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Updated Apr 02, 2024

The Best Credit Card Processing Companies for Restaurants in 2024

Tom Anziano headshot
Tom Anziano, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.
Best for POS Hardware
  • Multiple POS hardware options
  • Restaurant-specific features
  • Offline payments

866-342-4017

Visit Site
Links to Clover Credit Card Processing
  • Multiple POS hardware options
  • Restaurant-specific features
  • Offline payments
Best for Easy Approval
  • 98% approval rate
  • 24-hour approval time
  • Free terminal

855-794-1134

Visit Site
Links to Merchant One
  • 98% approval rate
  • 24-hour approval time
  • Free terminal
Best for Fast-Growing Businesses
  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Volume discounts
  • Free basic tools
Visit Site
Links to Helcim
  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Volume discounts
  • Free basic tools
Best for Customization
Square
Square company logo
  • Free combined POS plan
  • Customizable tools and integrations
  • Useful features for restaurants
Links to Square
  • Free combined POS plan
  • Customizable tools and integrations
  • Useful features for restaurants

Table of Contents

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When it comes time to settle the bill, most diners want to pay by credit card. But as chip, contactless and mobile payments become more common, restaurants need to find the best credit card processor to rapidly and securely accept all types of payment. Choosing the right processor can be complicated, as each offers different rate structures, fees, features and POS capabilities. We’ve researched the top companies to help you figure out which service will best help your restaurant serve customers and save money.

Compare the Best Credit Card Processors for Restaurants

BND Ribbon
Our Top Picks for 2024
Clover Credit Card Processing
Merchant One
Square
Rating8.3/108.0/109.4/108.6/10
Best use case

POS Hardware

Easy Approval

Fast Growing Businesses

Customization

Rate structure

Flat rate

Flat rate

Interchange-plus

Flat rate

Average card-present rate

2.3% + 10¢

0.29% – 1.55%

1.94% + 8¢

2.6% + 10¢

Commitment length

Month to month

3 years

Month to month

Month to month

Monthly subscription

$160-$310/mo inc. POS

$13.95

$0

$0 / $60 / custom

Early termination fee

Sometimes

Yes

No

No

Time to deposit

Next day (in minutes for a fee)

1-3 days (next day for a fee)

2 days

1-2 days (instant for a fee)

Free hardware

Included w/ POS subscription

1 device (must return)

No

1 mobile card reader

Restaurant specific features

Advanced

Basic

Basic

Advanced

Review Link
Scroll Table

Reviews

Clover Credit Card Processing: Best Credit Card Processor for POS Hardware

  • Clover is a combined card processing and POS service with robust restaurant-specific features.
  • Outstanding POS hardware at various price points is designed to let your staff quickly accept payments anywhere.
  • The monthly cost of the combined plan might be a barrier for smaller restaurants that don’t need advanced POS tools.
Editor's Rating: 8.3/10

866-342-4017

Visit Site

We love that Clover provides an all-in-one service with excellent payment processing plus POS hardware and software. You’ll get Clover’s competitive card processing rates included in three restaurant-specific POS plans. Clover offers superior terminals and handheld devices so your staff can process any type of payment, including mobile payments or checks, at the table or behind the bar. Clover devices can even accept payments offline, which is great for outdoor dining. We like that you can save money by purchasing equipment from an authorized reseller.

Clover stands out thanks to its POS features designed to take your restaurant to the next level. You can create a website for online orders with up-to-date menus, on-page payments and automatic firing to the kitchen. For dining in, you can easily create a floor plan and customizable menu so your staff can provide efficient and accurate service. We especially like that Clover offers tools like gift cards to build customer loyalty.

Merchant One: Best Credit Card Processor for Easy Approval

  • MerchantOne approves almost all restaurants quickly, even those with poor credit.
  • The secure, easy-to-use system works with different hardware providers including Clover.
  • MerchantOne requires a three-year contract with early-termination fees and isn’t transparent about pricing.
Editor's Rating: 8/10

855-794-1134

Visit Site

Whether you’re opening a new restaurant or getting back on track after hitting a few bumps in the road, we appreciate that MerchantOne is willing to work with you. It boasts a 98 percent approval rate, including for restaurants with less-than-stellar credit. Approval time is quick, so you can start making money 24 hours after applying. MerchantOne offers customized dashboards for the restaurant industry and includes one free basic terminal, which we found useful for restaurants just starting out. You can also purchase advanced terminals, including Clover hardware.

While we like that MerchantOne offers quick and easy approval, we were disappointed that it isn’t transparent about costs. It boasts a low monthly fee of $13.95 and competitive processing rates, but you’ll have to speak to a representative to get an actual rate quote and see what transactions qualify. MerchantOne requires a three-year contract with early-termination fees, which is something restaurants just getting started need to be aware of.

Helcim: Best Credit Card Processor for Fast-Growing Businesses

  • Helcim offers interchange-plus pricing and volume discounts so you save money as your restaurant grows.
  • It has two affordable hardware options and no hidden fees or charges, leading to more savings.
  • Helcim’s pricing structure could end up costing low-volume restaurants more.
Editor's Rating: 9.4/10
Visit Site

Many credit card processors offer flat rates, which is useful for startup restaurants but could cost more as business takes off. Helcim offers a solution for growing restaurants by providing interchange-plus pricing. You’ll save by always getting the lowest rate. We love that Helcim is transparent, publishing current rates for every transaction on its webpage. Plus, it automatically decreases its margin as your transaction volume increases, saving you even more.

Helcim not only offers the best rate and volume discounts, but it also doesn’t charge any monthly, setup or termination fees. It also includes free access to its POS system, virtual terminal, customer and inventory management tools, as well as excellent customer service, so you can invest your time and money in making your restaurant thrive. Helcim offers a card reader and a smart terminal for an affordable price, so your staff can quickly process payments beyond the virtual terminal.

Square: Best Credit Card Processor for Customization

Square
Square company logo
  • Square offers restaurant-specific POS plans, including a free option, with customizable add-ons and integrations.
  • You can start processing payments quickly with no need for applications, approval or long-term commitments.
  • While Square offers many useful add-ons, they can significantly increase your monthly costs.
Editor's Rating: 8.6/10

Square is our pick for customization because it offers a combined credit card processing and POS software package at three levels of service, so you can get everything you need to help your restaurant thrive. We especially love that the basic plan is free, so you pay only when you run a transaction. You can easily customize the dashboard to prioritize the features you need, like tools for managing menus, orders, tables, staff and the kitchen.

We like that even the free plan comes with basic reporting and analytics, and you have access to advanced reports in the paid plans. Plus, Square offers a ton of add-ons to help with all aspects of running a restaurant, such as scheduling shifts, taking online orders, marketing and running payroll. API integrations allow you to make personalized customizations. There are tools to create a customized website with online ordering. We particularly like that Square offers many hardware solutions, or you can use it with your current equipment or through its virtual terminal.

Costs of Credit Card Processors for Restaurants

Pricing for credit card processing can be complex and opaque, so you need to research and read the fine print to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Most processors offer either flat-rate or interchange-plus pricing. Flat-rate plans charge the same fee for every transaction, while interchange-plus fees vary based on transaction type. A few offer tiered pricing, charging different rates for different card types, which can be complicated and costly.

Expect to pay between 0.15 and 2.6 percent plus $0.06 to $0.10 for card-present transactions. If you take delivery orders online, look for reasonable keyed-in rates. Some plans require a monthly subscription, and you may have to pay other fees, like setup, early termination or PCI compliance.

You should also consider the cost of credit card machines. Some processors offer free terminals, but prices range from less than $50 to almost $2,000 when purchasing equipment. Some solutions include POS software, front- and back-of-house tools, and reporting, which is another thing to consider when weighing overall costs.

TipTip
Credit card processing costs are complex and depend on a variety of factors, from rate structure to hardware. You need to do your homework, read the fine print, and check reviews to get the best deal and avoid credit card processing scams.

Features of Credit Card Processors for Restaurants

A great credit card processing service should go beyond accepting swipe, EMV chip and contactless payments. It should also provide you with the features you need to process payments quickly and keep your restaurant running smoothly. Here are some that do just that.

Easy application and quick approval

Before you can start seating customers and making money, you need to be able to process payments, which is why you should look for a simple application process with fast approval. Some processors boast that you’ll go from sending in an application to charging cards in hours, and others require signing up only.

Rapid deposit time

Running a restaurant requires cash on hand. From tipping out servers to paying for grocery orders, you’ll need money from credit card sales quickly. Most processors deposit funds in your account within 2 days. Some claim faster times, but often for a fee.

PCI compliance

To protect your customers’ information and keep your security top-notch, you’ll need a service that provides PCI compliance. While most processors do, look for one that helps your restaurant remain compliant on your end without charging any additional fees.

Online ordering

Takeout is here to stay. You don’t want to miss out on delivery orders, so look for a processor that has fair rates for online purchases. Many providers will help you build a customized website where customers can browse your menu and pay directly, and the order will be sent right to your POS system.

At-table payments

To provide efficient service, you should be able to take orders and process payments directly from the table. Most providers offer portable terminals that can quickly run any kind of payment anywhere. For restaurants without POS equipment, you can use a virtual terminal on any mobile device. Look for additional features, like splitting checks and adding tips, to take care of payments even faster.

Offline transactions

With the popularity of outdoor dining, not to mention food festivals and special events, you’ll find that you’re serving customers in places your restaurant’s Wi-Fi doesn’t reach. Many processors offer offline credit card processing, meaning a customer’s information is stored in the system and processed when your device gets back online.

Self-service payments

A successful restaurant needs to turn tables. Some processors are now offering self-service payment, like Clover’s Scan to Pay, which allows customers to scan a QR code and pay directly from their phone. You’ll get customers out the door quicker, and your staff will have more time to provide better service.

FYI: Implementing a self-service POS kiosk into your restaurant for ordering and payment can cut customer wait time, free up your staff and even increase sales.

POS software

To ensure that operations run smoothly, a good payment solution should integrate with POS system software. Some processors, like Clover, function as part of a paid POS solution. Others integrate with third-party POS systems, while some offer basic POS software for free, like Helcim.

Add-ons and integrations

Almost all processors allow third-party integrations, so sales data is seamlessly shared with QuickBooks or other accounting software, CRM software, or employee management solutions. The best services offer add-ons to make your restaurant shine, including marketing, kitchen, floor planning and shift tools.

Gift cards

The most successful restaurants don’t just get diners in; they keep them coming back. Some credit card processors include tools to design custom gift cards, which can help you build customer loyalty and drive sales.

Cash advances

Many restaurants are subject to seasonal fluctuations in sales and sometimes might not have enough cash on hand to pay overhead costs. Good credit card processors understand that and offer cash advances. Money is deposited into your business account, and the processor takes a certain percent from future sales until the money is paid back.

Choosing a Credit Card Processor for Restaurants

Follow these steps to determine which credit card processor is best for your restaurant.

1. Learn the credit card processing basics.

It can be confusing accepting credit cards, as there are many complex steps involved and different processors offer different solutions. Before you start shopping for a service provider, immerse yourself in all aspects of card processing, from merchant accounts to security and compliance.

TipTip
If you are new to the restaurant business, need a credit card processor and don’t know where to begin, start by reading our guide to everything you need to know about credit card processing.

2. Determine which rates work best for you.

One of the biggest differences between processing companies is how they charge you. Flat-rate pricing, which charges you the same rate despite varying interchange fees, is best for restaurants with a low sales volume. Rates are constant, so you can plan and allocate resources better. For high-volume restaurants, we recommend interchange-plus pricing. The rate you’ll pay fluctuates depending on the type of card being processed. It isn’t as straightforward as a flat-rate service, but it leads to bigger savings. Some companies offer tiered pricing, but we find it to be overly complex and don’t recommend it.

3. Research your options.

Once you know what type of processing you need, start searching service providers. Besides pricing, we recommend looking at what else is included, like software, hardware and restaurant-specific tools. Read reviews and pay attention to the level of customer support. We recommend talking to similar restaurants to see what works for them.

4. Study fees and hardware costs.

Providers aren’t always upfront about the credit card processing fees you’ll be charged. Study the fine print before signing any contract.

Also, consider what hardware you’ll need to run your restaurant efficiently. Most processors sell equipment directly, or you can try third-party resellers. A few offer free credit card readers or POS devices, but be aware that there might be hidden fees. Processors might offer equipment leasing, but we’d avoid it, as you’ll pay more in the long run.

Did You Know?Did you know
Sometimes credit card processors will increase your fees, which can hurt your bottom line. If you are happy with your service provider but want to pay less, read our five tricks to lower credit card processing fees.

5. Contact a sales representative.

The rates you’ll end up paying depend on not only the processing service, but also the type of restaurant you’re running. Processors will take your risk level, credit, restaurant size and other factors into account. To get the most accurate idea of what credit card processing will cost you, talk to sales representatives. Then, read the fine print, compare plans and choose one that works best for you.

Advantages of Credit Card Processing for Restaurants

These are the main reasons why using a credit card processing service will benefit your restaurant:

  • Accepting any payment anywhere: The days of cash only are long gone, but even the traditional card swipe is becoming outdated. With a credit card processing service, your customers can pay any way they want, from traditional cards to NFC mobile payments. Plus, with portable card readers and offline processing, you can accept payments on the floor or away from the restaurant.
  • Turning tables faster: Running a successful restaurant means being able to turn tables quickly. By accepting cards tableside and even allowing customers to pay on their own with QR codes, you’ll cut payment wait time and get new diners in quicker.
  • Getting first-rate security: Working with a reputable credit card processor means your customers’ and your restaurant’s financial information is processed securely. It will also help you stay PCI compliant.
  • Saving money: Credit card processing fees can add up quickly. Choosing the right processor will help you keep costs down so your restaurant can grow.

Credit Card Processing for Restaurant FAQ

Expect to pay between 1 and 3 percent per transaction. The exact amount depends on the processor’s rate structure and fees, as well as your restaurant’s credit score and business volume.

The right credit card processing service depends on whether your restaurant is new or established and on your sales volume. Factors like equipment, POS software and other restaurant-specific tools should also be considered.

Yes. Finding a credit card processor that gives you the best rates and useful tools will help your restaurant run more efficiently and save money.

Yes. Federal law allows you to pass on fees to your customers. However, in some states, like California and New York, surcharges are illegal, so make sure to double-check.

You can negotiate lower fees by getting quotes from competitors, implementing stronger security practices and speaking with your credit card processor.

Tom Anziano headshot
Tom Anziano, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
Thomas Anziano is an advertising and marketing professional who has worked in the U.S. and Germany. He has also taught Business Writing in English to university students in Madrid, Spain. He holds a degree in Marketing and Spanish.
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