Elavon doesn’t have a stellar reputation, but I actually like them. Or I should say I’ve come to like them. 2013 was a year of redeeming qualities for this processing giant. In the year or two they’ve managed to maintain a decent small business marketing approach, which included doing away with their early termination fee and advertising fixed-rate options for increased transparency and consistency. They’ve also designed an attractive website and launched a campaign called “3 Big Things” in order to demonstrate to merchants the real cost of processing cards.
While their marketing is still not perfect – no mention of interchange-plus pricing, for instance – they really are 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 1.2 million merchants. That is really substantial!
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. They’ve been in business since 1991, but only under the Elavon name since 2008. They are a real 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 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 rely mostly on the sales rep/reseller that sets you up with that account. Even if you go direct, there are still some reps that 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 know 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 high. It’s to be expected from such a big processor. Adjusted for size of business, they really have a pretty low complaint volume. In 2014, 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 have no reason to have you avoid dealing with them at the corporate level. They get four stars for now, and I hope they continue moving in the right direction.
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:
- Merchant accounts
- Mobile processing
- International processing
- Terminal sales and leases: 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 they have 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 Authoirze.net), they can help you integrate that. I like their gateway.
- Mobile processing: Offered through their 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
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 see their Terms of Service, where you will find no mention of an early termination fee. Then again, if you look at another version of their 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.
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 they do disclose some standardized fees and rates (as mentioned earlier in this review).
I 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. They also offer a really nice resources section there. I’m really impressed by their 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 24/7/365 US-based customer support (assuming you’re a US-based merchant, that is) offered by Elavon. Altogether, they have support in nine languages. 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.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
When you serve 1.2 million merchants, some complaints are bound to come up. Still, considering their volume, Elavon has a pretty good presence at the BBB. They’ve had 249 complaints in the past three years, but have responded to each and every one, which is part of why they have an A+ rating. I should also note that this number is down about 10% since our last update, and down 20% over the past two years. Still, these are the most common complaints you’ll see against Elavon:
- Expensive terminal lease contracts through Ladco Leasing: Some merchants have complained about not being aware that they were signing into a 4-year terminal lease that would essentially cost about four-figures to get out of. The whole “not being aware” part can be chalked up to the merchant not fully understanding their contract, but I personally think terminal leasing is unnecessary to begin with. If you’re a small merchant, and you only need a few terminals, then why not just buy them? They don’t cost much these days. Leases make sense for bigger organizations that need many terminals and don’t have the upfront capital to invest in buying them. [Mid-2014 Update: Elavon seems to be promoting credit card machine sales instead of leases lately, which I'm thrilled to see! They even disclose pricing of machines.]
- 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 that 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, processor’s are not required to pass that charge on to you (but they usually will).
- Withholding of funds/termination of accounts: I can’t blame Elavon here at all. They accept a certain amount of risk for taking on a merchant. If that merchant starts conducting business outside of the agreed upon terms, then Elavon has a right to investigate. There are a few main reasons that will get you red flagged by Elavon, learn how to avoid them here.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate any testimonials for Elavon, corporate-endorsed or otherwise. If you know of any, 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 most cases, I like seeing this sort of service offered. A company as big as Elavon doesn’t have to cater to small businesses. That fact that they do sets them apart.
- No early termination fee: You’ve gotta love it when a company provides month-to-month contracts!
While I’m not thrilled with Elavon’s reputation, I really have no problem recommending them 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. Or if you need a hand with this, let us know and we can help get you set up with a quality sales rep.
Overall, I’m going to bump Elavon up a half a star to four stars. I’m doing this because they’ve shown a real effort to increase transparency, they’ve begun offering month-to-month contracts, and overall they’re moving in the right direction. If they could just start advertising an interchange-plus plan, I’d be really impressed. Hopefully by my next update they will!
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