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- Date Established
- Atlanta, GA
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Elavon is one of the largest merchant account providers in the country. Originally 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 its own 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 — if not thousands — of independent agents and organizations that resell Elavon’s services. We’ve reviewed some of them, but definitely not all. They go by different brand names, but at the end of the day, your account is probably being underwritten and boarded under the Elavon platform. Costco Merchant Services is a big reseller of Elavon’s merchant services (but not the best). One of our favorite providers, Helcim, also uses Elavon to set up accounts. If you’re thinking about signing on with Elavon, I would highly recommend that you do so through Helcim. They do an amazing job over there, giving you all the resources that Elavon has to offer in the most cost-effective and predictable package.
Elavon has responded in a positive way to recent changes 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, for example.
Your experience with Elavon, or any big provider for that matter, will depend mostly on the sales representative who sets you up with your account. Even if you go direct, there are still some sales agents who are more educated and/or ethical than others. Your goal is to find an agent within Elavon that you feel comfortable with. By doing that, you can ensure you’ll get the best experience possible. And, because you’re reading this site, you probably know more than most other business owners already, so you understand what to look for and what to ask. If you feel comfortable, feel free to negotiate your contract yourself. If not, let us know.
Overall, Elavon’s positive features outweigh their negatives – but not by much. At the moment, the company earns a 3.5 out of 5-star rating. If you want a 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!
Products and Services:
Elavon offers a full range of products and services for just about any business, 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.
- Terminal sales and leasing. Elavon offers the Ingenico iCT250 for $499 as part of its small business-focused Terminal Offer pricing plan. While you can find the same terminal online for about half of this price, it’s a much better deal than leasing a terminal. Unfortunately, Elavon continues to set up terminal leases through Ladco Global Leasing Solutions, a company with a truly horrible reputation for expensive, four-year, non-cancellable leasing terms.
- Payment gateway/virtual terminal. Elavon offers their own proprietary payment gateway called Fusebox. If you’d like to use a different gateway (like Authorize.Net), the company can help you integrate it. Pricing is not disclosed for this feature.
- Mobile processing. Elavon supports mobile processing with its Converge Mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android. The app connects to 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 system. Elavon joined forces with Verizon in January 2015 to offer merchant business customers an integrated POS system that operates using mPOS software on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
- Online reporting. This proprietary service is called Merchant Connect, and seems to be pretty high quality compared to other online reporting tools I’ve seen. You can get a demo of it here.
- Gift/loyalty card programs. Called Fanfare, this loyalty program helps you provide incentives to customers. 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.
Big, established companies aren’t always the bastions of innovation, but it’s nice to see Elavon at least keeping pace with the latest developments in the industry. Two big recent rollouts are the company’s Commerce SDK (software development kit), which includes support for Apple Pay and paves the way for merchants to more easily accept EMV. Elavon also offers support for EMV and Apple Pay in Canada as well.
Rates and 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 designed for larger businesses. 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 cancelled 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 of these 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 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 while the price for the Magtek card reader is much lower than what you’ll find online, it can only read magstripe cards. There’s no EMV or NFC capability, meaning that the reader will soon be obsolete. 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 this should still be a 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.
Contract Length and 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 cancelled 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 truly 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 eliminate 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 cancelled without buying out the remaining months on the contract.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
Elavon’s elimination of their early termination fee and 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 of the 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 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 mentioning 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 in order 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.
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 reviews (mostly negative) of the company. Elavon is on Twitter, and their account appears to be frequently updated. They also have a YouTube channel that features testimonials and educational videos about the company’s products.
Customer Service and 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 might get customer support from that ISO and not through Elavon directly.
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 normal 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 now includes a fairly 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. Overall, it’s an above-average resource, and something many processors don’t provide at all.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Elavon has been accredited by the BBB since 2009, and currently has an A+ rating. The company presently shows 178 complaints filed against it within the past three years, 76 of which were filed within the past twelve months. This complaint volume is essentially unchanged from the time of our last review update. 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 each and every complaint, which is part of why it has an A+ rating.
Ripoff Report also has 46 complaints filed against Elavon, mostly alleging the same issues as the BBB complaints. The number of complaints is about the same as it was at the time of our last review update. This is actually a good trend, because Ripoff Reports never deletes complaints.
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. There are several reasons why Elavon might put a red flag on your account, but you can learn how to avoid them here. If you are a high-risk merchant, you might want to look for a specialist in high-risk accounts, like Payline Data or Durango Merchant Services.
- 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 an absolutely terrible reputation in the industry, with non-cancellable 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 fee: There are still a number of older complaints regarding Elavon’s PCI compliance fee. While the amount seemed to vary from one merchant to another, it clearly was much higher than the industry average (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 and Testimonials:
Testimonials from Elavon aren’t as numerous as complaints, but they do come up occasionally. There are three on Elavon’s Customer Stories page. Beyond that, there are a few case studies on Elavon’s security and information regarding its reliability, as well as a glowing statement from MasterCard concerning EMV compliance. If you know of any other testimonials or case studies, please share them in the Comments section of this post.
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 really 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.
Final Verdict on Elavon:
If you’re a small business owner and you’ve been shopping around for a merchant account, 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 have to buy your magstripe card reader. The biggest advantage Elavon’s Mobile Offer has is that it will be much easier to transition to a full merchant account through Elavon 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 in order to get a full-service merchant account and interchange-plus pricing.
While Elavon has struggled with its reputation, these days I really 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 numerous 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 of 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 finder tool to find a company that best fits you.
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 seems pretty stable. 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.
Want to see what it takes to get five stars here at Merchant Maverick? Take a look at our handy comparison chart. Again, for Canadian 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.