Certified Payment Processing Review
I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the folks at Certified Payment Processing (CPP). It’s not every day that I have the honor of reviewing a company of this caliber. Certified Payments is, without any shadow of a doubt, one of the most hated payment processing providers currently playing the game! Their horrible reputation, alongside dishonest business practices and expensive contracts, has earned CPP our rarely-used one-star rating. It’s easier to get a five-star rating than a one-star rating. We save this (dis) honor for the absolute worst of the worst. I can confidently say that Certified Payment Processing has earned it. So again, congratulations y’all!
As a First American Payment Systems (FAPS) subsidiary, I knew Certified wouldn’t be great. FAPS is, after all, a poor-performing company in its own right, with questionable business practices and tons of complaints. Somehow, though, despite my low expectations, despite the absolutely lowness of the bar set by FAPS, Certified Payments managed to fall flat on its face. There are hundreds of merchant complaints against this company, alongside almost as many complaints from former CPP sales agents. It seems like Certified runs a true-blue lose-lose business. What’s even more alarming about their high complaint volume – there are at least four other sales entities working under CPP – TransTech Merchant Group, CeresNational, ISIS Direct and Summit Merchant Solutions – with many of these companies using hundreds of independent resellers. So in reality the complaint volume against CPP is even higher than it appears.
The products and services offered by Certified Payment Processing are basically identical to the First American offerings, which are not outstanding to begin with. Those who do business with CPP can expect poorly-disclosed and expensive non-cancellable leasing agreements, hefty early termination fees, and generally uncompetitive contract terms. There is absolutely no reason for you to give Certified Payments your business, bottom line.
Read the full review for more information, or just head over to our comparison chart to see some of our favorite providers.
Products and Services:
- POS system: CPP offers the FAPS proprietary 1stPayPOS software/hardware combo. (You supply the iPad and reader.)
- Mobile payments: Offered via GoEmerchant’s proprietary M+Terminal. I like GoEmerchant, so seeing this partnership actually boosts my confidence in CPP by a notch or two. No free reader seems to come standard.
- Terminal sales and leasing: Includes the FAPS proprietary Xion counter top terminal. Leases come through Merimac Capital, a First American subsidiary. In my opinion, you should never lease. Merimac leases are non-cancellable and extend for 60 months, usually at about $45 per month (plus insurance). That means that even if you want to cancel the next day, you will be stuck paying $2,700 to buy out the contract for a machine worth a couple hundred dollars. Check out this article for more info.
- Online reporting: This comes via the FAPS proprietary FirstView reporting system.
- Gateway: Certified Payments uses a proprietary gateway called FirstPay.Net.
- Check processing: Via Secur-Chex.
- Gift and loyalty cards: Offered as an in-house service through the CPP FirstAdvantage brand.
- Cash advances
Fees and Rates:
Just like First American, I don’t think you’ll find a single dollar sign or percentage mark anywhere on the CPP site. But from what I’ve seen from CPP merchants, these accounts are incredibly expensive, with most of the money going directly toward agent profits. Look out for annual fees of about $100, statement fees up to $20, annual PCI compliance fees around $100, steep monthly minimums and costly tiered pricing.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
You can expect to see three-year, auto-renewing contracts from Certified Payment Processing, carrying early termination fees of at least $495. I’ve also seen termination fees from CPP of no less than $495 for each location including consequential damages and loss of profits, costs, expenses, and liabilities. This considered a Liquidated Damages type contract, and can be especially expensive to the merchant. Since CPP relies heavily or independent resellers and so many subsidiaries, there’s not a whole lot of standardization here. But if you don’t see a signed wavier form attached to your contract, chances are there is an early termination fee.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
In short: not good. At least with their parent company, First American Payment Systems, you get a nice site to browse through. Not so with Certified Payment Processing. The CPP site is buggy, difficult to navigate, poorly constructed, and has very little useful information. I’d say it’s a joke, but I’m not laughing.
Aside from their online corporate advertising and sales, the in-person sales experience offered by CPP leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, the Certified salesforce may be the worst part of this company. Almost all of the CPP salespeople are independent agents, and these agents don’t seem to last very long. This means that your agent is likely inexperienced or, perhaps worse, desperate.
Most of the major complaints against Certified Payment Processing stem from sales practices. Agents are either not knowledgeable, or they willfully mislead merchants about early termination fees, leasing agreements, processing rates and various other associated fees.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
You can read in our comments section a number of reviews that cite rude or otherwise unsatisfactory customer service. Corroborating complaints exist across the web. So while Certified Payment Processing does offer 24/7 customer service, not everyone would agree that this adds up to excellent customer support.
Basically, here’s my take away: having a well-staffed call center is a band aid on a bullet wound when sales reps are scamming merchants into signing expensive and unfair contracts. If you’ve had experience with CPP customer service, please let me know how it went in a comment.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
I don’t always think the BBB does a great job when it comes to assessing a business’s rating. Many questionable companyies seem to earn, against all odds, an “A+” rating despite hundreds of recent complaints. This is not the case for Certified Payment Processing. With 322 complaints for the past 3 years, many serious or unresolved, CPP gets a big fat F from the Better Business Bureau. When we first reviewed CPP a couple of years ago, they had 75 complaints and a D rating. Clearly, things are going downhill.
Here are some of the most common complaints against Certified Payment Processing:
- Large number of complaints from former sales reps: Whenever I see a high number of complaints from sales reps, it tells me that the company is running a “churn and burn” type operation. The goal being to get as many commission-only independent or in-house sales agents under the CPP banner, then letting them loose. The focus becomes quantity over quality. That’s always a bad recipe for the merchant because usually these reps aren’t educated enough and end up signing you into bum deals due to the lure of a fat paycheck.
- Unethical sales tactics: Overall, merchants are unsatisfied with the sales experience provided by many CPP agents. Specifically, complaints include non-disclosure of contract terms and fees, as well as receiving misleading information about how credit card processing works and how rates are decided. The fact that CPP does not provide any useful educational material or rate information on their website makes the sales experience even more opaque. Certified’s biggest problems stem from their salesforce, often made up of poorly trained, poorly regulated, short-term independent agents.
- Bad leasing agreements: Just about any company that still sells the old standard four-year non-cancellable leasing packages should be, as a rule, avoided like the plague. These companies are desperately looking to make money at your expense and via your lack of industry knowledge. These leases end up costing thousands of dollars just for the pleasure of borrowing a machine that is only worth a few hundred dollars. Don’t do it. Read this article for more information.
- Overall expensive: Some merchants complain about rate hikes and high percentages of non-qualified transactions. Others bemoan their hefty early termination fees. Others hate finding so many undisclosed fees on their statements. But most complaints I read had in common a general feeling that CPP is charging more than they are worth. Based on everything I’ve seen, I tend to agree.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Much like their parent company First American Payment Systems, I couldn’t find any positive reviews or testimonials for Certified Payment Processing. To be honest, I have no real reason to encourage you to pursue using this company’s services. While I’m sure they have a substantial number of satisfied merchants on their side, CPP delivers very inconsistent sales and service experiences. With so many other truly exceptions providers out there, why settle for the lower end of mediocrity?
If you disagree, please let me know in a comment. I’m open to valid arguments in favor of or against any provider I’ve reviewed!
Bottom line – this is not a company worth giving your business to. The credit card processing industry is oversaturated with providers these days, making it a highly-competitive industry. That’s right – these companies must compete for YOUR business, giving you all the power in this market. So why should you settle? Why even waste another moment thinking about a subpar provider when a sizable handful of payment providers are really providing exceptional service?
Companies like Certified Payment Processing count on unsuspecting, inexperienced, trusting, uneducated merchants. The truth is that CPP doesn’t offer competitive service, and that any merchant who shops around and reads educational resources will definitely not use them. But if you did sign on with Certified, I’d like to quote Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting: “It’s not your fault.” Falling victim to a predatory sales agent makes you just that – a victim. But since you’re here reading this now, I think there’s a really good chance that your next payment processing experience will be much better.
Certified Payment Processing gets our lowest possible rating, one star, thanks to their extraordinary complaint volume, poor sales services, and uncompetitive contract terms. For all of these reasons and more, I’d encourage you to look elsewhere.
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