TSYS Merchant Solutions Review
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- Date Established
- Columbus, Georgia
- Direct processor
- Robust product lineup
- Interchange-plus pricing available
- EMV-compliant terminals available
- Low complaint volume relative to size
- Three-year contract term
- $250 early termination fee
- Tiered pricing plans
- Inconsistent customer service
Total System Services, Inc. (TSYS) is a merchant account provider and credit card processor headquartered in Columbus, Georgia. In addition to regional offices around the United States, the company has an international presence, serving clients in over 80 countries around the world. Although its roots go back to 1959, TSYS has been an independent business entity since 1983. Not only is it one of the oldest processors in the industry, but it’s also one of the largest. With over 650,000 merchants on board and an annual processing volume of more than 1 trillion dollars, it’s second only to First Data in size. In December 2017, TSYS got even more massive, acquiring Cayan in a $1.05 billion deal.
A company this big is bound to have numerous internal divisions, and TSYS is no exception. The two divisions of primary concern to US-based merchants are TSYS Acquiring Solutions and TSYS Merchant Solutions. TSYS Acquiring Solutions serves as a back-end processor for other merchant account providers, including CPAY and many others. TSYS Merchant Solutions, on the other hand, is the company’s direct sales channel. This is where you would go to sign up directly with TSYS, rather than through a middle-man, and I’ll focus solely on this division in this review.
As you may know, there are many resellers (called ISOs/agents) of TSYS that either contract TSYS for their processing platform, or act as referral partners for all of the company’s services. Some of those resellers are going to be ethical, and others are not. My advice would be to just go directly with TSYS Merchant Solutions for the most standardized and predictable experience. They have their own in-house sales team, and they can sign you up directly. There’s no need to go through a middle-man – unless that middle-man is going to offer you something above and beyond what TSYS Merchant Solutions can give you, such as better customer support or training.
For an organization of this size, I was surprised to find a relatively small number of complaints. I’ve seen smaller providers with five times as many complaints as this very large processor. As a point of comparison, the largest processor in the country, First Data, has over 1,000 BBB complaints. TSYS has well under 100. This is very encouraging in terms of assessing overall trends at the corporate level. Furthermore, the complaints that do crop up are usually handled quickly and ethically, including refunds when a misunderstanding occurs.
Things are not perfect with TSYS, but – if you approach them as an educated merchant – there is no reason why you can’t get good service at a reasonable price. My one real warning is this: If you only process a low volume (say, under $5,000 per month), TSYS may not be able to get you the best deal possible. A bit of negotiation may get you some results, but overall they are generally not the best option for low-volume processing. Check out our Merchant Account Comparison Chart for better choices, or consider a mobile-based processor such as Square (see our review) for very low volumes.
When compared to other processors of this size, TSYS performs very well and earns a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. If you run a high-volume business or have complex processing needs, definitely check them out. Most mid-volume businesses can also find good service here. But, as always, use caution when dealing with resellers and independent agents.
Check out the full review below for more information. Good luck!
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Table of Contents
Products & Services
TSYS Merchant Services offers a complete lineup of products and services for retail, ecommerce, and omnichannel businesses. Here are some of their most common features:
- Merchant Accounts: TSYS is a direct processor, meaning they’ll manage your merchant account and process all your transactions. This arrangement makes it easier to deal with issues such as chargebacks and account freezes.
- Genius® Integrated Payments Platform: As part of TSYS’ acquisition of Cayan, they’ve also acquired Cayan’s omnichannel payment processing system, called Genius®. It combines a variety of countertop, wireless, and mobile terminals with a payment gateway to allow in-person and online payments using credit cards, debit cards, or eCheck (ACH) payments. The system is cloud-based, so all transactions will sync across all your devices automatically. All physical terminals support EMV payments, and the system is secured with tokenization and point-to-point (P2P) encryption.
- Credit Card Terminals: TSYS offers a number of Ingenico and Verifone credit card machines and PIN pads, including both wired and wireless models. All models are EMV-compliant, and some of them also support NFC-based payment options such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. While pricing is not disclosed for any equipment, we highly recommend buying your terminals outright rather than leasing them. If you buy your terminal online rather than directly from TSYS, remember that you’ll have to pay a re-programming fee to make it compatible with your TSYS merchant account.
- Payment Gateway: For eCommerce merchants, TSYS offers their proprietary TSYS Gateway. This full-featured payment gateway can process card-not-present transactions and also in-person (i.e., card-present) transactions with an optional USB-connected magstripe card reader. It offers many standard features, including support for hosted payment pages, a customer payment information database, support for recurring billing, and tokenization for enhanced security. If you need something a little more powerful, or just don’t want to be stuck with a proprietary product, you can also use Authorize.Net (see our review) with your TSYS merchant account.
- Virtual Terminal: The TSYS Virtual Terminal turns your desktop or laptop computer into a full-featured credit card terminal. Virtual terminals allow you to enter transactions manually or by swiping your customers’ cards using an optional USB-connected card reader. The company doesn’t offer an EMV-compliant card reader for use with its virtual terminal at this time.
- Tablet-Based Point-Of-Sale (POS) System: TSYS offers their TSYS Tablet POS system, which comes with a tablet, stand and card reader. While pricing is no longer disclosed, the company previously advertised fees of $39.95-49.95 per month, depending on the options you chose. The TSYS Tablet POS is compatible with iPads and Android tablets.
- Mobile Processing: TSYS also offers mobile processing through their Mobile Payment Acceptance Solution, which uses a free magstripe card reader and the free Mobile Payment Acceptance app. It’s available for both iOS and Android. There is currently no support for EMV or NFC payments with this system. You can expect to pay a small monthly fee for this service.
- DIALPAY Credit Card Processing: This unique processing service uses any touch-tone phone (or mobile phone) and a toll-free phone number to allow you to process transactions 24/7 without a terminal or any other kind of processing hardware. You’ll have to use an old-school card imprinter with carbon copy paper to issue receipts, though. Of course, you’ll also have to pay higher interchange rates since your transactions will all be card-not-present. Unless you only need to accept credit card payments occasionally, you can probably skip this service. It is free, though.
- eCheck (ACH) Processing: If you need to be able to accept checks as payment, you can add this optional feature. TSYS partners with CrossCheck to provide this service, but doesn’t disclose pricing.
TSYS earns a “good” rating in this section due to its full line of essential products and services to get the most out of your merchant account. However, we’re a little disappointed that the second-largest processor in the country doesn’t offer EMV-compliant card readers for mobile processing or use with its virtual terminal software.
Fees & Rates
TSYS used to offer several Simplified Pricing plans for small businesses, in addition to a customized pricing option. While the simplified plans were presented as flat-rate pricing options, the fine print indicated that they were actually tiered pricing plans, meaning you would pay a much higher rate than the one advertised for mid-qualified and non-qualified transactions. Because most transactions will be downgraded to mid-qualified or non-qualified for one reason or another, this type of advertising is very misleading, and we’re glad the company has dropped this sales gimmick.
With simplified pricing no longer an option, you’ll have to negotiate a customized rate plan for your business. Be sure to insist on interchange-plus pricing and be prepared to walk away if it isn’t offered to you. Because the company offers both tiered and interchange-plus plans, it’s possible that some very small or newly-established businesses without a processing history will simply not qualify for interchange-plus pricing. If this happens to you, you’re probably better off going with a provider that’s better prepared to meet your needs. Take a look at our Merchant Account Comparison Chart for some recommendations.
TSYS fee page example
With the reorganization of TSYS Merchant Solutions’ website, the company no longer discloses any information about account fees. However, it’s unlikely that these fees have changed significantly, and previously disclosed information is still relevant in getting an idea of what you’ll pay to maintain a merchant account with TSYS.
The company doesn’t usually charge any application or account setup fees. This is a good thing, as these fees are generally “junk” fees that don’t provide you with anything of value beyond what you’re already getting. These fees have always been unpopular with merchants, and they’re gradually being phased out throughout the processing industry. You might see these fees if you have no previous processing history or are in a high-risk business category.
You can expect to pay a monthly account fee, which in the past has ranged from as little as $9.95 per month to as high as $49.95 per month. How much you pay will depend on your monthly processing volume, the processing rates offered to you (lower rates will usually require a higher monthly fee), and whether you include a “free” terminal with your account. Nothing is ever truly free in the processing industry, and you can bet that acceptance of a “free” terminal or tablet POS system will come with some sort of trade-off. You might have to pay a higher monthly account fee, or maybe you won’t be granted a waiver of your early termination fee. At a bare minimum, you’ll have to return the equipment promptly if you close your account to avoid being charged an inflated fee for the machine.
Like almost every processor in the industry, TSYS wants you to believe that they don’t charge any “hidden” fees. In a literal sense, this is true. Every monthly, annual, and incidental fee you might be responsible for will be disclosed somewhere in the fine print of your contract. It’s up to you to review your agreement very thoroughly before you sign up for an account. Some of these fees can be waived if you negotiate ahead of time, but once you sign on the dotted line your ability to waive any fees diminishes drastically. Incidental fees, such as for chargebacks, generate the most merchant complaints because you might go a long time without ever paying them, only to be hit with one out of the blue. The good news is that we haven’t seen many complaints from TSYS customers regarding fees. This indicates that the company does a good job of disclosing fees during the sales process, and that the fees they charge are reasonable and in line with industry averages.
TSYS earns a “fair” rating in this category because they no longer disclose any information regarding processing rates or account fees. Also, their customized pricing appears to push expensive tiered pricing plans instead of interchange-plus pricing, unless you specifically request the latter.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
Regardless of what type of pricing plan you have, all merchant account contracts with TSYS include a standard three-year term and an automatic renewal clause that extends the contract in one-year intervals after that. All contracts also include an early termination clause which imposes a $250.00 early termination fee if you close your account before the term has expired.
Obviously, you’ll want to have the early termination clause waived before you agree to sign up. Be sure to get it in writing and keep a copy of the waiver – just in case. You should also be aware that removing the early termination clause does not give you a true month-to-month contract. While you’ll be able to close your account without penalty, you’re still technically on the hook for the full three-year term. We’ve seen numerous complaints from merchants alleging that their processor continued to automatically charge them monthly fees for months after they thought their account had been closed.
If you do end up in a situation where you need to close your account early, follow the instructions in your contract to the letter. Most providers require at least 30 days’ notice (sometimes as many as 90 days) and submission of a written form. You’ll also want to return your equipment promptly. I recommend using certified mail to ship your terminals back, so you can get a receipt confirming that the equipment was received.
With a standard three-year term, an automatic renewal clause, and an early termination fee, TSYS only rates a “fair” in this category. However, we’d point out that their termination fee is relatively low by industry standards, and it appears to be fairly easy to get it waived. We’d give them a “good” rating here for merchants who are able to obtain a waiver.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
TSYS Merchant Solutions has recently removed its old website and incorporated its content into the main TSYS site. Unfortunately, transparency has taken a big hit due to this change. As noted above, there is no longer any disclosure of pricing – either for processing rate plans or account fees. While it’s very common in the processing industry to not advertise processing rates due to the complex variables involved in setting rates for a particular business, we’re nonetheless disappointed that the company doesn’t at least mention the availability of interchange-plus pricing.
On a more positive note, TSYS does not rely on independent sales agents to market their services, using a fully-trained staff of in-house sales representatives instead. While this doesn’t provide an iron-clad guarantee that you’ll get top-notch service and full disclosure of contract terms, it does improve the odds considerably. It’s far easier for TSYS (or any other processor) to monitor the performance of in-house employees and ensure that they’re following the company’s sales policies. Note that if you sign up with one of the company’s many sub-ISOs, you might have to deal with an independent agent. In most cases, we recommend working directly with TSYS Merchant Solutions to avoid this possibility.
TSYS Merchant Solutions has a robust social media presence, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They also have a YouTube channel. All these accounts are frequently updated, and the YouTube channel features many customer testimonials and merchant education videos.
The company earns a “good” rating in this category due to their use of an in-house sales team. While we’d like to see more pricing disclosures, we realized that pricing is highly customized to each merchant and there is a lot of variation in this area.
Customer Service & Technical Support
TSYS offers customer service and support through email and a 24/7 telephone line. They do not currently have a chat feature. Unlike most companies providing 24-hour telephone support, TSYS does not use outsourced representatives – all customer service reps are US-based.
If you peruse through our readers’ comments below, you’ll see that poor customer service is a common complaint. While this is an issue with most merchant account providers, it’s particularly acute with a company as large as TSYS. While they clearly have the financial resources to improve the quality of their customer service, they simply haven’t done it.
Self-service options are also available, but they aren’t very in-depth and are more for educational purposes than actual troubleshooting. The TSYS website includes a Merchant Support page that has several FAQs and informative articles.
The company’s “good” rating in this category is due to their providing true 24/7, US-based telephone support. Merchant complaints regarding the quality of that support brought their score down a little. We’d also like to see TSYS expand their self-help and educational resources on their website.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
TSYS Merchant Solutions has eleven separate profiles with the BBB that correspond to the company’s network of regional offices throughout the country. A headquarters profile that combines complaints and reviews from all offices is currently under revision, so we weren’t able to examine the details of individual complaints. However, the company does show a total of 60 complaints filed within the past three years, with 18 of those complaints having been filed within the past twelve months. Although customer reviews are currently unavailable, the company shows an average rating of just one star out of a possible five stars. The company also has 10 complaints on Ripoff Report, most of which are quite old at this point.
This may seem like a lot of complaints, and for most companies, it would be. However, TSYS is a huge processor and has hundreds of thousands of merchants using its services. Given this fact, the company’s complaint volume is actually remarkably low relative to its size.
Overall, this is an impressive performance. Less impressive is the disclosure that in 2016 the company was fined $4.5 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and ordered to pay nearly $28,000,000 in restitution for deceptive practices relating to Consumer Credit Monitoring and Debt Cancellation products they were selling. While this government action doesn’t appear to be related to merchant accounts or credit card processing, it’s certainly damaging to the TSYS brand’s reputation. Ironically, the company was recently selected by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2018.
On all these sites, the most common complaints included the following issues:
- Early Termination Fees: There were several complaints from merchants who were charged a $250 early termination fee despite having a signed waiver in their contract. This can happen due to a miscommunication – or a lack of communication – between the sales representative who set up the account and the billing department. If this happens to you, insist on a refund and provide a copy of your waiver. You’ll get your money back. Also, beware of the automatic renewal clause in your contract. If you wait too long to notify TSYS that you’re closing your account, you’ll be on the hook for another year. When there are many other merchant account providers that don’t charge an ETF or lock you into a long-term contract at all, it becomes hard to justify signing up with TSYS.
- Difficulty Closing Accounts: This issue may be the most common one I saw. Many merchants have complained about being billed monthly fees after requesting to have their accounts closed. While I find this entirely unacceptable, I am at least glad to report that they seem to offer refunds in many cases. Still, keep an eye on your bank account when you end your TSYS contract.
- Expensive Equipment Leases: While TSYS seems to be moving toward selling their terminals outright, there are still a lot of complaints from merchants who were signed up for a 48-month non-cancellable lease. Whether you stick with your lease for the entire four years or cancel early, you’ll pay the same: thousands of dollars for a machine that you can purchase outright for only several hundred dollars.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
You’ll find eleven video testimonials on the TSYS YouTube channel, all of which seem genuine and realistic in terms of the comments made (even if much of it is not really useful information). While it is, of course, an extremely small sampling of all TSYS customers, I do appreciate seeing a few satisfied customers speaking about their experiences. The interviewed merchants cited low rates and excellent customer service as two of the best features of TSYS. While this may seem ironic considering what we’ve had to say about their rates and customer service, remember that people are easily a hundred times more likely to complain than they are to praise. If you’ve had a positive experience with TSYS, please let us know about it in the Comments section below.
TSYS receives a “good” rating in this category due to their low complaint volume relative to the company’s size and because they offer a robust lineup of convincing testimonials from some of their merchants.
Overall, TSYS makes the grade as a viable payment processor. They offer a full range of products and services for just about any kind of business, and their pricing models are flexible enough to be a good fit for large and small merchants alike. Their very low complaint volume relative to their size is a strong indicator that the majority of their merchants are happy with their service, even if they don’t take the time to offer any positive comments about it online.
At the same time, TSYS is far from perfect. While they offer interchange-plus pricing, they also use the generally more expensive tiered pricing. If you want to avoid being stuck with a tiered plan and overpaying for credit card processing, you’ll have to take the initiative and insist on an interchange-plus plan when negotiating the details of your account.
We’re also not happy with the redesign of the TSYS website. All pricing disclosures have been removed, resulting in far less transparency than the previous site offered. While there are some valid reasons for doing this, we’d at least like to see a discussion of interchange-plus pricing and how it works somewhere on the site. Disclosures of at least some of the more common standardized fees (i.e., PCI compliance fees, etc.) would also be helpful.
TSYS could also improve the overall value of their service by following the growing trend within the industry and eliminating both the early termination fee and the three-year contract term altogether. With so many of their competitors already offering true month-to-month contracts, they need to make this change as soon as possible. Overall, TSYS Merchant Services rates 4 out of 5 stars. They’re a solid choice, but be sure to negotiate aggressively and review your contract before you sign up.
Thanks for reading! Check out our Merchant Account Comparison Chart to see your other options. As always, if you’ve had any experience with TSYS Merchant Solutions, we encourage you to leave a review in the Comments section below.
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To learn more about how we score our reviews, see our Credit Card Processor Rating Criteria.