Central Payment (CPAY) Review
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- Date Established
- San Rafael, CA
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 every year since 2010, when they ranked their best at #309. 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.
The Central Payment website has recently been re-designed. While it’s now much more visually appealing, the content unfortunately is still pretty sparse. Although some educational content has been added, there’s still no mention of actual rates and fees, or contract terms. In other words, the kind of specific information that a prospective client would definitely want to know before signing up is not revealed at all. Overall, the website functions mainly as advertising for CPAY’s services, and not as a useful educational resource for current or potential customers. You’ll have to talk to a sales agent or customer service representative to get any of the information that you really need.
The proprietary and affiliate software and products they offer have a super-clean, contemporary aesthetic alongside quality features. I think their SpotOn digital marketing and loyalty software is actually pretty unique. The new, re-designed website is a lot easier to look at than the older, outdated design, but it doesn’t hide the fact that it discloses very little concrete information about rates and contract terms. CPAY really should consider following the growing trend in the credit card processing industry by including more of this information right on their website where potential customers can see it, like our recommended processors do.
Website design aside, I do in fact like their products and services. While I can’t give CPAY a glowing recommendation, 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.” For this CPAY review the company remains at four stars, but could easily slip down lower if service suffers as they grow.
Check out the full Central Payment review for all the finer details about CPAY, or try out our merchant account finder to find the best payment processor for your specific needs.
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: Basic merchant accounts are the foundation of CPAY’s offerings to business customers.
- Terminal leasing/sales: Offerings include the Verifone VX 520 and Verifone VX 680 for mobile processing, both of which are EMV-compliant and also support Apple Pay and Android Pay. 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. If you insist on getting your terminal(s) from CPAY, your sales agent might be able to offer you a choice of additional models that aren’t featured on their website.
- 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 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 ShopKeep and gave it a perfect five stars! You don’t have to have a merchant account with CPAY to use ShopKeep, since it’s not proprietary.
- Mobile processing: Central Payment now offers CPAY Mobile, a mobile processing solution that allows you to accept payments through your tablet or smartphone. They’ll provide a free card reader that connects to your smart device via the 3.5mm headphone jack and uses an iOS or Android app (also free) to interface with the card reader. While it’s not a novel service, it’s still nice to see it offered.
Fees and Rates:
You won’t find any information about rates or fees on Central Payment’s site. In fact, you’ll find very little information about credit card processing at all. Fortunately, CPAY’s re-designed website now offers a (very) small selection of educational articles on their Merchant Support page.
I can tell you that they will offer interchange-plus pricing – if you ask for it. Seasonal downtime is also an option, so be sure to request this if your business isn’t active year-round.
CPAY’s standard contract also includes a $195 account setup fee, but this can be waived at the sales agent’s discretion. Be sure to include waiving this fee in your negotiations. The fact that they’ll drop this fee if you merely ask them to should be a good indication of how little value this “service” actually provides. If you need negotiation tips, check out our comprehensive merchant account negotiation guide.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
First, the bad news: you’ll still find no mention of contract terms or early termination fees (ETFs) on CPAY’s website. Now, the good news: CPAY appears to have bowed to industry pressure, and now offers a standard contract that runs month-to-month, and charges no early termination fees.
Prior to this recent change, Central Payment offered a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause. Their cancellation fee operated on a sliding scale starting at $500 if you canceled within the first year, and dropped by $100 each year thereafter. It’s still possible that, under certain circumstances, a sales agent might try to put you on one of the old three-year contracts, so be sure to review your agreement carefully before signing!
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, rates, or contract terms disclosed, especially now that they offer month-to-month contracts. While their recent addition of some educational material to their website is a step in the right direction, they’re still far below average in this area.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
According to the customer testimonials we 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:
Central Payment has had 160 complaints in the past three years through the BBB, which represents a slight uptick since our last review update. At the same time, they’ve had 44 complaints in the past 12 months, which is actually a fairly significant decrease since our last update. Overall, this is a fairly low number of complaints considering the company’s size. However, it’s not ideal – despite their A+ rating. Chase Paymentech, for instance, handles over half a trillion dollars every year and yet has only 36 complaints through the BBB in the past three years.
CPAY also has 5 complaints on Ripoff Report, but the majority of them 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 of the complaints made against them. There are also a fair number of independent agents who chime in to defend the company.
Some of the most common complaints made against 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 $45-$75 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 merchant account.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Central Payment has five really professional testimonials on their website. You’ll find fourteen others here that are not as polished and are all over four years old at this point, but actually seem more authentic to me. Still looking for more? Well, check out their official YouTube page for a huge number of educational videos and testimonials.
I really liked seeing all of these video-based reviews, and 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.
Merchants seem to really appreciate the customer service and overall value offered by Central Payment. 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 almost 11,000 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 things considered, I actually like Central Payment. They offer solid products and solid service. I really wish they would disclose a more specific information about rates and contract terms 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. If you decide to check out CPAY after reading our Central Payment review,, definitely make yourself familiar with our comprehensive merchant account fee guide and our negotiation guide. You might need them.
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. I’d suggest you make some comparisons before finalizing anything, however.