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Review of InstaBill Merchant Services

875 Greenland Road, Portsmouth, NH 03801

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

Instabill provides high-risk, international, and offshore merchant accounts to businesses that operate in high-risk ventures and in high-risk locations. Instabill acquires merchants for a number of global banking operations and uses secure PSI-compliant gateway systems. They can arrange for acceptance of up to 160 major currencies and all major credit cards.

Founder and CEO Jason Field established Instabill in 2001 to assist merchants in obtaining high risk and offshore credit card processing solutions. Today, Instabill, located in New Hampshire, is one of the industry's leading high risk merchant account providers for not only e-commerce businesses, but also for MOTO and retail businesses.

What we liked about Instabill on the front end is that they're up front about risk factors. If you, as a merchant, don't understand these risk factors, Instabill lays them out in black and white on their "Determining the E-Commerce Risk Factor for Your Online Business" page. They also are quite frank about who they deal with, including offshore merchants, adult entertainment businesses, third-party merchant accounts, and other risky ventures.

Instabill works with a number of banks around the world to accommodate international clients, so Instabill is a merchant acquirer on an international scale. Instabill does offer two gateways and eCommerce options, as well as offshore accounts that accept multiple currencies and that need alternate jurisdiction (such as online casinos).

Instabill is very clear about the various accounts that they offer. They are not clear on pricing, but we're giving them leeway on this count - they're upfront about the fact that there are fees for certain services, but dollar amounts need to remain hidden until the company knows more about the merchant. All we know is that they offer rates as low as 2.2% - an advertisement in their website sidebar. Don't forget, however, to add in some other fees that we'll mention below.

Detailed Review

Below is a detailed review of InstaBill 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. To learn more about any given feature, just click on it.

Instabill can offer a number of features, and we'll mention them here. The merchant needs to inquire to learn whether or not the equipment provided can offer those features (like QuickBooks integration).

Software Compatibility:
Intuit Quickbooks Yes, add-on
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 Possibly
eChecks / Electronic Checks Possibly
Welfare Benefits (EBT/SNAP/TANF) Possibly
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) No
Countries Served:
U.S. Yes
Other Countries Yes
International Yes

Instabill can offer the widest range of international accounts we've seen, and they provide information about those accounts on the website. Some features may or may not be available in certain countries or in offshore accounts.

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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.

Instabill is very clear about some fees, and but they lack transparency on the most important items such as rates and discount fees. Their reasoning, which seems rational for a high-risk merchant processing service, is that they need to learn more about the merchant before they offer quotes. Don't expect overnight set-up service, because Instabill wants to know everything about you, the merchant, before they offer you a card processing solution.

With that said, Instabill claims they can pre-qualify you over the phone within five minutes. This pre-qualification doesn't waste anyone's time, because if your processing history, industry type, and expected monthly turnover don't fit within their parameters, you're out of luck. Really out of luck, frankly, because Instabill accepts a wide range of high-risk, offshore, international, and third-party merchant accounts.

You can learn about the "fine print" fees below. We learned in a phone call with Instabill's sales that they use both Interchange Plus and tiered pricing rates for their accounts. The acquiring bank for the merchant account has a lot to say about which one will work for them as well as for the merchant. Most U.S. accounts end up with Interchange Plus rates. Other businesses often end up with tiered rates.

Our Experience: Instabill is not for the run of the mill merchant. If you're in a high-risk business, though, these guys know the industry and how to work every angle to get your business processing credit cards. Just know that you need to be just as savvy and know what to ask for, because you may end up with something you don't want if you don't proclaim your preferences on the front end.

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Contract Fine Print

Instabill states that they have the following fine print fees, but they don't offer actual costs. According to Instabill, there's no way to figure those costs without initial consultation and inquisition. Instabill is heavily reliant on their partner banks to establish some of the following parameters:

Fine Print Fees:
Termination Fee Depends on Bank
Setup / Application Fee Yes, expecially for international clients
PCI Compliance Fee Depends on Bank
PCI Inaction Fee Depends on Bank
Gateway Fee Depends on Bank
1099-K Fee Depends on Bank
Statement Fee Depends on Bank
Online Reporting Fee Depends on Bank
Monthly Minimum Volume Fee Depends on Bank
Accept International Pymt Fee Depends on Bank
Voice Authorization Fee Depends on Bank
Monthly Min. Process Fee Depends on Bank
Daily Batch Fee $0.20
ACH / Direct Deposit Fee Depends on Bank
ACH Charge Fee Depends on Bank
ACH Return Fee Depends on Bank
FANF Fee Possible
Chargeback Fees Yes
Freebies:
Initial Consultation
Fine Print Fees:
Merchant Account Fee
Merchant Account Registration Fee
Refund Fee

Instabill also establishes what they call a "Rolling Reserve Fund." Instabill states that, "While most US banks do not require a rolling reserve fund, many offshore acquiring banks do." It's our experience, however, that this practice isn't unusual for high-risk credit card processing companies in general, especially if they suspect the merchant is conducting fraudulent business. The banks hold the money for chargebacks or returns, and merchants usually can find that information in the fine print in program guides or in contracts.

Instabill is different from most credit card processing companies in that this fee isn't hidden in fine print. They offer this withholding information on their fees page. The reserve is a fixed percentage amount (usually between 5-10%) based on weekly sales volume. The merchant's acquiring bank places the money into a rolling reserve fund, and the merchant receives a payout of these funds usually about six months later.

Processing Week Sales Volume Amount Withheld Payout Week and Amount
January 2-7 $10,000 $1,000 July 2-8 for $1,000
January 9-15 $15,000 $1,500 July 9-15 for $1,500
Jaunary 16-22 $20,000 $2,000 July 16-22 for $2,000

Our Take: Although Instabill doesn't offer actual numbers on their website for any rates or fees, they at least are upfront about the fact that risks are inherent with high-risk merchants, and that those merchants must pay to play. The merchant, then, takes the responsibility of learning about these fees and how much they are for each particular business.

Also, we initially overlooked the various international country accounts, which are listed in fine print at the bottom of most of Instabill's web pages. Be sure to check those pages out to learn more about the various guidelines provided for Australia, Panama, British Virgin Islands, Europe, South Africa, Costa Rica, and the European Union.

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Equipment

Verifone Vx510LE Credit Card Terminal

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.

According to Instabill, they can provide a "large variety" of POS terminals. The majority of terminals they offer come from Verifone:

HARDWARE

  • Verifone Models: Currently, Instabill offers the Vx570, Vx510 Dual, Vx510LE, the Verifone Nurit 8400, and the Vx670 Wi-Fi. Each model offers something different, so be sure to do your homework and work with your Instabill merchant account manager to learn what might work best for you.
  • Hypercom T4200 Series: A wide range of terminals that provide different services, including Wi-Fi access, receipt printing, and options for a variety of cards.
  • Dejavoo X5 and X8 Series: The X5 uses Linux OS and support peripherals including a USB Wi-Fi adapter. The only difference between the X5 and the X8 is that the X8 supports processing over an 10/100 IP/Ethernet connection in addition to a dial connection. It also has an additional USB port. Both terminals are fairly inexpensive.
  • Ingenico i5100: This terminal works with dial-up and Ethernet and can be fitted with a Wi-Fi module. Includes a printer.
  • Card Reader: Instabill does offer mobile options with their POS solutions. The brands are not available for listing, but you can learn more when you pre-qualify or qualify for an account.

SOFTWARE

  • Virtual Gateway Terminal: Instabill offers a virtual terminal that allows merchants and employees to enter credit card information online. Merchant is required to maintain a website for sales. Instabill also offers help in setting merchants up with offshore accounts, multiple websites or merchant accounts for multiple sales lines, and the ability to get around a selling limit by using those multiple merchant accounts
  • 3D Secure Processing: Although more of a merchant account type than software, we thought we'd offer this option at the top for merchants to be aware that Instabill provides this service. High-risk businesses often are followed by high-risk customers, and this secure processing adds an extra layer to credit and debit card transactions. The downside to this option is that cardholders often forget their passwords, and this forgetfulness often causes the issuing bank to decline a transaction.

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Countries Served

InstaBill 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.

Instabill does not establish contracts itself. Instead, the bank that Instabill finds to fit a particular business will dictate contract terms. Instabill does help in this process, and may be able to instigate a contract that is less than three years and with no early termination fee. However, I believe that the termination fee is a given in this case, because most banks won't process applications for high-risk businesses without some sort of fallback insurance.

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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: Instabill is a merchant acquirer for banks located throughout the world. This company owns two gateways: One gateway is a "White Hat" gateway that offers simple retail processing for U.S. clients. The other gateway is for international and offshore clients and businesses.

Account Sales: Instabill is located in New Hampshire and operates on New Hampshire hours, no matter where your business might be located. Although these limited hours might prove a headache to overseas, international, and offshore business operations, that's the price Instabill customers will pay to have the ability to process credit cards. Their sales department seems fairly low key, but they do use third-party sales to bring in business. Be sure to deal directly with Instabill to establish an account and to avoid possible middle man fees.

Account Service: Instabill provides customers with phone support Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm EST. They also offer live chat and email support. If your business needs support after hours, a representative contacts you the next business day. In other words, merchants need to remember time zones when contacting Instabill by phone. Instabill accepts international calls, and merchants also can use the merchant support page on their website.

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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:

3/4/2015; TIME: 1:30 pm EST

Who:

Call to Customer Support

Our Experience:

I had plenty of questions for Instabill, mainly centered on contracts, rates, and features this company might offer. A receptionist answered my call on the second ring and patched me through to sales. Sales happened to be Jason Field, the owner. Jason is from the U.K., so he spoke with a British accent; but, I was able to understand him completely.

He answered all my questions about the company, although he didn't elaborate on a lot of issues. Basically, however, I feel that any high-risk merchant might feel at home with Instabill if he or she can live with the limited hours for support and the nebulous fee situation. Basically, the deal comes down to this: Each account will be different, depending upon the type of business the merchant owns. It's up to the merchant to know and understand this situation and to be able to ask a lot of questions and get answers that are in writing.

In other words, read your contract thoroughly before signing.

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Common Customer Complaints / Our Verdicts

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 found few complaints about Instabill, and most of them seemed to come from the same person in different formats and venues. Instabill did respond to some of the complaints, and even responded to the "anonymous" complainer who was using the same complaint over and over (with the same typos) on various websites.

COMMON CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS

Withholding Funds:
Customer Complaint:

This was the sole complaint about this company.

Our Verdict:

Instabill is up front about their "Rolling Reserve Fund." While this may account for some fund withholding, we understand from Instabill responses to complaints that some merchants need to pay attention to their accounts, especially considering merchants are dealing with Instabill's processes as well as any acquiring bank regulations. Finally, there are those merchants who are selling illegal merchandise or services. There IS a limit to what Instabill will allow in their high-risk card processing.

COMMON CUSTOMER COMPLIMENTS

Great Support:
Customer Compliment:

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

Our Verdict:

High-risk merchants need to understand that they need to be honest about their businesses. Only then can a high-risk credit card processor help you. It appears that many merchants have discovered that Instabill does offer personable and personalized service. It's up to the merchant to learn how to communicate with their credit card processors, especially in a high-risk business environment.

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Who Should / Shouldn't Use this Processor

WHO IT'S GOOD FOR:

  • High-Risk Businesses: What we like about Instabill is the owner's ability to answer to complaints and inquiries. We also like that Instabill covers a lot of territory and offers all sorts of lists for merchants to consider before contacting the company about an account. Although not upfront about fees and rates (understandable given the business they operate in), Instabill is upfront about everything else.
  • Internationally Focused Merchants: Even low-risk merchants can find a home with Instabill if seeking specialized accounts with international access. Instabill offers domestic (U.S.) and offshore options that any international business might consider.
  • Offshore and International Businesses: For account services, give Instabill a once over. Compare them to other companies, and give them a call, especially if you're located in the U.S. The ability to communicate in native or British English is a plus for U.S. businesses.
  • Fee Conscious Businesses: Once a business owner knows the type of account is right for him or her at Instabill, the owner should, hopefully, know which fees to ask about. In most cases, that owner would need to be fee-conscious to know which fees to ask about.

WHO IT'S NOT GOOD FOR:

  • Low-Risk Businesses: No need to go here. You can probably find a credit card processor that won't ding your account for anticipated chargebacks or returns. You don't need to pay the rates or fees set aside for high-risk merchants, and you don't need to live by the harsh guidelines that high-risk merchants must accept.

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InstaBill Merchant Services
Ratings
Overall
Price
Customer Service
Customer Reviews
Rates
2.2% - 3.45%
Features
  • Accepts High-Risk
  • Accepts Offshore Accounts
  • Top eCommerce Integrations
Monthly Fees Breakdown
Setup Fee$500.00
Monthly Fee$50.00
PCI Compliance Fee$0.00
Online Reporting Fee$0.00
Batch Fee$0.00
Gateway Fee$0.00
Chargeback Fee$25.00
Termination Fee$0.00
Contract LengthVaries
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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.