Citi Merchant Services is a mere reseller for First Data Corporation and other third-party companies. They market themselves to existing Citi banking customers. We find no solid reason why any merchant should choose this service for any reason other than to pay more for services than if the merchant went straight to First Data.
Citi Merchant Services (Citi) is the merchant account division of the third largest bank holding company in the U.S. - Citigroup. Although this bank holding company maintains the world's largest financial services network, it does not offer merchant account services in house. Instead - and Citi will warn readers on every page of their merchant account website - Citi is merely a reseller for credit card processing.
Below is a detailed review of Citi 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.
Citi Merchant Services offers only what First Data Corporation or its other third-party alliances would offer. That said, because First Data is one of the largest providers of merchant services in the world, the list of features is extensive.
|Microsoft Dynamics GP||No|
|Windows / Blackberry||Yes - Blackberry|
|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)||No|
|Online Menu Orders (Restaurants)||Yes|
Although we replied "yes" to all the features listed above, merchants may learn that some specific hardware or software products may not fully integrate with QuickBooks, or that other products refuse to add tips to bills. The point is, it depends on which options you select. You can learn more about First Data's equipment by heading to the First Data website.
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.
Citi Merchant Services offers no pricing, because they aren't offering the services. First Data doesn't provide a single bit of financial information on their site, either. We do know that First Data may offer a variety of billing options, including tiered, interchange-plus, flat rate or enhanced billback. Again, it might behoove you to go straight to First Data (or another company altogether) to learn more about your pricing options.
There is no fine print at Citi for its merchant services, so we headed to First Data to learn more about hidden fees: The following information was available:
|Fine Print Fees:|
|Termination Fee||Yes, variable|
|Setup / Application Fee||Yes, on most products and services|
|PCI Compliance Fee||Yes|
|PCI Inaction Fee||Yes|
|Online Reporting Fee||Possible|
|Monthly Minimum Volume Fee||Yes|
|Accept International Pymt Fee||Possible|
|Voice Authorization Fee||Possible|
|Monthly Min. Process Fee||Possible|
|Daily Batch Fee||Possible|
|ACH / Direct Deposit Fee||Possible|
|ACH Charge Fee||Possible|
|ACH Return Fee||Possible|
|Free Setup Consultation|
|Free Customer Service|
Our Take: We answered "possible" on some fine print, as Citi may charge where First Data doesn't...and we don't know the answers to those questions concerning Citi. Citigroup's Citi Merchants Services is a front for First Data, so you might as well head to the First Data site if you want to learn more about prices and hidden costs. Or, you might want to use another merchant service altogether.
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.
All products and services offered by Citi Merchant Services are provided by First Data and "other strategic alliances." In other words, by using Citi Merchant Services, the merchant is paying more to use hardware and software (and services) they he or she would pay by going directly to the source. Prices are not included with any merchandise listed below:
We hope that our message is clear at this point - Citi makes no bones about who the merchant is working with here. The hardware and software, in most cases, belongs to First Data. Additionally, Citi repeats over and over on each page featuring products and solutions that they don't touch this merchandise or its software.
Citi Merchant Services can handle payments from and for merchants in the United States, Canada and abroad.
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.
Citi appears to avoid offering contracts online. We're not sure if they offer them through their merchant services or if the customer signs on with First Data. First Data usually offers a three-year contract with high early termination fees. Ask in advance who you're signing the contract with before you proceed.
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: Citi Merchant Services bills its services as "Citi Merchant Services provided by First Data Corporation." Their merchant account service actually is a result of a contract between Citicorp Payment Services, Inc. (CPSI) and First Data Merchant Services Corporation (FDMS). Citi and Citi with Arc Design are registered service marks of Citigroup Inc. and are used by First Data under license. The noted gateway service offered on Citi's merchant services site is Global Gateway e4. This service is tied into their online transaction services for merchants. In sum, you are getting First Data services that are white labeled as Citi.
Account Sales: We're guessing that Citi bank customers, especially merchant accounts, already know about this service or were pitched it by their banker. Otherwise, we're not surprised that Citi is low key about marketing their reseller services. Citi's main concern doesn't seem to be its merchant services division, its just an add-on service for existing Citi bank customers.
Account Service: Citi provides a chat window where an individual needs to provide a name and email for a response. If you use this window, you probably are immediately added to a sales database, so beware. Other contact information is for sales. There are no support services or numbers, because First Data supplies the support.
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 First Data supplies support, we tried to contact sales to learn why customers might choose Citi over First Data.
2/20/2015; TIME: 2:35 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
The phone rang ten times with no answer. We'll try again later.
2/20/2015; TIME: 2:57 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
The phone rang ten times with no answer. We'll try again later.
2/20/2015; TIME: 3:35 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
The phone rang ten times with no answer. We're not trying again.
Our Take: It appears that Citi really doesn't bank on their merchant services, considering the lack of response we received. This is a huge corporation, the fact that they don't pick up the phone for customer service during business hours tells you everything you might need to know.
We scoured the web to find past and current customer complaints about Citi's merchant services. Then, we investigated those complaints that seemed legit, and provide our verdict on how well the processor handled the issues. The following complaints were listed under Citi listservs or reviews, but only a few of them were about Citi. Most of the complaints were coming from Citi customers who were enraged about First Data's services. Interestingly, we didn't find any complaints about hidden fees, although some complaints centered on a high early termination fee.
All but a few complaints focused on First Data's customer service.
If Citi is going to resell merchant services, we hope they're reading the reviews.
This complaint also ranked high.
First Data is well known to be trigger-happy when it comes to account suspensions and terminations when they view an account as "suspicious." Interestingly, the accounts we read rarely were from small business owners. These complaints were coming from larger businesses that are working on a class action suit against First Data.
|PCI Compliance Fee||$8.25|
|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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