Merchant Account Reviews

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  • PaySimple Review

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    Overview: My first thought as I began research into PaySimple? Wow, what a beautiful website! So much great information. Everything is so easy to use. As it turns out – sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. This is a great provider for those merchants who want to take advantage of advanced billing […]

  • Transnet Payment System Review

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      Overview:   Transnet Payment System (TPS) is a company based out of Houston, Texas that has been in business since 2003. They do have 2 unanswered complaints on the BBB that has really made their score tank. When I first reviewed Transnet they had an “A” rating, but since then, they’ve gone down to […]

  • Pivotal Payments Review

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    Overview: Whether you are here for the first time or checking in to see what’s changed for Pivotal Payments, the bottom line is still the same: avoid doing business with them. When you Google Pivotal Payments, the auto–suggestions feature words like “scam” and “lawsuit.” The first page of results is mostly populated with scathing reviews […]

  • Flagship Merchant Services Review

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    Overview: Flagship Merchant Services is a merchant account provider headquartered in Charlestown, Massachusetts. First established in 2001, the company was later acquired by iPayment in 2012. Today, Flagship operates mostly as a reseller for iPayment, and many of the products and services the company offers are actually provided by iPayment. This business arrangement has had […]

  • Acquirint Payment Processing Review

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      Overview:   There wasn’t anything about Acquirint Payment Processing that stuck out to me as either good or bad. They seem like a smaller ISO that doesn’t have all the Merchant Maverick signals of quality in place, but are still doing a decent job nonetheless. I couldn’t find any testimonials on their site, but […]

  • Alpha Card Services Review

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      Overview:   Alpha Card Services is almost a decade old, and was rated the Inc. 500’s 99th fastest growing private company in 2007. I’m not saying all this to toot their horn, but to give you an idea of where they stand financially. In 2003 their revenue was just over $200K, and in 2007 […]

  • Meritus Payment Solutions Review

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      Overview:   Meritus Payment Solutions is based out of Irvine, California. They’ve only been around since 2008, so they don’t have much of a historical footprint on the internet. As they grow, I’ll keep tabs and update this review accordingly. In the meantime, let’s look at what we do know. Because they’re so new, […]

  • Damar Merchant Services Review

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      Overview:   Damar Merchant Services (DMS) has been around since 2002. Not to be confused with Dharma Merchant Serivces. I wasn’t able to find any complaints on them, so that’s a good thing. It seems like they’re a smaller company which is never bad, but it’s always harder to find negative reviews when the […]

  • Vantiv Integrated Payments (Mercury Payment Systems) Review

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    Overview: We’ve had a complicated relationship with Mercury. We thought it was a promising company — it had everything that merchants needed. But the service was, by all accounts, terrible, and far too many merchants were locked into expensive contracts with hidden fees. We rated Mercury Payment Systems 3.5 stars because we believed that while the […]

  • ProPay Review

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    Highlights: Almost two decades in the merchant services industry Specializes in data security, end-to-end encryption and tokenization Long-time respected merchant account provider to the direct selling community Competitive flat rates for low volume businesses No setup fee No gateway or PCI compliance fees No monthly minimums Annual-fee-based Overview: When a merchant services provider names one of […]

What is a Merchant Account?

If you want to accept card payments from your customers – and virtually every business needs to these days to remain competitive – you need access to a merchant account. “Merchant” is another word for a seller or business owner. You can think of a merchant account as a bank account that extends you, the merchant, a line of credit. This allows a merchant to receive funding for the credit transaction based on the trust that they will perform the services or deliver the goods properly, and thus the customer will not refuse to pay for the transaction based on the inadequacy of the merchant.

The point of a merchant account is to facilitate the complex interactions that need to occur between you, your customer, the credit card networks, and your payment processor every time you receive a card payment. It helps to ensure that you receive funding as quickly as possible, that the banks are protected from losses, and that buyers are protected from ripoffs and scams. With a merchant account, everyone is held accountable based on the rules of the credit card processing agreement.

You will, of course, have to pay a number of fees in order to take advantage of the credit card processing networks and banks. But it’s much easier and more secure to open a merchant account than it is to keep a book of credit accounts for all of your customers!

How to Avoid Merchant Account Scams and Ripoffs

Be skeptical of sales gimmicks – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A lot of processors make claims about having the lowest rates in the industry, but how can they all have the lowest? Answer: they can’t. They will match the rate quote provided by another processor, but the contract could still include hidden fees to make up for it. When a processor claims that it will pay you $1000 if it can’t beat a competitor’s quote, rest assured it has no intention of paying up. There’s always a loophole.

Request interchange-plus pricing – The only way to make real, meaningful comparisons between rate quotes is to get an interchange-plus rate. This type of quote will tell you the markup that you are paying on top of the wholesale (or “interchange”) cost of the transactions. Since the wholesale cost will vary from transaction to transaction, this is the only way to get a clear picture of the profit margin for the processing company. Fixed rate tiered quotes that do not separate wholesale from markup reduce transparency and make it impossible to compare the rates effectively from one company to the next.

Avoid early termination fees – The most common merchant account fee that we see complaints about is the early termination fee (ETF). These fees can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and are often not disclosed or poorly disclosed during the sales and contract signing process. Don’t take your salesperson’s word for it, either. Verbal promises during the sale process are not legally binding. If it’s not in writing, it’s worthless. You need to review your contract carefully and make sure an early termination fee waiver is included if the contract mentions an early termination fee.

Don’t give in to pressure – Some merchant account sales agents will try to put pressure on you to make a quick decision, saying that an offer is only good for a certain amount of time. Never let these high-pressure sales tactics sway you. You, the business owner, have all the power. Don’t make any hasty decisions. Sales agents may also try to make you feel like you owe them something just because they have spent time on you. You don’t owe the sales agent anything! Don’t let them guilt you into making a decision that could negatively impact your business for years to come just so they can close a sale.

What Is a Payment Gateway?

A payment gateway provides the connection between an online payment and the bank that processes any given credit card transaction. Whether used for eCommerce or a mobile payment application, the payment gateway works behind the scenes to securely transfer sensitive credit card information. It’s important to recognize that a gateway is not the same thing as merchant account, and each comes with its own separate fees.

Most eCommerce businesses will need a payment gateway, but some in-person businesses might need one too. Point of sale (POS) software will sometimes require a payment gateway to operate. If you just need a virtual terminal to key-in card information at your computer, however, you might not need a dedicated gateway at all. Many payment processors include a virtual terminal for free as part of their basic service packages.

To use a payment gateway, you will have to “integrate” it with your website or software. This can be as easy as typing in a numerical key. It can also be difficult enough that you will have to hire a web developer to help out. It all depends on your gateway, your software, and your needs. Your gateway provider’s website should include detailed instructions regarding integration.

When picking a payment gateway, it’s important to make sure that it’s compatible with your POS, your shopping cart, or your payment processor. Not all gateways work with all systems. Be sure to talk to customer service before you commit to any solution to avoid fees and penalties for cancelling.