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Helcim Review

Best Overall Payment Processor for Small Business

A Business News Daily Review

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

When you're looking for a credit card processor, pricing is a top consideration. But in addition to competitive transaction fees, you want pricing transparency so you know what you'll be paying before you take the time to call the company for other particulars. You also want a rate guarantee that assures your rates won't increase for a specific period of time.

Additionally, look for a month-to-month contract with no cancellation fees, good customer service and features that make it easy to accept credit cards in whatever way your customers want to pay – whether that's in person, on your website, from an electronic invoice or over the phone.

After conducting extensive research and analysis with these criteria in mind, we recommend Helcim as our pick for the best credit card processor for small businesses in 2019. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of credit card processing companies on our best picks page.

Helcim is a full-service credit card processor that offers interchange-plus pricing to all its customers. Industry experts recommend this pricing model over tiered pricing for its transparency, as it allows you to know exactly how much you're paying the processor in addition to the base interchange fees set by the card networks. Although many credit card processors claim pricing transparency because they offer interchange-plus pricing, few actually publish their rates and fees online. Helcim posts all its rates, fees and other costs on its website, so you can easily compare its pricing as you shop for a provider and feel confident that there will be no hidden fees once you get your bill.

Helcim's interchange-plus rates for in-person credit card transactions are lower than average, and it's one of the few credit card processing companies that have a rate guarantee, which is a promise that it won't increase its margins for the life of your account. On its website, you use simple dropdown lists to select your industry, monthly processing volume and average transaction amount. It then shows you the margin you'll pay above interchange and how much your average transaction rate, including interchange rates, will cost. To see a breakdown of the processing rates you'll actually pay when you accept different types of cards, you can click View Complete Rates. You can also see its volume-based rate table, which shows you the dollar amount of sales you’d need to process each month to qualify for discounted rates.

Helcim is also transparent with its fees. It displays the monthly fees for its retail (in-person) and online services and lists the features included with each. It shows pricing for incidental fees and add-on services, and you can see the available processing equipment and how much each option costs.

Editor's note: Looking for information on credit card processors? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.

As mentioned above, Helcim uses the interchange-plus pricing structure, and the retail merchant rates posted on its website are lower than average. When evaluating interchange-plus pricing, keep in mind that the percentage rate and the per-transaction fee are the processor's margin and will be added to the base interchange rate and card brand fee set by the credit card networks. Here's how Helcim's pricing works:

  • In-person sales accepted using a card reader: 0.25% + $0.8 above interchange
  • Online transactions (invoices and e-commerce sales): 0.45% + $0.25 above interchange
  • Registered nonprofit organizations receive a discounted rate: 0.10% + $0.10 above interchange

Volume-based discounts are available for businesses that process more than $25,000 per month. You can view Helcim's complete discount rate table on its website.

Like most full-service processors, Helcim charges a monthly fee for its services. Although it's higher than the monthly fees many of its competitors charge for statements and customer service, Helcim's monthly fees include PCI compliance, which is normally a separate fee. It also includes access to the Helcim Commerce platform, which includes a virtual terminal, invoicing and customer management tools. The retail fee includes a point-of-sale app, and the online fee includes a hosted online store. Here are Helcim's monthly fees:

  • If you accept credit cards in person, you pay a retail monthly fee of $15.
  • If you accept credit cards online, you pay an online monthly fee of $35.
  • If you accept credit cards in person and online, you pay a monthly fee of $50.

There are a few fees that you may be charged per occurrence. Here are some examples:

  • Each time a customer disputes a charge and requests a payment reversal, you pay a $15 chargeback fee.
  • If you fail to establish your PCI compliance, you pay a $60 PCI non-compliance fee each month until you get your compliance certificate. This is an expensive fee meant to discourage you from letting your compliance lapse. You can avoid it by taking your PCI self-assessment questionnaire within the first 90 days of setting up your account and annually thereafter.
  • If you change your bank account or business name, you pay a $25 fee.

There are several fees that Helcim doesn't charge. There's no application or setup fee, and because it provides services on a month-to-month basis, there's no cancellation or early termination fee. There's no PCI compliance fee either, as it's already included in the monthly fee. Here are some other fees you may pay if you add extra features to your account:

  • Helcim deposits the money from your transactions into your bank account within two business days. If you need your money faster than this, you can pay an extra $10 per month for next-day deposits.
  • If you have international clients and need multicurrency processing, it costs $25 per month.
  • If your business primarily sells to other businesses or the government, level 3data processing may reduce your transaction rates and save you money. This service costs $25 per month.
  • If your customers prefer to pay invoices using ACH transfers, you can add ACH processing to your account for $25 per month plus 25 cents per transaction.
  • You can add an additional location or merchant ID to your account for $15 per month.

Helcim provides its services on a month-to-month basis, so you can cancel your account at any time without incurring an early termination fee. Nevertheless, as you would with any processing service, you should read the contract, terms of service and program guide before signing up to make sure you're aware of all possible fees and the procedures you need to follow to cancel your account. Read them also to verify that the products and services your business provides don't violate the company's acceptable use policy.

Like other full-service credit card processing companies, Helcim provides you with your own merchant account and allows you to accept all major credit and debit cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express. Your Helcim account includes Helcim Commerce, an all-in-one merchant platform that you can use to manage your processing account, sales, inventory and customers. Here are more features available from this credit card processing company.

Retail merchants receive access to Helcim's POS app, and the price is included in your monthly fee, so there's no extra cost to use it. It works on Android and iOS phones and tablets, and it supports an unlimited number of users and mobile devices. You can connect it to a receipt printer and cash drawer, but for U.S. merchants, the app isn't yet integrated with the credit card terminals, so you'll have to use it alongside your card reader. This is less convenient than an integrated option, but if your budget is tight, it may be worth the extra step.

With the monthly account fee, online merchants receive access to Helcim's hosted online store. You can use it with your own domain name or the default subdomain name, and it has a built-in content management system, shopping cart, SSL certificate, SEO settings, discount code system, and shipping integrations. If you already have a website, you can use Helcim's hosted payment pages or payment gateway API and Helcim.js to accept credit and debit card payments.

Both retail and online merchant accounts include a virtual terminal, so you can accept payments using your computer, as well as preauthorize cards, void a transaction, issue a refund, schedule recurring credit card payments and accept ACH e-checks.

Helcim Commerce includes invoicing tools that allow you to create and email invoices to your customers. Your customers can click the "Pay Now" button and enter their credit card information to pay the invoice online. The system will then email the receipt to you and your customer.

You can add custom data fields to your invoices, modify the text on the header and footer, and personalize the look and feel by adding your logo and selecting fonts and colors that complement your branding. You can also generate PDF copies, if you prefer to mail them.

This account provider integrates with QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop, the payment gateway Authorize.net, and third-party shopping carts such as Magento and WooCommerce. It also has an API with 80 actions that you can use to integrate with your website or app, and developers can request a developer sandbox, or a permanent demo account, to test your custom integrations.

Helcim sells three Ingenico countertop and wireless terminals, as well as a mobile card reader. It doesn't offer leasing options; you purchase your equipment upfront, which saves you both money and the frustration of being locked into a lengthy contract you can’t cancel. If you already own processing equipment, Helcim offers a credit card terminal exchange program for certain terminals.

Again, the credit card terminals don't integrate with the POS app, so you'll need to use the terminal alongside your POS system. But you can connect third-party accessories, such as a cash drawer, printer and barcode scanner to your mobile device. A list of compatible models is posted on the company's support page so you can shop around for a good deal.

Another thing to be aware of is that the mobile card reader is a swiper and doesn't accept EMV chip cards, so you'll want to choose one of the credit card terminals instead. Also, the mobile reader connects using the headphone jack rather than via Bluetooth, so you'll need an adapter if you have a newer iPhone.

This payment processing company is a PCI Level 1 Service Provider, which means it complies with the highest level of the Payment Card Industry's data security standards. Helcim's PCI compliance program is included in its monthly account fee, and you’ll have access to a PCI portal and tutorials to help you complete the self-assessment questionnaire each year.

Helcim uses two-factor authentication to secure your account, and it secures credit card payment data using sophisticated encryption and tokenization technology. It stores payment data in a card vault on its servers, so you don't have to worry about how you'll safely store data in your system.

Helcim offers a 30-day free trial that allows you to try out all the features of Helcim Commerce (minus payment processing). If you want to keep the data or customizations that you add to your demo account, the company can transfer it to a live account after your application is approved.

If you need to contact the company, you can call, request a callback at a time convenient for you, email or fill out a form on the company's website. Helcim has extended customer support hours, with after-hours support provided by Elavon, its partner bank and back-end processor.

When we called Helcim, we posed as a small business owner and asked questions about pricing, terms and setting up an account. The rep was helpful and patient, taking the time to explain how things work and what services are included in the monthly account fee. When we asked about the POS app included with the retail plan, he was upfront in explaining its limitations for U.S. businesses. He also explained why leasing equipment is always a bad idea, which was refreshingly honest.

In case you prefer to troubleshoot issues yourself, Helcim offers a searchable database with an exhaustive collection of step-by-step instructions. There you can find everything from how to set up your account to how to use the API. It also offers a blog with articles written for small business owners, with tips, updates and explanations of how different aspects of credit card processing work.

Helcim is one of the most transparent credit card processing companies we've evaluated, with interchange-plus pricing, rates, and fees clearly listed on its website and representatives who are candid about the service's limitations. However, there are some things you should consider before signing up with this company.

  • For U.S. merchants, the POS app doesn't integrate with credit card terminals, so if you want to use the app, you'll have to use it alongside the terminal. The Helcim mobile card reader integrates directly, but it isn't EMV compliant, so for now, using the terminal alongside the POS app is still your best bet.
  • As mentioned in the point above, Helcim's mobile credit card reader isn't EMV compliant. If you primarily accept credit cards on the go, you'll want to choose one of the wireless credit card terminals – which are considerably more expensive – or choose a company with EMV-compliant mobile card readers to protect yourself from counterfeit fraud liability.
  • Like many processors, there are some industries and business types that Helcim doesn't work with. You can read its acceptable use policy to see its list of prohibited businesses.
  • Low-volume businesses (those processing less than $3,000 per month) may find it less expensive to work with a mobile credit card processing company that offers flat-rate pricing.

Ready to choose a credit card processing company? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for information on credit card processors? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.

Lori Fairbanks

Lori Fairbanks has years of experience writing and editing for both print and online publications. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, she worked as a magazine editor and then as a freelance writer and editor for a variety of companies, including marketing firms and a medical university. She now writes for business.com and Business News Daily about financial systems and services for small businesses, such as accounting software, credit card processing and point-of-sale systems.