing invoice template that works for you without having to start over with something brand new.

And with either version of the platform (Free or Plus), you can set automatic payment reminders, making it easier for you to provide a gentle nudge when clients haven’t sent their checks. And if paper checks aren’t your thing, Square Invoices lets you accept online payments as well.

Square Invoices pricing

You might be wondering what Square Invoices costs, given that the platform offers so much customizability and features to help take the pain out of collecting on your company’s payments. The good news, however, is that the basic version of Square Invoices is free to use. There are no setup or monthly fees, which means you can get started without making any kind of upfront investment. Sending invoices is free of charge as well, so you can send as many or as few as you need.

You will have to pay credit card processing fees, however. Usually, this fee ranges from 2.9% of a transaction’s total, or up to $0.30 per transaction. If you use Square as a POS, you’re already used to the company’s payment model: Square Invoices is similar to the per-transaction fee levied through the use of a Square reader or POS terminal. The same model helps power Square Invoices, which is what makes the platform free to use.

This could mean that you end up paying for your transactions if you run a retail business, and you could also get dinged with fees when getting paid by vendors. You can, of course, ask your clients to pay a Square invoice outside of the platform, but doing so would negate the benefit of using this all-in-one solution.

If you decide to use Square Invoices Plus, you’ll pay $20 for the platform as well as the payment processing fees. With this upgrade, however, you can save and reuse invoice templates, create custom fields, auto-convert estimates into invoices, and more.

Pros of Square Invoices

There’s a ton to love about Square Invoices. Among the best things the platform provides is flexibility. Unless you’re in retail or move high volumes of product, odds are you’re not set up to get paid via credit card. Square Invoices makes it easy to get paid with a credit card, which opens up new opportunities for your clients to pay you faster. That your clients can pay bills online also takes away some of the lag time that comes with sending invoices manually. Having a one-stop-shop to collect and pay incoming invoices means you can get your money faster.

Square Invoices also makes it easy to stay organized. You can manage a Square invoice from creation all the way through to payment without having to keep track of invoices through a more manual method, such as a spreadsheet. All of your invoices are logged in the Square Invoices app, which means that your payments and overdue invoices are all kept in one central place.

Last but not least, Square Invoices provides users with a great tool for analyzing financials and creating financial forecasts. You can keep track of your company’s cash flow with on-demand reporting across the program’s mobile, desktop, and tablet apps. This makes it easy for you to get a quick glimpse into how your company’s faring on short-term funds as well as monthly and quarterly revenue figures.

Cons of Square Invoices

Square Invoices has a ton of great features, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a few drawbacks as well. The major disadvantage is, of course, the cost. As great as it is not to have a monthly fee to use the Square Invoices platform, giving up a percentage of each invoice can eat into revenue over time. This might create a challenging trade-off for some entrepreneurs: making invoicing easier, but getting less money per invoice. You’ll pay a price for convenience, but it’s up to you whether or not it’s worth it.

Even though Square invoice fees can add up, there is an option that helps make the platform more affordable for high-volume businesses. Square Invoices offers custom pricing options for companies that process $250,000 or more in credit card sales. This may help make the platform more affordable for your business if credit cards are a major payment option with clients.

Another potential drawback for businesses looking to use Square Invoices is its high minimum for withdrawals. You’ll have to get to $1,000 in your Square balance before being able to sweep it into your business checking account. That might mean that you can’t access smaller amounts of cash in emergencies, such as a cash flow problem, even though you have money coming in.

Alternatives to Square Invoices

Square has a huge reputation within the world of processing cash, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only game in town. In fact, the alternatives to Square Invoices offer similar features and competitive pricing, which means you may want to do your homework before signing up with Square Invoices over another provider. Here are a few of the better Square Invoices alternatives out there.

Zoho Invoice

Zoho is another well-regarded company that offers a suite of services aimed at making small business owners’ lives easier. Zoho Invoice is no exception, as it allows users to make and send off invoices, process client and vendor payments, as well as track expenses and unbilled hours.

The platform is easy to set up and user-friendly. Plus, it comes with a slew of helpful features, such as billing, estimates, and reporting options that are similar to what Square Invoices provides. Zoho Invoice also gets high marks for its intuitive and stress-free tax management, making it easy to track taxable versus non-taxable transactions.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Zoho Invoice is completely free. Zoho doesn’t charge a monthly fee for their invoice service and doesn’t require a credit card for you to sign up.

PayPal Business

PayPal Business is a great tool for small business owners who are interested in an alternative to Square Invoices and already conduct some of their business within the PayPal ecosystem. Much like Square Invoices, PayPal Business also offers recurring billing, invoice customization, and invoice tracking. The platform also provides advanced fraud protection and multi-currency transactions for international orders and bills.

PayPal Business charges fees per transaction, much like Square Invoices. The fee structure is also comparable, with charges ranging from 2.9% of an invoice total or $0.30 per payment. If you’re looking for a simple solution to help international clients pay their invoices, however, the fee structure may be worth it for the convenience of accepting multiple currencies.

Bill.com

Bill.com is another heavy-hitter in the world of online invoicing and billing. This platform makes it simple for vendors to pay bills and for clients to request payment from companies at the same time. Similar to Square Invoices, PayPal Business, and Zoho Invoice, Bill.com also offers recurring invoicing options, invoice tracking, automatic payment reminders, and more. Better still, Bill.com charges a flat rate for ACH payments as well, which provides more consistent fees for small businesses that want to track how much they’ll have to pay when invoices come in.

Out of the invoicing platforms we’ve reviewed, Bill.com is by far the most expensive alternative to Square Invoices. The service comes in four varieties: essentials, team, corporate, and enterprise. Bill.com Essentials costs $29 per user, per month, and offers fewer integrations than more expensive plans (and does not integrate into QuickBooks Online, for example). More expansive levels cost as much as $59 per month but provide more services.

The bottom line

Invoicing is far from any small business owner’s favorite activity, but there are a ton of great software platforms out there to help make it

less painful. Whether you go with Square Invoice or one of their alternatives, you can make your invoicing process smoother and less time-intensive. Plus, some of the best programs are either free or inexpensive, making it easy to take the jump and give a new platform a try. Once you’ve picked the right invoicing software for you, you can spend less time on getting paid and more time propelling your business forward.

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13 Best Credit Card Readers for Small Businesses

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A credit card reader is essential to many small businesses, and choosing the right card reader can help your company operate more smoothly.

The best choice depends on your budget, features needed and whether you’re accepting payments at a counter or on the go. Some card readers — such as those that work with iPhones — are portable, while others are attached to a countertop register. A basic card reader without a screen is the cheapest option, and sometimes free. A comprehensive POS system, on the other hand, comes with sophisticated features and can cost over a thousand dollars.

Below is a list of the best credit card readers for small businesses and what they can do for your business.

Quick comparison: Take a quick side-by-side look at our top picks in this table.

Accept payments without worry

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Square Contactless and Chip reader

Best free option with basic functions

A man holds the contactless and chip reader by Square while running a credit card

Image courtesy of Square

Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
Price: $49 for reader and $29 for optional dock.
Fees: 2.6% plus 10 cents for most in-person transactions; no monthly fees.

Square’s contactless and chip card reader enables you to accept credit cards with chips and digital wallets, such as tap-and-pay credit cards and smartphone apps, including Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. It uses Bluetooth technology instead of connecting directly to a device, which means you don’t have to keep your cell phone or tablet out with you all the time.

The reader must be charged, but the charging dock can double as a support for the reader for a counter or table. You can also charge it with a USB charger.

   

Has a compact design.

Doesn’t swipe credit cards.

Reads chip cards, digital wallets and contactless cards.

Takes up to two hours to charge.

 

Best for on-the-go payments for all card types

A white square Clover Go card reader

Courtesy of Clover

Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
Price: $99 for reader.
Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents depending on method.

This credit card reader by Clover works with phones and tablets via Bluetooth. It also processes every type of credit card payment your customers could want: magstripe-only cards, chip cards and contactless payments. It costs $99 and requires users to purchase a monthly plan.

Features depend on the plan you choose. The Essentials Plan for $9.95 per month provides basic payment processing, inventory management, taxes, reporting and employee management with 24/7 support.

   

Includes interest-free installment plans.

Takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes to charge.

Charges via standard USB charger.

Requires a monthly fee for advanced POS features.

Uses passcodes for employees.

 

PayPal Zettle

The PayPal Zettle card reader sits on a coffee shop counter

Image courtesy of PayPal

Best for PayPal and Venmo payment options

Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
Price: $79 for reader; new customers can get their first one for $29.
Fees: Varies by method, starting at 1.9% plus 10 cents for PayPal and Venmo QR code transactions over $10.

PayPal’s Zettle accepts chip and contactless payments, but it doesn’t read magstripes. It does, however, let customers pay with QR codes on PayPal and Venmo platforms. Its POS software offers invoice creation, inventory management, tracking sales performance and more.

Transaction fees generally fall in line with competitors with lower rates available for transactions made by QR code. All funds go into your PayPal account rather than a bank account. You’ll need to request a transfer to move the funds to your business bank account before you can use them outside of PayPal.

   

Has lower rates for PayPal and Venmo platforms.

Deposits funds into your PayPal account, not a bank account.

Includes new customer discount for first reader purchase.

 

Has a screen to show transaction details.

 
 

SumUp Plus

A customer holds a credit card up to the SumUp Plus reader

Image courtesy of SumUp

Best for a low-cost do-it-all reader 

Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
Price: $19 for reader.
Fees: Varies from 2.75% and up depending on method.

Powerful and compact, the SumUp Plus credit card reader works through Bluetooth with Apple and Android devices and promises more than 500 transactions on one charge. In addition to having a screen to show transaction details, the reader comes with a few helpful POS software features, like inventory management and permissions for employee access, as well as customizable invoicing. However, you might find that the overall POS is lacking when compared with the more robust options on the market.

SumUp charges only for transactions and doesn’t require a monthly fee. You can order the reader for $19 and start accepting card transactions in a matter of minutes once it’s connected to the SumUp app.

   

Accepts swiped, inserted and contactless payments.

Has less robust POS software features.

Has a screen that displays transaction details.

 
 

Clover Flex

A hand holds a white Clover Flex credit card reader

Image courtesy of Clover

Best for an all-in-one handheld system

Style: Standalone handheld reader.
Price: $499 for reader; monthly contract required.
Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents depending on monthly plan.

The Clover Flex is a small but powerful handheld credit card reader. It can process all three credit card payment types, scan bar codes and even print receipts. It’s one of the few options in this category that has its own screen, removing your personal device from the equation and allowing customers a bit more of a professional experience when checking out on the spot.

Depending on your monthly plan, the Clover Flex can help you manage inventory, view sales data and set up individual logins for employees. It costs $499, but the company offers payment plans to break up the cost. Payment processing rates depend on your pricing plan.

   

Works without connecting to a personal device.

Requires an initial investment.

Has payment plans available.

Requires monthly plan for advanced features.

Has a free monthly plan for basic features.

 
 

Helcim Card Reader

Best for low-cost transaction fees with volume-based discounts

Style: Connects via Bluetooth.
Price: $109 for the reader.
Fees: Varies by card type and monthly average transaction total.

Helcim’s card reader processes all three types of payments and connects via Bluetooth, meaning it needs to be charged. It also provides POS software with well-developed features, including customer management and inventory tracking that notifies you when your supply gets low. A standout feature is its self-service portal, which allows customers to log in to see their payment information and purchase history.

Helcim’s processing fees can be difficult to calculate because it bases its fees on the type of card and interchange fees, which are set by card networks. It also offers volume-based discounts based on transaction tiers. The more you average in transactions per month, the higher your discount. The processor doesn’t require you to sign a contract, choose a monthly fee or pay to cancel your service.

   

Has volume discounts available.

Might change processing rate if monthly transaction average drops.

Has robust POS software features.

Might be difficult to calculate monthly cost in advance.

 

Toast Go 2

The handheld Toast Go 2 swiping a credit card.

Image courtesy of Toast

Best for tableside payments at restaurants

Style: Standalone handheld reader.
Price: $389 plus $50 per month.
Fees: Typically quote-based; lowest listed price is 2.49% plus 15 cents per in-person transaction in Standard Starter plan.

The Toast Go 2 allows you to submit orders at tables and accept all three styles of payment. It’s also spill proof, will hold a charge for 24 hours and has a 6.4-inch touchscreen for quick checkout. The free version of Toast’s POS software comes with basic features, including point-of-sale and payment processing, but advanced features are available with paid plans.

The free pay-as-you-go monthly plan with basic features has a processing rate of 2.99% plus 15 cents for every in-person transaction. That rate drops to 2.49% plus 15 cents if you pay for your hardware upfront. Other plans come with quote-based pricing. One downside: The company requires contracts with a standard term of two years.

   

Is designed specifically for restaurants.

Requires quotes for advanced monthly plans.

Offers 24/7 customer support.

Requires a contract.

Is versatile and durable.

 
 

Square Terminal

A woman inserts a credit card into the Square terminal

Image courtesy of Square

Best compact countertop reader

Style: Standalone countertop reader.
Price: $299 for the reader.
Fees: Varies from 2.6% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 15 cents depending on method; no monthly fees.

Square Terminal allows you to accept all three methods of credit card payments: chip, contactless and magstripe. And priced at $299, it comes in on the lower end of the all-inclusive card readers.

The company’s standard flat-rate processing fees apply and depend on whether you run the card in person or enter it manually. There’s no monthly contract.

   

Doesn’t require a separate device.

Can take over four hours to charge.

Shows transaction details.

 

Is compact and easy to use.

 
 

Square Stand

A customer signs on a Square Stand card reader in a bike shop

Image courtesy of Square

Best iPad-compatible register

Style: Register that connects to compatible iPad.
Price: $169 for the reader.
Fees: Varies from 2.6% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 15 cents depending on method; no monthly fees.

The Square Stand is designed specifically for a single smart device: the iPad. Snap an iPad into the Square Stand, and use it as a desktop point-of-sale. The configuration allows you to provide a larger screen for transaction details, and the swivel feature allows customers to sign on the iPad without having to pass the device around. It can process magstripe, chip and contactless payments and connect with a receipt printer. However, it works only with certain iPad models.

The company’s standard fees of 2.6% plus 10 cents apply for credit cards and can raise up to 3.5% plus 15 cents for methods outside a swipe, chip or contactless payment.

   

Swivels for customers to use.

Only works with certain iPad models.

Can be mounted to a countertop.

 
 

Clover Mini

A Clover Mini card reader

Image courtesy of Clover

Best all-in-one register

Style: Standalone countertop register.
Price: $749.
Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents, depending on monthly plan.

The Clover Mini is a countertop setup that doesn’t require a tablet. It allows your business to accept all types of payments, print receipts and scan barcodes. You also get some nifty POS features, including inventory, customer and employee management functions with paid monthly plans.

This product is $749. Payment processing rates depend on your Clover pricing plan.

   

Can be mounted to a countertop.

Requires paid monthly plan for advanced features.

Works without an iPad.

 

Has free monthly plan available.

 

Has payment plans available.

 

Clover Station Solo

A Clover Station with a screen faces the reader with a chip reader beside it

Image courtesy of Clover

Best full register with a single screen

Style: Standalone countertop register.
Price: $1,349.
Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents, depending on monthly plan.

The Clover Station Solo is a register-style system that offers merchants a 14-inch high-definition screen and a receipt printer for the full checkout experience. The system works with Clover’s POS for retail, offering payment processing, inventory and staff management, reporting and more. For restaurants, the Station Solo fits nicely with customizing and tracking orders, managing table mapping and much more for streamlined service.

   

Has fingerprint login.

Requires one of the larger upfront investments.

Uses fast processing speeds.

Doesn’t have a free monthly plan option.

Has robust POS software options.

 
 

Square Register

A customer pays with their cell phone on the Square Register in a bakery

Image courtesy of Square

Best full register setup with a customer-facing screen

Style: Standalone countertop register.
Price: $799 for reader.
Fees: Varies from 2.6% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 15 cents depending on method; no monthly fees.

The Square Register is the first fully integrated credit card scanner system from Square and is a complete countertop POS system that can accept magstripe, chip card and contactless forms of payment. It boasts two screens — one for the employee and one for the customer to show transaction details — for a seamless experience. It also offers an extra-long cable that allows businesses to separate the Register and customer’s screen to encourage social distancing. Its software provides merchants inventory, employee and customer relationship management functions, plus a reporting suite where you can view sales data.

This small-business credit card reader option will cost your business $799, but there are payment plan options available. It processes transactions at the standard Square rates.

   

Has two screens.

Must be plugged in at all times.

Can be mounted to a countertop.

 

Has advanced apps and software options.

 

Clover Station Duo

Clover's Station Duo with a screen on top of a cash drawer, a receipt printer beside it and a customer screen facing the reader.

Image courtesy of Clover

Best system for full checkout experience

Style: Standalone countertop register with dual screens.
Price: $1,649.
Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents, depending on monthly plan.

The Clover Station Duo ups the game with a combination of a 14-inch screen for you and a 7-inch screen for your customers. This makes it easier for customers to confirm orders and pay however they want — credit card, debit card, and contactless payment methods. Designed for retail and restaurant environments, the Station Duo offers the same features of the Station Solo with more power.

While this option tops the list for the most expensive system, the Station Duo is currently sold with a cash drawer and a receipt printer, giving you the gamut of checkout features.

   

Has fingerprint login.

Requires one of the larger upfront investments.

Uses fast processing speeds.

Doesn’t have a free monthly plan option.

Has robust POS software options.

 

Has two screens.

 
 

Make payments make sense

Find the right payment provider to meet your unique business needs.

Credit card readers comparison table

     

Payments accepted

 

Additional device required

Square Contactless & Chip Reader

Bluetooth.

$49 (reader); $29 (dock).

Chip and contactless.

2.6% plus 10 cents and up.

Compatible smartphone or tablet.

 

Bluetooth.

 

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.3% plus 10 cents and up.

Compatible smartphone or tablet.

PayPal Zettle

Bluetooth.

 

Chip and contactless.

1.9% plus 10 cents and up.

Compatible smartphone or tablet.

SumUp Plus

Bluetooth.

 

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.75% and up.

Compatible smartphone or tablet.

Clover Flex

   

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.3% plus 10 cents and up.

 

Helcim Card Reader

Bluetooth.

 

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

Varies by card type and monthly transaction average.

Compatible smartphone or tablet.

Toast Go 2

   

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.49% plus 15 cents and up.

 

Square Terminal

   

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.6% plus 10 cents and up.

 

Square Stand

   

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.6% plus 10 cents and up.

Compatible iPad.

Clover Mini

   

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.3% plus 10 cents and up.

 

Clover Station Solo

   

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.3% plus 10 cents and up.

 

Square Register

   

Chip, contactless and magstripe.

2.6% plus 10 cents and up.

 

Clover Station Duo

   

Chip, contactless and mapstripe.

2.3% plus 10 cents and up.

 
 

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Your Payment Processor Froze Your Account — Now What?

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It’s a small business’s worst nightmare: You’ve been notified by your payment processor that your transactions are being investigated for potentially fraudulent activities. Your account has been frozen, you’re not allowed to process any transactions until further notice and what funds were being processed aren’t going to be deposited. Your entire revenue stream is stalled.

But there are a few things you can do to work with your payment processor to try to speed up the release of funds and reinstatement of your account. Here’s what you need to know about processing account freezes and how to respond.

Account freeze vs. account hold

An account freeze differs from an account hold. When a payment processor puts a hold on a merchant account, usually only certain transactions are held by the processor. It doesn’t stop all transactions, so you still have access to some funds. If a payment processor puts a hold on certain transactions because it requires a minimum reserve to cover the potential costs of chargebacks and fraudulent transactions, it will keep these funds indefinitely while allowing you to continue to process payments from customers. Think of it as a deposit that you’ll get back if you ever close your account in good standing.

When a payment processor freezes a merchant account, however, it halts all activity and holds funds until it can investigate suspected fraud or agreement violations. During an account freeze, a merchant is unable to process any transactions and cannot have any pending funds transferred to their bank account. Essentially, a business’s ability to accept cards can be stalled until an investigation proves the transactions are legitimate.

How long will your account be frozen?

Payment processors generally stipulate in their contracts that they can freeze accounts and investigate merchant activity for up to 120 days. But that doesn’t mean that your account will be frozen for that long. If you work with the payment processor to resolve the issue quickly, the freeze might be lifted sooner. Two businesses can raise the same red flag and have different results: The one that provides the right information immediately can have its account unfrozen within a week, while the business that drags its feet could wait a month or more to have access to funds.

Regardless of how cooperative you are, it’s smart to think about what you’ll do financially if your account is frozen for the full 120 days.

Most payment processors outline in their terms of use what actions they can take in certain situations, like suspected fraud, and what they are legally allowed to do to combat potential payment fraud. While it is frustrating to have your account frozen without warning, learning why it happened can help you avoid similar situations in the future.

What to do next

Talk with your processor

You need to understand what caused the account freeze and what you can do to resolve the issue quickly. The processor might not be able to give you a full explanation of what it’s looking at to ensure it can carry out an investigation, but it should be able to tell you why your account has been frozen and what you can do to assist the investigation.

Provide information

If your processor requests information or documentation relating to specific transactions, provide it as quickly and transparently as possible. The more quickly you offer up details, the more quickly your payment processor is likely to resolve the issue.

How to accept other payment methods

To keep up some revenue while your account is being reviewed, you can accept other payment methods. Consider how the following payment methods might work for your business:

  • Cash. This is a great option for in-person transactions because there are no processing fees attached to the payment. Be sure to alert customers in advance so they know to stop by the ATM.

  • Checks. With customers you know well and trust, checks can be a credit card alternative. But be wary of accepting checks from everyone: Having several bad checks bounce won’t help your situation.

  • Peer-to-peer apps. Apps like PayPal, Venmo, Zelle and Cash App offer business accounts that allow customers to send you money directly, which is deposited into your app account. This can be a good backup for accepting card payments — but note that these transactions are still subject to terms and conditions and, as with other processors, your account could be frozen for suspicious activity.

  • Backup payment processor. This is an option if you absolutely have to process credit cards while your account is being investigated, although don’t rush into a new contract that could put you on the hook for more fees. However, this is not an option for businesses that are labeled high risk because of consistent fraudulent behavior and that have been added to the Member Alert to Control High-Risk Merchants — or MATCH — list, which is shared among payment processors while reviewing new merchant applications.

Prioritize your business-critical expenses

After speaking with the processor and providing its team with information, your next step is to make a plan for how to mitigate any harm to your business finances. You’ll need to think about how you’re going to handle:

  • Paying employees.

  • Pausing subscriptions that you won’t be able to afford, such as automatic inventory purchase.

  • Paying for overhead that can’t be paused, like rent.

  • Alerting customers about changes in payment processing.

  • Disabling e-commerce payment options on your website.

If you don’t have a savings fund to fall back on, consider looking for someone to help you address financial concerns and research how to find assistance in the meantime. 

 

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Best Merchant Services of 2022

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Merchant services allow a business to accept credit and debit card transactions by transmitting the customer information to the card network and issuing bank and giving businesses access to the payments received.

The companies that offer merchant services vary in the related products and services they offer, and in their pricing models (flat rate, interchange-plus, membership). Here’s our list of the best merchant services and what sets them apart.

Helcim: Best overall option

Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate — which is set by the card issuer and generally ranges from 1% to 3% — you also pay a processing fee (hence the term “interchange plus”). For a monthly card processing volume of up to $25,000, the markup is 0.3% plus 8 cents per in-person transaction and 0.5% plus 25 cents per keyed and online transactions. Lower rates are available for higher volume levels.

Software: Free.

Hardware: Card reader is $109. Stands, printers and other equipment available through Helcim Shop.

  • Low processing fees.

  • Transparent pricing.

  • Volume discounts.

  • No contracts.

  • No monthly fees.

  • No cancellation fees.

  • Free virtual terminal.

  • Fully hosted online store options.

  • Customer support isn’t available 24/7.

  • No free card reader.

Why we like it: Helcim’s transparent pricing, lack of monthly fees and volume discounts are what pushes it to the top of the list. It’s easy to sign up for an account online by providing some basic information. And without a contract or cancellation fees, there’s no penalty to close your account. Funds from your transactions are deposited within one to two business days. Customer support is available weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time and on the weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. You can sync data with both QuickBooks Desktop and Online. Other integrations include WooCommerce, Magento and Zone 4.

Square: Best flat-rate option

Payment processing: Flat-rate pricing model that charges 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction, 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed transaction and 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction.

Software: Free option.

Hardware: Free card reader. A register costs $799 or $39 a month for 24 months.

  • No monthly fee.

  • Low transaction rates.

  • No long-term contracts.

  • Quick setup.

  • Free card reader.

  • Free virtual terminal.

  • Free dispute management services for chargebacks.

  • No processing fees on customer refunds.

  • 24/7 live phone support is not available for payments.

  • Readers are not compatible with Windows devices.

Why we like it: Square is our top pick for flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees, low transaction rates and free virtual terminal. It can accommodate all types of credit card transactions. You receive your funds as fast as the next business day for free, or you can pay a fee to receive funds instantly. Square offers free dispute management for chargebacks and doesn’t charge processing fees for customer refunds. Free phone support is available during the week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time. Square integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, Stitch Labs and other popular apps.

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Dharma: Best for e-commerce

Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate, a processing fee is charged. For Visa, Mastercard and Discover, that’s 0.15% plus 8 cents per in-person transaction. Rates for American Express in-person transactions are 0.30% plus 11 cents. And you’ll pay 0.2% plus 11 cents for keyed and online transactions.

Software: $25 monthly fee.

Hardware: Terminals start at $229 and a Clover Mini standalone device can be purchased for $749.

  • Low processing rates.

  • Pricing transparency.

  • Specializes in e-commerce.

  • Reduced rates for large monthly processing volume.

  • 24-hour help lines.

  • Virtual terminal included.

  • Monthly fee.

  • Account closure fee of $49.

Why we like it: Dharma specializes in helping e-commerce businesses and has one of the lowest rates for card-not-present transactions. Businesses with monthly card sales over $100,000 or more than 5,000 transactions may qualify for volume discounts, as well as restaurants with average ticket amounts of less than $25. Funding is guaranteed in two business days. Customer support to process your card transactions is available 24 hours a day. You can export data into an Excel file to import into QuickBooks.

Stripe: Best flat rate for online sales

Payment processing: Flat-rate pricing model that charges 2.7% plus 5 cents per in-person transaction and 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction.

Software: Free option.

Hardware: Card readers cost $59 and up. A POS register is $249.

  • No monthly fees.

  • Low transaction rates.

  • Supports over 135 currencies.

  • Your account can be terminated at any time.

  • Developer platform.

  • Support is available 24/7 by phone request, chat and email.

  • Tools to customize payment flows on your website.

  • No free reader.

  • Virtual terminal allows the customer to enter card information, but not the merchant.

Why we like it: Stripe is best for online sales because it supports processing payments in multiple currencies, allowing customers to charge in their native currency and businesses to receive funds in theirs. Payments are typically processed in two business days. Stripe integrates with a large number of apps and automatically syncs with QuickBooks and NetSuite. You can use the developer tools in Stripe Terminal and pre-certified card readers to build your own in-person checkout system.

Payment Depot: Best for large transaction amounts

Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate, 15 cents per transaction is charged. This could be less depending on the plan selected.

Software: Plans starting at $79 per month.

Hardware: Free and up. Terminals and POS systems from Clover, Ingenico and other brands available for purchase.

  • Simple and transparent pricing model.

  • Custom plans are available.

  • Free virtual terminal.

  • Satisfaction guarantee with option for refund of membership fee.

  • Customer support is available 24/7.

  • Monthly membership fees.

  • A 20% restocking fee for returned terminals.

Why we like it: Payment Depot offers membership plans that give businesses access to wholesale interchange rates at a set fee per transaction. It’s an independent sales organization that handles merchant accounts for Wells Fargo Bank. You can get access to next-day deposits based on the membership plan you select. Support is available 24/7 through the bank. Payment Depot integrates with Shopify, OpenCart, QuickBooks, PrestaShop, Shift4Shop, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento, Zen Cart, Revel, NCR and Authorize.net.

PaymentCloud: Best for high-risk businesses

Payment processing: Rates determined on a case-by-case basis.

Software: $10 and up monthly.

Hardware: A card reader and terminal included with the account. Mobile POS systems, terminals, POS registers, kitchen printers, kiosks and other devices can be purchased.

  • Specializes in high-risk merchant accounts.

  • Card reader and terminal included with account.

  • Cancellation fees are waived.

  • Free rate review and analysis.

  • 24/7 customer support.

  • Chargeback prevention tools.

  • Processing rates and hardware costs not available on the website.

  • Monthly volume limit may apply.

Why we like it: PaymentCloud specializes in services for high risk industries, although they also offer services to low and medium risk businesses. Payment processing is available for in-person, online, mobile, keyed and cryptocurrency transactions. It has over 10 banking relationships that can be used to secure a merchant account for your business. Next-day payment processing is offered as part of retail POS services. The platform integrates with QuickBooks and most shopping carts including BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Shopify and Magento.

National Processing: Best for customized rates

Payment processing: In addition to the interchange rate, fees based on business type are charged. For example, 0.14% plus 7 cents per transaction for restaurants, 0.18% plus 10 cents per transaction for retail businesses and 0.29% plus 15 cents per transaction for e-commerce business are applied.

Software: $9.95 per month or more based on industry.

Hardware: A mobile reader is included with most plans at no additional cost. Based on the plan you select, a terminal and PIN pad may also be included. A large number of POS devices are available including Clover hardware.

  • Customized rates based on industry.

  • No monthly minimum fees.

  • High-risk payment processor.

  • 24/7 phone support.

  • Offers a virtual terminal.

  • Monthly fees.

  • Contract with possible early termination and restocking fees.

Why we like it: National Processing customizes its fees based on industry and risk. For example, the rate a restaurant pays is less than that of a retail organization. Also, processing services are offered for some high-risk businesses. You can expect to receive your funds in two days with an opportunity for next-day deposits. Phone support is available 24/7. Integrations are offered for popular business apps including QuickBooks, WooCommerce, Ecwid, Zendesk, BigCommerce, OpenCart and Shopify.

QuickBooks Payments: Best for QuickBooks loyalists

Payment processing: Pricing varies. QuickBooks Online users pay 2.4% plus 25 cents per in-person transactions; 3.4% plus 25 cents per keyed transactions; and 2.9% plus 25 cents for invoiced transactions.

Software: Free and up.

Hardware: A PIN pad costs $389 and a hardware bundle that includes a cash drawer, receipt printer, wired barcode and PIN pad is $900. Additional devices available.

  • No contract.

  • No cancellation fees.

  • Competitive pricing.

  • Instant deposits are available for an extra 1% fee.

  • Invoice formatting lets customers pay online.

  • QuickBooks Desktop users and new customers may pay higher fees.

  • 24/7 phone support is not available.

Why we like it: For loyal QuickBooks users, QuickBooks Payments can process online, in-person and invoiced transactions. Payment for the next business day is typically available when the cutoff time of 3 p.m. Pacific time is met. Phone support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. QuickBooks Payments integrates with Shopify, Amazon, eBay, WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, Walmart and Etsy shopping carts.

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