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Review of Helcim Merchant Services

Suite 403 - 1300 8th Street SW, Calgary, Alberta T2R 1B2

DISCLOSURE: Ads, Affiliates and Conflicts 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 potential conflicts of interest. Read our Affiliate / Conflicts / Advertising Disclosure for a more detailed disclosure.

Overview

Helcim, Inc. is an ISO based in Canada and serving Canadian and U.S. merchants with Interchange plus pricing and cheap international transaction pricing. Helcim has great customer service ratings and reviews, and is a good fit for mid-sized and large merchants who primarily do in-store or mobile transactions, as their eCommerce pricing terms are not as attractive for Canadian merchants.

Helcim, Inc. is a privately-owned Canadian card processor with offices in Calgary and in Seattle, Washington. A registered ISO, Helcim breaks the typical mold for credit card processing companies by offering some outstanding transparency about their Interchange plus rates as well as on their equipment costs, hidden fees (there are none), and their month-to-month contract.

Merchants need to be aware that Helcim caters to U.S. and Canadian markets, and rates, equipment (hardware), and other features may vary from country to country.

Helcim could be an ideal solution for businesses that process over $2,500 per month and that sell internationally. They maintain a non-gimmicky and easy-to-navigate website with services that bring absolutely no complaints to the table. There have been some complaints, however, that their eCommerce pricing was more expensive for Canadian merchants, so in general, we recommend this company for Canadian merchants that will do business primarily via in-store or mobile transactions as opposed to online.

Detailed Review

Below is a detailed review of Helcim Merchant Services offering. The review is broken down into the following categories.

Features

Depending upon the type of business you own, some of the following features may or may not be important to you.

Helcim offers a healthy variety of options and features for Canadian and U.S. merchants. Not all equipment integrates fully with QuickBooks, however, and eCommerce integration is through a third-party shopping cart.

Software Compatibility:
Intuit Quickbooks Yes
Sage 50 No
Microsoft Dynamics GP No
Hardware Compatibility:
Windows / Blackberry No
iPhone / iPad Yes
Android Yes
Alternative Transaction Types:
Phone Orders Yes
Internet Orders Yes
Wireless Orders Yes
Mobile Orders Yes
Snail Mail Orders Yes
American Express (AMEX) Yes
Add Tips to Bills Yes
eCommerce / Shopping Cart Yes
International Sales Yes
Recurring Payments Yes
EMV Chip Cards Yes
Contactless Cards Yes
Loyalty / Gift Cards Yes
eChecks / Electronic Checks Yes
Welfare Benefits (EBT/SNAP/TANF) No
Security / Fraud Prevention:
AVS Fraud Protection Yes
PCI DSS Secure Transactions Yes
Industry Specific:
HIPAA Compliance (Healthcare) No
Trust Account Debiting (Legal) No
Fleet Cards (Petroleum) No
Online Menu Orders (Restaurants) Yes
Countries Served:
U.S. Yes
Other Countries Canada
International Yes

Helcim offers "Pass-Through" on international cross-border sales. They also provide an extensive FAQ that they call "knowledge base" that explains virtually every question a merchant might have about Helcim. The knowledge base covers all issues known to mankind regarding credit card processing and Helcim's services.

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Pricing

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.

Helcim uses "cost + pricing" (Interchange Plus pricing) to try to avoid hidden fees, long contracts, and deceptive sales practices. Although their costs appear apparent on their pricing page, when readers click through to any one of the three options presented, a page of Interchange Plus rates presents itself. This range of figures may overwhelm the merchant who has never used this option, so be prepared. There's nothing hidden here and no mumbo jumbo - just a mass of rates that Helcim tries to simplify...

Here are Helcim's Interchange Plus rates:

  • Interchange + 0.18% + $0.08

Here are Helcim's monthly rates:

  • Retail Solution: $12 per month
  • Virtual Terminal: $25 per month
  • Mobile Solution: $30 per month

Those monthly fees are on top of the Interchange Plus rates for both U.S. and Canadian merchants. We're not complaining here, because Helcim is being quite clear about their costs, including their markup for using their service. Again, make sure you're on the right page, because the U.S. merchant has more credit card options and rates vary between the two countries.

In an effort to show just how competitive their pricing is, Helcim shows you an equivalent estimated discount rate that it achieves by converting their interchange plus pricing to a traditional tiered pricing structure. To do this, Helcim figures rates on transactions between popular Visa and MasterCard debit and credit card types to calculate an estimated discount rate. These costs are based on average transaction size of $250 and an average volume of $7,500 per month in credit and debit card payments on the Virtual Terminal only. They ultimately calculate an estimated tiered discount rate equivalent of:

  • U.S.: 2.13% + $.25 per transaction
  • Canada: 2.27% + $.25 per transaction

This rate includes the interchange, card-brand fees, fixed acquirer fees, and cost + margin. Remember that this calculation is a guesstimate based upon certain criteria and every case can be different. Helcim also averages out the cost per transaction for their mobile solution and for their retail terminal solutions.

Our Experience: Helcim is very upfront about their fees. A learning curve is involved for merchants who don't understand Interchange Plus pricing, but that pricing model often fits certain mid- to large-sized businesses very well. Smaller business owners might stick with an aggregate or tiered pricing service until reaching a certain sales volume, but if you're over about $2,000 or $2,500 per month, this could be a good fit for you. The rates are competitive, and the fees are transparent.

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Contract Fine Print

Helcim is very clear about their extra fees:

Fine Print Fees:
Termination Fee None
Setup / Application Fee None
PCI Compliance Fee None
PCI Inaction Fee $30
Gateway Fee None
1099-K Fee $20.00
Statement Fee None
Online Reporting Fee None
Monthly Minimum Volume Fee None
Accept International Pymt Fee Possible
Voice Authorization Fee Possible
Monthly Min. Process Fee None
Daily Batch Fee None
ACH / Direct Deposit Fee Possible
ACH Charge Fee Possible
ACH Return Fee Possible
FANF Fee Possible
Chargeback Fees $15.00
Freebies:
Free Setup Consultation
No Application Fees
Free Customer Service
Free Swiper

Our Take: None of these fees are hidden. They're right on each pricing page for any merchant to see, as well as on a page that explains the fees in detail. The freebies listed here are in addition to the lack of fees at Helcim that you may pay other merchant services for items such as early termination, setup, PCI compliance (we've seen that figure go as high as $125 in the U.S.), or monthly minimum volume fees. That said, the 1099-K fee and PCI inaction fee are things to watch out for.

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Equipment

The Ingenico iCT250

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.

Helcim offers solutions for retail, virtual terminal use, and on-the-go mobile with a swiper. The following options are available in both U.S. and Canadian editions. There are some slight differences between U.S. and Canada, because U.S. equipment can be resold, whereas Canadian equipment (chip and PIN) cannot be resold. Instead, they recommend month-to-month rentals for Canadian merchants if they dot purchase outright. Helcim is solid set against leasing programs, which, in general, we don't recommend either, as the total price paid is generally much higher than simply buying the equipment outright.

HARDWARE

  • Ingenico Models: Helcim carries a range of Ingenico terminals, wired and wireless, for retail use. All are chip & PIN ready. Reprogramming equipment is free, but we're gambling that the merchant must use chip and PIN-ready terminals such as the ones listed on the Helcim hardware page. Prices for the equipment aren't outrageous, and Helcim also offers a $45 PIN pad exchange. If you decide you want to penny pinch, you might want to shop online for similar hardware models (via Amazon and the like) and let Helcim program them free if you find a better price.
  • MagTek Card Reader: For use with iPhone, iPad, and Android, the requirement is 3G or WiFi connection. The first card reader is free. If you only accept mobile payments, chances are you've also looked at Square as a solution. Helcim is a cheaper solution for most merchants who process above $2,500 per month, not to mention the fact that you get a traditional terminal (which is generally faster and more reliable) and online gateway processing option as well. Basically, there comes a time for small merchants to make a choice depending upon credit card sales volume.

SOFTWARE

  • Virtual Terminal: Helcim's virtual terminal is web-based and usable from any machine that can tap into the Internet. This software setup provides the gateway payment, PCI compliance, invoice payments by email, third-party shopping cart integration, and printable receipts. To be clear, there is no software involved, but no hardware, either, except the merchants computer access equipment (smartphone, desktop, tablet, etc.).
  • Other Software: Free app for mobile solution.

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Countries Served

Helcim Merchant Services can handle payments from and for merchants in the United States, Canada and abroad.

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Contract Length / Termination

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.

Helcim's contract is month-to-month with no early termination fees. Find out before you sign up how to correctly close a Helcim account; otherwise, they may continue to ding your bank account for monthly fees even if you're not using their services.

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About the Company

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: Helcim eliminates the middle-man with their service as a registered MSP/ISO of Elavon, Inc. Georgia(a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp, Minneapolis, MN). They also manage their own PCI-compliant and secure gateway. Both measures should equal to savings for merchants who use this service.

Account Sales: Helcim's sales team is in house, but that house could be in Calgary, Canada, or in Seattle, Washington. They're fairly low-key with their sales approaches. They don't offer on-site gimmicks, but they do maintain a page of testimonials. Most of these rave reviews appear to come from mid-sized businesses. Merchants can find other rave reviews about Helcim online. Why have gimmicks when your transparency and support speaks for itself? We also noticed that Helcim doesn't seek out "agents" or resellers. The lack of resellers means that the merchant doesn't need to worry about contract alterations or middle-man fees. Every merchant who chooses Helcim will work directly with Helcim.

Account Service: Helcim offers technical support in-house on working days and working hours (they differ between the Canadian and U.S. offices). Outside office hours, customers call the usual number and are patched through to Elavon's support services. This is not a bad thing - at least we don't think so, because we haven't seen any complaints.

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Customer Service

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.

When:

2/27/2015; TIME: 3:25 pm EST

Who:

Call to Customer Support

Our Experience:

We called sales to learn more about customer support. That was the only issue we were fuzzy about, because the entire site was so brilliantly laid out we had to wear shades. I was met by a minimal phone tree and selected sales. Adelia answered, and she promptly provided answers to my questions. I didn't know if I had called the U.S. offices or the Canadian offices, because the number on both sites is the same. Adelia responded in native English. If she was hiding a Canadian accent, she did it well.

The only thing I was surprised about was the fact that Adelia never asked for information about my business, my name, phone number, or email address. Usually when making these calls, I need to provide that information before the company provides me with their information.

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Common Customer Complaints / Our Verdicts

COMMON CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS

We scoured the web to find past and current customer complaints about this processor. Then, we investigated those complaints that seemed legit, and provide our verdict on how well the processor handled the issues. We couldn't find any bad news about Helcim, but we did find a few disappointed reviews from Canadians who felt Helcim's current rates are too expensive for their eCommerce cross-border businesses.

COMMON CUSTOMER COMPLIMENTS

Great Support:
Customer Compliment:

Many of the reviews we read raved about the great support they received.

Our Verdict:

This is great news - without technical support, many merchants would be lost.

Easy Setup:
Customer Compliment:

These compliments were tied into raves about the sales department, too.

Our Verdict:

Helcim sales should be easy - all the answers to questions about credit card processing are contained on Helcim's site, including a great knowledge base. Merchants can take advantage of these materials even if they're not signed up with Helcim.

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Who Should / Shouldn't Use this Processor

WHO IT'S GOOD FOR:

  • Mid-Sized Businesses: Helcim's Interchange Plus rates are great for any business that conducts over $2,500 in sales. Forget the aggregators. It's time to grow up and grow into an easy-to-use service that can benefit your sales.
  • Large Businesses: Although very large corporate businesses aren't featured on Helcim's site, we figure it's only a matter of time before we do. Larger businesses could benefit from the ease of use and the Interchange + rates.
  • Internationally Focused Merchants: Helcim isn't frightened by your international sales. Although we read that some eCommerce rates leaving Canada might be a bit high, the Helcim solution is so slim and trim that costs might be cut elsewhere (say in the lack of gateway fees).
  • Fee Conscious Businesses: Every fee you can imagine is offered in plain sight on Helcim's web pages. No need to worry about hidden costs.

WHO IT'S NOT GOOD FOR:

  • Small Businesses: The monthly fees are high enough that we'd recommend staying away until you're making at least $2,500 in sales consistently per month. Check out some merchant account services for small businesses instead.

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Helcim Merchant Services
Ratings
Overall
Price
Customer Service
Customer Reviews
Rates
0.23% - 2.58%
Features
  • Clear Pricing
  • No Cancellation Fees
  • Month-to-Month
Monthly Fees Breakdown
Setup Fee$0.00
Monthly Fee$25.00
PCI Compliance Fee$0.00
Online Reporting Fee$0.00
Batch Fee$0.00
Gateway Fee$0.00
Chargeback Fee$15.00
Termination Fee$0.00
Contract LengthMonth-to-Month
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Disclaimer:

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.