When Helcim Is Good For You
What is Helcim?
Helcim is a Canadian merchant account provider and payment processor that also services U.S. businesses.
Helcim provides in store, mobile, and online payment options, along with payment processing software and hardware, and can process payments from every major card brand.
Helcim also offers several unusual perks—such as automatic rate discounts as your business’s average monthly sales increase—that make it a payment processor worth investigating when your business decides to accept credit card payments.
Below, we’ll overview Helcim’s products, prices, and services, so you can judge for yourself if Helcim is the right payment processor for you.
Helcim’s Products, Prices & Services
Helcim provides traditional merchant accounts for its clients (instead of the aggregated merchant accounts used by companies like Square and Paypal), which means you’ll benefit from the more personalized service and stable account features typical of a traditional merchant account provider.
Of course, this also means getting approved for payment processing through Helcim could be more difficult than it would be if you signed up with a payment aggregator like Square, and not all businesses will qualify. When you apply for Helcim’s services, you’ll be expected to provide detailed information—such as what you sell, your average monthly sales, and your business history—so Helcim can evaluate the level of risk posed by your business.
Once you’re approved, though, it will be a simple matter of downloading Helcim’s Payments App, selecting your hardware, and choosing your payment options. Then your business will be pretty much set to start accepting debit and credit card payments.
Helcim’s Reputation & Customer Support
Helcim has a pretty good reputation for a credit card processing company (which is generally an industry with a bad reputation). Helcim has an A+ rating at the Better Business Bureau’s website, for instance, and (at the time of this writing) there has been no customer complaints on its BBB profile since 2017. That is truly unusual for a payment processor.
Helcim’s transparency about its services and pricing is also well known. Helcim’s website is easy to navigate, its products are generally well-defined, and the website goes to great lengths to present and explain its pricing model, rates, and fees.
Helcim also has an in-house customer support staff, and the company isn’t shy about prominently displaying its contact information (phone number and email) for customers who need it. And you’ll find both “Ask a Question” and “Request a Callback” messaging options on Helcim’s website if you need to reach out to a customer service representative.
Helcim’s Monthly Fee
Helcim charges a $20 monthly fee for its services in addition to transaction fees (which we’ll describe below). But there are no start-up costs, no PCI Compliance fees, and no cancellation fees to deal with, which sets Helcim apart from much of its competition.
Additionally, Helcim is currently waving its $20 a month fee for the first six months in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Helcim’s Chargeback Fees
Helcim charges $15 for every chargeback your business receives, which is fairly low for the card payment industry (for instance, PayPal has a $20 chargeback fee). A chargeback happens when your customer’s card issuing bank disputes a transaction (usually at the customer’s request), reverses the transaction, and reclaims the funds from the payment.
One nice thing about Helcim is that it actually reimburses this $15 chargeback fee if your business successfully disputes the chargeback (in a process called representment). Most payment processors won’t reimburse chargeback fees once they have been applied to your account.
To learn more about chargebacks, how to prevent them, and how to fight against them, check out our comprehensive Credit Card Chargebacks guide.
Helcim’s Pricing Model
Helcim’s processing rates are also fairly low for the card payment industry in general, and your rates can get lower the more money your business makes.
This is partly because Helcim organizes its rates into categories based on a business’s average monthly sales—with the rates going down for higher sales categories—but also because Helcim uses a payment model called “interchange-plus pricing.”
What is interchange-plus pricing?
Interchange-plus pricing is the most transparent of the 3 common credit card pricing models.
Interchange-plus pricing works by taking the payment processor’s wholesale costs—called interchange fees and assessments—and passing those costs directly to the customer. The payment processor then tacks on its own markup fees for each transaction (this is the “plus” in “interchange plus”).
Because interchange rates and assessment fees are set by the various credit card networks, and because these credit card processing fees vary depending on numerous factors (card brand, card type, transaction type, and so on), interchange-plus pricing allows your business to pay higher or lower transaction fees depending the types of payments you process.
So, for instance, if you process a debit card payment through Helcim, you’ll typically pay a lower transaction fee than you would for a credit card payment. This is because debit card transactions generally have lower interchange rates than credit card payments. By contrast, payment aggregators like Square and PayPal charge the same flat rates regardless of the card brands and card types your customers use.
Helcim’s Credit Card Processing Fees
We can see how Helcim’s transaction fees work by examining their posted rates. As we mentioned above, Helcim doesn’t charge the same rates for every business. Their rates vary according to your company’s average monthly sales, and their discount categories range from between $0 – $25,000 in average monthly sales to $5,000,000 or more.
We’ve included the main details in the table below. Note that the term “interchange” in the table refers to the combined interchange fee and card network assessment set by the credit card networks. Helcim then adds on its markup, which includes a percentage of the transaction total and a per transaction fee.
For example, if you process a payment for $100 that comes with wholesale fees total 1.7% of the transaction, your overall costs would include those wholesale fees combined with Helcim’s markup. Let’s assume Helcim’s markup, in this case, is “interchange + 0.30% + $0.08.” Then we could calculate your total processing cost for the $100 transaction as follows:
1.7%($100) + ((0.30%($100) + $0.08)) = $2.08
This basically means $1.70 from the $100 payment is eaten up by wholesale costs (paid to your customer’s card issuing bank and the credit card network) and $0.38 from the transaction goes to Helcim.
Let’s take a closer look at Helcim’s rates and discount categories. Note that there are actually 7 categories (going up to businesses that have $5,000,000 or more in sales), but we’ll limit our table to the first 4 categories simply to illustrate how Helcim’s transaction fees work.
|Average Monthly Sales||Transaction Type||Helcim’s Rate|
|$0 – $25,000||In-person/mobile||Interchange + 0.30% + $0.08|
|Keyed-in/online||Interchange + 0.50% + $0.25|
|$25,001 – $50,000||In-person/mobile||Interchange + 0.25% + $0.07|
|Keyed-in/online||Interchange + 0.45% + $0.20|
|$50,001 – $100,000||In-person/mobile||Interchange + 0.20% + $0.07|
|Keyed-in/online||Interchange + 0.40% + $0.20|
|$100,001 – $250,000||In-person/mobile||Interchange + 0.18% + $0.06|
|Keyed-in/online||Interchange + 0.35% + $0.15|
|$250,001 – $1,000,000||In-person/mobile||Interchange + 0.15% + $0.06|
|Keyed-in/online||Interchange + 0.30% + $0.15|
There are two trends to notice here:
- Keyed-in and online payments have higher markups than in-person and mobile payments (and this is pretty much standard for the card payment industry); and
- Higher monthly sales volumes amount to substantial savings overall.
For instance, if your business processes an average of $100,001 – $250,000 in payments every month, an in-person payment would qualify for the “interchange + 0.18% + $0.06” rate listed above for that sales-volume category. In that case, the same $100 transaction from our previous example would result in significantly lower costs overall:
1.7%($100) + ((0.18%($100) + $0.06)) = $1.94
By contrast, if you went with a payment processor that used a flat-rate pricing model and charged, say, 2.7% for in-person transactions, you would pay $2.70 in processing fees regardless of your business’s monthly sales volume.
Automatic Volume Discounts
Fortunately, you don’t have to keep track of these complicated categories when you use Helcim as your payment processor. Helcim will lower your rates automatically when your 3-month sales average qualifies your business for a better discount category.
How fast will Helcim deposit your funds?
You can expect Helcim to deposit funds in your business’s bank account within 1-2 business days. This is slower than some payment processors, but it’s standard for the industry as a whole.
Helcim’s Payment Options
When you choose Helcim as your business’s payment processor, you’ll have the option to accept in-person, mobile, and online payments.
Every option requires a Helcim account and Helcim’s Payment App, which you can download to your desktop, tablet, or smartphone. The Helcim Payment App includes a wide range of business management features apart from accepting payments, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Access to transaction information
- The ability to create and send invoices
- Customer data tracking
- Inventory tracking
- The option to issue digital receipts
The additional software or hardware you need or don’t need, however, will be determined by the ways you intend to process credit card payments.
In-Person and Mobile Payments
- Helcim Card Reader
For in-person (storefront) and mobile payments, you can pair Helcim’s Payment App with the Helcim Card Reader. This is a portable device that works with your PC or Mac workstation, your tablet, or smartphone to swipe cards, process EMV chip card payments, and manually key-in card information if your customer’s card won’t swipe.
The Helcim Card Reader costs $199 per device, and you can pair it with Helcim’s Countertop Stand (and other accessories) if you want to create a more traditional counter-top checkout experience in your place of business.
- Virtual Terminal
If your business takes payments over the phone, or otherwise needs to enter your customer’s card and transaction information yourself, you can use Helcim’s virtual terminal option in place of (or in addition to) Helcim’s card reader. Helcim also provides the options to securely store your customer’s card information for future transactions or set up recurring payments.
Online Payment Options
Helcim also provides various online credit card processing solutions:
- You can add payment buttons to your website (if you have one) that will send your customers to Helcim’s hosted payments page to complete the transaction.
- You can use Helcim to create a sleek online store.
- Or you can set up an integrated payment gateway through Helcim on your website instead. In this case, your customers won’t have to leave your website to complete the checkout process (as they would with the hosted payment gateway option mentioned above).
Naturally, each online payment option comes with its advantages and disadvantages. For businesses without websites, creating an online store through Helcim has obvious advantages (because, you know, you’ll basically have a website now). But if your business already has a website, the choice between using Helcim’s hosted payment gateway or an integrated payment gateway comes down to the checkout experience you want for your customers.
Online shoppers are notoriously fickle (or maybe just careful), and some shoppers will leave when they realize they’ve been sent to a different website to complete their transaction. You can create a smoother checkout experience with an integrated payment gateway.
When is Helcim Good for You?
If it isn’t obvious by now, we think Helcim is a pretty good credit card processing company overall. Helcim’s has in-house customer support, its rates are transparent and fairly low, its services span the typical range of payment options most small-to-midsize businesses need, and its software and hardware options (though limited when compared to some of Helcim’s competitors) can get the job done. And the fact that Helcim can set your business up with its own merchant account using interchange-plus pricing is a definite plus as well.
But these qualities don’t mean Helcim is right for every business. Basically, the choice comes down to the payment options you need and the fees you can afford. Hobbyists and other occasional sellers won’t benefit from Helcim’s discounted rates because they won’t process enough payments every month (and they might not qualify for a merchant account with Helcim in any case). And Helcim’s $20 monthly fee can look pretty steep if you’re only processing a few hundred dollars in payments each month. For cases like that, you should probably turn to a payment aggregator like PayPal or Square.
But Helcim will no doubt appeal to many small and midsize businesses that are better established and have fairly consistent average monthly sales. In such cases, Helcim’s low rates, easy-to-use payment app, and card reader might cover most of the payment options your business needs. And the prospect of using Helcim’s online store option to bypass the need for a website will surely appeal to many small businesses that lack the expertise necessary to build and maintain a website of their own.
Ultimately, of course, the choice is yours.
Back to Credit Card Processing Companies