Merchant Services, Inc. Review: Fees, Complaints & Lawsuits

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Merchant Services, Inc.

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PhonePhone(949) 861-4000 View Pricing

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One of Several Affiliated Companies

Merchant Services, Inc. is an Irvine, California-based merchant account provider that claims to have been founded in 1995. According to multiple sources, the company is a DBA or subsidiary of National Payment Processing and is one of many DBAs utilized by its owner and his management team. Other alleged DBAs of Merchant Services include “Universal Card Inc.” and “Universal Merchant Services,” and it appears that the company is now doing business under the name “Small Business Growth Alliance.” Jason Moore has been named as the controller of several different business entities, including JWM Holdings, LLC; La Quinta Holdings LLC; 9012 Research Drive LLC; Dean Martin Drive LLC; Big Sky Court Holdings LLC; Camel Point Enterprises LLC; E Coast Highway Holdings LLC; Harbor Cove Holdings LLC; Calvados Holdings LLC; Camden Holdings LLC and Ladcom Group Inc.

Merchant Services, Inc. Payment Processing

Merchant Services, Inc. processes all major debit and credit cards for most business types. Their services include POS solutions, wireless processing, check and EBT processing, virtual terminals, e-commerce solutions, merchant clubs, gift and loyalty programs, online reporting, recurring billing, debit card networks, and health savings accounts.

Merchant Services, Inc. Location & Ownership

Merchant Services, Inc. is a registered ISO of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, California, while National Payment Processing, Inc. is a registered ISO of Synovus Bank, Columbus, Georgia. Merchant Services, Inc. is headquartered at 9012 Research Drive, Suite 200, Irvine, California 92618Jason Moore is the CEO of Merchant Services, Inc.

Merchant Services, Inc. Review Table of Contents

  • Costs & Contract: Merchant Services, Inc. appears to offer a three-year contract with an early termination fee of $495.
  • Complaints & Service: Merchant Services, Inc. complaints number more than 40 on public complaints forums.
  • BBB Rating: Merchant Services, Inc. has an “A+” rating and has received 2 complaints and 10 reviews in the past 3 years. The company has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2001.
  • Sales & Marketing: Merchant Services, Inc. appears to hire independent sales agents and has received a moderate number of complaints about its sales practices.
Merchant Services, Inc. payment processing

Merchant Services, Inc. offers standard payment processing services

Should You Trust Merchant Services, Inc. ?

Lawsuits, Reviews & Complaints

Complaint Summary

Total Online Complaints
40+
Live Customer Support
Yes
Most Common Complaint
Hidden Fees

Moderate Complaint Volume

We are currently able to locate over 40 negative Merchant Services, Inc. complaints, many of which accuse the company of being a ripoff or a scam. Common themes among complainants include nondisclosure of contract terms, improper billing, unexpected fees, persistent sales calls, poor customer service, and insufficient agent support. We are factoring the allegations made in the class-action lawsuit against the company into this section because they constitute valid merchant issues that were unsuccessfully resolved by Merchant Services. It is sometimes difficult to determine which complaints have been filed against Merchant Services and which complaints have simply been filed against general merchant services providers, but the known complaints are enough to form a clear assessment of the company’s service.

Merchant Services, Inc. Lawsuits and Fines

Merchant Services was the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed in 2010 that contained the following allegations:

Plaintiffs allege that Settling Defendants misrepresented and omitted the costs, term, early termination penalties, and other provisions of the processing agreements and leases and unlawfully collected commissions, cancellation fees and other amounts via automatic withdrawals from merchant bank accounts. Plaintiffs also allege that Settling Defendants forged signatures and modified contracts and authorization forms for electronic debits after those contracts and forms had been signed. Plaintiffs additionally contend that Settling Defendants’ sales practices violated rules of MasterCard. Plaintiffs further assert that if customers defaulted on payment, Settling Defendants engaged in improper collection efforts by making unlawful credit inquiries on the personal credit reports of the personal guarantors who signed the agreements.

The claims against Merchant Services, Inc. were settled in 2013 with each member of the settling class receiving up to $350. Merchant Services, Inc. remains an active business, but the company agreed per the terms of the settlement to make the following changes:

By December 20, 2013, the Settling Defendants have agreed to make a variety of changes to their marketing materials to ensure future customers have additional disclosures. They agreed to register any fictitious business names that they intend to use, such as “Merchant Services.” In addition, if they continue to use cost comparison forms, such as the rate estimation comparison sheet, they agreed that document shall contain preprinted information listing or designated areas in which the following information shall be written: the name of the registered independent sales organization involved in the transaction; the entity through which bankcard processing services would be provided; the entity through which leasing services (if any) would be provided; the fact that processing rates are estimated and that higher rates may apply depending on the type of card, including mileage and rewards cards; the fact that equipment leasing is optional; and the fact that a cancellation fee will apply for early termination. Finally, the Settling Defendants agreed to have sales representatives leave with the prospective customer a copy of the above document and a current business card containing his or her current business address, phone number, and email address.

Merchant Services, Inc. Customer Service Options

We have assigned Merchant Services, Inc. a “D” rating in this section. The company offers 24/7 phone support to all merchants, but this channel is not sufficient to qualify the company as a top-rated payment processor for customer service at this time.

We have located multiple Merchant Services, Inc. customer service numbers:

(800) 660-7153 – Toll-Free New Account Advising
(949) 861-4000 – Customer Service
(949) 861-4000 – Technical Support
(866) 550-3815 – Supply Desk

Merchant Services, Inc. does not offer a dedicated email support address.

Is the BBB Rating for Merchant Services, Inc. Accurate?

Better Business Bureau Profile

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BBB Summary

Product & Service Complaints
0
Billing & Collection Complaints
1
Advertising & Sales Complaints
1
Guarantee & Warranty Complaints
0
Delivery Complaints
0

Moderate Complaint Volume

We are currently able to locate over 40 negative Merchant Services, Inc. complaints, many of which accuse the company of being a ripoff or a scam. Common themes among complainants include nondisclosure of contract terms, improper billing, unexpected fees, persistent sales calls, poor customer service, and insufficient agent support. We are factoring the allegations made in the class-action lawsuit against the company into this section because they constitute valid merchant issues that were unsuccessfully resolved by Merchant Services. It is sometimes difficult to determine which complaints have been filed against Merchant Services and which complaints have simply been filed against general merchant services providers, but the known complaints are enough to form a clear assessment of the company’s service.

Merchant Services, Inc. Lawsuits and Fines

Merchant Services was the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed in 2010 that contained the following allegations:

Plaintiffs allege that Settling Defendants misrepresented and omitted the costs, term, early termination penalties, and other provisions of the processing agreements and leases and unlawfully collected commissions, cancellation fees and other amounts via automatic withdrawals from merchant bank accounts. Plaintiffs also allege that Settling Defendants forged signatures and modified contracts and authorization forms for electronic debits after those contracts and forms had been signed. Plaintiffs additionally contend that Settling Defendants’ sales practices violated rules of MasterCard. Plaintiffs further assert that if customers defaulted on payment, Settling Defendants engaged in improper collection efforts by making unlawful credit inquiries on the personal credit reports of the personal guarantors who signed the agreements.

The claims against Merchant Services, Inc. were settled in 2013 with each member of the settling class receiving up to $350. Merchant Services, Inc. remains an active business, but the company agreed per the terms of the settlement to make the following changes:

By December 20, 2013, the Settling Defendants have agreed to make a variety of changes to their marketing materials to ensure future customers have additional disclosures. They agreed to register any fictitious business names that they intend to use, such as “Merchant Services.” In addition, if they continue to use cost comparison forms, such as the rate estimation comparison sheet, they agreed that document shall contain preprinted information listing or designated areas in which the following information shall be written: the name of the registered independent sales organization involved in the transaction; the entity through which bankcard processing services would be provided; the entity through which leasing services (if any) would be provided; the fact that processing rates are estimated and that higher rates may apply depending on the type of card, including mileage and rewards cards; the fact that equipment leasing is optional; and the fact that a cancellation fee will apply for early termination. Finally, the Settling Defendants agreed to have sales representatives leave with the prospective customer a copy of the above document and a current business card containing his or her current business address, phone number, and email address.

Merchant Services, Inc. Customer Service Options

We have assigned Merchant Services, Inc. a “D” rating in this section. The company offers 24/7 phone support to all merchants, but this channel is not sufficient to qualify the company as a top-rated payment processor for customer service at this time.

We have located multiple Merchant Services, Inc. customer service numbers:

(800) 660-7153 – Toll-Free New Account Advising
(949) 861-4000 – Customer Service
(949) 861-4000 – Technical Support
(866) 550-3815 – Supply Desk

Merchant Services, Inc. does not offer a dedicated email support address.

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.

Under 5 Complaints

Merchant Services, Inc. currently has an “A+” rating with the Better Business Bureau and has been BBB-accredited since 2001. The company has received 2 complaints in the past 36 months. 1 was left due to advertising or sales issues and 1 had to do with billing or collection. Neither of these 2 complaints was resolved by the company to the satisfaction of the merchant. Both were resolved to the dissatisfaction of the merchant or received no final response.

What Merchants Say

In addition to those 2 complaints, Merchant Services, Inc has also received 10 informal reviews on its BBB profile. All 10 reviews are negative, each giving the company the lowest possible rating. The most recent review details overcharging:

The agent told me that my credit card fees would be a flat rate of 1.2% with no additional charge but they charge me over 3% plus service fee. I call the agent up and he tell me to wait for my refund but it been over a month and they still charge me over 3%.

Our guide on how to cancel a merchant account without paying a fee also details how to sever all ties between bank accounts and merchant service providers in an effort to prevent unauthorized charges following contract termination.

A “C” Rating

In light of the company’s complaint volume and resolution ratio, we have adjusted the BBB’s rating to a “C.”

How Expensive is Merchant Services, Inc. Service?

Rates, Fees, and Contract Terms

This processor offers the lowest ricing and best service we’ve seen.

Cost 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
$495 - $1000+
Monthly Minimum Fee
$10 - $75 Per Month
Clover Business Management Fee
$48
Data Protection Fee
$134
Statement Fee
$7.50 Per Month
Equipment Lease Costs
$59.99
PCI Compliance Fee
$19.95 - $29.95 Per Month
Equipment Lease Terms
48 Month (locked)

Merchant Services, Inc. Pricing

According to merchant complaints, the standard Merchant Services contract is a three-year agreement with a $495 early termination fee, a $134 “data protection” fee, a monthly minimum fee that can rise as high as $75 per month, a monthly PCI non-compliance fee of $19.95, a monthly statement fee of $7.50, and other various fees. Complainants also mention that their per-transaction rates are higher than the rates they were quoted before signing up, and recent complaints mention a $48 “Clover Business Management” fee that was added without advance notice in the last year.

Virtual Terminal and Payment Gateway Pricing

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

Avoid Equipment Leases

The class-action lawsuit filed against Merchant Services cited widespread instances of equipment leasing through Northern Leasing Systems and its various subsidiaries; there is no reason to believe that Merchant Services has stopped selling equipment leases through these providers. The standard Northern Leasing Systems lease is a 48-month, non-cancellable term that costs far more than the purchase price of the equipment over the course of the lease. Merchants are advised to purchase equipment outright whenever possible. We also encourage merchants to check out our list of the providers of the best merchant services.

Not Competitively Priced

The available information about Merchant Services, Inc.’s contract terms has lowered the company’s score in this section to a “D.” The company’s rates are not at all competitive with cheap merchant account providers. If you have any specific knowledge or documentation of the Merchant Services rates or contract, please share that information in the comment section below this review.

Does Merchant Services, Inc. Use Deceptive Marketing?

Advertising & Sales Strategy

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Key Points

Employs Independent Resellers
Yes
Advertises Deceptive Rates
No
Discloses All Important Terms
No

Several Negative Reports

Merchant Services appears to utilize a large number of independent sales agents and telemarketers to sell its services. This practice has generated a high number of negative Merchant Services reviews, with the accusations made in the 2010 class-action suit being a prime example. Merchants who leave a Merchant Services complaint describe nondisclosure of the company’s contract length, hidden fees, and rude or aggressive telemarketing tactics, while employee complainants cite late or inadequate compensation. Another occasional Merchant Services complaint (and a central factor in the lawsuit) claims that the company’s representatives simply state that they are from “Merchant Services,” which leads unsuspecting merchants to believe that they are being contacted by their current processors. This practice is called “slamming” and is considered highly unethical. A number of new reviews detailing the same practice have popped up, meaning the company is continuing this behavior. This does not compare favorably to our list of best credit card processors.

Poor Sales Practices

To the company’s credit, there are no deceptive Merchant Services, Inc. rate quotes or unrealistic guarantees on its website. However, the known details of its hiring tactics and the available body of Merchant Services, Inc. complaints have lowered its score to a “C” at this time. If you suspect that you have had undisclosed fees added to your Merchant Services contract, we recommend seeking a third-party statement audit to eliminate hidden charges.

Does Merchant Services, Inc. Deserve Your Business?

Review Summary & Our Thoughts

Not A Competitive Option For Most Merchants

Merchant Services, Inc. rates as a substandard merchant services provider according to our rating standards. The company has consistently received complaints over the past five years and was the subject of a class-action lawsuit that made some serious allegations. Merchant Services, Inc. could potentially be confused with MSI Merchant Services Incorporated, a subsidiary of Harbortouch, but the two companies do not appear to be related. For now, merchants will be better served by dealing with a top-rated overall credit card processor.

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Customer & Employee Reviews

What Others Are Saying About Square

21 Responses

  • Tressy Gumbert

    I have absolutely nothing positive to say about Merchant Services Inc. They are crooks. They mislead you as well as flat out lie. I have to say that Jennifer Holloway is a pro at manipulating the conversation and leading you into believing they are someone they are not and that they can save you money in fees and etc. When in fact, it ends up costing your small business more. I am so frustrated and upset wit this company, as well as myself. I wish I would have done my homework before buying into their deception. Now I am stuck in a 4 year (no-cancellation) agreement. This is going to be a long and costly 4 years.

  • Win Chin

    Merchant Services is not reputable. They keep calling us to offer their services even though we keep telling them we don’t want their services and we ask them to stop calling us. What type of company is that?

  • Jeanne

    Just realized that I am being charged 9% for my credit card processing. I signed up for 2.4%.
    Since when can a company increase your fees without any notification ? This is clear and simple FRAUD ! What legal action can I take?

  • Todd C Ryan

    this is the 5 time they have called saying that they will review my processor fee and get credits for me, they state that they are not selling me a service but will work with my current processor. It a scam everytime they get my statement, tell me what is over charged then offer me a better fees. they make it sound like they are making sure my current processor is not overcharging then they turn around and want to sell you something. Very slimy

  • David Kratte

    This company is double charging and our Rep Frank is a blatant liar. We’ve been trying to get rid of them for years. We are going to take them to Small Claims Court. Were you successful in doing that?


    This post will help: Cancelling a Merchant Account Without Paying a Fee

    -Phillip

  • Tony Carvalho
    www.lisboarestaurant.com

    This what I call a MAJOR insult to a small family owned business for 30 years.
    The THIEF I dealt with NOT only lied about my credit card TERMINAL, but also got CAPITAL LEASING, INC, Debbie (866)311-8793 and Jennifer (866)781-0440 to put me on hold for 6 months, waiting for the refunds.
    BBB unfortunately does very little and takes forever.
    State’s Attorney General in CA and CT are being informed.

    From The Editor
    This Post Might Help: How to Make Your Payment Processor Release Your Money

    • Mike H

      sounds familiar, but for us it was a case of having fulfilled our 36mo. contract , we are suddenly the main course at a salesperson feeding frenzy. the latest was a woman named Catherin Martin, claiming that our terminal, a verifone vx520 and 805 pinpad bought from Merchant Services, would be unable to process the new Mastercard ‘bin 2’ cardnumbers that have come out, and we would be liable for up to $25,000 if our equipment failed to accept them. having check a lot of sources online, i discovered that the problem can be fixed with a simple download, which companies like Dharma do for their customers for free. they seemed self-pleased that they were discounting the new clover machine she wanted to sell for me from over 1200 bucks to just $800 ! ive had no issues with the actual service; in fact at one point when i called complaining about the fees, my rates were lowered. i think they use sub-contractors for sales, or underpay the employees and force them to live on commision, a common practice for people like the **** *** that own this company.

      From The Editor
      This Post Might Help: Top-Rated All-Purpose Merchant Accounts

  • Ben Millstein
    www.kodiakbrewery.com

    This company solicited my business away from another company by offering “wholesale rates” which would have been great. He even signed statements that guaranteed the cost. They never gave me that rate, charging me three times the stated amount, which was significantly higher than my previous company. On calling to sort out the issue I was consistently told it would be taken care of, but nothing ever happened. Finally after several months and several thousand dollars overcharge, they said they won’t do anything about it. They are thieves.

  • Tammy R

    I have worked with Panna a rep from this company for several years and she always come through with her customer service.

    • Phillip CPO
      administrator

      Hi Tammy,

      Please reply to this comment with your business name and location in order to authenticate your testimonial. Thanks!

  • Amy z

    I was forced to enroll a $48.43/month Clover Business Management Platform, that is totally ripoff ! I never requested that kind of services. What can we do to stop them?

    • Greg

      I have also been forced into the “Business Management Platform” and would like to hear from others who have problems with this company and their tactics.

  • Kelly S

    My warning.. Do not use them.  Just read all their reviews on Yelp. Also they go by Small Business Growth Alliance or something like that.  They give you a 7 page application.  Bury in the 7 page, its says that you agreed to another 40 page of legal text (that they did not give you).  In the that 40 pages they have all these conditions including a $500 termination fee, and year $140 (date fee protection) (BS fee), PCI compliance fees, and also you just signed up for a 3 or 4 year agreement with them.  They also recently enacted a require $45 business managagement package that is required. I do not know how companies like this still stay in business.  I am trying to complain to their acquiring bank, Wells Fargo. **You been warn**

    • Amy zhang

      Hi, Kelly, I was also forced to enroll that $ 48.43/month business management package. What can we do? Just let them ripoff us ?

      • Kelly S

        I called them up (MSI) . and they said that I can get the lower package which was $25. But the Clover system showed $48 something charged to my my bank account. I called my bank and dispute the charge. I told my bank that I never sign up with Clover system. I don’t know how its going to go, but dammit I am pissed off at these criminals.

  • Ken Beyer

    This company called several times concerning overcharges by our merchant servicing company Cayan/FIrst Data; they told us that they were a partner with Cayan and that they were part of their “audit team” and that there were some red flags indicating over charges. Although we get calls all the time from these merchant servicing companies, this approach was unique and they continuously insisted that they were not selling any service just an audit and were there to help us. Once we finally relented and provided them a copy of our latest statement (why would they need that if they noticed red flags) the very soft sales pitch began. We were irate and asked for a supervisor who joined in on a four way call and then just hung up on us.Obviously these guys haven’t learned a thing from the last lawsuit, I am all in if there is another push for a class action suit. Merchant Services Inc should not be in business!

  • Becky Beth

    Just yesterday, we received a phone call from these folks claiming to be partnering with First Data and calling us because there was a red flag in the system regarding our PCI compliance. She asked me If I knew what PCI compliance was, and when I responded that I did and asked for more detail she passed me to a “supervisor”. The supervisor then told me that our current company was charging us excessive amounts and they were calling to help take care of that. (nothing about PCI compliance) When I did not give him any information and told him that I would need to contact my current company, he quickly said that he would call back later. We then took the number from our caller ID, which appeared as a local number, and called it back. The person who answered the phone gave us the name of the company as Small Business Growth Alliance and that they were located in Irvine, CA. We asked that their business was, and again we were given to a “supervisor”. We told the supervisor that we received a call that seemed to be suspicious and she assured us that they were just trying to help. After reaching this, I am certain that we made the right decision and did not give them any information!

  • Bertha's Jewerly

    We’re Victims of Small Business Growth Alliance SBGA and/or Merchant Services one of their many DBA’s. In particular we want to point out the unprofessionalism, unethical, liar representative PANNA WATKINS who came in our shop saying they are First Data who is doing our Credit Card processing Merchant Services. She said we qualify to do business directly with them and eliminating the middle man Bank of America Merchant Services.
    Panna asked what kind of business we were, I told her we’re Sole Prop. and the owner is Leslie Brito who is not available. Then she pretend to do some calculation on supposedly reducing our costs, all I have to do is sign for the new lower rates but I Sabino, sign as Leslie Brito.
    The owner never agreed to this new contract, nor never signed this contract. PANNA WATKINS intensions were make us switch on that day, without giving the owner an opportunity to look/read this contract. I want to press criminal charges agains Panna Watkins for Fraud on her behalf asking me to sign documents I have no power to sign. We’re are not happy with this company who charging us more and for equipment we never ordered.

    • Douglas Brooks

      Panna Watkins ripped us off too. Are you seeking legal action? I’d like to join you if you are or we can start legal action together.

  • Rachel Plowman

    This company is a disgrace to the card processing industry. This is an email I received from one of my merchants today.
    “Do you guys check for PCI compliance through reps from Merchant Services? I received a phone call from Robin at Merchant Services 1-866-644-0028 ext 2686, and she asked me if the rep, Julie Morgan could come by on Tuesday to check for PCI compliance. For whatever reason, I have a red flag going off in my head about this.”

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Phillip Parker
Phillip Parker
Credit Card Processors
2 min read
21 Comments
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