First American Payment Systems Review
- eCheck processing offered
- PCI-compliant solution
- Numerous public complaints
- Deceptive sales tactics
- No pricing disclosed online
First American Payment Systems Overview
In this First American Payment Systems review, you’ll find that one of the main issues I have is the company’s overall inconsistency. It employs a sizable sales force of independent agents but does not seem to provide adequate training or support to them. We found dozens of complaints from former sales agents alongside complaints from merchants these agents sold to. It adds up to a lot of unhappy people.
Another issue I have with First American is the company’s confusing branding and subsidiary structure. I’ve heard many reports of First American using a tangle of business names, which can deceive merchants and reduce its operations’ overall transparency. In my experience, companies with many DBAs are usually trying to cover something up and confuse those trying to assess their reputation. First American Payments seems to fit this bill.
So what is First American? It’s been around for decades as a big-player in the industry. Established in 1990, First American Payment Systems (FAPS or First American for short) is a merchant account provider based in Fort Worth, Texas. While First American has never been our favorite provider, the company appeared to be making gradual improvements to its services and reputation. However, that progress seems to have stalled.
FAPS is not an inherently terrible merchant services provider. It has a decent website and doesn’t employ too many overtly deceptive sales gimmicks publicly. The company’s complaints volume, while significant, is not extraordinary for an outfit of this size. But if I am going to rate the brand as a whole, I’d say it’s a gamble at best. It doesn’t offer enough added value to make up for the expense of its contracts, and customer support seems to be lacking.
However, as long as you are willing to advocate for yourself, negotiate, and generally make sure your contract is fair, First American is a capable company that offers a diverse selection of payment-related services, and it could probably be a good provider for some businesses. Just bear in mind that there are plenty of other providers that won’t make you negotiate to get a fair deal — they’ll offer you transparent prices and a month-to-month agreement outright.
For these reasons, First American Payment Systems earns a completely middle-of-the-road 3-star rating out of 5. Check out our full review below, then head over to our comparison chart to see your other options. If you have any experience with FAPS, let us know in the comments!
Table of Contents
Products & Services
First American Payment Systems offers a full range of products and services. Your options include the following:
- POS System & Mobile App: FAPS offers a tablet-based POS system, 1stPayPOS. For mobile payments, it offers 1stPayMobile.
- Next-Day Funding: Next-day funding is an option with your merchant account, but its possible you’ll be charged extra fees to do so.
- Terminal Sales & Leasing: FAPS offers the proprietary Xion countertop terminal, which is EMV-compliant and NFC-capable. Other terminals available include the Ingenico iWL 250/252 and the Verifone Verix Vx520. Leases are provided by Merimac Capital, another First American subsidiary. In my opinion, you should never lease. Merimac’s leases are non-cancellable and extend for 60 months, usually at about $45 per month (plus insurance). That means even if you want to cancel the next day, you will be stuck paying $2,700 to buy out the contract for a machine that you could purchase outright for only a few hundred dollars.
- eCommerce: If you want to sell online, First American offers a full-fledged shopping cart with built-in CRM tools. For a more basic option, there’s also a customized payment page builder. The company bundles its virtual terminal and recurring billing into this suite of software.
- Online Reporting: This comes via First American’s proprietary FirstView reporting system. FirstView allows you to view merchant statements online, generate customized reports, and analyze processing data. It’s also encrypted to ensure the security of your data.
- FirstAdvantage: This offering supports in-house gift cards and a loyalty program designed for small to mid-size businesses.
- ACH & Paper Check Processing: These features are supported through First American’s FirstFund ACH and Secur-Chex solutions, respectively.
- Developer Tools: Developers who want to offer clients an integrated payment system can use First American’s suite of software to provide custom solutions. It also provides dedicated technical support teams through the process.
- Security Suite: As far as payment security goes, First American’s platform includes fraud detection tools as well as encryption and tokenization. You also get data breach insurance and assistance with PCI compliance.
- Merchant Cash Advances: These are available through First American’s Merchant Cash Advance Program. We recommend being wary of merchant cash advances, as they’re not the most competitive funding option, and you certainly have many other options.
While I wouldn’t say any of this is groundbreaking, cutting edge, or industry-leading, it is what you would expect from a mid to large-sized payment processor. It’s just a generally well-rounded feature-set designed to work with many different types of businesses.
Fees & Rates
While First American Payment Systems bombards you with information about all of its wonderful products and features, its website doesn’t mention a word about how much any of this will actually cost you. I couldn’t find a single dollar or percentage sign anywhere on the FAPS site.
For processing rates, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Rates are highly negotiable, and it’s often not practical to try to list all of them on a website. Also, unlike many other processing companies, it’s not trying to lure you in by deceptively quoting a low qualified rate that is much lower than what most of your transactions will cost.
Fees, unfortunately, are another matter entirely. From what I’ve seen in comments from merchants using FAPS, these accounts can be incredibly expensive, with most of the money going directly toward agent profits. First American currently offers merchants a choice between a $95 annual fee or a $25 monthly minimum on its standard contracts. Monthly statement fees are variable but can run as high as $20 per month. There’s also an annual PCI compliance fee of around $120. Finally, First American Payments will offer you a costly tiered-pricing plan if you don’t ask for interchange-plus pricing.
If you do choose to use First American Payments for credit processing, I have three words for you: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. And be careful! Demand interchange-plus pricing and insist on a month-to-month contract with no early termination fee. If the company won’t do that for you, I recommend you take your business elsewhere.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
A standard merchant agreement from First American Payment Systems runs for three years. It automatically renews for one-year periods thereafter, unless you provide adequate notice that you wish to end the contract. Early termination fees for breaking your contract are variable but generally run from $300 to $495, unless you negotiate a month-to-month contract with no ETF.
Since FAPS relies heavily on independent resellers and so many subsidiaries, there’s not a whole lot of standardization here. If you don’t see a signed waiver form attached to your contract, chances are there is an early termination fee, no matter what your sales rep says. Verbal agreements aren’t binding in the processing industry, and you’ll have to jump through a lot of hoops and make a lot of complaints to get that ETF refunded if there’s no signed waiver.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
The First American Payment Systems website is fairly attractive, but the information is sparse, and pages are somewhat frustrating to navigate. While I didn’t find any outright lies in the marketing materials, there is a conspicuous absence of any mention of costs and very little educational material about how merchant processing fees work. To quote Shakespeare, I’d like to see “more matter with less art” in the company’s marketing. This is probably done to accommodate a large and diverse pool of resellers that all have the freedom to set up accounts with a wide variety of fees and rates.
While I recognize rates will differ from merchant to merchant, I’d prefer to see some standardization and more transparent disclosure of scheduled fees. This helps to ensure that sales reps are selling fairly priced contracts. Take a look at the great resources offered by companies such as Helcim or Dharma Merchant Services and compare this to First American Payment Systems. It’s like night and day.
In terms of individual sales experiences, First American Payments Systems does not deliver enough consistency or transparency to earn my seal of approval. Its independent agents seem, in some cases, poorly trained and/or poorly regulated. While you could get a great sales agent, you could also get a terrible one. It’s not a wise gamble to take, and unfortunately, the processing industry is rife with these kinds of poorly-trained, minimally-supervised sales agents. If you really do think First American’s processing services are right for you, I suggest contacting the company directly because at least then you’ll be dealing with an in-house team for onboarding.
Customer Service & Technical Support
In our comments section, you can read a number of reviews that cite rude or otherwise unsatisfactory customer service. Corroborating complaints exist across the web. First American Processing does offer 24/7/365 in-house customer service, and it did win the ATSI Call Center of Distinction award in 2013, but not everyone would agree that this adds up to excellent customer support.
Here’s my takeaway: Having a well-staffed call center is a Band-Aid on a bullet wound when sales reps are scamming merchants into signing expensive and unfair contracts. Call centers are often inundated with calls from unhappy merchants when they find out they’re paying fees they weren’t told about. When they don’t get a resolution, they tend to want to try to cancel their accounts, which doesn’t go well when they find out there’s an early termination fee in addition to whatever initially set off the issues. It’s something of a vicious cycle, really — and you see why having 24/7 support doesn’t do much to offset the complaints.
If you’ve had experience with FAPS’s customer service, by all means, drop us a comment and tell us all about it!
Merchant reviews leave less than glowing remarks for First American. By far, most complaints are with billing and collections issues over at the BBB. We recommend proceeding with caution and be aware of what you’re being charged.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
First American Payment Systems earned its BBB accreditation in January 2015 and currently has an A+ rating with the BBB. The company is pretty proud of this, displaying it prominently on its website and including a direct link to the BBB report. I commend the company for being so transparent, as it currently has 72 complaints filed over the past three years, with 20 new complaints filed in the past year.
While this may seem like a lot, and it is troubling, it’s a fairly average number of complaints about a processor of its size. First American had slightly more complaints in our last review in June 2019. The reviews tend to wobble only slightly in either direction, so we can safely say not much has improved.
Unfortunately, the responses from First American to merchant complaints are generally impersonal and not very apologetic. It absolutely will not cancel terminal leases administered through Merimac Capital, but it will sometimes waive early termination fees. Apparently, a lot of merchants haven’t read their contract thoroughly enough to be aware of the early termination fee, and far too many sales agents aren’t discussing it when trying to close a deal.
But seriously, read through the company’s responses to complaints on the BBB website. The tone in these responses is that of a company that does not appreciate criticism.
Here are some of the most common complaints against FAPS:
- Unethical Sales Tactics: Overall, merchants are unsatisfied with the sales experience provided by many FAPS agents. Specifically, complaints include nondisclosure of contract terms and fees as well as receiving misleading information about how credit card processing works and how rates are decided. First American does not provide any useful educational material or rate information on its website, making the sales experience even more confusing and misleading.
- Bad Leasing Agreements: Any company that still pushes the old standard four-year non-cancellable terminal leases should, as a general rule, be avoided like the plague. These companies are desperately looking to make money at your expense and via your lack of industry knowledge. These leases end up costing thousands of dollars just for the pleasure of borrowing a machine that is only worth a few hundred dollars. Don’t do it. Read our article explaining why leases are a bad deal for merchants for more information.
- Overall Cost: Some merchants complain about rate hikes and high percentages of non-qualified transactions. Others bemoan the hefty early termination fees. Others hate finding so many undisclosed fees on their statements.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any positive reviews or testimonials for First American Payment Systems — not even on its website. Honestly, I have no real reason to encourage you to pursue using this company’s services. While I’m sure it has a substantial number of satisfied merchants on its side, FAPS delivers very inconsistent sales and service experiences. With so many other truly exceptional providers out there, why settle for passive-aggressive mediocrity? With sub-par pricing and a completely average product lineup, you could do so much better.
If you disagree, please let me know in a comment. It’s always nice to see positive testimonials for any company we review.
We give First American Payment Systems 3 out of 5 stars. While this isn’t the worst rating we’ve given out, the company certainly doesn’t earn our recommendation, either. One could argue that a few bad apples ruin the whole bunch or that the negative reviews we find don’t represent the entire company. However, with so many independent sales agents working for this company, we think it is best to approach with extreme caution. For us, it’s the overall level of inconsistency displayed by FAPS’s sales agents that are the most bothersome.
Sadly, the issues don’t end there. I’m not satisfied with First American’s advertising. Its main website is noticeably vague and uninformative. Its business structure, with its numerous DBAs and multiple subsidiary websites, is convoluted and confusing, perhaps deliberately so. I want to see providers educating merchants to help them make a good decision. First American is definitely not doing this, at least not as a rule.
Complaints against the company include insanely expensive and non-cancellable terminal leases and pricey contracts peddled by dishonest sales reps. Poor customer support, difficulty closing accounts, and expensive early termination fees are also frequently mentioned.
With all of these issues riding against First American, it’s difficult to recommend partnering with it. Not when you’ll find quite a few other providers out there that will offer you interchange-plus pricing with no early termination fees, not to mention outstanding customer service — all for significantly less than FAPS will charge you.
If I were you, I’d take a gander at our comparison chart to see some other options!
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.