Vantiv Integrated Payments (Mercury Payment Systems) Review
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- Durango, CO
We’ve had a complicated relationship with Mercury. We thought it was a promising company — it had everything that merchants needed. But the service was, by all accounts, terrible, and far too many merchants were locked into expensive contracts with hidden fees. We rated Mercury Payment Systems 3.5 stars because we believed that while the quality of offerings was there, the support was lacking — but you could still potentially get a good deal.
Mercury Payments changed hands in 2014, acquired by Vantiv for a whopping $1.65 billion. Until recently, it was pretty much business as usual. But now, Vantiv has absorbed Mercury and another company, Element Payments, and melded them into one new branch of its service — Vantiv Integrated Payments. Now, Mercury and Element are both the vehicle for all of their parent company’s integrated processing solutions. If the POS comes pre-built with Vantiv processing, or you can program Vantiv processing directly into the POS, you’re dealing with Vantiv Integrated Payments.
It makes a lot of sense. Mercury already had existing partnerships with dozens of POS offerings. However, this also means the end of “business as usual” — looking at the company now, we have to see it as a separate entity, a new branch of Vantiv.
Initially, I was hopeful this meant an end to Mercury’s terrible reputation for service and hidden fees. However, Vantiv has its own issues, namely a contract stipulation that allows the company to collect liquidated damages from merchants who cancel their contracts. That is firmly in the “bad news” category. In addition, consumer reviews indicate Mercury’s parent company has the same sort of terrible customer service — long hold times, getting shuffled from one department to another, not being able to resolve problems.
The challenge in evaluating Mercury/Vantiv Integrated fairly is deciding what still applies to the company and what doesn’t. There’s just not a lot of up-to-the-minute information out there, so we’re having to look back at how Mercury and Vantiv have both fared in the past and look for similarities. Remember, Mercury was owned by Vantiv for almost 2 years before the rebranding, so I think it’s likely that its support system is integrated with, or at least modeled after, Vantiv’s primary support system. But a rebranding is a great opportunity to shake up things like contract terms and pricing and general business practices, even if it doesn’t look like Mercury is rolling out any new services at the moment. Will that change? Hard to say.
If you are now processing under Vantiv Integrated Solutions, please leave a comment on this review! Your insights and comments — about the transitions, about your rates and fees, the quality of service, and what it’s like to try to leave Vantiv/Mercury — are crucial to us in evaluating the company most accurately and fairly.
Vantiv is a large company but from what we’ve seen, the biggest issue is service. Of course the company does use ISOs and a huge network of resellers, so there’s bound to be inconsistency. Mercury, historically, has had as many, if not more problems with lack of transparency and service. At this point, I don’t feel comfortable raising Mercury/Vantiv Integrated above 3.5 stars, even if Vantiv itself has a 4-star rating. It’s one thing to look for a merchant account/payment processor. It’s entirely different to look for an integrated payment processing solution.
While there are some signs of improvement, the major X factors are quality of service and rates, and I’d like to see some more solid evidence and customer testimonials before we even think of throwing our weight behind this new brand.
We’ll be monitoring this company very closely to see what it does in the coming month, and what its customers are saying. In the mean time, check out our full Mercury Pay review for more details, or take a look at the best of the best in processing!
Products and Services:
Mercury has become Vantiv’s service branch dealing specifically with integrated systems — the company promises you can integrate with virtually any POS as well. The rest of Mercury’s offerings appear to be essentially the same, even using the old Mercury name:
- Terminal leases/sales: Mercury/Vantiv promises your choice of devices that meet your needs, including devices capable of supporting EMV and mobile payments. Mercury’s brochure promises electronic cash registers with “no upfront cost,” which sounds an awful lot like a lease. However, I’m not a fan of terminal leasing because it almost always winds up being a terrible deal for merchants. Despite what they might lead you to believe, you don’t have to buy or lease through the account provider. Read our article about it.
- Mercury Stand-In: Allows you to process transactions even during network outages. When this happens, they assume all risk associated with declines, guaranteeing no loss for you. Skeptical as I am about Mercury on the whole, this is worth noting.
- Gift cards: This includes free gift card processing, custom designs, and the ability to handle gift cards online or in a mobile app. That’s a pretty good deal.
- Loyalty/rewards card program: This is a stored value program with elements of a gift card program. You can offer incentives and cash-back rewards for repeat customers. There’s an option for physical or digital cards as well.
- Online reporting system: By this point, you should expect nothing less, but it bears mentioning.
- Same-day and next-day funding: Having your funds within 48 hours is pretty standard among merchant processors. But having them with 24 hours is even better, and not many other companies offer that. Just know that you’ll likely pay a higher cost for same-day funding.
- 24/7 live support: In theory, this sounds great. Unfortunately, Mercury/Vantiv seems to be failing in the execution of it.
- E-commerce solutions: Sell in person and online.
- Mercure SecureAssist: Tools designed to help with PCI compliance.
Fees and Rates:
There’s no reference at all to fees and rates on the Mercury/Vantiv Integrated site, which is separate from the Vantiv main site. There’s not even the old promise of “affordable” processing (which is a vague and deceptive statement anyway).
We do know that you’re most likely to be offered a tiered pricing plan. If you have a large enough volume, you can probably get interchange-plus pricing, but you’ll have to ask and negotiate for it. You can expect an annual fee, a PCI compliance fee, and other industry-standard charges, as well as an ETF to the tune of $295. We’ve also mentioned the liquidated damages provision in the standard Vantiv contract (read more about that at our full Vantiv review), which could leave you with thousands of dollars in fees to get out of your deal with Vantiv. However, this particular clause seems to be enforced inconsistently. You may be able to convince your sales rep to waive both the ETF and liquidated damages clause, but don’t sign any contract unless you actually see and sign that waiver.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
Vantiv favors the old 3-year, autorenewing contract with an ETF to the tune of $295, and I doubt that will change (but I can hope, right?) Some people have reported difficulties cancelling their contracts with both Vantiv and Mercury, so read your contract and familiarize yourself with what’s required to begin the cancellation process. Go through Vantiv Integrated directly, even if you set your contract up with an independent sales rep. You will have to sign some paperwork; it’s not something you can just pass off and call it done.
Be sure to review your contract in detail before you sign. Make careful note of all the fees listed, as well as the cancellation process. Again, if your rep promises to waive the ETF or liquidated damages provision, make sure that waiver form is attached and signed! Verbal agreements aren’t enforceable, so you absolutely need to get it in writing.
Let us know if you need help with reviewing your contract and getting it squared away.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
I like that Vantiv isn’t using any shady gimmicks to market its MercuryPay/integrated solutions. Too-good-to-be-true offers are almost always precisely that: too good to be true. You’ll wind up paying more in the long run on those situations. The web copy on the Mercury site is a bit generic but it spells out the features and benefits of choosing Vantiv Integrated Payments and covers a variety of industries. That’s the good news.
The bad news is Mercury’s salesforce was large, and honestly, with it coming more fully under Vantiv’s auspices, I expect that to grow. The problem is that the sales force will consist of ISOs and sales reps who aren’t actually directly employed by Vantiv. And that almost always leads to problems with undisclosed terms or nasty surprises (like ETFs) down the line. You can request information on the site, but most likely you’re going to end up with a local sales rep who wants to schedule an in-person demo to talk to you face to face.
Then there’s the issue of the network of resellers. You might not even be aware that the POS you’re interested in comes with a Vantiv account unless you ask your rep. And not all of Vantiv’s software agreements are exclusive — so it really can vary from one sales rep to another. Nor is there a big long list of POS systems that integrate with Vantiv publicly available. You just kind of have to ask around and search. Vantiv’s site isn’t exactly forthcoming about which POS systems it has partnerships with, either.
If you really want Vantiv in your POS, this whole setup is in your favor. If you just want a great POS, you may not be getting the best deal. Getting locked into a processor because of your POS can lead to all sorts of problems — and a POS is a significant investment, to be sure.
Vantiv does maintain active Facebook and Twitter accounts under the Mercury name, though the profile images have been updated with the Vantiv Integrated Payments logo. Their customer service team seems to have stepped up and begun responding on Facebook, and I’m seeing fewer complaints about the awful customer service on Twitter. I’m optimistic about that, but it’s nothing conclusive. There’s also Vantiv’s own social media channels.
You will also find some resources for merchants, including videos, infographics, and e-books, so long as you’re willing to shell out a bit of information to get them. Vantiv also has a YouTube channel, though it’s not dedicated to its integrated payments branch exclusively. (The MercuryPay YouTube channel hasn’t been updated in 8 months.) The few written testimonials I’ve seen on the MercuryPay website are rather short and general. However, there is a blog and it’s updated regularly with important topics.
Overall, Mercury and Vantiv could use a little bit of work in this category. I think it’s great that they’re trying, and tailoring content specifically for small businesses and new merchants, but I think they could be more detailed and finesse the execution a bit more. I’d love to see more solid numbers cited explicitly. Still, something is better than nothing, and Vantiv seems to be doing a lot better than a LOT of companies out there. I suspect we’ll get more content in the coming months as the rebranding continues. So once again, I find myself hopeful that this is real progress.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Mercury Payment Systems has a lot of pride in its customer support service, and the company uses it as a selling point. It’s even won awards for its quality of service (check it out here and here). You’ll get 24/7/365 live, US-based customer support by phone, including technical support. On paper, that is akin to the holy grail of customer support.
The problem is, those awards don’t actually seem to reflect the experiences many merchants are having. One of the most consistent complaints about both Mercury and Vantiv is that wait times are ridiculous and customer support is ineffective. Those who escalate their problems to a supervisor are directed to leave a voicemail but do not get called back. That is absolutely unacceptable.
Want to weigh in with a recent experience? Have first-hand knowledge of what Vantiv Integrated’s support is like? Leave your review at the bottom of this page!
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Mercury’s BBB page has just been renamed Vantiv Integrated Payments. It still has all the previous complaints on file. The company has an A+ BBB rating, with 90 complaints (up from 79 at our last check-in, three months ago) in the past three years. 32 of them were closed in the last year. Vantiv’s BBB page has another 100 complaints in the past 3 years (54 in the past we months).
Mercury also has 9 complaints on Ripoff Reports, 3 of which date from 2015. The rest of which are from 2012 or earlier. There are no complaints for “Vantiv Integrated” and only 5 for “Vantiv” — two from 2014, one from 2015, and two from 2016. Our own comments section has a number of complaints as well.
Numbers are meaningless without context, so let’s take a moment to reflect. Last time we looked at Mercury, we noted that the BBB complaint volume had only increased by eight. This time, we have 10 complaints in 6 months. Multiplied by 2 and assuming a constant rate, that would be 20 new complaints in the next year — that’s a lot, but it’s not a doubling of complaint volume. Whether you’re looking at percentages or the straight numbers, it’s a decrease from our last check-in, assuming the volume holds steady for the year.
In addition, Vantiv’s overall complaint volume is quite low for a company of its size. While I suspect there are probably more complaints lurking out there under the name of Vantiv’s MANY POS partners, we can’t prove that. And a lot of Vantiv’s complaints do not necessarily pertain to their integrated division.
Right now there are very, very few complaints about the entity “Vantiv Integrated.” The few we found deal primarily with contract issues and service. That will change as time goes on, and that will make it easier for us to really gauge what this newly rebranded arm of Vantiv is really like. At the moment we’re going to leave it at this: the complaint volume is relatively low for both Vantiv and Mercury, but we’re wary…especially because despite the low numbers, the complaints about the quality of service are quite severe and there are some common threads among them.
Your insights are a crucial part of how we evaluate merchants, so if you have experience with Mercury, leave us a comment!
Common complaints include:
- Customer service issues: I’m disappointed to hear about rudeness and ineptitude from Mercury support staff since support is a major selling point for the company. Another consistent complaint across every channel we’ve looked at is high wait times, in excess of an hour. Others have been told to leave voicemails and never receive calls back. Vantiv’s BBB page and comments on other review sites point to the same sort of issues and the recent complaints that pertain specifically to “Vantiv Integrated” also bring this up.
- Early termination fees: The ETF itself is not the problem (while we’re always disappointed when we see one). The problem is some people may not realize they have one, or might not realize that if their contract is several years old and auto-renews, they could still wind up paying $295 (or more) if they don’t cancel their contract in the appropriate time window. This comes up often with a LOT of processors, and it’s no surprise with Vantiv, given how large the company is and how much it relies on its extensive partner network.
Frankly, it seems like the best way to get Mercury/Vantiv’s attention is to file a complaint with the BBB. It looks like the company genuinely tries to work with merchants to solve the issue. However, a fair number of merchants don’t bother to indicate whether the issue has been fixed — and then Mercury steps in and says “Yes, we’ve addressed the problem and we’ll keep working with them to find an agreeable solution.” That makes me skeptical, but overall, I think you have a good shot of getting a solution.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Some testimonials are sprinkled across the site, and you can also find a few case studies, such as this one here and this one. The quality is questionable in my eyes — one cites no hard numbers at all. There are more general case studies on the Vantiv YouTube channel — but they aren’t about Vantiv Integrated. We’ll probably see more content later on.
You can find a few case studies on the press page, as well as other resources.
The problem with Mercury Pay (now Vantiv Integrated Payments) wasn’t in its services. In fact, Mercury genuinely seems to have a solid grasp on what products merchants need. It’s keeping up with industry trends and giving store owners the tools they need to compete against big box retailers, with loyalty programs and gift cards suited to the digital space. And Vantiv is building on that — which is good.
The problem is in the quality of service. The company is fairly large, owned by an even larger company, and uses independent resellers, which almost always translates to a lack of transparency and shady practices designed to close a sale. Something is horribly wrong on the customer service front, too, with very long wait times and a lack of response from higher ups. That was true of Mercury, and still true of Vantiv.
There’s no information about Mercury’s rates, which is another big issue. It’s pretty common because these companies usually want to negotiate with you directly, and there are a lot of factors that go into credit card processing rates. However, the complete lack of any information leaves merchants unprepared and not knowing what to expect. I like that Vantiv Integrated seems committed to putting out educational content for merchants. But I think the company could do better.
The final concern is that some merchants may not be aware of what they’re signing up for when they pick a POS that’s integrated with Vantiv. This is true of the company at large, but especially relevant when dealing with this integrated payments division. And remember, some software agreements are not exclusive, so Vantiv may just be one of several options available. We are sure that it is possible to get a good deal, and possibly good service, from Vantiv. But you’re going to have to advocate for yourself and negotiate to get terms that work for you and trust that your representative has your best interests at heart.
If you can substantiate or refute any of these claims, please leave a comment. Remember to check out our review policy first, and please consider authenticating your review. It’s a huge help for me, and allows us to provide the most accurate ratings possible!
We’re leaving Vantiv Integrated Payments 3.5 stars because I’m not fully sure, yet, that the company is substantially different from the old Mercury. When we see a change, we’ll be happy to adjust the rating — for better or worse.