Mercury Payment Systems Review
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- Date Established
- Durango, CO
If nothing else, Mercury Payment Systems gets points for simplicity. Take a look at the website. There aren’t many gimmicks, no freebies, no big, “too good to be true” promises. The company advertises quick transaction times, quality customer support, and near 100% uptime. These are the types of claims I prefer to see over the “FREE FREE FREE $1,000 FREE” type of ad copy.
Sadly, that seems to be about all that’s in Mercury’s favor these days. Initially, Mercury was a promising service — not perfect, but with some solid selling points and quality service. However, something seems to have gone horribly wrong.
Based out of Durango, Colorado, Mercury Payment Systems (MPS) has been in business since 2001. In 2004, the company was ranked the 68th largest merchant acquirer — and rose to 16th largest in 2012. That’s some substantial growth there.
Despite that, the company seems to have a rather small customer base — some 80,000 merchants by its own claims. (Not that 80K is a really small amount.) It has over 500 employees and probably a couple thousand independent agents selling its products, with headquarters in Durango, CO, and another office in Denver.
In 2014, the company was acquired by VANTIV (for $1.65 billion). That’s worth noting because as of March 2015, Vantiv is the second-largest merchant acquirer in the U.S., with a purchase transaction volume of $15.5 billion. However, as far as product offerings go, it’s been business as usual.
Mercury uses its “integrated processing solutions” as a main selling point. This means that the processing services work with a wide variety of POS systems and software, and serves as the foundation for many developers to create their programs. This translates to overall versatility and can, in theory, make your life easier. It could also limit your options if it’s pre-programmed into the POS you use (see TouchBistro or SalesVu, for example).
Mercury does offer month-to-month service and interchange-plus plans, which I consider important factors. It does not, however, advertise either of these features, which leaves its independent agents less accountable and reduces transparency overall.
I’m not convinced that you can count on Mercury for competitive rates with that lack of transparency. Many of you have chimed in with a similar tune — and Mercury’s also being sued by another processor that makes a similar allegation.
Not only that, but there’s a serious uptick in the number of complaints with the BBB, and overall users across the web aren’t exactly lining up to praise Mercury. Quite the opposite, in fact.
As with all medium-large size providers, some resale agents fail to disclose important terms. It seems like Mercury is willing to compromise in many of these situations, although it might take BBB arbitration to get you there.
At the end of the day, the uptick in complaints about the two most important aspects of any merchant account — rates and service — is enough to warrant a downgrade from 4 stars to 3.5 stars. Check out the rest of the review for more details, or take a look at the best of the best in processing!
Products and Services:
Mercury’s offerings are pretty basic, but not in a bad way. It has the essentials you’d expect, as well as a few other goodies in the mix. You can get gift card services, which includes free gift card processing and reporting, if you need them. Mercury also offers “proactive troubleshooting” that should, in theory, prevent billing mishaps before they become a headache.
MPS services include:
- Merchant accounts
- Mobile processing
- Terminal leases/sales: I’m not a fan of terminal leasing, and watch out for over priced units on the sales end. Despite what they might lead you to believe, you don’t have to buy or lease through the account provider. Read our article about it. If you’re curious, you can check out a copy of Mercury’s lease agreement here.
- Mercury Stand-In: Allows you to process transactions even during network outages. When this happens, they assume all risk associated with declines, guaranteeing no loss for you. Skeptical as I am about Mercury on the whole, this is worth noting
- Gift cards: This includes free gift card processing, custom designs, and the ability to handle gift cards online or in a mobile app.
- Mercury StoreCard: Essentially, this is a loyalty/rewards card program, with elements of a gift card program as well as well. You can offer incentives and cash-back rewards for repeat customers. There’s an option for physical or digital cards as well.
- “Proactive troubleshooting”: Basically, this is Mercury’s initiative to proactively prevent billing errors, holds, freezes, and all those other annoying setbacks we see in processing. They’ll contact you when a flag comes up to help resolve it before it’s too late.
- Online reporting system
- Merchant cash advances
- 24/7 live support: In theory, this sounds great. Unfortunately, Mercury seems to be failing in the execution of it.
Fees and Rates:
You won’t find any rates or fees disclosed on the Mercury site, nor will you see any information about how rates and fees are determined or what kinds of plans they offer. I can tell you that I’ve seen interchange-plus pricing as well as tiered and fixed-rate pricing from MPS. I’d encourage you to go with the interchange-plus pricing to maintain the most transparency possible.
Make sure to ask your rep about the PCI compliance fee as well, since MPS may hit you with up to a $150 annual charge. The industry standard is about $80, so this is kind of steep if you ask me.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
The MPS contract length and termination stipulations are pretty standard, with ETF fees based on the length of your contract. Initial terms with Mercury usually range from one to three years, auto-renewed for one-year periods unless cancelled in writing 30 days before expiration. Early termination fees range from $295-495, although independent resellers may tack on an additional fee if they so choose.
Some merchants have negotiated with Mercury to reduce their rates. In doing so, their contracts were reset, and the sales reps in charge of doing so didn’t disclose that — leading to unhappy merchants who get stuck with ETFs. We’ve seen a substantial number of complaints about the issue. Frankly, the resetting of the contract isn’t uncommon. The lack of disclosure is the problem.
MPS does offer month-to-month agreements as well, where you can cancel without penalty if you give 30 days’ notice. Let me remind you, though, that so-called “month-to-month” agreements are never actually month-to-month with merchant accounts. No matter what, you’ll be signing a merchant agreement for at least a year. What makes it month-to-month is the waiver of any early termination fees.
That said, you’ll still have to terminate your account as per the merchant agreement — usually including written verification, the return of any hardware, and the payment of any outstanding fees. Whether you’re on a month-to-month or yearly contract, until the account is properly closed, you will still be billed!
Here’s a little excerpt from a Mercury contract I read recently:
Merchant may terminate this Card Services Agreement prior to the end of a term at any time upon thirty (30) days written notice to Global Direct and Member if, and only if, Merchant pays Global Direct an Early Termination Fee which shall be the lesser of (a) the maximum amount permitted by state law, and (b) (i) $295 if the Card Services Agreement has a one (1) year Initial Term or the Card Services Agreement is in a renewal term, (ii) $395 if the Card Services Agreement has a two (2) year Initial Term, or (iii) $495 if the Card Services Agreement has a three (3) year Initial Term. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if the Card Services Agreement has an Initial Term of one (1) year and the Merchant provides Global Direct and Member with thirty (30) days’ prior written notice of termination, the $295 Early Termination Fee will be waived.
Be sure to review your contract in detail, as it might differ from the ones I’ve seen. Make careful note of all the fees listed, as well as the cancellation process. Let us know if you need help with it.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
Mercury doesn’t make any big claims or use sales gimmicks to entice merchants, offering instead a no-nonsense approach. While I wish the company would disclose a little bit of information on fees, rates and contract terms (if not specifics, at least general info), at least it’s not making outlandish claims. I would like to see the claim of “affordable” substantiated. It makes the statement a few times on the site, but doesn’t provide any details.
Mercury also offers free POS consultations and demos, which feel somewhat gimmicky. I’m quite wary of this, even though Mercury claims there’s no obligation. That doesn’t mean you won’t still get a sales pitch, and since we’re dealing with independent representatives, there’s no way of knowing just how upfront they’re being.
Now here’s where it gets complicated.
Heartland Payment Systems has also filed a lawsuit against Mercury, alleging the company artificially inflates its interchange fees and charges other unfair fees, while using the fear of those fees to keep merchants locked into their contracts. The suit was initially filed in 2014, but the most recent documents from the case indicate that the two companies are still in the discovery phase — meaning they’re just gathering evidence. It could be another couple of years before we see any sort of resolution.
Mercury does maintain active Facebook and Twitter accounts, where unsatisfied merchants can (and do) engage with the company publicly. None of the recent complaints (in the past two months) on the Facebook page have been addressed. On Twitter, all you seem to get is an apology for the long wait times.
You will also find some resources for merchants, including videos and infographics, so long as you’re willing to shell out a bit of information to get them.
Overall, MPS could use some work in this category.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Mercury Payment Systems has a lot of pride in its customer support services, and the company uses it as a selling point. It’s even won awards for its quality of service (check it out here).
Since MPS markets to small and mid-sized businesses first and foremost, good customer support is essential. You’ll get 24/7/365 live, US-based customer support by phone or email, including technical support.
I’ve dealt with Mercury Payment Systems in the past, and I have to admit that I’ve never had a problem with its customer service. Every rep that I’ve chatted with has been very consultative, patient, and polite. And this is after I signed up with them, too.
The problem is, my experience doesn’t appear to be the same as many other merchants of late. The most consistent complaint, apart from excessive fees (we’ll come back to that) is that wait times are more than an hour on the phone. Those who escalate their problems to a supervisor are directed to leave a voicemail but do not get a call back.
Frankly, it seems like the best way to get Mercury’s attention is to file a complaint with the BBB. Mercury is very polite and helpful in its responses to BBB complaints and seems to be very dedicated to solving the issue.
Want to weigh in with a recent experience? Leave your review at the bottom of this page!
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Mercury has an A+ BBB rating with 71 complaints (up from 34 at last check in) in the past three years. More than half of them — 40 in fact — are within the last year. That means Mercury’s had more complaints in the past year than it did in the previous three years combined.
The good news is that Mercury seems to be very responsive to BBB complaints. It also looks like the company genuinely tries to work with merchants to solve the issue if you read the complaints and responses. However, a fair number of merchants don’t bother to indicate whether the issue has been fixed — and then Mercury steps in and says “Yes, we’ve addressed the problem and we’ll keep working with them to find an agreeable solution.” That makes me skeptical.
Mercury also has 9 complaints on Ripoff Reports, 3 of which date from 2015. The rest of which are from 2012 or earlier.
Our own comments section has a number of complaints, a few of which are very well articulated and have been verified. Your insights are a crucial part of how we evaluate merchants, so if you have experience with Mercury, leave us a comment!
Common complaints include:
- Billing mistakes/rises in rates and fees: These are a few of my least favorite things. This seems to have become a common complaint since the last time we looked at Mercury. Many merchants complain of fees being randomly tacked on, many of which hadn’t been mentioned before. The PCI compliance fee is one, but also data security fees, the high fees for preparing 1099s, annual fees, minimum fees, etc. No matter who you process with, always review your statements. I know you’ve got a million invoices and bills coming in each month, but it’s important to spend at least a few minutes with your statement. If you don’t understand something on it, call up your processor! It’s their job to clearly describe your rates and fees. If they don’t explain it well or you’re not getting the rate you were promised, it’s time to start looking elsewhere.
- Customer service issues: I’m disappointed to hear about rudeness and ineptitude from Mercury support staff, since their support is a major selling point for them. Another consistent complaint across every channel we’ve looked at is high wait times, in excess of an hour. Others have been told to leave voicemails and never receive calls back.
- Getting locked in through a POS: This isn’t really Mercury’s fault, but it comes up quite a bit. Since MPS has so many POS software partners, a fair portion of its clientele comes from merchants shopping for POS software. These software vendors sometimes only allow merchants to use Mercury for processing, while others just strongly encourage it. This happens because the software vendors get paid for the clients they sign up with Mercury accounts, and Mercury provides the basis for the POS coding. Unfortunately, this also means that these merchants do not have the option to shop around for their merchant accounts, which can lead to bad deals and poorly disclosed contract terms.
- Gift card program fees: Several merchants have complained at how difficult Mercury makes it to transfer your gift card program if you opt for another processor. Not only do you pay a 10% fee for the total outstanding balance, but you have to pay an hourly rate for the company to prepare a report that you can send to your new gift card processor. One merchant pointed out that you may be able to download sufficient information from the Mercury Pay website yourself — we can’t verify that, but if you’re having issues in the switch, check with your new payments processor to see what they say.
- Early termination fees: As I mentioned in the “Contract Length and Early Termination Fee” section above, you can avoid the termination fee by insisting on a one-year contract and then giving 30 days’ notice. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck paying $295 or more. Some merchants did not have this little tidbit properly explain to them during sales consultations, which is disappointing but not surprising from independent agents. As we already covered, something else that comes up often is merchants who renegotiate with Mercury to get better rates…then find themselves locked into a brand-new contract.
- Hardware issues: While these complaints are in a much lower volume compared to others, they are common enough to merit mentioning here. Some people have trouble getting terminals to work after switching over, or other POS compatibility issues.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Some testimonials are sprinkled across the site, and you can also find a few case studies, such as this one here and this one. The quality is questionable in my eyes — one cites no hard numbers at all.
There’s also a YouTube channel with testimonials and case studies. Everything older than a year seems to have been deleted. You can find a few case studies on the press page, as well as other resources.
The problem with Mercury isn’t in its services. In fact, Mercury genuinely seems to have a solid grasp on what products merchants need. It’s keeping up with industry trends and giving store owners the tools they need to compete against big box retailers, with loyalty programs and gift cards suited to the digital space.
The problem is in the quality of service. The company is fairly large, owned by an even larger company, and uses independent resellers, which almost always translates to a lack of transparency and shady practices designed to close a sale. Something in the past year has gone horribly wrong on the customer service front, with wait times and a lack of response.
There’s no information about Mercury’s rates, which is another big issue. It’s pretty common because these companies usually want to negotiate with you directly, and there are a lot of factors that go into credit card processing rates. However, the complete lack of any information leaves merchants unprepared and not knowing what to expect. Not only that, but people complain about random fees tacked on to their monthly bills with no rhyme or reason.
If you can substantiate or refute any of these claims, please leave a comment. Remember to check out our review policy first, and please consider authenticating your review. It’s a huge help for me, and allows us to provide the most accurate ratings possible!
We’re dropping Mercury to 3.5 stars because of the issues you’ve encountered. It’s just not acceptable. While we won’t tell you to steer clear of Mercury entirely (yet), be aware that you might encounter issues with customer service, and be vigilant when it comes to your contract and rates. Check your statements regularly and get everything in writing. Go for a month-to-month plan or a 1-year contract so you don’t get locked in by high fees.
For the absolute best processing experience, check out our favorite processors via this handy comparison chart.