Worst Merchant Accounts


***Please note there is currently a technical error on this page indicating a rating of “excellent” on the providers below. These “excellent” notations should be ignored until further notice. All other content is generating accurately.***

The easiest way to save money on credit card processing is to find the best merchant accounts, but there are plenty of good reasons to keep tabs on the worst merchant account providers, too. 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 commission-only and then training those agents to deceive merchants into signing long-term, expensive contracts with outdated equipment and poor customer support.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

ElitePay Global

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 in under three years, 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.

Ironwood Payments

Ironwood Payments (iwpmts.com) takes its place on this list largely due to its affiliation with ElitePay Global. Although the exact relationship between the two companies has yet to be firmly established, we have obtained irrefutable proof that Ironwood Payments shares certain facilities, employees, and marketing materials with ElitePay Global. Now that ElitePay Global’s website is no longer active, it is extremely likely that the company’s executive team and sales staff will transition to a new brand, and Ironwood Payments is a candidate for the company’s new identity. Another potential new DBA of ElitePay Global is One for Merchants.

In addition to its links to ElitePay Global, Ironwood Payments has racked up over 45 complaints in the 10 or so months that it has been an active brand. This accelerated rate of complaints mirrors that of ElitePay Global when it was most active, and the complaints themselves mention the same issues that ElitePay Global merchants were having: misrepresented rates, poor customer service, and exorbitant leasing fees. These factors suggest that Ironwood Payments deserves a place on this list for the time being.

Northern Leasing Systems

Currently the subject of 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. The New York Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks restitution for all merchants who have victimized by Northern Leasing and demands the dissolution of the company and its subsidiaries, among other severely punitive terms. Merchants who have dealt with Northern Leasing Systems are instructed to file complaints here or to call 1-800-771-7755.

Lease Finance Group

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 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

See our First Data Global Leasing review for more information about this company.

First American Payment Systems

See our First American Payment Systems review for more information about this company.


See our iPayment review for more information about this company.

North American Bancard

See our North American Bancard review for more information about this company.

Leaders Merchant Services

See our Leaders Merchant Services review for more information about this company.

Securus Payments

See our Securus Payments review for more information about this company.


See our Chyp review for more information about this company.

Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions

See our Merchants’ Choice Payment Solutions review for more information about this company.

Merchant Lynx

See our Merchant Lynx review for more information about this company.

Appstar Financial

See our Appstar Financial review for more information about this company.

Pivotal Payments

See our Pivotal Payments review for more information about this company.

Eliot Management Group

See our Eliot Management Group review for more information about this company.

Main Street Processing

See our Main Street Processing review for more information about this company.

Encore Payment Systems

See our Encore Payment Systems review for more information about this company.

Electronic Merchant Systems

See our Electronic Merchant Systems review for more information about this company.

Future Payment Technologies

See our Future Payment Technologies review for more information about this company.


See our Skrill review for more information about this company.

Electronic Payment Systems

See our Electronic Payment Systems review for more information about this company.

Hi, I’m Phillip and I’m disgusted by the state of credit card processing in the U.S. and abroad. I believe that the industry has been overrun by people who engage in fraud and deception in order to steal money from hard working business owners. I’ve made it my mission to expose the companies and individuals who engage in predatory marketing, pricing, and contracts, or just provide terrible service. Along with uncovering the bad guys, I’ve also discovered the good guys who do stand out from the status quo. CPO is a website where you will find ratings and reviews of these companies along with advice on how to save money and which service providers consider. Together we can move the industry in a positive direction. If you would like to help support my work, please checkout “Fee Sweep” my eGuide to getting the lowest possible fees when accepting card payments. If you haven’t heard of “interchange” this advice will save you hundreds, even thousands, in processing fees.

Schedule a Consultation with Phillip

8 Reviews Leave Your Review Below

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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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