Total Merchant Services Review


Overall Rating Breakdown
Sales & Marketing Tactics
Costs & Contract Terms
Complaints & Service
BBB Rating

Overall Rating

"C" Credit Card Processor Rating

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Jump to: Sales & Marketing | Costs & Contract | Complaints & Service | BBB Complaints

Overview

Total Merchant Services Logo

Total Merchant Services Logo

Total Merchant Services (totalmerchantservices.com) is a mid-size merchant account provider that appears to have entered the credit card processing industry in 1996. The company provides several financial services including processing for all major card brands, debit card acceptance, check processing, gift card programs, and merchant cash advances. Although Total Merchant Services serves its merchant customers directly, the company uses Global Payments for its actual card processing services. The company is a registered ISO/MSP of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, California, with corporate headquarters located at 21650 Oxnard St Ste 1200, Woodland Hills, California 91367-7814.

Total Merchant Services Sales & Marketing Tactics | C-

Key Points – Sales & Marketing 
Uses independent resellers? Yes
Promotes deceptive rate quotes? No
Discloses all important terms? No

Total Merchant Services appears to employ independent sales agents and sub-ISOs to market its services. This hiring practice is common within the industry, and it is usually a major source of merchant frustration. In this case, we are currently able to locate over 50 negative Total Merchant Services reviews that describe deceptive sales strategies by sales agents across the country. The overwhelming majority of these complaints describe nondisclosure of terms, particularly with regard to early termination fees and equipment leases, and misrepresentation of rates or sudden changes in rates after signing up for the service. To its credit, the company does not appear to engage in any deceptive advertising strategies in its official materials.

Total Merchant Services Costs & Contract Terms | C-

Key Points – Costs & Contract Terms
Swiped rate: Variable
Keyed-in rate: Variable
Termination fee: $295 or none
PCI compliance fee: Variable
Equipment lease: Variable

According to documentation available below and numerous online complaints, the standard Total Merchant Services contract is an automatically renewing three-year agreement through Global Payments with a $295 early termination fee. Merchants also report varying PCI compliance fees and other undisclosed fees, and many complaints refer to costly equipment leases with high termination fees. Although the company’s merchant account terms are basically unchanged Global Payments contracts, the added cost of leasing terminals and other equipment through the company appears to be the more distressing factor for merchants.

There is some confusion among the company’s own agents about whether it enforces a termination fee. On this and other consumer protection websites, sources have issued rebuttals to merchant complaints either insisting that there is no early termination fee in the Total Merchant Services contract or claiming that they were told during training that no such fee existed. Most available evidence indicates that this fee is in fact standard, and merchants are advised to exercise extreme caution when interacting with a Total Merchant Services agent who insists otherwise. All of these factors combined have lowered the company’s score in this section to a “C-.”

Expand to see a copy of the standard Total Merchant Services terms and conditions
Total Merchant Services Merchant Agreement

Total Merchant Services Complaints & Service | C

Key Points – Complaints & Service
Total complaints: 60+
Live customer support: Yes
Most common complaint: Hidden fees

As noted above, there are over 60 Total Merchant Services complaints on this and other consumer protection websites, many of which accuse the company of being a scam or a ripoff. Consistent themes include deceptive sales tactics, difficulty cancelling accounts, and withholding of funds. Most of these complaints appear to be the result of conduct on the part of sales agents at the point of signing rather than rude or unhelpful customer service, but it is our belief that an effective customer service team resolves complaints before they are taken to public forums. It is unclear at this time whether the company employs an in-house sales staff or outsources its customer support to Global Payments, but its website lists dedicated phone numbers for merchant support.

Total Merchant Services BBB Report | C (CPO Adjusted)

Key Points – BBB Report
Product/service: 41
Billing/collection: 12
Advertising/sales: 4
Guarantee/warranty: 0
Delivery: 0

The shutdown of the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Los Angeles-area branch has resulted in Total Merchant Services receiving a rebooted profile that only dates back to March 10, 2013. When we last saw the company’s original profile, it had an “A+” rating with the BBB and showed BBB accreditation since 2003. A total of 98 complaints had been filed with the BBB within the previous 36 months, with 38 categorized as problems with products and services, 32 with billing and collection disagreements, 26 with advertising and sales issues, one with a delivery problem, and one with a guarantee or warranty issue. Of the total complaints, 90 had been resolved while eight left merchants dissatisfied with the company’s response.

The company’s new profile also shows accreditation and an “A+” rating, but the company has only racked up 57 complaints on this profile in the last year. Forty-one are due to problems with the product or service, while 12 are attributed to billing or collection. Total Merchant Services has resolved 51 of these complaints to the merchant’s satisfaction.

Given the company’s former BBB profile and the number of complaints on its rebooted profile, we have adjusted the BBB’s grade to a “C” for the purposes of this review.

Bottom Line

Total Merchant Services rates as an average merchant account provider according to our rating criteria. We have found many merchant complaints of deceptive tactics by the company’s sales agents, and the company’s contract terms appear to be average at best. The company does not appear to have taken advantage of the fact that its BBB profile was wiped clean in March 2013.

This review was originally published on 9/18/12 and was last updated on 8/25/14.

Leave your review of Total Merchant Services in the comment section below:


Total Merchant Services Review

Rated 2.25 Out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by Phillip Parker
Reviewed on 2014-08-25 16:06:39

There are over 110 Total Merchant Services complaints on this and other consumer protection websites, many of which accuse the company of being a scam or a ripoff… Total Merchant Services (totalmerchantservices.com) rates as an average merchant account provider according to our rating criteria… Learn more in this Total Merchant Services review.

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About the author

Phillip Parker

Phillip Parker is a former merchant services agent turned small business advocate and the author of "Fee Sweep," which teaches merchants how to dramatically lower their processing rates, eliminate junk fees, and avoid fine-print scams. He founded CardPaymentOptions.com to help merchants enact positive change in the credit card processing industry.



 
Phillip can help you find an ethical and honest processor that will offer you great rates. Click here to request a free provider consultation.

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36 comments

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  1. Dave Murrow

    Phillip:

    Thanks for your response to my suggestions.

    It makes perfect sense that you would be critical of an early termination fee and would want to let your readers know that Total Merchant Services allows agents to charge an early termination fee..That is both sensible and accurate. .

    However, it is clearly not accurate to say that “the standard Total Merchant Services contract” includes a $295 early termination fee and that a termination fee of any kind is not disclosed. The word “standard” implies the most recent contract. For at least one year, the contract (fine print) refers to whatever ETF is on the application. The first page of the application shows clearly what the agent has put as an ETF. For an agent to put $295 is definitely not the “standard”

    My only request is that you advise your readers to look at the agreement, on the bottom of the first page, and see what the agent has put next to the phrase “termination fee”. It most likely will be $0.00. Please do not say that the “standard Total Merchant Services contract” contains an early termination fee of $295. That may have been correct at one time, but at the present time and for the last year it is simply not correct.

    I hope this is a small and do-able request.

    Once again, thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts and thanks for your considerate responses.

    Dave Murrow

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  2. Dave Murrow

    To Phillip Parker

    Hello Phillip,

    I’ve been a sales agent with Total Merchant Services (TMS) for at least 10 years. Out of 15 different companies I’ve worked for, TMS has been, without doubt, at the highest level of honesty, fairness, and flexibility.

    I am, for the most part, impressed by your reviews. Some of the companies you criticize do exactly what you say and they deserve it. However, I feel as though your criticism of TMS, especially your criticism of the termination fee, is appropriate ONLY for some sales reps and is therefore only partially correct. This partial correctness could have a detrimental effect on the merchant. It could easily mislead a merchant away from TMS, causing him/her to miss out on a high quality business experience with TMS if indeed the sales agent is honest, upfront, and reasonable. I know there are many such TMS agents. I’m one of them.

    I’ve been a sales agent for Total Merchant Services for at least 10 years. Out of 15 different companies I’ve worked for, TMS has been, without doubt, at the highest level of honesty, fairness, and flexibility.

    For the last year, TMS has clearly placed the option for a termination fee on the bottom of the first page of the application. The agent can put some specified fee or he can put $0.00 or “NA”. If the contract clearly says the termination fee is zero, then TMS is legally bound to a termination fee of zero.

    In addition to the application let’s look at the so-called “fine print” on the contract that TMS has been using for at least a year.

    “If Merchant has applied for Card processing and is approved by Servicers, and if Merchant exercises its option to terminate this Agreement within three (3) years after such approval, then Merchant will pay to Servicers a termination fee in the amount set forth in the Merchant Application.”

    THEREFORE, if the agent has written $0.00 (which I always do) then the merchant can cancel whenever he/she wants and pay $0.00. No Termination Fee.

    Your job is not an easy, and I know you seek to be as accurate and as fair as possible. In light of the fact that you do seek accuracy and fairness, and in light of the fact that the TMS application CLEARLY states at the bottom of the first page the non-existence of a termination fee or an amount of a termination fee, I would STRONGLY suggest that you include the following (or something similar) in your review:

    “In previous years, like most credit card companies, TMS had a termination fee hard-coded and buried in the small print of the contract. However, for the last year, TMS has clearly placed the option for a termination fee on the bottom of the first page of the application. The agent can put some specified fee or he can put $0.00 or “NA”. If you are thinking about processing with TMS, be sure to look for the termination fee entry. If it clearly shows a termination fee of zero, then TMS is legally bound to charge no termination fee.”

    If you can add this statement (or something similar) to your TMS review, I think you will be doing your readers and yourself a real favor.

    Thank you for your kind consideration.
    Dave Murrow

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    1. Phillip Parker

      Dave,

      It is important to understand that we hold the provider directly responsible for Early Termination Fees even if they are optional additions to the merchant account agreement by an agent. The reason behind this decision is due to the fact that the provider is the one that makes it possible for an ETF to be included at all. Due to the high churn of agents in this industry, it is impossible to score individual sales representatives according to their ethical behavior. Therefore, we hold the provider accountable if it maintains policies that allow agents to do things that we consider as un-favorable to the business owner.

      If you read the section in question closely, I believe that we have given a fair assessment of Total Merchant Services policy regarding ETFs and will likely add more detail in our next update to the review.

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