Worst Merchant Accounts

Overview

The easiest way to save money on credit card processing is to find the best merchant accounts, but there are also plenty of good reasons to keep tabs on the worst merchant account providers. The credit card processing industry is full of scam companies that seemingly pop up out of nowhere. These processors are willing to say or do anything to make a quick buck at the expense of small business owners. Bad processors are notorious for duping desperate sales agents into working on a commission-only basis and then training those agents to deceive merchants into signing long-term, expensive contracts with outdated equipment and poor customer support. To make matters worse, these ripoff companies appear, disappear, and rebrand too often for any one merchant to keep them all straight.

Our Rating Criteria

To help you steer clear of bad deals, we’ve put together the following list of the worst merchant accounts on CPO. These companies have all received “F” or “D” ratings in their CPO reviews due to a combination of some or all of the following factors:

  • Deceptive sales tactics
  • Undisclosed rates and fees
  • Expensive monthly, annual, and early termination fees
  • Non-cancellable or long-term contracts and leases
  • Numerous public complaints from current and former merchants
  • Numerous public complaints from current and former employees
  • Reports of poor customer support
  • Public interactions with merchants or with CPO that do not reflect favorably on the company
  • A poor rating with the Better Business Bureau
  • Proven or suspected affiliations with other ill-reputed companies

You can learn more about how we determine our ratings in our CPO Rating Criteria.

Depending on your business type or the sales agent you work with, it might be possible to receive competitive pricing and quality service from some of these providers. However, the available evidence overwhelmingly indicates that you are most likely to receive an unsatisfactory outcome. If you’ve been contacted by a company on this list, we strongly recommend that you conduct some research on the company’s reputation within the industry and consider other options before signing a contract. It may end up saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run.

Why These Providers

Although its website is no longer active, ElitePay Global (elitepayglobal.com) ranks as the most unethical and least merchant-friendly provider that CPO has ever reviewed. We have received over 190 merchant complaints about ElitePay Global and its affiliated businesses, and nearly all of these complaints describe aggressive sales tactics, deceptive rate quotes, extremely expensive long-term leases, and unreachable or unhelpful customer service. A significant number of former employees have also contacted CPO to describe a highly unprofessional work environment that actively trains sales representatives to misinform merchants.

These reports alone would be enough to make ElitePay Global one of the lowest-rated providers on CPO, but the company further distinguished itself by filing a trademark infringement lawsuit against CPO in April 2014. It is our firm belief that this lawsuit was filed in an attempt to suppress our critical review of the company. In June 2015, the United States District Court for the Central District of California issued a summary judgment in favor of CPO, denying ElitePay Global’s claim of trademark infringement. CPO may have prevailed in the lawsuit, but we view ElitePay Global’s behavior as a chilling firsthand example of the lengths to which credit card processors will go to prevent independent reviewers from exposing their unethical tactics.

Currently settling a second lawsuit filed by the New York State Attorney General in just the past five years, Northern Leasing Systems (northernleasing.com) is a credit card processing equipment lease provider rather than a full-service merchant account provider. Despite its narrow focus on equipment, the company is responsible for hundreds of merchant complaints due to its standard practice of selling four-year, non-cancellable equipment leases.

Northern Leasing typically allows any sales agent with any merchant account provider to sell its equipment leases as an addendum to their standard merchant account contracts. In fact, many of the companies on this list are known to provide equipment leases through Northern Leasing. This causes some confusion among merchants who don’t realize that they’re signing a contract with two separate entities, and that confusion often turns to rage once merchants learn that Northern Leasing’s leases run for four years (one year longer than the standard multiyear merchant account contract), cannot be cancelled without paying the full sum of the four-year term, and will almost always end up charging merchants an amount that is several times larger than the actual purchase price of the equipment. Details of the NY Attorney General’s settlement can be seen here.

Along with MBF Leasing and Golden Eagle Leasing, Lease Finance Group (signaturebankonline.com/leasing/) is a subsidiary of Northern Leasing Systems that engages in precisely the same style of equipment leasing as its parent company. Lease Finance Group is the second-most active brand used by Northern Leasing and has been cited in far more merchant complaints than its other affiliated subsidiaries.

Lease Finance Group is also named in the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against Northern Leasing and is known to offer the same long-term, non-cancellable, exorbitantly priced equipment leases as Northern Leasing. It has an “F” rating on CPO and an “F” rating with the BBB.

Additional Options

Payment Systems Corporation

Payment Systems Corporation is a seemingly defunct merchant account provider located in Los Angeles, California. Under normal circumstances, we would not place an inactive company on this list, but a merchant has speculated in the comment section of our review that the company may have rebranded under the names Smart Choice Payments, First Choice Payments, and North American Processing Solutions.

At the height of its activity, Payment Systems Corporation received a large number of merchant complaints related to expensive equipment leases through Northern Leasing, deceptive sales tactics, unexpected fees, and long contract terms. In fact, despite Payment System’s Corporation’s inactive website, the company is still showing over 180 complaints and an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Ladco Leasing

Ladco Global Leasing Solutions is an equipment leasing company that appears to be the preferred equipment leasing partner of Elavon, one of the largest direct credit card processors in the world. Ladco Leasing’s standard equipment lease terms are nearly identical to those offered by Northern Leasing Systems and its subsidiaries: multiyear, non-cancellable, inconsistently disclosed by agents, and far more expensive than the actual purchase price of the equipment.

Ladco’s unclear status as a potential subsidiary or affiliate of Elavon makes it difficult to determine how much of the company’s marketing and customer service is managed by Elavon. Nevertheless, we have located over 200 merchant complaints that express frustration with the company’s ironclad lease terms and excessive cost.

First Data Global Leasing

First Data Global Leasing is the credit card processing equipment leasing branch of First Data, one of the world’s largest direct credit card processors. Like Ladco Leasing and Elavon, First Data Global Leasing is responsible for the vast majority of non-cancellable equipment leases sold to First Data merchants. There are hundreds of merchant complaints that describe insufficient disclosure of lease terms and outrageously high monthly lease fees through First Data Global Leasing.

First Data Global Leasing provides leased equipment both for merchants contracted directly with First Data and for merchants who have signed up with First Data resellers. First Data’s overall brand has a slightly better reputation among merchants than Northern Leasing, but First Data Global Leasing’s contract terms and customer service rate just as poorly as the worst leasing providers on CPO.

First American Payment Systems

First American Payment Systems is a Texas-based super ISO of Vantiv that has served as the parent company of some of the lowest-rated ISOs on CPO, including Eliot Management Group, Trans Tech Merchant Group, Summit Merchant Solutions, Apex Merchant Group, Trinity Merchant Group, and Certified Payment Processing. First American Payment Systems and its many resellers are known for their large teams of independent sales agents and multi-year contracts with termination fees of up to $495.

Although these brands have seen lower complaint rates in recent years (which could indicate a slowdown in business), they were at one time the most reliable sources of negative merchant feedback on our website.

iPayment

iPayment is a very large California-based ISO of First Data that also acts as the parent company of CreditCardProcessing.com and Leaders Merchant Services. iPayment is known to offer a standard contract of three years with an early termination fee between $250 and $350, as well as equipment leases through First Data Global Leasing.

iPayment earns a special notice on this list due to its past attempts to remove its review from CPO, including intimidation through bullying and threats of litigation under false pretenses as well as an illegitimate DMCA claim filed with our host, which was rejected on the grounds that it was a “guise” to suppress fair use of a trademark. iPayment has not engaged in this behavior since 2015, when its conduct was prominently noted at the top of its review.

North American Bancard

North American Bancard is a large, 25-year-old Global Payments reseller based in Troy, Michigan. The company employs a large team of independently contracted sales agents and provides a standard contract of three years with a liquidated damages-style early termination fee.

North American Bancard is the parent company of the mobile point-of-sale solution PayAnywhere, which has steadily received public complaints since its launch in 2010. In May 2017, North American Bancard bought Total Merchant Services.

Leaders Merchant Services

Leaders Merchant Services is a California-based merchant account provider that operates as a fully owned subsidiary of iPayment. Our review of Leaders has been receiving merchant complaints about its tiered pricing quotes and hidden fees since 2012. Despite this, present-day complainants suggest that the company continues to use more or less the exact same sales approach that it always has.

Its contract terms aren’t much more appealing, given that it offers a standard contract of three years with an early termination fee between $250 and $350. Leaders has received a “D” rating according to our rating criteria for years.

Securus Payments

Although its operations have been sold to Chyp, Securus Payments earns its spot on this list due to the poor reviews it rapidly accumulated while active and the number of poorly rated providers that it has been linked to, including Chyp, Payprotec, Riverside Payments, and National Paymentech. Securus and its affiliates have primarily received complaints related to pushy, aggressive sales tactics and nondisclosure of rates and equipment leases.

Securus is not an active merchant services company at this time, but its website is still up. As far as we have been able to determine, any merchants who attempt to sign up with Securus going forward will instead by served by Chyp or another subsidiary of Excel Corporation.

Chyp

Spawned in the wake of Securus’s 2014 acquisition by Excel Corporation, Chyp is a Portland-based merchant account provider that has racked up a solid number of merchant complaints in just a short period of time. This is likely due to the fact that Chyp inherited nearly all of Securus Payments’s operations and staff, which has led to the same types of complaints about aggressive sales tactics and undisclosed fees.

In recent months, we have received some information suggesting that Chyp or some of its former executives have created a new company called Capital Payments. We do not yet have a review of Capital Payments on CPO, but merchants should be aware of this potential DBA.

Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions

Founded in 1989, Merchants’ Choice Payment Solutions is a Texas-based merchant account provider that was acquired by Paysafe Group in August 2017. Merchants’ Choice Payment Solutions has receive a high number of complaints that specifically accuse the company’s sales agents of “slamming,” or posing as a merchant’s current payment processor over the phone. This practice is one of the most unethical sales tactics in the industry.

Merchants’ Choice doesn’t perform better when it comes to contract terms, either, as its standard agreement is a three-year contract with a liquidated damages early termination fee. Although Merchants’ Choice doesn’t appear to have as large of a user base as some of the other processors on this list, the merchant feedback it has received more than justifies its “D” rating.

Merchant Lynx

Merchant Lynx is a reseller of iPayment that is headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland. The company has received complaints that are typical of an iPayment entity, such as nondisclosure of fees, aggressive sales tactics, and expensive contract terms. The company’s contract is a three-year agreement with a termination fee of $495, and it may also come with a long-term equipment lease.

Merchant Lynx has also received a few complaints from merchants who claim that they were unable to reach a single representative of the company for months at a time. This poor customer service track record is a large part of why the company is on this list.

Appstar Financial

Appstar Financial is a merchant account provider headquartered in San Diego, California. Its review on CPO has accumulated complaints at a steady pace since its publication in 2011, and most of these complaints cite hidden fees, constant telemarketing calls, and poor support for the company’s sales employees.

Despite the regular negative feedback posted by merchants, Appstar Financial does not appear to have made any significant alterations to its practices in the years that we have been covering it. The company has accordingly maintained its “D” rating for the past few years.

Pivotal Payments

Pivotal Payments is a very large ISO with significant operations in the U.S. and Canada. The company has amassed hundreds of complaints related to undisclosed fees, poor customer services, billing errors, and high cancellation fees. Many of these problems appear to stem from its vast network of ISOs, sub-ISOs, and independent sales agents.

In the past year or so, Pivotal Payments has taken some steps to improve its reputation among merchants. These efforts have had mixed results in our assessment, but the company has improved its rating to a “C.” It’s possible that Pivotal Payments could be on its way to getting off of this list, but it has quite a history to overcome.

Eliot Management Group

Eliot Management Group is one of the more active resellers of First American Payment Systems, and its reputation mirrors that of its parent company. Merchant complaints describe an employee “hiring mill” that burns through poorly trained sales reps who are motivated to sign merchants up for very expensive contract terms. These terms reportedly include a three-year contract with a $495 termination fee and a possible equipment lease.

Eliot Management Group is not necessarily a worse option than other First American Payment Systems resellers, but it has maintained a consistent complaint rate on CPO for long enough that it is a good representative of that cluster of companies.

Main Street Processing

Main Street Processing is a DBA of Datalink Bankcard Services that also sells under the name “Tier 1 Processing.” We first discovered this processor as a result of a large influx of complaints that all described the same unethical slamming tactics. These complaints have come and gone since our initial publication of Main Street Processing’s review, but they all consistently describe telemarketers who pose as the merchant’s current processor.

There is also recent evidence to suggest that Main Street Processing has started doing business as “Wholesale Banc” and “Challas Group.” These companies share personnel with Datalink Bankcard Services and have started to accumulate similar complaints, so they may find themselves on this list sooner rather than later.

Encore Payment Systems

Encore Payment Systems is a Texas-based merchant account provider that also operates as “Prodigy Payment Systems,” “Momentum Payment Systems,” and a Canadian branch called “MOCA Payment Systems.” The company appears to maintain the same hiring mill sales strategy across all of its brands, which has generated a moderate amount of complaints from merchants.

Encore Payment Systems appears to be phasing some of these brands out over time, but merchants should be wary of any new brand names that could pop up.

Electronic Merchant Systems

Electronic Merchant Systems is an Ohio-based merchant account provider that appears to be a subsidiary of the Francis David Corporation. The company has received a moderate amount of complaints from merchants and employees about undisclosed fees and contract terms. It offers a relatively short standard contract of 18 months, but its termination fee is $595 and long-term equipment leases are occasionally involved.

Electronic Merchant Systems was the subject of a 2015 complaint from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau related to the company’s facilitation of a “phantom debt” scheme. A federal judge ultimately dismissed this case in 2017 due to noncompliance by the CFPB.

Future Payment Technologies

Future Payment Technologies is just one of several names for this poorly rated Texas provider, the others of which include Crescent Processing Company, Park Central Company, Merchant Processing Company, and Talus Payments. These brands are all linked by the same ownership team and upper-level executive staff, and they consistently receive high numbers of complaints from merchants regarding deceptive sales practices, expensive contract terms, and poor customer service.

In 2017, a new ownership group purchased Talus Payments, and this new team has focused on improving Talus Payments’s internal practices and public reputation. The team behind Future Payment Technologies moved on to create Clearwater Payments, which has yet to accumulate the high complaint rate that we have come to expect from them.

Skrill

Skrill is a peer-to-peer money transfer service intended primarily for international money transfers. The company is an unlikely presence on this list due to the fact that it advertises to individual users rather than to business owners, but it belongs here due to its hundreds of complaints related to fund holds and slow or nonexistent customer support.

It’s likely that some percentage of Skrill users are genuinely in violation of the company’s transaction policies and have rightfully had their payments frozen, but the sheer volume of furious complaints that this company has generated in a short amount of time has prompted us to place it here.

Electronic Payment Systems

Electronic Payment Systems is an Englewood, Colorado-based merchant account provider that is almost 25 years old. The company initially received a poor review on CPO after a sales representative outright lied to us when we called them posing as a merchant. Since then, it has maintained a steady rate of complaints and never truly crawled out of the hole it dug with that initial interaction. EPS offers a one-year contract that would be somewhat competitive for the industry if it did not have an attached liquidated damages termination fee.

In 2017, the FTC filed a complaint against Electronic Payment Systems and several of its sub-ISOs alleging that the company’s employees knowingly laundered payments for a fraud scheme called “Money Now Funding.” The outcome of this complaint is still pending.


Have you had a bad experience with one of these processors? Do you know of any providers that deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comment section below!

Hi, I’m Phillip Parker and I believe that the merchant account industry has been overrun by people who engage in fraud and deception in order to steal from hard working business owners. I created this website to help you avoid the bad players, save money on fees, and get peace of mind with your merchant account. If you would like to help support my work, check out my cost analysis service. I can evaluate your statement and tell you exactly how much you're overpaying for your merchant account. Get more information here.

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14 Reviews Leave Your Review Below

  1. Thank you Phillip, for what you do! If anyone out there knows of a merchant service company that is completely ethical and transparent and hires outside agents, I would love to know about it! I have worked for three different ones and disliked all of them because of all the reason stated here by Mr. Parker. Thank you.~

  2. I have no idea why Zombaio isn’t on this list. They ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS pay late!!! Zombaio accepts MC and others for me, but CCBill only accepts Visa. I get paid with CCBill every Monday on time every time (unless a holiday). I get more $ with CCBill every single week. I literally have people signing up every single day, yet Zombaio pays me a week here, week and a half there, 2 weeks here, 2 and a half weeks there. ALWAYS WITH THE POOREST OF EXCUSES!!!

    As of 6-22-17, Zombaio hasn’t paid me for 2 and a half weeks. The excuse this time is that they have been acquired and the new bank is holding up the $ (for everyone, or only me?). I constantly ask am I the only client with these issues – never an answer to that question.

    I would definitely recommend to NOT let your hard-earned $ by handled by these crooks. They claim to have 4 offices, 2 of them in the US, but I ALWAYS ONLY get 1 person – the same person. Early when I complained, it was “David”; these days it’s “Jesper” – but I feel it’s the same person. I have went through the trouble of purchasing 3 websites:
    1. zombaio‑david‑scam.info
    2. zombaio‑jesper‑scam.info
    3. zombaio‑frued‑alert.info
    * I plan to utilize these URLs in the very near future. for some reason, I keep giving them the opportunity to make it right. But all they do is pay later and later. If you need your $ to pay bills, they aren’t your friend.

    And EVERY question i ask regarding my late payments is met with zero ideas of why it’s happening (as if I’m always the only person it’s happening to). ALWAYS with a follow-up to “I’ll forward your inquiry to the “Accounting Department”.

    I personally 100% believe that this company is being run by a handful of people, claiming to be a world-wide enterprise. And they keep your money!!! But it’s ok….because they’re “Free, and don’t charge upfront fees”. I’d rather pay up the a** to have CCBill pay me on time every time. Trust me, if you’re paycheck to paycheck, it’s worth the extra 2 car payments that CCBill charges – yearly, weekly, and per transaction. (if you can call that a better option.)

    Signed,

    Feeling Helpless

    1. jeff d, same issues here. :smh:

      actually they randomly charged me 15.9% on my latest payout even though my rate (settings > rates) shows 10.9% and i never had any chargebacks. questions them and got the same response, “accounting department”.

      you might want to check your latest payouts to ensure “jesper” or “david” haven’t done this to you, too.

    2. Zombaio has not paid me for YEARS.
      Obviously I no longer use these slime balls. But they still owe me thousands of dollars.
      The business locations on the website don’t really exist, and I believe it’s actually just one person living in their mother’s basement in Hayward, CA.
      I recently teamed up with folks (who are also owed money for years), to hire a private investigator to find this person and shut the operation down, permanently, so no others have to suffer.

  3. Cardconnect should be added on the least of worst companies. Deceptive practises to merchants and agents. Have class action lawsuits going on now by both.

    1. TOTALLY AGREE!!!! Cardconnect is the worst. They have taken $4500 from a small business owner. American express has told them to refund me and they passed me around to 5 different people and told me they will not refund my money… and don’t even get me started on the hidden fees.

  4. Has anyone out there ever had difficulty with payment from SQUARE? In May we had $711 worth of sales disappear from the register overnight. Each customer signed and emails sent as usual. SQUARE says they have no records, how could that happen? We turned it over to Consumer Protection since SQUARE buried it in their legal department.

    1. Yes square up owes my son $1,730 and some change and this is been going on for probably a year they closed his account they got his bank to the closest account out the money was supposed to go to his bank and never went there I’ve contacted for him I’ve contacted them to give him his money and gave him an address I contacted the CEO and nobody has responded square up is horrible I don’t know where to go what to do or how to get it fixed so that my son can get his money he has a business he was selling products for foreign exchange and they didn’t like that he had that much money in there the $1,700 and they have never released it never sent a check nothing

  5. DO NOT use Evance formally known as Calpian Commerce, formerly known as pipeline data! Why oh why must the companies get away with so much fraud?

    I have been trying to cancel this account for months, and they will NOT return phone calls or emails. Is this really a legitimate company?
    Once they found out I was trying to cancel, I have never heard back from them again. Since August now, that’s nearly 5 months, they continue to take out fees, pci fees etc. from my account. That’s about 80.00 a month that I pay this company for NOTHING whatsoever!

  6. Total Merchant Services is a total rip-off. They lied to me about the terms of agreement and then falsified a contract that they said I signed (which I did NOT). The numbers they plugged in as far as my expected income was off by $1000’s of dollars per month. Clearly, someone filled out the contract when I demanded a copy.
    STAY AWAY FROM TOTAL MERCHANT SERVICES!!!

  7. We have been with Worldpay for about three years. During that time we experienced some problems such as received payments three and some times five days after the transaction no big deal. We also strive to get to talk with an agent. But the event we just faced a month ago, got out of all proportions. Worldpay misplaced our deposits for the amount of $ 25,042.11. They don’t know what happened they only know the funds ended up in another account that does not belong to us. could not prove who change the information in our terminals, not even from whence the changes came from, which IP address etc.. They rested all the responsibility on our shoulders. When we didn’t do anything that might have caused the funds to be directed to another account that does not belong to us. We think and saw their system is so feeble and they did not wanted to take any responsibility on this dreadful event. Until now we have not recuperated our funds. It’s been over a month an a half and Worldpay denies any responsibility on their behalf. We have been left alone.
    We are extremely disappointed. Needles to say the painful and stressful days our company have been through and the financial effects this fraud caused. therefore we do not recommend this company at all.

  8. I agree on the Vantiv rating- ultra ZERO.

    I spent countless hours on phone calls and emails giving them extra chances to correct multiple errors to my account over a several year period. They did not honor my contract and I finally gave up trying to get them to fix it. They really didn’t care. They only way they would fix anything is if I signed another 2 year contract. HUH? -now why on earth would I sign another contract if they have already shown themselves to be untrustworthy? I also had problems with the “opt in” fees. They automatically “opt you in” to new fees unless you specifically call them to “opt out”. I sent them an email telling them that I OPT OUT of all present and future fees for anything unless they get permission from me. I finally gave up and dropped them. I will be shopping around as well. I just want an honest merchant services provider. I don’t have time to deal with this nonsense.

  9. Vantiv has made a gross error at my private practice, Center for Behavioral Medicine in Port Orange, FL. Over a period of two to three months they made payments of $16,988.44 to my bank account, in error. These payments from patients should have been paid to our psychiatrist. Our office manager spent countless hours on the phone, with VANTIV, to unravel this bookkeeping error, and make corrections. The result was lost wages in the amount above for at least three months. The monthly fees I was charged and paid for the months of April, May and June were also overcharged due to the error made by VANTIV. My phone call to VANTIV today asking them to reimburse me for these overcharges was a waste of time. The person on the phone (after waiting for 30 minutes) was unable to help. My rating for this company is a big fat zero.

    1. Vantiv is a really shifty company. It seems every so often they got their hands in my pocket. Either auto opt-in me into their RAAP program where I’d have to pay $90/yr, or auto opt-in me into their Breach Assist Program in paying about $30/m. They sure like to auto opt me into a lot of programs. I have to examine my monthly statement CLOSELY right when I get it.

      Their latest tactic is something I just got in the mail today, it states,

      “Due to the complexities of the payments industry and systems that support your processing, we must periodically review our pricing structure. Effective September 1, 2016, you will be assessed an annual fee of $169 each year in September.”

      WHAT!? Now they’re just taking money from me without an explanation and without an auto opt-in/out-out. I think it’s time I shop around.

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