What are some low-cost options to process credit cards for my business?

Your Business Credit with Elaine Pofeldt

Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of 200kfreelancer.com. Her book, “The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business,” was released in 2018. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for CreditCards.com.

Ask Elaine a question, or see if your question has already been answered in the Your Business Credit answer archive.

What are some low-cost options for processing credit card transactions? 

Depending on your needs and the size of your business, there are several companies offering low-cost solutions:
  1. Square 
  2. Clover
  3. PayPal
Expert Q&A

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Dear Your Business Credit,
I’m looking to upgrade my payment terminals to Square or something similar. What do you recommend as a low-cost way to accept credit cards without investing a bunch of money in new technology? – Simon 

Dear Simon, 
You’re in luck. There are plenty of payment reader options to choose from. Let’s look at some of the major ones.

Square is one of the most popular payment terminal systems. I’ve used the Square card reader, which plugs into a mobile phone or device, when selling my book to attendees at panel discussions, and  found it to be very easy to use. You can buy the chip card reader for $29. I recently tried using the Square Contactless and Chip Reader ($49) and found it worked beautifully, even with one card from the U.K.

If you run a brick-and-mortar store, you can process credit card payments from a computer, via your web browser, using Square Virtual Terminal. There is no card reader or app needed. Need a point of sale solution for a store or restaurant? The company now offers the Square Register ($999), a tablet designed for transactions.

Square’s payment processing fees are 2.75 percent of each transaction for swiped and chip card transactions. For manually entered transactions, they are 3.5 percent + $0.15.

Square has a number of competitors, though, so it’s worth shopping around to find the one that works best for you.

The Clover Go card reader, from First Data and similar to Square’s, allows you to process magnetic strip and chip card transactions from a mobile phone or device.

The Clover Go “All in One” Contactless Reader lets you process strip and chip card transactions and also accepts Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Clover offers a variety of options you can use if you operate a brick-and-mortar store, such as the Clover Mini, a tablet set up to process transactions. Other options are the Clover Mobile, a device that lets you process transactions while customers are standing in line or at a table in a restaurant and Clover Flex, a smaller device that lets you process transactions on the go.

Clover Go comes with something that many entrepreneurs need: a merchant account. So, if you are in the market for a merchant account, that may be relevant to you. The Payments Plus service, in addition to processing credit cards, enables you to track cash, send and store digital receipts, track sales and reports from any device and handle a variety of other tasks.

The Register and Register Lite versions also have inventory and order management built into their payment solution.


Tip: It’s worth shopping around to make sure you choose a system that will serve the needs of your specific business.

If you opt for Clover Go, it costs $69 to buy the reader on Amazon (unless you get it from a merchant account provider who offers it for free) and 2.69 percent + $0.05 for all swiped Visa, Mastercard and Discover card transactions. Keyed transactions are 3.69 percent + $0.05. For American Express, pricing ranges based on the type of transaction. The contactless reader goes for $194.49 on Amazon.

See Related: How to accept credit cards at your next garage sale

PayPal Here, a mobile processing service, is another option many merchants like. The chip card and magnetic stripe reader costs $24.99; the chip and tap reader, which also lets you process contactless card payments like Apple Pay, goes for $59.99.

PayPal will charge you 2.7 percent per U.S. card swipe and 3.5 percent + $0.15 to key in cards. If you’re a heavy user of PayPal, you may appreciate the option to transfer funds from your PayPal account to your bank account.

There are plenty of other options, so it’s worth asking around in your industry for recommendations. Each solution has its own features, and the one that works best for the restaurant down the street may not necessarily be the ideal one for a retail store. If any readers have recommendations, I welcome your input in the comment area.

See related: Street performers now take tips via credit card

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Updated: 12-15-2018