BankCard USA Review
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- Date Established
- Westlake Village, CA
- Accepts some high-risk merchants
- Full line of Clover terminals and POS systems
- Very basic product lineup
- No pricing disclosures on website
- Three-year standard contract with early termination fee
- Inadequate customer service
BankCard USA Merchant Services is a mid-sized processor headquartered in Westlake Village, California. Established in 1993, the company is not a direct processor itself, using Fiserv (formerly First Data) and a number of other backend processors to process transactions and provide merchant services. The company provides basic services for both retail and eCommerce businesses, and can also accommodate some high-risk industries.
The company claims to have provided services to over 100,000 merchants since its founding 27 years ago, though it’s unclear how many are currently using its services or what its turnover rate is. What’s more, this “100,000 merchants” claim has remained unchanged for the past several years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as some of our favorite providers are also small companies that re-sell the processing services of larger organizations.
In past reviews, we’ve criticized BankCard USA pretty heavily for misleading and sometimes downright deceptive advertising and marketing, both on its website and from its sales agents. Misleading rate quotes, possible false testimonials, and an inaccurate BBB rating all caused the company to receive a below-average overall score. The good news? Many of the misleading claims on the company’s website have been removed. The bad news? BankCard USA continues to present itself on its website as being a “bank,” and promising to save you money by “eliminating the middleman.” In truth, the company is a middleman. It even discloses that it’s a registered independent sales organization (ISO) of Wells Fargo Bank and Westamerica Bank on its website. Of course, this legally required disclosure is in fine print at the very bottom of the company’s home page, where most merchants either won’t see it or won’t understand its significance. Only the very largest organizations have the resources to function as direct processors, and BankCard USA is nowhere near being in their league.
That said, small ISOs actually can save you money – sometimes. ISOs have a lot of leeway to set their own contract terms, account fees, and processing rates. Some of our favorite providers offer a tremendous savings over what you, as a small business owner, would receive from a large, direct processor. They can also offer higher quality, more individualized customer service than what you’ll get with a huge corporation. However, there’s no evidence that BankCard USA actually delivers on either of these two possible benefits. The company’s rates and fees appear to conform pretty closely to industry averages, and they’ve received too many complaints about customer service to score high in this area, either.
For most small business owners, BankCard USA will not be a good choice.
The company’s standard contract provisions, coupled with pricey account fees and expensive tiered processing rate plans, make it a relatively poor choice for any business with a low or highly variable monthly processing volume. Larger businesses that have the leverage to negotiate a more flexible contract and interchange-plus processing rates might be able to secure a more favorable overall deal. However, the company might not be able to offer you some of the specialized services that other providers do. It’s probably also worth at least obtaining a quote if you’re a high-risk business. However, we’d highly encourage you to obtain multiple quotes from other providers as well before making a final choice.
For now, BankCard USA earns a mediocre score of 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, even in the high-risk category where it might feel like there are far fewer options. If this applies to you, our article on the best high-risk merchant account providers can help. Low-risk merchants can compare our best all-around providers using our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.
Read on for more details!
Table of Contents
Products & Services
BankCard USA offers all of the industry-standard services and features you’ll need to run a business and accept credit and debit cards. However, they don’t provide very much detailed information about these offerings. Also, their product line-up appears to be very basic in comparison to what other providers have to offer. Here’s a list of what you can get:
- Merchant Accounts: BankCard USA is not itself a direct processor, and most merchant accounts are issued through Fiserv (formerly First Data). Keep in mind that if you’re a high-risk merchant, BankCard USA, like all other high-risk providers, works with several banks to get you approved.
- Countertop Credit Card Terminals: The company offers a limited, but perfectly adequate, selection in this area. The ever-popular Verifone VX520 and the wireless Verifone VX680 are the only traditional terminals advertised. Still, either one is an excellent choice for most small business retailers, as they support both EMV and NFC-based payment methods. You can also pair the VX520 terminal with the Verifone VX805 PIN Pad to help guard against fraud and take advantage of lower PIN debit processing rates. BankCard USA doesn’t advertise pricing on their terminals, but you should now have the option to purchase your equipment outright. Terminal leases, even if they’re still being offered, should be avoided under all circumstances. You can also bring your existing compatible terminal and have it reprogrammed to work with BankCard USA’s processing system.
- Point-Of-Sale (POS) Systems: As a Fiserv (formerly First Data) reseller, BankCard USA also sells the popular line of Clover POS systems and smart terminals. Products available include the Clover Station (see our review), Clover Flex (see our review), and Clover Mini (see our review). The company also offers a full line of Clover accessories, such as cash drawers, barcode scanners, and much more. If you’re primarily interested in using Clover products in your business, check out our recommendations for the best Clover resellers. While it pays to shop around, you’ll also want to avoid buying a lower-priced Clover product from a third party that will be incompatible with your merchant account.
- Mobile Processing: BankCard USA offers the Clover Go (see our review) card reader as a mobile payment option. This reader supports EMV and NFC-based payment methods and uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone or tablet, rather than relying on a headphone jack.
- Payment Gateway: The company doesn’t offer the robust support for eCommerce that many other merchant account providers do today, but they do cover the basics fairly well. While they don’t have a proprietary gateway of their own, they do offer several of the more popular third-party gateways on the market, including Authorize.Net (see our review) and Fiserv’s proprietary Payeezy gateway. Gateways from USAePay and eProcessing Network are also supported.
- Virtual Terminal: Old-school mail order and telephone order businesses that don’t have a website can use a virtual terminal program on their laptop or desktop computer to manually key in their customers’ card information when accepting orders. BankCard USA uses the Authorize.Net virtual terminal for this purpose but may support other programs as well. You can also add the ability to process in-person transactions by adding a compatible Bluetooth or USB-connected card reader.
- eCheck/ACH Processing: The company also supports eCheck processing, including the ability to convert a paper check into an eCheck with a desktop check scanner. Pricing is not disclosed for this optional service.
Fees & Rates
We’ve criticized BankCard USA in the past for advertising deceptively low rates on its 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 “$1,000 low rate guarantee,” promising to pay you $1,000 if you could find a lower rate at one of its competitors. This is another common gimmick in the processing industry, as the company had plenty of caveats that it didn’t disclose – all virtually guaranteed to ensure that it wouldn’t have to pay you the $1,000 under any circumstances. Thankfully, this “offer” has been dropped from the website.
Although BankCard USA doesn’t advertise its processing rates on its website, the company appears to offer both tiered and interchange-plus pricing. Interestingly, in the educational materials it offers in the Resources section of its website, it advises 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 the company’s 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 to high-risk merchants who’ve been turned down for merchant accounts by other processing companies.
What about account fees? Again, there’s no mention of these on the website, but you can rest assured that they’ll be included in your contract. Based on the data we’ve been able to acquire, most of the fees the company charges are near or slightly above the industry average. You should expect to pay a monthly account fee, have a monthly minimum requirement, and pay annual fees for PCI compliance (possibly as high as $200 per year). There’s also an early termination fee (ranging from $95 to $295) if you break your contract. High-risk merchants can expect a lot more variation due to the nature of high-risk merchant accounts. BankCard USA uses several providers, so there may not be a lot of consistency from one account to the next.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
BankCard USA offers a standard contract that runs for an initial term of three years. Unlike most traditional processors, however, there is no automatic renewal clause that extends your contract for additional one-year (or even two-year) periods at the end of the initial term. Instead, your account will remain open indefinitely, and you will continue to be billed every month until you provide the requisite 30 days’ notice to close your account. The standard contract also includes an early termination fee (ETF) that you will have to pay if you close your account within the initial three-year term. This fee can range from $95 to as high as $295 and will be specified in your contract documents. Note that once you’ve completed the initial three-year term, the ETF no longer applies and you can close your account without penalty.
We’ve heard reports – not spelled out in BankCard USA’s standard contract – that the company will now waive the early termination fee entirely for new accounts. The only caveat is that merchants who elect to include a “free” credit card terminal with their account and then cancel within the first year of their contract will be charged an ETF of $99.00. While this is a better deal than the industry standard, we’d really like to see this informal policy spelled out in the company’s standard contract documents.
If you’re wondering why BankCard USA is so flexible with their contract terms, the simple answer is competition from other providers who don’t require long-term contracts or early termination fees at all. Many of our favorite providers will offer you a true month-to-month account with no long-term contract and no early termination penalty without the need to negotiate for it. You’ll have to buy your own processing equipment, but that’s something that we recommend you do anyway. “Free” terminal offers are simply a way to keep you on the hook a little longer, and there will always be a condition attached to this type of offer that prevents it from truly being “free.”
As always, you’ll want to get any waiver to the standard contract terms in writing for your own protection. It’s also critically important that you thoroughly review your entire contract before you sign up. Fortunately, BankCard USA’s standard Merchant Account Terms and Conditions are available online for you to review before you even contact the company.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
As we’ve noted already, BankCard USA has taken a small step in the right direction by removing the “teaser rate” information and “$1,000 low rate guarantee” from its main website. Unfortunately, this leaves the company with essentially no information about rates or fees on its site at all. Traditional merchant account providers like BankCard USA often appear to regard their websites as merely another form of advertising, and nothing more. The goal of the site is not to educate consumers or help them make an informed decision, but rather to lure them into picking up the phone and calling one of the company’s sales agents, where they’ll be subjected to an annoying, high-pressure sales pitch.
Since our last review update, BankCard USA has made some noticeable changes to the content and layout of its website. Site navigation has notably improved, making it much easier to find information about important subjects. The company has also added numerous explainer-type articles that help explain the basics of credit card processing to a struggling new business owner. Detailed information about the company’s products and services is also included, although it’s not as extensive as we’ve seen with many other providers. Missing, of course, is any mention of what any of these things will actually cost you.
For answers to that important question, you’ll have to contact the company’s sales department. BankCard USA now employs an in-house team, some of whom have been with the company for many years. Unfortunately, the company also uses 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 agent, our advice is to check the company website and make sure you’re talking to one of their in-house sales representatives. In most cases, they’ll be able to provide better service than the independent agents.
Customer Service & Technical Support
BankCard USA previously claimed on its website that it utilized a “100% US-based call center staff,” but with the recent redesign of the site, this claim has disappeared. The company supposedly offers 24/7 customer support via telephone and email, but this isn’t explicitly stated on the website.
BankCard USA’s website includes an “About Us” page, complete with the names and photos of all the company’s employees. While this is a nice personal touch in an often very impersonal industry, we can’t help but notice that there are only four customer service representatives listed. The sales department, in contrast, has 24 employees. This should give you an idea of how little emphasis the company places on supporting its merchants after they’ve signed their contracts. Four full-time employees are barely enough to adequately staff a call center during normal business hours, let alone around the clock. We suspect that BankCard USA is relying on outsourced representatives (who may or may not be adequately trained to resolve problems) to cover the off-hours.
The company’s website also lacks a dedicated support page with contact information. There is a contact form for email support, but that’s about it. You also won’t find an online knowledgebase for self-help or even a way to log into your account.
Of course, the quality of the support you receive is the most important consideration. Unfortunately, BankCard USA comes up short in this area as well. Many of the complaints about the company that we’ve found across the internet cite poor customer service, particularly the company’s 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, let us know in the Comments section below.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
BankCard USA has been accredited by the BBB since 2002, and currently has an A+ rating. Like virtually all merchant services providers, the company has its share of complaints – currently 12 formal complaints filed within the past three years, with none of those complaints being filed within the past 12 months. It’s actually fairly impressive that the company has been able to go over a year without receiving any new complaints from its merchants. Unfortunately, complaint details are unavailable for all but the most recent complaint, so we’re relying on information from previous review updates to identify issues where there have been problems in the past.
You’ll also find complaints about the company elsewhere on the web. Ripoff Report, ComplaintsBoard.com, TrustLink, and others all feature a litany of woes from unhappy merchants. In fairness, however, the majority of these complaints are several years old at this point. Additionally, keep in mind 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:
- Failure to disclose important 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 unless the merchant presses the agent for more information. 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 suspicious charges can easily raise a red flag that will either get you suspended or shut down. Fiserv (formerly First Data) (the main back-end processor used by the company) 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 older 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 under any circumstances. Terminals are very cheap to purchase these days, and BankCard USA now recommends that you buy your terminals on its website.
Positive Reviews & 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. Interestingly enough, in our last update, we noted that BankCard USA’s website had been updated to feature full paragraph-length testimonials from actual clients, complete with links to their websites.
The testimonials seemed authentic, which is why we’re baffled to report that these testimonials have all been removed from the website. One can only imagine why. For a company that claims to have over 100,000 satisfied customers since 1993, it’s curious that the company seems uninterested in presenting positive stories from any of them.
While it may indeed be 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 processors out there that can offer you a better deal. As a reseller for Fiserv (formerly First Data), they offer little or no value beyond what you’d get by signing up with First Data directly, and that’s saying something.
In recent years, BankCard USA has taken some baby steps towards improving its service, such as dropping some misleading sales gimmicks from its website and also achieving a lower complaint volume with the BBB. The company’s policy of waiving the early termination fee for merchants who purchase their own processing hardware is also a step in the right direction. However, its “free” terminal offer seems to us to be a way to lock in cash-strapped merchants who can’t afford to buy their equipment outright.
For now, BankCard USA continues to earn an overall score of 3 out of 5 stars. This is an average (at best) score, and there’s plenty of room for improvement. We’d like to see the company be more transparent about their rates and fees on their website, and we’d particularly like to see it advertise the availability of interchange-plus pricing. Switching to true month-to-month contracts with no early termination fee and ditching terminal leases altogether would also improve the company’s score. Also, it wouldn’t hurt BankCard USA if it could present even a single testimonial from a merchant pleased with the company’s services. The fact that it doesn’t currently bother to do so isn’t the most promising sign.
Of course, if you’re a high-risk merchant who’s having trouble being approved for an account with other providers, you will, unfortunately, have fewer options. If you do consider BankCard USA, 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 processing hardware rather than leasing them or accepting a “free” terminal. Be sure to ask for interchange-plus pricing, and try to get the early termination fee waived entirely. However, before you decide that BankCard USA is your best option, you should check out our article profiling the best high-risk merchant account providers.
If you don’t need a high-risk account, please check out our Merchant Account Comparison Chart to see some of our favorite providers as an alternative. Again, if you’ve had any experience with BankCard USA, please leave a comment and tell us all about it!
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.