Clearwater Payments Review: Fees, Complaints, & Lawsuits

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Note: As of 2023, the Clearwater Payments brand has been fully absorbed into DocuPhase. We will have a new profile for DocuPhase shortly. If you have any information about this situation, please email us or let us know in the comments below.

A New Venture From A Familiar Team

Founded in 2015, Clearwater Payments is a payment service provider that was originally owned and operated by former executives of Crescent Processing Company, Park Central Company, Future Payment Technologies, and Talus Pay. In fact, “Clearwater Payments” is a registered trademark of Future Payment Technologies, which could mean that the company is technically structured as a DBA of Future Payment Technologies. There is also a possibility that Clearwater Payments is associated with Merchant Processing Company, a revived version of the Crescent Processing Company website. In April 2021, automation platform DocuPhase purchased Clearwater Payments, making DocuPhase “one of the few industry players to offer end-to-end payments within the A/R and AP automation marketplace.” According to Clearwater CEO David Kesler, “This partnership allows us to not only continue that objective, but also enhances and improves our client experience with the addition of DocuPhase’s process automation and document management platform. This creates a payments hub, managing both receivables and payables. That is a powerful offering for our clients.” As of 2022, it appears that the Clearwater Payments brand has been fully absorbed into DocuPhase.

Clearwater Payments Management

The executive management team of Clearwater Payments included David Kesler (owner and CEO), Chad Smith (member of Board of Directors), Bob Wilson (Executive vice president and chief revenue officer), Bob Stephens (COO), and Sunnye Goldston (compliance officer), all of whom held the same positions at Future Payment Technologies and Talus Pay prior to December 2016. The owners also were executives at Crescent Processing Company and Park Central Company prior to operating Future Payment Technologies. Talus was purchased by a private equity firm prior to 2017, and Talus is now operated by a different ownership group separately from Clearwater Payments. This history has been included in Clearwater Payments' review because the aforementioned businesses are some of the lowest-rated processors on CPO.

Clearwater Payments Payment Processing

Following this review's initial publication, a Clearwater Payments representative contacted us to state that Clearwater Payments is not a merchant services company and does not engage in that industry in any way. Rather, the representative stated that Clearwater Payments is focused on providing third-party bill payment services to the utility, insurance, and consumer finance markets. Although billing software may be the company's primary focus, the Clearwater Payments website currently features the following language:

  • “Support for all Payments – Accept credit cards, debit cards, and echeck payments made over the phone, through our online interface, via mobile devices/smartphones, or by way of a live agent.”
  • “Instant Payments and eReceipts – Your customers can make their payments in real-time and instantly receive payment/confirmation receipts via email or text messaging.”
  • “Simplified Reconciliation – All prior days’ payments are delivered in ONE daily settlement report – no more reconciling from multiple sources.”

At the time of a previous update, the website also included the following language (which has since been removed):

  • “Multiple Payment Options – Your customers can pay their bills via credit card, debit card or ACH/echeck.”
  • “With Clearwater POS, accepting walk-in payments is both simple and convenient. Our robust terminal is secure, easy to use and packed with numerous features to help support the needs of your business.”
  • “Flexible Pricing – Convenience fee, flat rate, cost-plus, or hybrid model”

These are all payment processing services, and a merchant account will be required to accept credit cards through these services. Whether Clearwater Payments provides that merchant account, refers merchants to a Clearwater Payments partner, or requires merchants to obtain their own merchant account separately is not explained on the Clearwater Payments website. Given the fact that Clearwater Payments offers billing tools and its executive leadership team has an extensive background in merchant services, we feel it is in the interest of merchants to review this company on CPO.

Clearwater Payments Location & Ownership

Clearwater Payments is a registered ISO/MSP of Synovus Bank. As a part of DocuPhase, Dan Gaertner is the CEO of DocuPhase. While the company doesn't list its address on its website, some sources state that the company is located at 12377 Merit Dr #1530, Dallas, Texas.

Clearwater Payments Review Table of Contents

  • Costs & Contract: Clearwater Payments appears to offer variable contract terms that will depend on each merchant's business type and processing history.
  • Complaints & Service: Clearwater Payments complaints number fewer than 10 on public complaints forums.
  • BBB Rating: Clearwater Payments does not have a profile with the Better Business Bureau at this time.
  • Sales & Marketing: Clearwater Payments does not appear to hire independent resellers and has not received any complaints related to its sales practices.
Clearwater Payments payment processing
Clearwater Payments appears to provide a variety of payment processing services

Clearwater Payments Customer Reviews

Here's What Their Clients Say

Customer Reviews Summary
Total Complaints <10
Live Customer Support Yes
Most Common Complaint N/A

Clean Complaint Record

We are currently unable to locate any negative Clearwater Payments reviews, and there is no evidence that the company is a scam or a ripoff at this time. This may be largely due to the fact that the Clearwater Payments brand is relatively new, but it could also mean that the company’s executive team has adjusted its procedures since their time at Talus.

Clearwater Payments Lawsuits

We have not found any outstanding class-action lawsuits or FTC complaints filed against Clearwater Payments. Dissatisfied merchants who wish to pursue a non-litigious course of action against the company should consider reporting it to the relevant supervisory organizations.

Clearwater Payments Customer Service Options

Clearwater Payments advertises “a customer-centric” 2-tier support model that provides each merchant gets a dedicated account manager, and they also list a phone number on their website along with a customer support form. This falls short of our expectations for the top-rated payment processors for great customer service.

We have located a single Clearwater Payments customer service number:

(800) 784-5320 – Toll-Free General Customer Service

Clearwater Payments does not offer a dedicated email support address, however it does offer a support form on its website.

We have assigned Clearwater an “A” due to its clean complaint record, but the management team’s track record suggests that negative reviews will eventually be posted about this company.

Clearwater Payments Online Ratings

Here's How They Rate Online

No Profile Available

The Better Business Bureau does not maintain a profile for Clearwater Payments at this time. We therefore will not factor a BBB rating into this review.

Clearwater Payments Fees, Rates & Costs

A Closer Look at The Contract

Cost & Fees Summary
Swiped Rate 1.00% - 4.99%
Keyed-in Rate 1.00% - 4.99%
Virtual Terminal Rate 1.00% - 4.99%
Payment Gateway Fee Undisclosed
Early Termination Fee Undisclosed
PCI Compliance Fee Undisclosed
Equipment Lease Undisclosed

Variable Contract Terms

We are unable to locate any information about the standard Clearwater Payments contract at this time. The company does not provide its pricing or documentation on its website, and there are no Clearwater Payments complaints that describe specific aspects of its contract. Given the company’s history, it is likely that Clearwater Payments offers an automatically renewing contract of up to four years with a $495 early termination fee and accompanying four-year, non-cancellable equipment lease. However, it’s entirely possible that Clearwater has overhauled its former pricing approach for something more competitive with the cheapest merchant accounts.

Virtual Terminal and Payment Gateway Pricing

In addition to its storefront payment processing services, Clearwater Payments also dedicates a portion of its website to advertising its virtual terminal and payment gateway services. However, pricing is not disclosed on either of those services. Additional Clearwater Payments rates and fees, including gateway fees, technical support fees, batch fees, and additional transaction rates typically apply to these e-commerce services.

No Red Flags

As with the previous section of this review, we will assign Clearwater Payments an “A” rating based on the absence of any merchant complaints. However, it comes with a caveat that Clearwater’s executive team has previously scored very poorly in this category. If you have any specific knowledge of the standard Clearwater Payments contract (including any PCI compliance fees or monthly minimum fees), please share it in the comment section below this review.

Clearwater Payments e-commerce services
Clearwater Payments offers e-commerce services including virtual terminals and access to payment gateways

Clearwater Payments Employee Reviews & Sales Tacitcs

Should You Work For Them?

Jobs & Marketing Summary
Uses Independent Resellers No
Promotes Deceptive Rate Quotes No
Discloses All Important Terms No

Inside Sales Team

Clearwater Payments appears to market its products via online advertising and referrals, and there is no evidence at this time that the company utilizes independent sales agents or telemarketing. This marks a dramatic divergence from the sales practices at Future Payment Technologies and Talus Payments, which accumulated dozens of complaints about aggressive telemarketing commission-only sales agents. It may be possible that Clearwater also engages in these tactics and simply has yet to attract complaints under its new brand, but we have found no evidence that the company is actively recruiting outside sales agents at this time.

No Misleading Quotes

The Clearwater Payments website does not list any misleading rates or guarantees, and we have not found any online advertisements from Clearwater that use “teaser” rates. We will therefore assign the company an “A” rating for now with a strong advisory that this company’s executive team has previously operated “D” and “F” rated providers in this category. If you suspect that Clearwater Payments is overcharging you, you can double-check your monthly bill with a third-party statement audit.

Our Clearwater Payments Review Summary

Our Final Thoughts

A Solid Option for Most Businesses

Clearwater Payments rates as a reliable merchant account provider at this time due to a total absence of merchant feedback about the company. The history of its management team suggests that Clearwater is destined to see its rating drop, but we have assigned it an “A” for now to allow for the possibility that the company has made a clean break from its predecessors. We encourage merchants to describe their own experiences with Clearwater Payments below so that we can accordingly adjust or maintain this company’s rating. Merchants are always encouraged to compare Clearwater Payments to top-rated merchant services providers before signing up for service.

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Testimonials & Complaints

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