Cayan (Merchant Warehouse) Review
Processing $1,000 per month or less in card payments?
- Date Established
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Wide range of terminal equipment
- No early termination fee
- Interchange-plus pricing offered
- No account setup or application fees
- Very good customer support
- Large number of complaints
- Account fees not disclosed on website
- $99 annual PCI compliance fee
Cayan is a merchant services provider headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. The company also has an international office in Belfast, United Kingdom. Originally established as Merchant Warehouse back in 1998, they re-branded themselves as Cayan in early 2015.
In December 2017, Cayan was acquired by TSYS for $1.05 billion. While Cayan was a pretty big provider already, TSYS is even larger. Together, the combined company will be one of the largest processors in the industry. Announcements from TSYS regarding the merger indicate that the Cayan brand will be retained – at least for the time being. For now, the most significant change that existing customers should see is that their merchant accounts will now be underwritten by TSYS. Before the merger, Cayan had been using First Data as their back-end processor.
We’ve had good things to say about Cayan for years, and we’re not the only ones. The company has an excellent 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.
Cayan’s primary offering is their integrated, cloud-based Genius platform. This unique omnichannel system supports retail, online, and mobile payments through a proprietary payment gateway and a variety of compatible terminals and card readers. Robust security features protect your customers’ sensitive credit card data, and you can customize the system to the unique needs of your business.
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 a huge relief to see that you won’t have to worry about it here.
We’re also very impressed with Cayan’s advertised equipment lineup, which includes countertop, handheld, and mobile terminals and card readers. While pricing is only disclosed on a handful of models, the prices that are listed are very affordable. Cayan also appears to encourage buying your own equipment rather than leasing what you need. We agree wholeheartedly. Equipment leasing is one of the biggest rip-offs in the processing industry and should be avoided at all costs.
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 significant 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 company 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 website, 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. Check out the full review below for more info, and don’t forget to comment!
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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 reliable 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. The company is not a direct processor, relying on First Data as their backend processor. With the recent merger, we expect that new and existing accounts will be transferred to TSYS sometime shortly.
- Genius® platform: This platform is Cayan’s omnichannel payment processing system. It combines a variety of countertop, wireless, and mobile terminals with a payment gateway to allow in-person and online payments using credit cards, debit cards, or eCheck (ACH) payments. The system is cloud-based, so all transactions will sync across all your devices automatically. All physical terminals support EMV payments, and the system is secured with tokenization and peer-to-peer (P2P) encryption.
- Credit card terminals: If you need a physical terminal, Cayan offers several countertop and mobile models. In addition to their proprietary Genius Countertop terminal, they also sell the Genius Handheld, a wireless portable terminal that also supports NFC-based payment methods such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. Note that the Genius Handheld uses a wireless connection rather than cellular data. While this will save you the added expense of paying for a data plan for your terminal, you’ll have to have access to Wi-Fi to use it. The company also offers several popular (and non-proprietary) terminals, including the Ingenico iCT220 ($136.00) and the Verifone Vx520 ($265.99 when bundled with the Vx805 PIN Pad). Pricing is not disclosed for the Genius terminals. We’re pleased to see that Cayan offers their terminals for sale rather than leasing them. Their prices are very competitive and will save you hundreds of dollars over getting stuck in a terminal lease.
- Payment gateway: Cayan’s Genius® platform includes a proprietary payment gateway that provides all the standard features you’ll need to run an eCommerce business, including encryption, a card vault to store your customers’ card data, and support for recurring billing. You also have the option of using Authorize.Net if you prefer.
- Virtual terminal: The company offers the MerchantWare Virtual Terminal, but doesn’t disclose much information about it. A virtual terminal can be used to accept payments through your computer instead of a dedicated countertop terminal and is useful for mail order and telephone order businesses.
- Mobile processing: Cayan’s mobile system consists of the Genius Mini card reader and a companion Genius Mini app. The card reader supports magstripe, EMV, and NFC-based payment methods, and connects via either Bluetooth or a headphone jack. The Genius Mini app is available for both iOS and Android and runs on smartphones, iPads and Android-based tablets. The card reader is also Windows-compatible, so you can use it in conjunction with the MerchantWare Virtual Terminal to process card-present transactions on your computer.
- Point of sale (POS) systems: Cayan doesn’t offer a dedicated POS product, but instead promotes their POS Developer Program to make the Genius® API available to developers to integrate into third-party POS systems.
Fees & Rates
Like many other processors, Cayan provides almost no rate or fee information 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. I’m also not happy with the “rates from 0.28%” claim found on their website. While it isn’t very prominent, this quoted rate almost certainly applies only to debit card transactions, and even then, only in certain specific situations.
While not advertised, Cayan does offer interchange-plus pricing for all merchants. You’ll still likely have to contend with their industry standard $25.00 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 $5.00 with Cayan.)
The company also charges a statement fee of $7.95 per month. While I’m not a fan of statement fees when most account statements are delivered digitally these days, it’s reasonable if you’re not also being charged a monthly account maintenance fee.
The $99.00 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 an agreement 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.
Cayan doesn’t charge an application fee, account setup fee, or annual fee. There’s also no early termination fee if you close your account. Note that you might (or might not) have to pay a $49.00 setup fee if you chose the Authorize.Net payment gateway.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
Cayan does not charge an early termination fee (ETF) for closing your account. That’s certainly good news, and you might believe that because of this policy your contract is on a month-to-month basis. However, it’s not quite so simple. Comments from merchants indicate that Cayan’s contracts include a standard three-year term (and possibly an automatic renewal clause that extends the contract for one or two-year periods after that). We weren’t able to obtain a copy of one of Cayan’s merchant account contracts to confirm this, so our best recommendation is for you to review your contract thoroughly before you sign up. You’ll want to know whether your contract is genuinely month-to-month or if it’s in effect for a much longer period.
It’s a common misconception among merchants that if a contract doesn’t include an ETF, it’s essentially month-to-month. While it’s true that you can close your account at any time without having to pay a penalty, long-term contracts are not the same as a true month-to-month agreement. For one thing, a true month-to-month contract will explicitly state that it continues indefinitely on a month-to-month basis. Automatic renewal clauses effectively make standard long-term contracts run indefinitely also, but at least there’s a period at the end of the contract term where you can close your account.
The most significant impact this distinction has is on billing. We’ve seen many complaints from merchants alleging that they were charged monthly account fees for months after they thought they had closed their accounts. Providers like Cayan rely on automated billing systems to process monthly (and annual) fees and getting that system to stop deducting money from your account every month will require you to follow the account closure instructions contained in your contract to the letter.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Cayan has a comprehensive and professional-looking website that provides a good overview of their products and services. As we’ve noted, they don’t disclose any processing rate or account fee information. They do, however, provide extensive information about the credit card terminals they sell, including pricing for some models.
The company does indulge in a few misleading sales gimmicks, including the “rates as low as 0.28%” claim discussed above. As a general rule, whenever you see a company only quote one rate on their website, you can be guaranteed that it’s the lowest possible rate they charge and that it will only apply under very limited circumstances.
Cayan also touts a Meet-or-Beat Guarantee, where they’ll give you $100.00 if they can’t match or exceed the rates offered by your current provider. While this is a clear enticement to lure merchants away from competing providers, most companies that use this gimmick also place so many undisclosed limitations on it that they almost never have to pay out the reward. Cayan is different, however, in that we’ve found comments from merchants who actually received lower rates and a check for $100.
The company sells its accounts primarily through an in-house sales team, although they also use independent agents. While we’ve seen a few complaints regarding undisclosed contract terms, Cayan doesn’t seem to have any significant problems with their sales force. Nonetheless, we recommend that you contact the company directly rather than work with an independent agent. You’ll most likely receive better and more honest service from the in-house sales representatives.
Cayan has an active social media presence, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram. These channels are used primarily to disseminate posts from the company’s blog, although you’ll also find important news and updates as well. The company’s YouTube channel includes educational videos, customer tutorials, and general announcements.
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.
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.
The company also includes a very extensive knowledgebase on the Cayan Help Center section of their website. This should be your first stop if you’re trying to fix a technical problem, and it could save you from having to call Customer Service at all.
We should also point out that complaints about poor customer service are quite common. In most cases, these complaints are raised in conjunction with much more serious issues, such as account holds or difficulty in closing an account.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Cayan has been accredited with the BBB since 2002, and currently carries an A+ rating. They’ve had 98 complaints within the last three years, with 28 of those complaints being filed within the last twelve months. While this may seem like a very high number of complaints, it’s actually only a little above average for a provider of Cayan’s size. The current complaint volume also represents a significant decrease in complaints compared to our last two review updates. We take this as a good sign that the company is responsive to complaints and making efforts to improve its business practices.
At the same time, Cayan also has 43 negative reviews (out of a total of 43) on their BBB profile. We don’t give as much weight to negative reviews as we do formal complaints because the company doesn’t have the opportunity to respond, but it’s still a disturbing trend.
The company also has three complaints on Ripoff Report under its current name, and 43 complaints under the old Merchant Warehouse name. Issues raised in these complaints generally mirror those raised with the BBB.
While Cayan’s overall complaint volume is a little higher than we’d like to see, the company did respond to every BBB complaint, offering to resolve the problem and even issuing refunds when they were appropriate. The most common issues that came up in complaints include the following:
- Withholding of funds: This can happen for a number of reasons. Chargebacks and suspicious charges can quickly raise a red flag that will either get you suspended or shut down. Cayan currently uses First Data for their processing. If the company 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 our article How to Avoid Merchant Account Holds, Freezes, and Terminations.
- Undisclosed PCI compliance fee: After reading a ton of complaints about this, it’s clear to me that Cayan 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 willing to prorate this charge.
- Difficulty closing account: 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 to 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 from satisfied merchants scattered throughout Cayan’s website and on their Testimonials page. While they’re generally brief and don’t include dates, they do provide the business name and full name of the merchant, which is a good sign that they’re genuine.
You’ll also find several positive reviews in our Comments section below.
Cayan offers a solid platform, exceeding the industry standard in most areas. With fair payment terminal sales, quality products, good support, ethical sales practices, and no early termination fee – what’s not to like? Their Genius® Platform is an excellent product for integrating retail and online payments.
We also like the company’s lack of an early termination fee, even though it doesn’t appear to offer true month-to-month billing. Cayan’s reputable sales team and generally solid customer service are also strengths. We particularly like their extensive online knowledgebase and other educational resources.
Of course, like any provider, they’re not perfect. The lack of rate information on their website makes it all too easy for them to sign an unsuspecting merchant up for an expensive tiered pricing plan, rather than a more transparent (and usually cheaper) interchange-plus plan. Not disclosing standard account fees leaves them open to charges of imposing “hidden” fees. Obviously, you can avoid this problem by reading your contract thoroughly before you sign up, as all fees are disclosed in that document. We’re also concerned by the relatively high number of complaints, especially since the same issues seem to come up again and again. That said, Cayan does seem to go out of its way to respond to complaints in a positive manner and is more than willing to issue a refund when it’s warranted.
Overall, I have no problem recommending Cayan, especially for mid-sized businesses and merchants who are already very familiar with how the processing industry works. They’re not quite such a good fit for a small business or a startup, where you’re more likely to be given a tiered pricing plan and the numerous account fees would be unduly expensive.
Cayan earns a very respectable 4 out of 5 stars rating, and a strong recommendation. However, they’re not the absolute best provider out there. If you’re a small business owner or are just getting into credit card processing, be sure to take a look at our Merchant Account Comparison Chart to see how some of our highest-rated providers stack up.
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