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Best Merchant Account Services Shortlist

Here’s my shortlist of the best merchant account services, with options for both online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

  1. Stax - Best for most small and medium-sized businesses
  2. Stripe - Best for digital businesses
  3. Square - Best for brick-and-mortar stores
  4. Helcim - Best budget-friendly option
  5. Chase Payment Solutions - Best for businesses looking to improve cash flow
  6. PayPal - Best for non-technical business owners
  7. Payment Depot - Best for taking credit card payments
  8. PaymentCloud - Best for medium and high-risk businesses
  9. Flagship Merchant Services - Best for first-time retailers
  10. Skyflow - Best for privacy-focused organizations
  11. Merchant One - Best for custom solutions
  12. Dharma Merchant Services - Best for teams that take mostly credit card payments

Your business needs a new merchant account, but it’s not always obvious from looking at a provider’s website whether its services will suit your business’ specific needs. That’s why I’ve summarized and categorized the offerings from ten of the best providers to help you quickly compare options and find the best merchant account for your business today.

What Are Merchant Account Services?

A merchant account is a type of business bank account that lets you accept debit cards, credit cards, and other payment types from your customers. Merchant account services are the companies that provide your business with these accounts. Merchant account services usually offer additional features like fraud protection and payment gateway integration.

Overview of the 10 Best Merchant Account Services

Here's a detailed assessment of every merchant account I chose for the top list, along with an explanation of what I think it does best and which type of business it suits. I’ve also included information on each account’s integration and pricing.

1. Stax - Best for most small and medium-sized businesses

A screenshot of Stax's interface
Stax provides an all-in-one platform that works perfectly well for most businesses and eliminates the need to work with multiple other vendors or software providers. (Image Source)

Stax is a payment technology that offers just about every payment and financial-related service a small or medium-sized business could need. Use Stax to accept payments in a variety of forms, create and send invoices, manage recurring payments, and protect your business with payment security options.

Why I picked Stax: I like tools and platforms that play several roles, allowing you to minimize the number of subscriptions you have to pay. Stax fits the bill perfectly, in this regard. I think you can probably do away with two or three other payment-related tools by making the switch. You won’t need a separate invoicing platform, for instance, or a subscription management tool if you’re a SaaS company. Both of these features are available under Stax’s flat subscription fee.

Stax also works as a payment gateway meaning you avoid having to pay processing fees to middlemen. Stax will even connect with your retail Point of Sale system, allowing you to use the platform to take in-store payments—although you may prefer to use a specialist service like Square, instead.

Stax Standout Features and Integrations

Features that make Stax better than most of the options on this list for most small and medium-sized businesses include an all-in-one payment platform that lets you accept any type of in-person and online payment and invoicing tools. I also like the platform’s subscription management software.

Integrations let you connect Stax to all of your business apps. These include Slack, HubSpot, Quickbooks, Xero, MS Teams, Google Docs, Mailchimp, Asana, Wrike,, and more.

Price: from $99 per month

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Multiple payment tools in one platform
  • Predictable flat fee
  • US-based customer service
  • Lacking native integrations for some financial platforms
  • Native card machines are expensive

2. Stripe - Best for digital businesses

A screenshot of Stripe's interface
Stripe lets online retailers accept payments with hosted payment pages or fully customizable API-based integrations. (Image Source)

Stripe is a global payments platform that provides software and APIs to help businesses take payments. Like Stax, it offers a range of additional features such as invoicing terminal solutions, but it's particularly geared towards online businesses.

Why I picked Stripe: Speed and simplicity. That’s the two words that come to mind when I think of Stripe Checkout. It’s probably the easiest tool in my list to use to create a hosted checkout page, integrate it with your website platform, and start taking payments. I love that you don’t need to know how to code to get started, either. But if you are more technically minded, then you can use Stripe Elements to design your own payment flow. It’s basically got something for everyone.

It’s pretty common for online businesses to serve a global audience, which is another reason to choose Stripe. The platform supports over 135 currencies, as well as localized options like Alipay.

Stripe Standout Features and Integrations

Features that I think set Stripe apart from other tools in my list include its suite of pre-built payment products. This includes a checkout page, recurring billing functionality, and payment links, as well as payment processing. If you’re a developer, then you’ll love that Stripe makes it easy to build your own payment tools with access to APIs and low-code solutions.

Integrations are available with dozens of business tools, including e-commerce platforms like BigCommerce, bookkeeping software like Bench Accounting, and data platforms like Databox.

Price: 2.9% +30¢ per card transaction

Free Trial: Create an account for free

  • Huge range of payment tools
  • Flexibility to build custom systems
  • Secure transactions
  • User Interface can be confusing
  • Expensive processing rates

3. Square - Best for brick-and-mortar stores

A screenshot of Square's interface
Square doesn’t just facilitate payments. It provides a suite of additional tools like POS, inventory management, and an appointment-scheduling tool, making it a sensible choice for physical retail outlets looking for a one-stop shop. (Image source)

Square is a comprehensive payment solution that provides hardware and software to physical and online businesses. It can act as your store’s POS, help you create a website, manage your inventory, and report sales figures.

Why I picked Square: You’ve probably seen Square POS hardware when shopping locally. The more I learn about Square, the less I’m surprised. I think they are a popular choice for these kinds of stores for several reasons. Firstly, they offer affordable hardware that brick-and-mortar stores rely on to take payments in person. They don’t charge expensive leasing fees, either, and there is no fee to return the hardware.

Another thing I like about Square is that it provides several software solutions that help store owners manage their businesses. That includes an online store builder, a payment processing solution, payroll services, and inventory management. In the same way that Stripe is an all-in-one solution for digital business, Square is the only solution most physical retail outlets need.

Square Standout Features and Integrations

Features that I think make Square ideal for brick-and-mortar stores include a range of POS hardware suitable for any budget, business-focused software, like inventory management and appointment booking tools, and an online store builder. I also love that you can manage everything from a single app

Integrations are available from the Square App Marketplace. These include native integrations with popular business tools, like QuickBooks, WooCommerce, Jotform, and TrustPilot Reviews.

Price: 2.6% + 10¢ per transaction

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Huge range of hardware
  • No hardware leasing or return fees
  • Easy-to-use online store builder
  • Not the most cost-effective option
  • A lack of customer support

4. Helcim - Best budget-friendly option

A screenshot of Helcim's interface
Helcim provides honest transparent pricing at the lowest interchange rate, with no contracts, no monthly fees, and no hidden charges. If you want to keep costs low, this is the best choice. (Image Source)

Helcim is a suite of payment solutions that help businesses take payments online and in-store. They offer many of the same features as other merchant account services on this list, but what sets Helcim apart is their pricing. There are no monthly fees and you get the lowest interchange rate for every transaction.

Why I picked Helcim: I think the company offers exceptional value for money, plain and simple. Helcim uses an “interchange plus” pricing model, which means the cost for each transaction fluctuates based on the underlying interchange rate. So when payments are processed at a lower interchange rate, your business gets the savings, not Helcim. I also think businesses will appreciate the fact that the company decreases its margin the more payments you process with them.

Helcim’s pricing structure also means you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription to access the platform. I like that point-of-sale software, online checkouts, and virtual terminals are all available for free.

Helcim Standout Features and Integrations

Features like an online checkout, card reader, and virtual terminal are just a small part of Helcim’s appeal in my view. I think what really sets the company apart from other businesses in my list is its pricing, as discussed above, and its customer service—who you can contact by phone, email, or social media.

Integrations let you connect Helcim with a range of third-party tools. These are split into three groups: accounting services (like QuickBooks), shopping carts (like Magento), and billing systems (like Great Exposure).

Price: 1.92% + 8c on average.

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Very low transaction rates
  • No monthly fees
  • All-inclusive platform
  • Forecasting costs can be difficult
  • Not suitable for high-risk businesses

5. Chase Payment Solutions - Best for businesses looking to improve cash flow

A screenshot of Chase's interface
Chase Payment Solutions makes it easy to accept credit cards and get paid fast—as soon as the same day in some cases. (Image Source)

Chase Payment Solutions is the merchant account service of Chase, the country’s biggest bank. It offers a suite of payment solutions, including some of the fastest funding rates in the business.

Why I picked Chase Payment Solutions: In my opinion, one of the biggest problems with the payment processing industry is having to wait several days or even a week to access the money you're owed. I know this delay can significantly hinder your cash flow, especially if you have to juggle rent payments, payroll, and paying your suppliers.

That’s why I recommend Chase Payment Solutions if you’re looking to improve your cash flow. One of the biggest benefits of using the country’s biggest bank to take payments is that they let you access funds the same day without additional fees. The only hitch is you'll need to open a Chase business checking account.

Chase Payment Solutions Standout Features and Integrations

Features like the ability to get same-day payments (if you have a Chase business account) and exceptional payment security are to be expected from the country’s biggest bank, if you ask me. But I like how Chase Payment Solutions also offers a terminal for in-person payments and a customer intelligence platform to help you make better decisions.

Integrations include the major players that you'd expect, such as accounting platform FreshBooks and e-commerce platforms BigCommerce and Shopify

Price: 2.9% per transaction

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Same-day payments
  • Payment processor and bank in one
  • The country’s biggest bank
  • Can’t send invoices
  • Pricing isn’t transparent

6. PayPal - Best for non-technical business owners

A screenshot of PayPal's interface
PayPal integrates with all major e-commerce platforms, making it easy to connect your merchant account to your online store. (Image Source)

PayPal is probably the best-known online payment platform. It gives businesses the ability to take payments online and in person and offers built-in integrations for almost every e-commerce platform and CMS.

Why I picked PayPal: You’ve probably already used PayPal to buy something online or send money to a friend. Using it for your business isn’t very different, which is why I think it’s perfect for the non-technical founder. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that customers expect to see a PayPal option at checkout, either.

I like the fact that PayPal also has native integrations with every major e-commerce platform, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce. You can even use its POS offering, Zettle, to accept payments in person.

PayPal Standout Features and Integrations

Features include the full range of payment solutions — the minimum I’d expect from a big brand like PayPal. Functionality-wise, it doesn’t disappoint, however. You can add PayPal to your existing store or create a new checkout page with the platform. In-store payments are available through Zettle card readers, and reporting dashboards make it easy to keep track of everything.

Integrations come as standard for most major e-commerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. PayPal also integrates with bookkeeping tools like Xero and marketing tools like Keap.

Price: from 2.99% per transaction

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Widely known and trusted
  • Very easy to integrate with websites and other applications
  • Intuitive platform
  • Expensive fees
  • Poor customer service

7. Payment Depot - Best for taking credit card payments

A screenshot of Payment Depot's interface
Payment Depot’s user-friendly dashboard makes it easy to see revenue at a glance. (Image Source)

Payment Depot is a highly-rated merchant account provider, owned by Stax. Its membership-style offering helps customers save on fees, but its credit card processing capabilities are where I think the company really shines.

Why I picked Payment Depot: If you’re a B2B business that processes a lot of credit card payments, I think you’ll love Payment Depot’s offering. It uses a payment gateway called PayTrace, which automatically fills data fields required to get level II and level III rates on business cards. Combine this with Payment Depot’s flat membership fee, and it’s a solid offering. As long as you don’t want a load of cutting-edge features, I think you’ll find Payment Depot hard to beat.

Payment Depot Standout Features and Integrations

Features aren’t quite as bountiful with Payment Depot as other providers in this list, if I’m honest. What you see is what you get. One feature I think brick-and-mortar merchants might love, however, is the wide range of POS equipment, courtesy of Clover, that Payment Depot provides.

Integrations include most major e-commerce platforms like Shopify and Magento, as well as Quickbooks, Revel, NCR, and

Price: $79 per month

Free Trial: No trial available

  • No hidden fees
  • Great customer service
  • No cancellation fees
  • No additional payment services like invoices
  • Not cost-effective at low volumes

8. PaymentCloud - Best for medium and high-risk businesses

A screenshot of PaymentCloud's interface
PaymentCloud offers all of the services high-risk merchants need, including chargeback and fraud prevention, PCI-compliant virtual terminals, and partnerships with banks that accept poor credit. (Image Source)

PaymentCloud provides a full range of payment processing solutions, but it excels at offering specialist services to high-risk businesses. The company’s high-risk merchant services account is available to almost every business, with a 98% approval rate.

Why I picked PaymentCloud: High-risk retailers need specialist merchant account services —and I think PaumentCloud is probably the best choice in this regard. That’s because the company accepts a range of businesses other providers wouldn’t touch, like adult brands, CBD stores, gun shops, and credit repair companies.

I think merchants will also appreciate that PaymentCloud customizes their payment gateway to guard against the biggest problems facing their industry. They also offer fraud prevention and chargeback monitoring services.

PaymentCloud Standout Features and Integrations

Features that I think high-risk businesses will care about include card-not-present transactions, recurring billing options, chargeback disputes, and fraud prevention services. Another cool feature is that PaymentCloud also lets customers connect their inventory systems and provides in-person terminals—the first of which is free.

Integrations are available for most major software companies. You can connect PaymentCloud to e-commerce platforms like Shopify, CRMs like HubSpot, and CMSs like WordPress.

Price: From Interchange plus 0.4% + 10¢

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Accepts high-risk business
  • Plenty of fraud prevention features
  • Good range of integrations
  • Approval times can be long
  • Fees can be expensive.

9. Flagship Merchant Services - Best for first-time retailers

A screenshot of Flagship's interface
Flagship Merchant Services combines a comprehensive merchant account service with exceptional support—and has been named ‌the number one merchant account provider for the eighth straight year as a result. (Image Source)

Flagship Merchant Services isn’t flashy and doesn’t have the best website, in my opinion. But it has the best approach to customer service, and all of the services most small and medium-sized businesses will ever need.

Why I picked Flagship Merchant Services: The company’s commitment to customer service puts it above a lot of other options on this list. If it’s your first time buying a merchant account, Flagship Merchant Services can guide you through the process. Unlike most of the other merchants on this list, you can call them up and speak to a sales rep. You also qualify for free equipment when you open an account and the company promises the best processing rates guaranteed—two great selling points for cash-strapped startups.

Flagship Merchant Services Standout Features and Integrations

Features include everything a first-time retailer needs to start accepting payments, in my view. This includes a free Clover Mini Point-of-Sale or EMV Certified Terminal, e-commerce credit card processing, and fraud prevention services. I like the fact that the offering can scale with you. For example, once you’ve found your feet as a retailer, Flagship Merchant Services also offers API access, so you can customize your checkout flow.

Integrations focus on Clover’s payment processing offering. Flagship’s ecommerce offering Quiq, has API access you can use to integrate with other software solutions.

Price: Pricing upon request

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Free and easy account setup
  • Broad range of payment solutions
  • Same-day funding
  • Lack of transparency on pricing
  • Few native integrations

10. Skyflow - Best for privacy-focused organizations

A screenshot of Skyflow's interface
Skyflow’s APIs and SDKs remove all sensitive payment card data. (Image Source)

Skyflow delivers data privacy vaults, like the kind pioneered by Apple and Netflix, to merchants through an API. It’s straightforward for developers to integrate the platform into your online checkout and your store will become PCI-compliant almost immediately.

Why I picked Skyflow: Few merchant accounts take data privacy as seriously as Skyflow from what I’ve seen. While you’ll still need to use a payment provider like Stripe, Skyflow ensures all payments are processed in a secure and PCI-compliant manner. I like that Skyflow is easy to integrate into your checkout process, too. The main functionality is delivered by API, but there are client-side SDKs for iOS, Android, and JavaScript, too.

Skyflow Standout Features and Integrations

Features that I think set Skyflow apart from others center on privacy. The Skyflow Fintech Vault connects to your online store via an API and removes any sensitive payment data from your environment. Everything is offloaded to Skyflow, meaning you become almost instantly PCI compliant. But it doesn’t stop there. I also like that Polymorphic Encryption means data is encrypted at rest and in transit, while the company’s Advanced Data Governance Engine ensures PCI requirements are met. Skyflow also takes a zero-trust approach to data privacy, meaning every access request is never trusted and always verified.

Integrations include a number of pre-built solutions for payment processors, including Stripe, Visa, Experian, Plaid, and Alloy. You can even use the platform to build your own integrations.

Price: Pricing upon request

Free Trial: Demo available

  • Privacy-first solution
  • API connection
  • Fast PCI compliance
  • Not a standalone solution
  • May require help from developers to install

11. Merchant One - Best for custom solutions

A screenshot of Merchant One's interface
Merchant One provides APIs and SDKs for a range of in-store devices allowing retailers to build custom terminals easily. (Image Source)

Merchant One is a full-service credit card processing provider with a focus on custom solutions. The company provides a range of payment solutions, but every package is tailored to merchants.

Why I picked Merchant One: I think the company’s flexibility is unrivaled. You don’t need to buy specific hardware to use Merchant One’s payment gateway service, for instance. That’s because the company provides a range of advanced API and SDK-based features that allow you to deploy Merchant One’s software on your existing terminals. I like that you aren’t left to figure this out on your own, either. The company provides integration examples, an integration guide, and API documentation.

Merchant One Standout Features and Integrations

Features include the merchant gateway service I have described above for card not present and online transactions. I think merchants will also appreciate that Merchant One provides several credit card terminals, as well as a range of Clover products, all pre-loaded with its software. iPhone and Android card readers are also available.

Integrations are possible through Merchant One’s API, meaning you can connect the company’s software to any existing POS hardware.

Price: $13.95 monthly fee + 0.29% - 1.99% per transaction

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Highly customizable solution
  • No setup fee
  • Excellent customer support
  • Long-term contract
  • Can be expensive

12. Dharma Merchant Services - Best for teams that take mostly credit card payments

A screenshot of Dharma's interface
Dharma Merchant Services lets retailers add a surcharge to payments and pass all of a credit card’s processing fees to the customer. (Image Source)

Dharma Merchant Services offers a comprehensive merchant services account, with low rates and good customer service. But it’s their approach to surcharging that sets them apart from competitors and makes them an ideal choice for businesses like restaurants that handle a large amount of credit card payments.

Why I picked Dharma Merchant Services: I love that the company offers a surcharge service, which lets you pass on all of a credit card’s processing fees to the customer — something few other providers in this list do. I think it’s one of the easiest ways a company can reduce costs and improve revenue—as long as your customers are happy to pay it. What’s more, the company also offers “interchange plus” pricing, with flat, fixed margins and no monthly fee.

Dharma Merchant Services Standout Features and Integrations

Features are what you’d expect from a decent all-round provider. I like that the company offers multiple payment solutions that incorporate its surcharge capabilities, including a virtual terminal, mobile payment processing software, and online payment links. I’m also a fan of the reporting dashboard that offers a range of pre-built reports and means retailers can start understanding their businesses from day one.

Integrations include most POS hardware systems and MX Merchant.

Price: From Interchange + 0.15%

Free Trial: No trial available

  • Surcharging features
  • Low fees
  • No long-term contracts
  • Not suitable for high-risk businesses
  • Not suitable for businesses processing less than $10,000 per month

Other Merchant Account Services

If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the list above, try one of these merchant account services that are worth checking out.

  1. Fiserv - Best for large businesses
  2. Clover - Best for very small businesses
  3. Paysafe - Best for global businesses
  4. CardX - Best for government and education businesses
  5. Payline Data - Best for nonprofits
  6. PayArc - Best for business sending invoices
  7. National Processing - Best for restaurants
  8. ProMerchant - Best for speed and flexibility

Selection Criteria For Merchant Account Services

Finding the best merchant account services provided from the hundreds of options isn’t easy—you wouldn’t be reading this article otherwise. So how did I shortlist the merchant account providers above?

Here’s what I evaluated:

Core Functionality

The first thing I analyzed was whether merchant account services had the core functionality a business would expect. These are the basic features the solutions needed to have to make my shortlist:

  • Allow customers to make online and in-person payments
  • Allow businesses to manage payments through an online dashboard
  • Send business funds within five working days or less

Key Features

To be able to deliver the core functionality I’ve highlighted above, many of the merchant accounts had the following key features:

  • Payment processing: merchant accounts should let businesses accept a variety of payment methods online and in-person
  • Fraud prevention tools: many merchant accounts provide businesses with a range of tools and services that prevent financial fraud like chargebacks
  • Online checkout integration: merchant accounts work best when they integrate with a retailer’s existing website. That being said, some merchant accounts give retailers the tools to build their own websites from scratch.
  • Reporting and analytics: retailers need real-time payment reports and dashboards to understand cash flow and create accurate financial forecasts.
  • Customer support: technical issues need to be resolved fast to stop them from impacting a retailer’s revenue.


Payment systems are complex enough without you having to waste time working out how to host a checkout page or get to grips with a merchant’s dashboard. That’s why I’ve prioritized merchant accounts that are easy to use.

Almost all of these services have clean, intuitive interfaces. Many have excellent support capabilities, too.


While many of the merchant account services I’ve listed offer “all-in-one” solutions, they still need to integrate with other financial tools like online bookkeeping software. As such, I’ve chosen merchant accounts that natively integrate with these platforms.


I’ve provided merchant accounts with a wide range of pricing models. Some merchants may prefer to pay a percentage fee per transaction. Others may prefer a flat monthly fee. Percentage fees range from 1.9% to 2.9% per transaction. Monthly fees tend to range from $13.95 to $99 per month. Be aware that companies charging smaller monthly rates may also charge additional fees per transaction.

People Also Ask

Still have questions about finding the best merchant accounts services for your business? My frequently asked questions section below may help.

Did You Find What You Were Looking For?

I hope you found what you were looking for in my list of merchant account services.

It’s hard to prescribe a specific service when everyone’s business needs are different, but I’ve done my best to categorize merchant accounts by their use case.

If you need more in-depth advice on financial software or corporate finance in general, sign up for our newsletter.

By Simon Litt

Simon Litt is the Editor of The CFO Club, where he shares his passion for all things money-related. Performing research, talking to experts, and calling on his own professional background, he'll be working hard to ensure that The CFO Club is an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to stay informed on the latest financial trends and topics in the world of tech.

Prior to editing this publication, Simon spent years working in, and running his own, investor relations agency, servicing public companies that wanted to reach and connect deeper with their shareholder base. Simon's experience includes constructing comprehensive budgets for IR activities, consulting CEOs & executive teams on best practices for the public markets, and facilitating compliant communications training.