Have you ever selected your credit card processor for your small business, then discovered that it took forever and a day to set up, plus there were all sorts of hidden fees? We wanted to spare you this torment, so we at Brief have assembled a list of the best credit card processing companies for small businesses.

We had several priorities in selecting these choices:

Our Criteria

Transparent fee structure

We selected only credit card processors that have no hidden fees. First, it’s important to understand the difference between interchange rates, which are set by the card brands, and markup fees, which are added by the processors. The interchange-plus model refers to the combination of the standard rates with the fees tacked onto each transaction. We chose processors that minimized their markup and fully disclosed all fees.

Respectful representatives

We evaluated how each company makes sales and handles customer service. We’re not pushy salespeople, so we don’t like to recommend companies with pushy salespeople. We also favored companies with strong, attentive support centers.

High value

We’ve selected providers that we think provide a nice balance of affordability and features. That said, you’ll usually get more if you pay more, but what’s best for you comes down to your individual business needs.

Social proof

We took a look at each provider’s reviews to check for red flags, and we also evaluated their responses to customers’ complaints. We prefer providers who respond to complaints with grace and a problem-solving attitude. Of course, we also took a look at positive reviews to be sure they weren’t fake. 

What About Square?

Image result for Square
Square Reader

You’ve probably heard of Square. It’s marketed to small businesses and craft fair vendors alike. Honestly, Square is appropriate for a business with a relatively low sales volume. If you’re banking hundreds or thousands of dollars per month, Square might end up costing you more money as its fees pile up. Plus, Square tends to penalize high-risk businesses, so if that’s you, consider yourself warned!

Without further ado, here are our other recommendations:

Payment Depot

Rather than make you pay a dozen different fees, PaymentDepot rolls it all into a monthly subscription. You pay lower processing rates in exchange for a flat rate paid to Payment Depot each month. These rates are based on the interchange rate we mentioned above, plus a reasonable per-transaction fee. We also appreciate Payment Depot’s exceptional customer service and transparent rate structure.


If you’re an e-commerce business, you’ll want to look into FattMerchant. Its rate structure combines a zero-markup approach with a subscription fee. Don’t let the fee scare you: With zero markup, the fee pays for itself. Plus, many merchant providers charge extra for phone- or web-based transactions. FattMerchant does not, and it has invoicing tools built in as well, so it gets our vote for any business that doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar presence.

National Processing

If you’re feeling like interchange rates are unfair no matter what you do, National Processing offers options that are based on your industry. The full rate structure is available on their website, but we found that National Processing is highly affordable for small businesses, especially retail stores and restaurants. You won’t get a fancy point-of-sale, invoicing, or other frills, but if you just want an affordable way to take card payments, National Processing is a great choice. 


Dharma’s motto is “Commerce with Compassion,” and they put that into practice by donating much of their profits to charity. They also offer discounted services to nonprofits using their services. Their transparent fee structure includes only interchange-plus fees, with no annual fee. Other costs, such as account setup and early termination fees are waived or at a minimum. Dharma is so compassionate that they even state upfront that if you make less than $10,000 in sales per month, you’d probably save money by going to their competitor, Square. Now that’s nice.


Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store, an e-commerce store, or a mix of the two, there should be a merchant provider on this list that meets your needs.  We chose only the best options that offer lower fees, a transparent fee structure, and low-hurdle setup.

To review: for very small businesses or nonprofits, Square is best, while larger nonprofits would benefit from Dharma. Larger companies who don’t want frills will like National Processing, and e-commerce businesses will enjoy FattMerchant. Everyone else can get great value from Payment Depot.

We hope you found this list helpful. Happy selling!

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