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- Date Established
- Troy, MI
Mobile processing is getting awfully competitive these days. If a company doesn’t offer a truly unique product or service, chances are it’s just not going to cut it. Your customer service needs to be spot on, too, and more and more, merchants are looking for integrated solutions — ones that can harness the best of all the options and provide a seamless experience.
Not only that, but 2015 has been a year of big changes in the payments scene. PayPal spun off from eBay, freeing it up to explore. Square went public. Android Pay and Samsung Pay contactless payments finally hit the market. The EMV liability shift has introduced a need for new, EMV-compliant hardware.
PayAnywhere (PA) is trying to keep up; really, it is. And while it’s not doing a terrible job in that department, there are some other issues we’re not happy about. Gimmicky sales offers, undisclosed fees, a lack of transparency, and poor customer service are easy ways to a poor rating, and PayAnywhere seems to flirting with all of these.
PayAnywhere was established in 2010 by credit card processing company North American Bancard. NAB is based out of Troy, Michigan, and has been around since the early 90s. In the beginning, PA just felt like a knockoff of Square, but without the refined and sleek appeal. And, beyond that, PayAnywhere has historically suffered from the same shortcomings as Square — namely lackluster customer support and poor account stability, with long-term holds common.
With PayAnywhere, it appears at first — based on the Terms and Conditions — that you have to sign the same contract you would if signing up for service directly through North American Bancard. Your fees and rates would be somewhat different, of course, but aside from that you would be making the same level of commitment as a merchant account from NAB. This is different from the way processors like Square handle their contracts, as they generally have a more limited scope. But here’s where I get confused: The benefit of signing on via a traditional merchant agreement should come in the form of better account stability and a lower likelihood of funding holds.
If you look a little deeper, however, you see there is a separate User Agreement embedded within the Terms and Conditions that specifically spells out PayAnywhere’s role as a Payment Service Provider, which tells you that the company is serving as an aggregator and not a traditional account provider, at least for most accounts. This feels overly complicated, and the fact that you don’t access this agreement until you begin the signup process is a mark against PayAnywhere’s transparency (something we’ll come back to). Plus, it bears mentioning that these are the terms that only apply to PA’s Mobile plan, not its Storefront option.
Beyond the normal shortcomings of a mobile processing account, I have a few additional worries for PayAnywhere. First, I’m worried by the independent salesforce. Global Merchant Services, the umbrella under which PA and NAB operate their sales teams, makes big promises of cash bonuses to agents who sell “free tablet” accounts. This concerns me because (a) that money must be coming from somewhere, and (b) it might encourage agents to be less than completely honest about overall cost and contract terms. Along those lines, I’m also not particularly impressed by PayAnywhere’s communication skills as far as dealing with merchants is concerned (read the full review for more info).
Some merchants may find an awesome deal with this service — but many others will not. My advice to you is to be careful and make sure that this service will work for your processing needs, especially if you are interested in the so-called “free” tablet.
We’re leaving PayAnywhere at 3.5 stars, exactly where it was last time we reviewed the service. While you’re probably fine if you’re processing more than $5,000 a month, at that point you might find it more worthwhile to just pursue a merchant account. If you’re processing less than that, we recommend Flint, our only 5-star rated mobile processor.
Good luck, and check out the in-depth review below for a complete analysis! To compare PayAnywhere to its competitors, check out this handy comparison chart.
Products and Services:
- Tablet and stand rental: This is PayAnywhere’s flashy gimmick to draw in new accounts. Since many of Square’s features are iPad-only, and iPads are pretty expensive, a lot of merchants are left looking for another option. PayAnywhere gives you a free tablet, but it’s not an iPad. Actually, it’s a custom Android-based tablet made just for using the PayAnywhere system. You won’t be able to play Angry Birds on it, but it will do an excellent job running the payments app. Also, Square charges about $100 for its Square Stand. With PayAnywhere, the stand is built-in and comes free. I should mention that this is only “free” as long as you process over $5,000 per month. If during any month you process less than that, you will be charged an additional $79 that month. Be aware, though, that you will be responsible for paying the full price if you damage the equipment – about $900. And frankly, a Square setup with an iPad Air, cash drawer, receipt printer, and 25 rolls of receipt paper will run you slightly short of $1,100. That’s less than a $200 difference (even less of a difference if you deduct $50 for the receipt paper), so where is PayAnywhere getting the money to hand out free tablets like candy if they’re also handing out big bonuses to sales reps?
- Equipment rentals: if you are using the tablet/stand combo, a cash drawer and receipt printer can be rented separately for less than $20 a month. But if you plan to use a setup like this for more than two years, you’re honestly probably better off buying them outright because it will cost you less in the long run.
- PayPal acceptance: Along with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover, you can also take PayPal payments with PayAnywhere from within the app.
- Unlimited sub-users: A great feature for businesses with large sales teams. Many mobile providers allow multiple users accounts, but most limit the number or charge you extra.
- Next-day funding: In theory, you should have access to your funds within 24 hours, but I’ve seen reports of deposit delays.
- In-app and online reporting: This allows you to track your sales and learn more about the spending habits of your customers.
PayAnywhere App Features:
- Accept credit and cash transactions
- Custom discounts, tips
- Include tax by location
- Inventory management with descriptions, images, categories (no count feature)
- Email receipts
- Unlimited sub-users
- In-app reporting plus online reporting
- Free headphone jack reader or free tablet/stand/reader rental
- QuickBooks integration
- Force Transaction: If the payment processor network is down, you can force the transaction by calling the processor for approval. But you’ll need a voice authorization code to do so.
- Pre-Auth: This isn’t something I see often. PayPal offers it, as does Spark Pay. With a pre-auth (or pre-authorization), you can hold funds on a customer’s card, but not charge them until later. This is good for appointment booking as well as an inn or bed-and-breakfast. PayAnywhere’s pre-auth lasts for 7 days.
PayAnywhere, like most mobile processors right now, offers a standard free magstripe reader, and an EMV-compliant reader for an additional charge. You can even get additional free magstripe readers depending on your processing volume.
The EMV-compliant reader is also equipped with NFC, meaning it’s capable of accepting Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. It’s also only $39.95, making it the cheapest EMV/NFC mobile reader I’ve seen. Square’s is $29 for just EMV, and PayPal’s is a whopping $150 for EMV and NFC (with a $100 rebate IF you qualify).
The problem is in its marketing. No where on the main website does PayAnywhere mention EMV. When you search the knowledgebase for “EMV,” nothing comes up. The Apple Pay page on PayAnywhere’s site has one little image that mentions EMV, and since it’s an image, you can’t use the search feature or even just Ctrl + F (or Command + F, for Mac users) to check.
Something else I’m not fond of is how small PayAnywhere’s list of supported devices is. It’s clear PA favors Apple. On the Android side of things, your options are pretty much a Samsung Galaxy or another flagship model, and only a couple of Android tablets are compatible beyond PayAnywhere’s custom build.
As far as compatible equipment goes, PA only officially supports Star Bluetooth receipt printers. However, many AirPrint-enabled receipt printers will work with iOS devices, and Android users may have success with Cloud Print receipt printers. Just don’t expect any tech support from PA. The knowledgebase doesn’t make this information clear, either. I had to contact customer support to clarify.
PayAnywhere says on the website a “select” number of cash drawers work with the setup, but in typical fashion, doesn’t tell you which ones! The customer support rep told me that it’s any cash drawer that supports a data cable connection, though.
Fees and Rates:
PayAnywhere offers merchants a choice of two service plans: the Storefront plan, which gives you a register-like setup and lower rates as a tradeoff for paying a monthly fee, and the Mobile plan, which gives you just the reader.
Storefront Plan: $5,000+ per month (monthly fee, includes tablet and stand rental)
- Monthly fee: $12.95
- Swiped: 1.69%
- Business/Rewards: 2.69%
- Keyed: 3.69% + $0.19
PayAnywhere doesn’t disclose its PCI compliance fee here, but within your contract you will see it assessed at $79 annually. This will be charged within 90 days of your account approval.
Then, if you don’t read the fine print, you might miss this fee:
- Minimum Volume Fee: $79/month
This is a pretty substantial penalty. If you don’t process at least $5,000 in card transactions every month, you will be charged this fee on top of your normal fees. It looks like PayAnywhere has gotten better about disclosing it, at least.
Mobile Plan (pay-as-you-go, includes card reader)
- Swiped: 2.69%
- Keyed: 3.49% + $0.19
- No monthly fee
- No PCI Compliance fee
This is actually not an awful plan for low-volume merchants. Pricing is on par with Square (2.75%) or PayPal Here (2.7%) and the costs for keyed transactions is actually marginally lower than either. For comparison, Flint charges 2.95% for credit transactions, and 1.95% for debit. (The app uses a camera to scan cards and everything is processed as card-not-present, so there’s no higher fee for “keyed” transactions.)
In addition, PayAnywhere does offer customized rates for high-volume businesses. You’ll have to negotiate to get those rates, but bear in mind PA’s other shortcomings, such as the lack of choice in POS and lack of countable inventory support.
- Chargeback fee: $25 every time someone charges back a transaction.
- NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds) fee: $25 whenever PayAnywhere tries to debit your account but you don’t have the funds.
- Retrieval fee: $15 every time your customer or your customer’s issuing bank requests a copy of a sales receipt for any given transaction.
- Inactivity fee: This is very recent (as in it just appeared at the start of December 2015). If you don’t actually process payments with your PayAnywhere Mobile account for more than 12 months, you’ll be charged $3.99 monthly from that point on. This has a lot of people upset because, well, many of them randomly had money taken from their accounts by PayAnywhere when they haven’t used the service in years, and some of them only used it once or twice. PayAnywhere claims it sent notice out, but a lot of customers (or former customers) seem to have been unaware of the new development. You can find the complaints on PA’s Facebook page, as well as a few other review sites, and PissedConsumer.com. Frankly, it feels like a money grab, to me, or an attempt to get rid of inactive merchants without being the one to close their accounts.
If you choose to rent equipment, you can expect to pay the following:
- Printer rental monthly fee: $14.95
- Printer and cash drawer rental monthly fee: $19.95
Sales and Advertising Transparency
The free tablet offer is a little bit of a gimmick, especially since we know PayAnywhere is handing out big bonuses to the sales reps who close the deal on those accounts. Frankly, I don’t feel like it’s the best way to manage an independent salesforce, because you’ll get reps who don’t fairly disclose everything to make a commission. That least to unhappy customers, who turn against the company, and soon you’ve ended up with a nasty reputation.
The thing is, that isn’t even PA’s only sales gimmick. When you buy the Apple Pay reader from an Apple Store (and ONLY from an Apple Store), PayAnywhere promises it will let you process your first $5,000 completely free! Here’s the exact wording:
Purchase your reader at the Apple Store® and get your first $5000 in transactions free!*
And then the fine print:
“Requires download of free PA app, approved merchant account, acceptance of terms and conditions, compatible device, and wireless service. Visit PayAnywhere.com/faq for a list of compatible devices and promotional details. Funds usually deposited into your account within one business day. First $5,000 in Apple Pay transactions processed at no charge for six (6) months after account approval. Processing fees reimbursed via ACH credit. Offer applies only to merchants processing transactions using other payment methods in addition to Apple Pay, including but not limited to swiped and keyed transactions, at a commercially reasonable level. *Standard rates apply after offer has expired or been fulfilled. New accounts only and not to be combined with any other offers.”
So basically, you can’t get the offer if you’re an existing merchant, or if you only want the reader to accept Apple Pay (seriously, $40 is a good deal for that). The 6-month term is a bit better than other similar offers I’ve seen, but notice that the processing fees are turned to you via ACH credit — they’re not waived. You pay and then get reimbursed.
I am incredibly unhappy about how hard it was to find any information about EMV on PayAnywhere’s site (there’s a couple of general articles on the company blog, but they’re nowhere near what Square or PayPal offers). This is something does affect many merchants. It’s not OK to hide your EMV-compliant reader behind a flashy gimmick that is only available to new merchants and to not offer any sort of information in your self-service knowledgebase.
I’m also displeased about the general opaqueness. The reader is billed as an Apple Pay reader, probably because PayAnywhere has a partnership with Apple (hence the free processing deal). No where does the site mention Android Pay or Samsung Pay by name — there’s just a brief reference to “other contactless payments.” I would not be surprised if Apple is footing some of the bill for the readers, which would explain why they’re so inexpensive.
Customer Service and Support:
PayAnywhere has eliminated its 24/7 phone support, now operating the line Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. However, judging from the negative reviews, the quality of that support is debatable. If you hate the phone but need to get hold of someone right then, there is a live chat feature.
In addition to phone and chat support, PayAnywhere also offers:
- Email Support: If you’re not having any luck via phone or live chat, try emailing the company.
- Knowledgebase: There’s a help center on the PayAnywhere website which you can also access through the mobile app. It’s nowhere near as in-depth as the knowledgebase offered by Square, but it is useable. I found a couple contradiction and there’s no information about EMV, but it did walk me through the basics.
- YouTube Videos – The PA YouTube page has a bunch of YouTube tutorials that can come in handy if you need a visual walkthrough.
- Social Media – PayAnywhere is active both on Twitter and Facebook, so you can reach out via those channels if you like. It would be nice if the company had an account dedicated solely to customer support-related tweets, but Customer Support at least appears responsive and the reps identify themselves by name..
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
PayAnywhere has a separate BBB profile from North American Bancard, its parent company. PA has an A+ rating with 184 complaints (up from 159) in the past three years. Of them, 39 occurred in the last year (down from 57). This is fair number of complaints, but it’s not a significant uptick in volume, which tends to be a warning sign. Unfortunately, no details are available for any of these complaints. That’s problematic because only a small portion of these complaints have actually been resolved — 22, in fact. The rest, either PA was unable to resolve the issue, or the customer never gave an indication they were happy with the agreement.
I read quite a few complaints about PayAnywhere over the course of this review. I pulled data from several sources, including iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon reviews, and other places where user reviews have been collected. Based on that research I was able to dig up a couple of major complaints about PayAnywhere:
- Withheld funds, freezing of accounts, and termination of accounts: PA seems to be pretty trigger-happy when it comes to suspicion of fraud, which is very common for this type of processor. There were a bunch of complaints from unhappy business owners claiming that their funds took too long to reach their bank account, and an equal number of complaints about frozen or terminated accounts. This is definitely something to be wary of, especially if you think that your business falls into the high-risk category. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your e-cigarettes business won’t have any problems with using PayAnywhere. You can also learn how to avoid holds, freezes, and terminations here.
This is what PayAnywhere has to say in the Agreement:
Suspension/Reserve/Recovery/Pooling of Funds: PA may temporarily suspend or delay payments to you or withhold or reserve your funds in order to secure your performance of your obligations to PA. This action may arise for any reason, including the occurrence or suspected occurrence of Transaction chargebacks or refunds, for which you are responsible. A chargeback will occur if the Transaction (a) is disputed, (b) is reversed for any reason, (c) was not authorized or PA has any reason to believe that the Transaction was not authorized, or (d) is allegedly unlawful, suspicious, or in violation of this Agreement. The amounts suspended, delayed or reserved shall be initially determined, and may be increased or decreased, in PA’s reasonable discretion as necessary to cover potential financial exposure on the part of PA. You grant PA a security interest in and lien on any and all funds held in any such reserve, and also authorize PA to make any withdrawals or debits from such reserve, without prior notice to you, to collect amounts that you owe PA. This security interest survives for as long as PA holds your funds in reserve.
- Poor customer service: Another common complaint was in regards to PayAnywhere’s customer service, more specifically, their phone support. There were just too many complaints for me to ignore this one.
Less-frequent complaints include:
- Hidden fees: If you read the “Fees and Rates” section above you’ll know why there were a few complaints about this.
- Unclear, subjective limits on processing: PayAnywhere at least acknowledges that it puts limits on what you can process per transaction, and per month And sometimes its staff tell you what those limits are. Sometimes it appears that the rep who sets up the account will promise merchants whatever limits they need, and PayAnywhere disagrees and sets them much lower. That can be a problem that ultimately leads to long holds or worse, account terminations. I strongly recommend you get everything in writing. The good news is you can appeal the decision and request an increased limit… but it’s not guaranteed.
- Charges on transactions never completed: This also doesn’t come up as frequently as mentions of poor customer service, but enough to merit mentioning: Sometimes when funds get stuck in a hold, and PA won’t release them, it’ll still charge merchants for those fees. Sometimes they’ll still charge you to refund customers after a hold is placed, even though you’ve never seen any of that money. I really, really don’t like this, and for obvious reasons, neither do merchants.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Here are the most common positive reviews that I read about PayAnywhere:
- Easy to use: There were plenty of comments about this one. The app has a 3.8-star rating in Google Play (more than 3,000 reviews) and a 4.5 star rating for the current version in iTunes (120 reviews; 4 stars with over 3,000 reviews for all versions)
- Nice features: A lot of people like the inventory itemization feature.
That’s about it. There wasn’t anything else that really blew people away about PayAnywhere. As far as offerings go, it’s a decent mobile payment option with good features…end of story.
For a certain subset of merchants, I can see certain aspects of the PayAnywhere system being very successful. The free tablet deal is certainly unique among similar competitors, pricing is competitive, and PA is trying to keep up with industry trends — but I’m afraid only a small number of merchants will find this offer satisfactory. It only really makes sense if you:
- Will be processing over $5,000 per month every single month.
- Don’t need inventory count ability.
- Are not interested in POS customizability or add-ons.
- Want a tablet-based POS but don’t want to purchase a tablet.
If you end up paying the $79 fee, which is ostensibly a rental fee on the tablet/stand for low-volume merchants, then it quickly becomes a very bad deal indeed. So if you foresee the possibility that you might occasionally fall short of the $5K monthly volume, please don’t sign up for the “free” tablet option.
All in all, it’s not bad for a free software and free-rental hardware. The customer service is a bit dubious, made worse by how many merchants encounter holds. What bothers me even more is the use of independent reps (which is almost always a problem) and the lack of transparency and communication.
If you are processing $5k or more per month, you might find the lower rate and monthly fee are worth the free tablet offer, but you could potentially get a better deal and better customer support if you pursued a merchant account. If you are processing less than $5k, this is a decent starter option but you can expect the same trouble as you’ll encounter with other pay-as-you-go providers. We’re going to leave PayAnywhere’s rating at 3.5 stars and hope for improvement.
To compare PayAnywhere to some of our favorite mobile providers, check out this comparison chart. Good luck in your search!