eMerchantBroker is a merchant account provider located in Los Angeles, California. A relatively young company, they’ve been in business since 2011 and market their services primarily to high-risk merchants. We’re leery of account providers that deliberately try to sell their services to the high-risk segment of the market, as they often charge exorbitantly high rates and fees while saddling merchants with long-term contracts that are difficult and expensive to get out of. Not so with eMerchantBroker. They’re generally more transparent and honest in dealing with merchants than most high-risk merchant account providers. At the same time, they’re usually not the least expensive option out there if you’re in the high-risk category and need to get a merchant account.
The definition of what constitutes a high-risk merchant varies from one provider to the next. While it’s not hard to understand why a merchant in the adult entertainment industry might be considered high-risk, there are more factors that go into this determination than just legal or moral issues. Any merchant or business that presents an elevated risk of fraud might be considered high-risk. For example, some processors will categorize furniture stores as high-risk due to the large average ticket size involved with selling furniture. Merchant account providers who specialize in setting up high-risk accounts minimize their exposure to potential fraud by prohibiting certain industries from using their services. eMerchantBroker stands out from other high-risk specialists by having a very short list of prohibited industries. Unless your business is clearly illegal, you’ll probably get approved for an account. In fact, they boast of a 99% approval rate for all applicants. As an example, eMerchantBroker is one of the very few providers who will approve medical marijuana dispensaries for a merchant account.
This flexibility comes at a price, however. If you sign up with eMerchantBroker, expect to pay higher rates and fees than the industry average. In fact, you can and should expect to pay higher costs than what many other competing high-risk specialists will charge. At the same time, in exchange for those higher prices, you can expect an honest, open sales experience and reliable customer support and service after you’ve signed up. Is it worth it? As always, the answer depends on your individual needs and circumstances. If you can get approved for an account with one of our top-rated high-risk providers, you’re probably better off going with them rather than eMerchantBroker. At the same time, they’re certainly a viable alternative if you’ve been turned down for an account and are having trouble finding a reputable high-risk specialist that will take your business.
While they’re certainly not perfect and they are expensive, overall eMerchantBroker provides a higher-than-average quality of service with their merchant accounts. We rate them at 4 out of 5 stars at the moment.
Table of Contents
Products and Services:
eMerchantBroker focuses on core services such as merchant accounts, and doesn’t offer the wide range of hardware options and additional services that many other merchant account providers do. Nonetheless, they offer most of the basic services you’ll need to set up your business for accepting credit cards, including the following:
- Merchant accounts. eMerchantBroker doesn’t process transactions in-house. Instead, they work with a number of third-party processors to set you up with an account. These processors include First Data, iPayment, North American Bancard, and others.
- Chargeback Shield. High-risk accounts are at an elevated risk of fraud, and commonly have higher rates of chargebacks than non-high-risk businesses. eMerchantBroker partners with Verifi and Ethoca to provide tools that minimize the risk of chargebacks and ensure that you’re notified when they occur.
- Payment gateways. eMerchantBroker supports eCommerce by offering their proprietary eMB Payment Gateway. They can also set you up with a number of popular third-party gateways, including Authorize.Net, eProcessing Network, and many others.
- Check processing services. eMerchantBroker offers a number of services to allow merchants to accept checks from customers, both in person and online. Their iCheck service is an app for iPhones and iPads that allows you to take a photo of a paper check and submit it for processing. They also offer Checks by Phone and Checks by Web services.
- Business funding. Like many merchant account providers, eMerchantBroker also offers a number of merchant cash advance programs. Be sure to read this article before you consider signing up for a cash advance.
One thing that eMerchantBroker doesn’t appear to offer is processing hardware. There’s no mention of credit card terminals, POS systems, or mobile processing systems on their website. If you don’t already have this equipment, we highly recommend that you buy your own and avoid terminal leases. Be sure to check with your sales agent about equipment compatibility and re-programming fees before you invest in your own hardware.
Fees and Rates:
Most merchant account providers disclose little, if any, specific information about their fees and rates on their websites, and eMerchantBroker is no exception. The most common reason for doing this is that processing rates will vary widely depending on your credit history, processing volume, and the processing history (if any) of your business. High-risk merchant account providers have even more variability to deal with, as they’re often working with multiple processors to set you up with an account.
eMerchant Broker claims on their website that their processing rates are “as low as 2.99%.” We generally consider this type of claim to be misleading, as it usually only refers to the lowest qualified rate of a tiered pricing plan. eMerchantBroker, however, includes the following footnote which further explains their rates:
*2.99% pricing applies to qualified merchants. Mid-qualified and non-qualified rates can be higher. Contact us to get a free quote.
The company deserves some credit for this disclosure, even though it’s an incomplete one. Under a tiered pricing plan, every sale you process will be classified as either a qualified, mid-qualified, or non-qualified transaction. Mid-qualified and non-qualified transactions are charged significantly higher rates, and for most merchants, these will represent the majority of your transactions. Also, remember that the 2.99% qualified rate is the lowest they offer, meaning it’s usually reserved for merchants with a high processing volume and a lengthy, stable processing history.
This rate quote also neglects to mention that you will inevitably pay a per transaction fee in addition to the processing rate. These fees can represent a significant additional expense, especially for merchants who process a large number of transactions per month. Processing rates with eMerchantBroker actually average around 3 to 4%, with an additional $0.15 to $0.25 per transaction fee. The company mostly uses tiered pricing, although they’re sometimes able to offer interchange-plus pricing to select merchants.
In negotiating your contract with eMerchantBroker, be sure to ask for interchange-plus pricing, as this model will usually result in lower overall processing rates. Be realistic, however, as very few high-risk merchants will qualify for interchange-plus pricing. Also, as a high-risk merchant you can expect to pay a higher markup under an interchange-plus plan, so your rates will still be higher than they would be for a non-high-risk merchant.
One additional thing to watch out for with eMerchantBroker is that they apparently charge the same rates for debit card transactions as they do for credit cards. The use of a debit card only requires confirmation that the user has sufficient funds in their account to cover the transaction. Because the bank doesn’t have to loan money to the cardholder like they do with credit cards, the risk of fraud is much lower, and the transaction is very simple to process. With almost every other merchant account provider, processing rates are much lower for debit cards because of these considerations.
eMerchantBroker doesn’t disclose any information about account fees on their website. Again, there will be a lot of variability here because they’re using so many different processors to set up accounts. Nonetheless, you can expect to pay a $49.00 monthly account fee in most cases. There will also be extra fees for the use of their payment gateway, PCI compliance (usually charged annually), and per-occurrence fees for chargebacks. Most merchants will also have a $25.00 monthly minimum.
In most cases, eMerchantBroker doesn’t charge an application or account setup fee. While many merchant account providers are no longer charging these fees, high-risk specialists often still do. The reason for this is that high-risk accounts require a lot more work to set up, both in running a credit check and in working with multiple processors to find one that will accept the high-risk merchant as a client.
With so much variability in their rates and fees, it’s doubly important that you (a) negotiate every single term in your contract, and (b) carefully review all your contract documents before you sign up for an account. Overlooking something in your contract could prove to be a very costly mistake in the long run.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
Because eMerchantBroker partners with so many third-party processors to provide their merchant accounts, they don’t have a standard contract with a standard length. Instead, contract terms vary from as little as one year to as many as three years in length. You can also expect that your contract will have an automatic renewal clause that will automatically extend your contract – usually for one-year periods – after the expiration of the initial term. Review your contract carefully so that you understand the requirements for closing your account. The company will usually require at least 30 days’ notice, but it could be as much as 90 days. Automatic renewal clauses usually operate without providing any notice to you that the contract has been extended, so mark your calendar ahead of time!
Contracts with eMerchantBroker also include an early termination fee if you close your account without proper notice and before the expiration of the contract’s term. This fee can vary from as little as $295 to as much as $595, with the lower fees usually applying to one-year contracts and the higher fees applying to three-year contracts.
With so many merchant account providers now offering month-to-month contracts without multi-year terms or early termination fees, it might seem that this is an issue you can negotiate your way out of. While it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask, be aware that as a high-risk merchant you have very little leverage on this issue. Because the account provider is taking on the additional risk of providing you with a merchant account, they’re unlikely to budge on this issue.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
eMerchantBroker has a clean, professional-looking website that’s easy to navigate. Now, I’d like to tell you that there’s a strong correlation between the quality of a provider’s website and the quality of their services. Unfortunately, there usually isn’t. Yes, some of the worst providers in the industry have really bad websites, but having a nice website doesn’t guarantee that the company behind it offers good service at a fair price. Nonetheless, eMerchantBroker does a good job of informing potential customers about its services and includes a lot of extra information about special features, such as their extensive chargeback prevention features. I also like that they have dedicated pages with additional information that’s tailored to specific business sectors that are often considered high-risk, such as credit repair companies and offshore tech support.
At the same time, there’s a lot that’s missing. As we’ve noted, there’s very little disclosure of account fees or processing rates on eMerchantBroker’s website. While this isn’t unusual and there are valid reasons for doing so, it would be nice if they could disclose more information about account fees, including PCI compliance fees. I’d also like to see a discussion about processing rates that explains what your options are and why it’s not practical to list specific rates.
Most of the pages on eMerchantBroker’s website also link to an online application. Don’t be confused by this – you can’t sign up for a merchant account directly from the company’s website. The online application is designed to gather information about your business and send it to a sales representative, who will then contact you to discuss your options. Some merchants might be put off by the fact that the application requires you to set up a password. While this application will give you an account that you can log back into later, it’s not a merchant account. Whatever you do, never provide your bank account information to any merchant account provider until you’ve negotiated the terms of your contract, reviewed all contract documents, and signed them. While eMerchantBroker isn’t doing anything unethical here, there are some merchant account providers who will lock you into a merchant account contract and start charging you as soon as they have your bank account information.
eMerchantBroker relies on a combination of in-house sales representatives and independent agents to set up their accounts. We’re normally very leery of independent agents, as they have a well-deserved reputation throughout the industry for being poorly trained and supervised. Often working on a commission-only basis, they’re under tremendous pressure to close the deal and will often neglect to mention pertinent details about the contracts they’re trying to sell. Fortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case with eMerchantBroker. We’ve found no complaints alleging misleading or unethical behavior on the part of their sales agents, which is a good indication that they’re receiving proper training and are being closely supervised. Nonetheless, you’ll want to work with an in-house agent if at all possible. They generally receive better training and have a lower turnover rate than independent agents.
eMerchantBroker has an active social media presence, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They also have a YouTube channel, which unfortunately consists mostly of short infomercials about how great their services are – while offering very little in the way of details. While their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts are regularly updated with informative articles about processing and merchant accounts, the YouTube channel is a neglected and underutilized resource. It could be greatly improved with the addition of some tutorials and testimonials from actual customers.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
eMerchantBroker provides customer service via telephone, email, and live chat. Telephone service and live chat are available during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 7:00 AM-4:00 PM Pacific time). After hours telephone support is also available, although it won’t usually be provided by an in-house customer support team. Outside of normal business hours, there is an increased chance that the representative you talk to won’t have the authority or training to solve complex problems.
Another important thing to remember about eMerchantBroker is that they provide merchant accounts through third-party processors, and many issues that come up will have to be handled by your actual processor. If your account is suspended, a payment is held, or you have a chargeback, you will in most cases have to rely on your processor for help. eMerchantBroker doesn’t have authority over these issues.
eMerchantBroker’s website doesn’t offer anything in the way of self-help features. The site has no FAQ, knowledgebase, or tutorial videos to help you fix common problems. We’d really like to see some improvements in this area.
We weren’t able to locate much in the way of merchant feedback on the quality of eMerchantBroker’s customer service. This is usually an area that draws a lot of criticism, so the lack of complaints about customer service is something of a good sign that the company is performing well in this area. Still, if you’ve had any experience with eMerchantBroker’s customer service – good or bad – please tell us about it in the Comments section below.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
eMerchantBroker has been accredited by the BBB since 2012, and currently has an A+ rating. The company’s BBB profile currently shows only three complaints in the last three years, with only one complaint within the last twelve months. This is a very low complaint volume for a company of this size, although the fact that they’ve only been in business for five years might also be a contributing factor.
We weren’t able to locate any complaints against eMerchantBroker on Ripoff Report or any of the other popular consumer protection websites. The low complaint volume is certainly a good sign, but it also doesn’t provide enough data to show any trending issues that you should be aware of. Although they’re not indicative of an overall trend, issues raised in the few complaints against eMerchantBroker include poor customer service, high fees, non-disclosure of an early termination fee, and payment holds. Note that some of these issues (particularly payment holds) are the responsibility of the processor, not eMerchantBroker.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Positive feedback from merchants about their merchant account providers is always rare, but in the case of eMerchantBroker, it’s practically nonexistent. We weren’t able to find any positive reviews of the company from merchants who were using their services. Likewise, eMerchantBroker’s website is almost entirely devoid of the usual testimonials that providers like to showcase on their sites. There’s a very brief, vague testimonial from “Andy” in Santa Ana on the eMerchantBroker home page, but that’s it.
One award that is displayed prominently on the eMerchantBroker website is their #1 ranking as the best high-risk processor by topcreditcardprocessors.com. Unfortunately, they seem to have lost their top rating as of December 2016. In fact, they’re no longer listed in the top 30.
Final Verdict on eMerchantBroker:
Finding a good, reputable merchant account provider is never easy, but it’s particularly difficult if you’re a high-risk merchant. Many of the best, most-recommended providers can offer lower costs and more favorable terms in part by specifically excluding high-risk merchants. If you’re in the high-risk category, you’ll probably have to seek out a provider that specializes in high-risk accounts. Of the companies that do cater to high-risk merchants, most fall into one of two categories: those that do the best job they can to find you a quality merchant account despite the challenges your business presents, and those that prey on high-risk merchants, charging exorbitant fees and locking you into long-term contracts that are prohibitively expensive to get out of. Unfortunately, there are a lot more of the latter than there are of the former.
Of these two categories, eMerchantBroker falls somewhere in the middle, although they have a number of features that nudge them into the “better” category of providers. On the plus side, they’re more willing to work with some of the more challenging high-risk business categories, meaning that your chances of getting approved for an account are better than they might be with other providers. Their partnerships with multiple processors also translates into a higher chance of approval. At the same time, their processing rates and account fees are generally higher than what other high-risk providers can offer. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that you’re going to pay more for a high-risk merchant account even under the best of circumstances, but eMerchantBroker’s average rates are still unusually high.
At the same time, the company gets high marks for high-quality customer support and a reputable sales team. They’re not going to deliberately mislead you the way many other high-risk providers frequently will. As always, we highly recommend that you read your contract thoroughly before signing up for an account. This is particularly true of eMerchantBroker, as their use of so many different processors means there will be a lot of variation in contract terms and conditions.
Overall, eMerchantBroker gets a 4 out of 5-star rating this time around. If you’re looking for a merchant account and have had trouble getting approved because you’re in the high-risk category, they’re a solid choice. At the same time, I would encourage you to check out some of our top-rated high-risk providers before you reach out to eMerchantBroker. Unless you’re in a category that’s unusually difficult to approve, the best high-risk specialists can often get you an account that won’t be quite so expensive.
As always, we encourage you to share your experiences with eMerchantBroker in the Comments section below.