Taking $5,000 per month or less in card payments?
You’ll save with Square
- Date Established
- Lehi, UT
- Predictable flat-rate pricing
- No monthly minimums
- Suitable for direct selling industry
- Good for eCommerce
- Few public complaints
- Setup fees
- Annual fees
- Expensive for high-volume merchants
When a merchant services provider names one of its product offerings Guardian Cybershield, it’s fairly obvious how they want you to feel about working with them: safe and well-protected — perhaps by one or more of the Avengers. But when today’s supervillains specialize in thieving personal data, and no business wants to send that dreaded mass email to its customers containing words such as “breach” and “compromised,” Guardian Cybershield starts to sound intriguing.
Indeed, ProPay was a pioneer in payment data security, offering end-to-end encryption and tokenization services for its merchants since 2009. ProPay has targeted its card processing and ACH/echeck services toward a broad spectrum of office-based industries, such as mortgage and auto lending, utility companies, property management, and internet service providers.
Where ProPay straddles the line between large corporations and small businesses is in its long-time relationship with the direct selling industry. Mary Kay reps have happily run credit cards via ProPay from the comfort of friends-of-friends’ homes for over a decade, for example. ProPay was also one of a select few alternatives to PayPal accepted on eBay for many years, until eBay cut ties in September 2015.
So although ProPay is an ISO and relies heavily on independent salespeople to reel in those big corporate accounts such as Mary Kay, its website also includes eye-catchers such as “lower rates than PayPal or Square” for attracting low-volume and non-traditional merchants. Its basic setup for small businesses consists of a one-time signup fee, an annual fee that breaks down to about $3-$6 per month, plus flat rates for processing transactions. If you’re just learning how fees and rates for processing cards work, or you need a quick refresher, we have a great infographic on the subject.
With an A+ BBB rating, 20 years of operation under its belt, and a ballpark 1.5 million merchants signed, ProPay’s reputation is solid. But while ProPay has trucked along steadily over the years, newcomers onto the scene have matched and eclipsed it on many fronts, making some of ProPay’s claims to things such as industry-leading security services sound more like a quaint reliving of the glory days.
Although clearly etched in ProPay’s logo, it’s worth pointing out that ProPay became a wholly-owned subsidiary of TSYS, the second-largest payment processor in the US, in December 2012. Please read our review of TSYS in conjunction with this one if you are considering ProPay for your business. Our trusty friend Guardian Cybershield is technically a TSYS-branded service for protecting against malware and suspicious IP addresses.
We’ll take a look at this and other examples of ProPay’s rather heavily-trademarked services in this review to help you decide if this merchant account provider is a good fit for your business. So grab your Guardian, your Cybershield, or your Guardian Cybershield — and let’s go!
Table of Contents
Products & Services
Historically, most of ProPay’s merchant portfolio dealt in card-not-present transactions, and the majority of its products and services have been tailored accordingly. ProPay doesn’t offer traditional card terminals or point of sale equipment like most merchant account providers. Still, low-volume sellers looking for mobile processing and the lower rates of swiped transactions can find options here. Processing methods include a virtual terminal, the ProPay app, a couple of portable card readers, e-invoicing, and even touch-tone phone processing for the smartphone holdouts among us.
Here’s what ProPay offers:
- Merchant Accounts: A small business account can be set up in a few minutes, with three advertised plans available. If you’re working with a company that’s already partnered with ProPay, you should sign up through that company’s website. Customized accounts for larger merchants are also available, negotiated directly with ProPay’s sales department.
- International Processing: Global processing is available in 180 currencies and 35 countries. ProPay can also disburse funds in 180 countries and 130 currencies, which is handy if you have international distributors or agents.
- ProPay Gateway: Its proprietary gateway uses “ProtectPay” for tokenization and data storage for easier PCI compliance. Merchants can integrate with other gateways through ProtectPay as well.
- Payment Network: The ProPay Payment Network is a suite of services to facilitate the movement of money globally between merchants, affiliates, consultants, and partners from a single point of integration. This allows funds to be moved between ProPay accounts, with the direct selling model as a classic example. Here a few subfeatures:
- SplitPay: Splits proceeds from sales between the distributor and the wholesale organization, depositing funds directly to the appropriate ProPay accounts.
- SpendBack: Lets distributors pay for wholesale orders directly from their ProPay accounts.
- Prepaid Debit Mastercard: Connect it to a distributor’s ProPay account to buy additional wholesale products or withdraw funds.
- Virtual Terminal: Free with all accounts, this allows users to process transactions from any internet-connected device with a web browser.
- eCommerce: ProPay can provide a hosted payment page, integrate with simple shopping carts, and you can also add buy/donate now buttons to your site.
- ProPay Mobile App: The app is free for iOS and Android devices. ProPay can also provide a white-label version of the app to larger businesses.
- ProPay JAK Mobile Card Reader: This headphone jack magstripe reader comes with the Platinum Card Reader plan. You can also get it as an add-on to your Premium plan for an additional $2 upfront and annually. Note this reader is not currently EMV chip card capable.
- ProPay EMV Card Reader: A Bluetooth-enabled card reader that can process both EMV-chipped credit cards and NFC mobile wallets. Contact ProPay for pricing.
- Industry-Specific Partnerships: A whole section of the website now focuses on ProPay’s partnerships with certain target industries. Several pages mention perks beyond the basic small business setup, such as no startup fees or annual fees. Click on the Partners tab to see some of ProPay’s key software partners.
- Custom Services & APIs: ProPay offers a developer portal for setting up and customizing integrations. Some of the tools will only be interesting to enterprise-level customers and those with intra-networks between multiple ProPay accounts.
- ProFac Express: I pronounce “ProFac” in my head as “pro-FASS,” rather than “pro-FACK.” Why? Well, ProFac Express refers to ProPay’s program that helps you become your own payment facilitator company. That’s a FASS-ilitator, not a FACK-ilitator. So it has to be “pro-FASS!” I’m right, aren’t I? Probably not. Just don’t ask me how to pronounce “gif.”
Fees & Rates
With ProPay, keep in mind that your rates may be specialized, depending on your company affiliation (e.g., if you’re a direct seller with Mary Kay). Just the website à la carte options are mentioned below. You can compare ProPay’s “lower than Square and PayPal” rates with competitors by examining the chart in our article on the best mobile and low-volume processors.
There are two standard plans, and they are much easier to access since the website revamp:
- Signup Fee: $39.95
- Annual Renewal Fee: $39.95
- Swiped Rate: 2.60%
- Keyed-In Rate: 3.55%
- Amex Swiped & Keyed: 3.40%
- JAK Mobile Card Reader: Adds $2 to the signup and annual renewal cost
- Bank Transfer Fee: $0.35
- Signup Fee: $69.95
- Annual Renewal Fee: $69.95
- Swiped Rate: 2.40%
- Keyed-In Rate: 3.35%
- Amex Swiped & Keyed: 3.20%
- JAK Mobile Card Reader: Free
- Bank Transfer Fee: $0.30
For Both Plans
- Monthly Minimum: None
- Maximum Monthly Volume: $3,000
- Maximum Volume Per Transaction: $500
As you can tell by those processing limits, ProPay’s baseline offering is geared toward micro-merchants. Do note that while the processing rates on their own are lower than PayPal or Square, you’re also hit with a setup fee right off the bat as well as an annual renewal fee. Of course, you may be able to negotiate a better deal than what’s advertised if you process more than the $3,000 monthly limit.
In addition to the main pricing page, a summary of ProPay’s pricing may be found inside the Payment Services Agreement for small and medium-sized businesses. Notable fees include:
- Chargeback Fee: $25
- Non-Sufficient Funds Fee: $20
- Printed Monthly Statement Fee: $10
- Investigation Fee (For Chargebacks): $20
- Refund A Card: $0.35
Lastly, below are some fees involved in electronic fund transfers, which you’ll want to especially note if you’re operating in connection with a larger corporate account (e.g., you’re a distributor, agent, consultant, etc.).
- ACH Out: $0.10-$0.35 per transaction to transfer funds out of a ProPay account
- ACH Debit: Free to transfer funds into your ProPay account, max $250 per transaction and $1,000 per month
- Intra-ProPay Transfer: Free
- ACH Payment: $0.75 per transaction when accepting payment from a customer
- ACH Return: $20
Sales & Advertising Transparency
ProPay’s website doesn’t have the most intuitive layout, but nothing looks intentionally deceptive. I really like the clear pricing page and additional pricing info inside the legal documents. The company has also added a High-Risk Acceptable Use policy, which lets you know upfront if your business type would likely be restricted or rejected. All in all, ProPay’s advertising transparency is way above average.
It’s worth noting since I mentioned it in previous updates: ProPay does now support EMV chip reading (as well as NFC processing) through its ProPay EMV Card Reader. It’s also worth noting that this peripheral doesn’t come standard with any of the plans; you’ll need to request one.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fees
ProPay publishes its merchant agreement terms in the Legal section of the website. Reading these legal documents is a pain, isn’t it? If you’re signing up with ProPay, you’ll want to examine it all in detail, but I’ll provide the basics here. The key information is found in sections 18 and 33 if you’d like to get down and dirty with the legalese yourself.
To sum up, before we even begin: Although some merchants may opt for month-to-month agreements with ProPay, you’re financially incentivized to sign up for yearly contracts with subsequent renewals for the same length of time. Here’s a breakdown of the two scenarios:
- If you cancel your ProPay account within 30 days of signing up, you’ll be refunded “a portion” of your annual fee. (That amount was all but $13.31 when I discussed it with a customer service rep a while back.)
- If you cancel after 30 days, your annual fee will not be refunded at all, but you also would not pay any extra early termination fees.
- You may terminate the agreement by providing notice of intent not to renew at least 30 days before the expiration of the current term, with no early termination fee.
- If your annual renewal comes up and you fail to pay it in time, ProPay will start charging you a monthly fee, which is equal to double your normal annual fee divided by 12.
- ProPay still expects that you are signing up for at least 180 days (six months) of service.
- If you terminate within 180 days of the effective date, you must pay liquidated damages of $20. (ProPay doesn’t call it an ETF, but it’s basically a small-ish one.)
- Propay charges an ongoing monthly maintenance fee of $5 if your account is inactive for 180 days.
- If you cancel service before or after 30 days, you will not be refunded any fees you’ve paid.
- Although the agreement does not clearly indicate a set monthly fee for month-to-month plans, from the wording, we’re left to assume you’re looking at two times the annual fee, divided into 12 chunks and assessed on a monthly basis.
As you can see, although it’s possible to go month-to-month, it’s just not financially sound given those terms. While we generally recommend that merchants look for month-to-month accounts, there are way too many strings attached to this one.
Customer Service & Technical Support
The resource section of ProPay’s website is broader in its scope since the update, but it still warrants ongoing expansion in some areas. You can peruse its YouTube channel for a handful of tutorials or find them through the main website under Contact Support. Other support topics include a Getting Started page and Knowledge Center with a few general FAQs. If you’re looking for 24/7 phone support, you’re better off dealing with TSYS directly, as ProPay’s support lines are only open 6:30 AM-7:30 PM Mountain Time.
Any Contact Us button on the site will take you to a web form, while also displaying department-specific contact info along the side. The live chat feature usually works, but you may occasionally run into a service interruption.
I was also put on hold for 25 minutes when I tried calling customer service. The agent who finally answered was apologetic, explained that they were experiencing a high volume of calls this week “for some reason,” and that regular hold times are more like 10-15 minutes. The point is, if I were a real merchant with a real problem, I’d have probably given up before he answered. On the bright side, his vibe was friendly and helpful. You also have the option of waiting for a callback if you’d like to hang up and keep your spot in the queue.
You could also try reaching out to ProPay on one of its social media channels, as it maintains relatively active accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. You’ll find ProPay’s Twitter and Facebook are primarily geared toward the direct selling community, as well as some of its YouTube advertising, by the way.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
ProPay has been accredited with the BBB since 2000 and boasts an A+ rating, which appears well-deserved. In the last three years, 14 complaints have been resolved, while 15 remain unresolved. For a company with a long history and 1.5 million merchants served, this seems a low grievance count to me. Those latter 15 issues all received some resolution effort by ProPay, and most involved the merchant waiting for a refund that ProPay has conceded to and claims to have paid as part of the resolution. It’s difficult to say whether those funds finally came through or not. Typical complaints include:
- Holds & Freezes: As is typical for a payment processor, merchants sometimes see their funds frozen or held without a lot of communication from the provider.
- Refunds: ProPay’s byzantine cancelation and renewal process can lead to some struggles when it comes to getting fees reimbursed.
- Uneven Customer Service: It can sometimes be difficult to get ahold of a helpful person, and the adequacy of the help you get seems to vary by each representative.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Facebook is probably the best place to find glowing endorsements, mixed in with some negative feedback. The majority of the positive comments are from — you guessed it — direct sellers. They really do love ProPay! Also worth a brief mention are the various awards ProPay has garnered over the years.
Customers seem to like the:
- Customer Service: While it can be uneven, given enough time, ProPay does seem to reach satisfactory arrangements with its customers eventually.
- Easy Fee Structure: The flat-rate structure ProPay offers is easy for businesses to parse.
- Usability: The apps and peripherals are all pretty straightforward and easy to use.
ProPay is a transparent, competent service provider that’s up against some stiff competition. Although its customer service is a bit hit-and-miss, I’d say it’s also above average for the industry. The flat pricing plans with low rates and low monthly limits definitely favor micro-merchants, and I can certainly picture those rates working well for direct sellers dealing in small volumes. I’m still not a huge fan of the annual fee structure, though. With top competitors such as Square moving to a fee structure less friendly to micro-merchants, ProPay may be more appealing to those businesses than in the past.
While the website improvements better showcase its small business offerings, I still think ProPay prioritizes its large businesses that run mostly card-not-present transactions. That is where it has invested most of its time and money over the years. All its data security infrastructure was initially built for processing computer-based keyed transactions. I get the impression that the small mobile merchants out there with their JAK magstripe readers don’t register as more than a blip in ProPay’s portfolio, except perhaps as one facet of its big corporate direct selling accounts. And you probably know by now that we favor merchant account providers who offer interchange-plus pricing as an option. This may only be available to enterprise-level customers, if at all.
But let’s talk about recommendations. Mid- or high-volume retail and restaurants with nearly all swiped transactions are incompatible with ProPay’s features, so we’ll leave those off the table. But maybe you’re a low-volume business who’s been scared off by Square and some of the other newer, cooler kids on the scene, with their countless stories of sudden account freezes and terminations. Maybe you want some of the benefits and features of a more traditional merchant account with a long-standing reputation, fewer complaints and more resolved ones, and clearer guidelines on monthly maximums. I could see ProPay as an option if you’d like to know better where you stand in these ways; just make sure you ask about that EMV reader.
Or maybe your business is set up entirely online, you’re not into mobile processing at all, and what you need is a trusted virtual terminal for keyed transactions or the ability to facilitate recurring billing and ACH services. That “makes sense” with ProPay as well, to steal its own advertising gimmick. Have a look at some of our highest-rated merchant account providers first before making your final decision.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.