Clover Mini Review
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- Date Established
- Mountain View, CA
- Compact design
- Access to Clover app market
- Flexible and customizable
- Accepts virtually all forms of payment
- Cloud storage of reports, customer data, etc.
The third product in the Clover family of POS hardware, the Clover Mini, was launched by First Data in early summer, 2015. Designed to be a smaller, more accessible version of the popular Clover Station POS system, the Clover Mini comes with a built-in receipt printer, a USB hub (to allow for interface with peripheral hardware), a customer-facing camera, a cash drawer, and a Merchant keypad. Like Clover station, the Clover Mini is essentially a replacement for a standard POS terminal that provides support for advanced payments interfaces, like Apple Pay. Clover Mini is also fully EMV-ready, and comes equipped with an integrated QR reader, a front-facing camera, and an on-screen PIN pad with signature capture. Clover Mini is adaptable to many different kinds of industries, and has the ability to grow and develop with time, thanks to the Clover App Market, which is constantly being improved upon. In short, it can be whatever you want it to be.
Clover Mini (and other Clover products, including Clover Station and Clover Mobile) is always sold in conjunction with a merchant account. In 2013, Bank of America Merchant Services was the first company other than First Data to offer Clover products to its customer base, followed by PNC Merchant Services. Currently, you can buy Clover Mini through over 3,000 major banks in the US, including Citibank, SunTrust, and Wells Fargo. It’s also possible to purchase Clover products from small business suppliers like Sam’s Club, Restaurant Depot, or from independent providers of merchant services.
At first glance, Clover Mini seems like an ideal POS solution – it’s portable, flexible, and functional. But customer feedback has grown increasingly negative over the years, mostly due to the unsavory reputation of First Data. Is Clover Mini worth the risk? Read on to find out!
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Clover Mini tends to retail for around $200-$400, depending on where you buy it from; in this sense, it is considerably cheaper than Clover Station. There are two service plans available when you buy Clover Mini:
2000 Service Plan (also can be used with Clover Mobile) allows you to “Get all the capabilities of a standard credit card terminal” in addition to:
- Support for EMV and Apple Pay
- Ability to issue refunds
- Manage tips, tabs, and authorizations
- Closeout reporting
- Cloud Syncing
- Optional employee permissions
The Pro Service Plan (can also be used with Clover Station or Clover Mobile) includes everything above, plus additional features such as the ability to:
- Ring up orders
- Charge taxes
- Apply discounts
- Create Items
- Manage Customers
As I mentioned in the overview, Clover Mini differs from other POS systems in the way it’s marketed and sold. It must be sold with a merchant account, so instead of being available from one location for one set price, it can be bought from thousands of different banks, business suppliers, and merchant services providers, each one offering different swipe fees and hardware costs.
Credit card processing rates and swipe fees vary from location to location, and can range from 0.30% + 5¢ to 2.5% + 15¢ or higher, depending on the bank. Some locations may actually offer flat-rate processing fees. In general, the rate you receive will probably depend a lot on your own credit rating and the sales volume of your business. Those of you who have an existing business banking account may be best served by checking with your own bank to see if it offers Clover products, or you can find authorized Clover Mini vendors in your area. It’s possible to buy the POS outright, of course, but most vendors also offer in-house financing. You may be able to qualify for a loan or cash advance as well.
Cloud-Based or Locally-Installed:
Clover Mini is cloud-based and stores your information in the cloud. You have the choice to run your device with either a Wi-Fi connection or 3G/4G (HSPA+) wireless connectivity. However, if Internet service goes down, the Mini can continue to function offline for up to seven consecutive days, queuing up transactions until the Internet is restored. If you still haven’t reconnected to the internet after the seven day period is over, card transactions will be disallowed from that point on.
Clover Mini is best for restaurants–both quick service and full-service–and specialty retails stores. It can also be used for service businesses (like hair/nail salons) or for businesses in the hospitality industry (hotels, motels, resorts, etc.). By virtue of its design, the Mini can fit into almost any business environment.
Specific Size of Business:
Clover Mini is perfect for small to mid-sized businesses with limited budgets.
Ease of Use:
No-Hassle Set Up
I can assure you from my own personal observations, as well as general consensus from users, that Clover Mini is easy to use and even easier to set up. It arrives nearly ready-to-go (with a preloaded menu), and there are only a few pieces to assemble.
Short Learning Curve
As you can see from the image below, the main screen on any Clover device is very intuitive, and resembles a typical computer screen or smartphone device. Depending on what functions you want, there are various apps on the screen which you can open with a touch of your finger.
Employees should be able to pick up everything they need to know about Clover Mini after 15-20 minutes of basic training (if that). Most of the apps (at least the most common: reporting, inventory, customers, etc.) are self-explanatory and clearly labeled. The nice thing about a truly all-in-one POS solution, like Clover Mini, is that all of the hardware works together naturally. For many business owners, Clover really takes all of the guesswork out of things.
Hardware and Operating System Requirements:
Clover Mini comes with a built-in printer, a front-facing camera, and the ability to read barcodes/QR codes. If you want additional hardware, you can plug in an integrated weight scale or a barcode scanner using one of the USB ports.
When it comes to hardware, there are no requirements. The Clover Mini is ready to go when you receive it–all you need to provide is some sort of Internet connection. Access to the web dashboard works best with Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.
The Clover Mini is so adaptable, and can be customized with such a wide variety of apps, that it is difficult to discuss features in general, but if you’re interested, here is a general feature guide. The features included with your particular Clover configuration will be defined by the apps you choose and the functions you require–including the ability to take payments, open and close bar tabs, authorize credit cards, keep track of tips, transaction history, and perform closeouts. The following are some of the features likely to be useful to most kinds of business:
- Interface: The Clover Mini interface is fairly simple. As I said above, it is reminiscent of a smartphone screen, featuring a variety of apps. Tap on an app with your finger, and it opens right up.
- App Market: Apps basically run everything for you in Clover Mini, which is itself simply a collection of apps personalized to your needs. As a company, Clover provides retail and restaurant specific apps for everything from your register to voice authorization, bar tabs, refunds, discounts, employees, and inventory management. There are a wide variety of 3rd party apps available as well that offer gift cards, loyalty software, eCommerce integration, the ability to clock employees in and out, and so forth. It should be noted that while some of these apps are free, others will cost you per month.
- Employees/Permissions: Employees can be added to your Clover account at any time, and described by their names, nicknames (which will appear on customer receipts), roles, login pins, and contact information. The best way to manage employee permissions is by assigning each worker a role. You may want some employees to have access to sensitive information, while restricting others to basic register functions. The different roles you create will automatically come with different levels of access to the POS so assigning roles to employees right off the bat “enables admins to enable or disable permissions in bulk for their employees by segments.”
- Payment Options: Clover Mini is said to be the most advanced payment terminal on the market, and can accept almost any payment type, including: Apple Pay (In-Person and In-App), Google Wallet, EMV, credit, debit, and EBT, and gift cards (both physical and virtual). You can also enter card numbers manually or take sales over the phone using the Phone Sales app. Regarding Apple Pay, all Clover devices can accept iPhone 6 In-Person payments; the In-Person payment option let customers simply tap their Apple Pay-registered iPhone to pay at the point of sale. Clover Mini is fully EMV compliant for both chip cards and contactless cards (a necessity for the October 2015 liability shift that incentivized merchants to accept EMV chip cards). Receipts can be printed at the time of the transaction or emailed to the customer for future reference.
- Inventory: Adding inventory to Clover devices is a bit more involved than I would like, and could be easier. You must download an inventory spreadsheet, open it in MS Excel (or any other spreadsheet application, as long as the final format is .xlsx), and fill in fields for price, item name, price type, price unit, tax rate, business cost, product code (barcode ID), SKU, modifier group, quantity, labels, and so forth. Items can be described with variants (such as color) and options (such as size), and organized into categories or labelled for quicker access. Those of you in food service can create modifiers for each item. New items can be created with or without variants and be sold by a fixed or variable price, or priced per unit (oz, g, kg, lb).
- Reports: Clover’s reporting app provides decent tools, including a “By Payments” report (see below) which shows you a summary of completed transactions made during a specified time period. There are also reports for net payment statistics, cash reports, payments by card type, employee statistics and activities, discounts, taxes, orders and more. All reports can be sorted according to date/time and filtered for specific requirements; once created, reports may be exported and/or printed for further analysis. You can access reports on your Clover Mini device or view them on Clover’s web-based merchant dashboard from anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection.
- Customer Management: Clover Mini gives you the ability to collect customer information at the time of sale. Later, you can search for customers by name and date or look up a customer’s order history.
- Web Dashboard: Once you’ve created a web dashboard account, you can access your Clover information anywhere with a network connection, simply by typing in your email address and password. Clover stores every report, order, employee clock-in, inventory adjustment, etc. in the cloud, which ensures that the information is always kept current.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Clover’s App Market allows you to pick and choose the features and/or tools your business requires, such as coupon processing, virtual PIN pads, gift card management, employee management and advanced reporting. Most of the apps are completely free, though many are accompanied by a small fee. Furthermore, if you have very specific needs and would like to design your own application, the Clover API is available to developers.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
The Clover Mini (and all Clover products) is vertically integrated with credit card processing. It is always sold together with a merchant account from places like Bank of America, Citibank, Restaurant Depot, and any other First Data Independent Sales Organization (ISO).
Customer Service and Support:
Customer service regarding payments and any merchant account issues is likely going to come from whichever merchant services provider you end up going through (unless you sign up directly with First Data). For this reason, it’s important to be careful about the bank/provider you choose to buy from. On the other hand, technical support regarding the actual software and hardware is going to come directly from Clover (or more accurately, First Data), which is where you start running into problems. First Data has historically had problems on the merchant services side of the business (excessive fees, account terminations, withheld funds) so you’re rolling the dice when it comes to software and hardware support.
Clover also provides a self-serve help center with guides, FAQs, and troubleshooting tips. This material is helpful, for the most part, but some of it is poorly written and/or not quite thorough enough to be of much use. There are a few videos available as well. You can find a selection of them on YouTube, though I didn’t find any of them to be as detailed as I would have liked. Assistance with individual 3rd-party apps is managed by the app providers themselves.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Clover Mini is still fairly new, but already there are a couple negative aspects to take into consideration:
- Cost: One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard (from customers and reviewers alike) is that the upfront costs can be prohibitive. If your business needs more than one terminal, for example, it could run you upwards of $2-3k right off the bat. This cancels out one of the advantages tablet-based software generally holds over the locally-installed terminal systems. Basically, all of the best cloud-based POS software will run on an iPad and/or Android tablet, meaning that if you test out one system and it doesn’t work for you, you can transition to another system without having to invest in new hardware. Clover, on the other hand, is run exclusively on First Data proprietary hardware, meaning that you can’t even test the system out without investing $500 upfront, and forget about an inexpensive switch if it doesn’t work out.
- Purchasing Market: Another negative of Clover Mini is that there is no single place to buy it, yet you are restricted to a single merchant services provider. Therefore, you’re going to get different rates, different prices, and different customer service options at each location, yet no matter which reseller you go through, you’re still limited to having First Data as your processor. I’d be wary around any POS that only integrates with one processor, but this is particularly a problem with First Data because of the increasingly negative responses they have been getting from their customers. More and more people are reportedly being hung out to dry by First Data and its resellers. Though some resellers (like Payment Depot) have managed to maintain a great reputation, they can really only help on the payments/merchant account side of things. For technical support, you’re still at the mercy of First Data’s hit-or-miss service.
- Customer Service: Customer service (or the lack thereof) is a major complaint among many Clover customers. This is where doing your research on which provider you choose can save you lots of heartache in the long run. Lots of customers complain of being helped by rude representatives (if they are even able to get ahold of anyone) and others even report feeling scammed by customer service reps.
- Not Being Upfront: Feedback about nonnegotiable contracts, hidden fees, and the system not being what they expected are also pretty common.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
There are a number of positive aspects about the Clover Mini, including:
- The ability to negotiate competitive pricing
- Aesthetically appealing design
- Small, compact design
- Little to no learning curve
- Wide variety of apps so you can adapt to nearly any industry
- Multiple layers of security and data protection, including mutually-authenticated SSL/TLS solutions
Clover Mini’s compact, sleek design means that it can go where traditional POS systems fear to tread. Sometimes, making a device smaller and more streamlined adds up to extra dollars and cents for the consumer, but in this case, smaller does actually mean cheaper. There is really very little to criticize about the Clover Mini as a product. It’s not often you see a POS solution that is customizable, powerful, inexpensive, and suitable for almost every imaginable type of payment, but with Clover Mini, big things come in small packages.
One of my biggest concerns with Clover Mini is the fact that it is sold by thousands of different banks, merchant services providers, and small business suppliers. In general, I applaud a system that is set up for competitive pricing/rates, but there is something lost when a company stops providing support (and even equipment) for its own product. I’m troubled by the inherent disconnect between Clover, as a company, and the people who use Clover Mini. I am concerned that there may be problems communicating customer feedback to the actual designers. Not only that, but the limitations placed on Clover users (both in terms of hardware and choice of a processor) are a definite negative.
Worse still, we’ve been getting a lot of negative feedback from Clover users recently regarding Clover’s parent company, First Data. Many customers complain about being tricked into expensive contracts and having to deal with little to no customer service response; they feel as though they’ve been scammed. For these reasons, we’re shaving stars off of Clover Mini’s rating until we see a positive change from First Data.
That said, those of you who want a simple, attractive POS solution and don’t mind taking risks with payment processing could do worse than Clover Mini. Just be sure to work with a vendor you trust (our favorite is Payment Depot), and research their support/technical assistance policies beforehand.