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Mercury Payment Systems Review
Merchant Maverick's Rating: (4 out of 5)
Last Updated: November 15th, 2013.
I like Mercury for its simplicity. Just look at their website. You’ll find no gimmicks, no freebies, no big promises. They advertise 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 $1000 FREE” type of ad copy. While Mercury has some progress to make before I can give them a flawless review, I’m happy to report that they do seem to provide good quality service in general.
Based out of Durango, Colorado, Mercury Payment Systems (MPS) has been in business since 2001, and is the 12th largest processor by transaction count, although I read they only serve 80,000 merchants. (Not that 80K is a really small amount.) They have over 500 employees and probably a couple thousand independent agents selling their products, with an office in Denver aside from their Durango headquarters.
Beyond their customer service and reliable processing, Mercury uses its "integrated processing solutions" as a main selling point. This means that their processing services works with a wide variety of POS systems and software, and serves as the foundation for many developers to create programs around. 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).
They also offer a unique service called Mercury Stand-In, where they will allow you to process transactions even during network outages. When this happens, they assume all risk associated with declines, guaranteeing no loss for you. That’s pretty cool!
I like Mercury overall, but they aren’t running with the best of the best. They do offer month-to-month service and interchange-plus plans, which I consider important factors. They do not, however, advertise either of these features, which leaves agents less accountable and reduces transparency overall. I’m not convinced that you can count on them for competitive rates. I like Mercury has a fairly small number of complaints with the BBB, and they have, in many cases (but not all), resolved the matter amicably. They’ve had a steady rate of under one complaint per month over the past three years, which is pretty good considering their size. Other complaint sites also show only a handful of bad reviews.
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 situation, although it might take BBB arbitration to get you there. At the end of the day, they're above average, which earns 4 out of 5 stars from me. 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. They have the essentials you’d expect, as well as a few other goodies in the mix. I like their gift card services, which includes free gift card processing and reporting. I also like their “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 their 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.
- Gift/loyalty cards: This includes free gift card processing, as well as 100 or so free cards to get you started. Pretty good deal!
- “Proactive troubleshooting”: I like this service. Basically, it’s 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
- Cash advances
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 best 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 actually better than the industry standard, though not perfect. Initial terms with Mercury usually range from one to three years, auto-renewed for one-year periods unless cancelled in writing 60 days before expiration. Early termination fees range from $295-495, although independent resellers may tack on an additional fee if they so choose.
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. 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. Until the account is properly closed, you will still be billed! Month-to-month or not…
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.
See what I mean? It’s not a bad deal altogether, and definitely better than many other providers out there. I’d encourage you to get the one-year agreement at the very least, which would allow you to cancel with 30 days notice. Also, be sure to review your unique contract, as it might differ from the ones I’ve seen. 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 they’d disclose a little bit of information on fees, rates and contract terms (if not specifics, at least general info), at least they’re not making outlandish claims.
They do have a “Best Rate Promise” that “guarantees a competitive, customized rate plan that fits your business needs.” They do not, however, substantiate this claim in any way.
On the bright side, Mercury does maintain active facebook and Twitter accounts, where unsatisfied merchant can (and do) engage with the company publicly. They win points with me here for their timely and professional public responses.
Overall, MPS could use some work in this category.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Mercury Payment Systems has a lot of pride in their customer support services, and they use it as a selling point. 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 their 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.
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 34 complaints in the past three years, which is not bad for their business size. They responded to every complaint, but were not able to resolve the matter to the customer’s satisfaction almost half of the time, despite a “good faith” effort. That’s not ideal, but the overall low number does inspire some confidence. They have very few complaints on Ripoff Reports, with absolutely no complaints in almost two years, which impressed me. Other complaint sites also show fairly low numbers of complaints.
Our own comments section has a number of complaints, a few of which are very well articulated and have been verified. Most, however, are three years old or more. This doesn’t mean that MPS is absolved of older complaints, but they do seem to have made some changes in that time. Nevertheless, common complaints include:
- Billing mistakes/rises in rates and fees: These are a few of my least favorite things. While these reports aren’t exactly pouring in, a few have come up. No matter whom 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.
- 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. In most cases, the company does seem to address these complaints. Still - it’s not something I like to see.
- Getting locked in through 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 their 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.
- 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.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
It seems like Mercury has removed all of their video testimonials. I’m not sure why they did this, but it doesn’t exactly make me feel confident in their services.
Pinnacle Hospitality Systems, a partner of MPS, posted a praising video on YouTube in 2011. This includes a rundown of Mercury services and even has a testimonial from a restaurant owner. It’s a pretty good positive review, so check it out.
Personally, I like their:
- Free gift card processing
- Mercury Stand-In processing during network outages
- Proactive troubleshooting to prevent billing issues
...to name a few features. For more info on these, check out the "Products and Services" section above.
I’m not in love with Mercury, but I do like them overall. I think that they’re moving in a good direction, with less complaints and issues in the past twelve months than in previous years. They’ve got a relatively clean record, although some substantial complaints did come in on our comments section a few years ago. I like their gift card program, that they’ll process even during network outages, and that they make a formal commitment to proactively prevent billing errors and account freezes.
While I appreciate that MPS allows you to work around their early termination fee by providing 30 days notice on a one-year agreement, it would be better if they got rid of it altogether (like many other providers have). I also wish they’d disclose some more information about rates, fees and how processing works on their site. Some good testimonials would be nice, too.
Overall, though, I have no reason to tell you to stay away from Mercury Payment Systems. They remain at four stars for now. If they address some of the issues I’ve mentioned here, they could easily improve this rating. I hope to revisit this with good news soon!
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