First American Payment Systems (first-american.net) is a merchant account provider based in Fort Worth, Texas, that claims to have been in business since 1990. First American Payment Systems also operates under several other business names and trademarks including FirstAdvantage, FirstFund ACH, Merimac Capital, Secur-Chex, FirstView, and FirstPay.net. It is suggested in numerous merchant reports that the company is under the same ownership as, or operates, the following merchant services companies: Appstar Financial, Eliot Management Group, Trans Tech Merchant Group, Summit Merchant Solutions, Apex Merchant Group, Trinity Merchant Group, Heritage Payment Solutions, GoEmerchant, Certified Payment Processing, iATS Payments, Govolution, and Velocity Payment System. A company representative has stated that First American Payment Systems does not operate Appstar Financial, Trinity Merchant Group, or Heritage Payment Solutions.
First American Payment Systems is a registered ISO/MSP of Fifth Third Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A, and MetaBank. First American Payment Systems was acquired in July 2014 by an investment group led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. In January 2016, First American Payment Systems acquired the entire independent sales office portfolio of Chase Commerce Solutions. The founder and CEO of First American Payment Systems is Neil Randel. It is unclear whether Neil Randel is related to Nathan Randel, the principal for Trinity Merchant Group, but it seems likely given the two companies’ geographic proximity.
Sales & Marketing
Key Points - Sales & Marketing
|Employs Independent Resellers||Yes|
|Advertises Deceptive Rates||No|
|Discloses All Important Terms||No|
First American Payment Systems has earned a “D” rating in this section because of its preferred marketing strategy. The company is associated with numerous other poorly rated companies and operates under multiple business names. Not only does this cause confusion for merchants, but most companies use such a strategy to spread public complaints across different business names.
Like many processors, First American Payment Systems’ strategy is to partner with ISOs and independently contracted outside sales people. This strategy would normally earn a processor a “C” rating in this section because it is a common strategy that ultimately results in a higher-than-average number of complaints from merchants. The rating for First American Payment Systems drops to a “D” in this section because it appears to supply processing services to some of the poorest-rated providers reviewed on CardPaymentOptions.com and may actually be under the same ownership as some of these companies.
First American Payment Systems Marketing Example
Costs & Contract
Key Points - Costs & Contract
|Early Termination Fee||$300-$495|
|PCI Compliance Fee||$120 Per Year|
|Equipment Lease Terms||48 Months, Non-Cancellable|
The fees and contract terms for a First American Payment Systems merchant account may vary by agent, sub-ISO, and merchant. With that said, it appears that the standard contract for First American Payment Systems (available below) includes a three-year service agreement, an early termination fee between $300 and $495, and $120+ annual PCI Compliance fee among other monthly fees and processing fees. Additionally, the contract renews for successive one-year terms if not cancelled within a specific time frame before the end of the term. Merchants also report long-term, non-cancellable equipment leases through the company’s leasing affiliate, Merimac Capital. With very few exceptions, the company’s contract terms appear to be substandard in comparison to the overall industry. See the First American Payment Systems Merchant Agreement and the First American Payment Systems Terms & Conditions.
Complaints & Service
Key Points - Complaints & Service
|Total Online Complaints||150+|
|Live Customer Support||Yes|
|Most Common Complaint||Sales Tactics|
First American Payment Systems has a fairly high number of complaints filed on various websites and forums online, and most of these complaints accuse the company of being a scam or ripoff. Many of the complaints tie First American Payment Systems to the poorly rated resellers mentioned earlier in this review. Although an exact number of complaints is difficult to establish, there are at least 150 separate complaints naming First American Payment Systems and there could be many more.
The majority of the complaints stem from hidden and surprise fees, deceptive sales practices on the part of independent agents and resellers, unauthorized debits from accounts, and nondisclosure of the service agreement length and cancellation fee. There are also numerous complaints filed by former employees and agents describing deceptive and misleading hiring practices.
Additionally, multiple merchants complain of predatory equipment lease agreements through Merimac Capital. In these complaints, merchants report being misled into expensive, non-cancellable 48-month leases for cheap equipment.
First American Payment Systems offers 24/7 phone support to all of its customers.
Key Points - BBB
|Product & Service Complaints||37|
|Billing & Collection Complaints||28|
|Advertising & Sales Complaints||12|
|Guarantee & Warranty Complaints||0|
Note: We have adjusted this company’s BBB rating according to our own standards. To better understand why we adjust BBB ratings, please see our Rating Criteria.
As of this update, the Better Business Bureau is awarding First American Payment Systems an “A+” rating despite 77 complaints filed within the last 36 months. Of the total, 37 are regarding product and service problems, 28 are under billing and collection disputes, and 12 are under advertising and sales issues. The report states that First American Payment Systems has resolved 17 of the complaints but that the remaining 60 either were not resolved to the merchant’s satisfaction or did not receive a final assessment from the merchant. There are also nine negative reviews and one positive review posted on the BBB profile for the company. In light of these figures, we have adjusted the company’s rating to a “C” for the purposes of this review.
About Phillip Parker
Phillip Parker is a former merchant services agent turned small business advocate and the author of "Fee Sweep," which teaches merchants how to dramatically lower their processing rates, eliminate junk fees, and avoid fine-print scams. He founded CardPaymentOptions.com to help merchants enact positive change in the credit card processing industry. Schedule a Consultation with PhillipSchedule a Consultation with Phillip
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