- Good for ecommerce businesses
- Good for high-risk businesses
- No account setup fee
- No monthly minimum for low-risk
- Free credit card terminal
- Excellent customer support
- Few public complaints
- No publicly disclosed pricing
- Website needs improvement
There are many reasons a business may be considered too “high-risk” for a standard merchant account. Unfortunately, the payment processing landscape is full of shady account providers that prey upon this often-desperate group of business owners. These providers promise quick or guaranteed approval, only to lock merchants into a long-term contract with extremely high account fees and processing rates. How how can you tell these predatory companies from the ones that truly have your back as a high-risk merchant? More specifically, where does PaymentCloud fit in?
You’ll be glad to know that PaymentCloud is in the “has your back” category of high-risk merchant account providers. Established in 2010 and headquartered in Sherman Oaks, California, PaymentCloud has recently opened a regional office in Miami, Florida. The current Executive Vice President, Shawn Silver, was previously the VP of High Risk at iPayment, Inc.
PaymentCloud specializes in providing payment processing solutions for ecommerce, mail order/telephone order (MOTO), and other generally high-risk businesses. The vast majority of PaymentCloud’s merchants are based in the US. Although PaymentCloud serves lower risk and brick-and-mortar establishments as well, this merchant services provider really shines in the mid-to-high-risk space.
As PaymentCloud knows very well, processing risk is spread across a spectrum. Many new merchants aren’t aware that if most of their transactions are card-not-present, they’ll immediately get bumped into a slightly higher risk classification than in-person retail. While this factor alone is not enough for a fully-fledged high-risk designation, a greater susceptibility to card fraud is the main reason ecommerce and MOTO transactions carry higher processing rates than card-present transactions from the get-go.
Beyond the inherently higher risk of online processing, your particular industry may also carry more risk than others. For example, perhaps your industry has a historically high chargeback ratio. Even if you’ve never experienced a chargeback yourself, your business could easily be placed in the high-risk, hard-to-place category before you’ve even sold a single product or service. PaymentCloud specializes in serving these types of merchants, along with anyone whose risk is deemed higher than “normal” for any number of reasons.
PaymentCloud has been so successful working with these hard-to-place merchants that the ecommerce processing giant Stripe has started referring many of its declined clients directly to PaymentCloud — complete with a link to PaymentCloud’s website right inside Stripe’s rejection/cancelation emails. In addition, one of our favorite low-risk merchant account providers, Dharma Merchant Services (see our review), also refers businesses it cannot place over to PaymentCloud on a regular basis. In our opinion, a positive referral from Dharma is worth its weight in gold due to the company’s outstanding reputation for ethical business practices.
So, what makes PaymentCloud a quality high-risk specialist? Well, much of the company’s success in this area is due to its extremely hands-on approach during the initial application and underwriting process, as well as the intensive follow-up support and advocacy provided to existing clients. We’ll take a closer look at PaymentCloud’s methods in the rest of this review. We’ll also cover pricing for both high and low-risk businesses, the contract terms you can expect in either case, PaymentCloud’s reputation among real-world merchants, and more.
Table of Contents
Products & Services
Like most merchant account providers that specialize in high-risk accounts, PaymentCloud is not a direct processor. Instead, PaymentCloud partners with numerous banks and processors to maximize your odds for initial approval and ongoing account stability. PaymentCloud is a registered ISO/MSP of BMO Harris Bank, Chesapeake Bank, Esquire Bank, and Merrick Bank, among several others. Partnered processors include EMS (Electronic Merchant Services), Elavon, EVO Payments, Global Payments, PaySafe, and more. Determining the best combination of bank and processor for your specific industry and unique situation is one of the primary services PaymentCloud provides.
Let’s take a closer look at more of the products and services PaymentCloud offers, including advanced services that help set PaymentCloud apart. Depending on your own risk level and needs, you’ll be interested in one or more of the sections below:
- Payment Gateway: For online processing, PaymentCloud prefers the popular Authorize.Net payment gateway. USAePay is typically PaymentCloud’s second-in-line option, but you can also use most other well-known providers or your current gateway. The Authorize.Net gateway includes a developer toolbox with open API in case you need to customize your site’s integration. See our full review of Authorize.Net for more details. Gateway setup is free with PaymentCloud, but look for a monthly subscription fee charged by the gateway provider itself.
- Virtual Terminal: This feature is useful for mail order and telephone order (MOTO) merchants. You can manually enter transactions or even email invoices to clients through this system. Virtual terminals can also process card-present transactions with the addition of an optional USB-connected card reader. A virtual terminal comes with the gateway you’ve already selected with PaymentCloud.
- Shopping Cart Integration: For ecommerce merchants, PaymentCloud integrates with a wide variety of online shopping carts. Popular supported carts include Shopify (see our review), BigCommerce (see our review), and 3DCart (see our review).
- eCheck & ACH Processing: ACH processing allows you to process direct debit payment methods from your website. PaymentCloud sets up processing for ACH and echeck much less frequently than for cards, but it’s worth noting that extremely high-risk merchants may start with echeck acceptance if credit card processing is not possible.
- Credit Card Terminals: You’ll receive one “free” terminal per merchant account, and you won’t be charged (at least not directly) for using it. Think of this terminal as on-loan for as long as you maintain your account. If you close your account, you must ship the terminal back to PaymentCloud immediately to avoid being charged the full cost of the machine. PaymentCloud currently advertises the Verifone VX 520, Ingenico iCT 220, and several other models. These machines are all EMV-compliant, and most also support NFC-based payment methods such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Wireless models are available as well. (Note: PaymentCloud no longer offers equipment leases, and we also encourage you to buy your equipment outright whenever possible.)
- POS Systems: The website currently features a couple of MaXXPay systems (offered via EMS) as example POS systems. In reality, the options are much broader. POS systems are provided through PaymentCloud’s backend processors (like EMS), and the standard approach is to show you a selection of POS options and have you choose one that meets your needs. Then, PaymentCloud assigns you a processor that supports your chosen POS system. Of course, you won’t be shown any systems offered by processors that wouldn’t already be a good fit for your situation. You’ll have a choice between either tablet-based systems or full-sized POS terminals, and they all support EMV payments.
- Mobile Payments: Similar to the other equipment offered through PaymentCloud, you’ll have several options for mobile hardware. These include Bluetooth and audio-jack readers compatible with iOS and Android that incorporate EMV and contactless payments. This equipment and any associated payment app will depend on the backend processor you’re using. The website has little information on this topic (and only features one generic-looking phone dongle), so consult with a sales representative for more information. If you’d prefer a free mobile reader instead of a full credit card terminal with your account, this is also an option.
- High-Risk Industries: PaymentCloud serves a number of high-risk industries, including adult websites, nutraceuticals and supplements, credit repair businesses, electronic cigarette vendors, debt consolidators and many others. While the company doesn’t post a list of prohibited activities, it’s important to note that the processing landscape for high-risk industries is constantly shifting. Your best bet is to ask PaymentCloud about the current prospects for your industry.
- Customized Application Guidance: PaymentCloud calls this process “scrubbing.” To maximize your chances for account approval and to secure the best deal possible, PaymentCloud will scrub your supporting documents, your website and social media presence, and all other components of your application, looking for any red flags that could hinder your prospects. The team will then guide you toward specific changes you can make and additional or alternate supporting documents you can supply to improve your situation in the eyes of your underwriters.
- PCI Compliance: Once you’ve set up your account, you have 90 days to become PCI compliant, and PaymentCloud will guide you in the necessary steps — all without charging a PCI compliance fee.
- Data Migration: This is often a huge headache and normally requires developer assistance. PaymentCloud specializes in data migration for your recurring billing customers over to Authorize.Net from platforms like Stripe. Generally speaking, PaymentCloud excels in the recurring billing space, and not just for high-risk clients.
- Personalized Deployment: PaymentCloud ensures your system is working properly by setting up test transactions and providing detailed guidance in operating your payment gateway. The same goes for setting up processing hardware.
- Chargeback & Fraud Prevention: Chargebacks are a major concern in high-risk industries, and PaymentCloud will help you protect yourself as much as possible. Along with giving advice on choosing a chargeback management service and setting up fraud mitigation services such as 3D Secure, PaymentCloud takes you step-by-step through customer support techniques and systems that will help keep your customers satisfied. Happy customers are less likely to initiate chargebacks in the first place!
- Ongoing Negotiation & Advocacy: Your dedicated account manager acts as your advocate in dealing with your bank and processor for the lifetime of your account. Whether you funds have been held or your account is under threat of closure, or perhaps things are looking up and you’re ready for a lower reserve or higher processing limits, PaymentCloud works on your behalf to negotiate what you need.
- More Integrations: In addition to the shopping cart software integrations already described above, PaymentCloud can help you integrate with Quickbooks for accounting, gift card and loyalty programs, and more.
Fees & Rates
PaymentCloud currently provides no pricing information on its website. This practice is common among many merchant account providers, especially those serving the high-risk sector. Prices are highly variable and will differ from one merchant to the next. The processing rates and account fees you’ll incur will depend on your business type, processing history, sales volume, credit history, and other factors.
Vague enough for you? Fortunately, we can help with more specifics! For starters, we know that PaymentCloud offers both tiered and interchange-plus pricing models. If you’ve submitted prior processing statements for comparison, you’ll most likely be offered a PaymentCloud quote based on the model you already had in place.
If you’re considering PaymentCloud, we strongly encourage you to obtain an interchange-plus quote if at all possible. Changing providers is the perfect time to educate yourself on this more transparent pricing model if you’ve not had exposure to it in the past. Most merchants will save money in the long run with interchange-plus, and you’ll also have a much better idea of how much your provider is charging you over the interchange costs that are part of any credit or debit card transaction.
With PaymentCloud, rates and fees are negotiable. Below, we’ve gathered some sample pricing you might encounter, including a few costs that are simply ranges or averages. Use our information as a jumping off point for understanding how pricing works with PaymentCloud. Also, keep in mind that interchange-plus rates are the amount you pay per transaction on top of the raw wholesale cost.
Card-Not-Present (eCommerce & MOTO)
- Interchange-Plus Rate: 0.10%-0.50% + $0.15-$0.25 per transaction
- Monthly Fee: $15
- Gateway Fee: Variable, depends on gateway
- Address Verification Service (AVS): $0.05 per online transaction
Card-Present (In-Person Retail & Restaurant)
- Interchange-Plus Rate: 0.05%-0.30% + $0.08-$0.10 per transaction
- Monthly Fee: $15
- PCI Non-Compliance (if applicable): $10/month
- Retrieval: $8/instance
- Chargeback: $25/instance
- Voice Authorization: $1/instance
- Batch Processing: $0.30/batch
- Data Breach Coverage (optional): $0-$10/month
Fees Not Charged
Application Fee Account Setup Fee Gateway Setup Fee Annual Fee Monthly Minimum PCI Compliance Fee Statement Fee
Whatever the reason you are high-risk, expect your processing rate to be higher and much more variable than the rates above depending on a number of factors. Additionally, the higher your risk, the higher the probability you’ll need to accept a tiered plan. You may still be eligible for interchange-plus pricing with PaymentCloud, though, so we strongly suggest investigating this option.
You’re also likely to have a monthly minimum processing charge of around $25 with PaymentCloud, a strict processing limit, and a reserve account established with the acquiring bank to help mitigate your risk. Beyond this, you still won’t be charged a PCI compliance fee, annual fee, application fee or other junk fees. High-risk merchant accounts require a more extensive underwriting and on-boarding process than other businesses, so it’s particularly commendable that PaymentCloud doesn’t charge an application fee for these clients.
With the extreme rate variation you’ll encounter in high-risk processing, a good final piece of advice is to get a handle on your effective rate. This includes your monthly fee, monthly minimum, and any other costs besides your main processing rate.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
PaymentCloud doesn’t publicly disclose either the Merchant Application or Terms and Conditions sections of its contracts. It’s likely that different contracts are used depending on which processor and bank you’re set up with, so you can expect some variation in contract terms.
Your paperwork with PaymentCloud will be sent to you via a digital app and may include one or more custom addendums with specific stipulations about your situation and industry. It’s particularly important for high-risk merchants to read every word of fine print very carefully!
Low-risk accounts are set up on month-to-month plans with PaymentCloud. You should also receive a copy of a signed waiver of any early termination fee (ETF) that comes with the standard contract from your backend processor. This is a fee (usually about $300 – $600) that you’d have to pay if you breached your agreement by closing your account before the end of the contract term.
High-risk merchants are much more likely to be hemmed into a long-term contract with any merchant account provider. Apparently, some high-risk merchants are even eligible for month-to-month plans with certain processors in PaymentCloud’s network, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if this is possible. Otherwise, the standard term for a high risk account with PaymentCloud is two years (a bit lower than the industry standard of three), and you can expect an automatic renewal clause that extends the contract for successive one-year periods.
We don’t like ETFs at all, but as a high-risk merchant, you’ll probably have this fee in your contract. However, you may still be able to get the ETF waived or lowered with PaymentCloud — and again, it never hurts to ask. Just be sure you understand the conditions of implementing this waiver, as some other portion of your deal may be sacrificed in return. If the ETF remains in place, be sure to follow the instructions for closing your account to the letter to avoid this penalty should you need to cancel.
All this said, it’s difficult to make sweeping statements about a company’s contract terms when no information is disclosed publicly. We’re also not privy to the deals that independent agents and ISOs of PaymentCloud may be making on a day-to-day basis. The best news for PaymentCloud so far is the lack of complaints regarding contract terms. Providers who charge an ETF usually receive a lot of complaints about this practice, and so far I’ve found only one complaint of an ETF from a high-risk merchant.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Your first impression of PaymentCloud is likely to come from its website. As a vehicle for advertising the company’s products and services, the PaymentCloud site isn’t too bad. It has a professional appearance and is easy to navigate.
We’ve previously criticized the site for inadequate information, grammatical errors, and misleading “as low as” rate offerings. We’re happy to report that while the current site is not perfect, it’s better! You still won’t find specific pricing disclosures, but there’s more information about credit card terminals and POS systems than there was before. You’ll also find detailed explanations of accepted industries and why those particular business types are classified as high-risk. PaymentCloud’s social media presence has gradually been increasing as well.
In speaking with PaymentCloud about some issues with the website, I learned that a full redesign is on the horizon, so we’ll keep an eye out. The main website improvement we’d like to see when it comes to transparency is more pricing information. While we’re slightly more lenient in this regard for high-risk providers due to the inevitable variation in rates, we’re still looking for good educational materials about pricing structures, the types of fees you’ll encounter — anything that publicly indicates PaymentCloud is open and honest about costs, even for high-risk merchants. (Perhaps they can fix a few lingering grammatical errors while they’re at it!)
Like many other merchant service providers, PaymentCloud relies heavily on independent sales agents to bring in accounts. Independent agents in the processing industry have a well-deserved poor reputation for high-pressure sales tactics and deception regarding contract terms and fees. That said, there currently no patterns of online complaints about PaymentCloud sales practices. This is a good indication that PaymentCloud provides good supervision and tracking of independent agents, or at least manages to stay sufficiently in the background (in other words, the merchant’s only direct interaction is with the agent and with the processor or bank.)
Customer Service & Technical Support
Your dedicated account manager is your main point of contact with PaymentCloud. As we described in the Products & Services section above, this person acts as your ongoing advocate and negotiator. Having a single point of contact within the company is particularly useful for high-risk merchants, who often experience a higher rate of technical problems, chargebacks, and other issues than low-risk merchants.
If your account manager isn’t available, you can also reach either the West Coast or East Coast office between 4AM and 7PM Pacific time. For after-hours problems or issues with your bank, processor, gateway, etc., you can use the direct 24/7 tech support lines for those parties. Authorize.Net, in particular, is known for good-quality tech support, which is a big reason PaymentCloud prefers this gateway for its merchants. PaymentCloud itself also provides a general tech support email address that can be used to raise support issues, but you may not hear back until the next business day.
By way of self-help resources, PaymentCloud has recently added a FAQ to the website. The descriptions of individual industries and their common high-risk issues are also helpful. However, we’d like to see these resources greatly expanded in the future. With a wealth of specialized knowledge and experience in the high-risk and ecommerce sectors, the PaymentCloud website could easily become an invaluable hub of information for these merchants.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
PaymentCloud has garnered relatively little online feedback during its nine years in business. There is no BBB profile, and we’ve found hardly any negative feedback from merchants elsewhere.
One business owner left a complaint (on our site and elsewhere) regarding non-disclosure of a large ETF and a higher rate than promised. Another merchant complained on Google Reviews of an account hold and subsequent poor customer service from PaymentCloud. PaymentCloud offered a reasonable response, so I’m not ready to assign ultimate blame either way.
Frankly, these are isolated complaints. The situation would only become alarming if a pattern developed, with lots of merchants chiming in about the same issues. People like to complain, and merchant account providers almost always manage to upset at least some of their customers. High-risk providers usually attract even more complaints due to the nature of their business. The relative lack of negative feedback about PaymentCloud is a reasonable indication that the company is keeping its customers happy overall.
I should also mention that our reviews of many of the large backend processors PaymentCloud partners with to underpin accounts tend to be average at best, and quite unfavorable at worst. Thus, PaymentCloud’s reputation helps demonstrate a very important point: choosing the right merchant services provider to act as your guide and advocate can make a huge difference in your experience with these processors.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
We’ve received a small but steady stream of positive feedback about PaymentCloud from our readers since this review was initially published. One commenter praised the company even though it couldn’t place his business — something that’s almost unheard of in the credit card processing world.
Testimonials for PaymentCloud typically mention the company’s expertise, transparency, and persistence in assisting high-risk merchants. Customer support is described as prompt, thorough, and easy to work with.
PaymentCloud is likely encouraging happy merchants to leave feedback here and on other review sites, and you may catch duplicate reviews in multiple spots. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the comments appear authentic, verifiable, and detailed. If you’ve had experience with PaymentCloud yourself — either good or bad — please leave a comment or review in the Comments section below.
Merchant account providers that specialize in taking on high-risk merchants are a mixed bag. While some provide top-notch service at a reasonable price, there are many other companies out there that take advantage of high-risk merchants by charging them well-above-average fees and rates and imposing lengthy contracts and equipment leases. Fortunately, PaymentCloud is one of the “good guys,” offering dependable service at a reasonable price. With glowing praise from customers and a strong recommendation from Dharma Merchant Services, we have no problem recommending PaymentCloud for your high-risk business. Of course, the fact that Stripe also likes PaymentCloud is nothing to sneeze at either.
We’d also recommend taking a close look at PaymentCloud if you are an ecommerce or MOTO business owner that may fall into a lower-risk category. As long as your risk sits within standard merchant account levels, you should be able to get a month-to-month agreement with transparent interchange-plus pricing and a waived early termination fee with PaymentCloud. Plus, if you happen to creep up into a high-risk classification for any reason — which is already more likely for ecommerce and MOTO business to begin with — you immediately benefit from PaymentCloud’s expertise in this area.
The biggest draw for PaymentCloud is the hands-on advocacy and guidance provided for merchants both during and after on-boarding. We appreciate that PaymentCloud works tirelessly to present high-risk businesses in the best possible light to underwriters, while also maintaining a sense of transparency that keeps merchants in touch with the reality of their situations. Assigning a dedicated account manager to your case from the get-go helps ensure a quality experience. And, because PaymentCloud works closely with so many banks and backend processors, you’ll already have a better chance of approval than with many competing merchant account providers.
For these reasons and more, PaymentCloud continues to score a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars. We’d still like to see some of the information we’ve provided in this review (pricing, contract terms, services, educational materials, etc.) more clearly outlined at the PaymentCloud website. As a high-risk provider, the company may never end up publishing many exact figures, but there is definitely still room for improvement in this area.
PaymentCloud is an excellent provider for high-risk and ecommerce merchants, but we always recommend that you shop around and compare quotes from several providers before making a decision. Check out more of our favorite high-risk providers and online payment processors for additional recommendations.