Total Merchant Services (totalmerchantservices.com) is a mid-size merchant account provider that appears to have entered the credit card processing industry in 1996. Although Total Merchant Services serves its merchant customers directly, the company uses Global Payments for its actual card processing services. The company is a registered ISO/MSP of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, California, with corporate headquarters located at 21650 Oxnard St Ste 1200, Woodland Hills, California 91367-7814. Joe Kaplan is listed as the CEO of Total Merchant Services.
Sales & Marketing
Key Points - Sales & Marketing
|Employs Independent Resellers||Yes|
|Advertises Deceptive Rates||No|
|Discloses All Important Terms||No|
Total Merchant Services appears to employ independent sales agents and sub-ISOs to market its services. This hiring practice is common within the industry, and it is usually a major source of merchant frustration. In this case, we are currently able to locate over 50 negative Total Merchant Services reviews that describe deceptive sales strategies by sales agents across the country. The overwhelming majority of these complaints describe nondisclosure of terms, particularly with regard to early termination fees and equipment leases, and misrepresentation of rates or sudden changes in rates after signing up for the service.
As of this update, Total Merchant Services is advertising a $100,000 progressive signing bonus for new sales partners. This bonus offers $100 per new account on top of the company’s existing bonus structure. Total Merchant Services states that partners can “Earn up to an Extra $100,000 in Your First 90 Days,” but it isn’t clear how many new accounts the sales partner would have to open in order to reach that amount. Under any circumstances, this seems to be an unrealistically lucrative promotion. If it pays marginally more than $100 per new account, then it’s possible that sales agents would need to open nearly 1,000 new accounts in 90 days to take full advantage of the bonus. But if the program is frequently paying out $100,000 to new partners on top of existing bonus structures, then it’s likely that the added revenue is coming in the form of lopsided contracts with merchants. In other words, sales agents and merchants should both be wary of this new promotion for different reasons.
Costs & Contract
Key Points - Costs & Contract
|Early Termination Fee||$295+ Or None|
|PCI Compliance Fee||Variable|
|Equipment Lease Terms||Variable|
According to documentation available below and numerous online complaints, the standard Total Merchant Services contract is an automatically renewing three-year agreement through Global Payments that may or may not include a $295 early termination fee at the agent’s discretion. Merchants also report varying PCI compliance fees and other undisclosed fees, and many complaints mention costly equipment leases with high termination fees. Although the company’s merchant account terms are basically unchanged Global Payments contracts, the added cost of leasing terminals and other equipment through the company appears to be the more distressing factor for merchants.
There is some confusion among the company’s own agents about whether it enforces a termination fee. On this and other consumer protection websites, sources have issued rebuttals to merchant complaints either insisting that there is no early termination fee in the Total Merchant Services contract or claiming that they were told during training that no such fee existed. The current consensus appears to be that the $295 termination fee is no longer standard, but that agents can either include it or not include it as they like. Merchants are advised to carefully read their contracts for any mention of a cancellation penalty of any amount. We have recently seen complaints that cite an early termination fee of $399, so it seems that such a fee still applies in some cases. The number of complaints related to the company’s pricing has lowered the company’s score in this section to a “C.” See the Total Merchant Services Merchant Agreement.
Complaints & Service
Key Points - Complaints & Service
|Total Online Complaints||80+|
|Live Customer Support||Yes|
|Most Common Complaint||Hidden Fees|
There are over 80 Total Merchant Services complaints on this and other consumer protection websites, many of which accuse the company of being a scam or a ripoff. Consistent themes include deceptive sales tactics, difficulty cancelling accounts, and withholding of funds. Most of these complaints appear to be the result of conduct on the part of sales agents at the point of signing rather than rude or unhelpful customer service, but it is our belief that an effective customer service team resolves complaints before they are taken to public forums. It is unclear at this time whether Total Merchant Services employs an in-house sales staff or outsources its customer support to Global Payments, but its website lists dedicated phone numbers for merchant support.
Key Points - BBB
|Product & Service Complaints||83|
|Billing & Collection Complaints||67|
|Advertising & Sales Complaints||45|
|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.
The shutdown of the Better Business Bureau’s Los Angeles-area branch has resulted in Total Merchant Services receiving a rebooted profile that only dates back to July 17, 2013. The company’s new profile shows accreditation and an “A+” rating and has received 195 complaints since its creation. Eighty-three are due to problems with the product or service, 67 are attributed to billing or collection, and 45 have to do with advertising or sales issues. Total Merchant Services has resolved 58 of these complaints to the merchant’s satisfaction, while the remaining 137 either were resolved to the dissatisfaction of the merchant or did not receive a final response from the merchant.
Given the number of complaints on Total’s rebooted BBB profile, we have adjusted the BBB’s grade 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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