Laundromat Equipment Guide: Expected Costs, Where To Purchase, & How To Finance Laundromat Equipment

The post Laundromat Equipment Guide: Expected Costs, Where To Purchase, & How To Finance Laundromat Equipment appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

How To Choose An Equipment Leasing Company

Selecting equipment
One of the most common expenses a business can encounter is the need to purchase or upgrade equipment, but choosing an equipment leasing company can be a challenge. Choosing one that will give you a good deal that fits the specific needs of your company can be downright daunting.

Don’t know a TRAC lease from a leaseback? A tax lease from a synthetic lease? Not sure where to start looking? The equipment leasing industry’s websites are notoriously full of opaque, specialized terms … and that’s when specific terms are offered at all.

We’ll try to demystify the process below, and hopefully put you on the right track.

Financing Need Best Product Type Recommended Lender
Financing Platform Any Currency Capital
Equipment Purchasing Loan Lendio
Renting Operating Lease Crest Capital
Big Ticket Items Any TCF Equipment Financing
Purchasing w/Lease Capital Lease CIT Direct Capital

Find A Lessor Who Will Work With You

The easiest way to rule out a potential lessor (the company that finances the lease) is to see if they serve your industry. Most lessors, particularly those that work with resales, specialize in specific industries. Even the least transparent lessors tend to be upfront about the industries they’re able to finance, so it’s not a bad place to start. If possible, you’ll also want to see if they finance the specific type of item you’re looking for.

Next, you’ll want to take stock of your own profile as an applicant. How good is your credit? How long have you been in business? What’s your revenue? How much debt have you taken on?

Lessors don’t always advertise their minimum qualifications. Since your time is limited and valuable, if you have reasonable doubts about your ability to qualify with a particular lender, I would recommend prioritizing more transparent lenders. You don’t want to waste time filling out a long application only to be rejected. To save yourself some headache, take advantage of online screening/pre-qualifying tools the lessor might offer.

Choose The Right Leasing Arrangement

This is where it gets a little complicated.

Because you’re dealing with a tangible asset, when making a deal with a lessor, you’ll need to be prepared to work through an enormous number of lease variations covering different possible ownership arrangements.

The simplest leases function as loan replacements. That is to say, the lessor finances your equipment, which you are considered to have ownership of either immediately or by the end of the lease. You’ll make regular payments, typically monthly, for the length of your lease, at the end of which you’ll pay a small residual fee to close it out. These are called capital leases.

Why would you want a capital lease instead of a straightforward loan? While the interest rate is usually higher than it would be with a comparable loan, a capital lease covers the full cost of the equipment you’re buying and, very often, associated transportation and installation costs as well. These leases also tend to be easier to get than traditional loans.

But what if you don’t want to own the equipment long-term?

In that case, you may want to look for an operating lease. Operating leases are more like rentals with the option to buy. The lessor will retain official ownership of the asset, but you’ll have possession of it for the length of the lease. At the end of the term, you’ll have the option to return the equipment to the lessor or purchase it for a residual — typically fair market value (FMV).

There are a huge number of variations on both operating and capital leases, as well as tax advantages and disadvantages to both which you should discuss with an accountant. But generally:

  • If the equipment you’re considering will not become obsolete quickly and you’d like to own it, choose some form of capital lease.
  • If the equipment you’re considering depreciates quickly or becomes obsolete within a couple years, you probably want an operating lease.

Once you know what type of lease you want, you can narrow down your list of eligible lessors.

What About Equipment Loans?

Nothing wrong with them! If you’re looking at capital leases, you should also consider getting an equipment loan.

Equipment loans usually cover around 85 percent of the cost of the item, so be prepared to make a downpayment unless your lender specifies that they cover the full price.

One nice thing about equipment loans is that the purchase itself can serve as collateral (or security) for the loan, which means you’ll generally see lower interest rates than you would with an equivalent unsecured loan.

Check out our equipment financing resources if that sounds interesting.

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Additional Fees Next Steps

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% Varies Visit Site

$5K – $500K 24 – 72 months Starts at 5% Yes Compare

Up to $250K 1 – 72 months Starts at 5.49% Varies Compare

Compare Rates & Fees

credit card processing fees image

While the ability to get financing is great, you don’t want to pay more than you have to for the pleasure. This is much easier when you’re dealing with transparent lenders who lay all their cards on the table.

What terms and fees should you be aware of when looking into an equipment lease?

  • Interest Rates: The biggest cost you’ll run into with financing should be the interest rate. Generally, lower is better, but make sure you know how often and in what way the interest rate is applied.
  • Origination Fee: Common with loans, but unusual with leases, this is a fee that’s applied upfront. In most cases, it is deducted from the amount of money you receive when you get your capital.
  • Administrative Fee: This can be rationalized in any number of ways by your equipment financer, but it is a fee charged for servicing your account. It may be charged once, or at specific intervals.
  • Downpayment: The percentage you’re expected to pay out of pocket towards the equipment you’re buying. Common with equipment loans. With leases, there generally isn’t a downpayment, but you may be expected to pony up the first and last month’s payment up front.
  • Monthly Payment: The amount of money you’re expected to pay each billing cycle, usually monthly. In the case of leases, the higher your payment, the lower your residual will be.
  • Residual: An amount leftover at the end of your lease that you pay if you decide you want own your equipment. The lower your residual, the higher your payments will be.

The Best Equipment Leasing Companies

Not ready to build a spreadsheet comparing every equipment leasing company on the market? No worries. We can get you started.

Note that you’ll also want to consider leasing from banks or credit unions with which you’ve already built a relationship, as many times they can offer you the best rates (assuming you make the credit cut). If you’re dealing with a major brand, you may also want to consider working with a captive lessor.

Lendio

Review

Visit Site

One of the most efficient ways to seek equipment financing is through an aggregator service like Lendio. With one application, you’ll effectively have access to Lendio’s 75+ affiliates.  One nice thing about this service is that it’s free on the borrower’s end, so you’ll only have to worry about fees charged by the company Lendio ultimately connects you with.

Be aware that, although Lendio can work with customers with credit as low as 550, for equipment financing you’ll usually need to have a credit rating over 650.

For those who successfully apply, Lendio’s partners will finance the full cost of your equipment.

Currency Capital

Review

Compare

Another aggregator option for equipment financing is Currency Capital.

While online lenders have taken great pains to streamline application processes for working capital loans, equipment financing tends to be more traditional. Currency set out to change that, developing an API they compare to Amazon’s 1-click shopping experience.

Getting setup with Currency is a bit more laborious than, say, working with Lendio, but if you’re thinking ahead to future purchases, it may be worth the investment.

Crest Capital

Review

Compare

Want to skip the middle men? Check out Crest Capital.

Crest deals in just about every kind of lease you could think of, whether you want to own your equipment or just operate it for a little while. Additionally, they’re able to work with a wide variety of industries including agriculture, manufacturing, automative, and medical, as well as office equipment and software.

You will need to have been in business for at least two years, however, and have a credit rating of 650 or better.

TCF Equipment Finance

Review

Compare

TCF Equipment Finance, as the name implies, is the equipment financing and resale wing of TCF Bank. As a bank, their lending practices are as conservative as their pockets are deep. That means TCF is a good solution for mature businesses with excellent credit.

TCF offers many variations on capital and operating leases and works with most industries.

CIT Direct Capital

Review

Compare

Another good option for those with solid credit ratings is CIT Direct Capital. Their equipment financing division doesn’t have quite as broad a variety of lease types of some of the other options here, but it’s easier to meet their qualifications than those of many banks.

Both capital and operating leases are offered.

Final Thoughts

Between the hundreds of equipment leasing companies out there and the often strict qualifications needed to get financing, it can be a challenge to find a lessor who meets your needs. Hopefully you now have a better sense of what to look for when choosing an equipment leasing company.

Having trouble meeting the high lending standards for equipment financing? Don’t panic! Many other types of financing can be used to purchase equipment. For smaller items you can pay off quickly, you may want to consider a business credit card. For larger items, check out installment loans.

The post How To Choose An Equipment Leasing Company appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies

Business owners today know that it’s more important than ever to be able to accept credit cards. Customers carry less cash, and rely on credit and debit cards for the majority of their purchases. If you’re an eCommerce merchant selling online, taking “plastic” is just about your only option. Unfortunately, you can’t accept credit cards unless you have a merchant account, and merchant accounts aren’t free. In fact, they can be very expensive – especially for a small business – if you choose the wrong provider.

The credit card processing industry can be very bewildering, especially for a first-time business owner. There are dozens of companies providing processing services, and each of them offers different processing rates, fees, and contract terms. A provider that’s a good deal for a very small business might be prohibitively expensive for a larger one, and vice versa. Naturally, merchants want to cut through the confusion and get a quick answer to the question “Which one is the cheapest?” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save money, especially for a new business that has to count every penny. However, if you look up “cheap” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you’ll note that while cheap can mean “charging or obtainable at a low price,” it can also mean “of inferior quality or worth.” If you’ve ever been disappointed with a product purchase when you thought you were getting a good deal, you know that these two definitions often go together.

Here’s a quick look at some of our favorite low-cost credit card processors. Some are free to use. You just pay for the transaction you process. We don’t cover all of these in-depth in this post, but you can check out our complete reviews for all the details. 

The Overall Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies for 2018

Review
Visit Site
Review
Visit Site
Review
Visit Site
Review
Visit Site
Review
Visit Site
Best Choice For Small-ticket, Canada, Mobile, eCommerce  All businesses, Mobile, Retail eCommerce, Mobile Canada, Restaurants Large-ticket, All-in-one, Recurring billing
POS and Other Features Included Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Rate Matching/ Negotiable No Yes No Yes Yes
Pricing Structure Flat Rate Interchange-Plus Flat Rate Interchange-Plus Subscription
Retail Rates 2.75% 0.30% + $0.10 2.70% 0.20% + $0.10 0.00% + $0.08
Basic Monthly Fee $0 $0 $9 $9.95 $99

Before we delve into specific processors, there are two important points that you need to understand:

  1. The company offering the lowest processing rates or fees isn’t necessarily the cheapest. The total percentage of your credit card sales that you’ll have to fork over to your merchant account provider isn’t an easy thing to calculate in advance with any precision. Variable processing rates and hidden (or at least unanticipated) fees can easily result in you paying much more than you thought you were going to for processing. Companies offering flat-rate pricing fare much better in this regard, as their simple pricing structure makes it relatively easy to estimate your monthly processing costs.
  2. The “cheapest” processor isn’t necessarily the best one for your business. While you naturally want to be able to accept credit cards while paying the least amount of money for the privilege, companies offering the lowest rates often cut corners in other aspects of their service to make those low rates possible. Poor customer service, for example, is a common problem among the least-expensive processors. If you want the best overall, you might also check out our top picks for small business credit card processing.

Types Of Providers

With the advent of new, low-cost providers, there are now two broad categories of companies providing credit card processing services. These include traditional (or full-service) merchant account providers, and payment services providers, who offer credit card processing, but without some of the features of a full-service merchant account. It’s very important that you understand the difference between the two.

Payment service providers (PSPs) can process your credit card transactions, but they don’t provide you with a unique merchant ID number for your business. Instead, your account is aggregated together with other merchants. This lowers the cost of things like monthly account fees and PCI compliance, but it also means that your account is much more vulnerable to being suddenly frozen or shut down for the slightest hint of fraud. Getting your account working again is complicated by the fact that most PSPs provide little in the way of one-on-one customer service. For a very small business, a PSP may very well be more affordable than a full-service merchant account, especially since you won’t have to pay so many recurring fees just to keep your account open. Be aware, however, that you’ll constantly be running the risk of suddenly losing access to your account and not being able to accept credit cards at all with a PSP. If your business processes a high number of credit card transactions on a daily basis, the loss of business you’ll incur if your account is frozen is quite high. Popular PSPs include PayPal, Square, and Stripe.

Traditional merchant accounts include a number of features you won’t find with most PSPs. The primary distinction is that you will be assigned a merchant identification number that is unique to your business. This number automatically identifies you to processors, issuing banks, and credit card associations. While it might not sound like much, having a unique merchant ID number helps to lower the risk of fraud and improves the stability of your account. While you still might have to endure a hold on funds for an unusually large transaction, the chances of your account being completely frozen for no apparent reason are much less than they are with a PSP. Merchant account providers also offer a host of ancillary services, including PCI security scans, customizable payment gateways for online payments, support for ACH (eCheck) payments, and many others. These bells and whistles don’t come cheap, of course. You’ll pay more in monthly fees than you will for an account with a PSP. However, you’ll also pay lower processing rates, especially if your merchant account provider offers interchange-plus pricing. For many medium-sized and larger businesses, a full-service merchant account will actually be less expensive than a PSP.

How We Chose

We used a number of criteria to determine which processors offered the lowest overall costs and the best service in most situations, including the following:

  • Pricing: Since we’re profiling the cheapest processors in the industry, it should come as no surprise that pricing would be our top criterion. It isn’t that simple, however. Pricing can be very complex, and there are a lot of variables to analyze in making a cost comparison between one provider and another. Fortunately, flat-rate pricing is relatively easy to analyze, as there’s usually little or no variability in the processing rates. Interchange-plus pricing, on the other hand, is very complex, as there are a bewildering number of possible rates charged under the “interchange” portion of the processing rate formula. To get a better idea of just how complicated processing rates can be, check out our Complete Guide to Credit Card Processing Rates & Fees.
  • Contracts: No one wants to be stuck in a long-term contract with an expensive early termination fee if you close your account early, but that’s what many traditional merchant account providers will offer you. All the companies profiled here – including both PSPs and full-service merchant account providers – offer month-to-month contracts. You can close your account and switch to a different provider any time you want, and with no penalty.
  • Hardware: Unless you’re running an eCommerce-only business, you’re going to need some equipment to process your customers’ credit cards. Most of the companies profiled here offer a variety of EMV-compliant credit card terminals, POS systems, and mobile card swipers. Equipment is offered for sale at competitive prices – sometimes it’s even free! You can also buy your own equipment and have it reprogrammed to work with your provider’s service. Note that Stripe is eCommerce-only and PayPal only offers a mobile payment solution through their ancillary service, PayPal Here.
  • eCommerce support: Buying online continues to overtake traditional retail shopping, and all our profiled providers offer support for eCommerce. This includes both a payment gateway to send payment data to the processor and a virtual terminal to allow you to enter transactions on your computer or mobile device. Each provider also offers options for integrating your website with online shopping carts and developer tools for customizing the interface between your site and their services.
  • Customer support: While every provider offers customer support and service, some do a much better job at it than others. We looked for vendors that provided 24/7 telephone support, as well as an online knowledgebase that allows merchants to troubleshoot common problems on their own. As we’ve noted, some PSPs don’t provide very good customer support at all. That’s one of the trade-offs you’ll have to be aware of if you want to go with the “cheapest” option for credit card processing.

Remember, there isn’t a single processor out there that can offer the lowest costs to every merchant. What might be a very inexpensive solution for you might not be such a good deal for someone else. Also, paying the least amount of money for processing won’t be of much use to you if you have to worry about your account suddenly being frozen or shut down, or if the customer service behind your account isn’t adequate to solve technical problems for you when they arise. That said, here are our six top choices for the cheapest credit card processing companies:

Square Payments

Everyone has heard of Square (see our review) by now. With its free Square Reader, app-based payment system, and simple pricing structure, it’s one of the most popular processing services on the market for small businesses. Square’s pay-as-you-go system allows businesses that ordinarily couldn’t afford a merchant account to accept credit cards.

Retail businesses love Square for its low-priced card readers, which replace traditional credit card terminals with a smartphone-based system that’s both affordable and mobile. In addition to a card reader, you’ll need the free Square app, a smartphone, and an Internet connection. Square’s original card reader is free and you’ll receive one when you open your account. However, it can only read magstripe cards and requires a headphone jack to function. Most users will want to shell out a few extra bucks for a newer, EMV-compliant reader. The Square reader is only $49.00, and supports both EMV and NFC-based payment methods. It also uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone or tablet – no headphone jack required.

 

Cheapest Mobile Credit Card Processing Company

The Essentials:
✓ $0 monthly fee
✓ 2.75% for all card-present transactions
✓ Exceptional POS app included free
✓ Free credit card reader available
Proprietary software suite includes:
• Point of sale software
• Inventory management
• Mobile app
• Virtual terminal
• Invoicing/billing
• API for custom solutions
Visit the Square website
Read our Square review

Square’s pricing structure is about as simple as it gets. There are no monthly fees whatsoever for a basic account, and none of the types of “hidden” fees that traditional merchant account providers like to tack on. While some advanced features require a monthly subscription, these are entirely optional, and most businesses probably won’t need them. Square’s processing rates are also very simple:

  • 2.75% for all card-present transactions (including magstripe, EMV, and NFC)
  • 2.90% + $0.30 for all invoices and eCommerce transactions
  • 3.50% + $0.15 for all virtual terminal and keyed-in transactions

That’s it! You don’t have to worry about non-qualified transactions, batch fees, or anything else. Funds are deposited into the user’s account within 1-2 business days in most cases. Billing is month-to-month, so you don’t have to worry about long-term contracts and early termination fees. You can quit anytime you want without penalty.

This all sounds great – and it is – if you’re a small business that has to watch every penny and can’t afford to shell out a significant amount of money every month just to have a merchant account. For a larger business, however, Square’s pricing actually isn’t the best deal available. Flat-rate pricing is deliberately on the high side because it has to pay for all the other services that most providers bill you separately for. At a certain point (roughly $10,000 per month in processing volume), you’re actually better off going with a full-service merchant account provider that offers interchange-plus pricing. Yes, you’ll have to pay those pesky account fees, but your processing rates will be so much lower that you’ll save money overall.

Besides high processing rates, Square has a few other drawbacks as well. We’ve already mentioned that your account is much more likely to be frozen or terminated unexpectedly, but what makes this situation worse is that Square’s customer service isn’t so great. The company didn’t even have telephone support for several years after it launched, but it does now. Unfortunately, it’s only available during business hours, and the large number of complaints about it suggests that the quality of support you’ll receive if you call in with a problem is inconsistent at best.

But is it really the cheapest way to go? Well, it depends. For a very small business that doesn’t have a high processing volume, Square’s lack of account fees and predictable pricing can make it very affordable. On the other hand, a larger business with a high processing volume will end up paying much more under those flat-rate prices than it would with an interchange-plus pricing plan.

Square keeps costs low by aggregating accounts together rather than issuing each user a unique Merchant ID number. Because of this, you won’t get a true full-service merchant account. The trade-off is that there’s a much higher chance that your account will be frozen or terminated without notice if fraud is suspected. This might be a minor inconvenience to a retail business that mostly deals in cash and only occasionally takes credit cards, but it’s catastrophic to an eCommerce business where cash isn’t an option.

PROS:

  • No monthly account fees
  • Low-cost EMV-compliant card readers available
  • No long-term contracts or early termination fees

CONS:

  • Not a full-service merchant account; no unique Merchant ID number
  • Frequent account holds and terminations
  • Flat-rate pricing is more expensive than interchange-plus for larger businesses

For a more detailed look at Square, be sure to check out our full review.

Payline Data

Payline Data (see our review) covers all the bases for small business transactions, from mobile and online payments to in-store sales. They offer easy-to-understand pricing plans that are very affordable, especially for low-volume sellers. However, the company’s website fully explains all of the extra features and their associated costs, so you know up front what you’ll have to pay. Payline also stands out from the crowd for their corporate philosophy of charitable giving and support for non-profits through discounted pricing and their “Commercial Co-Venture” program.

 

Cheapest Merchant Account Provider

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Outstanding $0 monthly fee option
✓ Exceptional ecommerce shopping cart compatibility
Proprietary software suite includes:
• Excellent mobile processing app
• Easy integration API for customization
• Virtual terminal
• Billing management
Visit the Payline website
Read our Payline review

For brand-new or mobile businesses, Payline Start is the most affordable plan. There’s no monthly fee, and pass-through markup rates are set at 0.30% + $0.10 per transaction. In addition to the free virtual terminal, you’ll also receive a free Ingenico GX5 card reader and the Payline Mobile app to go with it. If you’re looking for value, but want better equipment and lower rates, the Payline Shop plan might be right for you. This plan includes the same features as the Payline Start plan, but lowers your processing rate. The plan costs $10 per month, and markup rates are set at 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction. Mobile businesses and small to medium retailers will benefit the most from this plan.

For more information, see our complete Payline Data review.

CDGcommerce

No account setup fees. No PCI compliance fees. No gateway fees. No monthly minimums, either. There’s a lot of things that CDGcommerce (see our review) doesn’t charge you for, making them a very affordable option for small businesses and those just getting off the ground. They also offer month-to-month contracts with no early termination fee, so in the unlikely event that you aren’t happy with their service, you can close your account without penalty.

So, what do you pay for? Besides processing charges, you’ll only have to pay a $10.00 monthly account fee. This gets you both a full-service merchant account and a payment gateway. You can select either CDG’s own proprietary Quantum gateway or Authorize.Net. Either way, there’s no fee for using the gateway, and no additional per-transaction processing fee. While this is a great deal, you also have the option of adding the cdg360 security package for an extra $15.00 per month. It comes with customized security alerts, PCI-DSS vulnerability scans, and $100,000 in data breach/theft protection. It’s well worth paying a little extra for, especially for eCommerce merchants.

Good Option for Online Payment Processing

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Free payment gateway option with activation within an hour
✓ Exceptional ecommerce shopping cart compatibility
✓ Over 20 years with excellent reputation
Proprietary fraud prevention suite includes:
• Automatic high-risk order detection
• Dialverify phone order verification
• Cardholder authentication (VbV/MSC)
• Chargeback defender
• Easy integration and API for customization
Visit the CDGcommerce website
Read our CDGcommerce review

We don’t recommend leasing a credit card terminal, but CDG has a program that’s very different from traditional leases, and is actually a good deal. For only $79 per year (for terminal insurance), CDG will provide you with a terminal and keep it updated. This works out to $6.58 per month, a fraction of what most terminal leasing companies will charge you. If you need a wireless terminal, you’ll also have to pay $20.00 per month for wireless data and an additional $0.05 per transaction in processing fees.

You won’t need to negotiate with CDG to figure out your processing rates. All their rate plans are interchange-plus and are fully disclosed on their website. The company offers a choice between Simplified and Advanced pricing plans, with Simplified pricing being designed for merchants processing less than $10,000 per month, and Advanced pricing being for those processing $10,000 or more per month. Here are their current rates:

Simplified Pricing:

  • Online: interchange + 0.30% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Retail (swipe or POS): interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Mobile: interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Non-profit: interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction

With very low account fees and competitive interchange-plus processing rates, CDGcommerce offers a great combination of price and value. If you’ve been using Square or PayPal and want to upgrade to a full-service merchant account, they’re an excellent option.

PROS:

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts or early termination fees
  • Free payment gateway with virtual terminal
  • Excellent customer service

CONS:

  • Only available to US-based merchants

For more information, see our complete review here.

Dharma Merchant Services

Headquartered in downtown San Francisco, California, it should come as no surprise that Dharma Merchant Services (see our review) is far more socially responsible than just about any other merchant account provider in the industry. For you, that enlightened corporate philosophy translates into fair and transparent pricing, reasonable contract terms, and excellent customer support.

Because they don’t try to squeeze extra money out of struggling small business owners, you won’t have to pay an account setup fee or an annual fee. There’s no monthly minimum, either. You will pay a $10.00 monthly fee and a $7.95 per month fee for PCI compliance. Other fees (most of which are per-occurrence, such as chargeback fees) are fully disclosed on their website. Like many of our other favorite processors, Dharma doesn’t have long-term contracts, either. Billing is month-to-month, and there’s no early termination fee if you close your account.

Dharma Merchant Services review

Good Option for Nonprofits and B2B Payments

The Essentials:
✓ Provides discounted rates for nonprofits
✓ Exceptional customer service
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Proven track record with nonprofits
Free MX Merchant Software includes:
• Level 2 and level 3 data for lower interchange rates on B2B processing
• Virtual terminal
• Invoicing/billing
Visit the Dharma Merchant Services website
Read our Dharma Merchant Services review

The company uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively and lists their rates right on their website. Here’s their current processing rate information:

  • Storefront: interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Virtual: interchange + 0.35% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Restaurant: interchange + 0.20% + $0.07 per transaction

If you need a terminal, Dharma will sell you either the First Data FD-130 or Verifone Vx520. They’ll also reprogram your existing terminal, if you have one. Need a POS system? Dharma offers the Clover Mini, and will sell it to you outright rather than leasing it. If you need a mobile payments system instead, Dharma offers the Clover Go for $99.00, plus a $10.00 monthly fee. For $139, you can upgrade to the Clover Go Contactless, which connects via Bluetooth instead of your phone’s headphone jack.

Dharma doesn’t have a minimum monthly volume requirement, but they do acknowledge that their fees and rates aren’t the lowest on the market for businesses that process less than $10,000 per month. You’re still free to sign up if you need a full-service merchant account, but they recommend either PayPal or Square if you don’t.

PROS:

  • Transparent interchange-plus pricing
  • Minimal account fees
  • Full range of services and equipment for both retail and online businesses
  • Great customer support

CONS:

  • Not a good fit for low-volume (less than $10,000 per month) accounts

For more information on Dharma, see our complete review here.

Helcim

Headquartered up in the Great White North, Helcim (see our review) provides outstanding service and affordable prices to both Canadian and US-based merchants. They offer interchange-plus pricing exclusively, and their website features one of the most detailed and transparent explanations of their rates and fees that you’ll find anywhere.

Transparency and honesty are major themes with Helcim, which is something you won’t often find with many other providers. Reading their website will give you a quick education on all the sneaky, misleading tricks that other companies use to squeeze more money out of their merchants. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about this kind of behavior with Helcim. Not only do they fully disclose their processing rates, account fees, and contract terms, but they also provide all their services at fair, competitive prices.

 

Good Option for Canadian Businesses

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pricing
✓ Exceptional reputation in Canada
✓ High-quality all-in-one payment platform
✓ Great educational material
Proprietary Helcim Commerce solution includes:
• Point of sale software
• Inventory management
• Billing and invoicing
• Virtual terminal
Visit the Helcim website
Read our Helcim review

Unlike many of their competitors, Helcim encourages merchants to buy their credit card terminals outright rather than leasing them. The company offers a number of popular models, most of which are EMV-compliant. For a little extra cash up front, you can also get an NFC-capable terminal that supports Apple Pay and other similar mobile payment methods. If you already have a terminal, they’ll reprogram it to work with their system for free. Unfortunately, Canadian EMV-compliant terminals are not designed to be transferred or resold, so Canadian customers will have to use the rental option or buy a new machine. Renting on a month-to-month basis (which is not the same as leasing) is usually the best choice for Canadian merchants.

Helcim offers three basic pricing plans: a Retail Plan, an eCommerce Plan, and a combined Retail + eCommerce Plan. The Retail Plan costs a flat $15.00 per month. This fee covers PCI compliance, and there are no account setup or statement fees. There’s also no monthly minimum. All swiped transactions are processed at a rate of interchange + 0.25% + $0.08 per transaction.

Helcim’s eCommerce Plan works the same way, but it costs $35.00 per month. This gives you access to the company’s proprietary Helcim Payment Gateway, which includes support for recurring billing, a customer information storage system, shopping cart integration, and a customizable payment gateway API. The plan also includes a virtual terminal that allows mail order or telephone order businesses to key in transactions on any computer. All online (i.e., card-not-present) transactions are processed at a rate of interchange + 0.45% + $0.25 per transaction.

The Retail + eCommerce Plan includes all features of the other two plans, and costs $50.00 per month. Processing rates are the same as for the other two plans.

There are few downsides to Helcim’s services. One way they’re able to keep costs so low is to exclude high-risk merchants from signing up. This policy lowers the company’s overall risk profile, but it also means you’ll be out of luck if you meet their high-risk criteria. Because they charge a monthly fee (albeit a very reasonable one), they’re also not quite as affordable as Square, PayPal, etc. if you’re processing below $2,500 per month. We’re also still waiting for the company to introduce an EMV-compliant mobile card reader. They currently offer a basic, magstripe-only reader that requires a headphone jack to communicate with your smartphone or tablet.

PROS:

  • Extremely transparent fee structure
  • Very competitive rates for businesses processing over $1,500 per month
  • Excellent customer service and support

CONS:

  • Not suited for very small businesses processing less than $1,500 per month
  • Not available for high-risk merchants
  • Mobile card reader isn’t EMV-compatible

For more information, see our complete review here.

Popular (But Less Reliable) Inexpensive Options

PayPal

Everyone has heard of PayPal (see our review). And just about everyone uses it. With an active user base of almost 200 million customers in 200 markets around the world, it’s a good bet that most of your customers use it, too. But can the company fill all your processing needs? The short answer is yes. PayPal has all the features you would need to run a business – either retail or eCommerce – using just their payment processing services and equipment. But would this be cost-effective? Here’s where it gets complicated. While the company offers flat-rate pricing and no monthly fees for its basic accounts, those flat-rate prices are kind of on the high side. Also, if you need features such as a virtual terminal, your account isn’t free. Instead, it’s $30.00 per month, plus your processing charges.

PayPal doesn’t offer true, full-service merchant accounts. Instead, they function as a payment service provider (PSP), which keeps costs relatively low, but also means that they’re quick on the trigger to freeze your account if they suspect that fraud has occurred. Like most PSPs, they don’t have long-term contracts and don’t charge early termination fees. Billing is month-to-month, and an account that doesn’t have a monthly fee is good for a business that only processes credit card transactions occasionally.

PayPal’s basic rate for online transactions is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. International payments and transactions processed through their virtual terminal cost more, while registered charities and mobile payments get a discount. PayPal fully discloses their rates on their website, so you’ll always know in advance what you’ll be paying.

While PayPal is designed primarily for eCommerce businesses, the company also supports retailers through integration with numerous third-party mobile POS systems and their own mobile payments system, PayPal Here. The latter now includes a Bluetooth-enabled EMV card reader. While many companies offer a free virtual terminal, but charge a monthly fee for the payment gateway needed to use it, PayPal does just the opposite. Their PayFlow Payment Gateway comes with no monthly fee, but if you also need a virtual terminal, you’ll pay $30.00 per month for it. There’s also a small additional per-transaction processing charge.

While these are all great features, there are also some not-so-great things about PayPal that you should be aware of before you sign up. Customer support through their telephone support line is very inconsistent. Some customer service representatives are quite knowledgeable and helpful, while others are not. Fortunately, the company provides an online knowledgebase that should help you solve common problems on your own. As we’ve mentioned, sudden account holds or terminations are also a possibility. If you simply can’t afford to lose access to your account temporarily, consider a different option.

For some businesses, PayPal is really all you need. If you don’t need a virtual terminal or any of the other features of the $30 PayPal Payments Pro plan, you can avoid monthly fees altogether and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. For larger businesses and those with more specialized needs, PayPal makes an excellent secondary payment option on top of your regular merchant account.

PROS:

  • No monthly fees (for standard account)
  • Transparent flat-rate pricing
  • Most customers have a PayPal account

CONS:

  • High flat-rate processing charges
  • Frequent account freezes, holds, and terminations
  • Inconsistent customer support

For more detailed information about PayPal, see our complete review here.

Stripe Payments

Stripe logo

Just like Square is popular with small retail businesses, Stripe (see our review) is the darling of the eCommerce world. The company functions as a payment service provider (PSP), aggregating accounts and keeping costs low for their clients. There are no monthly fees, and their flat-rate processing plan is extremely simple.

Stripe is so focused on eCommerce that they don’t offer much of anything to retailers. There are no credit card terminals, POS systems, or even mobile payments systems for your smartphone or tablet. So, if you’re a retailer, you can skip right on ahead to the next company profiled below. Stripe is not for you.

eCommerce-only merchants, on the other hand, will find a very robust variety of services to help them sell online. Integration is the name of the game at Stripe, and their payments processing service works with just about every online shopping cart on the market. They also have a vast library of APIs that allow businesses to customize the interface between Stripe and their websites. If you’d like to sell your products through your own app as well as on your website, they offer an impressive in-app purchasing capability.

So, how much does all this techy goodness cost? The short answer is not much – at least under certain circumstances. Since all your transactions will be processed online without a physical card being swiped or dipped, Stripe charges a flat 2.9% + $0.30 for all credit and debit card transactions. eCheck (ACH) and Bitcoin payments are charged a mere 0.8% per transaction. This is the same rate that Square and PayPal also charge for online transactions. There are no additional account fees, although you will be charged $15.00 for each chargeback. Chargeback fees are unavoidable with any processor, but unlike most companies, Stripe will refund your money if the chargeback investigation comes out in your favor.

You also won’t have to worry about long-term contracts or early termination fees, as Stripe bills on a month-to-month basis. This is a useful feature for a growing eCommerce business, as Stripe’s flat-rate pricing suffers the same flaw that plagues Square and PayPal: for a high-volume business, their flat-rate pricing is actually more expensive than what a full-service merchant account can provide through interchange-plus pricing.

While Stripe has some very impressive features, it also has a few serious drawbacks. Like other payment service providers (PSPs), account holds and terminations occur frequently and without notice. Stripe uses a machine learning-enabled algorithm to scan accounts for possible fraud, and it’s definitely programmed to err on the side of caution. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could call up a human customer service representative on the phone and resolve the situation. Unfortunately, you can’t – Stripe doesn’t offer telephone support at all. Instead, you’ll have to contact the company through email and wait for a response. Judging from the many complaints about Stripe’s customer service, the quality of those responses leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite its shortcomings, Stripe is a good choice for a new eCommerce venture. You’ll enjoy pay-as-you-go service with no monthly fees, and you won’t have to worry about long-term contracts. The company’s extensive library of developer tools can offer you options that you might not be able to find with other providers. Just be aware that when your business grows beyond a certain point, you’ll need the security and reliability of a full-service merchant account. You’ll also save money on processing charges by switching to interchange-plus pricing.

PROS:

  • Simple flat-rate pricing structure
  • No additional fees or long-term contracts
  • Huge API library for developers

CONS:

  • Flat-rate pricing is more expensive than interchange-plus for high-volume merchants
  • Frequent account holds and terminations
  • No telephone customer support

For more information, see our complete review here.

Final Thoughts

As you’ve probably noticed by now, pricing for credit card processing is a ridiculously complicated subject. With dozens of interchange rates and a wild assortment of fees, trying to figure out how much accepting credit cards is going to cost your business inevitably comes down to guesswork. While you can make a reasonable estimation based on your processing history and your business type, it’s not realistic to expect that you’ll be able to come up with a precise figure. Fortunately, the companies we’ve profiled here fully disclose their processing rates and fees, making your job of estimating your costs much easier.

We’ve only listed six of the most popular and most affordable processors here, so be aware that the cheapest processor for your particular business might not be one of them. There are plenty of other providers out there who are also competing for your business, so check them out, too!

Here are a few very general rules of thumb regarding merchant account pricing:

  • If your business has a low processing volume, you’ll want to find a provider with low monthly and annual fees. One of the most appealing aspects of Square or PayPal is that they don’t charge any monthly fees. This is a great feature if your business is seasonal or you only occasionally have a need to accept credit cards. Processing rates won’t be as important for low-volume merchants.
  • If your business has a high processing volume, fees aren’t as important, and you’ll want to get the lowest processing rates you can find. Paying one or more monthly fees for a merchant account is an insignificant expense for a larger business, but higher processing rates can make a serious dent in your profits.
  • Carefully analyze both the percentage rate and the per-transaction processing fee when evaluating rates. While you’d ideally like them both to be low, which one is more important will depend on your average transaction size. If you process a lot of smaller transactions, a $0.30 per transaction fee can add up quickly. On the other hand, if your transactions are usually larger, you won’t need to be as concerned with the per-transaction fee, and should try to get the lowest percentage rate you can find.

While all the companies we’ve profiled here provide excellent service at an affordable cost, some are better suited to particular types of businesses than others. Square, for example, works best for very small retail businesses. PayPal and Stripe, on the other hand, are a better fit for small eCommerce merchants. Full-service merchant account providers like Helcim, CDGcommerce, and Dharma are more well-rounded, but CDG is a better fit for smaller businesses, while Helcim and Dharma work better with larger ones. For a side-by-side comparison of some of the companies listed here (and a few other excellent providers), please see our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.

Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Best Choice For Small-ticket, Canada, Mobile, eCommerce  All businesses, Mobile, Retail eCommerce, Mobile Canada, Restaurants Large-ticket, All-in-one, Recurring billing

The post The Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Worst Credit Card Terminal Leasing Companies

Upset man holding credit card with laptop on background

Unless you’re running a purely eCommerce business, you’re going to need a credit card terminal to accept credit cards. If your business is large enough, or if you operate out of multiple locations, you might need more than one. Credit card terminals come in many shapes and sizes, from simple wired terminals that aren’t much bigger than a smartphone up to fancy POS terminals that can do much more than just process credit card transactions.

Procuring terminals for your business can be an expensive proposition for a first-time small business owner. Because of this, many traditional merchant account providers have used leasing arrangements to supply their merchants with the hardware they need. If you get anything out of this article, above all remember this: Don’t do it! While that low monthly leasing fee might seem like a bargain compared to the cost of buying a terminal, it’s anything but.

How Leasing Works

Almost all terminal leasing contracts contain the same two provisions: (1) a 48-month (four-year) term, and (2) a clause that makes the lease completely non-cancelable. The standard four-year term deliberately takes advantage of the fact that most merchant accounts start with a three-year term, and automatically renew for one-year periods after that. In other words, even if you successfully close your merchant account after the three-year period is up, you’re still on the hook for your terminal lease for another year. You’ll be paying for equipment that you don’t actually own and won’t even be able to use at that point.

The non-cancelable provision in leasing contracts is far and away the most onerous thing about them. Once the leasing company has your bank account information, they’ll keep deducting monthly leasing fees from your account until the contract expires, regardless of the state of your business. Even if you’ve closed your business and shipped the terminals back, they’ll keep charging you under the terms of your lease. Deliberately breaking your lease before it expires puts you on the hook for an immediate payment of all remaining months of your contract.

Those monthly lease payments can seem tempting, especially if you’re trying to start a new business on a shoestring budget. What the sales representatives pushing these leases don’t tell you, however, is that in addition to a monthly leasing fee, you’ll also pay sales tax and a monthly equipment insurance fee. Here’s a hypothetical example: Let’s say you can lease a terminal for “only” $30.00 per month. Add in $5.00 per month for insurance and 8% sales tax, and you’re actually paying $37.80 per month. Multiply that by 48 months, and the true cost of the contract comes out to $1,814.40. Yikes! Considering that a terminal that leases for that amount can usually be purchased outright for under $300, it’s clear that you’re being ripped off.

Myths About Terminal Leases

If terminal leases are such an obvious rip-off, why do merchants sign up for them? There are several reasons for this. For one thing, the leasing companies have a number of arguments in favor of leasing that can be very persuasive if you don’t do your homework. Here’s what they’ll tell you:

Your upfront costs will be lower. Yes, that first month’s payment will be lower than buying a terminal outright. If you need multiple terminals, you’ll save even more – for a few weeks. After that, the costs just keep adding up until they’ve exceeded the cost of buying a terminal by several hundred percent.

Your leased terminal will be compatible with your merchant account. Again, this is true on its face. What they aren’t telling you is that you can buy your own terminal and have it re-programmed by your merchant account provider to work with their system. While some providers will charge you a re-programming fee, many of the better providers will re-program your existing equipment for free. Even if you have to pay a re-programming fee, you’ll still save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over leasing.

Your leased terminal is insured in case it gets damaged or stops working. It’s true that if you buy your terminal outright, you’ll have to find either a way to insure it or go without the insurance. If you buy your terminal directly from your merchant account provider, they might be able to cover this. If you buy your terminal online through a third party, it won’t come with any insurance protection. Here’s the thing, though: credit card terminals aren’t nearly as delicate as many of the other electronic gadgets we rely on every day. They’re rugged, and absent deliberate abuse they’ll last for years – possibly even decades – without needing repairs. Obsolescence is a bigger threat to your terminals than physical damage. Given the horrible reputation that terminal leasing companies have for customer service and support, I wouldn’t expect much help if you actually had to make a claim. Overall, terminal insurance is both expensive and unnecessary.

Leasing costs are tax-deductible. Like any legitimate business expense, you can deduct the cost of your terminal lease on your taxes. Of course, you can also deduct the cost of buying your terminals outright just as easily. Don’t let a sales representative convince you that paying 6-10 times the retail price for a terminal is a good deal because you can write it off on your taxes. You’ll still come out way ahead overall by buying your own terminals.

What Happens at the End of Your Lease?

Here’s the worst part about leasing: At the end of your lease, you still won’t own your terminals. They remain the property of the leasing company. Your options at this point vary depending on which leasing company you’re working with. Here are the more common possibilities.

  • You can terminate your lease and return your terminals. You’ll be out from under your lease, but now you won’t have any way to process credit card transactions.
  • You can buy the terminals from the leasing company. Some companies will let you buy your terminals at the end of your lease, but they’ll usually charge you much more than they’re really They won’t give you any credit for all those lease payments, either.
  • You can continue leasing your equipment. Leasing companies will usually allow you to continue leasing your terminals after your initial four-year lease expires. While some companies will allow you to continue leasing on a month-to-month basis, others will put you on another four-year contract. In either case, it’s just not worth it.

How Do They Get Away with This?

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably asking yourself why anyone would agree to a terminal lease. Unfortunately, it usually comes down to merchants falling for misleading, high-pressure sales tactics from the representatives pushing the lease. Unethical sales agents will tell you that it’s more economical to lease than to buy. They might also tell you that your merchant account provider only offers leases and that if you buy your own equipment, it won’t be compatible. None of this is true.

Credit card terminals used to be a lot more expensive than they are today. Back then, it might have made at least some economic sense to lease a terminal. Today, thanks to increased competition and advances in technology, you can buy a modern, EMV-compliant, NFC-capable credit card terminal for as little as $120. You’ll still need to have the software load installed to make it compatible with your merchant account, but some of the better merchant account providers will do this for free. Even if you have to pay a re-programming fee, it’s still far less expensive than leasing a terminal.

Some of the more unethical sales agents will deliberately obscure the fact that your merchant account provider and your terminal leasing company are two different entities. This mostly comes down to the fact that they don’t want you to see your leasing contract before you sign it. As we’ll see later, there’s evidence that some of the most unethical leasing companies have gone so far as to deliberately forge merchant’s signatures on their leasing contracts. The best way for you as a merchant to avoid this kind of blatantly illegal conduct is to avoid terminal leases completely.

While there really aren’t any ethical, honest terminal leasing companies that we can recommend to you, we have assembled a rogue’s gallery of the worst companies that you should stay away from. You’re quite likely to run into one or more of these companies in your search for a merchant account, so it’s important that you understand how they operate and how to protect yourself. Here are the companies that you never want to do business with:

First Data Global Leasing (FDGL)

First Data logo

First Data Global Leasing is a subsidiary of mammoth First Data, which is probably the largest merchant account provider in the United States. Although we’ve reviewed First Data favorably, we can’t say the same thing about First Data Global Leasing. With expensive, non-cancelable leases ranging from 24 to 48 months in length, FDGL has generated a huge number of complaints from merchants for its business practices.

FDGL primarily leases proprietary First Data-branded credit card terminals and POS systems, including the very popular Clover Station POS. While First Data’s hardware offerings are all solid products, it’s much more affordable in the long run to buy them rather than leasing them. The Clover Station POS, for example, can be bought for around $1,000.00. While this is a big investment for a small startup business, it’s a lot less than what you’d pay overall for a four-year lease. You’ll also own your equipment outright from the beginning, rather than having to either send it back to FDGL or pay a second time to buy it after your lease expires.

FDGL’s website is remarkably basic, and doesn’t provide much information about either the terms of their leases or the leasing fees associated with their products. They do, however, include a brief FAQ that should be enough to convince you that leasing through them is a terrible deal. Hey, at least they’re honest.

You should also check out First Data’s Merchant Services Terms and Conditions, which includes a copy of the leasing contract. It’s on pages 31-32, and I’ve highlighted some of the most egregious provisions. Because FDGL is part of First Data, you won’t have two separate contracts for your merchant account and your equipment lease. At the same time, it’s easy for merchants to skip reviewing this section when they sign their contract since it’s buried in the middle of 48 pages of fine print.

FDGL doesn’t have a separate profile with the BBB, so you’ll have to look under the main First Data profile. Here, you’ll find that First Data has an A+ rating – despite being unaccredited by the BBB and having over 1,000 complaints on file. Looking through those complaints, it’s apparent that a significant number of them involve issues with FDGL’s leasing terms. Unfortunately, responses from First Data make it very clear that they will strictly enforce the terms of the lease in almost all cases.

Ripoff Report has an additional 72 complaints filed against FDGL, including several merchants alleging that FDGL’s sales agents forged their signatures on leasing contract documents. At ConsumerAffairs.com, you’ll find another 56 1-star reviews from merchants who have been abused by this company. There’s even a Facebook group called First Data Global Leasing Victims, where merchants have posted complaints about FDGL and its leasing contracts.

When shopping around for a merchant account, you need to be aware that First Data has a very extensive network of resellers, some of whom use FDGL to lease their equipment. Merchant account providers such as Elite Pay Global, TransFirst, and many, many others use First Data as their backend processor and offer First Data terminals and Clover POS systems. If you’d like to use First Data’s equipment or take advantage of the services such a large processor can provide, take a look at Dharma Merchant Services. One of our favorite providers, Dharma utilizes First Data (and other processors) but doesn’t partner with FDGL. In fact, they don’t lease terminals at all. They’ll either sell you a terminal at a fair price or re-program your own equipment for a reasonable fee.

Northern Leasing Systems, Inc.

Northern Leasing Systems logo

If you think FDGL is a terrible company, I have bad news: there are even worse leasing companies out there that you need to avoid at all costs. Based in New York City, New York, Northern Leasing Systems, Inc. has been in business since 1991. In that time, the company has managed to build such a terrible reputation with merchants that it’s resorted to doing business under numerous DBAs and through various subsidiaries, including Golden Eagle Leasing LLC, Lease Finance Group LLC, MBF Leasing LLC, Lease Source-LSI, LLC, and others.

Like most terminal leasing companies, Northern Leasing uses a standard contract that runs for four years and is utterly non-cancelable. If you’d like, you can review their Lease Agreement right here. It’s pretty clear from even a brief overview that the contract can’t be canceled and you can’t break it early without having to pay off the remaining months of the contract. So why do merchants ever agree to this? The truth is they often don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up for a merchant account. Northern Leasing usually doesn’t sell or market their terminal leases directly. Instead, they partner with many different merchant account providers, who package their “services” as part of setting up a new merchant account. Merchants often don’t understand that their lease is through a separate company and not their merchant account provider. Northern Leasing’s contract is buried inside the fine print of a merchant’s contract with their merchant account provider, and many merchants don’t read everything in their contracts before signing them. Also, sales representatives – particularly independent agents – often do a poor job of explaining the terms of the equipment lease when trying to sell a merchant account.

Northern Leasing is not accredited by the BBB and currently has an F rating. There have been an unbelievable 631 complaints filed against the company within the last three years, with 260 complaints being filed within the last twelve months. Even more complaints can be found on the BBB profiles of several of Northern Leasing’s subsidiaries.

On the company’s BBB page, you’ll also find details about a lawsuit filed against Northern Leasing and several of its subsidiaries in April 2016 by the New York Attorney General. The company is accused of fraudulently forging merchant’s signatures on contracts and illegally obtaining default judgments against merchants who have stopped making payments on their leases. The lawsuit seeks compensation for merchants who have been harmed by Northern Leasing’s predatory and illegal practices, and the complete dissolution of the company. If you’ve been victimized by Northern Leasing or one of their subsidiaries, by all means go to the Attorney General’s press release about the lawsuit. It contains websites and phone numbers where you can find out more about the suit and get your claim added to it.

Northern Leasing also has 282 complaints on Ripoff Reports, with the same allegations being raised. You can also find many other complaints on the web. In fact, a search for “Northern Leasing” mostly leads to consumer protection websites where merchants have complained about the company’s business practices.

Unfortunately, many merchant account providers continue to use Northern Leasing to provide leased terminals to their merchants. These providers include Central Payments (CPAY), Elite Pay Global, TransFirst, Velocity Merchant Services, and many others. While many of these providers are solid, reputable companies themselves, you’ll definitely want to avoid leasing your equipment from Northern Leasing.

Lease Finance Group (LFG)

Lease Finance Group logo

Based in Chicago, Illinois, Lease Finance Group (LFG) has been happily ripping off unsuspecting merchants since 1992. The company is actually a subsidiary of Northern Leasing Systems, Inc., and pretty much everything we’ve said about Northern Leasing applies to LFG as well.

LFG claims on their website to be the “#1 Point of Sale (POS) equipment lessor in the country.” Whether it’s actually true or not, this is a dubious distinction at best. LFG utilizes the same absurd non-cancelable four-year leases to charge merchants as much as ten times the actual retail value of their terminals over the life of the lease. It’s clear from LFG’s primitive, bare-bones website that they’re not directly marketing their “services” to merchants. Instead, they’re looking to partner with merchant account providers so they can sneak their awful lease contracts into the overall contract between the merchant account provider and the merchant. This way, merchants often overlook the onerous terms of the lease contract, and in many cases don’t even know that they have a separate contract with LFG at all.

This sort of unethical behavior is compounded by independent sales agents, who often fail to disclose any of the terms of the lease when signing merchants up for an account. Even the most inexperienced merchant would refuse to agree to one of these leasing contracts if they knew and understood what the terms of the lease entailed.

Lease Finance Group is not accredited by the BBB and currently has an F rating. The company currently has 379 complaints, almost all of which involve the absurd terms of their leases and the company’s tendency to continue charging merchants after their leases have expired. There is also an alert for the lawsuit brought in April 2016 by the New York Attorney General against LFG, Northern Leasing, and several of their other DBAs. While this action is still making its way through the courts, it’s encouraging to see that state governments are finally cracking down on this kind of unethical and illegal behavior.

Like its parent company, the internet is littered with complaints against LFG, including 598 complaints on Ripoff Report alone. Unfortunately, LFG is still being used by TransFirst and many other merchant account providers to supply leased equipment to their customers. If you’re looking into a merchant account provider, be sure to read our reviews and any other reviews you can find online. Merchant account providers rarely disclose the identity of their leasing partners on their company websites, and you certainly can’t count on a sales agent to give you an honest answer about this, either.

LADCO Global Leasing Solutions

LADCO Global Leasing Solutions logo

LADCO Global Leasing Solutions is a subsidiary of Elavon, one of the largest merchant account providers in the United States. The company is located in Knoxville, Tennessee (with a second office in Thousand Oaks, California) and appears to have been in business since 1979. While Elavon provides a decent line of products and services for merchants, the same cannot be said about LADCO. Like all our other worst-rated leasing companies, the company relies on noncancelable, four-year leases to extract far more money from their merchants than what their equipment is worth.

Elavon goes out of its way to avoid disclosing its relationship with LADCO, and for a good reason. The leasing company has a terrible reputation among merchants for high prices and unfair leasing contracts. LADCO’s reputation is so bad that it no longer maintains its own company website. The company’s former site, www.ladco.com, now re-directs to Elavon’s website. So much for keeping the relationship between the two entities a secret…

While LADCO and other leasing companies go to great lengths to keep merchants from fully reading their contracts, we’ve found copies of them on the internet. Even a brief look at LADCO’s Equipment Finance Lease Terms reveals how one-sided these contracts are. The first thing you’ll (hopefully) notice is that the word noncancelable is right in the title of the agreement. Merchants often don’t understand just how strictly this term is enforced. What this means is that you are liable for the full cost of all 48 monthly payments (and possibly more) from the moment you sign your merchant account provider contract. LADCO will not let you out of your contract under any circumstances. Did you sell your business? Too bad. Did your business fail and you are shutting down altogether? Again, too bad. I’ve even seen complaints where the business owner has died, and the executor is frantically trying to get the lease canceled and the equipment returned – to no avail.

You should also note that LADCO, like most other leasing companies, provides their equipment on an “as is” basis, with no warranties or guarantees whatsoever. In other words, if your equipment doesn’t work, it’s up to you to contact the manufacturer and get it fixed – which you have to pay for. The fact that your monthly lease payments also include charges for “insurance” that won’t do you any good just makes it that much worse.

LADCO does not have a separate profile with the BBB, but you can find plenty of complaints against them under Elavon’s profile for their Knoxville location. While the profile shows 182 complaints over the last three years, some of them refer to problems with leased equipment and many others refer to other aspects of Elavon’s merchant account services. There are also 132 reports on Ripoff Report alleging similar problems with LADCO.

Like Northern Leasing and its numerous subsidiaries, LADCO has frequently found itself in legal trouble over its business practices. In April 2012, the Ventura County District Attorney’s office settled a case against LADCO’s Thousand Oaks office after uncovering evidence that sales agents were misrepresenting just about everything in their leases, including the length of the lease, the fact that it couldn’t be canceled, and the true cost of the lease. LADCO was also apparently leasing used equipment and misrepresenting it as being new, among other practices. There was also evidence that sales agents were forging merchant’s signatures on their leases. To settle the lawsuit, LADCO agreed to pay over $418,000 in fines and restitution, and to be bound by a permanent injunction prohibiting similar violations of the law. Unfortunately, this settlement only seems to have brought relief to merchants located in Ventura County.

The Elavon BBB profile also discloses a similar legal action by the Tennessee Attorney General in 2015. Under the terms of this settlement, LADCO is providing refunds to affected merchants. Again, this settlement seems only to apply to merchants in Tennessee. Despite these legal settlements, the complaints keep coming in from angry merchants, and it’s clear that LADCO hasn’t reformed its business practices in any significant way in response to these legal setbacks.

Needless to say, if you’re considering signing up with Elavon for a merchant account, you’ll want to avoid being stuck with a terminal lease through LADCO. Be aware that many of Elavon’s re-sellers, including Costco Merchant Services, also use the company to furnish leased equipment. Helcim, one of our favorite providers, uses Elavon as a processor but sells terminals directly rather than offering leases through LADCO.

Exceptions to the Rule

While in almost all cases we recommend that you buy your terminals or POS systems outright, there are two notable exceptions to this general rule. One exception is if you’re working with CDGcommerce, one of our favorite providers. If you need a credit card terminal, CDG will provide one at no upfront cost to you. The only thing you’ll have to pay is an annual $79.00 fee for insurance and equipment upgrades. This works out to $6.58 per month – a fraction of what the leasing companies will charge you. Unlike the terminal leasing companies, your contract with CDG is month-to-month, so you’re free to close your account and return your terminal without having to pay anything extra.

The other exception applies only to Canadian merchants. In Canada, EMV-compliant terminals are not designed to be re-sold, so you’ll have to rent them instead of buying your own. Helcim, our favorite Canadian merchant account provider (and one of the best choices for US-based merchants as well), will rent you a terminal for a reasonable fee. Helcim’s contracts are also month-to-month, so you can return the terminal at any time with no penalty.

Conclusion

It’s not hard to see how the leasing companies make their money. With credit card terminals being more affordable than ever, it’s easy for a company to buy a huge number of terminals at wholesale prices and then lease them out to unsuspecting merchants. The initial cost of buying the terminals is recouped within the first few months of the lease, and from there it’s pure profit. By providing the equipment on an “as is” basis, the company avoids the additional cost of servicing terminals once they’ve been leased. In fact, it’s apparent that none of these companies have an actual customer service department to speak of. The incredibly one-sided nature of the leasing contracts makes them a literal “license to steal.”

How can you protect yourself? First and foremost – buy your own equipment. If you don’t have the money to pay for your terminals, put it on your business credit card or consider a merchant cash advance. Even with the additional interest, you’ll save a lot of money over getting stuck in a lease. Don’t ever let a sales agent tell you that you have to use their leased terminals. As long as you use a terminal that your provider supports, you can have it re-programmed to work with their service. While some providers will re-program your equipment for free, others will charge a fee for this. Re-programming fees can run as high as $150, but they’re usually much less. In any event, you’ll still save money over leasing.

Also, beware of “free” terminal offers. While some of these offers are legitimate, many are not. Yes, there are a few providers out there that will let you use a terminal for free as long as you maintain your merchant account with them. Other providers will include the fee for the terminal in your monthly account fee, so the terminal isn’t really free. In the worst cases, a sales agent will deliberately lie to you and tell you you’re getting a free terminal, when they’ve actually signed you up for one of these leases without your knowledge or consent. Don’t accept a “free” terminal offer without checking it out first.

The unscrupulous business practices of the leasing companies we’ve profiled here represent sociopathic capitalism at its worst. While many of the more reputable merchant account providers have abandoned terminal leases altogether in favor of selling the terminals directly (or allowing you to bring your existing equipment), there are still plenty of other providers who are still pushing terminal leases. It’s reassuring that a few state and local government agencies are finally beginning to crack down on these shady companies, but their actions so far don’t seem to have put much of a dent in their business activities. Until a more comprehensive legal remedy becomes available that puts these companies out of business, the best way to protect yourself is simply to avoid doing business with them completely. If you’ve had any experience with any of the companies we’ve profiled in this article, please feel free to tell us about it in the comment section below.

The post The Worst Credit Card Terminal Leasing Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”