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- Date Established
- Troy, MI
PayAnywhere is facing a tough market, as mobile processing is getting awfully competitive these days. If a company doesn’t offer a truly unique product or service, chances are it’s just not going to cut it. More and more, merchants are looking for integrated solutions — ones that can harness the best of all the options and provide a seamless experience. Your customer service needs to be spot on, too.
PayAnywhere (PA) is trying to keep up; really, it is. And while it’s not doing a terrible job in that department, there are some major issues we’re not happy about. Gimmicky sales offers, undisclosed fees, a lack of transparency, and poor customer service are easy ways to a poor rating, and PayAnywhere continues to flirt with all of these. However, the company just recently announced a “new” PayAnywhere, with a new focus on “the commerce that connects us.”
I am curious to see what’s actually “new” or if this is just a half-hearted attempt at re-branding. The announcement itself leaves me severely unimpressed, and asking the same question I am sure many others are asking: “What’s in it for me?” We’ll be keeping an eye out for changes and the new PayAnywhere app, and see whether they measure up.
Now, onto the important bits:
PayAnywhere was established in 2010 by credit card processing company North American Bancard. NAB is based out of Troy, Michigan, and has been around since the early 90s. It launched PayAnywhere in 2009. In the beginning, PA just felt like a knockoff of Square, but without the refined and sleek appeal. And, beyond that, PayAnywhere has historically suffered from the same shortcomings as Square…namely lackluster customer support and poor account stability, with long-term holds happening quite often.
With PayAnywhere, it appears at first — based on the Terms and Conditions — that you have to sign the same contract you would if signing up for service directly through North American Bancard. Your fees and rates would be somewhat different, of course, but aside from that, you would be making the same level of commitment as a merchant account from NAB. This is different from the way processors like Square handle their contracts, as they generally have a more limited scope. But here’s where I get confused: The benefit of signing on via a traditional merchant agreement should come in the form of better account stability and a lower likelihood of funding holds. That clearly isn’t the case.
If you look a little deeper, however, you see there is a separate User Agreement embedded within the Terms and Conditions that specifically spells out PayAnywhere’s role as a Payment Service Provider, which tells you that the company is serving as an aggregator and not a traditional account provider, at least for most accounts. This feels overly complicated, and the fact that you don’t access this agreement until you begin the signup process is a mark against PayAnywhere’s transparency (something we’ll come back to). Plus, it bears mentioning that these are the terms that only apply to PA’s Mobile plan, not its Storefront option.
Beyond the normal shortcomings of an aggregated mobile processing account, I have a few additional worries for PayAnywhere. First, I don’t like the independent sales force. Global Merchant Services, the umbrella under which PA and NAB operate their sales teams, makes big promises of rewards for agents who sell “free tablet” accounts. This concerns me because (a) that money must be coming from somewhere, and (b) it might encourage agents to be less than completely honest about overall cost and contract terms.
Along those lines, I’m also not at all impressed by PayAnywhere’s communication skills as far as dealing with merchants is concerned (read the full review for more info). It’s pretty clear that when people have problems with the service, they’re likely going to have trouble actually getting a resolution. Finally, I am absolutely not pleased with the minimum volume fee of $79 if you wind up processing less than $5,000 in a month on the storefront plan.
Some merchants may find an awesome deal with this service — but many others will not. My advice to you is to be careful and make sure that this service will work for your processing needs, especially if you are interested in the so-called “free” tablet.
PayAnywhere continues to hold steady at 3.5 stars out of 5, exactly where it was last time we reviewed the service. While you might be fine if you’re processing more than $5,000 a month, at that point you might as well pursue a merchant account (check out our top-rated processors here) or an omnichannel solution that will give you a more robust POS, more reliable payments, and even an eCommerce option, as well as add-on services. If you’re processing less than $5,000 a month, there are better mobile processors out there, including omnichannel options.
Check out the in-depth review below for a complete analysis! To compare PayAnywhere to its competitors, check out this handy comparison chart. Good luck!
Products and Services:
- Tablet and stand rental: This is PayAnywhere’s flashy gimmick to draw in new accounts, and a way to keep with other providers that offer a dual mobile/retail solution. Since many of Square’s features are iPad-only, and iPads are pretty expensive, a lot of merchants are left looking for another register-like option. PayAnywhere gives you a free tablet, but it’s not an iPad. Actually, it’s a custom Android-based tablet made just for using the PayAnywhere system. You won’t be able to play Angry Birds on it, but it will do an excellent job running the payments app. The tablet stand supports EMV, but not contactless payments — so no Apple Pay for you unless you invest in the 3-in-1 reader. You also won’t get a receipt printer or a cash drawer, and they can get pretty pricey if you aren’t careful.
For frame of reference, Square charges about $169 for its Square Stand with Contactless + Chip reader. With PayAnywhere, the stand is built-in and comes free. I should mention that this is only “free” as long as you process over $5,000 per month. If during any month you process less than that, you will be charged an additional $79 that month. Be aware, though, that you will be responsible for paying the full price if you damage the equipment — about $900.
And frankly, a Square setup with an iPad Air 2, cash drawer, receipt printer, and receipt paper will run you $1,033. That’s barely a $100 difference (even less of a difference if you deduct $50 for the receipt paper). So where is PayAnywhere getting the money to hand out free tablets like candy if they’re also handing out bonuses to sales reps?
- Mobile Service: If you don’t need a register-like system with a tablet, you can use PayAnywhere on your phone instead. Note that the terms and pricing are different with the mobile option. For one, there’s no monthly volume requirement, and you pay rates more on par with other mobile services. There are two card readers available: a clunky magstripe reader, and a still-clunky 3-in-1 reader that still connects via headphone jack.
- PayPal acceptance: Along with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, you can also take PayPal payments with PayAnywhere from within the app.
- Unlimited sub-users: A great feature for businesses with large sales teams. Many mobile providers allow multiple users accounts, but most limit the number or charge you extra.
- Next-day funding: In theory, you should have access to your funds within 24 hours, but I’ve seen reports of deposit delays.
- In-app and online reporting: This allows you to track your sales and learn more about the spending habits of your customers.
PayAnywhere App Features:
- Accept credit and cash transactions
- Custom discounts, tips
- Include tax by location
- Inventory management with descriptions, images, categories (no count feature)
- Email receipts
- Unlimited sub-users
- In-app reporting plus online reporting
- Free headphone jack reader or free tablet/stand/reader rental
- QuickBooks integration
- Force Transaction: If the payment processor network is down, you can force the transaction by calling the processor for approval. But you’ll need a voice authorization code to do so.
- Pre-Auth: This isn’t something I see often. PayPal offers it, as does Spark Pay. With a pre-auth (or pre-authorization), you can hold funds on a customer’s card, but not charge them until later. This is good for appointment booking as well as an inn or bed-and-breakfast. PayAnywhere’s pre-auth lasts for 7 days.
PayAnywhere, like most mobile processors right now, offers a standard free magstripe reader, and an EMV-compliant reader for an additional charge. You can even get additional free magstripe readers depending on your processing volume. However, here’s my problem: Both devices still connect via headphone jack, meaning they’re useless with the new iPhone.
At this point, the big players in the game have figured out that Bluetooth is the way of the future. I’m waiting for the smaller ones, like PayAnywhere, to figure that out.
However, the 3-in-1 reader is also only $39.95, making it the cheapest EMV/NFC mobile reader I’ve seen. Square’s is $29 for just EMV, or $49 for EMV/NFC (you get a free magstripe reader that works separately, as well). PayPal’s is a whopping $150 for EMV and NFC (with a $100 rebate IF you qualify). I’ll also give PayAnywhere points for finally adding the word “EMV” to its website instead of calling the device an “Apple Pay reader” (a horribly misleading marketing ploy).
Something else I’m not fond of is how small PayAnywhere’s list of supported devices is. It’s clear PA favors Apple (not exactly uncommon). On the Android side of things, your options are pretty much a Samsung Galaxy or another flagship model, and only a couple of Android tablets are compatible beyond PayAnywhere’s custom build, which is a little disappointing.
As far as compatible equipment goes, PA only officially supports Star Bluetooth receipt printers. However, many AirPrint-enabled receipt printers will work with iOS devices; Android users may have success with Cloud Print receipt printers. Just don’t expect any tech support from PA. The knowledgebase doesn’t make this information clear, either. I had to contact customer support to clarify.
PayAnywhere says on the website a “select” number of cash drawers work with the setup, but in typical fashion, doesn’t tell you which ones! The customer support rep told me that it’s any cash drawer that supports a data cable connection, though.
Feature wise, PayAnywhere isn’t on the scale of a full-fledged POS, but it’s got all of the basics that any business can use. I like the auto-detect sales tax feature. You can override it and set your own sales tax if necessary as well. I also like that you can enable both discounts and tips. And finally, I most definitely like that you get unlimited sub-users with your plan. But there’s no eCommerce support at all, which is disappointing.
PayAnywhere Fees and Rates:
PayAnywhere offers merchants a choice of two service plans: the Storefront plan, which gives you a register-like setup and lower rates as a trade-off for paying a monthly fee, and the Mobile plan, which gives you just the reader.
Storefront Plan: $5,000+ per month (monthly fee, includes tablet and stand rental)
- Monthly fee: $12.95
- Swiped: 1.69%
- Business/Rewards: 2.69%
- Keyed: 3.69% + $0.19
Then, if you don’t read the fine print, you might miss this fee:
- Minimum Volume Fee: $79/month
This is a pretty substantial penalty. If you don’t process at least $5,000 in card transactions every month, you will be charged this fee on top of your normal fees. It looks like PayAnywhere has gotten better about disclosing it, at least. Still, I find this frustrating when you look at Spark Pay or Intuit GoPayment, both of which offer free and paid plans — but don’t assess a monthly minimum for them.
And of course, if you opt for the Storefront plan and want that register setup, you’re still going to have to buy the cash drawer and receipt printer.
Mobile Plan (pay-as-you-go, includes card reader)
- Swiped: 2.69%
- Keyed: 3.49% + $0.19
- No monthly fee
- No PCI Compliance fee
It’s worth mentioning that PayAnywhere does offer customized rates for high-volume businesses. You’ll have to negotiate to get those rates, but bear in mind PA’s other shortcomings, such as the lack of choice in POS and lack of countable inventory support.
- Chargeback fee: $25 every time someone charges back a transaction.
- NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds) fee: $25 whenever PayAnywhere tries to debit your account but you don’t have the funds.
- Retrieval fee: $15 every time your customer or your customer’s issuing bank requests a copy of a sales receipt for any given transaction.
- Inactivity fee: This is fairly recent (as in it just appeared at the start of December 2015). If you don’t actually process payments with your PayAnywhere Mobile account for more than 12 months, you’ll be charged $3.99 monthly from that point on. This has a lot of people upset because, well, many of them randomly had money taken from their accounts by PayAnywhere when they haven’t used the service in years, and some of them only used it once or twice. PayAnywhere claims it sent notice out, but a lot of customers (or former customers) seem to have been unaware of the new development. You can find the complaints on PA’s Facebook page, as well as a few other review sites, and PissedConsumer.com. Frankly, it feels like a money grab, to me, or an attempt to get rid of inactive merchants without being the one to close their accounts.
Sales and Advertising Transparency
The free tablet offer is a little bit of a gimmick, especially since we know PayAnywhere is handing out big bonuses to the sales reps who close the deal on those accounts. Frankly, I don’t feel like it’s the best way to manage an independent sales force because you’ll get reps who don’t fairly disclose everything to make a commission. That least to unhappy customers, who turn against the company, and soon you’ve earned a nasty reputation.
The thing is, that isn’t even PA’s only sales gimmick. When you buy the 3-in-1 reader, PayAnywhere promises it will let you process your first $5,000 in contactless transactions completely free! Here’s the exact wording:
Get $5,000 Free
in Apple Pay™ and other contactless transactions. A $135 value!
Note the lack of asterisk. Note the lack of fine print. I’m actually very suspicious of this because the previous sales gimmick was only available to brand-new merchants who bought the reader from the Apple store. AND the offer only applied to Apple Pay transactions within the first 6 months. The takeaway? There’s always fine print…. Here, I am just not sure what it is.
PayAnywhere does have a blog, and it is fairly active. There’s an interesting mix of content, and it’s pretty decent quality. I like that its content isn’t focused exclusively on why you should sign up with PayAnywhere. It’s more focused on how to help your business grow in many different areas.
There’s also a Facebook page and a Twitter account (@PayAnywhere), but neither is particularly engaging. The profiles are definitely active, but fans are barely interacting with either account. There’s no Twitter support channel, either. I find this a bit odd, but then again, PayAnywhere isn’t nearly the size of say, Square. Plus, PayAnywhere offers alternative ways to get in touch.
There’s also a YouTube channel. There are some videos, but posting is sporadic, at best.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
PayAnywhere has eliminated its 24/7 phone support, now operating the line Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. However, judging from the negative reviews, the quality of that support is debatable. If you hate the phone but need to get hold of someone right then, try the live chat feature.
In addition to phone and chat support, PayAnywhere also offers:
- Email Support: If you’re not having any luck via phone or live chat, try emailing the company.
- Knowledgebase: There’s a help center on the PayAnywhere website which you can also access through the mobile app. It’s nowhere near as in-depth as the knowledge base offered by Square and many others I’ve seen, but it is useable. I found a couple contradictions and there’s no information about EMV or some of the other topics I wanted to know about, but it did walk me through the basics.
- YouTube Videos: The PA YouTube page has a bunch of YouTube tutorials that can come in handy if you need a visual walkthrough, but don’t expect frequent updates.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
PayAnywhere has a separate BBB profile from North American Bancard, its parent company. PA has an A+ rating with 160 complaints (down just slightly from 162) in the past three years. Of them, 50 occurred in the last year (down from 57). The complaint volume is down overall, and down in the past 12 months, too. Unfortunately, no details are available for any of these complaints. That’s problematic because only a small portion of these complaints have actually been resolved — 18, in fact. The rest, either PA was unable to resolve the issue, or the customer never gave an indication they were happy with the agreement.
I read quite a few complaints about PayAnywhere over the course of this review. That includes pulling data from several sources, including iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon reviews, and other places where user reviews have been collected. I even looked at the BBB consumer reviews (11 of them, all negative). Based on that research, I was able to dig up a couple of major complaints about PayAnywhere:
- Withheld funds, freezing of accounts, and termination of accounts: PA seems to be pretty trigger-happy when it comes to suspicion of fraud, which is very common for this type of processor. That said, I have noticed more complaints about sudden holds and freezes, or even 100% reserve funds, than I have about account terminations — that stands in contrast to other mPOS options such as Square, which will often just close your account instead.
- Delayed fund transfers: There were a bunch of complaints from unhappy business owners claiming that their funds took too long to reach their bank account (usually as a result of a sudden hold). This is definitely something to be wary of, especially if you think that your business falls into the high-risk category. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your e-cigarettes business won’t have any problems with using PayAnywhere. You can also learn how to avoid holds, freezes, and terminations here.
This is what PayAnywhere has to say in the Agreement:
Suspension/Reserve/Recovery/Pooling of Funds: PA may temporarily suspend or delay payments to you or withhold or reserve your funds in order to secure your performance of your obligations to PA. This action may arise for any reason, including the occurrence or suspected occurrence of Transaction chargebacks or refunds, for which you are responsible. A chargeback will occur if the Transaction (a) is disputed, (b) is reversed for any reason, (c) was not authorized or PA has any reason to believe that the Transaction was not authorized, or (d) is allegedly unlawful, suspicious, or in violation of this Agreement. The amounts suspended, delayed or reserved shall be initially determined, and may be increased or decreased, in PA’s reasonable discretion as necessary to cover potential financial exposure on the part of PA. You grant PA a security interest in and lien on any and all funds held in any such reserve, and also authorize PA to make any withdrawals or debits from such reserve, without prior notice to you, to collect amounts that you owe PA. This security interest survives for as long as PA holds your funds in reserve.
- Poor customer service: Another common complaint was in regards to PayAnywhere’s customer service. More specifically, the issue is phone support. There were just too many complaints for me to ignore this one. Lack of call-backs, lack of reps who can solve the issue, reps putting customers on hold and going to lunch, and no one knowing who to pass off issues to are some of the complaints I’ve heard.
Less-frequent complaints include:
- Hidden fees: If you read the “Fees and Rates” section above you’ll know why there were a few complaints about this. Well over a year after implementing an inactivity fee, people who signed up with the company are still just now discovering the charges, and have zero trace of the email supposedly alerting them to the issue.
- Unclear, subjective limits on processing: PayAnywhere at least acknowledges that it puts limits on what you can process per transaction and per month. Sometimes its staff tell you what those limits are. Other times, it appears that the rep who sets up the account will promise merchants whatever limits they need. PayAnywhere disagrees and sets them much lower. (This is a common problem when you have an independent sales force.) That can be a problem that ultimately leads to long holds or worse, account terminations. I strongly recommend you get everything in writing. The good news is you can appeal the decision and request an increased limit… but it’s not guaranteed.
- Charges on transactions never completed: This also doesn’t come up as frequently as mentions of poor customer service, but enough to merit mentioning: Sometimes when funds get stuck in a hold, and PA won’t release them, it’ll still charge merchants for those fees. Sometimes they’ll still charge you to refund customers after a hold is placed, even though you’ve never seen any of that money. I really, really don’t like this, and for obvious reasons, neither do merchants.
- Owed fees after closing accounts: This is a new complaint and one that is boggling to me because PayAnywhere is essentially a month-to-month processor. It deducts its processing fees before sending funds to your account. Yet I am seeing complaints of PayAnywhere claiming merchants owe them hundreds to over a thousand dollars after closing their accounts.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Here are the most common positive reviews that I read about PayAnywhere:
- Easy to use: There were plenty of comments about this one. The app has a 3.8-star rating in Google Play (more than 3,300 reviews) and a 3-star rating for the current version in iTunes (13 reviews; 4 stars with over 3,100 reviews for all versions).
- Nice features: A lot of people like the inventory itemization feature.
That’s about it. There wasn’t anything else that really blew people away about PayAnywhere. As far as offerings go, it’s a decent mobile payment option with good features…end of story. The issues lie in service and support and generally the user experience, which is where a lot of companies can go wrong. However, we have seen some people praise the customer service; they’re generally long-term customers.
For a certain subset of merchants, I can see certain aspects of the PayAnywhere system being very successful. The free tablet deal is certainly unique among similar competitors, pricing is competitive, and PA is trying to keep up with industry trends — but I’m afraid only a small number of merchants will find this offer satisfactory. It only really makes sense if you:
- Will be processing over $5,000 per month every single month.
- Don’t need inventory count capabilities.
- Are not interested in POS customizability or add-ons.
- Want a tablet-based POS but don’t want to purchase a tablet.
- Generally, don’t expect to rely on customer service at all.
If you end up paying the $79 fee, which is ostensibly a rental fee on the tablet/stand for low-volume merchants, then it quickly becomes a very bad deal indeed. So if you foresee the possibility that you might occasionally fall short of the $5K monthly volume, please don’t sign up for the “free” tablet option.
If you are processing $5k or more per month, you might find the lower rate and monthly fee are worth the free tablet offer, but you could potentially get a better deal and better customer support if you pursued a merchant account, or even looked at some of the other mobile/tablet-based options (Check out Square or Vend, for starters).
If you are strictly a mobile user, PayAnywhere is pretty similar to every other option you’ve likely considered, though you’ll probably find its hardware to be clunky and awkward. To me, that’s a disadvantage. If you are processing less than $5k a month, it is a decent starter option but you can expect the same trouble as you’ll encounter with other pay-as-you-go providers, and possibly with more frequency.
PayAnywhere’s customer service is a bit dubious, made worse by how many merchants encounter holds. What bothers me even more is the use of independent reps (which is almost always a problem) and the lack of transparency and communication.
For all these reasons, we’re going to leave PayAnywhere’s rating at 3.5 stars and hope for improvement.
Still hunting for a mobile processing option? You can check out the rest of our favorite mPOS solutions here. Good luck in your search!