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An iPayment/Paysafe Group Subsidiary
Established in 2000, Leaders Merchant Services is a merchant account provider that serves businesses of most sizes. The company specializes in retail, home-based, mail-order, and e-commerce merchant accounts, enabling merchants to process “swiped” card-present transactions as well as “keyed” card-not-present transactions. Leaders was acquired by iPayment (now Paysafe Group) in November 2017. Leaders Merchant Services is a First Data (now Fiserv) reseller.
Leaders Merchant Services Point of Sale
Leaders Merchant Services prominently advertises Clover as a POS solution. The Clover family of products serves most common business needs for POS, including swipers, mobile solutions, terminals, and virtual terminals. They use the Clover proprietary software.
Leaders Merchant Services Location & Ownership
Leaders is located at 30721 Russell Ranch Rd Ste 200, Westlake Village, CA 91362, and is a registered ISO/MSP of BBVA, an Alabama State Chartered Bank. William Teleau is the Director of Sales Operations of Leaders Merchant Services.
Leaders Merchant Services Review Table of Contents
- Costs & Contract: Offers a three-year contract with an early termination fee of up to $350 and…
- Complaints & Service: Has received more than 250 public complaints regarding…
- BBB Rating: Currently has a “B+” rating with the Better Business Bureau and has received 213 complaints and 45 reviews about…
- Sales & Marketing: Hires independent sales agents and has received a moderate number of complaints about its…
Should You Trust Leaders Merchant Services?
Lawsuits, Reviews & Complaints
Here's Who We Trust.
Total Online Complaints
Live Customer Support
Most Common Complaint
High Complaint Total
In the time since this review’s original publication in April 2012, it has received over 200 comments, the overwhelming majority of which are complaints about Leaders Merchant Services. In addition, we were able to locate over 100 complaints filed against the company on other consumer protection websites. These complaints have been posted with regularity over the past three years. Common themes expressed by complainants include misrepresentation of rates, nondisclosure of fees, unreachable customer service representatives, unauthorized debiting of accounts, and funds held without notification. Even for a large company, this is a higher-than-average complaint rate.
Leaders Merchant Services Lawsuits
Leaders was the defendant in a major lawsuit that was settled with prejudice against the company in July 2021. According to Pacific Coast Business:
The complaint alleged that Leaders violated California laws against unfair competition and misleading advertising when Leaders’ sales personnel didn’t fully disclose the company’s fees while signing customers up for payment card and electronic payment services. Leaders’ sales presentations were made to customers including small to medium-sized businesses and nonprofits throughout the country.
Under the settlement, Leaders is under a permanent injunction banning future violations of the law and must pay $1 million in civil penalties, $250,000 in cost recovery to the District Attorney’s Office and more than $800,000 in restitution to customers. Leaders did not admit guilt in agreeing to the settlement.
Dissatisfied merchants who wish to pursue a non-litigious course of action against the company should consider reporting it to the relevant supervisory organizations.
Leaders Merchant Services Customer Service Options
The company’s website lists a dedicated phone line and an email form, although it’s unclear whether the phone number goes to customer support or to sales.
We have located a single Leaders Merchant Services customer service number:
(866) 436-5589 – Toll-Free General Customer Service
Leaders Merchant Services also offers a customer support form on its website.
This falls short of our expectations of the top-rated merchant accounts for great customer service.
Is the BBB Rating for Leaders Merchant Services Accurate?
Better Business Bureau Profile
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Product & Service Complaints
Billing & Collection Complaints
Advertising & Sales Complaints
Guarantee & Warranty Complaints
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.
Over 200 Complaints
Leaders Merchant Services is not currently accredited by the Better Business Bureau but has a “B+” rating with the organization. The company has been accredited by the BBB since 2021. The company’s profile is currently showing 213 complaints in the last 36 months. 100 of the complaints were due to a problem with a product or service, 100 were billing or collections issues, 10 were due to advertising or sales problems, and 3 were issues with delivery. Only 26 of these 213 complaints were resolved by the company to the satisfaction of the merchant. The remaining 187 were resolved to the dissatisfaction of the merchant or received no final response.
What Merchants Say
The company also has 45 informal reviews, 41 of which are negative and 4 are positive. The most recent negative review describes dishonest salespeople and excessive fees:
Total rip off on fees! This company is more based on getting fees than developing a working relationship with a business. I was flat out lied to many times about fees. Don’t believe the representatives about anything they say. I set up with no contract for no monthly fees. They started charging monthly fees and said they couldn’t do anything about it. Later, they raised their monthly fees to $41.75 even if no transactions were done. Do yourself a favor and keep looking of a better card reader company. I am sorry they don’t have a rating lower than 1 star.
A “D” Performance
In light of these figures, we are adjusting the BBB’s rating to a “D.”
How Expensive is Leaders Merchant Services Service?
Rates, Fees, and Contract Terms
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1.00% - 4.99%
1.00% - 4.99%
Virtual Terminal Rate
2.90% + $0.30
Payment Gateway Fee
$25 Per Month
Monthly Service Fee
Monthly Minimum Fee
Early Termination Fee
PCI Compliance Fee
$129 Per Year
The standard Leaders Merchant Services contract is a three-year agreement with a yearly PCI compliance fee of $129, a monthly service charge of $7.95, a $40 monthly non-compliance charge, and an early termination fee of either $350 or $250 depending on when a merchant cancels. Some Leaders Merchant Services fees appear to vary—a few merchants report a monthly minimum between $20-$25—but most of these figures are consistent across all complaints. As noted above, merchants also report paying higher rates on their swiped transactions than they were originally quoted. While the company advertises rates as low as 0.15% plus $0.18 for transactions, many merchant complaints reflect those figures as being deceptive and being charged as high as 11%. The company also advertises a multitude of payment processing equipment options, include Clover POS systems. It is not disclosed on their website whether the company sells these terminals or leases them; however, in the 2021 lawsuit against Leaders, it is mentioned that they lease equipment and part of the lawsuit was over undisclosed fees for doing so. It should be noted that most credit card terminals can be purchased for under $500. Non-cancellable, long-term leases mean a merchant can pay thousands for that same equipment making them a contract term to avoid.
Virtual Terminal and Payment Gateway Pricing
In addition to its storefront payment processing services, Leaders Merchant Services also dedicates a portion of its website to advertising its virtual terminal and payment gateway services, provided by Authorize.Net. A typical merchant agreement through Authorize.Net includes a transaction rate of 2.90% plus $0.30, a gateway fee of $25 per month, and a batch fee of $0.15. However, as a reseller of its services, Leaders Merchant Services reserves the right to alter these terms and conditions.
Negotiate for Better Pricing
Because the company relies on an independent team of sales agents, it is likely that some contract terms are negotiable depending on the agent servicing the account. Leaders’ standard pricing is about average for the industry, which prevents it from competing with the cheapest merchant accounts. The company also appears to do a poor job of communicating these terms to its clients, so we assign Leaders a “C” in this section. We also encourage merchants to check out our list of the providers of the best merchant accounts.
Does Leaders Merchant Services Use Deceptive Marketing?
Advertising & Sales Strategy
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Employs Independent Resellers
Advertises Deceptive Rates
Discloses All Important Terms
Outside/Inside Sales Agents
Leaders Merchant Services appears to utilize telemarketing and independent sales agents to market its services. The company likely also maintains an inside sales staff and engages in traditional advertising, but most merchant complaints describe a telemarketing/independent agent approach. This practice seems to have resulted in numerous complaints (on this website and elsewhere) citing nondisclosure of fees and aggressive sales tactics by agents. The primary source of complaints, though, appears to be the use of deceptive rate quoting by agents and in the company’s official marketing materials. This does not compare favorably to our list of best credit card processors.
Deceptive Rate Quotes
At the time of an earlier update, the home page for Leaders Merchant Services prominently quoted “rates as low as 0.35%.” As of this update, the company is advertising “rates as low as 0.15%” on its rate quote page and in Google search results. These advertisements make no mention of the higher “Mid-Qualified” and “Non-Qualified” rates that merchants will pay for the vast majority of their transactions. In addition, the company’s “Rates” page previously offered an explanation of Qualified, Mid-Qualified, and Non-Qualified rates and stated that “the rate you should receive most frequently” is the Qualified rate. For most merchants, this is simply not true.
Legal Action Due to Deceptive Rate Quotes
Part of the 2021 lawsuit detailed elsewhere in this review was over deceptive rate quotes given by Leaders’ sales agents. This is a further strike against the company, as we already deemed their sales practices as deceptive even before the lawsuit.
Don’t Blindly Trust Your Agent
We consider this type of rate quoting to be deceptive because it is likely to give merchants an unrealistic expectation of the rates they will actually pay. Many publicly available complaints confirm this to be precisely the case, as merchants report their sales agents quoting them the Qualified rate and never mentioning other possible rates before signing. If you suspect that your sales agent snuck extra fees into your account, we recommend seeking a third-party statement audit to find and eliminate hidden fees.
Suspicious Positive Reviews
Finally, there is some evidence that positive reviews of Leaders Merchant Services have been copied and pasted on this site and elsewhere, possibly by fake accounts or reputation management firms. Merchants are advised to take this into consideration when searching for Leaders Merchant Services reviews.