Cayan (Merchant Warehouse) Review
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- Phone Number
- (866) 433-8790
- Date Established
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Wide range of terminal equipment for direct sale (no terminal leases)
- Month-to-month contracts with no early termination fee
- Interchange-plus pricing offered
- No account setup or application fees
- Very good customer support
- Above-average number of complaints relative to size
- Account fees not disclosed on website
- $99 PCI annual compliance fee
Cayan first went into business as Merchant Warehouse back in 1998, re-branding themselves as Cayan in early 2015. The company is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, and also has an office in Belfast, United Kingdom.
We’ve had good things to say about Cayan/Merchant Warehouse for years, and we’re not the only ones. Cayan has a great reputation, with many independent reviewers offering praise alongside industry awards. They even received the Electronic Transaction Association’s ISO of the Year award in 2009, which is a big deal in the merchant services industry.
The lack of an early termination fee (ETF) remains one of the major selling points for Cayan’s services. For years, the industry standard has been a three-year contract with early termination fees averaging around $400, but sometimes exceeding $1,000. There is currently a growing trend within the industry to move away from long term contracts and ETFs – probably due to the tremendous volume of complaints they’ve generated from unhappy merchants. I always encourage merchants to negotiate the ETF out of their contracts, so it’s really a huge relief to see that you won’t have to worry about it here.
You also don’t have to worry about expensive third-party leases being shoved down your throat here (as they are with so many other providers). Cayan is literally one of the only providers to list prices alongside their terminal selection (believe it or not). Furthermore, their prices are extremely reasonable. I know this sounds so simple, but trust me – it’s essentially unheard of in this industry.
(If you’re interested in new and alternative payment technology, check out my detailed summary of Cayan’s new Genius Customer Engagement Platform below.)
You’ll still find a fair number of negative reviews and complaints about Cayan online. They sign up thousands of merchants each month, so even though you can find a few hundred complaints online, it’s not a big percentage of Cayan’s overall volume. More importantly, though, I was thrilled to see how well this company handles complaints in the public forum. Responses are not at all robotic, and representatives almost always acknowledge that Cayan shares the blame. In most cases, Cayan is willing to negotiate a satisfactory refund or agreement.
Cayan gets 4 out of 5 stars, a highly commendable rating. They provide high-quality products and services, conducting business ethically and respectfully. They don’t get a perfect score for a few reasons. For one, their complaint volume is a little high. I know it’s only a small percentage of their business overall, but it’s more than I like to see for a business of this size. Ideally, these complaints should be handled in-house before the merchant feels the need to go to a third-party site. Second, Cayan doesn’t provide any information about interchange-plus pricing on their site, which we consider to be the fairest, most transparent pricing model for the majority of merchants. (They do offer it, though.) I’d also like to see a better disclosure of PCI compliance fees and to have this fee charged monthly (prorated) instead of annually.
Overall, Cayan gets my seal of approval. I’d be happy to recommend them to all small and mid-sized businesses, especially those interested in new and alternative payment technology. Keep up the good work over there!
Check out the full review below for more info, and don’t forget to comment!
Table of Contents
Products & Services
With an impressive collection of products and services, all neatly and transparently cataloged on their site, Cayan stands out in this category. I like that they keep the focus on processing and marketing rather than delving into payroll solutions and other business services. This allows Cayan to provide a solid line of products that remains navigable and focused. Their offerings include:
- Merchant accounts: Cayan’s merchant accounts support everything from credit/debit card terminals to online and mobile processing. Most of their transaction processing is done through First Data.
- Check processing: Cayan’s check processing and insurance program, called CrossCheck, offers all of the standard features you’d expect, plus extras like remote deposit capture.
- Terminal sales: Cayan earns major points with me in this category. Most providers will set you up with expensive, noncancellable leases that rack up thousands of dollars in fees for you. Cayan does the exact opposite. They take care of their own terminal sales and provide extremely fair prices for their products. Almost no merchant service providers will disclose affordable terminal prices on their websites. Good work, Cayan!
- Gateway/virtual terminal: You get free use of a payment gateway and virtual terminal with your account.
- Mobile processing: Using the free SwipeSimple mobile app (available for iOS and Android), you can process credit cards from your smartphone. If you want to swipe cards, you’ll have to get a swiper as well (not free).
- Processing software
- Gift card program
- Cash advances
Genius Payments Platform
We should take a minute to talk about Cayan’s newest product, a customer engagement platform called Genius. (Also note that Customer Engagement Platform and Genius are both registered trademarks.)
I was pretty skeptical of this service because a term as vague as “customer engagement platform” can lead to pretty disappointing results in my experience. It’s also a little difficult to figure out exactly what this service entails at first. Is it hardware, software, POS? No pictures or images of these products in action exist in the main ads for Genius. Even the “See it in Action” demo video doesn’t exactly demonstrate real-world use.
This is not to say I dislike these products. I actually think the Genius line has some cool offerings that could prove useful to merchants interested in getting ahead of the curve on processing technology.
Let’s ditch the term “customer engagement platform” for a minute, though. Really, for merchants, it’s more of an alternative payment platform with mobile marketing features, including both hardware and software. Genius also features unified reporting, automatic software updates, and a so-called “out of scope” PCI solution (more on these below). Let me break down the Genius components for you:
- Standard Payments
- Standard credit and debit card processing
- Loyalty, reward and gift card programs
- Mobile Processing
- Mobile app and card reader
- Virtual terminal/payment gateway
- New and Alternative Payment Technology
- Near-field communication (NFC): This technology allows customers to pay simply by placing their phone in front of the reader to access their mobile wallet. Cayan’s latest terminals include NFC chips to support NFC-based services such as Apple Pay (iPhone 6 and above), Android Pay, and others.
- QR code payments: You know those little black and white square things? They’re called QR codes. Some services allow you to use a unique QR code to make payments. For instance, LevelUp (4.5 stars) offers a QR code-based payment service. PayPal also supports allowing customers to pay in-store with a QR code. Many loyalty programs also work based on QR codes, such as SpotOn.
- EMV chips: EMV (or “chip and PIN”) credit and debit cards provide added security with an embedded circuit chip. First adopted in Europe, EMV cards – and the terminals to read them – came to the US in October of 2015. This so-called “smart card” technology is now standard security, although the rollout has been plagued with problems. Nonetheless, older terminals without EMV readers are now obsolete.
- Mobile Marketing
- Digital rewards, coupons, and offers via SMS: This service allows you to send SMS messages to subscribing customers, and can even target customers who are in the vicinity of your store. I know I’d be more tempted to stop at the local coffee shop on my way to the bank if I got a coupon sent to me as I passed by. So I’m intrigued by this offering. You can find similar services elsewhere, such as at Tatango, so if all you want is SMS coupons it might make sense to shop around.
- Cloud-based software updates for new capabilities (I really like this)
- Unified security through tokenization and encryption, offering an “out of scope” solution, meaning PCI compliance is not an issue (I really like this, too)
- Omnichannel extension, which basically amounts to a unified reporting system that allows merchants to view all transactions across all payment systems (mobile, in-store, and eCommerce) in one place and via one login.
Okay, so now let me give you a breakdown of the Genius family of products:
- Genius ITX: This is the flagship product, a fully integrated countertop POS system. Includes all of the above (standard payments, new payments, mobile marketing) except not mobile processing (see Genius EX below).
- Genius STX: Exactly like Genius ITX, except it comes as a standalone device for merchants that don’t need a full POS.
- Genius TX: Includes standard payments, mobile marketing, and QR scanning (via integrated LevelUp). EMV and NFC are optional add-ons.
- Genius EX: This is really just mobile processing and a virtual terminal. It’s not a novel service and doesn’t seem to add any benefits beyond these two fairly ubiquitous services. Calling it “customer engagement” might not be the most accurate marketing. For me, this doesn’t really fit with the rest of the Genius line, but it might offer some advantages over Cayan’s SwipeSimple mobile processing app and virtual terminal given the “other features” discussed above.
Do you see how these different packages and their cryptic names could be confusing? I’d like to see this all marketed more clearly. I don’t actually think that Cayan is trying to be deceptive here, though.
Fees & Rates
Like so many processors, Cayan doesn’t advertise any rates or fees on its website. This makes sense in some ways because rates and fees will vary widely from one merchant to the next based on a number of variables. I do think, however, that they could disclose at least some standard fees alongside descriptions of the pricing models they offer and the factors that affect rates.
They do offer interchange-plus pricing (or cost-plus pricing) for all merchants, although you’ll still likely have to contend with their industry standard $25 monthly minimum. If you have a higher volume, this won’t matter to you. If you have a lower volume, try to negotiate this down to an acceptable level (I’ve seen low-volume merchants get the minimum down to $5 with Cayan.)
They charge a $7.95/month statement fee, which is pretty low and generally fair in my opinion.
The $99 annual PCI compliance fee seems to raise the most eyebrows among merchants. While it’s in line with the industry average, it’s charged as a single annual fee, rather than on a monthly basis. Cayan won’t prorate it or offer partial refunds if you decide to close your account or switch providers. So, for example, if you switched to a different provider less than a month after paying the annual fee, you’d end up paying for the entire year. While this might make some sense if you were bound by a one-year contract, it’s absurd when applied to a contract that’s supposed to be month-to-month.
In some cases, you’ll also have to pay a 35% restocking fee on a returned terminal if you’ve removed its protective film or stickers. From what I’ve seen, though, Cayan is willing to make exceptions to this, especially if you simply can’t get the terminal to work.
Some fees you won’t see:
- No application fee
- No account set-up fee
- No annual fee
- No early termination fee (ETF)
That’s what I like to see!
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
Cayan offers the best of the best in this category. They have no cancellation fees, making your account effectively month-to-month! You’ll still have to go through the required cancellation procedure in order to stop them from billing you when you decide to stop using your account, but there is absolutely no penalty for doing so. Good job, Cayan!
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Looking at the Cayan website, I’m really impressed. They have one of the most comprehensive and professional looking sites I’ve seen in the industry, without being overwhelming or confusing. It’s also incredibly accommodating and not at all pushy. You’ll find few sales gimmicks, and no bold claims or misleading information anywhere. Their salespeople – in my experience – live up to the friendly and helpful air of the website. I spoke with a sales agent on the phone and via live chat. Both exchanges were pleasant and not at all deceptive.
I would have liked to see some more information about rate models such as interchange-plus or tiered pricing systems. While I trust Cayan to make ethical decisions and set merchants up with the best pricing for their unique needs, disclosing some of this information in plain sight would increase transparency. As of now, information about interchange-plus pricing is limited to a brief discussion of interchange and assessments on their blog.
I don’t usually like to see “price match guarantee” style sales gimmicks. Thankfully, Cayan seems to have discontinued their $100 Low Rate Guarantee. While other providers promise to pay you $500 or $1,000 – or even a full year of free processing – if you can find a lower rate, this guarantee seemed more plausible because of the low payout. I’ve also read actual reviews from people who had received a $100 check from Cayan. Maybe that’s why they dropped it…
Overall, I love all of their resources and I believe Cayan makes an admirable effort to market in a fair and honest manner. It’s also nice to see their social media presence via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Cayan’s offerings in this area are excellent. They offer 24/7/365 phone-based customer service and technical support, provided by a US-based, in-house team of service representatives. E-mail support is also available, with an advertised response time of 24-48 hours. Unfortunately, their live chat support feature has been discontinued.
On the bright side, responses from their phone-based representatives were much more professional and intelligent than I’ve received elsewhere. I’d say it’s worth a little bit of a wait for better responses, but of course, I’d rather have the best of both worlds.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Cayan has been accredited with the BBB since 2002, and currently carries an A+ rating. They’ve had 110 BBB complaints within the past three years, with 36 of those complaints being filed within the past twelve months. While this is a little high for a company of their size, it’s still lower than our last review update, when they had 125 complaints in three years and 35 complaints within the past twelve months. This may not be a huge difference, but Cayan is definitely going in the right direction.
At the same time, 39 out of 40 BBB users who posted detailed reviews reported a negative experience with the company. While people are far more likely to go to the effort to report a bad experience than a good one, it’s still disturbing.
One of the truly remarkable things about Cayan has been and continues to be their dedication toward making things right with customers who have complaints. You’ll find dozens of well-considered, kind, sincerely apologetic and understanding responses from Cayan representatives. They take responsibility for preventable errors and seem to genuinely care about the reputation of the company and the customer’s experience. You can see evidence of this in our comments section, as well as on the BBB reviews and Ripoff Reports. Unfortunately, they offered no responses via Yelp, where Cayan currently has 60 predominately negative reviews. Note that the company is still listed as Merchant Warehouse on both Yelp and Ripoff Reports.
Of the complaints I browsed, these came up most often:
- Withholding of funds: This can happen for a number of reasons. Chargebacks and/or suspicious charges can easily raise a red flag that will either get you suspended or shut down. Cayan uses First Data (FD) for their processing. If Cayan is boarding merchants using the First Data platform, it’s also possible that FD is underwriting those same accounts. If that’s the case, then FD has the authority to shut down an account without authorization from Cayan. The same goes for any acquiring banks that Cayan is associated with. They have the last word. With that said, a good ISO/MSP will have their own risk department that monitors their merchants’ accounts to catch any security issues before they get out of hand. Because once that red flag goes up with First Data, it’s shoot first, ask questions later. To learn what you can do to prevent this, check out this article.
- Undisclosed PCI compliance fee: After reading a ton of complaints about this, it’s clear to me that Cayan really needs to do a better job when it comes to disclosing this $99 annual fee. The fee itself is justifiable – failure to disclose it is not. I’d like to see this information on their site. I’d also like to see it split into monthly payments so that if I signed up in April (when they assess the PCI fee) and decide to cancel in May, I’m not stuck paying for a whole year to offset their PCI costs. Based on many reviews I read, Cayan is not generally willing to prorate this charge.
- Difficulty canceling: This complaint comes up a lot with Cayan, but I’m not sure why. Their cancellation process is actually a lot easier than many other providers. Basically, you have to call Customer Service to submit a cancellation request, and then they will send you an email with a link for an online cancellation form. Having the process that includes a phone confirmation protects merchants from an unauthorized party canceling the account. Having the digital step helps provide a record of the cancellation. I actually like this process quite a bit, much more than the standard “written request” that most providers ask for. My only concern is that some merchants report having trouble getting through to the cancellation department.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
There are plenty of testimonials on the Cayan website. Feel free to check them out. They aren’t dated, but I’m glad to see full names of businesses and customers attached to the reviews. You’ll also find a few positive reviews in our comments section below.
Cayan (formerly Merchant Warehouse) offers some solid services, far exceeding the industry standard across the board. With fair payment terminal sales, quality products, good support, ethical sales practices, and no early termination fee – what’s not to like? Their new Genius “Customer Engagement Platform” is an interesting solution for merchants looking for new and alternative payment technologies and/or mobile marketing.
One of my favorite things about Cayan is seeing how company representatives respond to public complaints. They seem to genuinely take note of Cayan’s shortcomings, and hopefully, report the need for fixes to their managers. If they continue to take complaints and feedback to heart, Cayan could easily be a perfect five-star processor in the future. For now, 4 out of 5 stars isn’t too shabby! They’ve earned my seal of approval. Give them a call to get started: (866) 433-8790.
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