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We’ve had our eyes on Fattmerchant (not Fat Merchant or Fatt Merchant, and definitely not Phat Merchant) since they launched. At the time, we had just reviewed a couple of other subscription-based credit card processing companies and were cautiously optimistic about this new and innovative pricing model. As of mid-2015, we’re pretty sure that this type of pricing is here to stay and we’ve seen consistent saving and quality service for a wide variety of merchant using these plans. And in that time, Fattmerchant has grown into a real contender in the industry – certainly worthy of an in-depth review. So here we are!
You may have heard of Fattmerchant and its founder Suneera Madhani in a couple of articles published by Fast Company. Both she and the company at large seem to be very active and public, which I find refreshing. A lot of merchant services companies are only active in their pavement-pounding and telephone marketing (read: harassment) to drum up sales. Fattmerchant seems to be making a really solid effort to build a good reputation without force feeding business owners. Over the last year, representatives from the company politely reached out to us a number of times with updates and to inquire about the possibility of being reviewed. We declined to do the review until now because the company was too new and we weren’t seeing enough interest at the time, but I respect the energy and honest initiative they’ve shown. The company and its representatives seem to truly believe in the value of its services, which is a hugely positive sign. Believe it or not, many merchant services provider don’t want us to review them…
Fattmerchant (aka, Sunshine Payment Services, LLC) appears to use National Processing Company (NPC) as its primary processor. (NPC is owned by Vantiv, so you might see that name as well.) So you can expect any integration that works with NPC to work with Fattmerchant. Don’t worry about complaints you see regarding NPC. Fattmerchant has pre-negotiated your contract terms for you, so you don’t have to worry about getting a bad deal or dealing with a poorly trained sales rep. While I might not always recommend that you sign up with NPC directly, I have much more confidence in accounts set up via Fattmerchant because of the company’s transparency and standards.
There’s no doubt that this company is part of an interesting and growing trend in payment processing pricing, and while it’s not the oldest subscription-based flat-rate payments company, Fattmerchant appears to provide competitive value and service. In some cases, Fattmerchant may even be the less expensive and/or more valuable option. I like the software and services, although the quality of customer support and long-term effectiveness are yet to be seen. I’m really optimistic, though. This company has all the markings of an honest provider and a future success. Give it a shot. There’s no commitment, so you have nothing to lose. And I’m pretty confident that you’ll really like it.
Read the full review below for all the nitty-gritty details on Fattmerchant’s credit card processing services! This is a five-star company, and I predict it will hold this rating into the foreseeable future.
Products & Services:
Fattmerchant offers several solutions, all of which you can find here, but I’ll give you a quick rundown as well.
- Virtual terminal: The Fattmerchant virtual terminal is part of a full online payments hub that includes online reporting, analytics, card processing, ACH processing, and pre-authorizations. I really believe that this kind of online software will make or break the processing companies of the future, so I’m glad to see that it’s a cornerstone of the Fattmerchant service. While it’s certainly not as advanced as services like Swipely (yet!), it’s also less expensive and has room to grow in the future. For more on virtual terminals, check this out. This terminal is mobile-responsive, which means you can use it on your smartphone or tablet with no loss of functionality.
- Pre-authorization: If your business needs the ability to pre-auth a payment (to ensure that the customer has the available credit balance to be charged at a later date, such as with rentals and deposits), Fattmerchant allows you to do this from the virtual terminal.
- ACH e-check processing: Again, this is intuitively integrated into the virtual terminal. To learn more about ACH, check this out.
- API: For developers or businesses that would like to use Fattmerchant for processing, but have their own custom software needs, the API allows for easy integration. Note that web development skills will be needed for many tasks, so you will likely have to hire someone to help. Fattmerchant just provides the documentation.
- Online reporting and analytics: This is compatible with QuickBooks! The reports seem fairly basic, but well-organized and easily searchable and sortable. Many processing companies have ancient and borderline unusable online reporting software, so I’m thrilled to see this sleek, attractive, intuitive interface.
- Mobile processing: This is offered primarily through NPC’s mobile processing app. We haven’t formally reviewed this app yet, but it looks pretty useable. Let us know what you think in the comments.
- EMV-compliant chip card machines: I’m super glad to see Fattmerchant advertising EMV-compliant credit card terminals. Learn more about this technology and why it matter here.
- Terminal reprogramming: If you already have an up-to-date credit card machine, no problem! Fattmerchant will reprogram it free of charge.
- Gateway/Shopping cart: While you can use a different gateway if you choose to, Fattmerchant has primarily partnered with Authorize.Net (the industry leader), and all fee and rate information reflects this. If you just need the virtual terminal, this won’t be necessary.
Fees & Rates:
Fattmerchant offers three standardized pricing plans that cover the needs of most small to medium-sized businesses. Two of these plans feature subscription (or membership) pricing, where you pay a monthly subscription fee in exchange for not being charged any percentage markup on your transactions. You will still, however, pay a modest fixed per-transaction fee. Your subscription fee covers services that most providers charge separately for, making your monthly costs very predictable.
While the two subscription-based pricing plans work well with established businesses with a stable processing history, Fattmerchant has also recently introduced a flat-rate pricing plan that’s geared toward startups and low-volume merchants for whom the subscription plans aren’t affordable.
Before we delve into the details of each pricing plan, let’s clear up a possible misconception you might have about these plans. At first glance, it appears that the plans are geared towards certain business types (i.e., retail or eCommerce). Actually, your processing volume is a more important factor in choosing an appropriate plan. Low-volume merchants will usually want to choose the flat-rate plan, as it doesn’t have a monthly subscription fee. Higher-volume merchants will want to choose one of the subscription plans, as they’ll save a significant amount of money in processing charges. Fattmerchant claims that users of their subscription plans save an average of 40% in total processing costs over a more traditional merchant account provider. While this is just a ballpark figure, it’s certainly possible that the right type of business could save that much – or even more. For more advice on choosing the best plan for your business, Fattmerchant’s article Which Plan Is Right for My Business? provides some additional information.
Fattmerchant Payments Online + Mobile:
This is Fattmerchant’s basic, flat-rate plan. It’s designed for new or very small businesses, but also works well for seasonal merchants due to the lack of a monthly fee. Under this plan, all transactions are processed at a flat rate of 2.9% + $0.15 per transaction. It’s strictly pay-as-you-go, with no monthly or annual fees. With this plan, you’ll have access to the Fattmerchant Payments Online virtual terminal, the Fattmerchant Payments Mobile app, and the Fattmerchant Payments API. Optional, EMV-compliant mobile card readers are available to go with the mobile app for $75.00 each.
Because this plan doesn’t charge a higher processing rate for card-not-present transactions, you might not necessarily need a mobile card reader. However, unless you’re only selling online, we recommend that you purchase one anyway due to the added security and fraud protection that comes with using EMV-enabled cards.
This is a new pricing plan, and replaces a previous entry-level plan that included a subscription fee. We can only speculate that the previous plan was too expensive for very small businesses, and the newer plan is designed to compete more directly with Square. Whether Square or Fattmerchant’s flat-rate plan is a better fit for your business will depend on your needs and what types of transactions you process most often. Square’s card-present rates are a little lower, but their card-not-present rates are significantly higher. Fattmerchant’s biggest advantage, however, is that you’ll be getting a full-service merchant account, backed up by 24/7 customer support. You won’t get either of those things with Square, and your account could be frozen or terminated without notice at any time. Another advantage with Fattmerchant is that if your business grows to the point where their subscription pricing makes more sense, it’s easy to switch to a different pricing plan without having to go through the hassle of changing to a different provider.
Online Shopping Cart + Fattmerchant Payments API:
Designed primarily for eCommerce merchants, this is Fattmerchant’s most affordable subscription plan. For $79.00 per month, you receive a single processing rate of interchange + $0.15 per transaction. That’s it! There’s no percentage markup on your transactions. In theory, the fees that a percentage markup would generate are already included in your monthly subscription fee. You’ll want to compare your current pricing plan (if you have one) with this plan to see if you would save money. As a general rule, the higher your processing volume, the more you’ll save overall. Beware, however, that low-volume merchants might actually pay more money under this plan due to the high subscription fee. If that’s the case, you’re better off going with their flat-rate plan mentioned above.
This plan is also designed to provide all the tools you’ll need to run an eCommerce business, so it also comes with a payment gateway, the Fattmerchant Payments Online virtual terminal, shopping cart integration, and Fattmerchant’s API for customizing your site’s payment interface. Everything is included for no additional charge, although in reality, the monthly subscription fee covers the costs associated with these features.
Terminals + POS Integration:
For retailers, this is Fattmerchant’s most expensive subscription plan, but it could also save you the most money in processing costs. For $99.00 per month, you get a single processing rate of interchange + $0.05 per transaction. That’s about the lowest processing rate you’ll find from any merchant account provider in the industry. If your business is large enough that you can afford the hefty monthly subscription fee, you’ll save a tremendous amount of money on your processing costs.
This plan also comes with an included credit card terminal and free integration of your existing point-of-sale (POS) system with Fattmerchant’s payment system. The company doesn’t provide specifics on their website, but you can probably expect to receive a single, basic EMV-compliant credit card terminal with your account. You’ll have to pay for any additional terminals or upgraded models (i.e., wireless or NFC-capable terminals).
According to Fattmerchant, these standardized pricing plans are designed for merchants processing less than $1 million per year. If your business is large enough to exceed this amount, you’ll want to contact the company directly for customized pricing. While no details are provided, you can probably expect to pay a higher subscription fee in exchange for even lower processing rates.
Because of the way Fattmerchant bundles features with their accounts according to business type rather than processing volume, you might want to ask for customized pricing even if your yearly volume isn’t quite that high. For example, a large eCommerce business might want to take advantage of the lower rates of the retail plan, but substitute the credit card terminal for the software features of the eCommerce plan.
But what about account fees? As any small business owner knows, the hidden, nickel-and-dime fees that providers like to charge can sometimes exceed the cost of processing transactions. You’ll also have to pay them whether you use your account or not. Fattmerchant’s flat-rate and subscription pricing plans are designed to minimize these “extra” fees as much as possible, either including them in the monthly subscription fee or not charging them at all. Under the company’s standardized pricing plans, you won’t have to pay any annual fees, batch fees, statement fees, or PCI compliance fees. It also appears that you won’t pay any gateway fees if you have a payment gateway included with your account. This kind of pricing makes your month-to-month costs much more predictable and eliminates many of the unpleasant surprises you might experience when an unexpected charge shows up on your statement.
Does this mean that there aren’t any additional fees? Well, not quite. There are always going to be occasional additional charges from outside agencies that the company will pass on to you at cost. This includes the notorious Visa FANF fee, which is charged by Visa and not your provider. You’ll also have to pay for chargebacks, which are usually $15 to $25 each.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee:
No long-term contractual commitments, no early termination fees. If you don’t like the service offered by Fattmerchant, you are free to leave without penalty. Good deal!
As a testament to Fattmerchant’s transparency, the company’s homepage links to a complete copy, including peripheral documents, of the NPC processing agreement and service terms. While it is very dense legalese for the most part (as all contracts are), I’m really thrilled to see it linked here. A lot of providers just sort of spring it on you at the last minute. At least Fattmerchant gives you the time to review the contract in-depth if you’d like to before feeling any pressure to sign. Of course, the fee page and application are not included there as they will vary from merchant to merchant.
(If you need assistance understanding your contract, we can help.)
Sales & Advertising Transparency:
As touched on above, Fattmerchant appears to have decent transparency. Aside from providing a copy of the contract on its homepage, you can find some useful basic information on the FAQ page and Blog page. It’s not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination, but it offers solid introductory information.
Overall, Fattmerchant does not make any outlandish claims or unkeepable promises. The company’s marketing is honest and straightforward and includes explanations for interchange and interchange-plus pricing. This is far above and beyond the industry average.
The one semi-complaint I have was already touched on in the pricing section above. The different plans offered suggest that you had ought to make your selection based on business type rather than volume, which is not true. Since many accounts are boarded entirely online without the assistance of a sales rep, I would really like to see this improved. The truth is that your add-ons (such as a mobile reader, gateway, or EMV terminal) will be dictated by your business type, while your payment plan should be decided based on the number of transactions you complete monthly. If none of the plans suit your needs, definitely give Fattmerchant a call to work out a customized plan.
Customer Service & Technical Support:
I absolutely love how active Fattmerchant is on social media. You can find a lot of useful content on both Facebook and Twitter from the company. If you have a quick question, you can use social media to get a public answer.
The Fattmerchant website also offers live chat during business hour. <They also promise “you’ll always get a voice to the phone and will always have someone ready and willing to help you” as well as a 24/7 support line.> Aside from that, few promises are made in terms of customer support. If you’ve had experience with Fattmerchant’s customer service, please leave us a comment! Be sure to include your name, business name, or other identifying information so that we can verify that your review is authentic.
Negative Reviews & Complaints:
Fattmerchant has an A+ rating with the BBB, with only one minor complaint that the company responded to in-depth, and is currently a 4.5-star company on Yelp. Other independent reviewers do not appear to have appraised Fattmerchant’s service yet. You can see for yourself that Googling things like Fattmerchant scam, ripoff, complaints, reviews, etc., doesn’t provide a ton of useful results.
While no reputation is better than a bad reputation, it’s certainly not as good as a positive reputation. The company has only been in business since 2014, and it has a very limited track record and online reputation currently. I think Fattmerchant has a ton of potential, let me be clear about that. And I don’t see any red flags whatsoever.
Some have criticized the sustainability of this pricing model, voicing the same concerns I did when I first reviewed this type of company. Here’s a comment from the Fast Company article:
If a merchant processes transactions in the size (ATS) of $2000+ and monthly volumes of $200,000 what Fattmerchant is making is 200 x 6 cents + $99 = $111 and what her exposure to the company going down and fraud is too high. She is sitting on a time bomb.
This is an interesting point. For users with large transaction, service like Fattmerchant offer enormous savings since no extra percentage markup is assessed. But is this fair or foolish for Fattmerchant? Are they exposed to additional risk? The company’s reply to the above comment was as follows:
We appreciate the feedback. However the concept of Fattmerchant is that we, unlike most all other providers, are not trying to make a ton of money off of each individual customer – for us it is a scalable model.
We are backed by NPC/Vantiv, so no transactions are actually run at the Fattmerchant office – they are handled by NPC/Vantiv; all transactions are safe and secured, along with a strong underwriting and risk team.
So, yes, Fattmerchant misses out on potential profits by neglecting to charge a percentage fee on large transactions. But – contrary to popular belief – that money is not necessary to mitigate risk. Companies like Fattmerchant are proving that merchant services can be profitable without a percentage markup. Be aware, however, that low-volume users or users with small transactions might end up paying a little bit more than they would elsewhere, which could serve to make up for lost profits on the larger transactions. Even so, the predictability and transparency could still make this pricing model worth it for these lower volume users.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials:
Like the negative reviews section above, Fattmerchant doesn’t have many positive reviews yet. You’ll find a few very short reviews on the company’s Facebook page, but it’s not much to go off of. No positive reviews or testimonials are including on the Fattmerchant site.
So once again: If you’ve had experience with Fattmerchant, please leave us a comment! Be sure to include your name, business name, or other identifying information so that we can verify that your review is authentic.
Actual verifiable customer experiences mean a lot to us. So, good or bad, please chime in with your insights.
The bottom line? I really like Fattmerchant. For me, this company’s approach really is the future of the merchant services industry. And I don’t just mean it’s pricing model. Fattmerchant seems honest, open, innovative, and responsive to the needs of its users. The days of success built on deception and overcharging are on the way out. The time for fresh and fair providers like Fattmerchant is here.
There are some areas Fattmerchant could improve. I’d like to see more information that communicates what interchange and assessments are likely to cost for a given merchant so that they can get a better idea of the total cost. I’d also like to see add-on services offered on an as-needed basis, with the different pricing tiers serving only to prove added value based on transaction volume. As it stands, the bundles don’t really make a lot of sense, and since merchants may be boarded without any help from a representative, it would be nice if it was all more intuitive and logical. Beyond that, the customer support center is functional but, could be more comprehensive.
I’m super excited to see Fattmerchant continue to innovate and grow in the coming year. The company earns a perfect five-star rating, and I predict we’ll see more good things from the Fattmerchant team and that they will continue to build a solid reputation and track record in the industry.
If you’ve tried Fattmerchant out, please leave your thoughts below along with your name and business information. Your testimonials help us a lot. Otherwise, definitely give this company a shot. They’re doing good things for the industry!