Merchant One Review
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- Date Established
- Miami Beach, FL
- Offers full lineup of Clover terminals and POS systems
- Interchange-plus pricing available
- No automatic renewal clause
- Does not offer equipment leases
- Tiered pricing offered
- Standard three-year contract
- An early termination fee of $295 or more
- Extensive use of independent sales agents
- Many complaints of poor customer service
Merchant One is a merchant services provider headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida. Established in 2002, the company is an independent sales organization (ISO) of mammoth processor Fiserv (formerly First Data). With a little over 100,000 customers, the company qualifies as a mid-sized processor — and also one of Fiserv’s larger resellers.
Of course, Fiserv has dozens — perhaps even hundreds — of resellers, so you may be wondering what sets Merchant One apart from the rest of the pack. Quite honestly, we couldn’t find a single area where the company stood out in any significant way from any of the other numerous providers that use Fiserv as their back-end processor. At the same time, we also didn’t find anything about Merchant One that we think makes it a worse choice, either.
The company’s public reputation has had its ups and downs over the years since we first reviewed it. Its complaint volume with the BBB once hit a high of nearly 200 complaints, but that volume is now down to a more manageable 41 complaints filed within the past three years. While this still isn’t great, it’s pretty consistent with the average complaint volume we see in other, similarly-sized merchant services providers. Merchant One seems to be very aware that its reputation among merchants isn’t the best, as the company has recently taken to soliciting reviews on Trustpilot to prop up its online reputation.
Like many traditional providers, Merchant One doesn’t disclose any prices on its website. Instead, the company uses a quote-based system where it will offer you a schedule of fees and processing rates tailored to your business. Unfortunately, this method makes it all too easy to provide unsuspecting merchants an overpriced tiered pricing plan, complete with a host of “hidden” fees that aren’t adequately disclosed during the sales process, and a long-term contract that comes with an expensive early termination fee (ETF) if you try to get out of your agreement. The one useful disclosure the company makes is that it no longer offers equipment leases, which is a very good thing, as these types of leases are overpriced and cannot be canceled once you sign up. Instead, you can purchase your processing hardware outright — something that we recommend you do anyway.
Overall, Merchant One earns a score of 3 out of 5 stars. This is a pretty mediocre grade, but it reflects the fact that the company is neither worse than nor better than the industry average in an industry that typically isn’t very merchant-friendly. If you have a substantial monthly processing volume and are skilled at negotiating, you might be able to obtain more favorable contract terms and a lower-priced interchange-plus pricing plan. However, there are plenty of better alternatives available that make it much easier to get a fair deal in the first place. If your monthly processing volume is over $10,000, we highly recommend Dharma Merchant Services (see our review) as a superior Fiserv reseller. You can also check out our Merchant Account Comparison Chart for some other recommendations for the top small-business-friendly providers in the industry.
Table of Contents
Products & Services
Merchant One offers a comprehensive array of services and processing hardware for most businesses. However, it doesn’t provide much detailed information about what these services entail or how they work.
- Merchant Accounts: As we’ve mentioned above, Merchant One is a reseller for Fiserv (formerly First Data). In addition to using Fiserv as its back-end processor, the company offers other Fiserv products and services as well, including the popular Clover line of terminals and point of sale (POS) systems.
- Credit Card Terminals: Merchant One currently advertises four “basic” credit card terminals on its website: the Pax S80, Pax S500, VeriFone VX520, and First Data FD-130 models. All four models support both EMV and NFC-based payments. Also, except for the Pax S500, they’re all available for “Free*.” Like many other merchant services providers today, Merchant One has a terminal placement program that will include one “free” terminal with your new merchant account. While this offer may seem very enticing, please understand that your terminal is never really going to be provided at no cost to you. At the very least, the company will loan you a terminal, which you’ll have to return immediately if you ever close your merchant account. There is almost always some additional cost as well, either in the form of higher monthly account fees, higher processing rates, or having to agree to a long-term contract. On a more positive note, Merchant One now advertises that it no longer offers leased equipment. While we certainly commend the company for making this change, we’d be even happier if it would advertise pricing information for the equipment it offers.
- Point Of Sale (POS) Systems: As a Fiserv reseller, it’s no surprise that Merchant One offers the complete lineup of Clover POS systems, including the full-featured Clover Station (see our review) and the smaller Clover Mini (see our review). Note that these systems are not available through the company’s terminal placement program, so you’ll have to buy them outright. Unfortunately, Merchant One doesn’t list prices for this equipment on its website.
- Mobile Payments: Completely portable processing systems are very popular today, particularly for businesses that need to take payments in the field. Merchant One offers both the Clover Flex (see our review) and Clover Go (see our review). Other mobile card readers on offer include the Magtek ADynamo, the BBPOS Chipper, and the Swift B250 SwipeSimple. Merchant One’s website does not disclose any pricing information for these models.
- Payment Gateway: Merchant One advertises a payment gateway, which includes a virtual terminal for manually keying in transactions. However, it’s not clear whether it’s offering its proprietary gateway or a white-label version of another third-party gateway, such as Authorize.Net (see our review). The gateway includes the standard features you’d expect, including a customer database, support for recurring billing, QuickBooks integration, and a customizable API. The gateway can also integrate with over 175 popular online shopping carts.
- eCheck/ACH Processing: The Merchant One website briefly mentions “check processing services,” but it offers no details. It will probably set you up with Fiserv’s Telecheck service. Expect to pay an additional monthly fee for this service, as it’s not included with a basic merchant account.
|heading||Payment Depot||Dharma||National Processing||Clover Corporate|
Dharma Merchant Services
Official Clover Store
Provides all Clover products
Transparent pricing with no hidden fees
Rate matching and negotiable quotes
Fair entry-level quote standard
0.00% + $0.05-0.15 markup
0.15% + $0.07 markup
(Must process $10K+ per month)
0.15% + $0.07 markup
2.3% + $0.10 for in-person transactions
Fees & Rates
Merchant One does not disclose any pricing information regarding either processing rates or account fees on its website. For better or worse, this is a prevalent practice in the merchant services industry. Prices are “negotiable” — within certain limits, of course. If you contact Merchant One, you should expect to receive a pricing quote that’s customized for your business. This pricing quote is similar to the first price you would be quoted at an automobile dealership, and you absolutely should do your best to negotiate for lower rates rather than simply accepting the company’s first offer.
The company offers a combination of both tiered pricing and interchange-plus processing rate plans. In most cases, Merchant One will initially offer you the more expensive tiered pricing as part of the rate quote you receive. It’s up to you to negotiate for a more affordable interchange-plus plan.
Unfortunately, Merchant One also claims to offer rates “as low as 0.29%” on its website, a common sales gimmick that in no way reflects what your actual rates will be. This rate is almost certainly the lowest available rate for PIN debit transactions, and it’s probably only available to larger businesses with very high monthly processing volumes. The actual rate you end up paying on almost all of your transactions will be significantly higher than this, so don’t be fooled!
Although the company doesn’t disclose any of its standard recurring or incidental fees, it does reveal that it does not charge any one-time fees to process your merchant account application or to set up your account. We’ve always considered these to be junk fees anyway, and most providers no longer charge them.
We’ve found some reports from merchants of monthly account fees as low as $6.95 per month, but this is probably for a bare-bones merchant account with no additional services and no “free” terminal. There are also plenty of complaints from merchants regarding “hidden” fees, although, in truth, these fees are usually disclosed in the fine print of your merchant agreement. Among the fees we’ve heard about, expect to pay an annual account fee ($99 per year), a PCI compliance fee (around $100 per year), and a monthly minimum (the amount varies, but it’s typically $25 per month). You might also see a monthly gateway fee if you sign up for the company’s payment gateway and a $25 PCI non-compliance fee for every month that your account is out of compliance with required PCI data security standards.
Our best advice here is to read your merchant agreement very thoroughly before you sign up for an account. You’ll want to be clear about every rate and fee you’ll be responsible for, and you simply cannot rely on a sales representative to disclose this information fully. You should also check out our complete guide to merchant account rates and fees, so you’ll understand what these fees are for and when you might have to pay them.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
All Merchant One contracts include an initial term of three years. While we don’t like this kind of long-term contract, this is the industry standard, and most traditional providers will have the same requirement. Where the company differs from other providers is that there is no automatic renewal clause that extends your contract for successive one-year periods at the end of the initial term. Instead, your account will continue indefinitely on a month-to-month basis. After your first three years are up, you’re essentially free to close your account at any time without penalty.
We’ve also seen reports from merchants of being told by sales representatives that the initial contract term is only for one year. While these appear to be isolated incidents, they point out the need to read your entire contract before you sign up. The Merchant One Terms and Conditions (Program Guide) clearly spells out the contract term length.
Unfortunately, Merchant One contracts also include an early termination fee (ETF) that applies during the initial three-year term. Here’s the relevant clause from the Program Guide:
If this Agreement is terminated by either party for any reason before the end of the then-current term… you will immediately pay us, as a termination fee, the greater of (i) $295.00 for each year remaining in the then-current term or (ii) the fees (net of Association charges) we would have received based on the average monthly transaction volume during the highest 12 month period prior to termination (annualized in the event such period is less than 12 months) (or the fee we should have received, based on your representations in the Application, if greater) during the months remaining in the then-current term but for such termination.
Application of this provision could potentially cost you as much as $885 or possibly even more if you’re a very high-volume business. Your best protection against this kind of provision (other than signing up with a different provider that uses true month-to-month billing and doesn’t charge an ETF) is to negotiate a waiver of this clause. Providers will occasionally waive your ETF if you ask for it in advance. Just be sure to get it in writing in case you’re “accidentally” charged the fee later on.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Merchant One’s website has a professional appearance and is quite easy to navigate. Unfortunately, that’s because it offers very little in the way of actual content. You also won’t find pricing information, except for the misleading “rates as low as 0.29%” claim. Details about the Clover product lineup are also sparse, although you can easily find this information on other websites.
Like many other merchant services providers, Merchant One appears to rely heavily on independent sales agents to market its accounts. While this is a real cost-saver for the company (independent agents are usually paid on a commission-only basis), it frequently results in a very unsatisfying sales experience for the merchant. While there are some very experienced and ethical independent agents working in the industry, your odds of finding one are not good. It’s much more likely that you’ll find yourself working with someone who hasn’t been adequately trained on the company’s services, prices, and contracts, and who is just looking to sign you up as quickly as possible and get their commission. Beware of promises that seem too good to be true, and insist on taking the time to read your entire contract before you agree to sign anything. See our Comments section below for some examples of how badly things can go wrong when working with independent agents.
Like most providers these days, Merchant One has a presence on social media, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Unfortunately, content is very sparse, and most of these accounts haven’t been updated in years. The company’s Facebook page appears to be used primarily to re-broadcast its positive reviews on Trustpilot.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Merchant One advertises 24/7 support, both over the phone and via email. Despite this, many merchants report receiving poor customer service. Previously, the site featured a small FAQ page, but even this seems to have disappeared. The lack of even a rudimentary knowledgebase is troubling. Also, be aware that you’ll likely have to deal with Fiserv’s customer support during non-business hours and with Clover directly for any technical issues.
Providing a more personal customer service experience is one potential advantage that small ISOs such as Merchant One have over the huge direct processors that they work with. Unfortunately, the company hasn’t capitalized on this by putting adequate resources into this aspect of its business. Like far too many other merchant services providers, customers are pretty much on their own after they’ve signed up and are locked into their contracts. The only good news here is that if you have a technical issue with any of the company’s Clover products, there are plenty of self-help resources available elsewhere on the web.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Merchant One has been accredited by the BBB since 2010, and it currently has an A+ rating. The company has had 41 complaints in the last three years, 22 of which were filed within the last twelve months. These numbers represent a fairly significant increase in complaint volume since the time of our last review update, but they’re not unusually high for a company of this size. Merchant One has answered most of these complaints, but the majority of them have not been resolved due to dissatisfaction from customers. There are also 41 customer reviews posted with an average rating of 3 out of 5 stars. However, if you look closely at the reviews themselves, it’s clear that most reviews are either 5-star or 1-star, with very few in between. It’s also pretty obvious that many of the 5-star reviews sound like the company’s marketing department could have written them.
Negative feedback on Merchant One from the BBB and other consumer-protection websites indicate the following common problems:
- Poor Customer Service: Like far too many other merchant services providers, the quality of customer service drops dramatically as soon as the ink is dry on your contract. Many merchants reported that the customer service representatives they talked to tended to be rude, even when there was an admitted mistake on the part of Merchant One.
- Undisclosed Early Termination Fee: We’ve discussed this fee in detail above in the Contract Length & Early Termination Fee section and even shown you where to find it in your contract. However, many merchants report that this fee was never disclosed to them by their sales agent during the signup process. Like it or not, it’s ultimately your responsibility to review your contract thoroughly before you sign up for an account. You simply cannot rely on your sales agent to disclose every aspect of your agreement — ever.
- “Hidden” Fees: Again, we found plenty of complaints from merchants about being charged “hidden” or unexpected fees after their accounts were activated, and they started processing transactions. While your agent should disclose all the major fees that you’re responsible for, you simply cannot expect your sales agent to do this for you. All recurring and incidental fees are disclosed in your contract (although often buried in pages of fine print), so review all contract documents thoroughly to prevent being surprised later on.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
On the home page of Merchant One’s website, you’ll find a section that links to the company’s reviews on Trustpilot. This initially appears quite impressive, as the company has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, based on 2,746 reviews. However, if you navigate over to the Trustpilot website itself, it readily becomes apparent that nearly all of the 5-star reviews are labeled as “invited,” meaning that Merchant One solicited them. In other words, they’re not spontaneous reviews posted by genuinely happy customers who were so thrilled with their experience with Merchant One that they independently took it upon themselves to post a glowing review of the company. Many of these reviews are barely a single sentence in length, and many call out the customer’s sales agent by name — a clear sign that they were nudged into posting a review by Merchant One.
Now, any company is well within its rights to request a review from its customers. In fact, several of the 1-star reviews of Merchant One on Trustpilot were also solicited by the company. However, it does seem pretty clear that Merchant One is trying to drown out the complaints by burying them under a mountain of low-value positive reviews. In particular, we note that many of the positive reviews appear to have been written by merchants who had only recently signed up for the company’s services. Unfortunately, the honeymoon tends to wear off pretty quickly when it comes to merchant services, and we don’t feel that there’s any real value in a review left by a merchant who’s only been using their provider’s services for just a few weeks. If you need help in distinguishing fake reviews from genuine ones, our article on how to spot fake reviews can help.
Merchant One has a number of features that help it stand out from its numerous competitors in the merchant services industry. The availability of interchange-plus pricing (at least, if you ask for it), the lack of an automatic renewal clause once your initial three-year term is up, and the fact that the company no longer offers equipment leases are all positive characteristics. However, the company’s standard three-year contract and the potentially expensive early termination fee that comes with it are not so great. The use of tiered pricing, the reliance on independent sales agents, and a reputation for poor customer service further lower the company’s overall score.
Perhaps the most glaring weakness of Merchant One is that it doesn’t offer a single unique product or service that you can’t get at any of dozens of competing providers. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the company had a reputable in-house sales team or offered top-notch customer service, but it doesn’t. While Merchant One isn’t nearly as terrible as many other Fiserv resellers, there really isn’t a single reason to recommend the company over its competitors.
Ultimately, Merchant One scores a mediocre 3 out of 5 stars overall. This score is, unfortunately, pretty indicative of the “industry average” in an industry that is not particularly well-known for being consumer-friendly. If you’re looking for a reputable provider that offers the full line of Clover products and services and features completely transparent pricing disclosures, honest sales practices, and high-quality customer service, we highly recommend that you take a look at Dharma Merchant Services (see our review). Dharma is by far the best Fiserv reseller that we’ve found. You can also check out our Merchant Account Comparison Chart for an overview of the best merchant services providers in the industry. Good luck!
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.