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Leaders Merchant Services 2023: Reviews & Complaints
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Established in 2000, Leaders Merchant Services is a merchant account provider that serves businesses of most sizes. The company specializes in retail credit card processing 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 retail needs, including swipers, mobile solutions, terminals, and virtual terminals. Clover hardware can only be used with First Data/Fiserv merchant accounts.
Payment Acceptance Capabilities of Leaders Merchant Services
A key service offered by Leaders Merchant Services is its capability to process multiple forms of payments. This includes all prominent credit and debit cards, along with eCheck processing. The company also has the technology to handle mobile payment solutions such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet.
Mobile Payment Processing Feature
In terms of mobile payment processing, Leaders Merchant Services provides mobile card readers and applications, designed to accommodate transactions in different settings, even outside traditional brick-and-mortar scenarios.
E-Commerce Payment Processing
Leaders Merchant Services also facilitates online businesses through their e-commerce payment processing services. The company provides secure online payment gateways, virtual terminals, and recurring billing features for businesses that have subscription-based models.
Pricing Structure of Leaders Merchant Services
In terms of pricing, Leaders Merchant Services adopts an interchange-plus pricing model. This aims to provide clarity and transparency in fees, helping businesses avoid hidden charges.
Reputation and Ethical Issues
Leaders Merchant Services ranks among the poorest-scoring credit card processors in the merchant account industry. Its acquisition by PaySafe group does not seem to have repaired many of the issues reported by current and former merchant services clients. We encourage readers of this article to pay special attention to the “Reviews and Complaints” section below.
Questionable Marketing Tactics
There are numerous “merchant account review” websites that list Leaders Merchant Services and other Paysafe subsidiaries as industry-leading credit card processors and “best” picks. These review websites appear to be owned by, or heavily influenced by, Paysafe or possibly under the control of Paysafe’s Canadian subsidiary IA Digital Marketing Inc. It appears that Paysafe may also be buying “top ratings” for Leaders Merchant Services on other “pay-to-play review” websites wherein top rankings are sold to the highest bidders, often without disclosure of such activities. Most of these websites appear to saturate the “sponsored” results at the top and bottom of search results pages when researching Paysafe subsidiaries and competitors. The following websites appear to be owned or heavily influenced by Leaders Merchant Services or Paysafe, or offer pay-to-play rankings:
Leaders Merchant Services is a subsidiary under the umbrella of Paysafe Group along with the following U.S. merchant services brands, most of which have poor reviews:
- Flagship Merchant Services
- Openbucks Corp.
- Paysafe Merchant Services Corp.
- Paysafe Direct LLC
- Paysafecard.com USA Inc.
- Paysafe Payment Processing Solutions LLC
- Paysafe Capital, LLC
- Skrill USA
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, and Michael Wolfe is listed in some places as owner.
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 an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau and has received 70 complaints and 29 reviews about…
- Sales & Marketing: Hires independent sales agents and has received a moderate number of complaints about its…
Leaders Merchant Services Frequently Asked Questions
See details to all of these FAQs in our full review below these questions and answers.
Leaders Merchant Services is a merchant account provider offering a wide array of payment processing services, such as credit card processing, mobile payments, and point-of-sale solutions.
Leaders Merchant Services caters to businesses of all sizes, from small businesses to large corporations, and across multiple sectors, including retail, restaurants, e-commerce, and more.
Leaders offers a variety of payment solutions, including countertop terminals, mobile and wireless processing, online payment gateways, and point-of-sale systems.
You can apply directly on the Leaders Merchant Services website. They’ll ask for details about your business and financials to assess the risk associated with your account.
Yes, like most merchant account providers, Leaders Merchant Services charges various fees including transaction fees, monthly service fees, PCI compliance fees, and potentially others. The specific amounts will depend on the agreement you sign.
The Leaders Edge Tool Suite is a collection of tools provided by Leaders Merchant Services to help manage your business. It includes services like advanced reporting and analytics, online reputation management, and social media management tools.
Yes, Leaders Merchant Services offers a mobile payment solution that allows businesses to accept credit card payments using a smartphone or tablet
Yes, Leaders Merchant Services provides customer support. The availability and quality of this support can vary, so it is recommended to check recent reviews for the most up-to-date information.
Yes, Leaders Merchant Services provides payment gateways for online businesses, which include shopping cart integration, virtual terminals, and more.
Leaders Merchant Services is a registered ISO/MSP of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, CA, and complies with PCI DSS standards, ensuring that all transactions are handled securely.
Leaders Merchant Services Customer Reviews
Here's What Their Clients Say
|Total Online Complaints||250+|
|Live Customer Support||Unknown|
|Most Common Complaint||Hidden Fees|
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 negative Leaders Merchant Services reviews. In addition, we were able to locate over 100 complaints filed against the company on other consumer protection websites. These Leaders Merchant services reviews 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. If you have your own Leader Merchant Services review to make, please do so in the comments below.
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 clients 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 Support 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.
Leaders Merchant Services Customer Service Number
- (866) 436-5589 – Toll-Free General Customer Service
Other Support Options
- Customer support form
Leaders Merchant Services Online Ratings
Here's How They Rate Online
BBB Rating Analysis for Leaders Merchant Services
Leaders Merchant Services is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and holds an A+ rating. The company has been in business for 23 years and has been BBB accredited since September 14, 2021. However, customer reviews on the BBB website give an average rating of 1 out of 5 stars, based on 32 customer reviews. There are 51 complaints closed in the last 3 years, with 12 closed in the last 12 months. A common theme in the reviews and complaints includes issues with billing and collection, as well as dissatisfaction with customer service.
I owned a small take-out restaurant in Fairfield CT and used Leaders for processing my credit card. The sales representative, Alissa Ruef, told me that as long as I maintained $7500 each month, I wouldn’t get charged additional fees. Starting from September 2022 to August 2023, we maintained $7500 monthly sales. However, there were three months when Leaders charged an additional $50 each, totaling $150. I contacted customer service multiple times. They said the reason was because I received many different cards even though I maintained $7500, I would get billed an additional $50 fee. I was frustrated because that was not what the sales representative told me. Because of that, I decided to close the account. They asked me to return the equipment, so I did on August 3. On August 21, Leaders withdrew $699 from my account for non-functional equipment, which was not disclosed by the sales rep. I reached out multiple times and was told there would be no refund. The equipment was functional, with expected wear and tear after a year of usage. I feel ripped off for a total of $850. – Complaint from October 17, 2023
I experienced immediate issues logging into my account on the first day. There were also immediate issues contacting customer service, and I received immediate past due invoices, all on the first day. As the owner of my business, I had no permissions to access an account that I just created. I rate this company 0 stars. – Review from November 10, 2023
There are no positive reviews published about Leaders Merchant Services on the BBB website.
ConsumerAffairs Rating Analysis for Leaders Merchant Services
Leaders Merchant Services has an average customer review rating of 1.0 stars on ConsumerAffairs, based on 174 reviews. A significant majority of the reviews (69%) rate the company with 1 star. Common themes among the reviews include complaints about customer service, issues with account management, and dissatisfaction with fees and charges.
Signed up with their services for a new business. On the first day they wanted to review the account, went back and forth for two weeks requesting documents, then closed account at whim. Refuse to payout. NO chargebacks or issues with sales. Just kept two weeks of sales and will not pay. Now I have to pay my clients out of pocket. – Review from Rakesh, Whitestown, IN, July 7, 2023
Applied for their services on Friday 6/9 2023, Spoke to Kenny **. Decided within an hour to not do business with them. Contacted Kenny who assured me that the application was withdrawn before it was approved. On 6/11, Leaders opened an account in my name without my permission after I was told in writing that I no longer had an application with them, they have an injunction against them for deceptive practices, I am contacting the DA’s office and all proper authorities, Very shady company. – Review from Patricia, Box Elder, SD, June 12, 2023
There are no positive reviews published about Leaders Merchant Services on the ConsumerAffairs website.
Leaders Merchant Services Rating Analysis
Leaders Merchant Services has an average customer review rating of 1.6 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot, based on 24 customer reviews. The reviews indicate a general dissatisfaction among customers, with common complaints about funds being held, poor customer service, and issues with account management.
Scam. Like many of the other companies here, we set up our account with Leaders and very first transaction, the money was put on hold. They did not provide any notification and all following transactions were put on. Swipe simple showed they were authorized. Finally got in touch with someone and they stated they wanted to do a risk review. Over a month later after not answering emails they decided they would hold the money for 180 days. I closed the account that day, now I’m just waiting for over $10,000 in revenue my company earned. Date of experience: October 06, 2023. – Jeremy Sommerfeldt
They held our funds and then closed our account the manager for their risk department, because they do not want to do Business with Black/LatinX Businesses. They are racist. Date of experience: October 19, 2023. – ELIAS BEAUCHAMP
Should have switched sooner! We were very unhappy with our processing company (terrible customer service, would never give me a straight answer about cancellation fees) and needed to find a better solution. Came across Leaders Merchant Services (rated highly for their low rates). Switching over was much easier and faster than I expected. Should have done it sooner – would have saved $$ and headaches. Date of experience: April 16, 2019. – Jason S.
Very Happy with Their Products & Service. Since switching to Leaders Merchant Services our company has seen better results – fewer billing disputes and lower rates. The people in their customer service department return our calls and emails promptly. The few times they didn’t have an answer for me, they followed up and were very professional. We have been very satisfied with the service and products from Leaders. Date of experience: July 23, 2019. – Owen Griego
Leaders Merchant Services Fees, Rates & Costs
A Closer Look at The Contract
|Monthly & Annual Fees||Yes|
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 client cancels. Some Leaders Merchant Services fees appear to vary—a few businesses report a monthly minimum between $20-$25—but most of these figures are consistent across all complaints. As noted above, clients 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 client 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 business 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 business owners to check out our list of the providers of the best merchant accounts.
Leaders Merchant Services Employee Reviews & Sales Tacitcs
Should You Work For Them?
|Uses Independent Resellers||Yes|
|Discloses All Important Terms||No|
Outside/Inside Sales Agents
Leaders Merchant Services appears to utilize both telemarketing and independent sales agents. 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.
Phony Review Websites
As mentioned in the company overview, PaySafe Group appears to have created several phony review websites where it ranks Leaders Merchant Services and a few of its other poorly rated subsidiaries as “top picks.” These review websites often overtake all of the sponsored placements at the top of Google search results when users research the company, its subsidiaries, and competitors. We find this method of marketing to be both deceptive and intentionally misleading. See our PaySafe Review for our most recent list of suspected phony review websites.
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 clients 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 businesses, this is simply not true.
We have reviewed several merchant account statements from Leaders Merchant Services clients. In nearly all cases, these clients were being grossly overcharged for credit card processing service. In all cases, the clients were under a “tier pricing” scheme that lack clear transparency and included numerous junk fees.
Tiered Pricing Explained
Tiered pricing is a credit card processing pricing model that groups transactions into different “tiers” or categories, each with its own rate. Typically, there are three tiers: qualified, mid-qualified, and non-qualified.
Qualified transactions are those that meet certain criteria, such as swiping a customer’s card in person. These transactions are charged the lowest rate. Mid-qualified transactions are those that don’t meet all of the criteria for a qualified transaction, such as manually entering a card number. These transactions are charged a higher rate than qualified transactions. Finally, non-qualified transactions are those that are deemed the riskiest or most expensive, such as processing a rewards card or a corporate card. These transactions are charged the highest rate.
The problem with tiered pricing is that it lacks transparency. Processing fees can vary greatly depending on the type of transaction, and it can be difficult to determine which tier a transaction falls under. This can make it challenging for businesses to accurately compare processing costs across different providers or to understand the true cost of each transaction.
Furthermore, because tiered pricing allows processors to charge different rates for different types of transactions, it is nearly always more expensive than other pricing models, such as interchange plus pricing or flat-rate pricing. This is because processors may have an incentive to classify more transactions as non-qualified or mid-qualified, which allows them to charge a higher rate. This can result in businesses paying more in processing fees than they would with a more transparent pricing model. Overall, tiered pricing can be the least transparent and most expensive credit card processing pricing model because it lacks transparency and can result in unpredictable costs for businesses. Our review of Leaders Merchant Service statements indicates that the company may be taking full advantage of the lack of clarity to charge businesses excessive processing fees.
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 clients 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. Business owners are advised to take this into consideration when searching for Leaders Merchant Services reviews.
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