Processing $5,000 per month or less in card payments?
- Date Established
- Atlanta, GA
- Full range of products and services
- Interchange-plus pricing available upon request
- No early termination fee
- Three-year contract with automatic renewal clause
- Expensive terminal leases through Ladco Global Leasing Solutions
- Most account fees not disclosed
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Elavon is one of the largest merchant account providers in the United States. Launched in 1991 as NOVA Information Systems, the company merged with euroConex in 2008 and re-branded itself as Elavon. As part of U.S. Bank‘s (U.S. Bancorp‘s) Payment Services division, the company currently serves about 1.3 million merchants and processes more than three billion transactions yearly, exceeding $300 billion.
Of course, bigger isn’t always better, especially in the merchant services industry. Elavon’s size gives it several advantages, including the ability to process all transactions in-house without the need to use a third-party processor. The company is also able to offer a full range of proprietary products and services, and most of them are pretty good.
There are also some notable disadvantages to dealing with an organization of Elavon’s size. The company has a rather high volume of complaints filed against it, although considering the number of merchants it serves, this really isn’t all that unusual. More disturbing is that so many of the complaints cite poor to non-existent customer service and support after the sale. While this is a common issue in the processing industry, customer service seems to be an afterthought at Elavon. Given the company’s vast resources, there’s no excuse for this.
There are hundreds of independent agents and organizations that resell Elavon’s processing services. We’ve reviewed a few of them, and some are clearly better than others. They go by a myriad of different brand names, but at the end of the day, your account is being underwritten and boarded under the Elavon platform. One of the most well-known resellers of Elavon’s merchant services is Costco Merchant Services. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide the kind of significant savings for which the Costco brand is best known. At the other end of the spectrum is Helcim, another Elavon reseller and one of our favorite providers. If you’re thinking about signing on with Elavon, I would highly recommend that you do so through Helcim. They do a fantastic job, giving you all the resources that Elavon has to offer in the most cost-effective and predictable package.
Elavon has responded positively to developing trends in the processing industry, eliminating its early termination fee (but not providing true month-to-month contracts), and offering a low-cost, flat-rate pricing plan that’s geared towards small businesses. The company’s marketing still has room for improvement – there’s no mention of interchange-plus pricing on their website, for example.
Your experience with Elavon – or any other big provider – will depend mostly on the sales representative who sets up your account. Even when going directly with a large processor, there are still some sales agents who are more educated and ethical than others. Finding an agent within Elavon that you feel comfortable with should be your primary goal. By doing that, you can ensure you’ll get the best experience possible. Because you’re reading this site, you should already know more than most other business owners, so you’ll understand what to look out for and what questions to ask. If you’re comfortable with doing so, feel free to negotiate your contract yourself. If not, let us know.
Overall, Elavon’s positive features outweigh their negatives – but not by much. Considering all the good and not-so-good aspects of the company’s services, Elavon earns a 3.5 out of 5-star rating. If you want a true five-star experience and an account set up with Elavon, I really do recommend that you check out Helcim. It has some of the fairest and most honest advertising in the industry, as well as highly competitive rates for businesses of all sizes.
Be sure to read through the rest of this Elavon review for more information, or jump to our comparison chart for more info on our best-rated providers!
Table of Contents
Products & Services
Elavon offers a full range of products and services for businesses of all sizes, including the following:
- Merchant accounts: As we’ve noted, Elavon is large enough and has the resources to handle all transaction processing in-house. You won’t have to worry about having to deal with a third-party processor.
- Payment gateway/virtual terminal: Elavon offers their own payment gateway called Fusebox. If you’d prefer to use a different gateway (such as Authorize.Net), the company can help you integrate it. Pricing is not disclosed for this feature.
- Terminal sales and leasing: Elavon offers the Ingenico iCT250 for $499 as part of its small business-focused Terminal Offer pricing plan. This up-to-date terminal can handle magstripe, EMV, and NFC-based payment methods, and should be “future-proof” for a long time. While you can find the same terminal online for about half of this price, it’s still a much better deal than leasing a terminal. Unfortunately, Elavon also continues to set up terminal leases through Ladco Global Leasing Solutions, a company we’ve named as one of the worst credit card terminal leasing companies in the industry. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to buy your equipment outright instead of getting trapped in a four-year, noncancelable lease.
- Wireless terminals: The company also offers the Poynt Mobile Terminal, a slick piece of equipment that combines a tablet display with all the payment processing features of a credit card terminal. It can accept magstripe, EMV, or NFC-based payments and includes many features usually only found in a full-blown Point-of-Sale (POS) system. The Poynt terminal is now available in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
- Mobile processing: Elavon supports mobile processing with its Converge Mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android. The app works with either the Ingenico iCMP Bluetooth-enabled PIN pad or the Ingenico RP457c card reader, which can connect through either the headphone jack or Bluetooth. Both readers support EMV and NFC payments. Converge Mobile is only available in the United States.
- Tablet-based mobile POS systems: If you need a portable POS system, you have a choice between talech, Elavon’s proprietary system, and the popular NCR Silver mPOS system. Both offer a retail version and a specialized restaurant version.
- Online customer portal: Online reporting is a pretty standard feature these days, and Elavon offers a proprietary portal called Payments Insider. While they don’t disclose too much information about it, it appears to cover all the basic features you’d expect. These include showing all transactions, as well as chargeback and funding activity. You can also export reports in PDF, CSV, or Excel formats.
- Gift/loyalty card programs: Called Fanfare, this loyalty program helps you provide incentives to clients. It’s free for your customers, and they can join with as little as a phone number. It also includes advanced reporting tools for you.
Rates & Fees
Before diving into the numbers, let’s clear up a possible point of confusion. Elavon provides merchant accounts for businesses of all sizes, but unlike many providers, they’ve split their pricing options into two separate categories. One category, designed for small businesses, offers flat-rate pricing and low fees. This category is fully disclosed on their website. The other category is intended for larger enterprises. Unfortunately, this isn’t explained very well on their website, and they don’t disclose any contract terms or pricing for the large business category.
If you’re not sure which pricing category will be most economical for your business, you’ll have to crunch the numbers and talk with an Elavon agent to see what specific rates and terms he or she can offer you. Like most providers that offer flat-rate pricing, Elavon’s small business plans feature low monthly fees, but high, fixed processing rates. These plans also allow you to buy your equipment outright, which is a big plus. Although the large business plans aren’t disclosed, you can expect to pay higher monthly and annual fees, but have much lower processing rates. There’s no indication of whether Elavon uses tiered or interchange-plus pricing, or a combination of both. Be sure to request interchange-plus pricing. With the large business plans, you’ll have to either buy your own terminals or lease them from Elavon. You’ll definitely want to buy your own equipment, as Elavon provides their terminals through a partnership with Ladco Leasing, a company whose leases cannot be canceled without buying out the remaining months on your contract.
Elavon’s small business packages include a choice between a Terminal Offer and a Mobile Offer. Here are the terms for both options:
- Card-present transactions: 2.65% + $0.19 per transaction
- Card-not-present transactions: 3.5% + $0.19 per transaction
- $10.00 monthly account fee
- One Ingenico iCT250 terminal ($499.00)
- Card-present transactions: 2.65% + $0.19 per transaction
- Card-not-present transactions: 3.5% + $0.19 per transaction
- $10.00 monthly account fee
- One Magtek aDynamo mobile card reader ($24.99)
Either one of these offers will provide everything a small business needs to start accepting credit cards quickly. Note that the Magtek card reader can only read magstripe cards. With no EMV or NFC capability, it’s essentially obsolete, and Magtek no longer sells it directly. The Ingenico terminal, on the other hand, supports both EMV and NFC. Unfortunately, you can buy this terminal online for about half of what Elavon is charging. You’ll have to pay to have your terminal re-programmed to work with Elavon’s merchant accounts, but there should still be significant savings over what Elavon is asking for their terminal.
Both offers claim that there are no cancellation fees and no “hidden” fees included with these accounts. While that’s probably true in a general sense, you’ll still want to examine your contract very carefully before signing up.
If you need more information on how credit card processing fees work, check out our article The Complete Guide to Credit Card Processing Rates & Fees or our infographic.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
Up until a few years ago, Elavon offered a standard contract that ran for three years and included an early termination fee. Unlike most merchant account providers, there was some proration of the ETF. If a merchant canceled their account within the first year, they would be charged the full early cancellation fee of $295. Cancellations within the second or third year of the contract were “only” charged $195.
Today, Elavon offers contracts with no early termination fee. However, they still include a three-year term. In other words, these are not genuinely month-to-month contracts. A true month-to-month contract essentially runs for 30 days at a time, and you’re free to close your account at any time, with no penalty. That’s not the case with Elavon. We’ve found numerous reports from merchants who closed their accounts, only to continue to be charged monthly fees long after they thought their accounts had been closed. If you decide to close your account before your contract term runs out, be sure to follow the procedures outlined in your contract very carefully.
Also note that, unlike true month-to-month contracts, Elavon also includes an automatic renewal clause for one to two years in their contracts. This makes it even more difficult to close your account, as your contract might renew for a new term if you don’t provide adequate notice.
While it’s good to see that Elavon is following the growing trend in the processing industry by eliminating their early termination fees, I’d like to see them remove the three-year terms as well and offer true month-to-month contracts. If you’ve been with Elavon for a long time, you might want to review your contract, as it might still have the old ETF clause in it. Re-negotiating your contract to eliminate this clause would be a good idea, just in case you ever need to close your account. Also, note that terminal leases through Ladco Leasing are under a separate contract – one which usually runs for four years and cannot be canceled without buying out the remaining months of the agreement.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Elavon’s elimination of their early termination fee and the introduction of flat-rate pricing for small merchants indicates that they are responding in a positive way to some of the emerging trends within the processing industry. At the same time, the company seems to be continuing some other disliked practices that have given the industry such a bad reputation.
Advertising transparency, or rather the lack thereof, is one area where the company still needs to catch up. On the one hand, the company deserves credit for disclosing their flat-rate pricing plans for small businesses. Flat-rate pricing isn’t for everyone, though. For a large business, the relatively high processing rates of the flat-rate plans would cost you much more in the long run than whatever you would save with the lower account fees. Elavon offers other pricing models, but they don’t mention anything about them on their website. Even a simple blurb indicating that they offer interchange-plus pricing would be an improvement.
The company also scores a few points for not using any of the misleading sales gimmicks that so many other processors use on their websites. Their “no hidden fees” claim is a little suspect, though. There are always going to be occasional extra fees for things like chargebacks, for example.
One thing to be aware of is that Elavon uses independent sales agents to market its products and services. Independent agents have a well-deserved bad reputation for failing to disclose important contract terms and using a high-pressure sales approach to close a deal. Naturally, this has led to a lot of complaints from merchants. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into signing a contract until you’ve had a chance to review it thoroughly. If you feel you’re being unduly pressured by a sales agent, don’t do business with them. Not all independent agents are dishonest, but you may have to shop around a little to find a good one.
For a company as large as Elavon, it’s surprising to see how limited their social media presence is. They don’t have an official Facebook page, although you will find a very unofficial page where people have left (mostly negative) reviews of the company. Elavon is on Twitter and LinkedIn, and these accounts appear to be frequently updated. They also have a YouTube channel that features testimonials and educational videos about the company’s products.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Elavon offers 24/7/365 US-based customer support (assuming you’re a US-based merchant, that is) via telephone and email. Altogether, the company has support in 13 countries. I had a brief interaction with a support rep who seemed intelligent and well-trained, but I can’t speak for their ability to handle complex, long-term or sensitive issues. You should also be aware that if you sign up through a reseller, you’ll get customer support from that ISO and not through Elavon directly. In some cases, this can be an advantage.
If you’ve signed up with Elavon directly, you should also be assigned a dedicated account manager. Note that this isn’t necessarily your sales agent. That’s a good thing because turnover among independent sales agents is very high. While it’s generally an advantage to have a dedicated point of contact for your account, be aware that your account manager won’t be available 24/7 (they have to sleep, too). Outside of regular business hours, you’ll be talking to a customer support representative.
Many merchants in both our Comments section and on consumer protection sites like the BBB have expressed dissatisfaction with Elavon’s customer support. However, many of these complaints seem to come through resellers like Costco Merchant Services.
For self-help, Elavon offers an extensive knowledgebase in the Welcome Center section of their website. Here, you’ll find equipment manuals and brief articles explaining how credit card processing works. It’s an excellent resource, and something many processors don’t provide at all.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Elavon has been accredited by the BBB since 2009, and currently has an A+ rating. The company presently shows 177 complaints filed against it within the past three years, 35 of which were filed within the past twelve months. This complaint volume has slowly but steadily gone down since our last two review updates. While this might seem like a lot of complaints, remember that Elavon serves 1.3 million merchants. With that large of a customer base, complaints are inevitable. Elavon has responded to every complaint, which is part of why it has an A+ rating.
Ripoff Report also has 65 complaints filed against Elavon, mostly alleging the same issues as the BBB complaints. Interestingly, almost none of these complaints were filed within the last year. Many of the complaints appear to be directed at resellers rather than Elavon itself. Also, there are many complaints filed against Ladco Leasing due to the horrible leasing terms that company imposes on its merchants.
These are the most common issues you’ll see in complaints against Elavon:
- Withholding of funds/termination of accounts: This is a trend in payment processing, especially among companies that offer instant approval. These companies accept a certain amount of risk for taking on a merchant. If that merchant starts conducting business outside of the agreed-upon terms, then the company has a right to investigate. That said, there is a big difference between protecting the company and arbitrarily freezing accounts for even the slightest suspicion, and it’s something we give a lot of weight to in our ratings. You can learn how to avoid this situation by checking out our article How to Avoid Merchant Account Holds, Freezes, and Terminations. If you are a high-risk merchant, you’ll need to look for a specialist in high-risk accounts, like Durango Merchant Services or Payline Data.
- Over-priced terminal leases: While Elavon’s Terminal Offer and Mobile Offer pricing plans for small businesses allow you to buy your equipment outright, the company continues to partner with Ladco Leasing to lease terminals to larger businesses. Ladco Leasing has a terrible reputation in the industry, with noncancelable four-year leasing terms that will cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the lease. Many merchants complain about having to buy out the remaining months of their lease, even after returning their terminals and closing their accounts.
- PCI compliance fees: There are still several older complaints regarding Elavon’s PCI compliance fee. While the amount seemed to vary from one merchant to another, it was much higher than the industry average of about $99 per year. These complaints seem to have dwindled now that Elavon apparently no longer charges for PCI compliance (at least under their Terminal Offer and Mobile Offer plans).
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Testimonials from Elavon aren’t nearly as numerous as complaints, but they do come up occasionally. There are seven on Elavon’s Customer Stories page. Beyond that, there are a few case studies on Elavon’s security and information regarding its reliability. If you’ve had a good experience with Elavon, please let us know about it in the Comments section below.
Positive aspects of Elavon’s service include the following:
- Website design and online sales copy: Elavon’s website is clean, professional looking, and includes a lot of useful information for both prospective and existing customers.
- Disclosure of some fees and rates: Flat-rate pricing doesn’t make sense for everyone, but it can be a good deal for a small or newly-established business. A large company like Elavon doesn’t have to cater to small businesses. The fact that they do sets them apart from other processors (like North American Bancard), who clearly have no idea how to market to small businesses.
- No early termination fee: While Elavon doesn’t provide true month-to-month contracts, dropping their early termination fee puts them ahead of other traditional processors who still charge an ETF. Note that not all merchants will be offered a contract with no early termination fee. Insist on this condition when negotiating your account and make sure it’s included in your contract before signing up.
Final Verdict on Elavon
If you’re a small business owner and you’ve been shopping around, reading merchant account reviews, you’ve probably noticed that Elavon’s flat-rate Mobile Offer is pretty similar to Square. The processing rates are nearly identical, although the Mobile Offer is a little more expensive due to the $10.00 monthly account fee and the fact that you’ll need to buy your magstripe card reader. The most significant advantage Elavon’s Mobile Offer has is that you’ll have a full-service merchant account right off the bat, making it easier to transition to interchange-plus pricing when your business grows enough that flat-rate pricing doesn’t make sense for you anymore. With Square, if you outgrow their service, you’ll have to switch processors to get a full-service merchant account and interchange-plus pricing.
While Elavon has struggled with its reputation, these days I have no problem recommending the company as a viable payment processor — at the corporate level, at least. When you start dealing with independent resellers, all bets are off. Like many big providers, Elavon suffers from a lack of consistency across the various ISOs using its name. This makes it very difficult to provide you with an overarching rating. If you want to get the best deal possible through Elavon, make sure you contact corporate sales directly and feel out your agent.
Better yet, I recommend that anyone interested in Elavon should sign up with Helcim. This will provide you with all the benefits of using a big processor like Elavon without any of the pitfalls. Helcim uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively. It also has low monthly fees, fair equipment prices, and true month-to-month contracts with no early termination fees. Check them out – or check out our Merchant Account Finder tool to discover a company that best fits your business.
For such a large, traditional processor, Elavon offers a few advantages. They deserve credit for eliminating their early termination fees and disclosing their flat-rate pricing plans. While they still generate a fair number of complaints from merchants, their overall complaint volume continues to decrease gradually. At the same time, they lose a few points for not disclosing the availability of interchange-plus pricing and for inconsistent customer service and support. Heavy reliance on independent sales agents and their continuing partnership with Ladco Leasing for terminal leases also lowers their score significantly. Overall, Elavon gets 3.5 out of 5 stars. While this isn’t a bad score, it’s not great, either.
If you want to see what it takes to get five stars here at Merchant Maverick, take a look at our handy Merchant Account Comparison Chart. Again, for Canadian or US-based merchants, I can’t recommend Helcim highly enough. Do you have first-hand experiences with Elavon? Leave us a comment about it, good or bad.