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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.


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.cardpaymentoptions.com/credit-card-processors/total-merchant-services/

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  1. Robert Sears

    As to the comments here, I have been an independent agent with Total Merchant Services for the last 10 years. Having been in the industry for over 20 years, I have found them to be one of the best companies I have worked for and I have many happy merchants with some processing millions per year under my watch with them. It is usually a very small merchant with the most compliants I find because they are small they do not realize the real costs of a merchant account. Some of them are lucky to even get an account. Not all are qualified to have one. You have to be approved to get one.
    All of this about termination fees and such is agent options, agents can charge a cancellation fee or not in the contract in the last 2 plus years. Contracts signed before that did have cancellation fees. No matter what is in the “fine print” it is what is on the contract form that was signed that matters. There is No Increased amount of upfront ( or no upfront )money if there is a cancellation fee or not, I know , I have hundreds of clients. If a merchants does not return the placement equipment they can be charged for it, this is fair practice, it is a placement for the merchant to use as long as there are with TMS. If not then return it, I have had merchants that have been to lazy to return it and they are charged appropriately. Try cancelling your contract with your mobile phone service provider. (remember free phones with 2 year agreement) you will find older contracts with termination fees. Things change in every industry Phillip so keep up with the times. Mobile phone companies no longer charge termination fees either, ON new Contracts !
    Every Industry will have unhappy customers, No matter what. It is the nature of business and it’s owners and customers. Try pleasing everyone, No one can do it.

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    3 / 6 found this review helpful.
  2. Chris Judy

    Hi Phillip,

    I have been an agent for Total Merchant Services since 1998. Some of the points you have written here are valid. For example since the vast majority of the representatives are independent there is some chance that they my not be the best. This however is a common practice in this industry as most companies that offer merchant services have independent agents. I personally find it hard to compete being a full disclosure agent against the less reputable agents.

    I do contest with the fact you have mentioned about the cancellation fee. Total Merchant Services has since done away with this and now offers a month to month agreement. I see in you chat thread that this has been pointed out to you many times, however you still have yet to update your review. You are correct that agents have the ability to add a cancellation and if they do the merchant agreement MUST reflect this under “Termination Fee”. If the agent has $0.00 populated in this field there is NO cancellation fee.

    Also, many agents at Total Merchant Services like myself offer themselves as the merchants primary support contact for all account related needs. This is not mentioned in your support section.

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    2 / 2 found this review helpful.
    1. Phillip Parker

      Hi Chris,

      I believe the the review is accurate according to the available evidence and merchant reviews. If you believe something to be inaccurate you should direct an executive from TMS to our Rebuttal Policy.

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  3. Ed

    The problem with TMS seems to be with the numerous reps scattered all over the country. There seems to be no control over what they can and cannot do to place a machine. I dealt with J316 Card Services Inc. in Los Angeles. I was informed of my monthly fee and what the per transaction fee would be for debit and credit. The machine was free and there would be no early termination fees. The very first month I did slightly over $500.00 in debit sales. Then suddenly $200.00 was taken from my account for a laundry list of fees and surcharges. Per the instructions given to me by J316 Card Services, I sent the machine back to them when they failed to return my calls questioning the amount. J316 by the way is a Korean run operation that uses the “Jesus fish” in their logo and gave me an additional flyer showing how a percentage of their money is being used for Christian ministries abroad. My Korean wife instantly fell for the sales pitch. Now I’m getting repeated requests from TMS in Portland, OR to return my machine which J316 already has. I have the signed FedEx receipts to show this. Let’s set this aside and look at what happened today.

    A woman came into my shop with a sales pitch for credit card services. I looked at the flyer and saw it was Total Merchant Services. I did not have my papers from the previous fiasco available but told her the story mentioned in the first paragraph. When I mentioned the company involved was TMS Portland, OR she appeared shocked and told me TMS is located in and operated from California. Only tonight as I looked over all the paperwork did I discover something. I went to the website this TMS rep told me about and looked at her company’s blog. In the upper right corner was a phone number for current customers. 888-848-6825. I looked at the papers from TMS Portland, OR and they too have a phone number for me to call to confirm they received the equipment. 888-848-6825. My question is if TMS California knows nothing of TMS Oregon, how come they share a phone number?

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    1. RJFreedom

      Ed,
      TMS is in California. There equipment return office is in Portland, Oregon.

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  4. Michael

    BC
    The upfront bonus is not determinant by the cancellation fee or no ETF fee. The upfront bonus is determined if the merchant wants a “free terminal” or if the merchant’s terminal can be reprogrammed. The upfront bonus is much higher if an agent can perform a reprogram. It is up to the agent to determine the ETF fee or cancellation fee, with the cap at $295 the first year and $195 thereafter. As far as the PCI fees, TMS waives that fee for the first 12 months of that agreement, AND the agreements are now on a month-to-month service.

    TMS has improved in many areas and I have many merchants who love the services they receive from TMS. Personally, I conduct a three-month rate review for my merchants and whenever the rates drop, so do theirs.

    I was an educator for over 25 years and I taught in the public sector. I approach my position as an agent for TMS with an educators approach and provide my merchants with ALL fees, including the card association fees that the government has decided to stick their hands into the cookie jar of processing.

    I do not have my merchants sign anything until they read and understand the merchant agreement/contract.

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    1 / 1 found this review helpful.
  5. north country veterinary clinic

    I was with TMS for 1 year before we had to close our business due to moving. The last 3 months we did $700 on our card and were charged $89 per month for the service! So we closed the account and were told to expect a call tag within 10 days. We got it a week later, but we have no fedex location due to the extreme rural state we live in, so we did not get the machine back to them for 20 days.they charged us $750 for the machine! We are still disputing this but my gut tells me we will get nothing back. :(
    Not only that but our agent was ridiculously condescending and did a “You can’t keep the machine you know.”
    I took videos and photos of our machine to prove it is in working order as I’m assuming they will also lie and claim it is broken so they can keep the $750. Believe me, if I do not get my refund we will be going to BBB!

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  6. Monica Sampat

    Hi Philip,

    Ever considered rating independent sales agents.. it seems the poor work ethics of some 1099 agents reflect poorly on an ISO.

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    1. Phillip Parker

      In my experience, the vast majority of commission-only agents last just a few weeks in this industry. It would be impossible to keep up.

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  7. Monica Sampat

    Hi Philip,

    it is really disheartening to read all the negative comments about TMS. Having worked in this industry for quite a few years I am aware of the unscrupulous tactics used by some independent agents to get a merchant to sign. The TMS application form has a line item-”cancellation fee”. Here an independent agent can write $0.00 or leave it blank. if left blank the cancellation fee is $295. This is clearly stated on the application which had a link to the terms and conditions of the agreement.-http://merchantsupport.info/disclosure/pdf/tms.print.page.terms.pdf. Also, during training these are clearly told to the independent agents. it is therefore up to the agent to decide whether to put $0.00 or to leave the cancellation fee filed blank.

    TMS has been around for many many years and have more than 100,000 customers. They were in fact awarded the ETA award in 2012. I am very happy with their customer service department and my merchants are very happy with their rates. I am all about earning a living honestly and would not consider causing financial harm to a merchants. Its all about relationship building. So the fault lies with both the unscrupulous sales agents and the merchants. It is in the best interest of the merchant to read the fine prints. I always recommend that my clients get quotes from at least three different processors before making a decision.

    So, before you give TMS a negative rating, please take the time to evaluate their contract and then decide whether it is the company or the agent who is at fault for the bad experiences the above merchants have endured.

    Sorry for this verbose email, but I needed to give you my two cents worth.

    BTW , i love your site and have directed many potential customers to your site and so it is in my best interest to encourage you to dig deeper to verify whether the above are genuine complaints from business owners or people who have other motives.

    Have a great one!

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    1 / 2 found this review helpful.
    1. Phillip Parker

      Hi Monica,

      Thank you for the comment. Although I agree that agents carry some responsibility for complaints against a company, we are more concerned with a company’s policies and how they make such complaints possible. In our opinion, TMS, and any company for that matter, is responsible for its agents’ actions because it forms the policies by which the agents can sell its services. Even though an agent has the option of including a Early Termination Fee (ETF), TMS is the entity responsible for allowing it. Additionally, most providers that give agents an option to include an ETF pay bigger commissions if they do so. In many cases, agents have incentives from the company to include fees and terms that are not favorable for the merchant. Therefore, we hold companies responsible for their agents and employees.

      You may also find this article interesting: Why We Verify Testimonials

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  8. Kristen

    Total Merchant Services is a horrible company!!! Stay very far away unless you have plenty of money to throw away. They randomly charge for unauthorized charges. I have had nothing but problems with this company. BEWARE!!!

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    1. Phillip Parker

      Hi Kristen, can you elaborate on your experience? What kind of unauthorized charges and problems, etc?

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  9. charles s nagy

    I had a saleman come in and pitch this company to me. I do my research….. yes they can charge you a fee it is in their merchant agreement statement witch you can find on their website or you can check it from my link witch is from their website http://merchantsupport.info/disclosure/pdf/tms.print.page.terms.pdf these few comments above mine are most likly salemen trying to trick you. just go to their agreement page and look under their Termination. section. if they did not charge this fee it would not be in thier agreement. Nice try Crooks.

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  10. Derek

    Just got hit with a fee without warning. Now they tell me about compliance FEES. Never got the notice they claimed to have sent. Very cold response from customer service. I cancelled immediately. Very disappointed.
    Poor communication, we could have worked it out with a reasonable solution. Not their style. $106.95!!!
    Unauthorized, not informed. Sorry guys.

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  11. Janet Hong

    OMG!! If you choose to use this company, you are in a world of trouble!!!! EVERY time I go to batch out, it is a nightmare. This time, it is charging old transactions and they are telling us that it can’t be erased. This is going to mean that my past customers are going to be charged again!! I always dread trying to batch out due to the stress of dealing with them. Also, I only use the service approximately 3-5 times a year. The contract started out at $5.00 per month, then it went to $7.00 per month and currently they are taking out almost $17.00 per month. My contract is up in May of 2013 and I am sending a letter today, and again the 1st of April and again which will be dated specifically 30 days prior to the end of the contract.

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  12. Erika Harrison

    I used them for nearly 6 years. They were not the cheapest and refused to send me a new credit card machine when the one that I was using didn’t seem to work anymore at tradeshows. So I was using them less and less and couldn’t justify the monthly fees. I failed to notice for a long time the huge rate discrepancy between “qualified” and “non-qualified” card processing. I deal mostly with people using business cards and cards with rewards, meaning most of the time, I was being charged around 4% for non-qualified cards instead of the 2.2% that they had quoted me. That was my bad for not paying attention. But I do find it tricky in the contract how it looks as though you are charged one rate or the other, and instead, you are actually charged both the regular rate PLUS the surcharge for non-qualified cards. They are willing to negotiate rates, and other companies do this too, just be very careful to find out what you are really going to be charged for all types of cards.

    When I cancelled the account, they mentioned waiving the early termination fee….which I thought was ridiculous since I had been with them for 6 years. I didn’t think I had signed any kind of 10 year contract. But apparently, each year your contract renews for a whole year and you have like a 30 day window within the year to cancel without the early termination fee. Like an earlier review stated, apparently there are different contracts out there, some with cancellation fees and others without. Read your contract.

    Then one day after cancelling, I found a $200 charge and a $750 charge on my bank account. They had charged the $200 cancellation fee anyways and a non-return of equipment fee. There is no way in hell that a 6 year old machine, that was used when I received it, was worth $750 to anyone, but I had sent it back to them so the argument was pointless anyways. I called and they said they would refund the charges. Fortunately they had it in their “call log” that they had promised to waive the cancellation feel. Honestly I hadn’t even noticed the $200 cancellation fee until I saw the $750 fee and then called my bank to see what it was. They took a week to refund all of my money. That could have been disastrous for a smaller business to have nearly $1000 tied up for a week or more.

    Although their practices are common amongst merchant account companies, and they weren’t exactly dishonest, I just felt that they were less-than-forthcoming with the whole story and attempted to hide negative aspects of having an account with them. I couldn’t recommend them for this reason. I’d rather pay a few cents more and go with a company who has one single rate and announces it loud and proud without needing to read a doctoral dissertation’s worth of fine print to get to the truth.

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  13. Darren Green

    Total Merchant Services said they were the cheapest around…. That is a lie, Amazon Merchant Services only charge a percentage, and when I was told this by Robert Edelmann that it was the cheapest. I believed the lie, stay away from Total Merchant Services, They are not the cheapest, also my $25 minimum charge was actually $60+. Liars, Start tell the truth, and do not say things that are false.

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  14. Wes

    Tried to contact their terminal support dept and customer support dept. All I get is voice mail – really? If was having terminal issues and a sale was involved, I would be is a lot of trouble right now. Very disapointed.

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  15. Richard Duttine

    Have used James Wells of Total Merchant for 8 months and He has saved me a bunch of money.
    Has done every thing he said he would

    Awesome dude
    Richard Duttine

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  16. Mike

    Your review seems to be fabricated, first of all there is no early Termination fees. Even if the sales rep is misleading the merchant can quit and not be charged. Might want to check your facts before doing your review. The BBB tells the true story not this website.

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    1. Phillip Parker

      Hi Mike,

      There are several reports from merchants stating that they were charged cancellation fees. Also, as of the publishing of this comment, 29 of the 87 complaints filed with the BBB are due billing and collection disputes. If you take time to read the complaint details like I did, you will see reports of a $295 early termination fee in the BBB report.

      http://www.bbb.org/northern-colorado/business-reviews/credit-card-processing-companies/total-merchant-services-in-basalt-co-46000463/complaints#breakdown

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    2. Sara

      I am another one of their cancellation fee victims but the amount they took out was $500 (unauthorized use of my account). Furthermore, I only had a 2 year contract with them and I caledl them ahead of time to make it a month to month AFTER our 2 year contract ended and they still charged our account by transferring $500 from our account to theirs. I would advise anyone who wants or has a business DO NOT go with Total Merchant Services for your credit card or payment solutions. This company’s only interest is to make their money by charging their customers with crazy hidden fees and the representatives are very misleading and untruthful and this company should be held accountable for the misleading, untruthful, and uninformed representatives THEY hire. I will turn this into the BBB as a negative report on Total Merchant Services and if need be I will sue!!!

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  17. Jack

    You may want to fact check prior to doing a review – Total Merchant Services does not, repeat does not have any cancellation fees, period end of story.

    Please correct your review.

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    1. Phillip Parker

      Hi Jack,

      There are several reports online of merchants complaining of ETFs imposed by Total Merchant services, which is why it is mentioned in this article. If you would like to supply us with a standard and unaltered merchant account agreement, we’ll be happy to add it to the article so that merchants can review it.

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      1. Jack

        Good day Phillip,,

        I will supply a standard merchant agreement for you along with other information which supports the fact TMS has no cancellation fees.

        After you have read the contract would expect you to update your information to reflect the fact that TMS has no cancellation fees.

        How can I get the contract to you?

        Thanks
        Jack

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        1. Phillip Parker

          Hi Jack,

          Use the contact form and I’ll respond to let you know where you can send it. Keep in mind that merchants are, in fact, reporting that they have experienced cancellation fees and this information will not be removed from the review. However, I will add the information that you send if everything seems legitimate. Also, can you explain the relationship between Green Payment Systems, which is your email address, and Total Merchant Services?

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          1. Jack

            Philip,

            Up until 3 years ago TMS did have Cancellation Fees on some contracts, however, as of 2 years ago there are no longer cancellation fees. In the interest of impartial and fair/balanced reporting you could mention this in your review.

            Anotherwords, if a merchant gets a cancel fee it is because they had an older contract. A contract in which these terms were fully disclosed.

            Documentation will follow per your instructions.

            Thanks
            Jack

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          2. Phillip Parker

            What is your role with the company? I find it odd that a company would eliminate its cancellation fee and then still enforce it on older contracts. I see complaints filed as recently as November of 2012.

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          3. B C

            They have several contract with and without cancellation fees. It depends on whoever is signing you up and how they want to set you up. They get a bigger upfront bonus if you sign with a $295 cancellation fee…..no cancellation fee = no bonus upfront.

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          4. john

            Terms n Conditions state that they have an ETF fee of $295 and a 3 year contract

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    2. Eric

      This company told me the exact same lies. After I was deceived into my agreement, I objected to some of the terms of the agreement. The rep assured me that I could simply try the service and cancel anytime for free. And there is a cancellation fee of $295 in my contract (which I did not agree to!):

      From my contract dated Feb 2014:

      “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. If the Merchant Application references a “standard
      termination fee,” a fee of $295.00 will apply upon Merchant’s termination of services.”

      Period, end of story.

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