Payline Data Review
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- Date Established
- Chicago, Illinois
- Transparent interchange-plus pricing
- No early termination fee
- PCI-compliant solution
- Nonprofit discounts available (medical)
- eCheck processing offered
- Free gateway
- Free virtual terminal
- Not available for international merchants
- Hidden developer tools
If you’ve ever been frustrated by the opaque pricing schemes of merchant account providers, you’ll likely find Payline Data refreshing. Payline Data puts all of its cards on the table upfront, allowing businesses to choose a plan that works for them without having to worry about surprise fees, hidden clauses, or having to negotiate rates.
Table of Contents
Payline Data is a merchant account provider headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. A relatively new company, it’s been in business since 2009. Like many of our other favorite vendors, Payline Data strives to stay on the leading edge of market trends and technological developments. It has several features that genuinely sets it apart from the many run-of-the-mill providers in the industry, including the following:
- Interchange-plus pricing for all merchants
- Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts and no early termination fee (ETF)
- Standardized (and fully disclosed) pricing plans based on the types of transactions your business makes
- Excellent customer service and support
The company has a well-designed website, and not only does it look very polished and professional, but the company also makes it easy to find the information you seek quickly. You’ll find an excellent knowledgebase full of information to help you understand payment processing and solve some of the more common problems that can come up on your own.
Payline Data has a well-deserved reputation for transparent and honest sales practices — something that’s all too rare in the credit card processing industry. The standardized pricing packages also eliminate most of the negotiating over rates and terms that you’ll have to deal with when signing up with a more traditional provider. With Payline Data, you can pick a plan that’s right for your business, and you’ll know your rates, fees, and terms ahead of time.
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Another thing that separates Payline Data from the overwhelming majority of merchant account providers in the industry is its deep commitment to giving back to the community through charitable contributions and volunteer work. Its Payline Giving program partners with reputable charities to support twelve highlighted causes each year (one cause for each month). Current issues the company is focusing on include environmental protection, veterans’ issues, and Alzheimer’s Disease research. Payline Data donates a portion of its profits to each of these causes and also grants its employees three days of paid time off every year to perform volunteer work.
In addition to charitable giving, Payline Data offers special discounted pricing on merchant accounts for registered 501(c)(3) charities. Nonprofit charitable organizations can also collect recurring referral payments as part of the company’s “Commercial Co-Venture” program. Contact Payline Data directly for details on this program.
Payline’s pricing packages offer an excellent combination of equipment, features, and competitive interchange-plus pricing. Payline’s retail and eCommerce offerings are up to date, including support for EMV and NFC-based payments for retail businesses. The Start pricing plan stands out, offering new or low-volume businesses a full merchant account with interchange-plus pricing.
Overall, Payline Data earns a glowing 5 out of 5 stars rating and our strongest recommendation. A five-star rating doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it does indicate that the company offers the best combination of products, features, pricing, and service to meet the needs of most merchants. The company’s top-notch products and competitive pricing provide some of the best overall value you’ll find from any provider. Check them out!
Products & Services
As we’ve noted, Payline Data provides a wide variety of products and features to meet the needs of most merchants, including retail, eCommerce, and omnichannel businesses. Here’s what it has to offer:
- Merchant Accounts: These are Payline Data’s core products, and despite the low, simplified pricing, they’re full-service merchant accounts complete with unique merchant ID numbers for each business. The company is not a direct processor but uses Worldpay (formerly Vantiv) as its primary back-end processor. However, if you’re using a Clover device, expect to have Fiserv doing your processing.
- High-Risk Accounts: If your business falls into the high-risk category, Payline Data can help you get a merchant account via its partner SMB Global. In fact, it’s one of our favorite high-risk merchant account providers. You will almost certainly have to accept higher processing rates and stricter contract terms, but these should nonetheless be reasonable. Note that while Payline Data still advertises the availability of high-risk accounts on its website, new merchants will be referred to SMB Global.
- Nonprofit Accounts: As we mentioned above, registered 501(c)(3) charities and nonprofit organizations are eligible for discounted processing rates. If you are running a nonprofit, you can also take advantage of the company’s “Commercial Co-Venture” program to gain recurring donations by referring business customers to Payline Data. There are no additional costs to you or your customers to sign up for this program.
- Payment Gateway: Payline Data offers its proprietary Payline Gateway, a fully-featured payment gateway for processing online transactions. The gateway includes a variety of features, such as recurring billing, electronic invoicing, and a customer information vault to store your customers’ payment method data. There are no separate gateway fees or per-transaction charges for this product.
- Virtual Terminal: The company’s virtual terminal allows you to accept card-not-present payments from any internet-connected computer. The terminal software can process card-present transactions as well when coupled with a USB-connected card reader, in some cases eliminating the need for a credit card terminal. The default Virtual Terminal is CardPointe, but an unbranded version may be used for unique merchants who require it. Both versions can store customer data, set up recurring billing, accept ACH payments, view customized reporting, invoice, and have direct access to support.
- Credit Card Terminals: Payline Data typically offers Clover POS and hardware for merchants — you have your choice of the Clover Station, Mini, and Flex. However, if you don’t want the Clover system or already have a POS and just need a terminal, Payline has other options for you as well. To keep costs reasonable and transparent, Payline does not offer terminal leases. All of the terminals Payline offers support EMV payments. The Payline card-present pricing plan includes the option for a “free” terminal under some circumstances. Note that, in this case, “free” merely means you can use the terminal for as long as you maintain your account. You’ll still have to return it promptly if you later decide to close your account. Be sure to read the fine print in your contract if you choose to take advantage of this offer.
- POS Systems: In addition to offering the Clover POS and its hardware, Payline Data can integrate its processing system with your existing setup if you want to keep your current POS but change the processor on the back end. While Payline says it can do this for most systems, you should still contact your sales representative to ensure compatibility.
- Mobile Payments: For customers wishing to use their smartphone or tablet as a mobile credit card terminal, the company offers the Cardpointe mobile POS system. It’s available for both iOS and Android and works with smartphones and tablets. You can also get the Clover Go mobile app and card reader.
- Shopping Cart Integration: eCommerce merchants can integrate their website with any of Payline’s third-party shopping cart partners. There are currently over 175 shopping cart options available.
- QuickBooks Enterprise & Premier Integration: These are available for integration free through Instant Accept, a partner of CardConnect. The process takes about 15-30 minutes to set up and allows merchants to work directly through QuickBooks. While the integration is free, you will still have to pay for QuickBooks; however, you’ll only be paying for the front-end software, so the cost will be lower than if you purchased QuickBooks individually.
- eCheck (ACH) Services: Like almost all merchant account providers, Payline Data also supports echeck (ACH) payments. This is a good option to add to your account, giving your customers an additional payment method to choose from and saving you money in processing costs.
- Fraud Protection: Payline Data offers several anti-fraud features designed to lower the risk of chargebacks with all of its pricing plans. The company partners with Ethoca and Verifi to provide specialized programs aimed at preventing chargebacks before they occur.
- Payline API: This is a REST API toolkit aimed at developers who want to accept credit card payments from their B2B clients. It’s compatible with over 175 online shopping cart integrations. You’ll mostly be interested in the API if you plan to primarily make use of the payment gateway. The developer resources are only available to customers, so you won’t be able to evaluate them in advance, but generally speaking, they seem to be well-received.
- Business Loans: Payline offers small business loans under its Payline Capital program. The company partners with Lendio to fund its loans.
Fees & Rates
Payline Data recently updated its pricing to simplify them and streamline its services. The new pricing system puts merchants into one of two categories based on the type of transactions you make.
If the majority of your transactions are in-person (card present):
- Interchange + 0.2% + $0.10 per transaction
If the majority of your transactions are online (card not present):
- Interchange + 0.3% + $0.20 per transaction
Note that some of the previous plan names, such as Payline Medical, Payline Shop, and Payline Connect, are no longer offered. However, medical and 501(c)(3) merchants can still qualify for a reduced rate:
- Interchange + 0.1% + $0.10 per transaction
Included in the monthly fee for all plans are:
- Virtual terminal
- Payment gateway
- Account manager/solutions engineer
- QuickBooks integration
- Payments page
- Middleware account
Note that Payline’s plans also include PCI compliance at no extra charge. You may, however, still be subject to a PCI non-compliance fee if you allow your account to become non-compliant. These plans also include American Express card processing — something many providers charge extra for. We encourage you to read your contract documents very carefully before signing up, as there will inevitably be other minor fees (such as the Visa FANF fee) that will be passed on to you at cost.
Overall, Payline Data’s pricing plans represent a great bargain for the majority of small to medium-sized businesses. While its interchange-plus rates aren’t the lowest we’ve seen, the low fees and free equipment (or software) mean that your overall costs will be significantly less than with most other competing providers.
Conveniently, Payline Data waives merchants’ first month’s fee, allowing them to go over their first statement with their account manager to make sure they are comfortable with all the rates/fees.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
All of Payline Data’s standard contracts come with month-to-month billing and no early termination fee (ETF). In other words, you can close your account at any time — and for any reason — without having to pay the penalty and without having to worry about being charged for months after your account is closed. Naturally, you’ll have to return any free equipment that came with your account promptly. This is the best arrangement you can hope for in the processing industry, where long-term contracts and expensive cancellation fees have long been the norm. One word of caution: If you’re a high-risk merchant, you probably won’t be on a standard contract, and you might not be offered such flexible terms. Be sure to read your contract very carefully, so you’ll know your contract length and whether you have to worry about an ETF.
As mentioned above, Payline Data waives its monthly fees for first-month customers.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Payline Data’s website is polished and, with a few minor criticisms, easy to navigate. The information provided isn’t as extensive as it could be, but standard pricing and contract terms are disclosed, which is better than what you’ll get from most of the other merchant account providers out there.
While Payline’s website is an excellent advertising vehicle to get potential customers in the door, the bulk of the work of setting up accounts gets done by a sales team composed of both in-house and independent sales representatives. While the use of independent agents frequently leads to problems in the merchant accounts industry, that’s not the case with Payline Data. You’ll get the same high level of support and integrity, whether you’re working with one of the company’s employees or an independent agent. Payline Data deserves plenty of credit for providing adequate training and supervision to all of its agents. At the same time, it also helps that many of the issues that frequently get independent agents in trouble — such as providing accurate information about rates, contract length, and early termination fees — are already fully disclosed by the company before you ever talk to an agent. Note that high-risk merchants and large businesses seeking enterprise pricing will probably still have to negotiate the best rates and terms they can get, as these businesses won’t be on one of Payline’s standardized pricing plans.
I was a bit disappointed to see its developer resources hidden from non-customers. One of the bigger selling points for, say, a company such as Stripe is the extensive developer support. Being able to evaluate the platform ahead of time would be a boon to merchants that have the technical resources to work with the API.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Payline Data provides customer service and support through email and a phone line that’s available from 8 AM until 5 PM (CST), Monday through Friday. While we like to see 24/7 telephone support to cover the inevitable after-hours emergencies, the truth is that most companies providing around-the-clock support rely on outsourced help to cover their non-business hours. That means you won’t get the same level of expertise and helpfulness at 3 AM as you would during the day. With Payline, the quality of the telephone support is top-notch, and it’s one of the areas where its customers have frequently praised the company.
You’ll find a handy FAQ on the company’s website. While it’s not as extensive as a full-blown knowledgebase, it’s educational and will answer the most common questions new merchants will have. For developers, there’s also an extensive API Reference available online that will be invaluable in integrating Payline’s payment platform with your customers’ websites. And, of course, if you have any Clover products, technical support for them is handled by Clover directly — and it’s available 24/7.
Like most companies these days, Payline Data has a very robust presence on social media. It has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram. Here, you’ll find plenty of content, including blog posts and educational materials. It also has a YouTube channel, which includes numerous videos about the company and a handful of educational videos as well. The interchange-plus pricing video is a very good overview if you’re still kind of hazy as to how that pricing model works.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Payline Data has been accredited by the BBB since 2014 and currently has an A+ rating. The company has had nine complaints in the last three years, with four of those complaints being filed within the last twelve months. This is a low complaint volume for a company of Payline’s size, and a good indication that it’s keeping most of its customers happy. The company also responded to every complaint and attempted to resolve issues to the customer’s satisfaction wherever possible. As is typical, the customer reviews on BBB trend negative (it as a site for complaints after all).
Here are some of the issues customers had with Payline Data:
- Account Freezes & Holds: This is probably among the most common complaints about any merchant account provider. Be sure to read your contract carefully and be honest about the nature of your business upfront to minimize your risks here. Also, be aware that issues such as a funding hold or the imposition of a rolling reserve are the responsibility of the back-end processor (usually Worldpay in this case), not Payline Data.
- Sales Tactics: Though it may be an isolated event, a customer complained about a Payline Data representative offering to use the customer’s services if they signed up for Payline Data.
- Customer Service: Though the company seems to usually be responsive, there are a few cases where customers expressed frustration about not being able to get their issues resolved in a timely manner.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Payline Data doesn’t blow its own horn very much, and you won’t find any testimonials from customers on its website, although a few of its more prominent clients — such as Ace Hardware — are mentioned. On the company’s YouTube channel, you’ll find a few unusual “testimonials.” They’re unusual because they’re offered by Payline employees speaking on behalf of some of the businesses they represent. While it’s nice to see that the company is paying attention to its customers in this way, it doesn’t have quite the impact that an unscripted testimonial from an actual client conveys.
Here are some of the positive vibes Payline Data’s gotten from customers:
- Fair Rates: It may not be the absolute lowest price-wise, but Payline Data offers competitive, transparent interchange-plus pricing and a pretty big helping of side perks.
- Customer Services: Hiccups such as those above notwithstanding, customers generally seem happy with the service they get.
- Positive Sales Experience: Again, there are exceptions, such as those noted above, but most customers felt Payline Data’s sales approach was respectful.
Interchange-plus pricing? Check. Month-to-month billing? Check. No early termination fee? Check. These features alone make Payline Data stand out from the vast majority of merchant account providers in the industry. Throw in free equipment, no gateway fees, and a low monthly account fee, and it moves to the top tier of providers. A reputable sales team and quality customer support are even more reasons to do business with Payline Data.
Overall, we’re impressed enough to award Payline Data a coveted 5 out of 5 stars rating. That’s as good as it gets, but it doesn’t mean that the company is perfect or that it will be a great fit for everyone. There’s no such thing as a perfect processor — ever. Also, a pricing model that works great for one business might be too expensive for another. You’ll have to run the numbers and see how much a merchant account with Payline will cost you, as well as how that estimate compares with other providers.
Payline Data may not quite be the cheapest credit card processor out there, but we think that the overall value it provides puts the company among the best of the best. Small businesses that are just starting and are processing less than $5,000 per month often go with Square to save money. However, Payline gives you a full-service merchant account with interchange-plus pricing for about the same cost. You’ll probably save money over Square’s fixed processing rates, especially if your business takes a lot of debit cards. You’ll enjoy more reliable account stability and more personalized customer support as well.
We also can’t help but be impressed with the way that Payline Data has made charitable giving a cornerstone of its business. It’s one of only a very small number of providers that pay any attention to charitable causes, and it’s an excellent choice for a nonprofit looking to incorporate credit card acceptance into their operation.
One word of caution: If you’re a high-risk merchant, you need to understand that although Payline Data specializes in supporting high-risk businesses through its affiliate SMB Global, those accounts are handled and set up very differently from the advertised pricing plans. While we consider SMB Global to be one of the best high-risk providers in the industry, you should expect to pay significantly higher rates and fees than businesses that aren’t high-risk.
Do you have any insights about Payline Data? Reviews, testimonials, complaints, questions, and any other pertinent remarks are always welcome!