Charge.com bills itself as a merchant account service that is a one-stop shop for retailers, high-risk merchants, and anyone else who might need to take credit card payments. Their prices are the lowest we've seen, but we also learned that there may be some hidden costs down the road.
Charge.com has been in the business of providing merchant services since 1995. In that time they've evolved to become a registered ISO/MSP with two acquiring banks and at least one gateway service. They bill themselves as a one-stop shop for merchant payments, with a focus on high-risk retailers. That feature alone might frighten anyone who is seeking a reputable merchant service with low fees. Some industries in the high-risk marketplace include:
When we first navigated the Charge.com website, we discovered that this company wasn't transparent at all with their prices and products, because those links were broken. On their "About" page, we learned that they "guarantee the lowest prices on our products and services." Since we couldn't learn this information from their site, we gave the sales team a call. Most of the information in this article came from that phone call.
The links to Charge.com's testimonial page work fine, however. These testimonials are the only kudos we've seen about this company. We discovered some disgruntled clients with complaints on the web. Before we share those issues, we're anxious to provide you with some low, low prices that you might visualize only in your merchant account daydreams.
Below is a detailed review of Charge.com 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.
We learned more about the features that Charge.com offers through a call to the sales team (see Customer Support below our Fine Print section):
|Microsoft Dynamics GP||No|
|Windows / Blackberry||Yes|
|iPhone / iPad||Yes|
|Alternative Transaction Types:|
|Snail Mail Orders||Yes|
|American Express (AMEX)||Possible|
|Add Tips to Bills||Yes|
|eCommerce / Shopping Cart||Yes|
|EMV Chip Cards||Yes|
|Loyalty / Gift Cards||No|
|eChecks / Electronic Checks||No|
|Welfare Benefits (EBT/SNAP/TANF)||No|
|Security / Fraud Prevention:|
|AVS Fraud Protection||Yes|
|PCI DSS Secure Transactions||Yes|
|HIPAA Compliance (Healthcare)||No|
|Trust Account Debiting (Legal)||No|
|Fleet Cards (Petroleum)||No|
|Online Menu Orders (Restaurants)||No|
Charge.com doesn't integrate fully with QuickBooks, but they provide an option to download a CSV file that the merchant can upload to QuickBooks. By our standards, that's a no in terms of Quickbooks integration. On the countries served topic, be aware that the rates for those international countries vary from 3-5% per transaction, and - as the sales person suggested - these rates are more toward the 5% level. Thus, this isn't likely to be a great choice if you're taking a lot of international payments, but does offer nice flexibility if you're doing one every once in a while.
Merchants are almost always given approval to use Charge.com's services. With that said, you - as the merchant - may encounter issues using American Express if you're a high-risk business owner or if you have a history of bad credit. This credit organization's approval is separate, and they may not approve your application. That's true of almost every processor, but in the high-risk credit card processing world, it becomes important to remember.
Almost every merchant account services company uses either Interchange Plus or Tiered Pricing (to learn the differences read 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.
Because Charge.com focuses on high-risk merchants (which as a reminder is determined by your industry and not whether your business personally is risky), their pricing looks high. In actuality, its some of the cheapest rates we came across for high-risk merchants. They use interchange plus pricing.
Interchange Plus Rates:
The sales person we spoke with stated that the support team typically works with clients for setup and can talk about rates for international transactions at that time. Additionally, as a business grows and expands into international sales, the sales team also can help in that aspect.
Our Experience: We really don't know what Charge.com's sales or support experience might be like down the road, because we're not customers. Additionally, we saw few complaints about services rendered months or even years as a Charge.com client. Most complaints dealt with initial services and transactions that took place when first dealing with Charge.com.
Charge.com's fine print almost seems too good to be true, especially combined with their low rates. Be aware that Charge.com charges an $18.00 per month fee, which - according to the sales person we talked with - covers all the fine print transaction fees listed below:
|Fine Print Fees:|
|Setup / Application Fee||None|
|PCI Compliance Fee||None|
|PCI Inaction Fee||None|
|Online Reporting Fee||None|
|Monthly Minimum Volume Fee||None|
|Accept International Pymt Fee||No|
|Voice Authorization Fee||None|
|Monthly Min. Process Fee||None|
|Daily Batch Fee||Possible|
|ACH / Direct Deposit Fee||None|
|ACH Charge Fee||None|
|ACH Return Fee||Possible|
|Free eCheck Software|
|Free Support 24/7|
|Free eCommerce Shopping Cart|
|Free Credit Card Swiper, albeit a loaner|
Our Take: Charge.com is upfront about no hidden charges, but they're hiding a price page and products page from us, because those links currently don't work on their site. Otherwise, we may have learned about that $18.00 per month fee. Additionally, we couldn't find a "terms of service" page, which left us feeling cold. I also don't believe that their rates are really 1% + $25 for anything but debit. While they don't fully disclose what qualifies into each category, you can bet that you're going to get a lot of "downgraded transactions" and end up paying the 2%+ $0.25 for almost everything.
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.
Charge.com offers some amazing deals on equipment:
The sales person we talked with said that they do not lease equipment. In fact, he stated, "We don't like to gouge our customers with leases." He said they prefer to deal in high volume rather than high rates. That's the best sales spiel ever! I usually hate that sort of slick sales talk, on the other hand, however, getting a free swiper (albeit a loaner) and a terminal for roughly half the cost of what most credit card processors charge you does seem like a legitimately good deal.
As you'll see throughout this review, I keep getting the sense that these guys are too slick to not be slimy. That said, every time I dug in, the service seems pretty good. So, you'll see this theme again throughout the review. Another counterpoint to my sense of foreboding is that Charge.com has been in business for almost two decades...so they must be doing something right.
Charge.com prefers to work with U.S.-based businesses conducting businesses within the U.S.
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.
We learned that a contract with Charge.com doesn't exist. This is a month-to-month service with no early termination fees. If you want to terminate the service, you must do so in writing. That termination policy set off alarm bells, because this whole process just seems too easy.
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: Charge.com is a registered ISO/MSP of BMO Harris Bank, N.A., Chicago, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, CA. They use Authorize.Net as their gateway, but they also mention that they have "other gateway options" for shopping carts.
Account Sales: Charge.com maintains an easy-to-remember domain name, and their site is easy to navigate (other than the glitches we encountered). We also learned that, while Charge.com keeps their Twitter and Facebook accounts active and up-to-date, theu haven't updated their blog and their Google+ account since October and June in 2014, respectively.
We learned that sales and support are in-house and based in the U.S. The offices are open between 7am and 4pm Pacific Time. After those hours, calls are directed to a U.S.-based call center.
Account Service: Charge.com offers a toll-free support number to registered merchants. We called the number for sales that is listed in plain sight on every page of their website. To be honest, I was not unhappy with the sales call when it finally went through, because the native-English sales person was knowledgeable about all aspects of this company.
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.
1/10/2015; TIME: 3:08 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
The call was intercepted by voicemail stating all their agents were busy. During the time I waited on the phone, I heard sales pitches for low prices and great service interspersed between messages that stated I could leave a message or simply hold. I held for 15 minutes and decided to try again later.
1/10/2015; TIME: 3:30 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
This time I waited only a few seconds before Ben answered. I told Ben I needed to call because their product and pricing web pages were returning "404" pages and he seemed genuinely perplexed about this issue. He checked the site immediately and confirmed that those pages were down, stating, "But they were working this morning..."
Ben was more than eager to provide me with price levels and information about hardware and software at that point. At the same time, since he bases his sales on volume, he seemed to want to end the call since he knew I wasn't a qualified customer. He did thank me for notifying him about the website issues.
Our Take: We weren't dissatisfied with the call. Ben answered about 20 questions within a ten-minute time frame, and offered some of his own opinions throughout the call. We asked if we could call back and ask for him and he replied that I could between 7am and 4pm Pacific Time on weekdays.
We scoured the web to find past and current customer complaints about Charge.com's services. Then, we investigated those complaints that seemed legit, and provide our verdict on how well the processor handled the issues.
We saw numerous complaints about hidden fees and charges that seemed to arise out of nowhere.
We would be very leery of a company that focused on high-risk merchants and, frankly, that offered such low fees. To be honest, most of the complaints we've seen along this line appeared earlier than 2015. We haven't seen any recent complaints except for those individuals who are complaining about past service. With that said, we would definitely ask to see a TOS before signing up for any service with this company.
This complaint also ranked high.
We can understand this issue, especially from a company that seeks high sales volume. Their sales team is not going to have the dollars in hand from you, directly, to spend an inordinate amount of time with you as a merchant. This is one case where we might say that you probably get what you pay for.
This complaint also not as frequent as the previous two complaints.
Charge.com seeks out high-risk merchants and businesses. While some of these businesses may be legit, Charge.com is going to keep an eye on all accounts until proven innocent. If you avoid excessive chargebacks, high returns, and work hard to maintain a good relationship with this merchant service, it may prove an invaluable asset to get you on your feet again if you've experienced problems in the past. Otherwise, expect termination. Oh - and don't forget to return that leased swiper.
|PCI Compliance Fee||$0.00|
|Online Reporting Fee||$0.00|
DISCLOSURE: Advertising, Affiliate and Conflicts of Interest: Merchant Negotiators accepts advertising via the Google Adsense platform, directly from advertisers, and has common parent ownership interests with other payments related companies leading to conflicts of interest. Read our Affiliate / Conflicts / Advertising Disclosure for a more detailed disclosure.
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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