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Merchant Account Reviews

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  • CPN (Capital Processing Network) Review

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    Overview: CPN is a merchant account provider headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Established in 2006, the company was originally named Capital Processing Network but has recently changed its name following its acquisition by Pivotal Payments in 2014. The switch to a much more generic business name appears to have been deliberately undertaken to avoid some negative […]

  • Leaders Merchant Services Review

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    Overview Once upon a time, a processor’s corporate website didn’t mean much. Almost all sales were made in person, and few merchants would venture online to check out the services before signing. But today – things are different. People are wary of buying so much as a hot pretzel without checking out a vendor’s web […]

  • Elavon Review

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    Pros Full range of products and services Interchange-plus pricing available upon request No early termination fee Cons Three-year contract with automatic renewal clause Expensive terminal leases through Ladco Global Leasing Solutions Most account fees not disclosed Overview Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Elavon is one of the largest merchant account providers in the United States. Launched […]

  • BankCard USA Review

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    Overview: Established in 1993, BankCard USA Merchant Services is a mid-sized processor headquartered in Agoura Hills, California. Not a direct processor themselves, they are an authorized re-seller for First Data. In addition to traditional in-store credit card processing, they also offer wireless terminals, a POS system, and options for eCommerce and mobile processing. The company […]

  • ProPay Review

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    Pros Predictable flat-rate pricing No monthly minimums Good for direct selling industry Good for ecommerce Few public complaints Cons Setup fee Annual fee Not good for high-volume retail & restaurant Overview When a merchant services provider names one of its product offerings Guardian Cybershield, it’s fairly obvious how they want you to feel about working […]

  • Amazon Payments Review

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    Pros No early termination fee Added convenience Brand recognition Easy to use Cons Expensive for high-volume merchants Account stability issues Overview Launched in 2007, Amazon Payments is a subsidiary of mammoth online retailer Amazon.com. For eCommerce merchants, the service allows customers to complete purchases, make donations, and set up recurring payments on a merchant’s website […]

  • FlashBanc Review

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    Pros Few public complaints Month-to-month agreement possible Good for high-risk merchants Cons No pricing disclosed online Expensive for low-volume merchants Early termination fee possible Overview Did you know there’s a pile of cash on every street corner in America? I certainly didn’t–that is until I was enlightened by FlashBanc, a merchant acquirer based in Boca […]

  • Pivotal Payments Review

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    Pros All-in-one payments Free payment gateway Multi-currency support Next-day funding available Gift cards Cons $395 early termination fee Deceptive sales tactics Expensive hardware leases Limited support materials Monthly fee to access advanced reporting Overview Pivotal Payments hasn’t had a particularly good reputation over the years. We’ve been one of the many review sites calling them […]

  • Argus Merchant Services Review

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    Pros Chinese & Spanish language support Caters to a wide variety of industries Cons Poor customer support Deceptive sales tactics Deceptive advertising Early termination fee Expensive for low-volume merchants Overview How do you review a merchant account provider with two contradicting websites, and when no one from the company will talk with you to explain anything? […]

  • TransFirst Merchant Services Review

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    Thinking of signing up with TransFirst? Your sales agent or organization will make all the difference. For the best experience, we recommend signing up with CDGcommerce for all TransFirst accounts. Overview: If you’re looking for a big, stable company to process payments with, you’ve found a good option with TransFirst. In business since 1995, they’re […]

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.