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Elavon doesn’t have a stellar reputation, but I actually like the company. Rather, I should say I’ve come to like it. 2013 was a year of redeeming qualities for this processing giant. That year, Elavon managed to maintain a decent small business marketing approach, which included doing away with its early termination fee and advertising fixed-rate options for increased transparency and consistency. Since then it’s kept this trend going, designing an attractive website and launching a campaign called “3 Big Things” to demonstrate to merchants the real cost of processing cards. Now, in 2015, it’s still performing well. In fact, one of our favorite providers, Helcim, uses Elavon to set up accounts. If you are thinking about signing on with Elavon, I would highly recommend you do so through Helcim. They do an amazing job over there, giving you all the resources that Elavon has to offer in the most cost-effective and predictable package.
While Elavon’s marketing is still not perfect — there’s no mention of interchange-plus pricing, for instance — it is really working to gain trust and build a good online reputation as a processor for small businesses and large corporations alike. Not many of the really big processors can say that. And when I say really big, let me be clear. Elavon serves about 1.3 million merchants and processes more than 3 billion transactions yearly, exceeding more than $300 billion. That’s quite a substantial accomplishment!
Elavon (formerly known as NOVA Information Systems) is part of U.S. Bank‘s (U.S. Bancorp‘s) Payment Services division, operating out of Atlanta, Georgia. It’s been in business since 1991, but only under the Elavon name since 2008. The company is a true end-to-end processor, taking care of all things related to merchant accounts under one roof. For big companies especially, this is a real benefit.
With that said, there are hundreds — if not thousands — of independent agents and organizations that resell Elavon’s services. Some of them I’ve reviewed, but definitely not all. They go by different brand names, but at the end of the day, your account is probably being underwritten and boarded under the Elavon platform. Costco Wholesale is a big reseller of Elavon’s services.
Your experience with Elavon, or any big acquirer for that matter, will depend mostly on the sales rep/reseller that sets you up with that account. Even if you go direct, there are still some reps who are more educated and/or ethical than others. The goal is to find a rep within Elavon that you feel comfortable with. By doing that, you can ensure you’ll get a five-star experience every time. And, because you’re reading this site, you probably know more than most other business owners already, so you understand what to look for and what to ask. If you feel comfortable, do it yourself. If not, let us know.
For a company as large as Elavon, I’m not surprised that their BBB complaint count is somewhat high. It’s to be expected from such a big processor. Adjusted for size of business, they really have a pretty low complaint volume, and the numbers have actually dropped since our last check-in.
As of 2015, they’ve even begun to promote credit card machine sales instead of leases, which should help to reduce complaint volume, since leases generally suck. I’m impressed by Elavon’s efforts and I see no reason for you to avoid dealing with them at the corporate level. Elavon gets four stars for now, and I hope it continues moving in the right direction. If you want a five-star experience and an account set up with Elavon, I really do recommend that you check out Helcim. It has some of the fairest and most honest advertising in the industry, as well as highly competitive rates for businesses of all sizes.
Don’t forget to read through the rest of this review for more info on Elavon, or jump to our comparison chart for more info on our best-rated providers!
Products and Services:
Elavon offers your standard fare as far as merchant account providers go:
- Tablet-based mobile POS system: Elavon joined forces with Verizon in January 2015 to offer merchant business customers an integrated POS system that operates using mPOS software on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
- Terminal sales: Always compare prices before you buy, and never lease!
- Industry-specific services: Specialties include airlines, hospitality, travel/entertainment, public sector/education, and retail. Check out what Elavon has to say about it here.
- Gateway/virtual terminal: Elavon takes care of these services in-house with its proprietary offerings. If you’d like to use a different gateway (like Authorize.Net), the company can help you integrate that. That said, I like their gateway.
- Mobile processing: You can swipe cards using your smartphone or tablet thanks to Elavon’s proprietary app, VirtualMerchant Mobile.
- Online reporting: This proprietary service is called Merchant Connect, and seems to be pretty high quality compared to other online reporting tools I’ve seen. You can get a demo of it here.
- Gift/loyalty card programs: Called Fanfare, this loyalty program helps you provide incentives to customers. It’s free for your customers, and they can join with as little as a phone number. It also includes advanced reporting tools for you. and the points your customers earn never expire.
Big, established companies aren’t always the bastions of innovation, but it’s nice to see Elavon at least keeping pace with innovation. Two big rollouts we’ve seen so far in 2015 are the company’s Commerce SDK (software development kit), which includes support for Apple Pay and paves the way for merchants to more easily accept EMV. Elavon also offers a mobile POS solution that supports Apple Pay and EMV as well.
Rates and Fees:
These days, Elavon offers a couple of flat-rate plans for small businesses, including:
- 2.65% and $0.19 – Card swiped
- 3.5% and $0.19 – Keyed entry
- $10 – Monthly fee
- $499.00 – For an Ingenico iCT250 terminal
- 2.65% and $0.19 – Card swiped
- 3.5% and $0.19 – Keyed entry
- $10 – Monthly fee
- $24.99 – For a Magtek aDynamo mobile card reader
Both of these fixed-rate offers come with:
- No cancellation fees
- No “hidden” fees
You can also check out Elavon’s Terms of Service, where you will find no mention of an early termination fee. Then again, if you look at another version of the company’s terms, you’ll find a liquidated damages fee for early termination. So be careful, and make sure your contract has the provisions your sales rep described to you.
Worth noting is the catch on Elavon’s pricing page:
“* Approval and acceptance are subject to underwriting review.”
We’ve seen reports of merchants being charged 5%, 6%, or even 7% despite being promised that agreeable 2.65% rate because of non-qualified transactions. Read your statements regularly and do the math for yourself.
While it’s not readily mentioned, you can also get an interchange-plus pricing model through Elavon, but you might have a monthly minimum and early termination fee. But remember, these things are always negotiable. And if Elavon can’t set you up with what you want, someone else probably can!
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
Elavon offers contracts with no early termination fees, making them month-to-month agreements for all ostensible purposes. You will, of course, still sign a merchant agreement that last for three years and will auto-renew for one- or two-year periods afterwards. You’ll still have to take the appropriate steps to cancel your account (returning equipment if needed, providing written notice of cancellation, etc.), or else you’ll continue to be billed.
Some merchants will be set up with a termination fee that may include liquidated damages, however, so make sure you carefully review the “Termination” part of your merchant agreement.
Overall, I think Elavon has made a good move here. All processors should at least have the option for an account with no termination fees.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
The processing industry is, overall, moving toward a greater level of standardization when it comes to setting up small businesses with merchant accounts. Many have replaced tiered pricing models with fixed-rate or interchange-plus models. While the fixed-rate pricing isn’t always a great deal, it’s certainly more transparent than tiers.
Elavon doesn’t use any sales gimmicks at the corporate level, and it does disclose some standardized fees and rates (as mentioned earlier in this review). We mentioned before and we will say it again: Elavon does use independent sales agents to market its products. That can sometimes be a problem when you encounter an unethical sales rep who really wants to close the deal. If you’re not comfortable, walk away.
That said, Elavon gets points for disclosing its rates.It has a comprehensive site that actually breaks down its product offerings by business size and need. There’s even a search function. I also really seeing things like this informational website that Elavon put out (with corresponding infographic). It’s a pretty good effort to promote transparency and explain the costs behind processing cards. Elavon also offers a really nice resources section there. I’m really impressed by the company’s efforts here.
I would have liked to see some disclosure about cost-plus pricing, but aside from that Elavon is on the right track.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
You’ll find Elavon offers 24/7/365 US-based customer support (assuming you’re a US-based merchant, that is). Altogether, the company has support in 13 countries. I had a brief interaction with a support rep who seemed intelligent and well-trained, but I can’t speak for their ability to handle complex, long-term or sensitive issues. You should also be aware that if you sign up under a reseller, you might get customer support through that ISO and not through Elavon directly.
Many reviewers in our comments section seem dissatisfied with customer support, but most of these reviews seem to come through resellers like Costco.
Something else I like to see is a company with a decent social media presence. It generally shows an awareness of 21st-century marketing tactics and popularity among small business owners. Elavon, on the other hand, doesn’t have a Facebook page at all. It has a few localized Twitter accounts. Unfortunately, the only highly active one is for an industry-specific offshoot of Elavon, Elavon Financial Institutions Solutions. This is in no way a nail in the coffin for Elavon, but it is a bit disappointing.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
When you serve 1.3 million merchants, some complaints are bound to come up. Still, considering its volume, Elavon has a pretty good presence at the BBB. It’s had 169 complaints in the last 3 years, down from 201 at our last check-in, and closed closed 43 complaints in the last 12 months (down from 48).
Elevon has responded to each and every complaint, which is part of why it has an A+ rating. Still, these are the most common complaints you’ll see against Elavon:
- PCI compliance fee: Many of Elavon’s merchants are having an issue with the annual PCI compliance fee of $175 that Elavon is dinging them with, with non-compliance surcharges added on top of that. Although PCI DSS compliance is necessary for anyone who plans on accepting credit cards for their business, Elavon is not required to charge their merchants any type of fee for that compliance. So, contrary to what you may have heard, processors are not required to pass that charge on to you (but they usually will).
- Withholding of funds/termination of accounts: This is a trend in payment processing, especially among companies that offer instant approval. To some extent, it’s to be expected. These companies accept a certain amount of risk for taking on a merchant. If that merchant starts conducting business outside of the agreed-upon terms, then the company has a right to investigate. That said, there is a big difference between protecting the company and arbitrarily freezing accounts for even the slightest suspicion, and it’s something we give a lot of weight to in our ratings. There are a few main reasons Elavon will put a red flag on your account; learn how to avoid them here. If you are a high-risk merchant, you might want to look for a specialist in high-risk accounts, like Payline Data or Durango Merchant Services.
A search on RipoffReport.com yields 45 complaints against Elavon, for the most part comprising complaints in the same categories listed above on the BBB site for this company. Most customers have posted on Ripoff Report warning other consumers against being “taken” by Elavon for fees on defective or unused equipment, for terminal lease contract-related misunderstandings or lack of transparency with Elavon and/or Ladco, or for non-compliance. It’s worth noting this number did not increase over the past year — and RipOffReport doesn’t delete complaints.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Testimonials from Elavon are few and far between. There are three on Elavon’s Customer Stories page. Beyond that, I found one case study buried in a press release. If you know of any other testimonials or case studies, please share them in the comments section of this post.
My personal favorite aspects of Elavon’s service include:
- Good website and online sales copy: If a company can’t be bothered to maintain a good web presence, that’s not a good sign. Elavon does a great job in this respect, providing useful information in an attractive package.
- Disclosure of some fees and rates: While I don’t think flat-rate services make sense in every case, I like seeing this sort of service available. A company as big as Elavon doesn’t have to cater to small businesses. That fact that it does sets Elavon apart from others (like North American Bancard), who clearly have no idea how to market to small businesses. .
- No early termination fee: You’ve gotta love it when a company provides month-to-month contracts!
While Elavon has struggled with its reputation, these days I really have no problem recommending the company as a viable payment processor — at the corporate level, at least. When you start dealing with independent resellers, all bets are off. Like essentially all big providers, Elavon suffers from a lack of consistency across the many ISOs using its name. This makes it very difficult to provide you with an overarching rating. If you want to get the best deal possible through Elavon, make sure you contact corporate sales directly and feel out your agent.
Better yet, I always recommend that anyone interested in Elavon should sign up with Helcim. This will provide you with all of the benefits of using a big processor like Elavon without any of the pitfalls. Helcim uses interchange-plus, plus it has low monthly fees, fair equipment prices, and NEVER any early termination fees. Check the company out.
Overall, there are signs that Elavon is continuing to improve. The problematic termination fees are gone (in most circumstances). The company gets points for rate disclosures. Furthermore, the volume of complaints is dropping, and there’s nothing out of the ordinary or suspicious enough to give is a pause. (We’ll be keeping an eye on things to make sure they stay that way.) For that reason, Elavon keeps its rating at four stars. If the company could just start advertising an interchange-plus plan, I’d be really impressed. Hopefully by my next update they will!
Want to see what it takes to get five stars here at Merchant Maverick? Take a look at our handy comparison chart. Do you have first-hand experiences with Elavon? Leave us a comment about it, for better or worse!