The Merchant Solutions review

The Merchant Solutions review examines themerchantsolutions.com web site advertised credit card processing offers. Every so often I see ads that I know are too good to be true. In your heart you know it too, but that doesn’t stop you from at least looking right?

I stumbled upon this site because it was at the top of google when I was searching for something and it caught my eye. This review lays out facts based on direct observations. I hope this helps you in evaluating any company for merchant services. Draw your own conclusions.

INTERNET MERCHANTS HOME PAGE OFFER

  • 1.59% + 0.15 per transaction
  • FREE Payment Gateway Software/Terminal
  • FREE Gateway Access
  • No set up, application fee or annual fee

ACTUAL OFFER (based on standard industry card not present):

Gateway – choose from authorize.net, $149 application fee, or PC Charge Pro, $249 application fee; both carry a $10 per month fee.

AUTHORS Comments: The home page says “free payment gateway terminal”. That’s true, the terminal is free, but the gateway is not. I knew that, but it’s a trick question. Are gateway fees negotiable? While the fees may vary, authorize.net and PC Charge are never free. They are for-profit businesses. The only way you can get them for free is if you are being charged somewhere else for it to make up the hard costs. I’ve never seen that happen and you should beware if offered. Whenever a cost is bundled, you can bet you’re going to pay extra for built in profit margin. END COMMENTS.

The actual offer continued.

Credit card processing

  • 2.19% + 0.27 per transaction
  • $10 per month statement fee
  • No set up, application fee or annual fee
  • CROSS BORDER FEES will be added and listed separately

The rest of the costs are found in the fine print: If you are a Direct Mail/Telephone Order Merchant (non-magnetic swipe read transactions) and each transaction you submit meets all of the following requirements will be priced at the rate quoted. Any other transaction, including all foreign transactions and commercial card transactions in addition to transactions using Visa Rewards Card, Visa Signature Card, Visa Infinite Card, and MasterCard World Card, will be priced at the rate quoted plus 1.14%.

REQUIREMENTS:

  • Obtain an electronic authorization and settle for authorized amounts (one reversal permitted on Visa transactions to make authorization amount equal to settle amount).
  • Address Verification Request in authorization on cardholder billing address.
  • Purchase date (settled date) is ship date.
  • Send order number with each transaction.
  • Settle and transmit batches same day via your terminal/electronic system.
  • Send level 3 data (line item detail, sales tax, customer code) with every eligible commercial card transaction. NOTE: Card Not Present transactions involving one-time, recurring, or installment bill payment transactions are subject to additional card association requirements which must be complied with to avoid NQS. Electronic commerce transaction requirements are also subject to additional card association requirements which must be complied with to avoid NQS. Please refer to Card Acceptance Guide for additional requirements.

AUTHORS Comments:

  • There is no explanation as to why no transactions will process at the home page ad rate of 1.59% and $.15. However, Visa debit interchange for card not present is 1.60% + $0.15 as of April 2010. This does not include network fees incurred by processors or any profit margin. The home page advertisement would lose money for the company on every transaction, unless offset by other fees.
  • A monthly statement fee is also a hard cost, so is not unexpected.
  • Cross border fees are hard costs and it appears they are being passed through with no mark-up, which is good.
  • Which transactions will qualify at 2.14% and which at 2.14% plus 1.14%, or 3.28%? First of all, does your business model meet the requirements listed? If you authorize on one day, but capture/settle on a future date, the transaction would not qualify. You may not be aware of it, but data captured does not always equal data passed on to the processor. For example, Authorize.net does not support level 3 data. I was unable to confirm if PC Charge does at this writing. At the other end, the processor also needs to accept the level 3 data from the gateway. Verify this with your processor. Statistically, about 50% of all consumer transactions are now with debit cards, so if you met the requirements above, and have a consumer oriented business, about half of your transactions would qualify at 2.19%. The majority of credit cards today are some type of rewards cards;  rewards cards rate is 3.28% in the above offer.
  • The Merchant Solutions (TMS) is a registered ISO/MSP of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, CA” is on the home page and all web pages. I like to know more about companies I might do business with so I always research the entity.  Here’s what I found:
  1. The wording on the application changed to “The Merchant Solutions (MSC) is a registered ISO/MSP of HSBC Bank, USA, National Association, Buffalo, NY”. Note both the company abbreviation and the associated bank name have changed.
  2. The agreement terms and conditions are with Global Payments Direct, Inc. There is no mention of The Merchant Solutions (TMS).
  3. I found no listing with the state of California for The Merchant Solutions under multiple name variations I searched for.
  4. I performed a reverse phone number check at whitepages.com and got no results.
  5. I performed various address check versions at whitepages.com and couldn’t find a company with any similar name at the address.
  6. I searched Hoovers.com and didn’t find the company listed.
  7. The online application does not use SSL technology (no https or lock symbol)  for taking your private data, including bank account and social security information. This is a significant security risk.
  8. The application terms have significant penalties for early termination on the 3 year agreement. “… all monthly fees assessed to Merchant under this Card Services Agreement and due for the remainder of the then existing term of the Card Services Agreement, including all minimum monthly fee commitments, shall be immediately due and payable”.

FINAL REVIEW NOTES:

I’ve pointed out a few ways you can perform basic checks on a company for any service you find online, as well as reading between the lines for a merchant offer. Merchant services in particular involves highly confidential and sensitive information. Before sharing your private data, check out the company.  The sources mentioned in this article don’t measure company reliability.

For the record, you can verify 3D Merchant Services here:

http://sunbiz.org Registered Corporation, state of Florida, whitepages.com, hoovers.com.