About Our Ratings
Merchant Account Review Criteria
As mentioned in the “About” section, we don’t rely much on rates and fees as a basis for our reviews. Publicly displayed rates and fees are a horrible initial metric to use when trying to compare merchant accounts.
- Fraudulent MSPs (Merchant Service Providers) can list whatever fees they want, in order to “bait” you in.
- Rates and fees are never set in stone, and can always be negotiated to fit your business profile.
- There are a labyrinth of hidden rates and fees when it comes to merchant accounts that can only be uncovered with careful scrutiny.
So, to sum up, you won’t see a listing of the MSP’s rates or fees in our reviews. You can easily find them on the MSP’s own website if you want. I recommend that you educate yourself and ask as many questions about their rates and fees as you feel would make you comfortable.
Now that we have that out of the way, we’ll move on to what really matters when trying to review a merchant service company.
We’ve laid out our process below, and you can probably just use it as a blueprint to do your own research. Each of our reviews will include most, if not all, of the criterion we’ve listed in this article along with Merchant Maverick’s personalized 5 star rating system.
(The above would be a 4.5 out of 5 rating.)
Outdated reviews are pretty worthless, and that’s why we do our best to keep ours updated. Reviews are updated on an “as needed” basis; as new information comes our way, we update accordingly. If you feel your company has been misrepresented, please let us know.
We like to provide a brief summary at the top of each review so you don’t have to read through the whole thing if you don’t want to.
How long has the company been around? If they’ve been in business for a while, chances are they have at least a few satisfied customers and some experience at what they do.
Are they local? Can you drive to their location if you need to?
What other domains does the ISO/MSP operate under? Many of these providers use multiple domains to do business with. It’s always good to know what those domains are, so you don’t unknowingly submit an application to a provider you’ve already ruled out.
Most of these smaller ISOs (Independent Sales Organizations) and MSPs (Merchant Service Providers) are either owned by or partner up with a larger parent company. When that parent/partner company has unethical business practices, those practices usually trickle down to the businesses under their umbrella. Finding the parent/partner company is a great way of qualifying a handful of candidates at once.
Are they an ISO/MSP, issuing bank, acquiring bank, third-party processor, registered agent or independent sales representative? Pretty darn confusing huh? Check out our glossary to understand those terms. Just keep in mind that most of our reviews will be of ISO/MSPs.
Acquiring Bank(s) (Acquirer):
The acquiring bank, or acquirer (learn more), is a very important player in the merchant account game. They’re the ones that underwrite the merchant accounts for the ISOs and MSPs we review here on Merchant Maverick. Some of them offer their own merchant account services and some of them don’t.
Why is the acquiring bank so important? Because they’re the guys that assess your risk level as a merchant, and they’re the ones assuming most of the financial responsibility for your merchant account. If they notice something “wrong” with one of your transactions, they have the right to withhold your funds, or even shut you down. When you read complaints about people getting their funds frozen or accounts shut down by an ISO or MSP, it’s usually the acquiring bank that’s doing it. Just remember, some banks are willing to take on more risk than others.
Who does the ISO/MSP use to process their transactions? Sometimes ISOs and MSPs process their own transactions, but more frequently they outsource the task to someone else. It’s important to know who’s processing your transactions, just so you’re aware of who else will be charging you a fee. Don’t get blindsided by a fee you weren’t expecting from an entity you didn’t even know existed.
Similar to the processor, the payment gateway may also be a service that your ISO/MSP outsources to another party. Authorize.Net is probably the most popular payment gateway provider, but there are dozens of other ones as well. It’s important for you e-Commerce merchants to know which payment gateway a merchant account provider is offering you, so you’ll know if it is compatible with your online shopping cart.
Is the company part of the BBB or some other accredited site? Monitoring organizations like the BBB give the public a platform by which to rate a company, and these ratings can be extremely valuable during a comparison.
Before you email us about how awful the BBB is, trust that we already know about their reputation. That’s why we consider multiple factors when coming up with a score, not just the BBB rating.
Have there been any negative reviews about the company? Check RipOffReport.com, Yelp.com, Scam.com, ComplaintsBoard.com, Complaints.com ePinions, Twitter, Google and any other social media sites. The internet allows for unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability…use it to your advantage!
A note of caution about believing every negative review that you read about a company: People have a tendency to complain more than they praise, so more often than not, you’ll find a higher number of complaints than you will find praise. Also, you never know if you’re reading a review from an actual customer, or just a smear campaign initiated by a company to ruin their competitor’s name. That’s why we firmly believe in looking at patterns, as opposed to judging an ISO/MSP just by a few negative reviews. If you noticed a bunch of negative reviews on RipOffReport, then you see a bunch of complaints filed against them on the BBB, etc… etc…
We’ve instated a pretty strict user review and comment policy to help authenticate any user experiences.
Reading through negative reviews and finding commonalities will help you avoid the same problems by knowing about them ahead of time.
Most ISOs and MSPs have pretty detailed testimonials on their site, but can those people be reached for verification? Will the ISO/MSP give out references if you ask for them? It’s obvious that if someone left a testimonial, that they were happy with the service provided. But, what’s more important is whether those merchants are still happy with their provider. A quick email or phone call to them will answer that question for you.
Do they offer security and privacy for your sensitive information? After all, you’ll probably be filling out an online app that asks for your social security and bank account info. Make sure they’re secure.
Is the sales rep knowledgeable, consultative, and responsive? Does customer service go out the window as soon as you sign up?
Do they require you to sign-up with them for a specific period of time? If so, how long? Knowing this ahead of time will be priceless in helping you determine a best fit. Just keep in mind that some sales reps won’t give you a straight answer, so be sure to either hound them about it, or ask for a copy of their contract terms before you sign-up. You can always email us if you want a second opinion.
Much like the contract terms, you may not hear the whole truth, but you still have every right to ask whether or not you’ll be hit with a cancellation fee if you break your contract. Cancellation fees usually range anywhere from $100 to $500.
Interchange-plus is a relatively new pricing model that is much more simple and transparent, compared to the popular tiered-pricing model. We highly recommend that you sign-up with an ISO/MSP that offers you interchange-plus.
Some businesses are seasonal and don’t need their full processing quota during certain times of the year. If that’s the case for you, ask the rep if they offer seasonal downtime for your account.
What products/services do they offer? Are they a jack-of-all trades and a master of none?
What is their specialty? You want to find a company that specializes in what you need.
Want to Participate?
As a reader, you’ll also have the opportunity to rate and review the featured merchant within the comment section of each post. You’ll notice the five star “User Rating” widget directly below the “Submit” button in the comment section. Just fill out the required fields, leave your review, choose your rating and hit submit. It’s that simple…
POS Software Review Criteria
Outdated reviews are pretty worthless, which is why we do our best to keep ours updated. Reviews are updated on an “as needed” basis; as new information comes our way, we update accordingly. If you feel your company has been misrepresented, please let us know.
Brief summary about the POS software vendor including date of establishment, location, history, profitability, percentage of satisfied customers, and any big name customers known to have used this software.
Important to see whether the company is stable and has a solid customer base.
Important for technical support and customer service hours.
What domains does the vendor operate under?
Although you get what you pay for, price is still an important factor merchants need to know.
Web-Based or Locally-Installed:
Is the software web-based/cloud-based or do you actually have to download and install it on your computer?
What industries would this software be ideal for? Retail? Restaurant? Manufacturing? Repair?
Specific Size of Business:
What size business would this software be ideal for? Small? Multi-store? High transaction volume?
Ease of Use:
Does the interface look dated? Clustered? Difficult to navigate? Is it easy to learn and train others?
Hardware and Software Requirements:
You need to know which hardware and what operating systems the POS software works with. You wouldn’t want to purchase the software to later find that it’s not compatible.
Does it process debit cards, credit cards, checks, cash, gift cards? How long does it take for cc authorization? What does it allow you to print on the receipt? How does it work for refunds?
Focuses on special features that make this software different from others. Also ties into industry specifications (certain industries will require certain features) and looks at features like accounts payable integration, inventory integration, cataloging capabilities, customer lists, sales tax tracking, and other various financial reports.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
What else does the POS software integrate with? Can you integrate it with your favorite shopping cart (e.g. Magento Commerce or Shopify)? Can you integrate it with your invoicing service (e.g. FreshBooks)? How about your accounting service (e.g. Quickbooks)?
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
Is the software only compatible with certain credit card processors, or can you process payments through any provider?
Customer Service and Technical Support:
How is their customer service/technical support? Are they easy to get hold of? Available 24/7? Willing, knowledgeable, helpful on the phone? How many technical support staff do they have? What’s the waiting time to get a hold of a staff member?
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Are there a lot of glitches/problems with the software? Is it lacking in any crucial features? Is the customer service/technical support terrible?
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Is there any specific praise from people who have used the software? References? Testimonials?
Closing thoughts on the product.