Merchant Bankcard Review
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- Date Established
- Valley Stream, NY
- Transparent cost-plus pricing
- Month-to-month agreement
- Deceptive advertising
- Poor customer service
- Numerous public complaints
Merchant Bankcard Overview
For our review of Merchant Bankcard, let’s dive right into what you learn from the company website. If you head over to merchantbankcard.com, you’ll find a sleek, modern homepage. You’ll immediately notice the headline graphic featuring stacks of coins that represent card processing rates. Merchant Bankcard’s stack is the smallest, because they promote “discount rates” that are 2-3 times cheaper than the competition.
Next, you’ll learn this merchant account provider advertises no contracts, no monthly subscriptions, and no cancellation fees. Wondering if you can believe the “transparent pricing” claim as you continue down the page, you’ll be delighted to discover “true cost-plus” plans (a.k.a. interchange-plus) for retail, mobile, and eCommerce businesses. You’ll be pleased to see concrete numbers in this section.
Moving on, you’ll notice that Merchant Bankcard offers US-based, 24/7/365 customer support. You’ll also find a 30-day risk-free trial offer.
“This all sounds pretty great,” you’ll muse. Being the savvy business owner that you are, you’ll check out some online reviews. At this point, you’ll be confronted with a very mixed bag of reactions to Merchant Bankcard.
Now, you’re not quite sure what to think. It’s a good thing you’re a super-extra-savvy business owner, however, because you’ve made your way to Merchant Maverick for the in-depth scoop. Well done!
As we examine Merchant Bankcard further (we’ll call it MB for short), note that the company we’re reviewing was founded in 2015 and is based in Valley Stream, NY. It is not the Merchant Bankcard Solutions based in Arkansas, nor is it the Florida-based Merchant Bankcard found at www.mbcmerchant.com. However, the subject of our review was formerly known as Merchant Bankcard Group. That domain is expired and I don’t expect the link to their old Facebook page to last.
With that all cleared up, on with the MB scoop!
Table of Contents
Products & Services
- Merchant Accounts: Although Merchant Bankcard claims to “eliminate all the middlemen” and does not disclose a backend processor, odds are you’ll be set up on one of the big ones such as First Data or TSYS.
- Payment Gateway: See if you can decipher the following sentence from the gateway section: “Process and manage telephone and face-to-face transactions in real-time with MERCHANT Contactless, BANKCARD.” So, MERCHANT Contactless, BANKCARD is the very awkward name of their gateway? This could be a white-label version of a commonly available gateway, or MB’s own custom creation. Or – it could be a copy and paste mistake.
- eCommerce: We aren’t given a lot of information here, except that merchants can integrate MB with their online store or subscription service.
- Mobile Payments: MB offers traditional merchant accounts, but has also presented itself as an alternative to Square for small, mobile businesses. Mobile accounts include an unidentified but free EMV reader. The website copy also refers to an unnamed mobile payments app.
- Card Terminals: If you’re a retail operation, MB will reprogram your existing equipment or offer you a free EMV terminal with your new account.
- POS Systems: This section is so brief I can just quote the whole thing here: “Whether you need a simple countertop terminal or an all-in-one point of sale system, we have the dynamic solutions your business needs.”
- Quickbooks Integration: The website says MB can “save you money while using Quickbooks. Not just a little money–a lot.” They leave it at that level of vagueness, so I will too.
Fees & Rates
I have several thoughts (read: very strong opinions) on the way Merchant Bankcard presents its pricing, but I’ll save most of those for the Sales & Advertising Transparency section below. For the moment, we’ll focus on the specifics of the three promoted plans.
Merchant Bankcard offers “true cost-plus” pricing. Otherwise known as interchange-plus or cost-plus, the merchant services provider charges a set markup over the wholesale interchange rate charged by the card networks for each transaction. We recommend this pricing structure because you gain a full understanding of your rates at the individual transaction level, and are thus able to make direct comparisons between providers.
Here are the three plans MB advertises:
- 0.25% + $0.10 markup
- $5 per month
- Free EMV reader
- 0.45% + $0.05 markup
- No monthly fees
- Free EMV terminal
- 0.35% + $0.10 markup
- $9.95 per month
- Free gateway
Ostensibly, these rates and fees compare favorably with most of our preferred providers. Here’s the problem: while the phrase “no hidden fees” appears prominently on the MB website, several complaints reference monthly minimums and/or monthly fees anywhere between $17-$50 when no processing occurred. Further corroborating the existence of a monthly minimum, here is Merchant Bankcard responding to a complaint in early 2017 at the Better Business Bureau:
“We can gladly close down and or refund the months were service was not used but please understand we are taking the loss here even though your agreement lists the monthly fees and monthly minimum which you were rightfully charged.”
I have also seen a couple clearly articulated references to tiered pricing in complaints. Perhaps “true cost-plus” pricing is available, but not universally offered. In MB’s defense, several business owners have expressed satisfaction with the low cost of their accounts. I’m just not confident the website’s stated rates and fees represent the full story for all MB’s clients.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
Merchant Bankcard advertises no contracts and no cancellation fees on their website. We always recommend merchants look for this flexible type of merchant account. Scanning through the complaint logs for MB, I have not seen tales of merchants getting trapped in long-term contracts or paying unexpected early termination fees. That’s quite encouraging.
Additionally, MB promotes a 30-day, risk-free trial. Hey, that looks even better, right? Well, when combined with a month-to-month plan, this offer ventures into confusing territory. If there’s no cancellation penalty to begin with, what’s the difference if you cancel on day 30 versus day 31 and beyond? Are your monthly fees refunded? How about the processing markup for any transactions you’ve run? And let’s not forget that free terminal they gave you. What happens to that?
Here’s a statement from MB’s website (and the mistakes are theirs, by the way):
“If your are not 100% satisfied for ANY reason al all, or you are satisfied but want to cancel… we will pick up the free equipment we send out to you and part ways free and clear.”
What’s unclear is if this applies at any time, or just during the “risk-free” trial. Unfortunately, I’ve seen merchants complain they had to send the terminal back on their own dime. It’s hard to say whether this was before or after any trial period had passed. Often, merchant service providers offer free equipment, but will make you pay for it (or at least pay to send it back) if you cancel within the first year. We could be looking at a similar situation here.
Merchants also had difficulty recouping monthly fees from MB after canceling, or cited continued monthly charges beyond the cancellation. Others have maligned the trial period in general, so were apparently unsatisfied with the conditions. On the other hand, one business owner said he was able to cancel within 30 days and was refunded all fees.
Ironically, a 30-day trial would actually carry more weight if there was an early cancellation fee on the line. Without further explanation from Merchant Bankcard, the trial offer comes across as a sales gimmick online. We need to know exactly what “part ways free and clear” means to MB, versus whatever it may imply.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
If my review of Merchant Bankcard doesn’t seem all that bad so far, then buckle up for the scathing part. First of all, they’ve already had two run-ins with the Better Business Bureau for false advertising, each warranting an official reprimand across the top of MB’s non-accredited profile.
The first warning was in June of 2016 and has since been removed. At the time, Merchant Bankcard promoted “wholesale” payment processing, implying a direct connection to Visa and Mastercard that did not exist. They also made unsubstantiated and convoluted claims such as, “we can save you on average up to 40% over the competition,” and, “90% of clients of Merchant Bankcard award a score of 8 or higher out of 10 in terms of satisfaction.”
Now, you’d think that because this warning was later wiped from Merchant Bankcard’s BBB profile, the issue is resolved. This is simply not the case, and here are a bunch of reasons why:
- Although the original headline graphic that included some of the offending claims was removed from the MB website, it’s still emblazoned across their Facebook page:
2. The new website graphic is only marginally better, if at all:
3. Saying they process at the “discount rate” is arguably even more tricky than promoting wholesale rates. The “discount rate” is another word for the interchange rate charged by card networks. Again, they are implying that they have some special connection to Visa and Mastercard, the companies that actually charge the interchange.
4. They don’t back up the claim that their rates are two times cheaper than the top payment processors, and a whopping three times cheaper than banks. Meaningless coin stacks certainly aren’t enough proof for this reviewer! Their actual advertised pricing directly contradicts this wacko math anyway.
5. I found other instances of misleading hyperbole in MB’s communications. Here’s an example from a company complaint response:
Hopefully once you have a few months with your new processor and see how and where they are charging you above and beyond what we were you will understand that our pricing is the most straight forward/honest approach to processing and ultimately cheaper than 99.9% of companies out there.”
6. They may have plagiarized their advertising from another company (on the left below):
7. Wording throughout the website continues to reinforce the implication that Merchant Bankcard has a more direct and cost-effective connection to the card networks than regular providers. They say things like, “we offer direct pricing to all our merchants,” and, “we eliminate all the middlemen.”
8. Additional gimmicky graphics reek of false advertising on the same theme:
9. Here’s the kicker–they even use the word VISA as part of their phone number. Come on now!
Moving on the current BBB warning about Merchant Bankcard’s false advertising, here’s the full text in case it’s removed:
This firm has misrepresented itself as a BBB Accredited Business in its print advertising in email communications with consumers. On August 10, 2016, the BBB requested that this firm cease and desist all unauthorized use of the BBB name and logo in its promotional materials. THIS FIRM IS NOT CURRENTLY A BBB ACCREDITED BUSINESS with the Better Business Bureau Serving Metropolitan New York, the service area in which it is headquartered. As of November 18, 2016, the business has responded to BBB but has failed to provide the requested assurances of discontinuation of unauthorized use of the BBB logo in its promotional materials. As of February 10, 2017, the business has responded to BBB and has discontinued the unauthorized use of the BBB logo on its email communications and marketing brochures.
In short, the level of blatant misrepresentation Merchant Bankcard has already demonstrated in its brief history is enough to make me extremely suspicious. The funny thing is, at first glance, the website looks okay. It’s only when you examine it closely that you notice gimmicky statements that sound great but are actually meaningless, as well as the real potential for Merchant Bankcard to trick merchants into thinking they’re getting something special when they’re not.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Two of the first things I noticed about Merchant Bankcard on the customer care front were: 1) they advertise US-based, 24/7/365 customer support, and 2) they do not advertise an email address. Faced with a single option, but one that ought to be quite reliable, I gave them a call.
Correction: I gave them 10 calls on three separate days across a total period of five days, each during regular business hours in all US time zones. And they only picked up the phone once.
That’s not even the full extent of the bad news. On some attempts, I never even reached the automated answering system. Instead, their main line merely rang about 15 times and then disconnected. Other times, I got through to the menu options and made my selection, only to wait another 15 rings before ultimately being disconnected. I left a recorded message on one of the attempts, and I’ll let you guess the outcome.
That one, precious time I did reach a live human, he told me he’d have someone call me back. I’m still waiting by the phone (okay, not really). I filled out the web contact form as a potential customer and never received a response. I tried messaging employees and C-suite executives based on an email address I found in a complaint rebuttal. I even tried sending LinkedIn “inMail” to the CEO. No dice.
Now, I’m left with the following questions about Merchant Bankcard: Was their phone system malfunctioning? Did they recognize my number and willfully ignore me? Are they understaffed? In crisis mode? Changing their 24/7/365 service? Or, are they bold faced liars on their website? I’ll never know for sure because I never got through to ask.
Speaking again of the website, I also looked for customer resources online and came up largely empty. For starters, the “savings calculator” button didn’t work. A small FAQ section relays basically the same information as the rest of the site. Several statements are riddled with errors, like this beauty:
“Unlike magnetic card, EMV card create a unique transaction code every time they are use.”
It’s pretty easy these days to get someone to quickly proofread your website for such obvious errors. I’m not sure if laziness or incompetence is at play. With the lack of response on the phone and also via their website, I suspect significant internal problems in the customer service department, and perhaps the company as a whole.
If you’re looking to social media for more answers, you’ll find a Twitter account with 10 tweets over two days in June 2016, followed by eerie silence. Facebook goes back further but is equally barren, while the LinkedIn profile is even more vacant. The highlight of LinkedIn for me was recognizing employee names from Merchant Bankcard complaints I’d been reading! And, speaking of complaints…
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Merchant Bankcard has a non-accredited BBB profile with 12 total complaints and one negative review. Nine of these complaints occurred in the last year, and two were resolved to the merchant’s satisfaction. Unfortunately, about half the complaints were registered with no accompanying details.
The profile still scores an A- rating, and we’ll delve into possible reasons for that in the next section. Meanwhile, Pissed Consumer contains the laments of another dozen or so merchants, Ripoff Report adds a couple, and Google reviews adds about 10 more. Note that a handful of the complaints are clear duplicates across sites.
I will grant that this particular Merchant Bankcard I’m reviewing may at times be confused with other companies. With a generic-sounding name like “Merchant Bankcard,” that’s only natural. Let’s be clear, however, that I’ve also read plenty of complaints that provide enough detail to connect mechant experiences to this specific company.
The list of grievances regarding MB across the review sites includes the following: poor customer service, pushy sales tactics, undisclosed fees, misrepresentation of rates, difficulty canceling accounts, trouble with the “free trial” period, difficulty receiving promised refunds, and misrepresentation of a direct connection to the card networks.
With the exception of that extremely troubling last item on the list, these are common disputes between merchants and processors. An outside observer can’t tease out the full story or assign ultimate blame. My main concern right now is that the complaint rate is increasing overall, rather than decreasing. Add this to my direct experience of MB’s “customer service” and my interactions with their website, and I lean toward giving merchants the benefit of the doubt.
While they do blame merchants or a different company at times, Merchant Bankcard has also respectfully responded and attempted concessions on several occasions. Often, they are waiting on the merchant to return equipment before they issue refunds post-cancellation. These measured responses from MB likely contribute to the continued A- rating.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Another factor undoubtedly bolstering MB’s rating at the BBB is that they’ve amassed 14 positive reviews. In addition, they’ve racked up around 40 positive Google reviews. Finding a substantial proportion of positive testimonials for a merchant account provider, especially at the BBB, is quite rare. So why the sizable love-fest for Merchant Bankcard?
Well, timing is a big clue. The vast majority of positive reviews at both Google the BBB and are clustered during the four- to six-month period encircling the two consumer warnings Merchant Bankcard received. Call me cynical, but I suspect Merchant Bankcard incentivized (or at least strongly encouraged) clients to go leave a positive comment ’round about the time the excrement was hitting the proverbial fan.
While I wouldn’t necessarily fault MB for engineering a little damage control, that won’t stop me from posing the theory. To extrapolate further, I think they got a little over-excited when they saw the fruits of their labor. This could explain why they started advertising their BBB profile in email communications, which then prompted a second warning from the BBB to cease and desist promoting non-existent accreditation. Whoops.
Even in light of my clever theory, let’s examine the substance of the positive testimonials. Happy customers highlight Merchant Bankcard’s attentive service and competitive pricing. Over at Pissed Consumer, one merchant originally panned Merchant Bankcard for dishonesty and hidden fees, only to return to processing with MB after realizing that every other company they tried had hidden fees too! That’s not exactly a glowing recommendation, but it’s probably true. Another positive reviewer mentioned that pesky monthly minimum as his only frustration with his account. Other merchants have touted MB’s fast funding or general honestly, especially compared with other providers.
Whether merchants were prompted to speak out, or they simply couldn’t hold in their praise and just had to tell the internet, we gather that lots of business owners were pleased with their choice. As I mentioned at the outset, opinions of Merchant Bankcard vary widely.
While I’m sufficiently perplexed by the mixed reviews for Merchant Bankcard, I’ve now synthesized enough information from the website, direct experience, and other sources to form my own opinion. Merchant Bankcard serves a group of satisfied merchants who are happy with the cost of their accounts. These merchants are on plans with relatively low rates and have experienced great support from their sales reps. Merchant Bankcard is certainly on the right track in offering interchange-plus pricing on month-to-month merchant agreements with no early termination fees.
Where everything goes wrong is in MB’s advertising, which comes across as tricky and dishonest. This is not to mention the easily avoidable errors and lack of true substance on their website. Despite the sleek presentation, Merchant Bankcard relies too heavily on gimmicky graphics and loopholes in wording to appear a cut above the rest. I also think they’re omitting some key information, such as monthly minimums and other important fees. Most disturbingly, MB’s advertising reminds me of scam companies that try to make you believe that they are part of the credit card networks. Can you tell I’m not buying it? Neither should you.
There may still be a good company underneath it all, as the positive reviews might suggest. I was hoping to reach out to them personally to give them a chance to explain their side of the story, but you’ll remember my disappointing experience with MB’s “24/7/365” customer service.
If you are approached by a Merchant Bankcard rep, please confront them about all these issues I’ve mentioned before signing up. Let us know what they say. Meanwhile, check out some of our top rated merchant account providers to better understand why I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Merchant Bankcard in comparison. We can help you find an option that suits your unique business needs.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.