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Best Guide to Comparing Payment Processing Companies

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Alivia Massimillo | April 29, 2024

“This guide is your shortcut to finding the perfect fit. We’ll break down the essential featuresthat make all the difference for your business.”
9 min read
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    Finding the payment processor that matches your specific business needs can feel like a treasure hunt, with plenty of false leads along the way. Pick the wrong one, and you could end up dealing with security headaches, limited functionality that holds you back, and a clunky payment processor that frustrates customers.

    Let’s change that! This guide is your shortcut to finding the perfect fit. We’ll break down the essential features and those often-overlooked factors that make all the difference for your business.

    Ready to stop stressing about payments? Let’s find the ideal payment processor for you!

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    What Do Payment Processing Companies Offer?

    Getting paid should be the easiest part of running your business. The right payment processor is key, affecting everything from how customers experience checkout to how quickly those funds hit your account.

    But what do these payment processing companies exactly have to offer? Let’s break it down.

    Payment Gateway Integration:

    Simplifies online payments by securely connecting your website, app, or other digital platforms with your chosen processor.

    Merchant Accounts:

    Establish the necessary account to accept and process credit and debit card payments. Many processors include valuable analytics and reporting tools with these accounts.

    Recurring Billing:

    Ideal for subscription or membership models, this feature automates regular payment collection for maximum efficiency.

    Virtual Terminals:

    Accept card payments remotely via phone or mail order using secure, processor-provided virtual terminals.

    Point of Sale (POS) Solutions:

    Optimize in-person transactions with card readers, contactless payment options, and comprehensive POS systems customized to your business needs.

    Payment processors also support a variety of ways for your customers to pay, giving them flexibility and convenience. Common payment methods include:

    Credit and Debit Cards:

    The foundation of most transactions. Your processor should handle all the major card networks (VIsa, Mastercard, American Express, etc.)

    Mobile Wallets:

    Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other tap-to-pay options are increasingly popular. Look for a processor that supports these seamless payment methods.

    ACH Payments:

    For customers who prefer direct bank transfers, ACH payments are often an option.

    Helcim pricing

    Alternative Payment Methods:

    From buy-now-pay-later and even cryptocurrency, some processors offer a wider range of choices to meet evolving customer needs and preferences.

    A Step-by-Step Guide on How To Compare Payment Processing Companies

    Step 1. Compare payment processing fees to find the best deal

    Selecting the right payment processor for your business goes beyond simply accepting credit cards and online payments.

    Understanding and managing those associated costs is essential to optimize your financial model and, ultimately, boost your bottom line. That’s why comparing fees and pricing structures from different processors is so important. It helps you avoid unexpected charges or paying too much for services you don’t need.

    Let’s go over some of the types of fees you might encounter.

    Transaction fees are fees charged each time a customer pays. These often vary between processors and might include a percentage of sale plus a small, fixed amount.

    You’ll also likely have monthly or annual fees covering basic account use.

    Be aware of potential setup fees (for getting started) and termination fees (if you cancel early). Additionally, you could face incidental charges like chargeback fees when customers dispute transactions.

    Understanding pricing structures is just as important.

    Common models are: flat-rate, where every transaction incurs a fixed fee; tiered, where transactions are grouped into tiers with varying rates; and interchange-plus, which adds a markup to the base interchange fees set by card companies.

    Each model carries its pros and cons depending on your sales volume and average transaction size.

    So, why the deep dive into costs?

    Unforeseen payment processing expenses can erode your profit margins. High transaction fees on lots of small-ticket sales can be a burden for small businesses. On the flip side, if your business makes a few high-value sales, a flat-rate model might be financially smarter.

    That’s why comparisons are key, so you find a payment solution that matches your needs and supports your growth without unnecessary expenses.

    Step 2. Find the most secure payment processor

    Security is non-negotiable when it comes to payment processing. Safeguarding your business and customer data requires a multi-layered approach, and understanding the security protocols deployed by payment processors is critical when choosing a partner.

    Fraud Prevention: Look for processors using cutting-edge tools like AI and machine learning to analyze transaction patterns. This real-time monitoring helps catch suspicious activity quickly, safeguarding both you and your customers from losses and damage to your reputation.

    Encryption Protocols: Encryption acts like an unbreakable code protecting payment data. Secure processors use protocols like SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) to make information unreadable during transit. This way, even if hackers intercept it, the data is useless to them, maintaining the privacy of your customers’ details.

    PCI Compliance: PCI DSS compliance is a must, ensuring processors follow strict guidelines designed to minimize data breaches. Choosing a PCI-compliant processor demonstrates your commitment to security, reducing your own risk of penalties and liability.

    Step 3. Analyze integration capabilities

    A payment processor that connects smoothly with your existing business tools saves time and reduces errors.Ideally, sales info flows directly to your accounting program, customer details update your CRM, all without you having to do manual data entry work.

    But not all payment processors are created equal. Some might not offer direct integration to your existing tools, leaving you to find workaround solutions. These fixes can technically get the job done but often add layers of complication and additional costs.

    When selecting a payment processor, be sure to consider whether those slick integrations are built-in or if you’ll need to invest in third-party solutions.

    online payments with Helcim

    Step 4. Evaluate Customer Support

    When selecting a payment processing company, one thing you should look out for is if they have reliable customer support. Here’s why you should prioritize this and questions to ask:

    Is Help Available 24/7? Make sure the company offers 24/7 customer service. Since business hours can vary, and issues don’t adhere to a strict timetable, having access to constant support minimizes potential description to your operations.

    How Quick Is Their Response? Responsiveness matters. Evaluate how fast their customer service team responds to inquiries and problems. A fast response can mean the difference between a tiny hiccup and a day-wrecker for your sales.

    Do They Offer Self-Help Tools? Sometimes you can fix issues on your own, provided you have the right tools. Check if the company has a comprehensive suite of self-help resources like FAQs and knowledge bases.

    What Are Others Saying? Look at reviews. What are other businesses saying about the support? Praise for helpful and responsive service is usually a good sign.

    Make sure the payment processor you choose doesn’t let you down when it’s crunch time. Prioritize a service provider that is responsive and always available, as this support infrastructure is key to smooth payment transaction processes.

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    Step 5. Check their reporting and analytics capabilities

    Payment processors vary in the reporting features they offer, so understanding the depth of those tools is important.

    When choosing a processor, look for easy-to-use dashboards that show key info in real-time. Customizable reports on sales, customer trends, and overall patterns are also essential. Don’t forget those daily, weekly, or monthly summaries with detailed transaction records!

    Some processors go even further with advanced analytics.

    These tools help you spot trends in customer behavior, group your audience for laser-focused marketing, fine-tune your pricing, and even flag suspicious activity for fraud prevention.

    The range of transaction data accessible through payment processing companies can also be extensive. These include all sorts of data: sales breakdowns by products, where customers are located, when sales peak happen, and how people prefer to pay.

    These reporting and analytics tools aren’t just about flashy charts. They’re the difference between running your business on gut feelings and making smart, data-driven moves.

    Step 6. Your payment processor should have the capacity to scale with your business

    Don’t let your payment processor hold back your growth! As your business expands, you need a solution that scales with you. Assess potential processors based on their ability to handle:

    Increased transaction: Can their systems manage a surge in sales without slowing down?

    Global expansion: Do they support multiple currencies and cross-border transactions?

    Technology upgrades: Is their platform flexible and adaptable to changing needs?

    Pricing that aligns with growth: Look for transparent pricing that won’t penalize your success.

    Integration with other tools: Will it seamlessly connect as your business systems evolve?

    Choose a payment processor that’s a partner in your growth, not a bottleneck.

    Step 7. Nothing beats customer reviews and testimonials in reviewing a company’s track record

    Before signing up, do your homework by taking a good look at each payment processing company’s reputation and customer reviews. This helps you choose with confidence. Here’s what to look at:

    Testimonials: Read real-world experiences from other businesses. These highlight a processor’s strengths and potential issues.

    Industry reviews: Experts offer unbiased analysis of a processor’s features, security, pricing, and overall track record. They often include comparison charts for easy evaluation.

    Ratings: Check trusted sources like industry websites or business review platforms. These ratings factor in customer satisfaction and overall reputation for a quick snapshot.

    Remember, a company’s reputation isn’t just about past performance - it’s a sign of how reliable they’ll be in the future. Companies with consistently good reviews and happy customers are more likely to provide the support your business needs to thrive.

    The Top 5 Online Payment Processors in 2024

    Now that you know how to compare payment processors, which ones are the best in 2024? Well, according to Nerdwallet, Helcim is the best overall, but we’ll let you decide when we stack all the options against one another below:

    Company Best For Free Plan? Monthly Fees Payment Processing Fees
    Helcim Overall

    In-person: 0.4% + $0.08

    Online: 0.5% + $0.25

    (Plus interchange)

    Square Mobile
    Free (premium plans
    start at $29/mo
    plus processing fees)
    In-person: 2.6% + $0.10
    Online: 2.9% + $0.30
    Stripe Omnichanne
    $0 In-person: 2.7% + $0.05
    Online: 2.9% + $0.30
    Clover Food Service
    & Service
    Starts at $14.95 In-person: 2.3% + $0.10
    Online: 3.5% + $0.10
    Stax High-Volume
    Starts at $99 In-person: 0% + $0.08
    Online: 0% + $0.15
    (Plus interchange)

    Table based on data from:

    Your Business Deserves The Best Payment Processor

    With Helcim, you’re not a number - you’re a partner. We ditch the one-size-fits-all approach for solutions that work for you.

    Sign up online in minutes - no mountains of paperwork or confusing forms. Just provide some basic business info, and you’ll be ready to start accepting payments right away. Experience the ease of Helcim- start your FREE account today!

    Frequently asked questions

    Can I customize the payment experience for my customers?

    Yes! Helcim believes in making payments fit your brand. Customize the look of your payment pages with your logo and branding. You can even tailor the fields on the payment form to collect the specific information you need for smooth transactions.

    Do you offer any additional services or integrations that could benefit my business?

    Absolutely! Helcim goes beyond basic payment processing. Our tools and integrations help streamline your entire financial workflow.

    For invoicing, you can create and send professional invoices directly from your Helcim account, and easily track payments. We also automatically sync your transaction data with popular platforms like QuickBooks and Xero, saving time on bookkeeping.

    It's time to feel good about your payments.

    Sign up instantly with no paperwork or commitments.

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