Wells Fargo Merchant Services
Last Updated: June 17, 2014
Wells Fargo Merchant Services Overview
Wells Fargo Merchant Services (wellsfargo.com/biz/merchant/), a division of Wells Fargo Bank, is one of the top ten largest merchant account providers in the United States and recently grew its merchant portfolio significantly with its acquisition of Wachovia Bank. Although Wells Fargo is an Acquiring Bank based in San Francisco, California, it uses First Data as its processor and has been doing so since 1971.
One of the benefits merchants receive when they have both a checking account and merchant account with Wells Fargo is a quicker deposit of funds from their credit card sales. Typically in the credit card processing industry, merchants who have their checking and merchant account through different providers will experience a delay of around 48 hours to receive deposits. Wells Fargo boasts that funds are usually available the next business day.
Although quicker depositing of funds is an attractive feature for some merchants, Wells Fargo Merchant Services does have a few drawbacks as well.
|Key Points – Sales & Marketing|
|Uses independent resellers?||No|
|Promotes deceptive rate quotes?||No|
|Discloses all important terms?||No|
Wells Fargo primarily markets its merchant services through the use of fully employed outside sales representatives, as opposed to independent contracted agents. Merchant accounts are also promoted and sold through its numerous banking branches, and various other traditional marketing methods. The company does not appear to utilize any intentionally misleading advertising or rate promotions that were apparent during this review. However, merchants have reported uses of deceptive sales tactics such as nondisclosure of important contract conditions and fees.
|Key Points – Costs & Contract Terms|
|PCI compliance fee:||Unknown|
|Equipment lease:||48 mos./non-cancellable|
Pricing and fees of a Wells Fargo merchant account appear to vary based on a merchant’s business type, processing volume, and the representative setting up the account. Merchants have been reporting that Wells Fargo merchant accounts have been more expensive than prior providers, or that they experienced a large cost reduction when they switched to a new provider.
The standard merchant account agreement through Wells Fargo (available below) includes a 36-month service commitment with an Early Termination Fee (ETF) of either $500 per location (for merchants who have processed under $1,000,000) or $500 per location plus the cost of the merchant’s most expensive month multiplied by six (for merchants who have processed over $1,000,000). Additionally, it appears that merchants are often encouraged to rent processing equipment through First Data, which also includes non-cancellable lease agreements of up to 48 months. It is unclear, as of this review, if Wells Fargo also charges an annual PCI Compliance Fee, which is a common practice in the industry.
|Key Points – Complaints & Service|
|Live customer support?||Yes|
|Most common complaint:||Hidden costs|
Considering Wells Fargo’s size, the company has relatively few complaints regarding its merchant services division. That being said, there are a few common types of complaints (many of which accuse the company of being a ripoff or a scam) that point to where merchants are most likely to experience problems.
One of the most common complaints we found had to do with merchants reporting that an agent was dishonest or deceptive about terms and conditions of the merchant account agreement or costs of terminals, or that the agent signed them up for additional services they had not requested. Other common complaints reported were sudden and long-term holding of merchants’ funds with no explanation, nondisclosure of the $500 cancellation fee prior to account setup, and nondisclosure of the non-cancellable policies regarding equipment leases.
The score of this section is negatively impacted in larger part by the content of the merchant complaints, rather than the quantity.
|Key Points – BBB Report|
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) does not have a separate report for Wells Fargo Merchant Services. The company as a whole has had BBB accreditation since 1981 and holds a “B” rating of this review. A total of 5,515 complaints have been filed with the BBB in the last 36 months, with 4,704 of the reports resolved to the customers’ satisfaction. The remaining 811 complaints have not been resolved to the merchants’ satisfaction despite what the BBB believes was a good-faith effort by Wells Fargo.
We have adjusted the rating to a “C” for the purposes of this review according to our rating criteria.
Based on our research, the vast majority of Wells Fargo Merchant Services customers appear to be satisfied with the service. It appears that its processing rates may be on the high side, especially if merchants do not properly negotiate the pricing (see: Fee Sweep). Additionally, the presence of a long service agreement, Early Termination Fee, and non-cancellable equipment lease negatively impact the company’s score. Merchants are strongly encouraged to fully read their service agreements prior to signing any documents.
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