150 North College Street, 15th Floor, Charlotte, NC 28202
Bank of America merchant's services are marketed to existing Bank of America business banking customers. BOA Merchant services just resells First Data's service with what appears to be a pretty hefty markup.
Additionally, once you sign up, it may be difficult to untie yourself to move on to another service. In sum, I don't see any merchant that we could say this is actually a good fit for.
Bank of America Merchant Services, also known as BA Merchant Services (BAM) and Banc of America Merchant Services, is one of the largest merchant acquirers in the U.S. based upon volume. You might think a bank as large as Bank of America would process credit cards in house. Instead, they use First Data and, most recently, also TSYS, as their credit card processors. Right off the bat, you know that BAM is serving as a middle man for credit card processing, which means more fees are passed to you, the merchant.
On top of that insult, the injury is that BAM apparently is against full disclosure. They don't offer a Terms of Service (TOS) on their site, and their sales person couldn't direct us to one. This lack of transparency means that any merchant might think twice about stepping into this minefield. Without a TOS, a merchant won't know what to ask about or expect from BAM's merchant account services.
We had to conduct some heavy digging to unearth the information below. My advice on the front end is to avoid this service at any cost, even if you're a merchant who banks with Bank of America. There are too many pitfalls financially (and complaints bear this opinion out) for anyone to take on this risk.
Below is a detailed review of Bank of America Merchant Services offering. The review is broken down into the following categories.
Depending upon the type of business you own, some of the following features may or may not be important to you.
BAM offers a wide range of services, mainly because First Data has a wide range of services available for BAM to offer. Remember, Bank of America Merchant Account Services is just a reseller of First Data, so everything they offer is something that First Data actually offers.
|Intuit Quickbooks||Yes, app supported|
|Microsoft Dynamics GP||No|
|Windows / Blackberry||No|
|iPhone / iPad||Yes|
|Alternative Transaction Types:|
|Snail Mail Orders||Yes|
|American Express (AMEX)||Yes|
|Add Tips to Bills||Yes|
|eCommerce / Shopping Cart||Yes|
|EMV Chip Cards||Yes|
|Loyalty / Gift Cards||Yes|
|eChecks / Electronic Checks||Yes|
|Welfare Benefits (EBT/SNAP/TANF)||Yes|
|Security / Fraud Prevention:|
|AVS Fraud Protection||Yes|
|PCI DSS Secure Transactions||Yes|
|HIPAA Compliance (Healthcare)||Yes|
|Trust Account Debiting (Legal)||No|
|Fleet Cards (Petroleum)||Yes|
|Online Menu Orders (Restaurants)||Yes|
BAM unfortunately doesn't appear to integrate fully with QuickBooks, but it seems they point merchants to an app to integrate the Clover Station with QuickBooks. Another possibility could be the ability to tap into your online banking QuickBooks through your Bank of America merchant bank account. The ability to connect your merchant account and your QuickBooks may not be a free service.
Almost Every merchant account services company uses either Interchange Plus or Tiered Pricing (read more about this topic here). Where companies allow us to disclose pricing information, we show the deals that our secret shoppers were able to achieve. When companies offer both Interchange Plus and Tiered Pricing, we try to get a quote on both options.
We wanted to discover pricing on some of these retail and restaurant options, but we either had to be a Bank of America merchant or fill out an online form. According to BAM, "A representative will contact you within 1 business day" after filling out that form. While we might wait around a day to learn about pricing, we know that BAM uses First Data equipment. Therefore, we have options to purchase the hardware outright or lease it. That lease with First Data usually runs for up to four years and is separate from any agreements you sign with BAM.
Additionally, when a merchant processing service avoids pricing transparency, they usually hide behind the usual explanation that the services are built to fit the merchant. In other words, they base their prices on a merchant's business type, processing volume, sales rep, and your skill - as a merchant - in negotiating your price. Those options sometimes legitimate, but it's also a really convenient excuse not to publish your pricing so that customers can't easily comparison shop. You'd probably only be afraid of comparison shopping if your prices aren't very good, thus...well, you can connect the dots.
BAM's Mobile Pay on Demand pricing is different than their POS solutions. The following rates apply only to Mobile Pay on Demand. This program offers a "free" app and card reader (customer must currently pay a $5.99 postage fee for the swiper). There are no setup or monthly fees for this program, although the rates below apply only to VISA, MasterCard, or Discover. AmEx rates are slightly different.
This mobile card reader can accept international cards as long as the card supports a swipe-and-sign function rather than the Europay chip card. Merchants cannot be located outside the U.S. BAM supplies applicants with a list of non-acceptable merchants for their Mobile Pay on Demand program.
Fixed Rates Mobile Pay on Demand:
There are no varying rate differences between qualified cards and specialty cards such as Rewards cards.
Since we can't gain access to pricing information or to any other information (including a TOS) except for BAM's mobile solution pricing, we simply responded "perhaps" to the items we could not discover online or through a call to sales. We feel there are a ton of hidden fees within this BAM system:
|Fine Print Fees:|
|Setup / Application Fee||Yes, w/ eCommerce|
|PCI Compliance Fee||$95/year|
|PCI Inaction Fee||Perhaps|
|Online Reporting Fee||Perhaps|
|Monthly Minimum Volume Fee||Perhaps|
|Accept International Pymt Fee||Perhaps|
|Voice Authorization Fee||Perhaps|
|Monthly Min. Process Fee||Perhaps|
|Daily Batch Fee||Perhaps|
|ACH / Direct Deposit Fee||Perhaps|
|ACH Charge Fee||Perhaps|
|ACH Return Fee||Perhaps|
|Free Technical Support 24/7|
|Free Merchant Bank Account|
Our Take: For BAM's size and reach, we're fully disappointed in their lack of transparency regarding issues such as PCI compliance and chargeback fees. The fee we show for PCI compliance is based upon an annual fee we heard about that seems to fit that PCI compliance fee cost. Otherwise, we had to say "perhaps" on our list of items, because we just don't know those answers.
This lack of transparency means the merchant must be on his or her toes when negotiating with BAM for merchant services. If you, as that merchant, forget to talk about or negotiate even one small item listed above, you may be hit with a "gotcha" fee.
For instance, there is no real eCommerce solution other than a "buy now" button. The integration of that eCommerce solution with your merchant website costs $25 per month on top of all your other expenses as well as a setup fee. We can think of many other solutions that probably are far less expensive.
While your transactions usually take place electronically, the actual device that you use to swipe a customer's card is referred to as "the equipment." This equipment includes hardware and, often, software or apps for that hardware to function properly.
BAM (aka BOA Credit Card Processing) offers what they call a "Paymentum suite of solutions" that includes the ability to expand payment options, a turn-key commerce solution, security tools, and advice. Within this overall plan, BAM offers separate options for retail and for restaurants.
We're a bit confused by the features and benefits listed by both software programs. We see a computer listed in the features under the Restaurant Solution, but not the Retail Solution. Be aware that, as a merchant, you need to find out your options in detail before you commit to either solution.
BAM prefers to work with U.S. businesses that conduct business in the U.S. This is especially true with mobile sales via swiper. BAM does offer a Global Merchant Acquiring account that provides merchants with the ability to accept global payments.
I generally don't like long-term contracts or termination fees in merchant services agreements, because the ability to cancel keeps the credit card processor on its best behavior, including the willingness to make you happy if there's a dispute. Plus, this ability to cancel gives you the ability to move on if you find a better deal.
Merchants sign a three-year contract with BAM with a $500 termination fee. If you can negotiate your way out of that fee, make sure your sales rep signs a waver and attaches it to your contract. Don't forget your equipment...if you purchase it, you have a four-year warranty. If you lease it, you are hooked into a First Data agreement for (according to our sales call to BAM) 24, 36, or 48 months. If you decide to leave, you can take that leased equipment with you and use it with another merchant account service with better reviews.
The merchant account services industry is multi-layered. Understanding how those layers fit together can be confusing (Read More in this Article). A good thing to know, however, is whether or not your company is a direct processor (good if yes) or, if not, then to know who they process with and whether or not that processor is reliable. The second thing to know is whether or not the service or sales staffs are in-house or outsourced. In-house staffs are preferable for you, as these staff members may have more access to sources that can resolve your issues.
Processor: BAM is a merchant acquirer for First Data and TSYS. Bank of America bank customers who use this merchant account system receive their payments as deposits in their bank accounts within 24 hours.
Account Sales: Bank of America markets this product primarily to its existing business banking customers and through its in-house sales representatives. BAM currently is running a $500 price quote guarantee on their merchant services account pages, along with some fine print. This offer is meaningless, because they'll most likely do anything possible to avoid paying this money. We're surprised that a company this size would prefer to offer a meaningless sales trick rather than educational materials.
Account Service: BAM offers a customer service FAQ that is elementary and almost insulting. One of the questions asked: "Why open an online store if I have an existing retail outlet? Won't I be competing with myself?" That question alone seems to prove that BAM believes its merchants might be ignorant enough to ask that question. What else might BAM pull over on a merchant?
Otherwise, BAM supposedly offers 24/7 support. A chat window is available when you open the BAM site, but it only works on weekdays during business hours.
As part of our review process, we try to test merchant account service companies' claims by placing test calls and working through the customer service process. Since support is unavailable to anyone other than a BAM customer, I called sales to ask them where I could find a Terms of Service (TOS) document.
2/13/2015; TIME: 3:05 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
Derrick answered the phone immediately, and when I asked him where I could locate a TOS, he had no clue to what I was talking about. I tried to explain it to him, and when he realized what I was after, he said that I wouldn't find one on the site. Instead, he offered some simple fees available for equipment purchase and leasing. I asked, also, about the eCommerce option and the leasing, and the answers are above under those subjects. When he realized I was shopping for a merchant account service, he seemed eager to let me go, but he did provide me with a direct line to his desk.
Our Take: We weren't dissatisfied with Derrick's friendliness and his knowledge, although it appears that BAM is anti-TOS to the point where their sales people don't even talk about it. This lack of transparency is a bad sign indeed.
We scoured the web to find past and current customer complaints about BAM's services. Then, we investigated those complaints that seemed legit, and provide our verdict on how well the processor handled the issues.
Most of these complaints centered on the lease contracts that came through First Data.
Although BAM's sales force consists of in-house employees, it appears that they can be just as deceptive as any third-party reseller or acquirer. Our sales person acted like we would be purchasing or leasing our equipment from BAM, when in fact it would be in a separate transaction with First Data.
This complaint also ranked high.
A large bank that offers in-house support 24/7 might take some pride in providing great service as well. It appears, according to many complaints, that lousy service is the norm.
Any time you see First Data combined with any merchant account service, just go straight to First Data and let them punish you directly.
First Data is notorious for trigger-happy suspensions, account withholding, and terminations based upon what may be a slight mistake or infraction. Their fear as a credit card processor is your cost to them as a client who may be in the business of accruing chargebacks, etc. They'd rather nip that possibility in the bud rather than give you, the merchant, a second chance.
Yes, $500 is a bit much for an early termination fee.
Even the sales person we talked with said that fee could be waived. This time we're blaming the merchant who didn't do his or her homework before signing up for this merchant account service.
|PCI Compliance Fee||$7.92|
|Online Reporting Fee||$0.00|
|Contract Length||3 Year Contract|
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About the Reviews: These reviews, and for that matter any reviews, are inherently subjective, and should be regarded as our opinion, not as a statement of fact. Selecting a merchant services provider is an important decision, and we urge you to use no single source of information as the basis of that decision.
About the Pricing: This pricing is an estimate based on limited available information. In some cases, the Processors' pricing information was provided directly by the company, in others, we obtained it from public information, through calls to the company, or through past or current clients of the company. Where, despite these efforts, we were unable to obtain any information about certain fees, we used estimates based on similar providers in the industry. While we're working, in some cases, with the company directly to get more accurate pricing, even in those circumstances, we can't guarantee the pricing's accuracy. Complicating all of this, is that for some companies individual salespeople are given authority to modify terms on a deal by deal basis. In any case, if you know of an error, please let us know and we'll fix it.
About the Calculations: With respect to your estimated savings, this is based on a lot of factors and some hard math. The reason we do it, along with the "Actual Gross Rate" calculation is that every Processor prices their product differently (e.g. interchange v. 3 tier v. 4 tier v. flat v. membership, etc.) and some make it intentionally complicated or opaque. Trying to convert their pricing structure to a consistent "Overall Cost of Processing" is the only way you, the merchant, can do an apples to apples pricing comparison and know whether an offer is actually a good deal. Our system isn't perfect but we're trying.
Conclusion: In sum, these rankings, ratings, and scores are inherently subjective, and should be regarded as our opinion and not as a legal statement of fact. Moreover, use these prices and estimates at your own risk, and make sure to verify the pricing you see here in any formal contract you receive. Finally, if you do find something wrong in our pricing, terms, etc., tell us and we'll try to fix it.
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