The best credit card processing services of 2018

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Best credit card processing service

1. PayPal

2. Square

3. Worldpay

4. Intuit QuickBooks Payments

5. Stripe

Read on for our detailed analysis of each service

It's never been easier to set up shop on the web and sell your wares to the world. The US is a global leader in e-commerce and the sector is characterized by constant innovation, so it’s worth investing time and money on an effective card processing service.

But time is money, and if you need help then we hope this quick guide will give you a head start when making your decision. Yes, PayPal is in there, but we’ve selected four others that go the extra length to make life easier and safer for you and your customers, alongside other features that can boost your business.

So, let’s get straight to it…

PayPal

1. PayPal

Well-known for good reason

Key features: One-click purchasing, mobile optimization | Integrations: Shopify, Magento | Free trial: Free option available (commission only)

Used by huge amounts of businesses
Plenty of features
Free option
Varying costs per transaction

You must have been living under a rock for the last couple of decades if you haven't heard of PayPal,  a popular service for online transactions. For many, PayPal will be the first card processor that comes to mind. It's used by multitudes upon multitudes of retailers and service providers around the world.

And if your business is small, it's absolutely free to sign up for PayPal Payments Standard. This package includes fraud protection, one-click purchasing and an optimized experienced for mobile visitors. The focus is on fast, simple payments from anybody, regardless of whether they have a PayPal account or not, and it's dead easy to add a payment button to a website.

PayPal also supports Global Sellers, a cross-border trade service that aims to make it easier for SMBs to increase their international presence and sales. This includes translation tools, international shipping and returns and payment localization.

As well as the free option, you can pay $30 (£24) a month to upgrade to PayPal Payments Pro. That allows you to customize your checkout and ensure that your customers stay on your website when they pay.

Square

2. Square

Ideal for small businesses

Key features: Same-day deposits, payment hardware available | Integrations: Magento | Free trial: Free service (commission only)

Focuses on your business type
Physical point-of-sale available
Flat rate processing fee
Lacks the features of others

Rather than a one size fits all approach to card processing, from the outset Square looks to mold its solution to suit your business. Whether your specialty is culinary, beauty, service provision or simply retail, Square will direct you appropriately.

The interface (whether on desktop or via Square's mobile app) is clean and simple to understand, and the commissions for each payment are a flat rate for all transactions instead of on a sliding scale. If you have a shopfront or office where you accept payments, you can also order its Square Reader hardware so that you can quickly take card payments in person, instead of getting sidetracked to the online portal for each transaction.

The most recent addition to Square’s platform is an instant deposit service that can help firms manage cashflow.

There are no monthly payments to get Square, unless your transactions amount to more than $250,000 (around £200,000), in which case you'll have to speak to Square to find out its rates. For the rest of us, it is a flat 2.75% processing fee “per swipe, dip, or tap,” and 3.5% + $0.15 (£0.12) for a keyed-in transaction. 

Worldpay

3. Worldpay

International online payment gateway

Key features: Fraud screening, recurring payment subscriptions, reporting tools | Integrations: PayPal, Magento, Oracle | Free trial: No

Accepts 100+ currencies
All common card types covered
Opaque pricing plans

True to its name, Worldpay's online payment gateway is the one to go for if you're expecting payment from all corners of the globe. You can accept payments from more than 100 currencies worldwide - from Rand to Rupees, Pesos to Pound Sterling.

Worldpay takes the 'if you can't beat them, join them' approach to PayPal - it accepts payments from PayPal members, as well as the usual standalone card payments from non-PayPal users. We like that it includes reporting tools to keep track of your invoices and transactions and the company makes a lot of its advanced fraud protection. Clearly, Worldpay suits larger and growing businesses with greater needs.

In early 2018, US firm Vantiv completed its takeover of WorldPay, with the combined firm processing more than 300 payment types across 146 countries and 126 currencies.

Sorry, but we can't give you specific details on pricing. You have to interact with a member of the sales team if you want to sign up to Worldpay via its online quote builder, which will email back a price.

QuickBooks Payments

4. Intuit QuickBooks Payments

A familiar name in accounting

Key features: Invoice management, automatic bookkeeping | Integrations: Shopify, Expensify | Free trial: Free service (commission only)

Ideal if you're already in Intuit ecosystem
Fast invoice payment processing
Won't suit all businesses
Higher costs for some services

If Intuit QuickBooks Payments sounds familiar, that's because Intuit makes some of the oldest and most respected accounting software out there.

The Payments strand of Intuit's service is focused on the fast payment of invoices that you issue to customers, allowing you to add a 'Pay now' button to make it quick and easy for the payer. 

Intuit is accounts inclined, so it's no surprise to see that it goes heavy on the automatic invoicing and bookkeeping features you get access to. If you already use Intuit for your other needs, it makes sense to sign up for Payments too.

Again, there are no monthly fees to pay. However, fees vary with the service in question, with free ACH transfers at the low-end of the spectrum, moving up to keyed card transactions costing 3.4% plus $0.25 (£0.20) for each transaction.

Stripe

5. Stripe

Great for online retailers

Key features: Single click payments, checkout design | Integrations: Shopify, Expensify, GoDaddy | Free trial: Free service (commission only)

Quick and easy to get started
Reasonable fees
Lacks the features of others

Compared to some of the merchant services above, Stripe is a relative newcomer to this space, as it only came into being in 2011. But what it lacks in years of experience, it makes up for in a slick, youthful design.

But Stripe isn't merely style without substance. The company claims to be a “complete payments platform engineered for growth,” and it's essentially a stripped down and straightforward card processing service.

It also goes to great lengths to make integration on your website as easy as possible, with lots of help and guidelines for developers, plus there are easy-to-navigate reporting suites, too.

Stripe has a strong developer focus and recently added a new developers section to the dashboard so you can monitor your integration and API usage.

Stripe is another free service which doesn’t require a subscription, instead leveraging a budget-friendly 2.9% plus $0.30 (£0.20) commission payable on each transaction.

Jonas DeMuro contributed to this article