Sam’s Club Merchant Services Review
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- Atlanta, GA
Sam’s Club has provided members with wholesale goods since 1983, similar to its competitor Costco. In the early 2000s the company began to provide merchant account services to members, also like Costco’s own processing division. And, again like Costco, Sam’s Club resells the services of another credit card processor, which in this case is First Data. Clear both of these wholesalers recognized the potential to use their notoriety among the value-minded to sell merchant accounts, and they’re doing pretty well at it. Since its start, Sam’s Club Merchant Services has provided services to over 50,000 members.
But the only thing that Sam’s Club provides for its merchant services is its brand name. Everything else, like products and fees, all come from First Data with little or no change. The company mostly relies on gimmicks: the Sam’s Club name as an implicitly thrifty option, and online sales tactics like its simple pricing tool.
In addition to adding very little of its own services, there isn’t much information about what is provided. The most detail comes from its terminal offerings, and it’s First Data’s way or the highway when it comes to brands of terminals available.
Unless there are some major changes, I’m giving Sam’s Club Merchant Services 3.5 stars. Even though it’s simply another outlet for First Data, by adding another layer between the actual provider and customers without adding additional value garners Sam’s Club a lower rating. Read on to get the full details or check out some of our top rated providers! If you’d like to check out a more reputable and value-adding First Data reseller, take a look at Dharma Merchant Services.
Products and Services:
While there are quite a few services provided by Sam’s Club, everything comes from their partnership with First Data. Why not just get the milk from the cow? (Or at lease a better bottler.) Sam’s Club services include:
- Merchant accounts
- Terminal leases/sales: Sam’s Club, being partnered with First Data, exclusively uses Clover line of terminals (see our First Data review for more info). As always, we strongly advise against leasing terminals.
- POS software: First Data’s POS is applicable to a wide variety of businesses and is fully integrated into their terminals.
- Online reporting: Offered through ClientLine (referred to on the Sam’s Club website as Merchant Insider) and toted as complimentary. This is First Data’s reporting service.
- Mobile processing: Pretty standard with most major merchant account providers, just with that Clover “flare.”
- E-Commerce Solutions
- End-to-end Encryption
- Marketing/Loyalty/Gift Card Programs
Fees and Rates:
Just like First Data, Sam’s Club does not disclose much in terms of rates or fees. However, they do have a tool that merchants can input some basic merchant input and then it tells them the one of two plans that would fit them best: OneRate or ValueRate Plan.
Here is what they advertise:
- Rates starting at $19/month
- No downgrades or surcharges
- No monthly minimums
- No additional processing fees
- No early termination fees
- Rates starting at 1.29% + $0.15 per transaction
- $5 monthly minimum
- No early termination fees
Tools like these can be fun. Tools like these can seem helpful. Tools like these are often too good to be true. Remember to read the fine print! Gimmicks like these aren’t always a one size fits all kind of deal. If you can, try to get an interchange-plus deal instead of the advertised tiered plans.
Rates are valid for Sam’s Club members only. $19 rate applies to processing up to $800 in monthly volume in MasterCard, Visa and Discover transactions. American Express transactions priced separately. Higher flat rate pricing available for businesses processing at a higher volume. Rates and eligibility are subject to change without notice. All merchants are required to complete a merchant application and are subject to underwriting and approval. Additional fees may apply. All rates and fees are subject to change in accordance with the terms of the Merchant Agreement. Processing services provided solely by First Data.
Rates are valid for Sam’s Club members only. Rate and authorization fee applies to retail card-present transactions with an average ticket up to $350. American Express transactions priced separately. Some business types are subject to different rates. Rates listed are for qualified transactions only. Rates and eligibility are subject to change without notice. All merchants are required to complete a merchant application and are subject to underwriting and approval. Additional fees may apply. All rates and fees are subject to change in accordance with the terms of the Merchant Agreement. Processing services provided solely by First Data.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
Sam’s Club doesn’t advertise any contract length, but three years is usually the industry standard. What it does advertise is no early termination fees. However, a quick Google search will tell you that, in many cases, there is no early termination fee as long as services are canceled within 90 days of starting. A $90 fee is applied beyond that which is below industry standard, but we’ll come back to that.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
I can’t say I’m a fan of Sam’s Club’s transparency. Unlike their processing provider First Data, Sam’s Club is gimmicky. Sure, we expect to save big with Sam’s Club, but they go a bit too far with the price tool gimmick. That coupled with zero mention of any other pricing options doesn’t bode well for me.
I also wish their FAQ page was beefed up a little just to provide a bit more information. They also have a “Helpful Article Page.” But, these articles are only available to Sam’s Club members.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
While Sam’s Club advertises 24/7 phone support as well as e-mail and chat options, most of what I have seen about this have not been positive. Many reviewers have cited rude customer service or being flat out ignored.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Sam’s Club Merchant Services does not have its own BBB profile. Most complaints are fielded by First Data (check out its BBB profile here). There are a handful of complaints specifically about Sam’s Club Merchant Services on Ripoff Report, some using words like crooks and highway robbery.
Common complaints include:
- Poor customer service: Whether they were comments or customer reviews, it seems like the vast majority of complaints stemmed from customer service. Many of the complaints I read mentioned that the customer service reps were indifferent or didn’t seem to really care. Another complaint mentioned that the rep didn’t know the answers to the client’s questions. It also seems that many clients were unable to even reach their reps!
- Excessive/expensive fees: Complaints against Sam’s Club Merchant Services are riddled with unforeseen and excessive fees. One of the most prominent fees is the $90 early termination fee (told you we’d come back to it). Most customers said that, even though they had terminated their services prior to the 90 day cutoff, they were still charged and had difficulty getting it removed. That, coupled with high buyout prices for leased terminals and other unforeseen fees, has quite a few people steamed. The best way to avoid this is to read everything and try to get your provider to waive the early termination fee in writing.
- Withheld funds and terminating accounts: With First Data providing every aspect of the merchant services for Sam’s Club clients, we can’t forget First Data’s notoriety regarding holding funds and terminating accounts. Sam’s Club complaints are riddled with such instances. Your best defense is to learn how to avoid holds and minimize charge-backs.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
As with most providers, it’s pretty difficult to find any testimonials about Sam’s Club Merchant Services. There is a video about Clover Station terminal, but it only focuses on the one specific terminal and contains praise from one client. If you’ve had any positive experiences with Sam’s Club Merchant Services, let us know in the comments!
In conclusion, I gave Sam’s Club a lower score than First Data because Sam’s Club shouldn’t be in the business of reselling credit card processing services. By doing so, its just adding a layer (often a layer of confusion) between the merchant (you) and the processor (First Data), rather than savings and value.
Although offering merchant services is a great way for Sam’s Club to make some extra money, there’s isn’t much of a benefit in it for you. If you already know what rate structure to ask for (interchange-plus), and what rates are fair, then you might as well go directly to First Data, OR go with another provider who’s main business is credit card processing. Our favorite First Data reseller is Dharma Merchant Services, and Payment Depot is a great option as well. Anybody that understands merchant account pricing, and is willing to negotiate will have a better chance of getting a superior deal than what Sam’s Club is offering through First Data.
Stick with the wholesale goods Sam’s Club. That’s what we love you for.