Inner Fence Review
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- Date Established
- Redmond, WA
(Inner Fence can’t seem to figure out how it wants to present its name typographically. On the logo, it appears as “innerfence,” but elsewhere on the site you’ll see Inner Fence. I’ve also seen it around the web as InnerFence. But “Inner Fence” seems preferred overall, so that’s what we’re going with here.)
As a small startup put together by a couple of ambitious, young, creative technology entrepreneurs, Inner Fence was one of the first to offer a viable smartphone-based mobile processing service in 2007, a couple of years before Square hit the market. Since then, the company has evolved into a more complete provider of merchant services through various partnerships.
At first glance, the Inner Fence site is rather basic. There’s just one image, showing the software on a smartphone screen and a tablet screen. The company’s own logo is tiny, barely there at all. The site gets points for not having a gimmicky feel, at least.
After reviewing the site, however, you’ll still probably be left wondering, “So what is Inner Fence, anyway?” The information is pretty sparse, and the branding nonexistent, so it’s incredibly difficult to get a feel for the company, but at least it’s clear about the services available: Inner Fence provides a mobile processing app and virtual terminal, creatively named Credit Card Terminal. (I mean, really?) That’s it.
So how does Inner Fence provide mobile processing services? Well, strictly speaking, it doesn’t. The company sets you up with a Stripe account for processing. (Before January 3, 2014, you got a Merchant Focus merchant account for processing and Authorize.Net as a gateway.) Inner Fence is not a registered ISO/MSP, and it’s not a payment processor. It’s just a software company that has a partnership with Stripe.
Before the partnership with Stripe, signing up with Inner Fence meant you got your own unique merchant account and an Authorize.net gateway. Now, with Stripe, your account is lumped in with everyone else’s, in a single account. This process is known as aggregating, and it’s how most pay-as-you-go mobile services, from Square and PayPal Here to Spark Pay and PayAnywhere, operate. With this type of aggregating service comes an inherent lack of stability for accounts, something that’s been noted with Stripe.
More importantly, it means you’re paying an exorbitant amount just to use the Inner Fence app, which is not the most robust or innovative option out there by far. Stripe is free. Stripe comes with all sorts of really cool developer features. Stripe doesn’t deliver the features that Inner Fence does, but other apps out there do, and they cost less.
I think that when the Inner Fence app first hit the market, it was an exciting and sort of novel service. But at this point in the game, I’m going to need more than a virtual terminal and mobile processing with reporting, receipts, and tax calculation to get me excited. Everything about the company says that it’s boring, ordinary, unoriginal, and dare I say…stagnant?
Inner Fence has no early termination fees, no PCI compliance fees, and no monthly minimums. But $39 as a baseline monthly fee is pretty high, especially at 2.9% per transaction. I believe that this is an honest and reliable company, but the expense is too high at this point, given how stiff the competition has become. Not only that, but Inner Fence has lost an advantage by switching to an aggregator service that puts it directly on par with other mobile processors.
I’m giving Inner Fence a 3.5 star rating. Unlike many other mobile processors we’ve reviewed, this is not a reflection of poor trustworthiness, just of value.
Check out the full review for more details, and remember to comment!
Products and Services:
Inner Fence has more features than you’ll see with standard, mobile-only processors. But, at the same time, it has fewer features than you’d expect with a full-service merchant account provider. And it has nothing unique or industry-leading to commend it.
Inner Fence offerings include:
- Payment processing through Stripe: Inner Fence sets you up with a Stripe account to accept all payments.
- Mobile app and virtual terminal: The aptly named “Credit Card Terminal” comes as a mobile app and virtual terminal, both included in the price of your account. You can process payments right from your desktop or laptop computer via the software-based (as opposed to browser-based) virtual terminal, or use a smartphone or tablet with the mobile app.
- In-app payments: You can use Inner Fence’s API to accept payments in your mobile app. You also get the Stripe API.
- Advanced analytics and reporting: Yes, you can get detailed information about your transactions. This is less of a bonus feature and more a standard one at this point.
- Card readers: Standard magstripe readers are $79, whether it’s for a computer, smartphone, or tablet (see the Inner Fence store for your options). For the moment you can get one (and only one) for free. Not only is that a pretty high cost, but there’s currently no EMV/NFC option, and Inner Fence hasn’t stated when it will have one. Given that the liability shift is a bigger concern for the moderate or higher-volume merchants that are more likely to chose Inner Fence (as opposed to low-volume merchants for whom the service is just too expensive, and for whom the liability is less likely to be an issue), I don’t see how this is acceptable at all.
Something I do like is that Inner Fence offers a more comprehensive platform support than most other processors — between the virtual terminal and the mobile app, it’s compatible with Windows, Windows Phones, and Mac, as well as Android and iOS. That gives you a lot of flexibility.
If you have a merchant account and just need mobile processing, Inner Fence offers that, too. The advantage is your funds are routed directly to your merchant account, instead of a PayPal account. And overall, Inner Fence appears to be more stable than most pay-as-you-go processors, like Square. However, the price makes it quite expensive, to the point that you might actually consider the inconvenience of a second repository for funds, or the decreased account stability, worth the money saved.
Something that does work in Inner Fence’s favor is its (limited) support for international transactions. You can’t use Square or PayPal Here outside the U.S., so if you find yourself traveling outside the country and needing to accept payments, it’s worth considering.
Inner Fence also has partnerships with other services that some merchants may find useful — it just doesn’t advertise them well. Collectively, they give you invoicing, time tracking, and even inventory management with barcode scanning. They’re all iOS exclusives, meaning if you’re running Android or Windows (both of which Inner Fence supports), you’ll have to find an alternative:
- Billings Pro: Time tracking (for individuals and teams), invoicing
- Ring It Up: Point-of-sale app, sales reporting and expense tracking
- Quick Sale: Invoices, quotes and estimates; payments, inventory management, sales reports
- Timewerks: Time tracking and invoicing
Fees and Rates:
In 2014, Inner Fence revised its pricing models (for a second time), making the service more expensive. I’m not thrilled about this. For $40 per month, you can get a much more solid account, including a payment gateway and mobile processing, from a company like Payment Depot, which will give you much better rates, to boot. I like that Inner Fence has a non-profit option, but frankly, you can still get better discounted rates from other service providers.
With a merchant account and gateway through Inner Fence, you’re looking at the following rates:
Pricing (US and Canada)
- $39 per month for annual plans (USD), $49 per month for monthly plans
- 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (USD or CAD)
- $25 per month
- 1.59% + $0.29 swiped debit
- 1.79% + $0.29 swiped qualified
- 2.89% + $0.29 non-qualified
- $29 per month
- 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
If you already have a merchant account, Inner Fence will charge you pretty steep fees on top of what your processor is already charging you. You can take a look at the different plans here, but this is the gist:
For an individual, you’ll only pay $9 a month (with a 1.9% processing rate on top of your regular rate) — as long as you only need one terminal. It’s $9 for each additional terminal, until you hit 9 terminals, at which point it’s more cost effective to go for the $79/month plan, which covers 10 terminals and lowers your additional processing rate to 0.9% per swipe. But that doesn’t include the cost of the $79 readers! You can see how quickly the costs start adding up.
Frankly, I don’t necessarily see the value in using Inner Fence if you already have a merchant account when you could wind up paying 4% or more per swipe, plus the monthly fee, plus the cost of all the readers. If you need mobile processing and your merchant account doesn’t offer an option, I recommend looking at Flint, which you can use for mobile processing through your merchant account for free with a single user (or $15 month per additional user). That’s no percentages, no per-transaction fees.
What about interchange-plus pricing, you ask? Well, when you check out the Support page (which is hidden from the main site), here’s what you’ll see:
Is there better pricing for high volume?
Yes. If your processing is over $250,000 per year, consult our high volume pricing. If it exceeds $500,000, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a customized quote.
Previously, you could get interchange-plus at the $250K mark, but now that Inner Fence has switched to Stripe, that threshold has increased to $500K. That’s not surprising, since Stripe’s own website says discounts aren’t available unless you process $80K per month. You’re welcome to try negotiating with Inner Fence, but don’t be surprised if you find you have little leverage, because it’s Stripe pulling the strings.
You get one free card reader with most accounts. Additional card readers sell for a steep $79. I don’t like that price, especially when everyone from Spark Pay to PayPal Here offer them for less than $20. It’s actually closer to what you pay for most EMV/NFC readers, which run from $50 to $150. (It’s worth noting that Pay Anywhere offers an EMV-compliant, NFC-enabled mobile reader for just $40.)
Inner Fence’s standard chargeback fee is $30 if you have an account through Merchant Focus. For Stripe users, it’s $15, which is about as cheap as a chargeback fee gets. For everyone else, you’ll have to check with your merchant provider.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
With no early termination fees, you can use Inner Fence as a month-to-month processor. Cancel any time, no penalties at all. But make sure to cancel according to the terms set in your contract, or you’ll keep getting charged your monthly fee. That’s because, unlike PayPal Here or Square, Inner Fence is not a pay-as-you-go service. Even if you don’t use it, you’ll still be charged.
This makes Inner Fence a bad option for those who only want to process sporadically or in low volumes. (However, Inner Fence acknowledges that it makes accommodations for seasonal merchants, if you contact them via email and ask.) For most small merchants who only need to process now and then, $49 as a monthly fee — assuming you don’t shell out the $450 for the annual option, and please don’t — on top of already-pricey transaction rates doesn’t make financial sense.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
To some extent, Inner Fence’s immaculate reputation must come from its crystal-clear sales and advertising transparency. All rates and fees are disclosed very plainly, and no big promises or gimmicks appear anywhere.
The company will hook you up with a free card reader, and I guess you could call that a gimmick. Really, though, it’s the industry standard for mobile processing providers. Without the free swiper, I’m not sure anyone would sign up with Inner Fence.
What I do take issue with is the lack of customer education. Inner Fence’s blog hasn’t been updated since 2012. Even though Inner Fence doesn’t even have an EMV reader right now, I would expect something on the website about EMV other than the tiny amount of information available here.
There’s no press release anywhere announcing the switch from Merchant Focus and Authorize.Net to Stripe. In fact, there’s no press coverage from the past 3 years. The Inner Fence Facebook page has 71 likes and hasn’t been updated in over a year. The company’s Twitter feed has a larger following but also hasn’t been updated in the same period.
It sort of feels like Inner Fence has given up. The entire payments industry is changing in a massive (and exciting!) way, and there’s so many opportunities for innovation. But Inner Fence hasn’t really kept up with that. I said before that Inner Fence feels stagnant, and I stick by that. The company seems like it’s stuck in about 2009, from a marketing perspective. From an innovation perspective, I’ll be generous and say it’s stuck in about 2012.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
I can only imagine that after you get an account with Inner Fence, its support system is more intuitive and overall more apparent than it is to an outsider looking in. I already mentioned that the support page is hidden from the main site. I only found it by Googling “Inner Fence support.” (This is actually a really good way to find information on any site that doesn’t have an actual link to the support page or a decent FAQ page.)
There’s no more phone support, at least not from Inner Fence. You can email them at email@example.com and the site advertises a live chat service, but no hours. (During the off-hours you can leave a message. I’m not sure what those support hours are, because every time I’ve looked at the site — including during standard business hours, the service has been offline.)
This feels like a step back at a time when most companies are working to expand their support offerings. I suppose it’s possible that Stripe is picking up the bulk of support for new merchants (or in the case of existing customers, Merchant Focus and Authorize.Net).
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Despite our concerns about Inner Fence’s customer support, and the fact that it’s using Stripe — an aggregator — to process payments, there are precious few complaints to be found anywhere about the company. The BBB has zero complaints listed for the past 3 years — which means the company hasn’t had a complaint filed against it since mid-2012. I found some negative reviews in the Google Play store, where the app still has a 4.1 rating on more than 250 reviews. Most of the negative reviews are 3-4 years old, as well. In the Windows Store, where the app is much newer, it has a 3.1 rating on 145 ratings. Almost all of the negative reviews relate to the monthly service fee and high processing rates. A few mention compatibility issues.
I’m genuinely surprised by the lack of complaints about closed accounts. This is such a common complaint for a lot of companies — Stripe included — that I expected to see some mentions of it since the switchover. My best guess is that Inner Fence probably isn’t signing up new users left and right like some other payment processors. I would guess most of the company’s customers are long-term, people who have been with Inner Fence since the early days. We’ll keep an eye out and see if anything changes.
The overall lack of complaints is also impressive, and just reinforces our belief that the problem with Inner Fence isn’t the quality of its offerings, but the overall value (specifically, the lack thereof) for merchants.
Do you have experience with Inner Fence? Leave your review below! Without your help, it’s nearly impossible to give reviews of service in practice rather than in theory. While I’m pretty confident that Inner Fence is doing a good job based on their lack of complaints, I’d love to hear some actual customers chime in.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
You won’t find very many detailed customer testimonials or insights about Inner Fence anywhere, especially not any recent ones. As mentioned, the app has overwhelmingly positive reviews in Google Play, and a neutral rating in the Windows Store (mostly because people are unhappy about the cost). In iTunes, the app has a 4+ rating and more than 1,200 ratings.
Once again, leave your review below! Your help keeps our information as accurate as possible.
In theory, Inner Fence sounds pretty solid. It fills a niche that until recently was pretty devoid of other options. But that’s changed. Inner Fence is — pardon the pun — sitting on the fence, refusing to commit to either becoming a mobile payment processor or a full-fledged service. Furthermore, it’s not keeping pace with changes in the industry, and its pricing is just awful.
Stripe is free apart from transaction charges, and supports eCommerce, recurring billing, and in-app payments. If you need a mobile payment option, Flint is free for the first user and just $15/month for additional users — there’s no per-transaction fee or added percentage tacked onto your processing rates. Stripe also supports other POS integrations/card readers. For example, software company Dinamikos will set up your Stripe account to work with Verifone terminals for a register setup.
Not only that, but there are many other top-rated merchant accounts and mobile processors who will give you more features and better service for less cost. Inner Fence’s lack of innovation is a problem, but even if resources are limited, I would expect the company to devote at least some efforts to educating its users about trends in the industry and drawing in new customers with a decent marketing strategy. Maybe the company is afraid that people might realize just how bad a deal Inner Fence is.
We’re leaving Inner Fence at 3.5 stars. It’s not that we think Inner Fence is unreliable or delivering terrible customer service, which is what usually earns a processor a low rating. We just wish its pricing were more competitive, and its offerings more on par with what others in the industry are trying to do. If it can manage either (or both) of these tasks, we’ll happily bump Inner Fence’s rating up to 4 stars or more.
Until then, feel free to use Inner Fence if it meets your needs — but do check out our top-rated merchant accounts and mobile processors to see if they can give you a better deal!
What are your thoughts? Is Inner Fence still filling a useful space in the processing market, or does it miss the mark? Let us know!