- Ideal for property management industry
- Good marketplace tools
- Good website & advertising
- Predictable flat-rate pricing
- Not good for traditional retail and restaurants
- Poor customer support
My husband likes to tell the story of the sunken stones from the island of Yap. He heard a piece on Planet Money about the ancient Yapese people who used giant carved stones as currency, even though the stones were too large to literally change hands, and even when some of them had sunk to the bottom of the ocean. The Yapese stones are now part of my husband’s
rant eloquent speech about how money doesn’t actually exist, and that the concept only works because society has agreed it does. Yep, he’s a big hit at parties. (Still love ya, honey!)
Also inspired by the innovative Yapese people, entrepreneur Tom Villante gave his California-based payments company the name YapStone in 1999. Villante’s goal was to facilitate electronic payments for bills that were still commonly paid by paper check. Remember paper checks? Yeah…uh…me neither.
Already back in 1999, YapStone’s main focus was processing rent payments. In 2003, YapStone acquired RentPayment.com, Inc., the “original online rent payment service.” The RentPayment.com website still exists and is “powered” by YapStone. In contrast to most other merchant account providers that cast a wide net for all types of businesses, YapStone focused on developing very specific vertical market expertise. They are a global leader in all things property rental, processing payments for multifamily residences, vacation homes, storage units, and home owners associations. They even handle payments for large marketplaces of vacation rentals, most notably HomeAway/VRBO.
With specialization in the high-ticket/high-volume realm of rental marketplaces, YapStone and its subsidiary websites now process $18 billion annually in four currencies. RentPayment.com alone works with 3 million rental units in 47 states. (Which makes me wonder: which three states are the holdouts?)
Basically, YapStone is a big, growing company that got in on the ground floor (pun intended) of the move to electronic payments for short and long-term rentals. In this review, I’ll be examining YapStone proper, while also bringing in examples from their subsidiary websites (such as VacationRentPayment.com and RentPayment.com) and the vertical markets these serve.
Table of Contents
Products & Services
International Payments: YapStone serves merchants based in North America and Europe. I’m guessing YapStone is constantly expanding its reach, so check with a representative for the most current list of countries. The countries with agreements posted at the YapStone Legal Center are a good starting point. Transactions are processed in EUR, GBP, CAD, and USD, and payments are settled in your local currency.
Payment Processing: YapStone’s relationship with individual merchants and larger marketplaces can work in a variety of ways. In a traditional merchant account setup, your company can be the merchant-of-record, or your client(s) can be the merchant-of-record. Alternatively, YapStone can act as the merchant-of-record, pooling your account along with other accounts into one large merchant account. Each merchant is then tracked individually within the aggregation. In this model, YapStone is positioned as a Payment Services Provider (a.k.a. “payment facilitator” or “merchant aggregator“), similar to PayPal or Square. Each of the above scenarios is possible if you are part of the HomeAway marketplace.
Payment Gateway: If you’re already in a contract with another payment processor, you can still integrate with the YapStone gateway. Their proprietary gateway and API is certified for multiple platforms. YapStone also highlights their customizable virtual terminal, which can be embedded in your own website if you wish.
Other Payment Interfaces: In addition to the gateway, YapStone integrates with accounting/invoicing software, online booking engines, tablet-friendly interfaces and point-of-sale swiping devices to facilitate payments. Multiple payment channels are offered, including online, phone, email, text-message, mobile/social, and in-person. Residents with RentPayment accounts may pay their rent or set up new payment methods via the Android or iOS mobile app.
Multiple Payment Methods: Options include credit, debit, eCheck/ACH, paper check scanning, and even cash via RentPayment’s partnership with MoneyGram. Check the individual websites (see below) to see which payment methods and channels are offered by each platform.
Industry-Specific Websites: RentPayment.com and DuesPayment.com (for HOAs) each facilitate both property manager and resident access to the sites. Property managers and owners manage their accounts for their properties, while residents can also log in to make a one-time payment, set up auto-pay or reminders, etc. These dual-facing websites are in contrast to StorageRentPayment.com, VacationRentPayment.com, InnPayment.com and HolidayRentPayment.eu, which are all just merchant-facing sites.
Customized Reporting, Billing, and Payouts: YapStone’s platform is designed for small businesses and startups, as well as large marketplaces and specific vertical markets (i.e., the property rental industry). With their scalable reporting, billing, and account reconciliation system, you can organize sub-merchants into a hierarchy and then manage each level of your payment chain. The platform handles gratuities, incidentals, and all the various shared/split payments common to the property management industry.
Software Integrations: YapStone’s API integrates with commonly-used property management software. See the bottom of this page for examples.
Non-Profits and Faith-Based Organizations: YapStone has a long history facilitating electronic donations for non-profit organizations, although their flagship platform called ParishPay was recently acquired by LPi.
Credit Reporting for Renters: Residents using RentPayment.com can build their credit scores by opting-in to having their rent payments reported to TransUnion.
Fees & Rates
YapStone advertises flat-rate processing as an upgrade over the tiered pricing structure prevalent among card processors for its target industries. (Do check out our pricing infographic if you need a refresher on the different types of rate structures offered by account providers). As we examine YapStone’s pricing details, we’ll start with the vacation rental side, and then move on to more permanent residential situations. Our case study for vacation rentals will be HomeAway/VRBO.
YapStone, Inc. (US):
- Visa/MC/Amex/Discover: 3%
- International Surcharge: 2%
- ACH/eCheck: 0%
- Chargeback or ACH/eCheck reversal: $15
YapStone International Ltd. (Europe):
- Visa/MC: 3%
- Chargebacks: 15 USD, 25 CAD, 16 GBP, 20 EUR
Remember that the 3% represents YapStone’s cut (minus interchange fees that they don’t get to keep). HomeAway — and potentially any other vacation rental sites and their distribution centers — take their own cut for the privilege of using their services. HomeAway property owners/managers actually sign up for one of two pricing structures: 1) an annual subscription with no transaction fees, or 2) pay-per-booking where HomeAway adds a 5% commission to the 3% charged by YapStone.
Lastly, note that HomeAway also introduced a service fee in 2016 that is charged to the traveler. This fee ranges between 4-12% and should not be confused with the commissions or transaction fees paid by owners and property managers.
This isn’t a HomeAway review, so I don’t want to belabor the point. It’s just important to at least be aware that there’s more to the pricing story. When you’re dealing with an entire vertical market as well as various marketplaces, things can get complicated quickly.
Traditional Rental Properties
The YapStone Legal Center isn’t as helpful on rates for merchants managing permanent residences, but RentPayment.com supplies some good information.
- Credit: 2.95%
- Debit: 0.95%
- eCheck/ACH: $4.95
- Chargebacks: $25
I found the above information via the Landlord Signup link at the bottom of RentPayment.com’s homepage. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate a corresponding pricing page at StorageRentPayment.com or DuesPayment.com. You’ll notice below that you can toggle between the resident or property owner paying the transaction fee.
This flat-rate pricing definitely keeps it simple, and I agree with YapStone that it’s generally better than tiered pricing. Depending on your transaction volume, however, you may pay less overall with a competitive interchange-plus pricing plan. At the very least, you’ll be able to tell the difference between what you’re paying in interchange fees versus your merchant account provider’s margin on a card-by-card basis. By nature, flat-rate plans must build in enough profit margin for all types of cards and transactions, even those with a very low interchange rate.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fees
Depending on which of YapStone’s websites/industries you’re dealing with and which layer of the payment chain you represent, you may or may not be not be signing a merchant agreement with “YapStone” across the top. But for the sake of simplicity, and because they’re readily available, those are the merchant agreement terms I’ll summarize here.
To help simplify even further, let’s focus on two key documents in the US section of the YapStone Legal Center. First, we have the Client Services Agreement. In section 9, this document indicates a two-year initial term with subsequent one year automatic renewal periods. It also mentions an early termination fee in the form of liquidated damages:
If Client terminates this Agreement for any reason within the Initial Term, YapStone shall charge Client the Early Termination Fee on the Fee Schedule. Client acknowledges that the Early Termination Fee represents a fairly calculated liquidated damage and is not a penalty.
It’s worth noting that near the beginning of this agreement, an order of precedence is established. Apparently, the agreement itself is superseded by “All policies, notices, and other content” that’s on any of YapStone’s other websites. I didn’t find any merchant agreements on these sites, though. Basically, we need to count on two-year contracts with the potential for liquidated damages as the default terms.
The second client agreement is specifically for HomeAway. Section 9 of this second document is much more flexible. You may terminate your account at any time with written notice, and there is no mention of an ETF or liquidated damages. It merely states that both parties must make good on any fees that are still owed.
In summary, I think we should assume that unless you are under the HomeAway umbrella, you’ll be signing a two-year contract. You’ll need to check your own terms carefully. We recommend merchants look for month-to-month agreements with no ETFs, or negotiate to remove any early termination penalties.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
When examining the transparency of a payment processor, one of the first things I look for is clearly advertised pricing details. While it required some digging into the depths of YapStone’s website, I did eventually find the vacation rental industry rates inside legal documents. RentPayment.com also outlined rates once I went into the landlord signup system, which I think is fair enough. I’d like to see the same thing happen at other sites like StorageRentPayment.com and DuesPayment.com. Even better, I’d love to see a clear pricing page on each of YapStone’s websites. I will say YapStone deserves credit for including hard numbers at all when so many merchant account providers leave them out completely.
I’m also a pretty big fan of YapStone’s legal center, with all those links to merchant agreements for various countries. They even made significant updates to this section as I was writing this review. Although it was a pain to wade through these riveting documents a second time, it gave me confidence that YapStone’s is keen to stay current and accurate.
You can also get a good sense of company transparency from complaints. I haven’t seen much online fuss at all about shady or pushy sales tactics. Sometimes renters are confused or upset about fees, but I think that’s often more about he clarity of the property manager’s or marketplace’s information rather than YapStone’s.
Overall, I’m giving YapStone above average marks for transparency. I hope they continue to improve their online materials by consolidating key information into easily identified and accessed pages.
Customer Service & Technical Support
In March 2017, YapStone announced it had consolidated its US and International call centers into one global call center in Drogheda, Ireland. YapStone opened a large office there in 2016 and was “building a team of 150 customer service experts in Ireland, speaking eight different languages.”
I started calling the toll-free numbers listed on all the YapStone websites, beginning with YapStone itself. Interestingly, as soon as I called YapStone proper, the first thing I heard was “thank you for calling RentPayment.” Perhaps more interestingly, however, was that no matter which website the number originated from or which option I pressed, I kept getting a call center in Manila. I checked Google maps just to be sure, but my geographical memory is indeed correct: Manila’s in the Philippines.
Mind you, I have nothing against Manila — I’m sure it’s lovely. I was just confused. What happened to Ireland? Meanwhile, email and website contact forms were hit and miss. Once I’d heard YapStone was identifying itself as RentPayment on the phone, I decided to fill out a contact form on the RentPayment website. Although I received an auto confirmation email and ticket number, I ultimately never heard back from that inquiry. I had better luck when I emailed [email protected] and asked specifically about the Emerald Isle.
To make a long story short, I eventually had the privilege of speaking directly with the Executive VP of International Operations and Global Customer Suport based in Ireland. He kindly explained to me the following organizational structure:
Ireland-based customer service:
- All HomeAway property owner/managers (North America and Europe)
- All other international property owners/managers using HolidayRentPayment or VacationRentPayment
- Europe travelers
- US/UK hours: 24/7/365
- Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands: Monday-Friday, hours vary by country
Manila-based customer service (outsource partner):
- RentPayment, StorageRentPayment, DuesPayment, or InnPayment property owner/managers
- VacationRentPayment or HolidayRentPayment property owners/managers who are not part of HomeAway and are based in the US.
- US travelers and renters
- 8am-12am Eastern Time
It’s a bit convoluted, but hopefully you can figure out which would apply to you. To be fair, 8am-12am EST customer service is what’s advertised on the YapStone website, so they’ve actually undersold coverage when it comes to HomeAway folks. There is also apparently a customer service “escalation pathway” that will reroute you to from Manila over to Ireland or Walnut Creek. Doesn’t that sound like a fun excursion?
This isn’t really a case of false advertising, just a confusing setup that’s not immediately apparent unless you dig a bit deeper. No doubt most HomeAway merchants end up calling HomeAway customer service first anyway and are funneled to YapStone’s Ireland center when appropriate. Nevertheless, I’m still slightly miffed that the YapStone press release led me astray.
By the way, if you’re trying to reach the US YapStone headquarters, be aware that the main YapStone number will only connect you if you press the option for sales. The rest of the options take you to their outsource partner in Manila.
Moving on to the websites themselves, YapStone.com and RentPayment.com each have FAQ pages. The other websites mostly redirect back to YapStone when it comes to customer resources. If you’ve got YapStone as your payment processor, I’d suggest following them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or Facebook. This is the best place to find out about their latest resource offerings such as upcoming webinars for merchants. You can also follow the social media accounts of the individual websites. YapStone maintains a FinTech-focused blog, but posting has slowed down as of late. Lastly, Youtube and Vimeo channels consist mostly of promotional materials and — well — I’m not quite sure about the purpose of these videos:
Negative Reviews & Complaints
When looking for complaints, the Better Business Bureau is one good place to start. The unaccredited YapStone BBB profile redirects to a profile for RentPayment.com. Searching for VacationRentPayment’s profile also redirects to RentPayment’s profile, which is kind of weird if you ask me. I suppose it’s handy that they all go one place.
It’s always a bad sign when a company’s complaint tally keeps ticking upward every time you check it during the course of writing a review. This was one of those times, so you’ll need to check the profile for yourself if you want the up-to-the-minute total. As I’m typing this, the unaccredited RentPayment.com profile shows 54 complaints in the last three years and a D- rating.
That’s actually not an astronomical number for a big company, but the BBB rating is definitely in decline. Looking around the internet, I can see that the rating was A+ in the fall of 2015 A- in the fall of 2016. If we dig deeper into the current D- rating, we can see that of the 54 complaints, only 8 were resolved, and none in 2017. While 18 complaints remain in the vague limbo-land of unresolvedness, a disturbing 28 complaints sit in an ominous category titled: “The business failed to respond to the dispute.”
The BBB points out that this complete lack of response from RentPayment.com to half of the complaints is the main factor influencing the D- rating. We can see that they largely stopped responding at the BBB in late 2016. I caught a small glimmer of hope with a response in July 2017. We’ll watch to see if this is the beginning of a better trend.
Whether at the BBB or at other sites such as Pissed Consumer or Google Reviews, we see both renters and owners getting in on the complaint action. The most common renter complaints are about poor customer service, confusion or dissatisfaction about processing fees, and difficulty handling any out-of-the-ordinary situation. Fortunately, hardly anyone complained that they had trouble just paying rent normally.
The most common owner/property manager complaint against YapStone and its payment websites is difficulty resolving chargeback disputes. Along with this grievance comes a general dissatisfaction with YapStone’s customer service. Other issues occasionally surface, but we’re mostly looking at chargeback problems, and mostly for vacation rentals. Also, sometimes the marketplaces YapStone serves field complaints instead of YapStone.
You can imagine that both fraudulent and legitimate chargebacks might be common in the holiday rental industry. With this propensity comes a good deal of pushing blame around between merchants, YapStone, and marketplaces like HomeAway/VBRO regarding who is responsible for preventing and managing chargebacks. YapStone has recently bolded some sections of their Client Agreements, I assume to help clarify this recurring issue. Here are a couple examples:
You acknowledge and agree that You are responsible for any Chargeback or Reversal of a Payment, plus the applicable Chargeback and Reversal Fees, regardless of the reason for the Chargeback or Reversal.
You acknowledge that Your failure to assist YapStone in a timely manner when investigating a transaction may result in You losing the Chargeback dispute. You acknowledge that Chargeback and Reversal decisions are made by the applicable issuing bank, Card Networks, or NACHA and all judgments as to the validity of the Chargeback are made at the sole discretion of the applicable issuing bank, Card Networks, or NACHA. You further acknowledge that American Express Chargebacks that are deemed to be fraudulent or unauthorized (as defined by American Express) may not be disputed.
In the meantime, the following statement is found in YapStone’s FAQ:
Does YapStone provide chargeback support?
While other companies outsource chargeback disputes, YapStone offers merchant safety and advocacy in the form of an in-house Chargeback Protection Program backed by a specialized team of arbitration specialists.
There’s a difference between safeguarding against chargebacks, providing chargeback support, and holding ultimate responsibility for the result of a dispute. Throwing a marketplace like HomeAway into the middle adds a layer of complexity. In any case, there is some unhappiness with the level of support provided by YapStone in this area.
Before we move on to positive comments, I’ll mention that YapStone’s reached a $4.9 million settlement with VBRO users in a data breach lawsuit in early 2017. The breach occurred between July 2014 and August 2015.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials:
RentPayment.com has collected several testimonials from property managers who are happy with the customer service they’ve received. They are also simply pleased that their renters now have the ability to pay with a card. Neither Yapstone.com nor the other subsidiary sites have a testimonial section. Most positive feedback around the internet directed specifically toward YapStone comes from employees.
I have no doubt that YapStone is an expert in the verticals of rental markets, with years of experience managing payments for millions of properties. I’m not sure you’ll find an alternative with such tailored expertise and industry-specific resources at your disposal. The flat-rate pricing keeps things simple, and I haven’t seen red flags about hidden fees. Although some merchants may be in long-term contracts with the potential for liquidated damages, I also haven’t seen complaints about hefty early termination fees.
So, is this a no-brainer? Well, we’d never recommend that merchants disengage their brains when choosing a merchant account provider. You almost always have options. From what I gather, it’s a common misconception that if you list your property at HomeAway/VBRO and you want to take card payments, you’re stuck with YapStone as your account provider.
Whether or not you’re tied to the HomeAway marketplace, you should compare YapStone with some of our preferred providers before making your final decision. First of all, none of them lock you into long-term contracts or charge ETFs/liquidated damages. Secondly, if you think you’ll process more than $10K in card payments per month, it’s always worth looking into a provider who offers interchange-plus pricing. These plans offer more transaction-by-transaction transparency than flat-rate plans and could save you money in the long run. All our vetted providers offer interchange-plus and have gateway options that support recurring billing. Braintree in particular supports the development of marketplaces.
Perhaps most importantly, let’s consider the customer service issue. When examining a large company, I’m not too alarmed by the relatively significant number of complaints around the internet. What worries me a little is that YapStone’s BBB profile is in recent sharp decline and they have virtually stopped responding to complaints. I’m guessing they’re trying to shift their strategy to better educate merchants from the get-go on common problems such as chargebacks. Still, most of the complaints about YapStone and its branches bemoan inadequate customer service. So while YapStone’s rental expertise may generally outweigh the negatives, set your expectations accordingly.
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The people at Yapstone / Rent Me use every excuse they can invent to hold payout funds as long as they possibly can. Once you’ve submitted the documents they demand, followed up by phone and been reassured that payment is on its way you’ll be contacted about a week later and told that there’s a document missing. (Lather, rinse, repeat!) A week after that there will be a new notice that your spouse’s ID isn’t sufficient, that they need yours -even though your bank account and other document show BOTH your names AND even if you’ve been a client in good standing having payments made to the same bank account, with VRBO, etc for many years. It is very clear that they are deliberately holding funds for their own use.