First Data Global Leasing (FDGL) Review
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- Date Established
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Offers high-quality terminals and POS systems
- Payments greatly exceed value of equipment over full lease term
- Contract terms up to four years
- Lease is noncancelable
- Early termination requires paying out all remaining months of contract
- Poor customer service and support
First Data Global Leasing Overview
First Data Global Leasing (FDGL) is the leasing division of mammoth processor First Data, the largest merchant services provider in the United States, and one of the largest providers in the world. FDGL operates out of their parent company’s Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, and provides credit card terminals and point-of-sale (POS) systems to merchants throughout the United States and internationally.
Unfortunately, all hardware is provided under a leasing arrangement, and it’s one that’s very one-sided in favor of First Data, not the consumer. While it’s entirely possible to purchase your equipment outright either directly through First Data or a reseller, the high cost of doing so (especially if you’re a very small business or need multiple units) can be unsettling. Leasing arrangements require no money upfront, and the monthly payments can seem quite small in comparison to the cost of purchasing. Unfortunately, FDGL’s leasing contracts include an initial term of up to four years and are noncancelable. If you don’t do the math or you aren’t aware of the contract provisions, it’s easy to believe the company’s sales pitch that leasing is less expensive than buying. Nothing could be further from the truth! While the monthly lease payments can seem very affordable, they’ll inevitably total up to far more than the actual value of the equipment over the life of the lease. We’re not talking about a 20-30% markup here, either. The total cost by the end of the lease can run anywhere from three times to as much as ten times the cost to purchase the same equipment.
These terms alone are more than reason enough for us to recommend against leasing with FDGL in the strongest terms possible. Unfortunately, there are other problems with the company that make the situation even worse. Because First Data markets its merchant services through a network of resellers, we’ve seen many complaints alleging that independent sales agents pressure unsuspecting merchants into signing up for a lease – without ever disclosing the draconian terms of the lease contract. We’ve even found reports of merchants whose signatures were allegedly forged on contract documents in order to sell a lease. Moreover, FDGL has a terrible reputation for customer service and support.
With all these problems, we have no choice but to award First Data Global Leasing a rating of 1 out of 5 stars. The only positive thing we can say about them is that the Clover products they’re offering are all high-quality items with robust features. They also support the latest payment technology, such as EMV and NFC-based payment methods. However, you can easily purchase these products outright through other resellers for far less money than what a lease will cost you.
Table of Contents
Products & Services
Because they’re a leasing company and not a full-service merchant services provider, First Data Global Leasing only offers processing hardware for retail merchants, and only through a leasing arrangement. If you need a merchant account, payment gateway, or other services, you’ll need to contact First Data directly or work with one of their many resellers. Likewise, purchasing your equipment outright (which we highly recommend) cannot be done through FDGL. Be sure to shop around before making a purchasing decision, as First Data and its resellers all charge different prices, and some will offer you a better deal than others. Here’s an overview of the products available through First Data Global Leasing:
- Credit card terminals: FDGL primarily leases First Data’s Clover line of products. All these devices can accept magstripe, EMV, and NFC-based payment methods (including Apple Pay). The Clover Mini (see our review) bridges the gap between a traditional countertop terminal and a full point-of-sale (POS) system, offering a color touchscreen in a smaller form-factor than a full-sized system. Clover Mini normally retails for around $500, plus an additional $10.00 monthly fee. The Clover Flex is more like a traditional terminal in size and features, but it’s also completely wireless. It can connect to your processor’s network via either Wi-Fi or 3G (the latter will require a monthly data plan). There’s also the First Data FD-130, a more traditional terminal that’s not part of the Clover family. It can be purchased outright for about $350 from resellers.
- Point-of-sale (POS) systems: FDGL leases the Clover Station (see our review), which is Clover’s flagship POS system. Prices vary depending on which accessories you add to your setup, but expect to pay around $1000 for the basic unit and an additional $59.00 per month fee. Clover Mobile (see our review) is a smaller system with Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. It can be purchased outright for $350 – $800, depending on whether you’re buying it individually or as part of a package with the Clover Station. You can also expect to pay a $10.00 monthly access fee, plus a $15.00 monthly fee for the optional 3G data plan.
- Mobile processing: First Data uses their proprietary Clover Go (see our review) system for mobile processing. In addition to a free app, you’ll need either the Clover Go Basic Reader (which uses a headphone jack to connect to your smartphone) or the Clover Go Contactless (which uses Bluetooth). Note that these units are usually not leased due to their relatively low prices. The Basic Reader runs around $100, while the Contactless model costs about $150.
Fees & Rates
While FDGL’s prices may not be fair, they are simple. You’ll pay a monthly lease fee for every terminal you lease, and that’s it. There’s no down payment required, and you won’t be charged any annual fees for insurance, equipment upgrades, etc. In fact, FDGL doesn’t provide terminal insurance, but requires you to purchase it on your own.
Unfortunately, you won’t save money overall by leasing – despite what your sales agent may tell you. With completely noncancelable contracts, you’re on the hook for every monthly payment over the term of your lease from the moment you sign up. You can rest assured that these payments will total up to at least twice the reasonable purchase price of your terminal – sometimes as much as seven or eight times the retail price.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
If you don’t read any other part of this review, read this section and read it carefully. FDGL’s leasing contracts are far and away the worst aspect of their service, and you could end up spending thousands of dollars unnecessarily if you get lured into signing one of these agreements. Because FDGL is a division of First Data, you won’t have a separate contract for your equipment lease. Instead, the lease agreement is included in the First Data Merchant Services Program Terms and Conditions, a 48-page legal document that’s part of the contract for every First Data merchant account. The lease agreement is spelled out on pages 31 and 32, and we recommend that you read this part of the contract if you’re even considering leasing your equipment.
The most important clause in this contract is found in Section 1.2 (b), which reads as follows:
The term of this Lease Agreement begins on a date designated by us after receipt of all required documentation and acceptance by us (the “Commencement Date”), and continues for the number of months indicated on the MPA. THIS IS A NON-CANCELABLE LEASE FOR THE TERM INDICATED.
In case you’re curious, noncancelable means completely and utterly noncancelable under any circumstances. You cannot simply return the equipment and get out of paying the lease payments. If you close your merchant account and switch to a different provider, you will still have to pay the remaining lease payments. If you sell your business, you (or the new owner) will still have to pay the remaining lease payments. If you close your business altogether, you will still have to pay the remaining lease payments. Even if you die, your estate will be on the hook for the remaining lease payments (and yes, we’ve seen reports of this actually happening to people).
So, how long are these leases, anyway? First Data and its resellers have some flexibility in determining the lease term, but it usually ranges from a minimum of 24 months up to a maximum of 48 months. Unfortunately, merchant accounts through First Data typically come with four-year initial terms, so most sales agents will set the lease term at four years also. While this might result in a lower monthly lease payment, the total cost over the life of the lease will be much higher than if you had simply purchased the equipment outright.
Can it get any worse? Yes, it can! At the end of your lease, you still won’t own your equipment. That’s right; this is a lease, not a rent-to-own arrangement. Once you’ve made your final payment under the lease agreement, you have a choice of either returning the equipment or continuing to make the same lease payments on a month-to-month basis.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
While First Data Global Leasing has a website (actually just a page on First Data’s site), it’s remarkably basic and doesn’t provide much information about either the terms of their leases or the leasing fees associated with their products. They do include a brief FAQ that makes several dubious claims about the “benefits” of leasing, but that’s about it. Don’t expect any useful or reliable information here.
FDGL primarily markets its products through First Data’s network of sales agents, including those who work for the company directly and those working for resellers. These include a mix of both salaried employees and independent sales agents. We can’t say with certainty that sales agents receive any residuals from selling an FDGL lease, but it seems apparent that at least some of them do, given the numerous reports from merchants alleging that their sales agent pressured them into signing up for an equipment lease.
As a division of First Data, FDGL doesn’t have its own independent social media accounts. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to maintain as low a public profile as possible.
Customer Service & Technical Support
As of this writing, the Customer Care link on FDGL’s website is a dead link. This alone should tell you how little importance they attach to customer service. Hunt around a little more and you’ll find a telephone number for customer support, although their hours aren’t disclosed. You can also contact them through email, and should expect a response within 24-48 hours. Fortunately, First Data and Clover provide extensive documentation on their websites to help you diagnose and (hopefully) resolve technical issues on your own. It should come as no surprise that poor customer support is a very frequent complaint from merchants who have leased equipment through FDGL. A PDF list of frequently asked questions is also provided.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
FDGL’s status as a division of First Data means that it doesn’t have its own separate BBB profile. Instead, you’ll have to look at First Data’s profile for some insights. Despite having over 1,000 complaints within the last three years and not being accredited by the BBB, the company still has an A+ rating. Although complaints against First Data cover a wide range of issues, complaints relating to FDGL’s leasing practices are quite easy to find and represent a disproportionately high percentage of the total complaint volume. Unfortunately, the company’s responses to complaints are very generic and don’t appear to offer any relief to merchants trying to cancel their lease without having to buy out the remaining months of their agreement. FDGL appears to have only one policy in this regard, and that policy is that the terms of the lease agreement will be strictly enforced in all cases.
Ripoff Report has an additional 86 complaints filed against FDGL, including several merchants alleging that FDGL’s sales agents forged their signatures on leasing contract documents. At ConsumerAffairs.com, you’ll find another 334 reviews from merchants who have been abused by this company, almost all of whom assigned a 1 out of 5 stars rating. There’s even a Facebook group called First Data Global Leasing Victims, where merchants have posted complaints about FDGL and its leasing contracts.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
As you might expect, finding positive feedback on FDGL is nearly impossible. Almost every mention of the company on the internet is overwhelmingly negative. In fact, FDGL doesn’t even include any positive testimonials about its service on its own website. Does this mean that every merchant who’s ever dealt with the company has had a bad experience? Not necessarily. People are far more likely to complain than they are to praise, and we can only assume that there are at least some merchants out there who are happy with the First Data and Clover products they lease through FDGL. They probably aren’t aware (or just don’t care) that they’re actually being ripped off for hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars over the life of their lease.
First Data Global Leasing has the dubious distinction of being among our rogue’s gallery of the worst credit card terminal leasing companies in the processing industry. While they at least offer high-quality products in the Clover line of terminals and POS systems, it’s disheartening that an industry leader like First Data would associate themselves with such awful business practices.
Leasing processing equipment was far more common a few decades ago when credit card machines were more expensive than they are today. Back in the day when credit card terminals operated over slow, dial-up connections, leasing might have made more sense than it does today. Now that terminals have come down so much in price (while adding far more powerful features), it simply doesn’t make sense to lease them. In fact, many merchant services providers no longer offer equipment leases at all, either selling them directly or including a “free” terminal with your merchant account. While these free terminal offers actually only let you borrow a terminal as long as you keep your account open, they’re still a better deal than leasing.
Some companies, especially in Canada, are now offering terminal rentals as an alternative to either leasing or buying your equipment. You still pay a monthly fee, but aren’t trapped in a long-term contract and can return the equipment at any time without penalty. Other companies, such as CDGcommerce (see our review) provide a “free” terminal in exchange for a $79.00 annual insurance fee. Compare this with FDGL, which doesn’t provide any insurance or warranty of any kind, but does insist that you purchase insurance for your equipment separately.
Overall, First Data Global Leasing earns a 1 out of 5 stars rating. Although the terminals and POS systems they provide are all high-quality products, you’re much better off buying them rather than leasing them. Don’t let an aggressive sales agent convince you that it’s more economical to lease. Do the math! It’s pretty simple to figure out how much a long-term lease will cost you and compare it to the retail price of the equipment you need.
Another consideration when you’re looking for a merchant account is that First Data has a very extensive network of resellers, not all of whom disclose their relationship with either First Data or FDGL. Merchant services provider such as TransFirst (see our review), Capital Processing Network (see our review) and many, many others use First Data as their backend processor and offer First Data terminals and Clover POS systems. If you’d like to use First Data’s equipment or take advantage of the services such a large processor can provide, take a look at Dharma Merchant Services (see our review). One of our favorite providers, Dharma utilizes First Data (and other processors) but doesn’t partner with FDGL. In fact, they don’t lease terminals at all. They’ll either sell you a terminal at a fair price or re-program your own equipment for a reasonable fee.