Challas Group Review

Overview

Incorporated in 2012 but properly activated in mid-2014, Challas Group (challasgroup.com) is a merchant account provider based in Texas and Illinois that is currently operated by former executives of Datalink Bankcard Services. Challas Group also appears to operate under the names “Wholesale Banc” (wholesalebanc.com) and “Bankcard Analytics” (bankcardanalytics.com), although the three brands might be used interchangeably. Most of Challas Group’s employees appear to have departed Datalink Bankcard in June or July 2014, which is also when the Challas Group website first appeared. An incomplete list of these employees as well as their current and former positions can be found below:

  • Walter Ranstrom – Chief Operations Officer at Challas Group (former director of sales at Datalink)
  • Garry Garmash – President at Challas Group (former vice president of Datalink)
  • Daniel Avalos – Chief Technology Officer at Challas Group (former help desk tech at Datalink)
  • Ryan Miller – Director of Recruiting at Challas Group (former corporate recruiter for Main Street Processing and Datalink)
  • Jennifer Marcano – Escalated Audits Manager at Challas Group (former national account manager at Datalink)

Dmitry Faybysh has been the CEO and founder of Bankcard Analytics since mid-2014, but we are unable to verify whether he was connected to Datalink Bankcard Services prior to 2014. We are also unable to determine at this time whether Challas Group is actively affiliated with other Datalink Bankcard Services DBAs such as Tier 1 Processing and Main Street Processing, but there is strong reason to believe that it operates in a similar fashion to these organizations.

Challas Group and Wholesale Banc are registered ISOs of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Concord, California. Challas Group, Wholesale Banc, and Bankcard Analytics have headquarters located at 2720 Dundee Rd. Ste 200, Northbrook, Illinois 60062, and 1251 S. Sherman St. Ste 101, Richardson, Texas 75081. It should be noted that the Richardson, Texas, address is not far from Datalink Bankcard’s headquarters at 3505 Token Dr, Richardson, Texas 75082.

Key Points

  • Sales & Marketing: Challas Group hires independent sales representatives and has received more than 20 complaints about its sales practices.
  • Costs & Contract: Challas Group appears to offer a multi-year contract with an associated long-term equipment lease for most accounts.
  • Complaints & Service: Challas Group has received more than 25 public complaints.
  • BBB Rating: Challas Group has multiple profiles with the Better Business Bureau and has received seven complaints in the past three years.
  • Rates & Fees: How Merchants Got The Best Rates With Challas Group

Challas Group Products and Services

Industries

  • Retail
  • E-commerce
  • MOTO

Response from Challas Group

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f

Sales & Marketing

Key Points - Sales & Marketing

Employs Independent Resellers Yes
Advertises Deceptive Rates No
Discloses All Important Terms No

Challas Group primarily markets its merchant services through a combination of telemarketing and independently contracted sales agents. This sales approach is also used by Datalink Bankcard Services, Tier 1 Processing, and Main Street Processing, and it tends to generate a high number of merchant complaints. Challas Group is no exception, as we have found more than 20 Challas Group complaints that describe unwanted phone calls, nondisclosure of fees, a negative work environment for agents, misrepresentation of rates, unprofessional conduct, and, most alarmingly, “slamming.”

“Slamming” is the practice of calling merchants and posing as their current processor in order to trick them into signing a contract or equipment lease with your company. A representative complaint filed against Challas Group is detailed here:

They called to say they are a 3rd party auditing firm and saw a red flag on my merchant service account. They tricked one of my employees into sending them one of our statements. Challas ( calling themselves Wholesale Bank) said I was being overcharged and they were going to call my current provider to tell them they are in trouble for over charging me and that Wholesale Bank will be taking over my account and giving me “cost” on my processing. Marci ( probably not her real name)that I was speaking with even got off the phone with me to “call my local sales office to yell at them”. She also said I qualified for a class action law suit because I had been being over charged and she would sign me up for that as well. She had me going until she wanted me to sign a lease for a credit card terminal. NEVER LEASE A TERMINAL. She wanted me to pay $95 a month for 4 years! Terminals are about $200 all over the internet. She said the one I had was not compliant and that my current company was charging me $256 a month for non compliant. Not true.

This complaint is typical of the complaints we have seen about Challas Group and Wholesale Banc, and it is identical to the feedback we have previously seen about Datalink Bankcard-affiliated companies. The practice of slamming is highly unethical and has resulted in legal action being taken against some processors. Challas Group not only appears to mimic Datalink Bankcard in its sales approach, but also in its use of multiple DBAs to spread merchant complaints out across several brands.

The Challas Group website is currently dysfunctional, but the Challas Group, Bankcard Analytics, and Wholesale Banc websites do not display misleading rate quotes on visible or archived pages. This lone bright spot is not enough to overcome the company’s large number of consistent complaints from employees and merchants about its sales practices. It gets an “F.”

Response from Challas Group

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d

Costs & Contract

Key Points - Costs & Contract

Swiped Rate Variable
Keyed-in Rate Variable
Early Termination Fee Variable
PCI Compliance Fee Variable
Equipment Lease Terms 48 Months, Non-Cancellable

Challas Group does not disclose its contract terms or pricing on any of its websites, but we can determine some details from merchant complaints. Merchants state that Challas Group promotes a rate “program” that guarantees rock-bottom rates on transactions in exchange for merchants signing a long-term equipment lease well in excess of the purchase price of the equipment. This pricing scheme is popular among providers that engage in slamming because it enables them to entice merchants with huge savings on rates without explaining that merchants will massively overpay for processing equipment. In addition, this plan often does not clearly explain to merchants that only debit transactions will qualify for the extremely low rates, while credit card transactions will process at a much higher rate.

We have seen a few complaints from Challas merchants who state that their overall costs were higher after switching to Challas than they were through their previous provider. Some complaints mention that Challas signed them up for terminal leases through Northern Leasing Systems, which is notorious for providing expensive, non-cancellable, four-year equipment leases. While we do not have specific contractual language for Challas Group contracts, it appears that the company offers worse-than-average terms for the industry. Moreover, the methods that Challas Group uses to sell these contracts to merchants fall short of what we consider appropriate disclosure, so we do not advise any merchants to sign a contract with Challas Group at this time. If you have any knowledge of the company’s contract terms (including any early termination fees or PCI compliance fees), please share it in the comment section below this review.

Response from Challas Group

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d

Complaints & Service

Key Points - Complaints & Service

Total Online Complaints 25+
Live Customer Support Yes
Most Common Complaint Sales Tactics

We are currently able to locate more than 25 negative Challas Group reviews, many of which outright accuse the company of being a ripoff or a scam. Several reviews also mention Wholesale Banc, although hardly any of them mention Bankcard Analytics. Nearly all complaints are sales related, as they describe unwanted phone calls, misrepresented fees, slamming, nondisclosure of contract terms, and aggressive or unprofessional conduct. Some complaints also mention poor customer service and unsavory contract terms, and still others have been posted by employees who describe an unethical office environment. These complaints are consistent with complaints that we have found for Datalink Bankcard and its related businesses, and we see no evidence to suggest that merchants can expect a quality customer service experience from Challas Group.

Challas Group provides an email address and phone number on its website, but these appear to be channels devoted primarily to sales inquiries rather than customer support.

Response from Challas Group

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b

BBB

Key Points - BBB

Product & Service Complaints 1
Billing & Collection Complaints 2
Advertising & Sales Complaints 3
Guarantee & Warranty Complaints 0
Delivery Complaints 1

The Better Business Bureau currently maintains two separate profiles for Challas Group and one for Wholesale Banc. Challas Group Illinois has an “A-” rating with the BBB, Challas Group Texas has a “B” rating with the BBB, and Wholesale Banc has an “A-” rating. For the sake of simplicity, we have combined complaint totals across all of the company’s BBB profiles.

Challas Group has received seven total complaints through the BBB, with three related to advertising or sales issues, two having to do with billing or collection, one due to a product or service problem, and one related to delivery. Two complaints were resolved to the satisfaction of the merchant, while five either were resolved to the dissatisfaction of the merchant or did not receive a final response from the merchant. The company has also received 11 negative informal reviews through the BBB, although it should be noted that these reviews are not subject to authentication. Given the company’s complaint total and resolution ratio, we agree with the BBB’s rating at this time.

Response from Challas Group

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Challas Group Logo

Challas Group Bottom Line

Challas Group rates as a substandard merchant services provider according to all available information. The company is heavily staffed by former Datalink Bankcard Services employees, and Datalink Bankcard and its affiliated businesses have never scored well according to our rating criteria. Challas Group and its DBAs have received complaints from merchants that describe highly unethical sales conduct as well as substandard contract terms, and we do not recommend this company to anyone at this time.

Phillip Parker is a former merchant services sales agent who believes the industry has been overrun by people who engage in fraud and deception in order to steal from hard working business owners. He created this website to help you avoid the bad players, save money on fees, and to get peace of mind with your merchant account. If you would like to help support his work, learn more about our cost reduction service. We can evaluate your statement, tell you exactly how much you're overpaying, and then help you dramatically reduce your fees with your current credit card processor. Looking to switch instead? See our list of the best merchant account providers.

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