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Beware of the Trickery of Costco Merchant Accounts

Let me first say that we absolutely love Costco! They have incredible deals on most products, and those giant bags of pita chips are irresistible around the office.

Please beware that the good deals stop when it comes to a merchant account.

You may have picked up a flyer on the way out the door or received a fancy looking email in your inbox. Here’s the problem. You’ve grown to trust Costco to provide you and your family with great prices on high quality products. On top of that, their return policy (especially on electronics) is the best.

As a small business owner, you may be asking, “Why wouldn’t Costco give me that same value with a merchant account?”

Well, here’s the catch! Costco partners with a third-party provider called Elavon (formerly NOVA) to offer you credit card processing. It’s there way of making extra cash without having to actually start another business segment. Essentially, Costco is simply providing referrals to Elavon, and Elavon pays them a commission.

You trust Costco to begin with.
Costco adds Elavon (big merchant account provider) to the mix.
Elavon now hopes you’ll trust them even more.

They are counting on the borrowed trust from Costco’s customers to get you to sign up without asking too many questions. Our advice…don’t trust Costco or Elavon!

Four Tricks Costco / Elavon Plays on Small Businesses

After speaking with a number of our own customers and conducting in-depth research of Costco customer complaints, here are the top four reasons why you shouldn’t go with their merchant accounts.

  1. Click image to see Costco's fine print!

    Costco / Elavon lures you in with a low rate that doesn’t even apply to most of your transactions. This is the most common complaint from disappointed small businesses across the web. When evaluating their monthly statements, they found higher rates than the percentage advertised. The low rate that’s shown to the right (click to enlarge) is just for “qualified” transactions under a tiered pricing structure, which would only include non-rewards, non-business credit cards (standard Visa/MasterCard) that are swiped on the spot. This will be a very small percentage of your transactions.
  2. Costco / Elavon doesn’t tell you that they’re over-charging for debit transactions.
    Up to 60% of all small business transactions involve a debit card. What you may not know is that the wholesale rate passed along by Visa/MasterCard is .62%. If you receive Costco / Elavon’s lowest rate which is 1.48%, they’ll be pocketing almost 1% from that transaction. They’re not really looking out for your small business, are they?
  3. Costco / Elavon charges a much higher rate for “rewards cards.”
    As with anything, the fine print on their website (click the image to see a full-size version) is where important information is often hidden. In the case of Costco, the fine print is right on their own website. Read below:

    **Visa/MasterCard/Discover service is sponsored through U.S. Bank. Rates listed are for qualified transactions. Reward cards process at a higher rate. Contact Elavon for details. A monthly minimum charge applies when qualified transaction fees and per-item charges are less than $20 per month. Annual interchange or assessment increases by Visa/MasterCard or Discover may affect these rates. Rates and fees may change without notice. Rate and acceptance are subject to underwriting. Call Elavon at 1-888-474-0500 for all terms and conditions.

    Notice that it says – “Rates listed are for qualified transactions. Reward cards process at a higher rate.” Rewards credit cards are those cards that allow you to cash back, free travel, or other perks. Did you know that rewards cards now account for up to 70% of all credit cards? That means that the rates Costco is quoting don’t even apply to 70% of your transactions!

  4. Costco will let you out of your contract…for a price.
    Once you discover rising rates and extra fees, you’ll probably do anything to get out of your contract. Costco / Elavon will be more than happy to let you out of the agreement…as long as you pay a $95 cancellation fee as well as your remaining monthly fees.

By the way, did you notice that they’re giving you a $300 gift card? That’s not just because they’re nice. They plan on making even more than that off you from hidden fees. Don’t just take our word for it. Do the research yourself and find out that the Costco / Elavon relationship is not in your best interest.

Buy your pita chips (and all that other yummy stuff) from Costco, but we’re strongly encourage you to think twice about a merchant account. There are much better solutions that will ultimately save you time and money.

March 28, 2013 - Category: Exposing the Trickery, Rates and Fees

How Processing Fees Stack Up

Check out how Best Merchant Rates differs from other merchant account providers.
Click the image for a larger version.

Best Merchant Rates - Credit Card Processing

February 1, 2013 - Category: Blog, Credit Card Processing

Bank of America is ‘Banking’ on Your Lack of Understanding

Bank of America Merchant Account ServicesDespite their ‘All-American’ moniker, Bank of America is not much different than the other banks we’ve researched in our Exposing the Trickery blog series. To launch our investigation, we filled out an online form and waited to be contacting by a merchant account representative.

We waited and waited and waited some more. They never emailed, called, or sent a smoke signal. Nothing at all.

After waiting a couple of weeks, we decided to finally place a call to our local bank last Monday only to find that it was closed for Columbus Day. On a long shot that a corporate merchant account office might be open, we called 800.228.5882 and finally reached someone!

Finally Received an Agreement
Over the phone, we indicated that we would be selling items exclusively through a website, and within a day, we received just what we were looking for – a processing application and agreement with the ‘nitty-gritty’ fees. Similar to Chase Bank, Bank of America offers tiered pricing without hiding it. Thankfully, they don’t try to make it sound like they have one-flat rate like Costco.

Here’s what we soon discovered:

  • $99 set up fee for a gateway in order to process transactions through a website.
  • $17 monthly fee no matter what.
  • $94.75 annual maintenance fee.

Although these fees don’t seem too outrageous on the surface, the worst of it comes in the rates they offered us:

  • 2.12% Qualified Rate + $.25/transaction
  • 3.89% Non-Qualified Rate + $.25/transaction – which is most likely more than 50% of the time.
  • 3.5% American Express + $.15/transaction.

If you plan to accept any type of rewards or corporate cards, plan to pay 3.89%. Do you realize how many people are charging with a credit card that has some type of ‘reward’ tied to it? Airline miles, points, and cash back – all ways that companies are offering rewards these days.

B of A Offers the Worst Option for Small Businesses
3.89% for the majority of your transactions! Can you imagine giving away $3.89 for every $100 charged? OUCH! In reality, it would be better to accept an American Express card. When it comes to credit card processing companies, there’s nothing that hurts small businesses more than tiered pricing. Sure, they’re not hiding it like other providers, but they’re still dipping deeply into your wallet and taking out more than their fair share.

Don’t let them ‘bank’ on your lack of understanding.
Do your homework, and you’ll discover that there is a better option.

October 19, 2012 - Category: Exposing the Trickery

Don’t Be Too Quick to Process Credit Cards With QuickBooks

QuickBooks Merchant ServicesWe’ve already pointed out the trickery of Costco, but there are even more large corporations who build on your existing trust in order to lure you into processing credit cards with them. Today, we want to highlight how Intuit leverages the QuickBooks brand to develop a merchant services business.

As a small business owner, you may be asking, “Won’t QuickBooks just provide me with a quick and easy way to process credit cards?”

Yes, it may have that same soothing color scheme of green and gold.

Yes, it may integrate into your QuickBooks software.

Yes, it may come with a free credit card reader for your mobile phone.

BUT, it will come at a hefty price!

Although Intuit may not pass you off to a third party to process transactions like Costco does, they’re still using the same techniques to overcharge you. 

You trust QuickBooks to begin with.
Intuit adds merchant services to the mix.
Intuit now hopes you’ll just process credit cards without thinking about the cost.

They are counting on the borrowed trust (as an existing QuickBooks customer) to get you to sign up without asking too many questions. Our advice…don’t trust QuickBooks or Intuit to process credit card transactions!

Three “Quick” Ways that Intuit Overcharges Small Businesses

After speaking with a number of our own customers and conducting in-depth research of Intuit customer complaints, here are the top three reasons why you shouldn’t go with their merchant accounts.

    Click image to read Intuit's small print!

  1. Intuit buries the fine print on their pricing.
    When you land on their website, they ask you to select a method of processing credit cards. Then, you’re barraged by more all sorts of sales jargon that you’ll need to wade through to find their pricing. Click on the pricing tab, and you’ll notice small numbers next to their rates that lead to footnotes. Go ahead and see how long it takes you to find those footnotes on the page. It took us five minutes of clicking around to finally find them under “important disclosures” at the very bottom of the page. We made it easy for you by capturing a screenshot on the right. Click to see what Intuit is trying to hide.
  2. Intuit is using a tiered pricing structure to overcharge you.
    Based on an initial glance, you may think that you’ll pay 1.64% on all swiped transactions and 2.44% on all keyed transactions. Not so fast! Look at the fine print, and you’ll notice that some Non-Qualified Transactions will be charged 3.87% and an additional $.07 each. That’s quite a bit more than what seemed clear on the surface. As a small business, it’s important to note that anywhere from 50% to 80% of your transactions are going to be considered Non-Qualified (rewards and corporate cards) and fall into the 3.87% rate category. Read this minor detail is something Intuit is hoping you won’t see:

    “All Visa/MC/Discover Network transactions that do not meet the requirements stated above, business cards, foreign cards and transactions that do not meet Visa/MC/Discover Network requirements for the best interchange program will be charged a “Non-Qualified Rate” of 3.87%. Non-Qualified transactions are charged an additional $.07 each.”

  3. They refocus you on “quick and easy” rather than on transparent and fair.
    Intuit has built the QuickBooks business on the values of “quick and easy” which are both great qualities when keeping track of expenses as a small business. This mantra gets repeated over and over in their sales process, but it ultimately masks the fact that the merchant is getting overcharged. Yes, you do want things to be easy, but we also want the pricing to be transparent and fair.

QuickBooks is a wonderful way to keep track of your books, but they don’t want it to be easy to see how much you’re spending on credit card transactions. Don’t be duped by the green and gold that you’ve trusted for years. There are better solutions that don’t include getting overcharged.

September 1, 2012 - Category: Exposing the Trickery, Rates and Fees

No Need to “Chase” After Three-Tier Pricing at Chase Bank

This week, we headed on over to Chase Bank to look into a merchant account. We quickly found out that Chase Paymentech uses one of the most common credit card processing fee structures – the three-tier system.

The first tier is known as the Qualified Rate, which is when an individual swipes their credit card in your retail location in person.  This is the best rate, and it is almost always the one advertised by merchant providers to small businesses to lure you in with a low rate.

When a customer is using a rewards credit card or if the card is keyed into your cash register or computer instead of being swiped, plan to get charged at the second tier, or the Mid-Qualified Rate.

But, here’s when your rate really starts to skyrocket:

  • When your customers gives you a corporate credit card.
  • When a customer’s address and zip code don’t match what’s on file.
  • When your sales aren’t sent through the terminal within 24 hours.

In these cases, you’ll be charged the third tier pricing, which is the Non-Qualified Rate of 3.44%. Although Chase clearly indicates what the rates will be at each tier, how will you know which transaction will be charge which rate? The only way you’ll really find out is when you receive your monthly statement and they deduct it from your bank account.

In reality, Chase Paymentech is not being transparent with how much they’re pocketing at each tier.

Let us be the first to tell you…three-tier pricing from Chase is the worst possible fee structure for small businesses!

Three Tough Questions to Ask Chase Paymentech

Chase Bank is trusted by many, and they’re counting on this trust to dupe you into signing up for a merchant account. By saying “yes”, you’ll literally being buying an overpriced service. Click the image to the right to download a pdf of Chase Paymentech’s latest pricing.

Click image to download Chase pricing!

  1. Why are you charging me a $100 setup fee?
    This is an instant $100 in the pockets of Chase for no other reason than the fact that they can. Don’t just hand it over without asking why.
  2. Why are you pocketing an extra 1% on all my debit card transactions?
    Up to 60% of all small business transactions involve a debit card. What you may not know is that the wholesale rate passed along by Visa/MasterCard is .62%. If you Chase’s lowest rate which is 1.62%, they’ll be pocketing a full 1% from that transaction. This may not seem like alot, but it really starts to add up! They’re not really looking out for your small business, are they?
  3. Why are you demanding a 23 cent fee
    for every transaction?

    Think of it this way. For every four transactions, Chase will be taking almost one dollar out of your pocket! That doesn’t even include the Qualified, Mid-Qualified, or Non-Qualified Rate that will be charged on the amount of the transaction. It may seem small, but it really adds up.

Go ahead and call Chase Paymentech right now at 800.708.3740 to ask them the tough questions. As a hard-working, small business owner, you deserve to know why someone is trying to overcharge you. Just because you bank with a large company doesn’t mean that they’re going to give you the best pricing on your merchant account. Do your homework!

September 1, 2012 - Category: Exposing the Trickery, Rates and Fees

How to Start Accepting Credit and Debit Cards for Your Small Business

Whether you’re starting a business from scratch or simply wanting to expand your business, accepting credit cards is one of the best decisions you can make. Not only is it widely known that your business is missing out on sales if you’re not accepting credit and debit cards as a form of payment, but the United States Small Business Administration also notes…

“The convenience of using credit cards generally increases the likelihood of consumer “impulse purchases,” which ultimately contributes to an increase in a business’s average sale. Customers are more likely to make these purchases if they have access to credit or their available bank account funds.”

Acquiring a merchant account from a reputable credit card processor can be a daunting task for any small business owner, but we want to outline an easy step-by-step plan that will guide you from start to finish.

  1. Educate yourself on the fees associated with accepting credit and debit cards.
    There are a number of terms that are unique to the credit card processing industry, and you’ll need to be aware of what they mean. From “qualified” to “non-qualified” to “three-tier pricing” – all of these phrases have special nuances within the industry, and you’ll want to know what they mean in order to protect yourself from being overcharged.
  2. Determine how you will accept credit and debit cards.
    Before contacting a merchant account provider, take a few minutes to estimate how many of your transactions will be in-person (with the credit card swiped), over the phone (without the physical credit card), over the Internet (through your website), and via a mobile application (such as an iPhone, iPad, or Android device). There are three figures that you will be asked about – the % of your transactions for each method, the total monthly transaction totals ($), and the average transaction amount.
  3. Contact several merchant account providers to compare overall pricing.
    Notice that we didn’t say to “compare rates.” The rate game is a tool of trickery that most every credit card processing company plays in order to lure you in to get your business. The overall pricing structure is what to look for! The bottom line is that you want to avoid any merchant account provider that offers you “one flat rate” or “three tier pricing.” You want to look for someone who provides what is called “Interchange Plus” pricing. These accounts are based on the “interchange” tables published by both Visa Interchange and MasterCard Interchange. This type of pricing creates a discount rate by adding interchange rates, fees, assessments, markups, and other costs. By the way, don’t settle for a simple email with a few rates. BE SURE to get the full contract so that you know exactly what you’re agreeing to.
  4. Accept Credit and Debit Cards for your small businessSeek a trustworthy source to help you compare the quotes and fine print.
    In an effort to educate small business owners, we recently started offering a no-obligation review of competitor quotes. We will walk you through exactly what the quote means to your bottom line and ensure that there’s nothing hidden in the fine print that will pop up a few months down the road. If we can’t save you money, we’ll let you know right up front.
  5. After determining the best overall pricing for your company, fill out the application.
    Most companies will pressure you into filling out an application from the very beginning. They figure you won’t want to go through that process more than once, and they’ll have you locked in. Get the contract upfront, do your research, and then fill out the application after you’ve determined which merchant account provider is best for you.
  6. Start accepting credit and debit cards within 24-48 hours after approval.
    This is the simplest part of all. Whether it’s through your existing credit card terminal, through your website, or via a wireless device, you can generally be accepting credit cards within a couple of days. If you choose Best Merchant Rates, we walk you through the process every step of the way, and we’re available 24 hours a day.

Accepting credit and debit cards for your small business has never been easier, and Best Merchant Rates is focused on protecting small businesses from being overcharged.

May 28, 2012 - Category: Credit Card Processing, Educating on the Truth

Merchant One is #1 in Shady Sales Strategies

Click image to see larger version.

As we continue to expose the trickery of shady credit card processing companies, we contacted Merchant One to request a quote for an Internet-based business. As with all our merchant account reviews, we contacted the company directly by submitting an request for quotation through their company website.

We submitted a request on Tuesday, April 24th, and we received an automated email response that indicated “we look forward to speaking with you.” No calls or further emails were received. We left TWO MESSAGES, but NO ONE CALLED US BACK. Finally, on our third call, we were able to speak with a “live” person, and they asked us for more information.

As with all the other companies we’ve reviewed, they never send the full list of rates and fees from the beginning. They send a “salesy” email with the lowest Qualified rate and hope to lure you in (click image to download the pdf they emailed us). We finally received the full contract that helped us see that they’re just like all the other shady companies we’ve reviewed. By looking at Merchant One’s full agreement and other online reviews, here’s what we’ve learned.

Four Reasons to AVOID Merchant One

  1. Merchant One will sell you on the lie that they’re a “direct processor”.
    The customer service representative kept going back to this over and over again, and it’s just not true. They are an ISO (Independent Sales Organization) and MSP (Member Service Provider) for both Wells Fargo Bank and First National Bank of Omaha. Look at the bottom of their website or any paperwork. The Merchant One rep kept telling us that we’ll get “so much better customer service” because they are a director processor. I’m not sure I would want to process my payments with a company that blatantly lies about their identity.
  2. Merchant One has a whopping 188 COMPLAINTS through the BBB within 36 months.
    We have no idea how the Better Business Bureau can justify Merchant One’s “A+” rating when there are an overwhelming amount of issues with their business. 125 of those complaints were because of “Advertising / Sales Issues” which doesn’t surprise us in the least.
  3. Merchant One sells a rate of 1.19% online but FAILS to mention their surcharges.
    Instead of simply telling the truth, Merchant One advertises their “Qualified” rate of 1.19% (retail) or 1.99% (Internet) for which only 10-20% of all your transactions will qualify. They fail to mention the “Mid-Qualified” and “Non-Qualified” surcharges that 80% or more of transactions will receive. Typically, these fees will cost you a full 1-2% more per transaction. On top of the high rate, they will also charge you $.40 per Internet transaction ($.20 for authorization plus $.20 for gateway). It’s not surprising that many of the complaints online about Merchant One revolve around the provider’s misleading sales tactics.
  4. Merchant One CONCEALS their PCI fee in the fine print.
    PCI Compliance is now mandatory for all businesses that process credit cards, but many merchant account providers are anxious about educating merchants about the costs involved. Merchant One is no different. In fact, they hide their $129 annual PCI Compliance fee in the fine print of their agreement, and it’s no where near all the other rates and fees. You’d have to scour the document in order to find it.

One reviewer gives Merchant One a “D”, and another reviewer rates them 2.5 out of 5 stars. Based on the evidence, we consider Merchant One “#1” in the category of “Shady Sales Practices.” There is always a better option.

May 4, 2012 - Category: Educating on the Truth, Exposing the Trickery

National Bankcard MISLEADS You Into Thinking You’ll Get 0.39%

Click the image to view National Bankcard's REAL rates and fees!

We’re always amazed by what extent our competitors’ salespeople will go to in order to land a new merchant account, and National Bankcard is no different. Their misleading sales tactics motivate us to continue exposing the lies and trickery of credit card processing companies. We know how difficult it is for small business owners to thrive (or even survive) in the current economy, and companies like National Bankcard aren’t making it any easier.

As we have in the past with Costco, Bank of America, QuickBooks, Chase, Merchant Warehouse, and many others, we simply entered contact information into the “get a quote” form and waited for them to contact us. We immediately received a sales email and a request for a phone conversation.

After articulating that all our business would be conducted online, the sales rep sold us on the fact that we would get 0.39% on qualified, debit card transactions and went ahead and estimated the fees on a $100 transaction. Of course, this would sound great to an unsuspecting merchant who isn’t fully informed about the reality of what was being offered. To give National Bankcard a chance to come clean with the truth, we asked them to email us a quote with the information that was shared over the phone, and this is what we received…

Stationary Terminal ……
Monthly Service fee…….$9.95
Gateway Service. $9.95
Month-Month Agreement
Debit rate………………….0.39%
Credit rate (Qualified)….2.19%
Credit rate (MID- Qualified)….2.19%
Authorization fees. 19 Cents
Batch fee- 35 Cents
24 hours 7 days a week customer Service and Tech Support

After several emails back and forth encouraging us to fill out an online application (without seeing their full contract), we finally got the sales rep to email us a pdf copy, and this is what we discovered.

Three Reasons to Avoid National Bankcard and Their Misleading Sales Practices:

  1. National Bankcard salespeople will MISLEAD you about the rate you’ll be charged.
    While the sales rep was quick to sell 0.39% as the qualified, debit card rate over the phone, the TRUTH is that an Internet transaction would NEVER RECEIVE THIS RATE, because the card is not swiped. Click here to download page 10 (out of 11) of their contract to see the real rates you’ll be charged. For a qualified Internet transaction (which doesn’t include any rewards or business cards), you’ll be charged a much higher rate of 2.19% + .19. If a customer uses a card with any type of rewards program, the transaction will be deemed non-qualified, and you’ll receive a surcharge of 1.49% + .10 which equals a total of 3.68% + .29. That’s a far cry from the 0.39% that they were selling us – OUCH!
  2. National Bankcard NEGLECTS to tell you about a $79/year PCI fee.
    As we’ve noted in the past, PCI compliance is mandatory for all merchants, but many credit card processors don’t want to scare away potential customers with a large yearly fee. National Bankcard simply left it off their initial email quote and it’s no where to be found on the contract. When we emailed the sales rep to inquire, he disclosed that there was a $79 yearly fee, but he wasn’t sure if it was on the contract or not. Don’t you think it’s a little weird that National Bankcard leaves off a $79/year fee off their contract?
  3. National Bankcard automatically enrolls you in their UNNECESSARY “My Biz Perks Program” at $11.95/month.
    Notice the box on the bottom of page 10 of their contract. It states, “I understand and acknowledge that I will be automatically enrolled in a 60-day free trial of the My Biz Perks Program, which includes custom reporting and alerts, supplies, extended warranty, overnight replacement on equipment, partner discounts, and more!” You can’t opt-out of this in the application…you have to go the extra step to call or email after the 60 day free trial is over. Hoping that you’ll just forget about this fee, National Bankcard is simply taking money out of your pockets each month with little or no service offered in return.

Why would you want to process credit card transactions with a merchant account provider that MISLEADS you from the beginning of your relationship? It just doesn’t make sense. Don’t fall prey to trickery of National Bankcard. There’s always a better option.

April 27, 2012 - Category: Credit Card Processing, Exposing the Trickery


All across the web, we see “flat rates” being advertised to unsuspecting merchants. Because of this blatant misrepresentation, we then have to explain to potential customers that they’re being scammed.

Here’s the truth about the “One Flat Rate” scam!

  • All banks and processors have the exact same costs from Visa, MasterCard and Discover.
  • Therefore, how can a credit card processor offer you “One Flat Rate” when Visa, MasterCard, and Discover have various rates depending on the type of business and type of credit card?

It’s like if the Federal Reserve sets the mortgage rate of 5%, and then someone says they can offer it to you for 1%. It’s too good to be true.

To prove our point: Download the actual costs from Visa that credit card processors have to pay. BE SURE TO NOTICE how many different rates there are depending on the type of business and type of credit card.

Please know that there is a much more honest way of processing credit cards.

February 15, 2012 - Category: Credit Card Processing, Exposing the Trickery

Consumer Confidence

You know as much as anyone else that in the current state of the economy people aren’t as impulsive with the way they spend their money, so why should you be impulsive when choosing a credit card processor? The credit card processing industry is multi-level labyrinth of fees and confusion that cloud your bottom line price point. Combing your way through the fine print is a painful and time wasting challenge to uncover the reality about the fees you’re paying.

Is the trickery about the credit card processing industry making it difficult to trust any of them at all?

I’ve called multiple providers myself asking for some essential information and what they tell me is always the bare minimum. Seems to me that a business owners best interest is not in mind. No wonder why business owners are becoming more and more reluctant. The processors don’t disclose any information at all about PCI Compliance or about their Non-Qualified rates. Even when I prompted about Non-Qualified transactions, they calmly said “oh, no one has told you about those?” I would only assume that they are banking on no one asking and when I say banking, I mean laughing all the way to the bank. When I asked more about the Non-Qualified transactions they flat out lied saying that it was on occasion with “international cards.” From the experience in processing, I know that rewards cards are also a big lump of these Non-Qualified transactions and would make up for at least 50% of my transactions. With processors like that, no wonder the consumer confidence has dwindled.

What I’ve found is that transparency is key, letting the consumer see all.

You have credit card processing company “A” telling you that you’ll be paying this specific low rate. Then you have credit card processing company “B” telling you exactly how everything works inside and out. At first “A” sounds cheaper, until you get your statement and find out that there were all of these surcharges, non-qualified rates and various fees. Then you have “B” whom told you everything up front and could have saved you a substantial amount of money in which you could be using to keep your doors open and thriving as a business. Let transparency restore your confidence as a consumer and put integrity back into business.

February 14, 2012 - Category: Exposing the Trickery