Heartland Payment Systems Review
Need Help Choosing? Click Here
- Phone Number
- (888) 963-3600
- Date Established
- Edmond, OK
- Ideal for restaurant industry
- Supports ecommerce
- Free mobile payments app
- Nonprofit discounts available
- Excellent customer support
- Expensive for low-volume merchants
- $295 early termination fee
- No pricing disclosed online
In the payments space, it’s pretty common to encounter tradeoffs. Rarely do we at Merchant Maverick encounter a company that is the whole package: pricing, service, transparency, and so on. Heartland Payment Systems is not absolutely perfect as far as processing, but it performs far above many others in this business. With some not necessarily innovative practices, but certainly uncommon ones — like an in-house sales team — there is a lot to love, as we’ll cover in this review.
Heartland Payment Systems is headquartered in Edmond, OK, but it has offices all across the U.S. It’s been in business since 1997, and has a reputation for industry-leading security and innovative solutions that allow it to dominate payment processing in certain industries.
In particular, Heartland provides amazing solutions for the restaurant industry. Restaurant owners should be looking into this company for sure. But you’ll also see that Heartland caters to schools (particularly K-12), the hospitality industry, local governments, and nonprofits, to name a few. I don’t see many of Heartland’s so-called specialties cropping up on many competitors’ websites, which stands out to me.
Its parent company, Global Payments, took the number five spot by quantity of purchase transactions in 2016, according to the Nilson Report. The ranking comes from a combination of both Global and Heartland business — and it’s worth mentioning that Heartland alone has snagged that number five spot previously.
Heartland was acquired by Global Payments in April 2016. For the most part, it appears that Global has chosen to let Heartland go about business as usual without any major changes.
Overall, I believe Heartland is generally an honest, reliable company offering stand-out products and services in the merchant services sphere, largely thanks to a fantastic sales team. While I’d prefer to see an interchange-plus option for low-volume merchants too, the subscription plan for merchants processing under $50K per year is not a terrible deal.
However, I will be watching Heartland closely from here on out. Recurring complaints are usually a pretty reliable indicator of a problem within a company, and I’m seeing an increase in the number of complaints about customer service. However, because the increase is still small, I can’t fully gauge the extent of the problem, or whether it’s attributable to growing pains or a new way of doing business.
Heartland Payment Systems holds steady at a very respectable 4 stars out of 5. One reason for this is the high fees for low-volume merchants. Also, even with the high flat rate, the company still includes a standard early termination fee with a three-year agreement for almost all of its contracts. In an age where the best processors work on a month-to-month basis with no ETF, Heartland doesn’t quite compare. I’m also worried about the uptick in complaints. If the grievances continue to pile up, we might have to re-evaluate Heartland’s rating. But overall, Heartland doesn’t use shady practices, has a good mix products and services, and definitely isn’t your generic, run-of-the-mill giant processor.
See the rest of my review for more info or check out some of our other top-rated providers.
Table of Contents
Products & Services
Heartland offers a great list of services. In addition to merchant accounts, it’s nice to see that HPS can set businesses up with payroll and billing solutions, giving you fewer companies to deal with overall. That will hopefully translate into time and money saved. The company also has unique offerings for specific industries, which I like. Offerings include:
- Merchant accounts: Heartland isn’t a good choice for low-volume merchants, but it does offer a processing option. Above $5,000 per month, you should be fine with Heartland.
- Industry-specific programs: Heartland has some interesting offerings for restaurants, educational institutions, the hospitality industry, and other types of businesses. It certainly shines in some specialized niches, but that doesn’t mean Heartland can’t also cater to your standard retail or ecommerce businesses.
- Micropayments: I said Heartland had industry-specific programs, that includes micropayments options for laundromats, game centers/amusements, and even correctional facilities.
More specifically, here’s what you can expect as far as features when you sign up:
- EMV terminal solutions: First of all, Heartland does have a proprietary POS that will integrate with its terminals (that’s kind of obvious). Heartland also offers a platform so that you can integrate your terminal with quite a lot of third-party POS providers. And of course, there’s a non-integrated option too.
- Contactless payments acceptance: Heartland also offers support for Android, Apple, and Samsung “pay” apps, which is nice to see.
- Online data reporting: Heartland offers a reporting portal (InfoCentral) at no additional charge. They’ve also rolled out a new program called Heartland Analytics for small and medium-sized businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries, with modules for email marketing and CRM as well.
- In-house gateway/virtual terminal: Heartland’s solution is called the Portico gateway. You won’t have to pay for gateway service to use the virtual terminal. The gateway supports credit/debit cards, gift cards, and alternative payments (in this case, that means PayPal, Apple Pay, and MasterPass, as well as Discover).
- Mobile processing: You can use the Heartland Mobile Payments app to process transactions on the go, but Heartland isn’t a good solution for low-volume mobile businesses due to the relatively high cost.
- Mobile ordering: For restaurants, Heartland has some extensive resources to build a white-label mobile ordering system that works with your website, a custom branded app, or even Facebook. This is pretty cool.
- Loyalty program: Heartland promises to set you up for a meeting with a rewards specialist to help you figure out how you can optimize a loyalty/rewards program to increase your business. That’s a nice offer, and it sounds like the program allows for a lot of customization. Heartland seems to stress linking a loyalty program with gift cards.
- Gift cards: This is pretty standard stuff. Being able to offer gift cards can increase your business. As an extension, Heartland has a lot of experience with stored value cards as well.
- Internet of Things: I am not the person to judge the quality of developer tools, but I do want to point out something I haven’t seen elsewhere: Heartland specifically has tools designed for businesses that are built around the Internet of Things. HPS’s micropayments system comes into play here, though the system also supports stored value cards depending on your needs.
- eCommerce: Heartland promises it has partners to help you set up your own domain (or you can use one you have already), with design templates, mobile optimization, email marketing and an abandoned cart saver, among other features. Or you can do it yourself if you have the time. It’s a surprisingly detailed list, which gives me a bit of confidence that Heartland understands what digital businesses need and are actively looking for. Most other processors, unless they specialize in ecommerce, tend to gloss over this aspect of service.
- Payroll solutions
- Billing solutions
- Managed network solutions
- Lending: Heartland works with several lenders to deliver financing options for businesses of all sizes. We don’t typically recommend merchant cash advances because their terms aren’t as competitive as other financing options. You should check out our merchant cash advance calculator to explore some actual numbers if you’re interested in this option.
This is a pretty comprehensive list of services to offer, especially all from one processor. Despite how large Heartland is, much of its marketing creates the feel of a small company, from the local sales reps to the website. I like that Heartland doesn’t try to be so generic as to cater to everyone. It gives you specifics so that you know who the company is and what they do. You don’t see that kind of statement from most big companies. The giants are generally so bland that they seem like they could be anything to any merchant. That might be true, but they miss out on a chance to call out what these companies do well. Not Heartland.
There is one last feature I want to mention:
- Data security: The state-of-the-art Heartland Secure system is seriously impressive. In all, Heartland Secure includes breach protection for transactions processed via Heartland Secure-certified devices and reduces PCI scope for merchants (ultimately lessening their burden). It also takes advantage of three security technologies — EMV, of course, as well as end-to-end encryption and tokenization. Related to that, SecureSubmit is a tool that helps Heartland’s ecommerce merchants protect consumer information entered via a browser. It too helps reduce PCI scope for merchants.
Part of Heartland’s fierce commitment to education and security comes from a rather nasty data breach back in 2008/2009. A man named Albert Gonzalez hacked into the Heartland system and stole the data from some 130 million credit and debit cards. It was an unfortunate disaster that, to be honest, could have happened to anyone. But Heartland bounced back — with a vengeance, you might say. The company’s commitment to security and to educating merchants about security is almost fanatical, and I think that’s incredible. With Heartland Secure, I am more than willing to bet the company is easily one of the most secure processors you can work with right now. That’s pretty high praise.
Fees & Rates
I love that Heartland offers interchange-plus pricing as its primary model. As we’ve said repeatedly, interchange plus is really the most transparent pricing model out this. However, Heartland hasn’t provided a lot of information about it. There is this on the website:
At Heartland, transparency drives everything we do. That’s why we offer Interchange-Plus pricing—giving you full disclosure into how much you’re paying us and how much goes to the card brands. This protects you from arbitrary price increases and ensures that you receive the full benefit of cost reductions, such as the Durbin Amendment savings.
You’ll also find a few other pages on the website that reference interchange-plus, but not many other informational resources beyond that. It would appear that Heartland relies on its sales agents to explain what the company’s rates are.
There is a major stipulation when it comes to Heartland’s interchange-plus pricing, which I didn’t find out until I got on the phone with a local sales rep: If you process less than $50,000 per year (about $4,150/month), the company will charge you a flat rate of $67 per month on top of interchange fees. This is actually a subscription model akin to Fattmerchant, not a typical interchange-plus plan.
How much does that monthly fee equate to as far as markup? Let’s run the numbers!
50K / 12 = $4167 monthly volume
67 / 4167 = 0.0161 = 1.61% markup
Considering most interchange-plus markups are between 0.15% and 0.35%, a 1.61% markup is awfully high. And remember, this is the best-case scenario. If you are only doing about $2,000 per month, then this doubles.
But, okay. Let’s say that $25 of the $67 is a justifiable account fee and not part of the actual markup. In this case, the math works out as follows:
42 / 4167 = 0.0101 = 1.01% markup
Again, this is way higher than any good-quality interchange-plus plan.
For context, let’s say that your average interchange, assuming you process mostly Visa and MasterCard, will be around 1.54% + $0.12. At a 1.61% markup, that makes the rate 3.15% + $0.12, which is also way higher than Square or PayPal Here (both great starter options for low-volume merchants) charge. If we look at part of the cost as a monthly account fee, the markup becomes 2.55% + $0.12, which is lower — except that Square and PayPal Here don’t charge any monthly fees.
That said, this rate only applies for low-volume merchants. If you’re above that $50K per year mark, your plan will be a true interchange-plus plan. We’ve looked into this and from what we’ve heard, under about $90K per year, you’re looking at a monthly fee plus a markup of about 0.87% + $0.15. That’s fairly high, but that could easily be justified by the inclusion of value-added services.
We can’t guarantee that’s what Heartland will charge you, but it’s a better starting point than no information at all.
For those doing more than $50K per year, especially merchants in the restaurant industry, I think Heartland could potentially be a near-perfect provider.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
With Heartland you can expect, as standard:
- An early termination fee (ETF) of $295
- A three-year contract
If you don’t need to purchase any hardware, you may be able to get a month-to-month agreement from your sales rep. However, this is not common and don’t expect it to be offered with no prompting. We’ve had sales reps comment on this review that Heartland doesn’t offer any sort of auto-renewal clause, which I assume means after three years you move to a month-to-month plan. However, until I have confirmation directly from the company, take this with a grain of salt.
We don’t like ETFs and we wish they would go away altogether. However, Heartland generally seems to be fair. It’s fairly common to see LOTS of complaints about ETFs from the bigger processors, but there are few complaints about Heartland period, and the ETF only comes up a portion of the time.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
I love that you don’t have to deal with the usual smoke and mirrors when you deal with Heartland. It doesn’t have any sales gimmicks, doesn’t make any wild claims or promises, and doesn’t try to pull the wool over your eyes with deals that are just too good to be true. Overall, Heartland is almost an ideal processor regarding sales and advertising transparency. I say almost here for a few reasons.
First, the company doesn’t disclose any fees on its site, including the early termination fee. If it’s really committed to transparency, I’d love to see some of these numbers standardized and disclosed. Furthermore, Heartland doesn’t offer typical interchange-plus pricing if you do under $50,000 per year in processing, thanks to its rather high monthly fee. And it fails to disclose this not-so-little fact on the site. This is disappointing, but not a deal-breaker. There are so many other things Heartland does right, and low-volume merchants have other great options for processing as well.
Second, it’s not very easy to get a sales rep on the phone. All sales go through local agents, so you have to send a request for information through the website. Then someone from corporate will call you back to schedule a meeting with a local sales rep.
On the one hand, this is nice. Getting to sit down with a local agent has a definite appeal if you are serious about getting an account and building a long-term relationship. On the other hand, I’d like to be able to get some basic information quickly over the phone rather than inviting an agent into my place of business and jumping through hoops just to find out if I’d even be interested in working with the company.
Third, Heartland seems to have had some trouble rolling out a new policy for merchants who aren’t EMV compliant: a $299 non-compliance fee. I noted it in a few complaints because the merchants who were caught by the fee were upset that they weren’t informed or offered a chance to get a chip card reader before the policy took effect. I did a Google search to confirm the information and I found it explained on another processor’s website, but after looking through the Heartland blog and its product pages I saw no information about it. And that’s symbolic of the larger issue.
At first glance, Heartland’s website LOOKS like it’s going to be chock full of helpful information. And I’ll give the company this much: it’s definitely better than average regarding helpfulness. Rather than focus on general services and why you might need them, Heartland explains — at least very generally — how its solutions help you achieve your business goals and what its services include.
That said, the site is still a lot of missing specifics — for example, the fees (which we’ve mentioned above). But there’s more than that. I know that with a large company that works with a lot of partners, it’s not always easy to explain what POS options are available, but even a list of POS partners would be good. I’d love to see more about the different mobile app options, too. So while Heartland isn’t terrible in this regard, it could still do better.
The company also has an active Facebook page, Twitter account, and LinkedIn profile, which have small followings and low interaction. However, I don’t see the Facebook page or Twitter feed plastered with complaints about terrible service or non-responsive support teams, which is a good sign.
One thing I do like is that the all of Heartland’s sales agents are all employees of the company, not independent contractors or third-party sales organizations. This is fairly rare in this industry, but it’s a really good practice. The Heartland network is large, but it’s all managed in-house, so you should get consistent, fair treatment. That means that there’s usually more scrutiny and far less pressure to close a deal — which means salespeople aren’t as likely to neglect to disclose important details.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Heartland claims to be the real deal concerning customer service. You can get 24/7/365 support from a US-based, in-house team. The support page on the website even lists not just one phone number, but one for each branch of services, which means you won’t need to be transferred from department to department. The website also claims that calls are answered in about 10 seconds on average. There’s also an email form for those of you who aren’t comfortable on the phone or for whom the issue isn’t urgent.
I’ve seen a small but definite surge in complaints about the quality of Heartland’s customer service, so I’m a little skeptical at the moment.
Heartland doesn’t have any sort of help center available to the public so I can’t judge the quality of any sort of self-help resources. What Heartland does offer is a Resources page, which has some information on a variety of topics. However, none of it addresses specific information about Heartland and its services.
If you have experience with Heartland’s customer support, please leave us a comment and let us know what you think! Your comments help us better assess each company we review.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
I’m very happy to say that Heartland doesn’t have nearly the amount of complaints that I’d expect them to have. RipOffReport.com features just 21 complaints, the latest from 2016. Heartland has 33 complaints through the BBB (up from 27). However, 26 of them are from the last 12 months. Most of the complaints haven’t been resolved to the satisfaction of the merchant, either.
Of the few complaints out there, the most common include:
- Poor Customer Service: This one is the most worrisome issue because it seems to make up the majority of recent complaints. I’m not sure what’s going on, but merchant complaints claim that the quality of customer support has gone way down, from long hold times and rude customer support reps to a general inability to solve problems. One of the more colorful complaints says that Heartland’s customer service has become the Comcast of payment processing.
- Terminal Setup Issues: I did see a couple of reviews in our comments section and elsewhere complaining of difficulties with setting up terminals through Heartland Payment Systems. The recent complaints relate to troubles getting the terminals set up, not necessarily keeping them working or reprogramming existing equipment.
- EMV Non-Compliance Fee: Unsurprisingly, merchants don’t like being charged unexpected and expensive fees. The trouble is that some of them seemed to have no idea what was happening and weren’t contacted about upgrading their terminal. Right now the number of complaints is small, but if it grows, that may be a red flag. (But if you haven’t upgraded to an EMV terminal yet, it’s really, REALLY time to do so.)
- Early Termination Fee: You’ll see this complaint with nearly every processor that has an early termination fee. The problem isn’t so much that the fee exists; the problem is some sales agents “forget” to mention it. I think the vast majority of Heartland Payment Systems reps do, in fact, disclose this fee, which is why the company has far fewer complaints about it than most processors.
If I’m honest, my Spidey-sense is tingling a bit. Something isn’t quite right to me. The comments I have seen are worrisome in that they seem to point to the same problem: difficulties with customer service and communication. I honestly hope that it’s just attributable to growing pains after the merger and that Heartland will get back to its usual amazing self quickly.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
A couple years ago, Heartland started revamping its website content and marketing materials. A lot has disappeared from the web, including its Video Library page with its awesome testimonials. And it’s also abandoned its YouTube channel, as well. That’s really disappointing because those are some really convincing materials.
I’ll be honest: it’s getting harder to find positive comments about Heartland on the web. They are out there (see our comments section for a few examples), but they are rare. Consider how much more likely someone is to talk about a bad experience than a good one, though, and then consider how few complaints there are overall, and this starts to make sense.
The closest I’ve been able to find as far as testimonials are actually on the Heartland website on its Point of Sale page, where you can see a small rotating list of clients (mostly restaurants).
I really do like Heartland Payment Systems. I like the website, the services, and the way this company does business overall. I even like that the company has a bit of personality. Heartland has some unusual practices that set it apart as one of the top processors in the country. For businesses that process over $50K annually and can get set up with a fair markup rate over interchange, Heartland could be your perfect processor. There’s mobile processing, ecommerce support, micropayments, lending, and so much more. For those in the restaurant industry, Heartland has your back with great tailor-made services.
If you process cards sporadically or in low volumes, however, you’ll want to look elsewhere for your payment processing needs. I am a little worried about the complaints I’ve seen, as well. But I do hope the team can get past the growing pains and back to business as usual. Global has a good reputation, like Heartland, and so I’d like to be optimistic. It’s one of those situations where we can only wait and see.
So for now, I can offer Heartland 4 out of 5 stars. If the company could start offering a standard month-to-month option (not just by request), then I’d probably consider giving it an even better score. Even some upfront disclosure on the site would go a long way for me. I hope to update this with good news soon.
If Heartland isn’t to your taste or you want to know more about some other solutions, definitely check out our highest-rated processors. Low-volume merchants in search of a processor should explore our top-rated mobile payments options!
Got questions? Have experience with Heartland Payment Systems? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment and let us know what’s on your mind.