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- Portsmouth, NH
Instabill is a merchant account provider and credit card processor headquartered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The company was established in 2001 and, with about 12,000 merchant accounts, rates as a relatively small provider. What makes them unique, however, is that they specialize primarily in providing services to high-risk merchants and processing offshore payments for international merchants doing business in the United States.
We’ve heard from many high-risk merchants over the years and most of them can be described in one word: desperate. They’re desperate for a solution, for reliability, for the ability to be able to accept card payments securely and without prohibitive expense. Unfortunately, this desperation can lead to accepting a bad deal from a less-than-reputable payment processor, which is why many of the providers catering to high-risk merchants are shady. They take advantage of desperation and make promises that they can’t keep while charging an arm and a leg.
Because of this, we always advise high-risk merchants to be very careful when searching for a merchant account. If you are high-risk, you should be prepared to pay a bit more than other businesses do, but that doesn’t mean that you deserve to get ripped off. Our goal is to help you to avoid getting ripped off, so we are, in turn, very careful when we evaluate merchant services providers that advertise themselves as high-risk account specialists. When investigating a company like Instabill, we go into it expecting to be disappointed. But in this case, we were actually pleasantly surprised.
When you look at Instabill’s website, you’ll notice that, as a whole, it looks fairly clean, professional, and contemporary. Many high-risk providers have websites straight from the Dark Ages of the Internet. The site includes a fair amount of instructional and educational information – all pretty accurate, I might add – and doesn’t include any outlandish claims or unrealistic promises. Although it’s not perfect (some of the advertising and testimonials seem a little off), it’s pretty impressive for a high-risk provider.
The best thing about Instabill is its ability to set up accounts for even the most risk-prone businesses. Even businesses like tech support providers in India or online gambling websites can usually get up and running with Instabill. Again, the pricing and contract terms won’t be as good as you’d expect for a low-risk business – but it’s not in rip-off territory, either. Low-risk merchants can probably find a better deal elsewhere.
While Instabill isn’t the best merchant account provider for every type of business, they really do come through for high-risk accounts. Businesses denied service by other high-risk account providers may finally find a long-term solution at Instabill. So if you’re having trouble getting up and running, especially if you are an international business from a high-risk country, I’d recommend that you take a look at Instabill. It might be a little pricey, but it could be the solution you’re looking for.
Check out the full review below for more information!
Products and Services:
- International (overseas) merchant accounts and gateway: If you do business with US customers but your business is not US-based, you likely already know about the difficulties involved in overseas processing. If you do business across the globe and need to deal in multiple currencies, you’ve also likely encountered some headaches. Instabill specializes in these types of accounts, so they’re very familiar with the setup and maintenance obstacles and can help you navigate them.
- High-risk merchant accounts: We’ve seen success with even the riskiest merchant account types at Instabill, including India-based tech support businesses and online gambling sites. Other more moderately high-risk businesses like travel agencies and tobacco sales will have even greater chances of approval.
- Low-risk merchant accounts: By low-risk, they really mean “normal” risk. While I think there are likely better options out there for average-risk accounts, Instabill does advertise this service.
- Credit card terminals: Instabill offers these, but doesn’t provide much information about specific models and features on their website. Their terminals are most likely offered through a lease, which we recommend against. Buy your own terminals if you can – it’s almost always much less expensive in the long run.
- Mobile EMV POS: While Instabill doesn’t have its own proprietary mobile processing solution, it has recently established a partnership with CardFlight to offer this feature. You’ll need a separate account with CardFlight, as well as one of their card readers and their smartphone app.
- ACH processing: Instabill offers ACH processing as an integrated feature of its merchant accounts. Processing transactions from a checking account (ACH) is less risky than credit transactions, and therefore offers a solution for mitigating some risk. Processing rates are also lower, as there are no interchange rates going to the credit card associations (i.e., Visa or MasterCard).
Fees and Rates:
Unlike other processors who post misleading teaser rates on their website, or simply don’t disclose any rate or fee information at all, Instabill is different. They provide a Merchant Account Fees page dedicated to explaining why they can’t give you a firm quote on either rates or fees without more information about the nature and size of your business, as well as other factors.
Instabill partners with a huge number of different banks, both international and in the US, and your fees and rates will depend on which bank they set you up with. Fees and rates will also vary widely depending on your business type, risk level, and overall processing volume. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that you will have to carefully assess your rate and fee quotes to make sure you are getting a fair deal since few promises are made.
High-risk accounts are always more expense than average-risk accounts. You should expect to see rolling reserves (where a certain percentage of funds are withheld month-to-month), account setup fees, and higher rates. As you develop a processing history and relationship with Instabill, you can expect to see reductions in the reserve and rates if your account remains in good standing.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
Like the rates and fees section above, your early termination fee and contract terms will vary depending on your business. For high-risk and international processing especially, you should expect an early termination fee and additional expenses. These accounts are more expensive for Instabill to get up and running, so it makes sense that they would need to charge more. I consider this practice fair. But if you are a low-risk US-based business, you may be able to get a better deal elsewhere.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
Instabill’s advertising is a lot better than most high-risk and international/overseas payment processors we’ve seen. Yes, there are some slightly misleading marketing techniques employed (stock images implied to be actual customer pictures, somewhat dubious reviews, and a few unsubstantiated claims), but they are still WAY better than your average high-risk-intensive processor. I like the Instabill customer support center’s educational material, which contains accurate, fair, and reasonable information.
Instabill also appears to only use in-house sales staff to sell and set up its merchant accounts. This is a far better practice than relying on independent sales agents, who have a well-deserved bad reputation in the industry for being poorly trained and supervised, as well as frequently using misleading and unethical sales tactics. Because Instabill works with so many banks and offshore merchants, the use of a highly-trained in-house sales staff would appear to be an absolute necessity.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Instabill handles customer service and support in-house, which means you’ll be dealing with a more knowledgeable and experienced support staff. The downside is that, with such a small staff, customer support is limited to email, chat, and phone support that’s only available during business hours.
We haven’t received much feedback on the quality of Instabill’s support, but there don’t appear to be any major red flags. We’ll need to hear from more merchants directly before passing judgment. Resources on the Instabill website, such as their Knowledge Center, are certainly helpful for prospective merchants and current customers alike in terms of understanding the service and the industry at large. But since high-risk merchants vary so widely regarding needs, and since Instabill uses a bunch of different acquirers depending on the customer, some support info is just not so easily standardized.
If you have experience with Instabill’s customer service or tech support and can offer first-hand insight, please leave us a comment at the end of this review.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
What makes Instabill different from most other “high-risk” merchant services providers? Three words: public complaint volume. Instabill currently has zero complaints filed with the BBB in the last three years, and zero complaints within the past twelve months. Say what you want about the BBB, the fact remains that there is no way to fake a reputation like this. Instabill might use a few shady marketing practices, but the company manages to satisfy almost all of its customers. I’m willing to forgive the marketing given the ultimate result, which appears to be quality service.
If you look, you will find a few complaints about ECS World, a partner of Instabill. But it should be noted that ECS World’s complaints are its own, and should not necessarily be grouped in with those regarding merchants who sign up with Instabill directly. Until we do a formal review of ECS, we can’t evaluate the legitimacy of those complaints.
We also have to remember that setting up high-risk and overseas accounts can be incredibly difficult and at times unpredictable. Funding holds are common, as are rolling reserves and high fees, even from reputable processors. Seeing some complaints regarding these points is to be expected. The good news is that there are very few complaints of this kind regarding Instabill on the web. Processors like Square and First Data have thousands of complaints, and they don’t even specialize in high-risk. Yes, they have higher volumes of course, but the point stands. Instabill has an amazing reputation for a high-risk provider. Even for a low-risk provider, honestly.
The most substantial complaint thread regarding Instabill can be found on Complaints Board. Note that the thread is from way back in 2010 and that a representative from Instabill did actually reply in a meaningful and logical way. The complaint regards withheld funds, which again is a common high-risk account complaint. It’s important to realize that the bank actually holds the funds, not Instabill. Withheld funds are a matter out of the merchant services provider’s hands to a large extent. This is the case with all processors, not just Instabill.
You can find 17 additional complaints on Ripoff Reports. But notice that the most recent complaint is from 2011, and the rest are quite a bit older. Also note that most complaints have to do with withheld funds, and remember that Instabill itself does not hold onto the funds. Instabill wants the money to go through just as much as the merchant.
All in all, even if Instabill once did have trouble with their processing bank withholding funds, it seems that as of 2016 the company has not received any complaints in recent years. Overall, I’m very satisfied with this.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Instabill features three positive testimonials on their web site’s home page. Unfortunately, they don’t include full names or complete business contact information. Add the use of what appear to be stock photos from their “satisfied customers” and the end result is an unconvincing collection of testimonials that clearly seem to have been written by hired hands for the purpose of reputation management. I can’t definitively prove this, but they certainly look sketchy. Feel free to ask your Instabill sales rep for references. That will be a better bet in terms of authenticity.
If you’ve had any experience with Instabill, please leave us a comment with your business name and other identifying information so we can verify the authenticity of your review!
If you run a high-risk business or have had a hard time getting approved for a merchant account, Instabill might be your saving grace. No, you’re not going to get the same treatment and low pricing that you’d find with some of our other favorite providers, and yes, you might have to deal with rolling reserves, application fees, and occasionally withheld funds. But, with all of that said, you will get a solid merchant account from a pretty decent company. That might not sound like a glowing endorsement, but it’s really well above average when it comes to high-risk specialists.
If you don’t get a good feeling about Instabill, feel free to check out some of our other favorite high-risk credit card processors like Durango Merchant Services and Payline Data. Based on everything we’ve seen, Instabill can often get approval for accounts that Durango and Payline would turn down. So if you’ve already had a lot of trouble getting a high-risk account up and running, Instabill might be your best bet.
While I’m not thrilled with some of their marketing, overall I’m glad to recommend Instabill as a high-risk and overseas merchant account provider. They currently rate 4 out of 5 stars and could rate even higher in future review updates if they can provide some more authentic testimonials. Check them out!
If you want to try to get approval for a standard merchant account first, check out some of our favorites. Good luck!