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Merchant Account Reviews

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  • Eliot Management Group Review

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    Overview: Eliot Management Group (EMG) is a mid-sized credit card processor and merchant account provider headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, and has been in business since 1999. EMG has numerous satellite offices throughout the country, primarily concentrated in the southeastern and Midwestern U.S. The company is also one of a bewildering number of subsidiaries of […]

  • Appstar Financial Review

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    Overview: Being a reviewer, my first interaction with a processor is almost always its website. So as I begin to form an opinion about the business, identify its tone and personality, their web copy and design provide my foundation. But you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Sometimes the flashiest sales copy and […]

  • Integrity Payment Systems Review

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    Overview: Integrity Payment Systems is a merchant account provider headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois. The company was established in 2003 and rates as a small to mid-sized provider. Founded by a former independent sales agent, Integrity offers a complete range of products and services for small and medium-sized businesses, particularly those in the retail sector. […]

  • Soar Payments Review

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    Pros Ideal for high-risk merchants Good for low-risk merchants No setup or application fees Transparent cost-plus pricing (low-risk only) Month-to-month agreement (low-risk only) Free credit card terminal (low-risk only) Cons Expensive for low-volume merchants Early termination fee $495 (high-risk only) Overview What do document preparation services, remote tech support, and self-storage businesses all have in […]

  • Heartland Payment Systems Review

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    Pros Ideal for restaurant industry Supports ecommerce Free mobile payments app Nonprofit discounts available Excellent customer support Cons Expensive for low-volume merchants $295 early termination fee No pricing disclosed online Overview In the payments space, it’s pretty common to encounter tradeoffs. Rarely do we at Merchant Maverick encounter a company that is the whole package: […]

  • Future Payment Technologies (Crescent Processing Company) Review

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    Future Payment Technologies appears to be out of business. This review is archived and will no longer be updated. Check out our other reviews to find the best credit card processing company for your business.  Overview: Since we last paid Crescent Processing Company (CPC) a visit, things are not looking good. They have an enormous number of complaints […]

  • Velocity Merchant Services Review

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    Overview If you read my review of Appstar Financial, you know that first impressions based on website layout and design are important to me. In that review, I remarked about the spareness of the design and lack of specific, useful content. Well for Velocity Merchant Services, we have the absolute other end of the spectrum […]

  • 2Checkout Review

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    Pros Predictable flat-rate pricing Month-to-month agreement No setup or application fees No monthly fee Ideal for international merchants Good developer tools Excellent website & advertising Cons Not suitable for card-present merchants Account stability issues Not good for high-risk merchants Overview Since the early 2000s, 2Checkout (2CO) has served as a third-party payment processor for ecommerce […]

  • PaymentCloud Review

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    Overview: PaymentCloud is a merchant account provider headquartered in Woodland Hills, California. The company has been in business since 2010 and specializes in providing accounts to high-risk merchants. They also claim to have a 98% approval rate for new merchants. While this might sound great if you’re in the high-risk category and have had trouble […]

  • Easy Pay Direct Review

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    Overview: Easy Pay Direct is a payment gateway and merchant account provider headquartered in Austin, Texas. The company also has a second office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Founded in 2000, Easy Pay Direct serves over 60,000 clients, making it a mid-sized provider. The company’s EPD Gateway is their primary product, with associated merchant accounts being […]

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.