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Soar Payments Review

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Date Established
2015
Location
Houston, TX

Pros

  • Ideal for high-risk merchants
  • Automated custom price quoting
  • Automated application process
  • Fast underwriting
  • No application fees
  • No processing history required

Cons

  • Only works with US-based businesses
  • Does not do CBD oil accounts

Overview

What do document preparation services, remote tech support, and self-storage businesses all have in common? In the world of credit card processing, all three are considered “high-risk” industries. They are also perfect examples of industries Soar Payments serves. Founded in 2015, Soar is a relatively new merchant account provider based in Houston, Texas that specializes in finding card processing homes for hard-to-place businesses.

Whether due to a historically high percentage of chargebacks, irregular high-ticket sales, or just lots of industry regulations, banks are less likely to approve certain business types for merchant accounts. So don’t take it personally if you’ve been labeled high-risk: it’s not necessarily your fault! You’re even more likely to be considered mid or high-risk if you’re an eCommerce or mail/telephone order (MOTO) business. This is simply because most of your transactions are card-not-present, and thus more susceptible to fraud.

While Soar Payments initially focused on traditional merchants, they shifted gears toward the high-risk sector by late 2015. The CEO, Adam Carlson, tells me that their current client breakdown is around 40% high-risk, 40% mid-risk, and 20% low-risk. Soar also sets up offshore accounts, particularly for companies that have reached their domestic processing limits and need a place to handle the overflow.

With all their focus and expertise on high-risk businesses, the most interesting aspect of this company for me was that they offer a surprisingly competitive and non-negotiable rate for low-risk accounts. This means that as long as the rest of their features and services stack up, Soar could be a recommendable option across all risk levels. Let’s break it all down and see if that’s true.

Apply to Soar Payments

Products & Services

Merchant Accounts: SoarPay is a registered ISO of BMO Harris Bank, but works with approximately 12 banks and processors when setting up merchant accounts. After determining which bank is the best fit for your business based on your risk profile, Soar will do a preliminary underwriting of your account and submit your application. The bank itself will then assign you to a specific backend processor, such as TSYS or Vantiv. Part of Soar’s high-risk specialization is that they have a thorough understanding of where to submit these accounts for the best chance of approval.

High-Risk Payment Gateway: Mid-to-high-risk accounts will most likely be set up on SoarPay’s white-label NMI gateway. Think of it as a souped-up model with additional chargeback management and fraud protection features (see more on those below) that help keep your merchant account in good standing. Even if you feel you could get by with a simple virtual terminal for processing MOTO orders, underwriting may require a gateway with the full set of protective features. The gateway bill will come separately from your processing bill.

Low-Risk Payment Gateway: Authorize.Net and USAePay are the most common gateways integrated with lower risk Soar accounts, but you are not limited to these two. For some low-risk accounts, the gateway bill can be integrated with your processing bill.

eCommerce Integrations: Expect the standard and plentiful shopping cart integrations that come with the above gateways, as well as recurring billing and ACH capabilities. Custom integrations are also available. See the “Questions about Integrations” section of SoarPay’s FAQ for more details.

Chargeback Management and Fraud Prevention: One of the most common reasons a particular industry is labeled high-risk is the potential for lots of chargebacks. Your account could be shut down if your chargeback ratio creeps too high. Soar Payments partners with Chargeback.com to integrate chargeback mitigating features into the NMI payment gateway. The resulting package is dubbed Chargeback Armour* and includes:

  • Chargeback alert emails warn you of an impending chargeback, allowing you to take the appropriate action (such as issuing a refund) before the 72-hour window expires and the chargeback goes on your record.
  • Chargeback representment services automatically prepare all the necessary documentation for fighting illegitimate chargebacks.
  • iSpyFraud is a rule-based fraud filter you can activate within the NMI gateway that lets you configure settings to detect fraud, screen suspicious transactions, and block suspicious activity.

*Just so you know it’s not a typo on our part, SoarPay can’t make up their mind between the British and American spelling of Armour/Armor. It’s floating around in both forms.

Card Terminals: Soar’s high-risk accounts rarely require processing hardware like card terminals and point-of-sale systems. Soar does offer the Verifone VX520 card terminal free for low-risk accounts. You’ll need to pay the difference in cost or return it if you cancel your merchant account within the first year. They can also special order other terminals or reprogram your existing equipment, as long as it’s EMV-compliant.

Mobile Payments: If you’d prefer a free mobile card reader with your low-risk account, Soar offers the Verifone PAYWARE e100. Although they’re waiting for the release of a new audio-jack reader from Verifone that’s EMV-capable, I wouldn’t hold your breath. With the headphone-jack itself gradually becoming obsolete, Verifone may go another direction. We’ll keep an eye on SoarPay’s mobile offerings.

Before we move on to discuss Soar’s pricing, I did ask them if they accept merchants currently on the Terminated Merchant File or MATCH list. The CEO explained that while they could technically take these clients offshore, they’ve decided to forgo that level of risk. Instead, they are happy to help walk merchants through the process of getting themselves removed from the list, with all the appropriate action and careful documentation that entails. At that point, Soar can likely board them on a high-risk package.

Fees & Rates

We’ll look first at pricing for high-risk accounts, since that’s Soar’s specialty.

Mid-High-Risk Pricing:

  • Tiered pricing is the standard model.
  • Qualified tier: As low as 2.49% for mid-risk.
  • Mid-qualified and non-qualified rates vary widely depending on risk, volume, etc.
  • Monthly fees: Variable depending on risk, but will include a monthly minimum fee and merchant on-file fee at minimum.
  • High-risk gateway: $15/mo + $0.25 per transaction
  • Chargebacks: $45
  • ACH Debit: 2.50% and $15/mo
  • Offshore Processing: Variable cost, but expect higher rates and fees overall.
  • No application fee

Chargeback Armor (underwriting determines which features are required vs. optional)

  • Chargeback Email Alerts: No monthly fee, $25 per alert, $15 per refund action taken (savings of $5 over the normal $45 chargeback fee)
  • Chargeback Representments: No monthly fee, $15 per representment
  • iSpyFraud: $8 per month, $0.05 per transaction

The bottom line on high-risk pricing is that it’s so variable based on your situation that you won’t know how it stacks up against competitors unless you compare multiple quotes. You also must consider the overall value of the account based on its full suite of services and features. For example, those extra features from Chargeback.com look spendy, but they could definitely help protect high-risk accounts from freezes and terminations, as well as save you money in the long run. This is especially true if your business lacks the staff hours and solid accounting department needed to effectively manage chargebacks.

And finally, let’s discuss low-risk accounts, since Soar also services this sector of the merchant world.

Low-Risk Pricing:

  • Interchange-Plus pricing
  • 0.05% + $0.00 interchange markup for both retail and card-not-present
  • Merchant On-File Fee: $10/mo.
  • Monthly Minimum Processing Fee: $25
  • Low-risk Gateway: $10/mo and $0.10 per transaction
  • Chargebacks: $15
  • PCI Non-Compliance (only if applicable): $19.95/mo.
  • No application or setup fees

At first glance, that interchange markup of 0.05% + $0.00 seems freakishly low. But before you jump all over it, take note of the monthly minimum fee of $25. Remember that a monthly minimum fee is the amount you must pay your provider in processing fees, whether or not you actually process enough to reach it. With a minimum in place, Soar’s pricing works more like a sliding scale of interchange markup rates. In other words, lower volume merchants need to calculate that minimum fee as part of their effective processing rate.

Even when viewed in this light, however, Soar’s low-risk pricing is very competitive. It’s extremely competitive at higher processing volumes, and perhaps even unsustainable as the company grows. Of course, this is all assuming I didn’t miss asking about any additional fees Soar may charge. Part of my hesitation here is that the monthly minimum and other specific fees are not currently listed on the website. As much as I’d like to tell you to take my word for it, do yourself a favor and insist on a clear and documented explanation of all rates and fees.

Apply to Soar Payments

Contract Length & Early Termination Fee

In outlining Soar’s contract stipulations, I’ll begin again with mid-to-high-risk accounts and then quickly summarize low-risk accounts. This was all information I received over the phone directly from Soar’s CEO.

Mid-High-Risk:

  • Two-year initial contract
  • One year automatic renewal after initial term
  • Early Termination Fee (ETF): $495
  • ETF is removed after initial term
  • No liquidated damages
  • ETF only charged if merchant cancels the account (not the bank, processor, etc.)

If you’re high-risk, note that a rolling reserve account will likely be required to protect your processor. Soar pointed out that their rolling reserves have predetermined caps, at which point no more funds will be held from your daily batches, regardless of the established percentage that usually comes out. The CEO also mentioned that their reserve period is seven months, and that this fund release time is shorter than most other high-risk providers. Funds in a rolling reserve will be released on the pre-established schedule if you end your contract.

To sum up, Soar’s high-risk terms are pretty good. That hefty ETF is no fun, but I’m not too surprised it’s in place. While we’d normally we’d steer you clear of contracts, if you’re high enough risk, you’ll likely need one almost anywhere you go. As far as contracts go, you could do a lot worse than Soar as a high-risk merchant.

Now, if you’re low-risk, the outlook is much brighter:

Low Risk:

  • Month-to-month plans with no contracts
  • No ETF

Perfect! That’s just what we like to see!

Sales & Advertising Transparency

It’s always a good sign when you email a company’s sales department and receive a response back from the CEO the same day. The Soar Payments CEO was patient with all my questions, which scores an immediate point toward a transparent company culture. With a relatively small staff of around 15 and no independent agents to wrangle, there’s a greater likelihood this open attitude has permeated throughout the company.

I also witnessed the speed at which they update their website content. I asked about an advertised A+ Better Business Bureau rating when I couldn’t find Soar’s profile online. By the time they let me know this was an error and that they’ve decided not to register with the BBB at all, the graphic had already been replaced.

Perhaps this was purposeful false advertising, but I have a hunch it was just a cookie-cutter graphic that had slipped through the cracks. Interestingly, the replacement graphic now advertises the 0.05% interchange-plus rate for low-risk accounts. I’m fairly confident that rate wasn’t there before, but at least I’ve learned my lesson: take a screenshot of everything!

Current screenshot!

The point of bringing this all up is that I’m glad Soar is updating its website in real time to ensure accuracy. Yes, they may be extra motivated knowing a review will be published, but we still appreciate that they value consistency of information.

While we’re discussing pricing, I’d like to see Soar take transparency a bit further at soarpay.com. In fact, I’ve seen older screenshots in other reviews that included more fee specifics. Soar has now simplified its low-risk pricing to one, non-negotiable rate of 0.05%. But this begs the question: what other fees make up a complete merchant account? And remember that monthly minimum fee of $25? These important pieces of information are missing. Some of our best, vetted providers advertise similar rates to Soar but have explained them more thoroughly to facilitate better apples-to-apples comparisons.

For higher risk accounts, Soar has done a decent job explaining some of the variable pricing issues in their articles. Yet, since they specialize in these accounts, I think we need more specifics summed up in one spot. The Chargeback Armor page is Soar’s best example of clear pricing. If I had one nit to pick, I’d also like to see Soar explain the data behind the claim that they “reduce chargebacks by 72%.”

Overall, Soar Payments comes across as an honest company that earnestly strives to help high-risk merchants find a processing home. Combine this with their “take-it-or-leave-it” interchange-plus rate for lower risk accounts, and you sense that Soar won’t pressure you to sign up if they’re not a good fit for your business.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Normal business hours for SoarPay are 8 am to 8 pm Eastern time, and each of the employees at this small company has a direct line. If you’re faced with a problem after hours, and you can’t get ahold of your rep, you’ll be redirected to your backend processor. Of course, you can also contact customer service at the third-party service provider behind a technical issue. In my experience, Soar also responds to emails promptly.

At SoarPay.com, a general FAQ section covers a few common questions for all risk levels. Where Soar really “soars” as an industry expert, however, is in the high-risk section of the website. I learned a ton myself as I perused articles on around 30 individual high-risk business sectors. The Chief Marketing Officer also maintains The ‘High Risk’ Blog’ which offers informative and refreshingly balanced articles on current issues facing high-risk merchants. They typically share this content on their Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages.

Mr. Martin honestly outlined why you would or WOULDN’T need a service Soar offers.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

When I couldn’t find a Better Business Bureau profile for Soar Payments, for a moment I thought I might just be the world’s worst Googler. After all, Soar did advertise an A+ rating on their website at that time. Thankfully, the CEO allayed my Googling insecurities by confirming they had made a calculated decision to not register with the BBB. He cited one of many articles in recent years on why the BBB is a pay-to-play scheme with inherent conflicts of interest.

On the one hand, I completely understand Soar’s position. Although the BBB is still ubiquitous, it’s a highly imperfect system, with accreditation tied to annual fees paid by businesses. Merchant Maverick itself would never operate that way! We also freely admit that we’re often suspicious of the letter grades doled out by the BBB for the companies we review here.

On the other hand, without a profile (accredited or not), we’re left wondering if any frustrated merchants out there haven’t bothered contacting the BBB about Soar. Meanwhile, a few merchants have complained at other websites I’d never heard of until now, and probably will never hear of again. Thus far, Soar has not publicly responded to those complaints.

Granted, I’m guessing no one at Soar Payments has obsessively Googled reviews like I have, but I dug up around eight complaints at these definitely-not-the-BBB websites. Most were concentrated in late 2016, and a couple could potentially be the same company complaining more than once.

The most common issue cited was poor customer support. Other problems such as holds, freezes, and terminations tended to be one-off complaints. Especially on high-risk and offshore accounts, these types of frustrations are inevitable and aren’t necessarily the fault of the merchant services provider. While I’d love to see zero complaints anywhere, finding eight that are gradually falling further into the past is not alarming.

All that said, you recognize the dilemma that not having a BBB profile causes merchants and reviewers. Despite its problems, the BBB provides a well-known forum to wade through comments from both consumers and business to look for any patterns. The vast majority of the businesses we review–good and bad–at least have profiles.

Nevertheless, I’ll give both SoarPay and the BBB the benefit of the doubt for now. If there were tons of egregious complaints coming in, I suspect there’d at least be an unaccredited BBB profile in existence by now. Meanwhile, we’d probably see a sizable chain of gripes pop up on another well-known site such as Yelp or Ripoff Report if there was truly a high demand for an alternative spot to leave complaints.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Soar’s homepage features three positive testimonials from business owners in high-risk industries. The owners cite good customer service and easy account setup as highlights of using Soar. Since the high-risk application process is more detailed and requires more documentation than traditional applications, this positive experience is all the more meaningful. And, since I haven’t seen complaints elsewhere about merchants being denied, I’m inclined to believe Soar’s advertised “98.7% approval” record.

If you spend any time on Soar’s website, you’ll notice they enjoy referring to endorsements as a top rated high-risk account provider. Although I may support the ultimate conclusions of these third-party reviews, I did notice some of their content was out of date or missing key information. Soar Payments has only been around since 2015, but in that time they’ve shifted their strategy and resulting advertising quite a bit.

Speaking of third-party reviews, there is one merchant testimonial from a “Jimmy A.” that appears identically on all three of them. I guess Soar has one super-fan!

Final Verdict

If you’re a high-risk merchant, chances are you’ve felt a bit desperate to sign with the first merchant account provider who’ll give you the time of day. By the same token, many high-risk account providers may prey on your sense of desperation and lure you into a bad deal.

I can’t tell you exactly what your pricing package will be with Soar Payments if you’re high-risk. However, I’m confident that Soar is a solid option for non-traditional merchants by other important measures of value.

There is a genuine and confidence-inspiring tone in Soar’s online resources for high-risk industries. All signs point toward a transparent and responsive personal experience with the staff. The low complaint volume (despite the lack of a BBB profile) is also encouraging, especially considering the general volatility of high-risk accounts.

Although the ETF of $495 is rough, Soar’s high-risk contract terms as a whole are very reasonable. You’re stuck with tiered pricing, but that’s also fairly standard among high-risk accounts. Meanwhile, Soar has upped its account approval rate and subsequent account stability by working with Chargeback.com and the NMI gateway to add additional protective features.

For low-risk merchants, I’m frankly a bit concerned that Soar’s ultra-competitive interchange-plus rate is unrealistic and unsustainable. When we confronted the CEO about this, he confirmed that they often break even or lose money on low-risk accounts. After facing the extreme competition in the low-risk market and subsequently changing their focus to high-risk, Soar decided to offer a single “take-it-or-leave-it” markup of 0.05% for any low-risk merchants who still come their way. In turn, having a few traditional merchants in the mix helps balance the overall risk of Soar’s portfolio.

Without publicizing the monthly minimum or any other fees, though, the rate does come across as a bit of a mini-teaser online. I do think Soar Payments will be up-front with you when you discuss your account in person. At the moment, we have no reason to believe there are any “hidden” fees besides those we’ve outlined above, but please share your experience with us in the comments if you are a low-risk merchant using Soar Payments. As the risk ratio of Soar’s overall portfolio evolves over time, we’ll keep tabs on those low-risk rates. I could also envision them becoming super selective when approving low-risk accounts.

To answer the question I posed at the beginning of the review, my instinct is that Soar Payments is a good option for companies across all risk levels, and could be really great at mid-to-high volumes. Be sure to check out some of our other preferred merchant accounts, as well as our current top high-risk providers, to make direct comparisons based on your own situation.

Apply to Soar Payments

Rose Holman

Rose Holman

Writer
Rose Holman is a writer, blogger, and educator from Portland, OR with an MA in Teaching from Western Oregon University. She enjoys educating SMB owners about the complicated (and notoriously sketchy) world of payment processing. Since starting at Merchant Maverick in 2016, she has also added eCommerce software to her areas of expertise.
Rose Holman
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