Heartland Payment Systems (heartlandpaymentsystems.com) is a very large merchant account provider based out of Princeton, New Jersey. The company was founded in 1997 and, according to several reports, ranks as the fifth-largest processor in the United States and processes over $80 billion in credit card transactions annually. Heartland was acquired by Global Payments in December 2015.
The company made national headlines in 2008 when Heartland’s computer systems were infiltrated by a computer hacker named Albert Gonzalez, who subsequently stole the data of more than 130 million credit cards. While this could have spelled doom for such a prominent company, Heartland responded very quickly to repair the damages and prevent future security breaches. Heartland now regularly updates its security systems and, understandably, takes data security very seriously. Additionally, Heartland seems to have a strongly embedded philosophy of educating merchants about payment processing, even going so far as to dedicating an entire website dubbed the “Merchant Bill of Rights” to fulfilling this purpose.
Heartland also appears to be one of the very few merchant account providers that is actively passing Durbin Amendment savings on to merchants. For those who are unaware, the Durbin Amendment is a flawed bill that forced banks to reduce debit card interchange fees but did nothing about requiring third-party processors and sales organizations to pass the savings on to the merchant, which most do not. Heartland Payment Systems Inc. is a registered ISO/MSP of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, California, and The Bancorp Bank, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The company’s headquarters are located at 90 Nassau St Fl 2, Princeton, New Jersey 08542. The chairman and CEO of Heartland is Robert Carr.
- Gas station/C-store
Sales & Marketing
Key Points - Sales & Marketing
|Uses independent resellers?||No|
|Promotes deceptive rate quotes?||No|
|Discloses all important terms?||No|
Heartland does not use any deceptive advertising or rate quoting practices that are apparent to this reviewer. Additionally, representatives of Heartland have stated that all of the company’s sales staff are internal W2 employees who undergo background checks. Heartland never outsources its products and services to other companies and never uses independent contractors, sub-ISOs, or reseller organizations.
Although the company claims to go to great lengths to fully disclose its contract terms to merchants, the most consistently reported complaint about the company is nondisclosure of its $295 early termination fee (ETF). It appears that Heartland’s standard practice is to provide merchants with two documents at the point of signing. One is a short summary of the pricing and contract length, commonly referred to as a “merchant agreement.” According to merchant complaints, this agreement does not mention the early termination fee (ETF).
The second piece of documentation is a large handbook of user guidelines, often referred to in the industry as a “program guide.” The early termination fee is mentioned somewhere in this larger document. We do not consider this disclosure method to be very transparent, although there seems to be some variation among the company’s agents when it comes to verbally disclosing the ETF. The consistency of reports emerging about nondisclosure of the company’s ETF has prompted us to lower Heartland’s rating in this category to an “A-.”
Heartland Payment Systems Marketing Example
Costs & Contract
Key Points - Costs & Contract
|Swiped rate:||Variable (Interchange-plus)|
|Keyed-in rate:||Variable (Interchange-plus)|
|PCI compliance fee:||Unknown|
Pricing of Heartland merchant accounts appears to vary based on a variety of factors including business needs, sales volume and the agent setting up the account. The company’s standard contract (available below) has a three-year service agreement with a $295 cancellation fee, both of which appear to be negotiable. It also appears that Heartland is willing to waive cancellation fees in numerous circumstances. Heartland’s website claims that the company offers all of its merchants interchange-plus pricing, which is the most transparent pricing model available. The company does not appear to charge an annual PCI Compliance fee but it does charge a $25 monthly “service fee.” Heartland also adds a few basis points to its rate for merchants who request monthly rather than daily billing. In general, these contract terms are better than industry averages but less competitive than a month-to-month contract with no termination fees. If you can add any more details about the company’s pricing, please leave them in the comment section below. See the Heartland Merchant Agreement.
Complaints & Service
Key Points - Complaints & Service
|Live customer support?||Yes|
|Most common complaint:||Sales tactics|
For a processor of Heartland’s size, the company has a low-to-moderate number of complaints posted in the normal channels and forums, and only a handful of these complaints accuse the company of being a scam or a ripoff. Of the complaints, nearly all of them can be traced back to the agent who set up the account. In fact, the agent appears to be a major factor in determining a merchant’s future satisfaction with Heartland, so merchants are encouraged to work with someone they trust.
Aside from complaints about agents, there are a handful of reports from merchants indicating that their fees were suddenly raised without notification. There are also a few complaints of deceptive sales tactics and undisclosed fees, such as this one. In this case, the merchant “told [the sales agent] I would try his company but I would not sign a 3 year contract. [The agent] said no problem.” Later, however, “they told me I signed a 3 year non cancellable contract and I would be charged $295. I asked them to send me a copy of the contract and it was a obvious forgery.” Despite a handful of complaints of this nature, the company’s customer service department appears to receive generally positive reviews.
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Key Points - BBB
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 showing that Heartland has been accredited since 2004. The BBB is awarding Heartland an “A+” rating and reporting 17 complaints filed in the last 36 months, a very low complaint count for such a large processor. Of the complaints, 10 were due to problems with service, four had to do with billing, and two with advertising and sales. Heartland resolved seven complaints to the merchants’ satisfaction while the remaining 10 either were not resolved to the satisfaction of the merchant or did not receive a final response from the merchant. Since we believe that “A+” ratings should be reserved for providers with zero complaints, we have slightly adjusted the BBB‘s rating for the purposes of this review.
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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