Soar Payments Review
- Ideal for high-risk merchants
- Automated custom price quoting
- Automated application process
- Fast underwriting
- No application fees
- Only works with US-based businesses
- Currently cannot accept CBD oil merchants
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. That’s 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 the 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.
Soar focuses much of its expertise on high-risk businesses. That said, I find it interesting that it also offers a surprisingly competitive and non-negotiable rate for low-risk accounts. So as long as the rest of its 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.
Table of Contents
Products & Services
The company offers a full range of products and services to meet the needs of any business, including the following:
- Merchant Accounts: Soar Payments 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 back-end 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.
- Countertop Credit Card Terminals: Soar’s high-risk accounts rarely require processing hardware such as card terminals and point of sale systems. Soar does offer the Verifone VX520 credit 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. The company is now also featuring the MaxxPay Mini, a wireless terminal from Electronic Merchant Systems. The Mini offers support for EMV and NFC-based payment methods and features a cloud-based reporting system that allows it to function as a portable point of sale (POS) system.
- Mobile Payments: The company mentions mobile processing on its home page but doesn’t disclose any details about a specific product. This probably stems from the fact that it’s trying to transition away from older, magstripe-only readers that require a headphone jack connection to a more modern system that supports EMV transactions and connects via Bluetooth. Check with your sales agent for the latest information if you need this capability.
- Point Of Sale (POS) Systems: Soar Payments also now offers the MaxxPay Pro POS system from Electronic Merchant Systems. While Soar doesn’t provide details on specific features, this product seems intended to be a low-cost competitor to the popular Clover line of POS systems.
- Payment Gateways: Soar Payments offers merchants a choice between the ever-popular Authorize.Net (see our review), the NMI Gateway, and USAePay for accepting and processing online transactions. Mid-to-high risk accounts will usually be set up with the NMI Gateway, while low-risk merchants more frequently use either Authorize.Net or USAePay. All three of these gateways are solid choices for any business that wants to sell products or services online.
- 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 Supported Platforms & Integrations page on Soar’s website for more details.
- Chargeback Management & 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 Armor and includes chargeback alert emails, representment services for fighting illegitimate chargebacks, and use of the iSpyFraud filter to detect fraud, screen suspicious transactions, and block suspicious activity.
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 with a high-risk package.
Fees & Rates
Soar Payments appears to have removed most pricing disclosures from its website since our last review update. The information below is presented mainly to give you a general idea of what your costs will be. Pricing varies widely depending on the merchant’s level of risk and processing history. You’ll need to obtain a rate quote from one of the company’s sales representatives to get a more accurate idea of your overall costs.
Mid & High-Risk Pricing
- Tiered pricing is the standard model.
- Qualified Tier: Mid-risk merchants are offered a rate as low as 2.49% per transaction.
- Mid-qualified and non-qualified rates vary widely depending on risk, volume, etc.
- Monthly Fees: These vary widely depending on risk but will include a monthly minimum and merchant on-file fee at a minimum.
- Gateway Fee: $15 per month + $0.25 per transaction
- Chargeback Fee: $45 per incident
- ACH Debit: $15 per month + 2.50% per transaction
- Offshore Processing: A variable cost but expect higher rates and fees overall.
- No application fees
- Early Termination Fee: $495
Chargeback Armor (underwriting determines which features are required vs. optional)
- Chargeback Email Alerts: There’s no monthly fee, a $25 per alert, and $15 per refund action taken (a savings of $5 over the normal $45 chargeback fee).
- Chargeback Representments: There’s no monthly fee, but it’s $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 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 manage chargebacks effectively.
And finally, let’s discuss low-risk accounts since Soar also services this sector of the merchant world.
- Interchange-Plus pricing available
- 0.05% + $0.00 interchange markup for both retail and card-not-present
- Merchant On-File Fee: $10 per month
- Monthly Minimum: $25 per month
- Gateway Fee: $10 per month + $0.10 per transaction
- Chargeback Fee: $15 per incident
- PCI Non-Compliance (Only If Applicable): $19.95 per month
- 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 $25.00. Remember that a monthly minimum is an 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 incredibly 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 website does not currently list the monthly minimum and other specific fees. 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.
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 the 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 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 its 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 early termination fee is no fun, but I’m not too surprised it’s in place. While we’d generally steer you clear of long-term contracts, if you’re high enough risk, you’ll likely have one as part of your agreement regardless of which provider you use. 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:
- Month-to-month plans with no contracts
- No early termination fee (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 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.
With such a small staff, the company relies heavily on its website to market accounts and sign up merchants. The site includes an Online Application feature that allows you to submit the required information about your business and receive a quote once you’ve sent it in. It only takes about five minutes to complete the application, so this is an easy way to get a quote that you can easily compare against what other vendors have offered you.
As convenient as this process is, there are a few reasons to be cautious. For one thing, online applications are designed to be convenient for the provider — not you. Soar Payments doesn’t just send you a rate quote when you submit an online application — they send you a complete contract that you can sign electronically. It’s all too easy for a new merchant to sign the document and send it back. Don’t do this! You need to review your entire contract very carefully before you sign anything. If your agreement includes an initial two-year term, you’ll be legally committed to that term the moment you sign it and send it back.
You should also be cautious of any provider offering instant or rapid approval of your merchant account. While this can seem like a convenient feature if you need to start accepting credit cards right away, you should be aware that instant approval involves cutting some corners. The underwriting process is designed to ensure that your business will be a good fit with your processor, and it takes time to complete. High-risk accounts take even more time, especially if the processor needs to check your personal credit as well as the processing history of your business. When this process is completed after you’ve already signed up for an account, there will be a much higher risk that your account will be quickly shut down for one reason or another once you start processing transactions. For more in-depth information about the risks involved with instant approval for high-risk merchant accounts, please see our article Do High-Risk Merchant Accounts With Instant Approval Exist?.
As we’ve noted above, Soar Payments has removed most (if not all) of the specific pricing disclosures from its website since our last review update. While this is a little disappointing, we realize that there is usually no “one size fits all” pricing solution when working with the high-risk business community. Soar Payments and other high-risk providers have to work with a large variety of banks and back-end processors to get you approved for an account. This usually means that pricing is simply too variable for it to provide any meaningful disclosures that would be valid for all potential customers. Fortunately, the online application process allows you to get a customized quote for your business in very little time. Just be sure not to sign anything until you’re confident that you’re ready to commit.
Overall, Soar Payments comes across as an honest company that earnestly strives to help high-risk merchants find a processing home. Combine this with its “take-it-or-leave-it” interchange-plus rate for lower-risk accounts, and you get the sense that Soar won’t pressure you to sign up if it’s not a good fit for your business.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Regular business hours for Soar Payments are 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern Time, and each of the employees at this small company has a direct line. If you can’t get in touch with your account representative for after-hours problems, you’ll be redirected to your back-end 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.
Soar’s website has a general FAQ section that 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.
Since our last review update, Soar Payments has replaced its blog with PayPod, a podcast dedicated to discussing payments with numerous leaders from throughout the processing industry. If you want to learn more about how the processing industry works, this is an excellent resource.
High-risk merchant account providers frequently receive more than their fair share of criticism from merchants due to the additional challenges involved with serving the high-risk community. That isn’t the case with Soar Payments, however. They have a sterling online reputation that any provider would envy.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Soar Payments has been accredited by the BBB since 2018 and currently has an A+ rating. The company has a remarkable zero complaints and seven positive reviews from customers, all posted within the past year. All of the positive reviews are 5-star, which leads us to suspect that the company has been actively encouraging merchants to put in a good word for them. Nonetheless, the reviews themselves are convincing and appear to come from legitimate businesses, so we don’t see a problem here.
There are also currently no complaints against Soar Payments on Ripoff Report. However, we have found a small number of older complaints scattered across the web, mostly citing poor customer support as a problem. The other complaints, primarily of account holds, freezes, and terminations, are to be expected in the high-risk processing industry. In most cases, these issues are the responsibility of the back-end processor, not Soar Payments.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Soar Payments’ home page used to feature three positive testimonials from high-risk business owners, but they’ve since been taken down. Instead, the company now offers a brief Reviews page on its site that links to positive reviews on Facebook, the BBB, and BirdEye.com. While there’s a lot of duplication here with identical reviews from the same customer being posted in multiple locations, they all appear legitimate. Reviewers cited the company’s willingness to sign up high-risk merchants and the helpfulness and honesty of the sales team as particular strengths. This is in marked contrast to the kind of experience many high-risk merchants encounter when trying to find a merchant account.
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. 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 all 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 extremely low complaint volume is also encouraging, especially considering the general volatility of high-risk accounts.
Although the $495 early termination fee (for some accounts) 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 its 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. 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, we’ll keep tabs on those low-risk rates. I could also envision them becoming super-selective when approving low-risk accounts. At the beginning of the review, I posed the question of whether or not I could recommend Soar. My instinct is that Soar Payments is a good option for companies across all risk levels, and could be great at mid-to-high volumes. Be sure to check out some of our other preferred merchant account providers, as well as our current top high-risk providers, to make direct comparisons based on your situation.
Credit Card Processor Rating Criteria.