First Data Merchant Services (Now Fiserv) Review
Fiserv offers everything a merchant could need for payment processing, but thanks to high fees and and lengthy contracts, it isn't a great fit for small businesses.
Fiserv (formerly First Data) At A Glance
- Large, direct processor with well over 100 resellers
- Offers full line of Clover terminals & POS systems
- Processing rates & account fees not publicly disclosed
- Offers full line of Clover card readers, terminals, and POS systems
- Competitive interchange-plus rates available to high-volume businesses
- Extensive online knowledgebase
- Extremely expensive equipment leases
- A four-year standard contract with a liquidated damages clause
- High recurring account fees
Table of Contents
- What Is Fiserv (formerly First Data)?
- Products & Services
- First Data Credit Card Processing Fees & Rates
- Sales & Advertising Transparency
- Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
- Customer Service & Technical Support
- Fiserv Merchant Reviews & Complaints
- Final Verdict
- Frequently Asked Questions About Fiserv/First Data
What Is Fiserv (formerly First Data)?
First Data, now part of Fiserv following a merger, has built itself into one of the biggest names in credit card processing. Despite its enormous reach and a wide variety of payment tools for businesses, however, the company has never been friendly to small businesses.
While Fiserv has a huge network of independent resellers, this review will focus on its direct sales channel. Contract terms can — and usually do — vary from what you’d receive from a reseller.
Fiserv/First Data rates merely as an average merchant account provider (note that in the processing industry, the “average” is pretty lousy). First Data reviews from merchants point out issues with funding holds, poor customer service, and exorbitant fees. Small businesses that like the First Data product lineup — including the Clover POS line — are better off finding a reputable reseller of First Data’s credit card processing services rather than going to the company directly. We’re awarding it a score of 3 out of 5 stars for now. Be aware that this is an average figure because your experience with them will vary quite a bit, depending on your business’s size. Large businesses will have a much better experience with the company, while smaller ones will likely pay way too much for services they probably don’t need.
Products & Services
As befitting such a huge company, Fiserv offers every conceivable product and service you might need to run your business successfully. These features are all very high-quality, but don’t expect them to be a bargain. You’ll pay full price, but for many merchants, the cost is well worth it in terms of what they can do for your business. Here’s what First Data/Fiserv provides:
First Data Canada Merchant Services
First Data/Fiserv is also available to merchants in Canada, and the company maintains a separate Canadian website. Unfortunately, the First Data Canada website isn’t any more informative than the US site. There are a few disclosures regarding rates and fees, but these are limited to information about interchange rates and other pass-through fees that are actually charged by the issuing banks. There’s also some information about the Code of Conduct for the Credit and Debit Industry in Canada, to which Fiserv has pledged to adhere. If you’re a Canadian business owner looking for a merchant account provider that offers excellent service to small businesses, take a look at the best Canadian merchant account providers for small businesses.
First Data Credit Card Processing Fees & Rates
First Data’s website offers no pricing disclosures. There’s a reason for this: The company sets prices differently for every customer. The tremendous variability in First Data’s credit card processing fees makes listing them all impossible. Depending on the nature of your business and your processing history, you might be offered a tiered, interchange-plus, or even a flat-rate pricing plan. Even within those broad categories, there are plenty of variabilities.
Account fees, on the other hand, are usually standardized. All merchants normally pay the same amount for a particular fee regardless of their business size. We’d like to see more transparency on the fees that are the same for everyone.
What can you expect to pay in the way of account fees? You may be charged an application fee when you apply for a merchant account and an account setup fee if your application is approved. You’ll almost certainly have to pay a monthly account fee, although the amount could vary quite a bit from one business to another. This is one case where larger businesses generally pay more, although they’ll save money overall due to the lower processing rates. You can also expect to have an annual fee to cover upgrades, etc. Fees for PCI compliance are also very common, although this is often included as part of the Clover Security package ($19.95 per month). Additionally, there are many other incidental fees, such as Address Verification Service (AVS) fees, chargeback fees, etc.
For more information, please read our complete guide to credit card processing rates and fees. Lastly, be sure to review your contract or merchant agreement thoroughly before you sign up. Most (if not all) of the fees you might be liable for will be spelled out somewhere in the fine print of your contract.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Fiserv’s credit card processing information is now fully consolidated on the Fiserv website. The site itself is quite impressive from a web design standpoint, with lots of flashy graphics and animation. However, it doesn’t provide much information that’s useful in making a decision about signing up with the company. It’s also obvious that the company primarily caters to large businesses. Testimonials from users such as Google and Microsoft certainly won’t give you a warm fuzzy that Fiserv cares about you as a small business owner. Like many other merchant services providers in the payments industry, Fiserv’s website serves primarily as a marketing device rather than a source of specific, useful information. While there’s a fair amount of coverage of the Clover product lineup, you won’t find detailed specifications or in-depth information about specific features. Pricing information, of course, is nonexistent.
One positive thing about Fiserv Data payment processing is that the company employs a full-time, in-house sales team, so you won’t have to worry about dealing with independent sales agents if you contact the company directly. You shouldn’t experience the intense sales pressure or the misleading claims you commonly have to deal with when working with independent agents. Nonetheless, you should still negotiate aggressively to get the lowest rates and the best contract terms you can. You should also thoroughly review your entire contract before you sign up for an account.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
Getting connected to the Fiserv/First Data processing network can be accomplished by either (1) signing up with the company directly or (2) signing up with one of the company’s many Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs, or resellers). First Data’s standard merchant account contracts include an initial contract term of four years, with an automatic renewal clause for successive one-year periods thereafter. However, the contract length is sometimes negotiable, and you might be able to get approval for a shorter initial term. You’re not likely to get month-to-month billing from Fiserv unless you have a large business with an established processing history.
Long-term contracts almost always include an early termination fee (ETF), and First Data is no exception. Its ETF is equal to your monthly minimum, plus your monthly customer service fee and your monthly account fee, multiplied by the number of months remaining in your contract. This type of liquidated damages clause could conceivably cost you over $1,000 if you close your account within the first year or two of your contract. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to have this clause waived. However, you must negotiate to have it dropped before signing your contract. Be sure to keep a written copy of your waiver.
Fiserv resellers run the gamut from really good to absolutely terrible. An ISO can offer you lower rates and fees than you might be able to obtain by signing up with the company directly. However, they can just as easily charge you higher rates, tack on excessive fees, and lock you into long-term contracts with expensive early termination fees. At the same time, other resellers offer month-to-month billing with no long-term commitment as a standard feature.
Dharma Merchant Services is one of our favorite processors, mostly because it offers transparent interchange-plus pricing, fair account fees, and month-to-month billing. For most businesses (especially small to mid-sized ones), Dharma can provide you with a much better overall deal than you’d receive by signing up with Fiserv directly. Dharma operates under the philosophy that offering your customers services at a lower cost and with fair contract terms will attract and retain more customers overall.
Customer Service & Technical Support
|Fiserv (formerly First Data) Support||Availability|
|Dedicated Support Representative|
|Knowledge Base or Help Center|
|Videos & Tutorials|
Very large businesses have a reputation for providing poor, impersonal customer support, and Fiserv/First Data is no exception. While the company offers 24/7 telephone and email support, we’ve received many complaints from small business owners alleging impersonal, unresponsive support from the company’s customer service representatives. Promised follow-up actions fail to happen, forcing merchants to spend hours on hold and repeatedly contacting the company to report a problem that often never gets fixed.
We’re pretty sure big-name clients like Microsoft never have these kinds of problems. Unfortunately, it’s quite clear — even down to how Fiserv’s website is organized — that small business owners are treated as second-class citizens and relegated to the back of the line behind the much larger companies that bring in a greater share of the company’s revenue. Fiserv is certainly not the only large corporation to behave this way, but it’s particularly disappointing given that the company has the resources to do better.
The Fiserv website includes an extensive Merchant Support section, accessible via a ‘Support’ button on the top menu. Here, you’ll find links to Clover support resources (hosted on Clover’s website), FAQs, a video library, and other helpful information.
Fiserv Merchant Reviews & Complaints
Fiserv/First Data has a lot of public complaints, but the overall volume is pretty average when you consider its huge size. Fiserv and First Data still have separate BBB profiles, which we’ll address separately.
Let’s be honest: Huge credit card processors like Fiserv/First Data don’t care about your small business. With most credit card processing fees going to the issuing banks as interchange fees, providers like Fiserv usually make just a few pennies on a typical transaction. Those pennies still add up to huge profits with a large corporate client but aren’t worth much at all with a small business. Nonetheless, the small business sector as a whole is too large to ignore. The problem with large, direct processors like Fiserv and others is that they tend not to offer services and prices that are specially designed to meet the needs of their small business clients.
For this reason, we recommend that small businesses steer clear of signing up with Fiserv directly and work with a reputable reseller (such as Dharma or National Processing) instead. You’ll have access to the same great Clover terminals and POS systems but at a much more affordable overall cost. You’ll also have the freedom a month-to-month contract provides and usually much better customer support if problems arise. You can also check out our recommended First Data alternatives for other great small business-friendly providers.
If you’ve already signed up with First Data and now regret that decision, our post on how to cancel your First Data merchant account can help you get out of your contract.
Overall, Fiserv/First Data scores 3 out of 5 stars. This is an average rating because your experience with the company will vary greatly, depending on your business’s size. First Data’s score is slightly higher for large businesses and significantly lower for smaller ones.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fiserv/First Data
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.