National Merchant Bancard Review
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- Date Established
- Sunrise, Florida
National Merchant Bancard (NMB) is a merchant account provider with a headquarters in Sunrise, Florida and a west coast office in Woodland Hills, California. Founded in 2002, the company claims to have provided accounts to over 40,000 merchants, putting them in the small to mid-size category for their industry.
With a focus on eCommerce, NMB advertises themselves primarily as an alternative to PayPal for eBay sellers. However, they also offer a wide range of products and services that are suitable for other eCommerce sellers and traditional retail businesses.
Like a lot of other smaller merchant account providers, NMB doesn’t actually handle transaction processing themselves. Instead, they’re currently functioning as an authorized reseller for several other companies, including Authorize.Net (who provide their payment gateway) and iPayment. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself – some of our absolute favorite providers, including Dharma Merchant Services, are resellers for Authorize.Net and others. However, it does introduce another party into your relationship between your business and your merchant account provider. Criticisms and complaints about problems caused by the processor are often targeted at the account provider, who may or may not have any control over the issue.
Adding to the confusion is NMB’s practice of spreading their business over multiple business names and websites. When we last reviewed them, they were operating under about a dozen different websites, each with completely different URLs and brand names. Thankfully, they’ve since consolidated this down to a mere five sites… although there may be more out there. Today you can find NMB at the following sites:
- www.sunvirtual.com (despite the different name, this is actually NMB’s primary website)
While this is already more than a little confusing, it actually gets worse. As far as we can tell, NMB relies entirely on independent sales agents to market its products and services. This is usually a recipe for disaster (at least for the customer), and there’s no reason to think it will be any different here. Independent agents usually receive very little training, and often are hired without regard to prior sales experience or other job qualifications. Working solely on commission, they’re under intense pressure to close the deal, and they’ll gladly transfer that pressure onto you in the form of hard-sell sales tactics. NMB actively recruits sales agents on some of their various websites, a practice that’s usually an indication of high turnover in their independent sales force.
Another area of concern is NMB’s appalling D- rating with the Better Business Bureau. While the overall complaint volume is quite low, NMB has apparently failed to respond to any of the complaints filed against them. Not only did this inaction drastically reduce their rating with the BBB, it’s also a pretty clear indication that you won’t get good customer service or support from them, either. With their reliance on independent sales agents and confusing business structure, I suspect that the low complaint volume is the result of angry merchants filing their complaints against the independent agents rather than the company itself.
Overall, there are enough red flags raised by NMB’s sales and marketing practices that I can’t give them any better than a below-average rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars. Read on to find out about everything you need to look out for with NMB, or check out our merchant account comparison chart to see what the best merchant account providers in the industry are offering.
Products and Services:
NMB has a fairly robust range of offerings, including the following:
Merchant accounts: Whether you’re running your business online or out of a traditional retail location, you’re going to need a merchant account. As we’ve noted above, NMB relies on Authorize.Net, iPayment, and others to process their transactions for them. While NMB advertises “FREE Merchant Accounts” on their website, this is almost certainly misleading. While there may not be any account setup fees, you will still end up paying fees and charges above and beyond the normal transaction processing rates for your account.
Credit card terminals: NMB highlights the “free” credit card terminal that comes with your merchant account. Unfortunately, the terminal they’re currently offering is the Verifone Omni 3200, an older, discontinued model that’s no longer supported by Verifone. With the shift to EMV terminals in October 2015, the non-EMV compliant Omni 3200 is now obsolete. So, even if it’s actually free, you really don’t want it. NMB also advertises a number of other terminals for sale on their website, but their prices are much higher than what you can find elsewhere. Many of the terminals they’re offering are obsolete, discontinued models. While we highly recommend buying your terminals rather than leasing them, I wouldn’t buy them from NMB.
Wireless terminals: NMB also offers wireless terminals for mobile use, and they’re definitely not free. In addition to the unreasonably high prices they charge for their equipment, you’ll also have to pay an undisclosed monthly fee for a wireless data plan.
Retail POS system: NMB features a Retail POS terminal on their home page that’s aimed at restaurants and gas stations, but they don’t appear to provide any further information about it on their website.
Virtual terminal/payment gateway: Another supposedly “free” feature for eCommerce merchants, NMB uses the First Data Global Gateway Virtual Terminal. While the software itself is free, there’s also a $24.95 per month gateway fee to use it after your free trial period expires.
Shopping cart software: NMB offers CartManager for their online shopping cart software. While it’s also heavily advertised as being free on their website, it’s really $22.45 per month after the free 14-day trial expires.
Merchant cash advance: Like many other merchant account providers, NMB also offers a merchant cash advance program. While they offer more details on their website than a lot of other companies, you still should proceed very cautiously if you’re thinking about using this service. Our article on avoiding merchant cash advance scams is a good place to start.
Virtual credit card: A rather, um, unique product that NMB pushes on their website is their Virtual Credit Card. Not really a credit card at all, it’s more like a prepaid debit card that can only be used for online purchases. Sponsored by Visa, you have to already have a Visa card to link your account to. Before you can use the virtual card, you have to load it by depositing money into your account. There’s a $4.00 fee for doing this the first time, but NMB claims this is a one-time-only fee. Maximum deposits are approximately $270.00, and funds in your account won’t be refunded after a year if you don’t use them. The supposed benefits of the virtual card are that it allows you to make online purchases anonymously, and purchases you’ve made won’t show up on your credit card statement. If this sounds more than a little shady, that’s because it is. Even worse, this product seems to be deliberately marketed to people with financial difficulties and poor credit ratings. Not recommended.
Fees and Rates:
Unlike a lot of merchant account providers, NMB actually provides some information about fees and rates on their website. Unfortunately, catch-phrases like “lower rates guaranteed” and “rates as low as…” are a sure indication that you’re not getting the full story.
For retail accounts, NMB currently advertises rates “as low as” 1.38% + $0.18 per transaction. Online, mail order, and telephone transactions are charged a minimum rate of 1.99% +$0.25 per transaction. What NMB doesn’t disclose is that these are almost certainly rates for qualified transactions only. Mid-qualified and non-qualified transactions, which will make up the bulk of your transaction activity, will be charged much higher rates – possibly up to three or four times higher. This is also a good indication that NMB is using a tiered pricing plan, not the more affordable interchange-plus pricing that we prefer.
NMB doesn’t charge any application or account set-up fees, which is a good thing. We consider these to be junk fees, and we’re glad that most merchant account providers are finally phasing them out. The company does, however, charge a so-called Customer Support Fee – $10.00 per month for retail accounts and $5.00 per month for eCommerce accounts. There’s also a $24.95 per month gateway fee for online accounts.
While these fees are actually fairly reasonable, they may come as a surprise after you’ve been bombarded by an endless litany of supposedly “free” account features on NMB’s home page. Be aware that many of these “free” features are actually only free for a limited time – as short as only 14 days. After that, you can expect to be automatically billed for them on a monthly basis. Also be aware that these fees are just the ones that NMB discloses on their website. There may be other fees as well, such as for PCI compliance, that aren’t disclosed. By all means, be sure to read your entire contract very carefully before opening an account, and never rely on any assurances given to you by your sales agent.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
Here’s what NMB has to say about their contracts on their website:
This is Important: No Lengthy Contract Term
Almost all merchant services providers have lengthy contract terms from one to three years which could cost your company over $1,000 in fees and penalties. Be advised that these companies can damage your credit and place you in collection proceedings if you refuse to pay their fees and penalties.
BE SMART AND DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!
Well, that last sentence is certainly true. While NMB prominently advertises that their contracts are month-to-month, we’ve also had reports from upset merchants who were charged a $495.00 early termination fee (ETF) when they tried to close their accounts. Long term contracts (typically three years) with automatic renewal clauses and exorbitant early termination fees have proven extremely unpopular with merchants, and the processing industry is slowly responding to this collective anger by gradually phasing them out in favor of month-to-month contracts. Many of the reports from merchants who were charged an ETF are several years old, so it’s quite possible that NMB has discontinued this practice for new customers.
For now, I’m going to give NMB a “thumbs up” for going to month-to-month contracts. It’s a practice that we like to see, and it’s good to see the company responding to market pressure in a positive way. At the same time, be aware that you still need to review your contract in detail before you open an account. Don’t rely on the company’s website, and definitely do not rely on verbal assurances given to you by your sales agent. It’s unfortunate that we have to even point this out, but the processing industry has an absolutely lousy reputation when it comes to honesty and fair dealing, and a mistake in this area could end up costing your thousands of dollars.
As a final point, if you’re already a customer of NMB, now is a good time to review your contract. Older contracts probably still have the renewal clauses and early termination fees in them, and you will definitely want to re-negotiate your contract if this applies to you.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
I’ve already discussed how NMB relies on independent sales agents to sell their accounts and the kinds of problems this practice can cause. Poor training, little or no supervision, and the need to earn a commission all combine to create a recipe for disaster – for both customers and sales agents alike. Unfortunately, the use of independent agents is very common in the processing industry, and hard to avoid. Be prepared to negotiate, get everything in writing, and thoroughly review your contract before you sign anything.
Before you get to deal with one of NMB’s independent sales agents, however, you’ll probably first have to wade through their website. And what a website it is! This, boys and girls, is what the internet looked like back in the 20th century. With its plain white background, minimal graphics, large print, and exaggerated sales claims in BIG, BOLD FONTS (often in color or highlighted), it’s a throwback to the days of dial-up modems and dot-matrix printers. By modern web design standards, it’s simply awful just to look at it.
It might be hard to imagine, but things get even worse when you start to actually read those advertising claims. NMB’s home page consists almost entirely of a litany of claims about all the free features you’ll get with your account, plus repeated boasts about how much money you’ll save by signing up with NMB ($995 in savings, if you can believe it). Most of these claims range from misleading to downright false. There’s no mention of the fact that many of these features are only free for a very brief (14-day) trial period.
After reading all the way through to the bottom of the page, I was left thinking that it surely couldn’t get any worse. Oh, but it can! In the left column, you’ll find links to a large number of other pages on NMB’s website. Surely, there’s something more useful and informative on those other pages, right? No! Click on just about any of those links, and you’ll find another page that’s almost identical to the home page, with the entire sales pitch repeated verbatim, plus a few new paragraphs buried at the bottom of the page. Most viewers probably won’t even scroll far enough to find those new paragraphs, and I was left with the unmistakable impression that this was intentional. For example, what little fee information NMB discloses is buried deep on some of these other pages. Much like your contract, you’ll need to suffer through it before you commit yourself to an account with NMB.
Despite their abysmal website, NMB actually does have a presence on social media, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Unfortunately, none of them have been updated in several years, and you won’t find anything there that isn’t already on their website.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
NMB claims to offer 24/7 telephone support, although it’s unclear whether that support is provided by in-house staff or is outsourced. Email support is also available, and their website – despite its other flaws – offers live chat, at least during normal business hours. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any direct experience with their customer support, and there’s very little feedback available about it online. If you have had any experience with NMB’s customer service, please tell us about it in the Comments section below.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
For a company of their purported size, there’s a suspicious lack of complaints and negative reviews about NMB on the internet. For better or worse, even the best, most ethical processing companies receive their fair share of complaints from customers. You really can’t please everyone, especially in the processing industry. NMB’s strategy of spreading their marketing over so many different websites probably accounts for the general lack of complaints filed against National Merchant Bancard themselves.
National Merchant Bancard has a profile under their own name with the BBB, but they aren’t BBB-accredited. Despite having only two complaints filed against them in the last three years, and zero complaints within the last year, they have an overall D- rating. According to the BBB, this low rating is due almost entirely to their failure to respond to either of the complaints filed against them. It’s highly unusual to see a company that has such little regard for their public reputation with the BBB that they ignore complaints filed against them like this. One complaint alleges withheld funds (a common issue), while the other complaint claims that NMB continued to withdraw money from the merchant’s bank account several years after the account was closed and all leased equipment was returned.
NMB is also mentioned in a complaint filed against iPayment on Ripoff Report, alleging withheld funds, sudden account termination, and generally lousy customer service. Complaint Board has an interesting complaint alleging that NMB is actually the driving force behind PayPalSucks.com and ScrewPayPal.com, two (obviously) anti-PayPal websites. Both of these websites feature the same cheesy, antiquated website design as NMB’s site, and they both also conveniently recommend MerchantInc.com – one of NMB’s numerous websites – as a great PayPal alternative. I’d have to say that it’s pretty plausible that NMB is deliberately setting up these sites to attack their competition, although it’s not a definite certainty.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Believe it or not, NMB actually has several positive testimonials on their website. A few of them provide only the business owner’s first name and therefore aren’t verifiable. However, the company does provide two very credible testimonials from business owners who provided their full names and links to their websites.
Okay, two satisfied customers out of 40,000 doesn’t seem like a very good track record, does it? While I wasn’t able to locate any other verifiable testimonials online, it’s just human nature that people are far more likely to complain about a business than to praise it, especially on the internet. Happy, satisfied customers are usually too busy running their businesses (and making money) to take the time to write and post a positive review. That said, if you are one of NMB’s satisfied customers, by all means please take a few minutes to leave us a review in the Comments section below. We read all comments from our readers, and they’re an important factor in determining overall ratings when we update our reviews.
Final Verdict on National Merchant Bancard:
With so many different business names, different websites, and murky business relationships with other processors, National Merchant Bancard seems to go out of their way to keep their customers in the dark about who they’re actually dealing with. While none of these practices are particularly unusual among merchant account providers, taken as a whole they’re a strong indication that you won’t get a quality product at a fair price from a company like this.
NMB’s appalling website provides the first strong indication that something just isn’t right here. When a company tries this hard to get your attention with promises of all the free stuff you’ll get by signing up with them, it’s really a strong clue that they’re hiding something. Given that their website manages to include almost every misleading sales gimmick that the processing industry is known for, I’d say they’re probably hiding a lot.
So, what can you expect if you sign up with NMB? For starters, you can expect that the sales agent who promised you the moon won’t be available down the road when problems arise. Turnover among independent sales agents is extremely high, and NMB doesn’t provide dedicated account representatives or have an in-house sales staff to help out when problems occur. Now, in all fairness it’s entirely possible that you’ll get a good, experienced, ethical sales agent who will be honest with you and who will work to get you the best possible deal. Unfortunately, the odds are against it.
You can also expect that a lot of the freebies advertised on NMB’s home page will start costing you money after the 14-day free trial is over. While NMB does disclose some important fee information, it’s buried deep on their website, where they’re hoping you won’t see it. You should also fully expect to end up paying processing rates that are much higher than the “lowest” rates advertised on their website.
With so many people opening their own businesses and selling things online today, it’s only natural that competitors to PayPal would spring up. Unfortunately, everything about NMB’s sales and marketing approach, from their unprofessional-looking website to their extensive use of misleading sales gimmicks, strongly suggests to me that this is a company that is deliberately targeting unsophisticated, first-time business owners.
While NMB does have some apparently genuine positive testimonials and they also offer some features (such as month-to-month contracts) that we like to see, overall I can’t recommend that you sign up with this company. The likelihood that you’ll end up paying high rates and fees and be stuck with poor quality service and support is just too high.
For now, I’m giving NMB a rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars. This is a below-average rating, and a good indication that you should look elsewhere for your processing needs. If you’re running an online business, either through eBay or on your own website and want a better option than PayPal, our PayPal alternatives article is a good place to start. If you’d like to see what the genuine 5-star processors have to offer, check out our merchant account comparison chart.
Finally, if you’ve had any experience with NMB or their numerous affiliates, please leave us a review in the Comments section below.