|Sales & Marketing|
|Costs & Contract|
|Complaints & Service|
Appstar Financial (appstar.net) is a U.S.-based merchant account provider that primarily targets its services to small and mid-sized businesses. Although we have not been able to verify it independently, Appstar Financial may be under the same ownership, or affiliated with, the following companies (as indicated by third-party reviews and information): Apex Merchant Group, Eliot Management Group, Trans Tech Merchant Group, Summit Merchant Solutions, First American Payment Systems and Certified Payment Processing. AppStar Financial is a registered ISO/MSP of Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati, Ohio, with corporate headquarters located at 4619 Viewridge Ave., Ste. C, San Diego, California 92123. Mark Leibowitz is listed as the CEO of Appstar Financial.
|Appstar Financial Products and Services||Industries Served|
|Key Points – Sales & Marketing|
|Uses independent resellers?||Yes|
|Promotes deceptive rate quotes?||No|
|Discloses all important terms?||No|
Based on merchant reviews, it’s apparent that Appstar Financial relies heavily on telemarketing and independently contracted outside sales agents to market and sell its credit card processing services. Like most providers that use these tactics and score poorly in merchant reviews, Appstar appears to incentivize agents by linking higher commissions with higher rates and fees for merchants, including fees and lease terms on equipment. Due to this practice, agents are often focused on setting up expensive merchant accounts and long service agreements in exchange for higher payouts.
It is unclear if Appstar management condones aggressive sales tactics or encourages high pricing, but it appears that, at minimum, there is a lack of oversight and education of many of its agents. Additionally, it looks as if Appstar enforces agreements even when merchants describe the use of deceptive sales tactics by an agent.
Other than problems regarding Appstar’s telemarketing and sales agents, we found no other obvious examples of deceptive marketing.
Appstar Financial Marketing Example
|Key Points – Costs & Contract Terms|
|PCI compliance fee:||$125/year|
Appstar Financial merchant account costs and fees will likely vary from one merchant to the next based on the merchant’s business type and the agent setting up the account. Numerous merchants are reporting high fees and being misled to believe that Appstar will be less expensive than their current provider, only to experience much higher costs once activated. The company’s standard agreement appears to include a three-year service agreement with a $495 Early Termination Fee (ETF) and an annual PCI compliance fee of $125, both of which are automatically deducted from a merchant’s checking account. Additionally, the contract appears to automatically renew for successive one-year terms and is only cancellable within a small window of time before it renews. Merchants who choose to lease equipment may be subject to additional conditions and fees, including long-term, non-cancellable leases.
|Key Points – Complaints & Service|
|Live customer support:||Yes|
|Most common complaint:||Hidden fees|
We are currently able to locate over 70 negative reviews about Appstar Financial, many of which accuse the company of being a ripoff or a scam. The most common types of complaints that merchants have reported are uses of deceptive sales tactics by agents, constant telemarketing calls, nondisclosure of important fees prior to account setup (such as the ETF and PCI compliance fee), and holding of merchant funds. There are also complaints from former agents claiming mistreatment and being sent to bogus appointments with merchants.
|Key Points – BBB Report|
As of this review, Appstar Financial has maintained Better Business Bureau accreditation since 2002 and an “A+” rating despite having 179 complaints filed within the last 36 months. Of the total, 92 are regarding problems with products and services, 46 with advertising and sales issues, 40 with billing and collection, and one due to guarantee and warranty issues. All but 17 of the complaints have been resolved to the merchant’s satisfaction, which may demonstrate Appstar’s desire to maintain a strong BBB rating. We have adjusted the BBB’s rating to “D” for the purposes of this review based on how our criteria would score the number and content of complaints.
* Denotes CPO-adjusted BBB score
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This review was originally published on 9/26/12 and was last updated on 3/13/15.
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