Central Payment (CPAY) Review
In 2000, identical twin brothers Zachary and Matthew Hyman founded California’s CardPayment Solutions, Inc. (not to be confused with Indiana’s Card Payment Solutions). CPS grew quickly, and the brothers sold it to iPayment soon after for $18 million. As soon as their non-competition agreement with iPayment expired, Zachary and Matthew were back in the industry, forming Central Payment (CPAY) in 2005, based out of San Rafael, California.
Since then, they’ve managed to land on Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5000 fastest growing US-based companies for the past four years in a row, rating as high as #309 in 2010. That’s great news, since it means they’re succeeding as a business. CPAY currently processes over $3 billion per year from about 47,000 merchants. We just have to hope they don’t end up sacrificing service for revenue growth.
In August of 2012, CPAY sold 60% of the company to TSYS Merchant Services, opening a “joint venture” between the two companies. So TSYS processes the payments, while CPAY remains largely in control of their brand and sales practices.
When you visit the Central Payment website, you’ll see that it is sparsely populated, lacking some of the industry mainstays like educational resources and explanations of fees and rate. I like that they don’t overwhelm potential customers – but personally, I end up feeling underwhelmed by their efforts.
The proprietary and affiliate software and products they offer have a super-clean, contemporary aesthetic alongside quality features. I think their marketing software called SpotOn is actually pretty unique. Why the CPAY website is so outdated, I’m not sure. But I can tell you it’s a marketing mistake – especially for a company marketing to tech-savvy merchants – and it whittles away at my confidence in their services. If they had a better design, they could probably hide the fact that they give very little information. Lacking both, however, draws attention to the absence doubly.
Website design aside, I do in fact like their products and services. I can’t give CPAY a glowing recommendation, but I have no reason to tell you to avoid them, either. Many of their customers have great things to say about the customer service they experience, and most seem to find their rates acceptable. In many cases you can negotiate the early termination fee and contract length to suit your resources.
For me, I think they’re coasting dangerously in the average zone at Central Payment. Nothing really sets them apart, but no major red flags come up either. In the end, I find them on the higher end of “acceptable.” They remain at four stars for now, but could easily slip down lower if service suffers as they grow.
Check out the full review for all the finer details about CPAY, or take a look at out credit card processor comparison chart to weigh your other options.
Products and Services:
When you look at CPAY’s products and services as a small merchant, it’s kind of a relief. Instead of being bombarded by dozens of solutions for every industry conceivable, you’ll find just a handful of essential products and services, all geared for a direct-to-consumer approach. They have a nice collection of proprietary software and affiliate relationships featuring really clean, contemporary design and functionality. CPAY offers:
- Merchant accounts
- Terminal leasing/sales: Offerings include Verifone Vx520, Verifone Vx520 Dual Comm, and Nurit 8020 for wireless. Perhaps an underwhelming selection, but I actually like this. That said, I don’t recommend that you lease, and I encourage you to shop around before you buy.
- Gateway/virtual terminal: CPAY offers their branded gateway and virtual terminal service, PayHub. It looks pretty sleek and seems to have nice features.
- Rewards/marketing software: This is actually a pretty unique service for a processor to offer. Called SpotOn, it’s basically an expanded digital loyalty program that you can track through a dedicated tablet. The software has the same polished appearance CPAY offers elsewhere, and overall it looks nice. Check it out here.
- POS software: Central Payment is an affiliate of ShopKeep, an iPad-based POS system and terminal. It hooks up to your cash drawer to provide a complete point-of-sale solution. We recently reviewed this POS and gave it a perfect five stars! You don’t have to use CPAY to use ShopKeep, since it’s not proprietary.
- Mobile processing: Powered through RoamPay, Central Payment can set you up with a mobile card reader and app that allows you process through your tablet or smartphone. It’s not a novel service, but nice to see it offered.
You can check out some demos and promo videos on their site here.
Fees and Rates:
You won’t find any information about rates or fees on CPAY’s site. In fact, you won’t find much information about credit card processing at all. They don’t offer any educational or informational materials whatsoever.
I can tell you that they will offer interchange-plus if you ask for it, and seasonal downtime is also an option.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
Again, you’ll find no mention of contract terms or termination fees on the Central Payment’s website.
Their cancellation fee operates on a sliding scale starting at $500 if you cancel within the first year, and dropping by $100 each year thereafter. I was told that both the contract length and cancellation fee are negotiable, so don’t forget to put on your bargaining hat.
While many processors offer a 30-45 day grace period after signing where a merchant can cancel without and fines, CPAY only offers you 72 hours. I’m not sure what good that does anyone…
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
Since CPAY has so little to say, it’s hard to rate them one way or the other when it comes to advertising and sales transparency. They don’t have many sales gimmicks, so I like them in that way. I would really, really like to have seen some fees, rate, contract terms, or even just some educational material presented. They are far below average here.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
According to the customer testimonials I saw, this is where Central Payment really shines. The rep that we spoke with was extremely professional and helpful. She answered all of our questions truthfully (I hope), and she didn’t try to pull a “hard-sell.” She acted more like a consultant than anything. Those are the kind of reps you want to get your hands on.
On the other hand, I’ve read some major complaints about sales reps dropping off the face of the earth after signing, especially when problems arise.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
You’ll see 141 complaints in the past three years through the BBB (as of this update), which is on the upswing since our last update. They’ve handled 55 complaints in the past 12 months, so this year has seen slightly more complaints than previous years, but not substantially more. Overall, this is a fairly low number considering the company size, but it’s not ideal (despite their A+ rating). Chase Paymentech, for instance, handles over half a trillion dollars every year and has under 100 complaints through the BBB in the past three years.
CPAY has 29 complaints on Ripoff Report (as of this update), but I’d say 80% are from past sales contractors unsatisfied with the circumstances of their contract terminations. While I think a heavy reliance on independent sales agents can hurt a processor – since it can lead to a poorly regulated and poorly trained salesforce – I actually believe that CPAY does a pretty good job when it comes to holding the reins on their independent agents. I don’t think that you, as a merchant, should let these complaints deter you in this case.
I like the way CPAY has taken the time to respond to many complaints made against them. There are also a fair amount of independent agents who chime in to defend the company.
Some of the most common complaints for Central Payment include:
- PCI compliance fee/non-compliance penalty: While many processors will charge a fee to cover their expenses in terms of PCI compliance, a steep non-compliance penalty is a crappy contract term in my opinion. I’ve heard from multiple sources that CPAY charges $20-30 per month for non-compliance, on top of the annual $80+ they already charge for compliance. The best way to make sure you avoid this is to always stay compliant, which is easy enough. Still, I think sales reps need to cover PCI compliance and related fees in-depth during sales talks. Not doing so leads to very unhappy customers.
- Bad leasing contracts: In almost all cases, leasing terminals won’t make sense for you. Leases through Northern Leasing are especially bad, and that seems to be one of the companies CPAY partners with. Please read this article before leasing a terminal! Also note that your “free” terminal might not end up being free. Make sure you get a full disclosure of terms before accepting any “gifts.”
- Difficultly getting support from independent reps: I love it when companies can promise that your sales rep will be your continuing point of contact after signing. It’s a great practice – when the representatives can make good on the promise, that is. I’ve seen a number of complaints about difficulty getting an agent on the phone when a problem arises, even just days after signing. I’m not talking about getting a call back the next day instead of a direct answer; I’m talking about being blatantly ignored. Since independent sales reps are not vetted and interviewed the same way in-house employees would be, these problems inevitably come up. Your best bet in these cases is to call corporate directly for help, and maybe find a new point of contact for your contract.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
CPAY has six really professional testimonials on their website (despite the sci-fi inspired intros). You’ll find about a dozen others here that are not as polished, but actually seem even more authentic to me. Still looking for more? Well, check out their official YouTube page for a huge amount of videos with additional testimonials mixed in.
I really liked seeing all of these video-based reviews, and I also liked the questions the interviewers asked, including:
- What else could we do to better serve you?
- Do you hear from our competitors?
This gives CPAY the opportunity to show that their customers really are satisfied – and satisfied enough to stay with them despite hearing from competitors on an almost daily basis.
Customers seem to really appreciate the customer service and overall value offered by CPAY. While some merchants in the testimonials allude to the fact they’ve been offered better rates elsewhere, they all seem to believe they’d rather pay a few basis points more to get the reliability and service CPAY offers. As a reviewer, I really liked hearing this.
They also have about 10,000 likes on their very active facebook page. While I know there is more than one way to get facebook likes, I’m still impressed by this considering they serve about 47,000 merchants.
All said and done, I actually like Central Payment. They offer solid products and solid service. I really wish they would disclose a little more information on their site, and I wish they would find a way to set themselves apart in a positive way. They’re moving in the right direction with proprietary software like SpotOn, but CPAY hasn’t quite sold me on their tech-savvy identity.
In all, I’m excited to see where CPAY is headed now that they’ve partnered with TSYS. They’re going to have a lot more financial backing and technological support, which – if properly wielded – could translate to a bright future. I’ll look forward to reporting back to you soon with good news. For now, I’m going to continue to be hopeful and give them four stars.
To compare CPAY with the best of the best, check out our nifty comparison chart.