Best Credit Card Processors for 2016

Transparent pricing was the key factor in this study of 106 services

Credit card device

It’s always been difficult for merchants to comparison-shop when it comes to choosing a credit card processor. Contracts are notoriously opaque, with three parties involved: the processor, the credit card company and the credit card company’s bank.

Tiered pricing models are particularly difficult, according to, a consumer review website. The merchant pays the processor, but has no idea what specific rates are being charged for different kinds of transactions, or what the split with the credit card company and the bank is. Often merchants don’t know all the specifics of what they’ll be charged until after they’ve signed a deal.

Now has surveyed 106 processors, specifically with transparent pricing in mind, and interviewed 30 small merchants. focused on two transparent pricing models: interchange plus (interchange is a set fee, known publicly, that lumps all the fees banks and credit card companies charge; the “plus” is the processor’s fee) and flat-rate (per transaction or monthly). didn’t emphasize per-transaction fees: They may be a deciding factor for a café selling $4 coffees but not for businesses with larger transactions—say, a dance store selling $60 pointe shoes.

In addition to clear and competitive pricing, found merchants were looking for easy syncing between brick-and-mortar and online sales. This likely reflects that more brick-and-mortars are experimenting with everything from Pinterest buy buttons to shops on their websites, as omnichannel selling becomes the norm. also scored companies on helpful customer service and eliminated processors without EMV-chip capabilities.

Here are its top three picks for brick-and-mortar stores. (It chose an additional two top picks for nonprofits and e-commerce retailers.)

Payment Depot ( best for larger transactions. It has various membership plans, with different monthly and transaction fees, depending on your sales volume. For example, found that to process up to $20,000 a month, a merchant would pay $29/month and a per-transaction fee of 25 cents.

Square ( best for newcomers. With its flat 2.75 percent per-transaction fee, it’s also attractive to cost-conscious established merchants, reports “There are no monthly fees or equipment leasing fees—you just pay as you get paid.” Merchants also like its inventory management and payroll capabilities, and for those with more than $250,000 in yearly sales volume, Square will negotiate the swipe fee.

Shopify Lite ( best online/offline integration. For $9/month, the Lite program charges a flat 2.7 percent per in-store transaction. The plan also lets you embed an online buy button and shopping cart into your website or Facebook page (online transactions cost 2.9 percent, plus a per-transaction fee). also chose nine other processors it considers “great, just not our top picks,” and explains how to crunch the numbers to find the best processor for your particular business. To learn more, see:

Olivier Le Moal-ThinkstockPhotos-496570222_R1States take action on paid leave
What it means for business owners

Paid leave—for an employee who is sick or who needs to care for a newborn or a seriously ill relative—has been on the minds of state legislators recently, so it’s worth keeping track of developments in your state to be aware of any payroll changes.

In March, New York became the fourth state to require employers to offer paid family and medical leave. California, New Jersey and Rhode Island already have such laws. And Vermont joined California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon in requiring employers to pay their employees for sick days.

Vermont’s new sick-leave law will at first require employers with more than five employees to provide three paid sick days a year. Those with five or fewer employees will have until January 2018 to comply. By January 2019 all employers will have to provide five paid sick days. Waiting periods and other rules apply.

sunyaluk-ThinkstockPhotos-487207693_R1The New York paid leave law, which applies to all businesses, will require employers to give eligible full-time and part-time employees up to 12 weeks paid time off for medical or family leave. It will be phased in gradually from January 1, 2018, to January 1, 2021, when eligible employees will get 12 weeks leave at 67 percent of their weekly pay. But this new employment benefit doesn’t come out of the employer’s pocket. As in other states, family leave in New York will be employee-funded, through payroll deductions of $1 per week per employee, and administered by the state’s disability fund, which will be responsible for making payments.

States aren’t the only ones taking action. Twenty-three cities, for instance, have their own paid-sick-leave laws. (For a full list, see And last fall, the Department of Labor awarded $1.55 million in grants to help states and municipalities conduct feasibility studies on paid family leave.

To track family-leave developments, go to:

Klaptoman/Thinkstock; Olivier Le Moal/Thinkstock; Sunyaluk/Thinkstock

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