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Helcim Review

Best Payment Processor for Small Business Overall

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.

After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend Helcim as our pick for the best credit card processor for small businesses in 2018. 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 for its transparency, as it allows you to see exactly how much you're paying the processor over the base interchange rates 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 of its rates, fees and other costs on its website, so you can easily compare its pricing as you shop for a processor, and once you begin processing, there are no surprises when you get your bill.

Helcim's rates for in-person transactions are lower than average, and it's one of the few credit card processing companies that has 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 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 need to process each month to qualify for discounted rates.

Helcim is also transparent with its fees. It displays its 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 processing equipment it offers 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.

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As mentioned above, Helcim uses the interchange-plus pricing model, and the retail merchant rates it posts 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 cost 0.25 percent plus 8 cents above interchange.
  • Online sales (invoice and e-commerce) cost 0.45 percent plus 25 cents above interchange.
  • Registered nonprofit organizations pay 0.1 percent plus 10 cents above interchange.
  • Volume-based discounts are available, starting with 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, and access to its Helcim Commerce platform, which includes a virtual terminal. The retail fee includes a point-of-sale app, and the online fee includes a hosted online store.

  • 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 its 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 3 Data 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.

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 credit card processing company, 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 procedure you need to follow to cancel your account, and 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. Helcim recently introduced Helcim Commerce, an all-in-one merchant platform that you can use to manage your processing account, 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 Apple phones and tablets, and it supports an unlimited number of users and devices. For U.S. merchants, it isn't yet integrated, so you'll have to use it alongside your EMV terminal. 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, and it has a built-in content management system, shopping cart, SSL certificate, SEO settings, discount code system and shipping integrations. Alternatively, if you already have a website, you can use Helcim's hosted payment pages or payment gateway API and Helcim.js to accept credit card payments.

Both retail and online merchant accounts include a virtual terminal, so you can accept credit cards using your computer, preauthorize cards, void a transaction and accept ACH e-checks.

Helcim Commerce includes invoicing tools that allow you to create and email invoices to your customers. You can add custom data fields, 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. If you're an online merchant, your customers can pay the invoice online.

This payment processor integrates with QuickBooks and third-party shopping carts. 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 permanent demo account, to test your custom integrations.

Helcim sells three Ingenico countertop and wireless terminals as well as a mobile card reader. If you already own processing equipment, it offers an equipment exchange program. It doesn't offer leasing options; you purchase your equipment upfront, which saves you money and the frustration of being locked into a lengthy, noncancelable contract. If you use its POS app, you can add third-party accessories, such as a cash drawer, printer and barcode scanner. A list of compatible models is posted on the company's website so you can shop around for a good deal.

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

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This payment processing company is a PCI Level 1 Service Provider, which means that 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 has 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 it in your system.

  • Free trial: You can try out all the features of Helcim Commerce (minus payment processing) for 30 days. 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.
  • Supports women-owned businesses: As part of Helcim's Small-Business Women Initiative, the company will waive its monthly fee for the first 12 months for qualifying new accounts. To be eligible, your business must be new – less than 12 months old – and majority-owned by women. You'll need to submit business licensing or registration documentation that includes this information when you apply for this program. The offer expires Oct. 1, 2018.

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, posing as a small business owner, we 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, where 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 EMV terminals, so if you want to use it, 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 a company with EMV-compliant card readers to protect yourself from counterfeit fraud liability.
  • 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 (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.

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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.