Largest Credit Card Processors in 2021

Credit card processing began around 1950.1 That was 70 years ago, and since then, the popularity of paying with plastic has risen consistently. With that rise has come the growth of processing companies across the US.

These days, new processing startups pop up every year. Competition for processing clients is fierce, but there are a few older companies still holding on to the bulk of processing clients.

What is credit card processing?

Credit card processing is the end of the line for securing payment from customers. After they have made a credit card payment in your store, there are a lot behind the scenes processes to ensure you get your money.

It starts when a customer applies—and is approved—for a credit or debit card from an issuing bank. With those funds, they make a purchase at your business. Sometimes you will need a payment gateway to link the transaction to the payment process, other times the two are already linked.

The payment processor is the final step. They handle the transactions and move them through processing, allowing you to receive money from the customer. The processor does a lot of important work, which is why you want to make sure you’re working with one that values your business.

Largest payment processors in the US

Largest credit card processors in 2021

Processing company
Year founded
Total transactions processed (in billions)2

FIS

1968

26.6

Chase Bank

1799

24.8

First Data

1971

24.0

Bank of America

1969

18.2

Global Payments

2000

9.9

Wells Fargo

1852

8.7

Elavon

1991

3.3

It’s interesting to note that every company on that list is 20+ years old. Even Global, the youngest of the bunch, was founded by a much older parent company—The National Data Corporation, which was founded in 1967.

Time definitely has a profound impact on the success of a processing company. But with so many old-school players filling the roster, what does the future of more modern competitors look like? We’ll get into that later.

First, we found another interesting data set. Traditionally, Visa and Mastercard have been the two most influential providers of credit cards. But many competitors like American Express have made a splash. This next set of data focuses on these secondary card providers—American Express, Discover, Diners Club, UnionPay, and JCB credit card purchases. These are the companies with the highest combined transaction volume from these secondary card providers.

Purchase volume of secondary credit card transactions in 2020

Processing company
Transaction volume (in billions of dollars)3

Chase

$168.41

FIS

$123.93

Bank of America

$90.55

Elavon

$51.13

Global Payments

$12.44

Wells Fargo

$43.47

First Data

$43.23

PNC

$12.44

Intuit

$9.85

Priority Payment Systems

$7.96

Paysafe

$7.65

EVO Payments

$6.47

As you can see, many of the same names from the previous table pop up on this list. It seems the older processors have something of a dynasty in the processing space. But that dynasty could be disrupted.

Growth of modern processing solutions

Square is a titan of modern credit card processing. It was founded in 2009 and has seen year-over-year growth ever since. In our reviews, we often praise Square for its ease of use and low entry barrier for small businesses.

Companies like First Data are struggling to keep up with the processing innovations of companies like Square. That said, the merger between First Data and Fiserv may prove to be what First Data needs to modernize its processing offering.

So the question then becomes, Are companies like Square the future of payment processing, or are they merely motivating larger companies to update their services? Only time will tell. For now, however, we’ve found that generally newer, more focused processing companies are a better fit for small businesses.

Which credit card processing company is best for small businesses?

In our research and reviews, we’ve found that the best processing companies for small businesses are those actually built for small businesses. You want a credit card processor that fits your business needs as a merchant.

Larger payment processing companies tend to focus their services on enterprise-level processing. Also, corporate clients are much more valuable to large processing companies than small-business clients.

That’s why we tend to recommend companies like Payment Depot or Stax for small businesses. These brands get great customer service ratings from small businesses, and their pricing and fee structures are much more accommodating for smaller businesses. They are payment processors that focus on merchant services so you don't have to.

Top 5 processing companies for small businesses

While we’re talking about payment processor companies that are great for small businesses, here’s a little roundup of some of our favorite processors on the market today. (Click on the brand name to see a more detailed review.)

Best credit card processing companies

Brand
Processing fee per transaction (swiped)
Processing fee per transaction (keyed)
Basic monthly fee
Learn more

Payment Depot

Interchange + 15¢

Interchange + 15¢

$49.00

Square

2.6% + 10¢

3.5% + 15¢

$0.00

Stax

Interchange + 8¢

Interchange + 15¢

$99.00

Dharma

Interchange + 0.15% + 7¢

Interchange + 0.30% +10¢

$20.00

Stripe

2.9% + 30¢

2.9% + 30¢

$0.00

Data effective 11/23/20. At publishing time, pricing is current but is subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

The takeaway

The largest payment processors in the United States tend to be older companies that have been processing cards for decades. But disruption in the financial technology sector has led to the rise of companies like Square and Stax: companies whose services are designed around the needs of small businesses rather than larger corporate clients.

Overall, we tend to recommend smaller, more modern processing solutions for small businesses. This is subject to change, though, as many of these larger companies are taking note of the disruption and trying to adjust their services to be more small-business-friendly.

If you’re looking for a good place to start comparing processing companies, look no further than our 2021 recommendations of the best processing companies.

Related Reading

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources
1. Jason Steele, Experian, “The History of Credit Cards,” March 2018. Accessed July 28, 2020.
2. Nilson Report, “Top Acquirers in the US,” March 2020. Accessed July 28, 2020.
3. Nilson Report, “Top U.S. Merchant Acquirers,” March 2020. Accessed July 28, 2020.

Andrew Mosteller
Written by
Andrew Mosteller
For four years, Andrew has been writing copy to help business owners expand, manage, and advertise their unique brands. His upbringing in an entrepreneurial family nurtured a passion for small business at a young age. Andrew’s father, an equity fund manager, taught him the ins and outs of investment financing and owning and operating a successful business. Now he brings his expertise and experience to entrepreneurs as a regular contributor on Business.org.
Recent Articles
Clover Go Review 2021
Clover Go is a decent mobile processing solution. It doesn’t quite capture the best of...
square cash app review
Square Cash App Review 2021
Payment apps are an easy way to accept money from your customers, but should Square’s...
Best Credit Card Processing Services of 2021
Are you ready to start accepting credit cards, or are you just looking for a...
Lender giving a merchant cash advance
Best High-Risk Merchant Accounts
It’s tricky finding a processor when your business is considered high risk. We take the...