BankCard USA Review
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- Date Established
- Westlake Village, CA
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 claims to have provided services to over 100,000 merchants since their founding twenty-three years ago, but it’s unclear how many are currently using them.
In past reviews, we’ve criticized BankCard USA pretty heavily for misleading and sometimes downright deceptive advertising and marketing, both on their website and from their sales agents. Misleading rate quotes, possible false testimonials, and an inaccurate BBB rating all caused them to a receive a below-average overall rating. The good news is that their volume of complaints with the BBB has decreased dramatically in the past year, and much of the misleading information on their website has been removed. The bad news is that the deleted content hasn’t been replaced with anything of value, and the website remains a poor resource for prospective and current customers alike.
So, BankCard USA is basically moving up from being a slightly-below average processor to merely an average, middle-of-the-road one. This might bring up two possible questions in your mind. For one thing, why review them at all? Also, why would a merchant consider using their services when there are so many other processors out there that offer better rates, terms, and overall service? The answer to the first question is that it’s important for you to understand why they only rate in the middle of a very crowded pack. If you decide after reading this review that BankCard USA is not for you (which you probably will), then hopefully I’ve saved you from being subjected to a high-pressure sales pitch from a long-winded agent trying to get you to sign up with them. Feel free to thank me.
The answer to the second question is a little more complex. While every processing company wants your business, the reality is that not everyone will be approved for an account. If your business falls into the high-risk merchant category, you might not be able to open an account with some of the better processors in the industry. While BankCard USA doesn’t directly market itself as specializing in high-risk accounts, there are several indications that this category does indeed constitute a significant portion of their business. Two of the testimonials on their website come from a vape shop and a tattoo parlor, both of which might be considered high-risk by some processors. I also noted that many of the positive comments about the company came from merchants who claimed that BankCard USA approved them for an account when no one else would. So, if you’re in the high-risk category (read our article here about what that means) and you’re having trouble getting approved for a merchant account, BankCard USA might be a viable choice for you. Just be aware that you’ll probably have to settle for higher rates and fees than other processors typically charge, and you’ll also have less room to negotiate over the terms of your contract.
Overall, BankCard USA seems to be slowly improving its sales and marketing practices, and that’s good to see. Nonetheless, they still have a long way to go before I can wholeheartedly recommend them. Their high rates and fees, together with sub-par customer service and support, keep them from getting a higher rating. For now, they rate a very average 3.0 out of 5 stars. While that’s not terrible, the fact is that there are plenty of other providers out there who offer more competitive rates and terms. Unless, you’re a high-risk merchant and don’t have the luxury of signing up with a better company, I’d advise you to look elsewhere.
Check out our full review below for more details, or let us help you find a provider that best fits you.
Products and Services:
BankCard USA offers all of the industry-standard services and features, although they don’t provide very much detailed information about them on their website. Here’s a list of what they offer:
- Merchant accounts: BankCard USA is not itself a direct processor, and their accounts are issued through First Data.
- Wireless and countertop terminals: BankCard USA will now sell you a compatible terminal, although this isn’t readily apparent from the information on their main website. In fact, educational materials on their website warn against leasing your terminals for the same reasons that we do. Terminal leases are very expensive and usually come with long, non-cancellable contracts. They are almost never cost-effective. Check out our article to learn more about why you should never lease your credit card machine.
- POS: BankCard USA also supports and sells the popular Clover POS station.
- Mobile processing: BankCard USA apparently uses the Ingenico Roam mobile card reader and VeriFone’s PAYware Mobile app to offer mobile processing. However, I recommend you check out our mobile payments comparison chart instead for better options.
- Payment gateway: BankCard USA supports eCommerce by providing a “free” payment gateway through Authorize.Net. Of course, this feature isn’t really free. Expect to pay for it through other fees rather than being directing charged for it.
Fees and Rates:
We’ve criticized BankCard USA in the past for advertising deceptively low rates on their website – specifically a rate quote of “rates as low as 0.23%.” This is a common misleading gimmick in the processing industry: advertise the lowest possible rate that a transaction might process at, but fail to mention that almost all of a merchant’s transactions won’t actually qualify for this rate. In fact, most transactions will be processed at a much higher rate. I’m glad to see that BankCard USA has quietly dropped all mention of this teaser rate from their main website. Of course, there’s now no mention at all on the site about processing rates. You’ll have to talk to a sales rep and negotiate the best rates and terms that you can.
BankCard USA also used to advertise a “$1000 low rate guarantee,” promising to pay you $1000 if you could find a lower rate at one of their competitors. This is another gimmick, as the company had plenty of caveats that they didn’t disclose – all virtually guaranteed to ensure that they wouldn’t have to pay you the $1000 under any circumstances. They’ve dropped this from the website, but unfortunately it’s been replaced by an incredibly nebulous “low rate guarantee.” In other words, they still promise you the lowest rates, but they won’t back it up with, well… anything.
It’s worth noting at this point that the BankCard USA website can cause some confusion in its current configuration. While they’ve deleted references to the 0.23% teaser rate and the $1000 guarantee, they also include a site map that will in turn lead you to older web pages that still include those gimmicks. Needless to say, this kind of contradictory information creates even more confusion, and it’s something the company needs to address.
Although BankCard USA doesn’t advertise its rates on their website, they apparently offer both tiered and interchange-plus pricing. Interestingly, in the educational materials they offer in the Resources section of their website, they advise you to look for interchange-plus pricing and to avoid processors that only offer tiered pricing. We couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, a lot of their sales agents will probably try to steer you into the more expensive tiered pricing plans. If you want interchange-plus pricing, you’ll have to ask for it. Even then, you might be told that it’s not available to you. Remember that this company is marketing primarily to high-risk merchants who’ve been turned down for merchant accounts by other processing companies.
What about fees? Again, there’s no mention of these on their website, but you can rest assured that they’ll be in your contract. While most of the fees they charge are near or slightly above the industry average, they can still add up quickly. Expect to either pay a monthly fee or have a monthly minimum requirement, plus annual fees for PCI compliance (possibly as high as $200). There’s also an early termination fee (ranging from $95 to $295) if you break your contract.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
BankCard USA offers a standard contract that runs for three years, with an early termination fee that can range from $95 to as high as $295. The standard contract apparently doesn’t have an auto-renewal clause, but you’ll want to read your contract carefully to confirm this. Be aware that your sales agent does have some leeway to offer better terms, so you’ll want to negotiate for a month-to-month contract with no early termination fee, if possible. If you’re leasing any terminals or other equipment, be aware that these leases are independent of your merchant account contract, and they’re much harder to get out of.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
As I’ve noted already, BankCard USA has taken a small step in the right direction by removing the “teaser rate” information and “$1000 low rate guarantee” from their main website. Unfortunately, this leaves them with essentially no information about rates or fees on their site at all. Like a lot of older processing companies, they seem to regard a website as merely another form of advertising, and nothing more. To them, the goal is not to educate the consumer or help them make an informed decision. Rather, the goal is to lure the consumer into picking up the phone and calling one of their sales agents, where they’ll be subjected to an annoying, high-pressure sales pitch. As the processing industry moves increasingly toward greater transparency and more informative sales copy on their websites, companies like BankCard USA will be left behind if they don’t improve in this area.
And what about those sales agents? BankCard USA now employs an in-house sales team of 20 agents, some of whom have been with the company for many years. Unfortunately, they also rely on independent sales agents, many of whom are poorly trained and are notorious for failing to disclose relevant terms in the contracts they’re trying to sell to you. If you’re going to talk to a BankCard USA sales rep, my advice is to check their website and make sure you’re talking to one of their in-house sales reps. In most cases, they’ll be able to provide better service than the independent reps.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
BankCard USA touts the availability of a “100% US-based call center staff” on their website. Customer support is supposedly available 24/7 via phone and e-mail. Unfortunately, many of the complaints about the company that I’ve found across the internet cite poor customer service, particularly their telephone support. Long waits, un-returned calls, and downright rude customer service representatives seem to be common problems. This certainly seems like an area that needs improvement. If you’ve had any personal experience with BankCard USA’s customer service, please tell us about it in the Comment section below.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
BankCard USA is accredited by the BBB, and currently has an A+ rating. Like virtually all processors, they have their share of complaints – they currently show 29 formal complaints filed within the past three years, with seven of those complaints being filed within the past 12 months. This is down from 39 during our last update and way down from the 79 complaints before that. They’ve definitely improved and we can only hope they continue to do so.
Overall, their volume of complaints with the BBB is fairly average, and it’s worth noting that the company actually responded to a majority of those complaints, offering both an apology and a refund, where appropriate.
We’ve criticized BankCard USA in previous review updates for advertising a higher grade from the BBB than they actually had. I’m happy to report that they’ve since removed all references to their BBB rating from their website.
You’ll also find quite a few complaints about the company elsewhere on the web. Ripoff Report, ComplaintsBoard.com, and TrustLink all feature a litany of woes from unhappy merchants. Be aware in reviewing these complaints that dissatisfied customers often copy and paste their complaints onto multiple websites, including our own Comments section. While there’s nothing wrong with doing this, it does artificially inflate the overall number of complaints against a company.
Common complaints against BankCard USA include:
- Poorly-disclosed contract terms: This is a common complaint with all processing companies that use independent sales agents. Terms regarding processing rates and early termination fees are frequently not disclosed. You can protect yourself from this by (1) not relying on your sales agent’s verbal assurances for anything, and (2) carefully reading your entire contract and application before signing up. Pay special attention to the fee schedule which is included as part of the application.
- Withholding of funds/termination of accounts: This can happen for a number of reasons. Chargebacks and/or suspicious charges can easily raise a red flag that will either get you suspended or shut down. First Data (the main processor used by BCUSA) has been known to be a bit trigger-happy when it comes to holding funds or terminating accounts. You’re going to want to learn how to avoid holds and minimize chargebacks if you sign up with them (or anyone really).
- Expensive terminal leases: There are still a lot of complaints out there from merchants who have gotten stuck in lengthy terminal leases, which are very expensive to get out of. Most terminal leases run a minimum of four years (i.e., longer than your merchant account contract), so you can imagine what the cost will be if you decide you want to break the contract early. My recommendation is that you never lease a terminal unless absolutely necessary. Terminals are very cheap to purchase these days, and in fact BankCard USA now recommends that you buy your terminals on their website.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
In past review updates, we’ve taken BankCard USA to task over their use of stock photos and brief, one-sentence testimonials from supposedly happy customers – all warning flags that the “review” is probably fabricated. I’m happy to report that there has been some noted improvement in this area. BankCard USA’s website now features full paragraph-length testimonials from actual clients, complete with links to their websites.
The testimonials seem authentic, and they cite specific reasons why the merchants giving them are happy with BankCard USA’s service. Still, I’d prefer to see video testimonials with the merchants speaking in their own words. I’d also like to see a larger number of testimonials from merchants in a wider variety of industries. For a company that claims to have over 100,000 satisfied customers since 1993, you would expect to see more than just four positive testimonials.
Also, while BankCard USA still uses small business-themed stock photos on their website, they’re clearly no longer tied to the merchant testimonials and aren’t misleading.
While it is possible – with some negotiation – to get a decent contract and quality service from BankCard USA, it’s hard for me to recommend them when there are so many other processors out there that can offer you a better deal. As a reseller for First Data, they offer little or no value beyond what you’d get by signing up with First Data directly.
Nonetheless, the company has taken some baby steps towards improving its service, such as dropping some misleading sales gimmicks from its website, and also achieving a much lower complaint volume with the BBB. As such, I’m upgrading their overall rating to 3 out of 5 stars (from a previous 2.5-star rating).
This is still a very average rating, and there’s plenty of room for further improvement. I’d like to see the company be more transparent about their rates and fees on their website, and I’d particularly like to see them advertise the availability of interchange-plus pricing. Switching to month-to-month contracts with no early termination fee and ditching terminal leases altogether would also improve their rating.
Of course, if you’re a high-risk merchant who’s having trouble being approved for an account with other providers, you may have little choice but to look into BankCard USA or a similar provider. If you do, you can improve the odds of getting a fair deal by (1) ensuring that you talk to one of the company’s in-house sales agents, and (2) buying your own terminals rather than leasing them. Be sure to ask for interchange-plus pricing, and try to get the early termination fee waived.
One positive thing that stood out about BankCard USA was the willingness of their customer service representatives to resolve complaints filed with the BBB in the merchant’s favor when the company clearly had made a mistake. Naturally, I’d prefer to see these mistakes and misunderstandings not happen in the first place.