Vanco Payment Solutions Review
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- Date Established
- Atlanta, Georgia
Vanco Payment Solutions is a merchant account provider with main headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and a second office in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company is the result of a merger between Vanco Services, which was established in 1998 in Minneapolis, and Veracity Payment Solutions, which started up in 2007 in Atlanta. Veracity acquired Vanco in 2014, and the merged company now does business as Vanco Payment Solutions (VPS).
Vanco currently has over 30,000 clients and processes more than $13.1 billion in transactions per year, making it a fairly large player in the merchant accounts industry. Unlike most merchant account providers, who try to appeal to a broad range of businesses, Vanco focuses on the faith-based, nonprofit, and professional services sectors, and their product lineup reflects that focus. In fact, if you’re not in one of these sectors, you’ll probably be better off going with a different provider, as Vanco’s support for traditional retail and eCommerce businesses is somewhat limited. For example, they don’t offer a Point-of-Sale (POS) system.
For those who are in the sectors Vanco specializes in serving, they’re an excellent choice. Vanco’s Give+ mobile app is a fairly unique service for faith-based and nonprofit organizations, allowing donors to make one-time or recurring donations on their smartphones.
Overall, Vanco rates an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars. The company doesn’t fully disclose processing rates and account fees on their website, and their customer testimonials don’t have enough identifying information to make them very convincing. These minor shortcomings aside, they’re an excellent choice for churches, nonprofits, and professional services such as doctors, attorneys, and dentists.
Table of Contents
Products & Services:
Vanco’s services are designed to meet the needs of businesses and other organizations that accept donations and payments for services rather than traditional retail merchandise transactions, and their lineup of products and services reflects this. They offer the following:
- Merchant accounts. Regardless of the type of organization you’re running, providing a merchant account is the heart of Vanco’s service. Accounts are full merchant accounts, with a unique merchant ID number – as opposed to aggregated accounts like Square offers. It’s not clear whether Vanco processes transactions in-house or relies on a third-party processor for this function.
- Payment gateway. Vanco offers a proprietary full-service payment gateway to allow payments or donations via your website or in person using a virtual terminal. Their gateway supports credit/debit card and eCheck payment methods and is PCI Level 1 Compliant. Special features include Give by Text, Give by Kiosk, and Online Giving through a hosted page on your website. Pricing for the gateway is included in your monthly account fee.
- Credit card terminals. If your organization needs a credit card terminal to process card-present transactions, Vanco has you covered. While they don’t disclose much information about their terminals, it appears that they’ll set you up with the popular Verifone VX 520 terminal, a solid, basic terminal that’s EMV-compliant, and NFC-capable. Vanco doesn’t lease their terminals, either – something we’re always happy to see. Instead, they’ll sell you a terminal for $325 if you sign up for one of their special pricing plans. There’s also a maintenance fee of $8.00 per month. While this is a reasonable price, you can usually get the same terminal for a lot less online. However, it won’t come with the software load to make it compatible with your Vanco merchant account. You’ll want to check with your sales representative to see how much Vanco charges to re-program existing equipment, as they don’t disclose this information on their website.
- USB card reader. Vanco also offers a magstripe USB card reader for a flat price of $125.00. Used in conjunction with their virtual terminal, you can turn your laptop or desktop into a credit card terminal and process card transactions at card-present rates. Unfortunately, the current card reader is magstripe-only and isn’t EMV compliant. Also, you can buy the same card reader for a lot less if you shop around.
- Mobile processing. Vanco supports mobile processing with their Vanco Payments Mobile Access app for smartphones and tablets. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android. To use this system, you’ll need Vanco’s card reader, which plugs into your headphone jack and is magstripe-only. The card reader currently costs $45, a rather high price for a product that is rapidly becoming obsolete with the switch to EMV chip cards.
- Give+ mobile app. This free app integrates with your Vanco merchant account and allows church members to make donations via their smartphones. Currently, it’s only available for iOS.
Fees & Rates:
While some of the best merchant account providers fully disclose their prices right on their websites, many others don’t disclose any pricing information at all. Vanco falls somewhere in the middle, providing information on a number of pricing options, but not fully disclosing everything you might have to pay. Pricing information is scattered across at least two different websites, with some information being listed on the main Vanco website, and other details appearing on a separate site devoted to their Online Giving program.
Vanco’s pricing options fall into two broad categories: (1) a number of flat-rate plans for faith-based and nonprofit organizations, and (2) customized pricing for professional services clients. If you’re a medical office, law firm, or a similar business, Vanco does not disclose pricing information that applies to your business. Rates and fees are highly variable, and you’ll have to negotiate to get the best deal you can. As a general rule, businesses with higher monthly processing volumes will get lower processing rates, but will also pay higher monthly fees to maintain their accounts.
On the other hand, if you’re a faith-based or nonprofit organization, Vanco currently offers a choice of four different plans that are designed around the size and needs of your organization. Here are your options:
- Start plan: $10.00 monthly account fee
- Grow plan: $30.00 monthly account fee
- Sustain plan: $60.00 monthly account fee
- Thrive plan: $150.00 monthly account fee
For faith-based clients, which one of these plans is recommended for you will depend on how many people attend your church each week. For congregations of 100 or fewer people, the Start Plan is recommended. The Grow plan is best if your weekly attendance is between 100 and 500 people. If your attendance is between 500 and 1000 people, you’ll want the Sustain plan. Lastly, the Thrive plan is designed for churches which have over 1000 people attending each week.
If you want to add the Give by Kiosk option, it will cost you $69.00 per month + a one-time equipment fee under the Start plan, or $49.00 per month + a one-time equipment fee under the Grow, Sustain, or Thrive plans. The Give by Text option is $25.00 per month under the Start plan, or $10.00 per month under the Grow or Sustain plans. Give by Text is included for free under the Thrive plan. Online Giving Pages are an additional $10.00 per month under the Start, Grow, or Sustain plans. They’re free under the Thrive plan.
In addition to these costs, nonprofits are charged a one-time account setup fee of $100.00. The setup fee is waived for faith-based organizations.
What about processing rates? Vanco has this to say in the fine print:
Processing fees as low as 1.95% + $0.15/transaction based on donation volume. No hidden fees or unexplained charges.
Ordinarily, we don’t like to see “rates as low as” claims from merchant account providers, as it’s usually a sign that they’re using a tiered pricing model, and the rate they’re quoting only applies to qualified transactions. Mid-qualified and non-qualified transactions will process at a much higher rate. That’s not the case with Vanco. On the pricing page for their Online Giving site, they explain that their pricing is flat-rate, and that there’s no surcharge for mid-qualified or non-qualified transactions. That’s a much better deal than tiered pricing, although it’s important to remember that 1.95% is the lowest flat rate they offer. If you’re running a megachurch and you’re on the Thrive plan, you might see that rate for card-present transactions, but in most other cases you’ll be paying a higher rate. Because of this unique pricing structure, it’s critically important that you clarify the actual processing rates you’ll qualify for when negotiating with your Vanco sales representative.
How about the “no hidden fees” claim? For the most part, Vanco is being very straightforward here. You won’t pay separate charges for things like PCI compliance or your monthly account statement. Instead, you’re paying for those things under your monthly account fee. Although Vanco’s account fees are on the high side (especially the Sustain and Thrive plans), this should make your month-to-month costs much more predictable. Vanco still charges separately for per-occurrence items, such as chargebacks ($25.00 each).
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee:
Vanco currently offers month-to-month contracts with no early termination fee. As long as you provide 30 days’ notice, you can close your Vanco account with no penalty. This apparently hasn’t always been the case, as there is a BBB complaint from 2015 where a merchant was charged a $295.00 early termination fee. In this case, Vanco was willing to refund the ETF, as the merchant claimed that it was never revealed to him by any of Vanco’s sales representatives.
The most current version of Vanco’s Processing Agreement we were able to obtain states that the contract continues indefinitely unless terminated by either party upon thirty days’ notice, and that’s what you should expect in most cases. There are, however, two possible exceptions that you should look out for. For one thing, if you’ve been with Vanco for several years or more, it’s possible that you’re still under a contract that includes a specified term and an early termination fee. If so, you’ll want to contact Vanco and re-negotiate your contract to have this removed.
Another possible exception is for high-risk merchants. Vanco doesn’t market to high-risk merchants or mention them in their advertising, but some types of professional services businesses (bankruptcy attorneys, for example) fall into the high-risk category. So, it’s possible that if Vanco considers your business to be high-risk, you might have to accept a long-term contract with an early termination fee as the price of being approved for a merchant account.
In any event, it’s critically important that you thoroughly review your entire contract before you sign up. Even with a reputable company like Vanco, there’s no guarantee that they’ll cover all the details in your contract.
Sales & Advertising Transparency:
Vanco has an in-house sales team and also uses independent agents to market its services. While the use of independent sales agents has frequently caused a lot of problems in the merchant accounts industry, Vanco’s agents appear to be well-trained and properly supervised. We’ve seen very few complaints about misleading or unethical behavior on the part of the company’s sales agents, which is a good indication that they have good training and supervision programs in place.
Nonetheless, we’d recommend that you try to work with an in-house representative if at all possible. They’re almost always more knowledgeable about the company’s products and services, and they’re more likely to be still working with the company down the road when you have a problem that you need help in solving.
Vanco’s website is better than what a lot of other merchant account providers offer, but it could be better. I’m glad to see that pricing information is posted, although it’s incomplete and scattered across several sites. I’d like to see some discussion of pricing options for professional services clients, as they aren’t eligible for the same flat-rate pricing that faith-based and nonprofit organizations receive.
The company also maintains a respectable presence on social media, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. They also have a YouTube channel, but it currently has only one video. This is an underutilized resource, and it would be a good idea for Vanco to expand this to include customer testimonials and tutorials.
Customer Service & Technical Support:
Vanco provides customer service and support via telephone from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM (Eastern time), Monday through Friday. Emergency technical support is also available on a 24/7 basis. The company can also be reached by email at any time, with a response time of no more than 24 hours.
Customers also have 24/7 access to MyVanco, an online service where you can enter donations, generate reports, and download helpful resources. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t offer much in the way of a knowledgebase or FAQ on its main website for self-help.
While there are a few minor complaints about Vanco’s customer service scattered about on the internet, the general lack of more formal complaints (i.e., on the BBB) is a good indication that the company performs acceptably well in this area. If you’ve had any experience with Vanco’s customer service, please tell us about it in the Comments section below.
Negative Reviews & Complaints:
Vanco currently has two separate profiles with the BBB. The Vanco Payment Solutions, LLC profile covers the Minneapolis office and has been accredited since 2013. It currently has an overall A+ rating, with only one complaint filed within the last three years. The Vanco Payment Solutions profile covers the Atlanta office and has only been accredited since June 2016. It also has an A+ rating with zero complaints.
For a company that has over 30,000 clients, this is an impressive record. A company with this large of a client base will usually have many more complaints, so it’s apparent that Vanco is doing something right when it comes to taking care of their customers. As we’ve already discussed above, the one BBB complaint involved an early termination fee, which is an issue that most current clients won’t have to worry about anymore.
There is also one complaint against the company on Ripoff Report, but it’s from 2009 and was filed against Vanco Services. It’s not entirely clear exactly what this complaint was about.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials:
It’s rare for clients of merchant account providers to take the time to post a positive testimonial on the internet, so companies are often left to solicit testimonials themselves and then publish them on their websites. Naturally, these testimonials are pretty one-sided, and won’t include any criticism of the company. Nonetheless, positive testimonials can be useful to prospective clients by highlighting specific features of a provider’s services.
Vanco comes up a little short in this area. You’ll find a few very brief testimonials (often only one sentence) scattered randomly across their main website. They also have a full page of testimonials on the Online Giving site. While these testimonials are longer and better written, they fail to disclose the identity of the people or organizations making the testimonial. This seriously lessens their credibility, as there’s no way to verify who the testimonial actually came from.
Vanco could improve in this area by including identifying information to go along with their testimonials. I’d also like to see them add some video testimonials to their YouTube page. Other providers do this, and they’re much more convincing.
Sometimes the best – and most independent – testimonials come from our readers. So, if you’ve had a positive experience with Vanco, please take a moment or two to tell us about it in the Comments section below.
Final Verdict on Vanco Payment Solutions:
Vanco is a much more specialized processor than most of the other companies we review. Unless you’re in one of the categories they provide services to, you’ll probably be better off going with one of our top-rated providers. However, if you are in one of the categories that Vanco specializes in working with, they’re a solid choice. Vanco’s prices and terms are best suited to faith-based organizations, as they seem to be more focused on this niche than anything else.
I’m a little irked that Vanco waives the $100 account setup fee for faith-based organizations, but not for non-religious nonprofits. While they’re perfectly free to do this, account setup fees offer little or no value to the customer, and most of the more reputable merchant account providers have stopped charging them altogether. I’d like to see Vanco follow suit and eliminate this fee as well.
If you’re running a non-religious nonprofit, Vanco is still a good choice, but it’s not the best choice available. Take a look at Dharma Merchant Services, one of our favorite providers and compare them to what Vanco can offer you. Dharma also specializes in working with nonprofits and offers a discount on processing rates – something Vanco doesn’t appear to do.
Vanco’s monthly account fees are also a little on the high side, at least for some of their higher-volume plans. Just remember that this single fee covers all the things that other providers will charge you for individually. So, rather than paying separately for PCI compliance and access to their payment gateway, you’re just paying a single fee. The advantage here is that it makes your month-to-month costs much more predictable, as you’re not getting surprised by extra, hidden fees. In comparing Vanco against other providers, you’ll need to determine how the total cost of another provider’s fees compares to Vanco’s single monthly fee.
Vanco’s processing rates appear to be competitive, although it’s hard to say with certainty as they only disclose their lowest rate. The absence of higher, mid-qualified and non-qualified rates is a big plus, though.
Overall, Vanco scores very well – 4.5 out of 5 stars. They’re a great choice for churches and other faith-based organizations who only need a way to collect donations via credit cards and online. For nonprofits and professional services, they may be able to set you up with a great deal, but you’ll want to shop around and compare them against other providers before signing up.
To learn more about how we score our reviews, see our Credit Card Processor Rating Criteria.