LawCharge is a credit card processing that markets itself exclusively to attorneys. When you dig in a bit, however, you learn that they're a reseller for Virtual Payment Systems (VPS), a company that also specializes in creating IOLTA/Trust accounting systems for attorneys. VPS conducts their transactions through Sage Payment Solutions.
Tracy L. Griffin founded LawCharge in 2000 after 20 years in the payment processing industry. As a licensed attorney (FL and SC), she recognized the need for a merchant account that could help attorneys stay in compliance with IOTA/Trust accounting rules. LawCharge became the first merchant account service for attorneys.
LawCharge is a reseller for Virtual Payment Systems (VPS), and VPS works with Sage Payment Solutions for their credit card processing solutions. So why should attorneys use LawCharge to process those law firm credit cards when you can go directly to Sage and bypass all those middle men?
In the end, the attorney has all the benefits that Sage offers with the knowledge and background provided by VPS and LawCharge. The choice, however, boils down to which company suits your business better.
Below is a detailed review of LawCharge 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 be very important to you, while others may not matter.
|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||No|
|eCommerce / Shopping Cart||Yes|
|EMV Chip Cards||Yes|
|Loyalty / Gift Cards||No|
|eChecks / Electronic Checks||Yes|
|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)||Yes|
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.
LawCharge is nebulous on their costs and fees, because resellers often have wiggle room to negotiate prices. Negotiation is a key element in this situation, but the attorney must know exactly what services his or her office requires when processing credit cards.
On the front end, setup fees can range from $100-$200 to get the virtual end of the process going. This setup is the one that will separate funds into trust and operating accounts. This system also includes a link for clients to go to the attorney's web site to make payments and can create automated debit from any client's bank account (electronic check). From what we understand, this setup fee is payable over time without interest.
Monthly rates can range from $0 to $10 per month for services above and beyond the rates for processing cards. LawCharge doesn't set a monthly minimum requirement for sales, so the small office can breathe easy if no cards are processed during any given month.
We didn't get to speak to a sales rep, so we're gathering current rate information from some conversations and articles we discovered online for LawCharge:
Rates for VPS:
VPS also quoted a rate for clients who pay their bills online. We were told that this type of transaction was free for the attorney, so it would behoove the attorney to encourage their clients to pay online:
Our Experience: It appears that VPS is less expensive in the long run, but we can't be sure since we couldn't talk with anyone at LawCharge about these costs and if the attorney also could bypass them through client payments online.
Since we couldn't talk with anyone at LawCharge, we're basing some of the fine print fees on what we learned from their website as well as from VPS and Sage:
|Fine Print Fees:|
|Setup / Application Fee||$100-$200|
|PCI Compliance Fee||Possible|
|PCI Inaction Fee||Possible|
|Online Reporting Fee||None|
|Monthly Minimum Volume Fee||Yes, varies|
|Accept International Pymt Fee||None|
|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|
Sage offers an internet-based solution (virtual terminal) that requires no installation or required software upgrades and includes an ecommerce shopping cart at no additional charge. Remember this fact if you deal with either LawCharge or VPS.
LawCharge also offers incentives for attorneys. Any attorney who transfers from another merchant program can request a start-up fee waiver, and they may also ask for additional discounts on the referral sites. If you refer three new attorneys/ firms to LawCharge programs you can receive an entire year (12 months) of free monthly processing fees and annual renewal fee. Make sure to ask your referrals to mention your name and that you are the referring firm.
From the above paragraph, taken from the LawCharge site, you have just learned that LawCharge charges monthly processing fees and an annual fee.
Our Take: There really is no clarity on any of the terms listed above with any of the companies listed here. As I mentioned before, negotiation is paramount here, and if you don't know what you're asking for, you can get served on your first statement. Contact us at MerchantNegotiators.com for help.
While your transactions will take place via your merchant electronically, the actual device that you use to swipe a customer's card into is referred to as "the equipment." This equipment includes hardware and, often, software or apps for that hardware to function properly.
LawCharge is vague about hardware solutions, because the way IOLTA/Trust accounts work in this situation is tricky. Swipers are cool, but attorneys can only put one account on that swiper unless using two phones to separate payments into a either a trust or an operating account. The easiest (and least expensive) way to handle the trust account issue in a way that keeps you in compliance with your state bar rules is to go totally virtual, using online billing and payment options.
LawCharge works with U.S.-based attorney firms that work with U.S. clients.
We generally don't like to see long-term contracts or termination fees in merchant services agreements, because the ability to cancel a contract keeps the credit card processor on its best behavior (and more likely to try to make you happy if there's a dispute). The ability for the merchant to cancel gives you, that merchant, the ability to choose a better deal that might come along down the road before your current contract expires.
Since we couldn't contact a sales person at LawCharge, we looked beyond this company to find other possible contract terms. VPS also didn't state contract offers, but Sage has a standard three-year contract with an early termination fee that drew most of the complaints about Sage. If you decide to go with LawCharge, be clear about what you want for a contract and early termination fees.
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.
LawCharge ultimately uses Sage Payment Solutions for credit and debit card and check processing. Sage Payment Solutions is a registered ISO/MSP of BMO Harris Bank N.A., a registered ISO of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, California, and a registered ISO/MSP of Chase Paymentech Solutions. While Sage is a processor, we understand they also contract with TSYS.
It appears that LawCharge's sales are completely in house, but they do offer an incentive program for attorneys for referrals.
Although LawCharge offers 24/7 support, we're guessing that tech support comes from Sage.
As part of our review process, we try to test out the claims made by the Merchant Account Services provider by placing a few test calls, and working through the customer service process.
3/25/2015; TIME: 12:00 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
I called VPS first, as I couldn't find any information about gateways or even ISO information at LawCharge. That's when I learned that LawCharge is a reseller for VPS and that VPS conducts their transactions through Sage. Jason answered the phone directly after I encountered a brief phone tree, and he was very informative. He offered information about the swiper that we shared above, as well as information on rates via the virtual terminal. Jason offered his personal cell number for us to reach him directly in the future. That offer was a plus.
3/25/2015; TIME: 1:00 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
When I called LawCharge, I encountered a short phone message about recording the call, and a receptionist answered. I began to ask questions about their services, but Janna couldn't answer those questions. I could either leave a number for a sales rep to call back, or call back later.
Our Take: When it comes down to service, VPS had LawCharge beat hands down. Now we're wondering if it might be better to negotiate with VPS rather than with LawCharge.
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. Since LawCharge is a VPS reseller, we also searched for complaints about that company. Finally, we also conducted a little research on Sage.
We found no complaints online about LawCharge or about VPS. Sage complaints are moderate considering the size of the company. Those complaints are worth noting, because these issues can be passed on to you, a LawCharge customer...
We couldn't pinpoint an exact cost for this termination fee, as the complaints ranged widely.
With that wide range of termination fee costs, we might determine that Sage uses a rate based upon a "liquidation damages" setup, where the client pays a multiple of the number of months left on the contract. If working with LawCharge and they convince you to sign a contract, make sure you can determine the exact cost of any early termination.
Sometimes disguised as an annual fee, sometimes surprising the merchant with $100 out of the blue. Learn more about PCI Compliance.
We learned that Sage isn't required to collect that fee, so why are they passing it on to customers?
A handful of complaints about Sage's lack of customer service.
Although we didn't make a call to Sage, we can tell you that LawCharge's customer service may be lacking. If the attorney ends up dealing with Sage's tech support, it's possible this lousy service could be passed on to you. We did note that some bar associations mention LawCharge as an option for credit card processing, but these mentions were not advertisements nor were they endorsements.
|PCI Compliance Fee||$0.00|
|Online Reporting Fee||$0.00|
|Contract Length||3 Year Contract|
Questions About This Processor?
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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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