Pivotal Payments Review
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- Date Established
- Plano, TX
Whether you are here for the first time or checking in to see what’s changed for Pivotal Payments, the bottom line is still the same: avoid doing business with them.
When you Google Pivotal Payments, the auto–suggestions feature words like “scam” and “lawsuit.” The first page of results is mostly populated with scathing reviews and even a few blogs solely dedicated to putting Pivotal in the ground. Based on everything I’ve read, I can’t say that I blame them. Pivotal is also behind the brands Payment Systems Merchant Services Inc., Capital Processing Network, Tangerine Payment Solutions Corp, and Cardex Corporation, among other DBAs and acquired companies. So if you see one of these names on your processing statement, Pivotal is likely your processor.
While Pivotal Payments doesn’t quite make it into the “worst of the worst” category, it’s safe to say the company still holds its spot as a bad business idea. Even so, the company services 70,000 customers and handles about $12 billion dollars per year (as of December 2014). It’s doing something right business-wise, and I have to believe that a sizable portion of the merchants Pivotal provides for must feel at least marginally satisfied — right?
But a chance at marginal satisfaction isn’t anywhere near good enough to get our endorsement. Some of the most glaring and recurring complaints we’ve seen against Pivotal credit card processing include the following:
- They fail to disclose all of the terms involved with terminal (credit card machine) leases
- They fail to disclose all of the terms involved with their early termination fee (ETF)
- Their customer service performs poorly
- The sales experience they provide is inconsistent
Some of these problems come back to Pivotal’s use of independent agents and offices to resell their products and services. While some companies do a good job of maintaining a consistent product despite their dependence on independent agents (Chase Paymentech, for example), Pivotal doesn’t seem to strive for standardization. This leads to a free-for-all where merchants suffer the consequences.
One plus for Pivotal is its accessibility for Canadian merchants. While headquartered in the U.S., Pivotal also maintains a sizable office in Montreal, Quebec. Not that many companies offer merchant accounts in Canada (compared to the number that do in the US), so in some ways, they simply have better odds in the north. From what we’ve heard, Canadian and US-based merchants get the same sub-par service from Pivotal, regardless of locale. And if you’re a Canadian merchant, don’t think you have to settle. Check out this article for more information on your options for Canadian payment processing, or skip to our review of Helcim Payments, a reputable Canadian merchant account provider.
Despite some positive changes recently, Pivotal still seems to struggle with communication and transparency. For that, it keeps 3 out of 5 stars. There’s no reason for you to do business with Pivotal Payments if you don’t have to. You’ll find many, many better options on our comparison chart or by using our account finder. If you do choose to partner with Pivotal, make sure that you read your contract very carefully and maybe read up on how to get a good deal before agreeing to anything.
Check out the full review for more details.
Products & Services:
Pivotal doesn’t have a huge selection of products and services, which doesn’t mean anything bad in and of itself. It’s a good idea as a business to have a clear focus and purpose rather than trying to be all things to all people. Some of its offerings include:
- Terminal leases/sales: Check out this article before you do anything hasty.
- Reporting tools: Including real-time reporting. This kind of service is becoming an industry mainstay.
- Merchant club program: Called PivotalONE. Signing up provides you with various discounts, warranties, and supplies. Watch out for things like this, though. They can end up costing more than it’s worth. Also, beware of being automatically signed up.
- Mobile processing: Pivotal seems to have caught on to how big mobile payments are becoming and has added some information to its websites, complete with links to download the apps. The app, which we haven’t tested yet, is called PivotalMobile. In addition to iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, it has a mobile solution for BlackBerry devices. (No Windows, though). There are some videos on the YouTube channel, too.
- Month-to-Month Contracts: This isn’t actually advertised on the Pivotal Payments website (brilliant marketing, really), but since we last looked at Pivotal, it has started offering month-to-month contracts with no cancellation fees for merchants. But that information is only posted on IOSAgentProgram.com, which focuses on recruiting sales reps, not communicating with customers.
- Next-Day Funding for Canadian Merchants: In December of 2014, Pivotal announced that next-day funding for all of its clients with Canadian bank accounts would be available in Q2 of 2015. It’s also mentioned on the ISO agent site, but not the main site. (Are you waiting for a website relaunch to add all of this, Pivotal? I’m very curious why this information isn’t available on the customer website.)
- Apple Pay Support: Pivotal supports Apple Pay payments through its FlexPoint platform. This is a good thing since Apple Pay is likely going to be the game-changer on the mobile payment front. (Worth noting: Since the terminals are NFC compatible, they work with not just Apple Pay but Google Wallet and other NFC-based mobile services.)
- EMV Support: As of October 2015, Pivotal announced it had received EMV certification for its FlexPoint platform, coinciding with the arrival of chip cards to the U.S. Pivotal worked with Tender Retail, a division of ACCEO Solutions, Inc., for its solution to those changes. For Canadian merchants, you already know all about chip cards. If you’re looking for a new EMV machine, check out our suggestions.
Fees & Rates:
Pivotal does not disclose any fees or rates on its website. Well, it does disclose the chargeback fee (which ranges from $25 to $50) on the Understanding Processing page, but I’m pretty sure that’s it. If you’re really that curious, you can submit a request for a free rate quote, but given the onslaught of reviews and complaints about transparency, I wouldn’t count on it being accurate.
As one of our colorful commenters put it:
They sneak more fees on you than a weasel can steal eggs.
Based on everything we’ve found, we’re apt to believe him.
We’re not going to list any specific charges here since they seem to vary widely from one contract to the next. If you decide to do business with Pivotal, make sure to have all fees disclosed to you in writing by your sales rep.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee:
While it appears that, yes, Pivotal has started offering month-to-month options, it’s clear based on the chatter that many people are still locked into contracts. You can expect a three-year, auto-renewing contract from Pivotal, which is even worse than the industry standard of one-year auto-renewals. You’ll have to submit a written request for cancellation about 90 days before the contract expires (or whatever your particular contract says) if you want to close your account without paying the steep early termination fee (ETF).
Pivotal Payments has two different early termination fees. The first one is a flat rate of $500 for any merchant that processes less than $180K per year. The second one is a liquidated damages fee for those exceeding that threshold. The liquidated damages type of contract can get extremely expensive. This is one of the reasons why Pivotal has received a low rating here on Merchant Maverick.
So yes, if you can obtain it, go for the monthly, ETF-free plan. If not, there are plenty of other processors that don’t charge a cancellation fee.
Sales & Advertising Transparency:
Pivotal Payments doesn’t offer much sales copy or advertising on the website. While that strategy avoids deceptive sales gimmicks, there’s not much transparency or disclosure on the website, either. There’s not even a search bar to help you find what you’re looking for.
It would be nice to see some more useful information about the products and services offered alongside some disclosure of possible rates and fees. The site does claim that Pivotal has reduced the rates of 98% of merchants who have contacted the company. (Call me cynical, but I’m taking that one with a heavy pinch of salt.) The site offers a little bit of educational material in the Support and Resources section, but it’s not on par with what we like to see from merchant account providers.
If you’re in need of some truly useful info on credit card processing, check out our articles and tips.
Customer Service & Technical Support:
We’re glad to see that 24/7/365 phone-based customer service listed among Pivotal’s offerings (English and French), but it’s not clear what percentage of this service comes from in-house reps and what percentage is outsourced. A particularly large portion of the complaints we’ve encountered about Pivotal include remarks about long wait times on the phone with customer service and poorly trained service reps.
Furthermore, the Support and Resources section falls below average. Many processors offer extensive and useful guides to give merchants a starting place for troubleshooting problems, understanding their statements, and so on. Pivotal misses the mark, giving only a few mostly useless educational resources. Even the industry-specific brochures feel pretty generic.
However, it’s nice to see a little information about tax reporting through form 1099-K.
If you have an experience with Pivotal Payments you’d like to share, please leave a comment!
Negative Reviews & Complaints:
A quick Google search for Pivotal Payments reveals a nightmarish web-scape of warnings and scathing reviews. If you search for things like Pivotal Payments reviews, Pivotal Payments complaints, or Pivotal Payments scam, your web browser might explode.
Clearly Pivotal has done a really good job when it comes to pissing off the wrong people. It’s easy to see how it happens:
- Independent rep makes big promises to business owner, failing to disclose any drawbacks.
- Business owner becomes unsatisfied with the service and angry about undisclosed fees and terms.
- Business owner tries to close his or her account and is told by Pivotal it will cost over $1,000 to close.
- Customer service reps do not effectively defuse the situation.
- Business owner becomes enraged, but can’t do anything because he or she signed the contract.
- Business owner takes to the web with complaints and HEAVY USE OF CAPS LOCK.
It’s a tale as old as time.
You can find quite a few negative reviews about Pivotal across the web and right here in our comments section.
There are 66 resolved complaints, and Pivotal has an A+ rating with the BBB. This is via the link to aggregate complaints on the page for the Melville, NY, headquarters. Note that the address for the profile that link takes you to is in Plano, Texas. The BBB recently revamped how it structures BBB data for Pivotal, so we’ll be keeping an eye on this.
In addition, Pivotal has an additional 58 complaints through Ripoff Report, which is more than a business of this size usually has through that site. This is probably why they decided to invest in the Ripoff Report Corporate Advocacy Program. For those unfamiliar with this, it’s basically a way for businesses to pay the complaints site to smooth out some of the bad reports and prevent them in the future. I don’t like this service since it’s essentially a way for the company to pay off the complaints site in order to bury the complaints. The good news, on the other hand, is that Pivotal has actually addressed almost all of the complaints, usually to the satisfaction of the merchant.
Of the complaints out there for Pivotal, these are the most common:
- Expensive terminal lease contracts: Many merchants have complained about getting stuck in lengthy terminal leases, which are very expensive to get out of. Most terminal leases last about 4-years, so you can imagine what the cost will be if you decide you want to break the contract early. My recommendation is that you never lease a terminal unless absolutely necessary. You will likely pay $300 maximum for a new terminal, while a lease commits you to paying over $1000.
- Expensive early termination fee: The second most common complaint was in regards to the Pivotal Payments early termination fee, though they’ve changed it to allow for flat-rate termination fees for merchants doing under 180K per year. Even so, the rate is still high. This sort of thing wouldn’t be a big deal if sales reps would disclose it. To avoid it altogether, go for one of our top rated month-to-month providers.
- Bad customer service: When faced with bad contract terms provided by a bad sales rep, poor customer service is just insult to injury. Most merchant account providers have one or two complaints saying that they have “the worst” customer service. But with Pivotal, the complaint is habitual.
- Auto-renewal on contracts: In some cases, people never signed a contract with Pivotal after the company bought out another service. Needless to say, they’re frustrated about the hoops they have to go through to cancel their contracts and the overall lack of transparency about when they can cancel. There are a few complaints alleging that merchants only received partial contracts or that the contracts they signed were different from what Pivotal claimed, or that the copies of contracts were blurry. If you do sign up, I suggest being very careful.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials:
It’s not extraordinarily common for satisfied merchants to go out of their way to leave positive feedback on the web, and it’s really rare to find praising comments for a processor with overwhelmingly negative reviews. So I’m not surprised that you don’t find too many voices sticking up for Pivotal’s services.
You can, however, find some nice video testimonials on Pivotal’s YouTube channel. These reviews come from both Canadian and US-based merchants from a variety of industry, all of whom seem satisfied with the products and services Pivotal offers. Some common praises include:
- Good 24/7 customer support
- Low rates
- Ease of use/lack of problems
So we know that Pivotal isn’t screwing up everyone’s service. But I’m guessing none of these reviewers have tried to cancel their contracts yet…
All said and done, Pivotal’s early termination fee, lack of transparency and poorly regulated independent sales-force are more than enough to keep this processor from getting above three stars. As of 2015, there seem to be major steps forward, but some major steps back as well. they’re not hopeless, but it’s safe to say we’re not ready to endorse Pivotal yet.
The Pivotal team is replying to more complaints in public spaces, such as on review sites (including in our comments section below), making alterations to contract terms and trying to improve customer service. However, the situations with the BBB and Ripoff Report are problematic. While Pivotal finally offers a month-to-month contract option with none of its dreaded ETFs, it’s certainly not well publicized. That’s either bad marketing or a deliberate attempt to hide the information. Color me suspicious.
So for now, Pivotal Payments is keeping its three stars.
With so many other fantastic, caring providers out there, we just don’t see why anyone should risk it with a business like Pivotal. Please take a moment to check out some of our highest-rated processors. For Canadian merchants, consider Helcim first and foremost.