Petroleum Card Services (PCS) specializes in providing merchant account services to petroleum industry businesses such as gas stations and marinas. They also offer card processing to other retail, restaurant and other high volume businesses. They're a great choice for mid-sized to large businesses, particularly those in the oil and gas and retail industries.
Petroleum Card Services (PCS) is First Data ISO, but they know much more about the petroleum industry and its regulations than First Data. That's their selling point, and it works for most gas stations and other independent businesses. PCS operates in the U.S. selling to U.S. merchants who sell to U.S. customers.
Petroleum Card Services (PCS) may not be well known outside the petroleum services industry, where they're a leader, but they actually offer merchant account services for retailers, too.
We give PCS thumbs up for transparency in everything but their pricing. They offer tons of documentation on their website, and we even found some documentation online that made us look harder at PCS's hidden fees. Despite this one problem, PCS gets even more kudos from us for a very small number of complaints and the fact that PCS responded to them all.
Since the petroleum business has its own set of guidelines, PCS has made it their business to be well versed in all the nuances involved in accepting credit and debit cards as well as checks. They also service convenience stores, groceries, auto repair shops, fast food establishments, restaurants, and other retail businesses.
Below is a detailed review of Petroleum Card 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. To learn more about any given feature, just click on it.
PCS provides a good number of services to its merchants, including some extras:
|Intuit Quickbooks||Yes, with plugin|
|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||Yes|
|eCommerce / Shopping Cart||Yes|
|EMV Chip Cards||Yes|
|Loyalty / Gift Cards||Yes|
|eChecks / Electronic Checks||TeleCheck|
|Welfare Benefits (EBT/SNAP/TANF)||Yes|
|Security / Fraud Prevention:|
|AVS Fraud Protection||Yes|
|PCI DSS Secure Transactions||Yes|
|HIPAA Compliance (Healthcare)||No|
|Trust Account Debiting (Legal)||No|
|Fleet Cards (Petroleum)||Yes|
|Online Menu Orders (Restaurants)||Yes|
Note that some of the PCS First Data equipment may not be capable of working with wireless conditions. Also, some equipment isn't geared to take checks. Obviously, if these capabilities are important to you, pick the right equipment. eCommerce sites may be third-party applications. PCS doesn't offer third-party QuickBooks integration with POS terminals.
To make all the above simpler: When you're dealing with PCS, you're dealing with a middle man for First Data. However, PCS knows the petroleum industry inside and out, and that industry has regulations that go above and beyond most normal retail or restaurant regulations. Therefore, it might be fitting for merchants to look at PCS if they plan to offer gas pump services.
Merchants also need to be aware that PCS operates "North" and "South" offices. One of the major differences between the north and south offices is that the southern offices offer extensive marina plans for water-based transportation payments. It appears that their products, services, and contracts are similar to the northern office, but merchants need to check the solution best for their businesses and conduct due diligence to make sure the terms are agreeable.
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.
Our Experience: No retail prices are publicly available. Here's what we can tell you, however...PCS primarily uses interchange plus pricing, and it's among the cheapest we've ever seen. The problem is that they only offer that pricing to mid sized and large operations. That is, companies doing over $75,000 per month in total volume. If you're doing less than that bottom line, you're going to be paying higher, albeit still cheap rates.
In terms of the specific pricing terms, according to the sales representation we talked with, PCS gears payments to the type of business and volume. Basically, this information translates to buyer beware. Make sure you, as a merchant, understand the credit card processing business and know which questions to ask up front before you agree to services. Or give us a ring at MerchantNegotiators.com so we can iron out the wrinkles for you.
PCS offers a wide variety of documentation on their website. What we found interesting is that there are multiple versions of their contract available online, each of which has different fine print terms and fees.
So, we went to the PCS Merchant Services Program Guide to learn more about hidden fees. What we discovered was this: PCS is no different than any other merchant services company when it comes to fees, termination difficulties, and/or charges that may not be discussed by a sales representative. If you're not savvy, (or sign up via a website like MerchantNegotiators.com that protects you) a sales rep may take advantage of your lack of knowledge. In this case (as in all cases), please read all documents thoroughly and ask questions before you sign on the dotted line.
|Fine Print Fees:|
|Setup / Application Fee||Yes|
|PCI Compliance Fee||Yes|
|PCI Inaction Fee||Yes|
|Online Reporting Fee||None|
|Monthly Minimum Volume Fee||Yes|
|Accept International Pymt Fee||Per Transaction|
|Voice Authorization Fee||$2.00 per call|
|Monthly Min. Process Fee||None|
|Daily Batch Fee||None|
|ACH / Direct Deposit Fee||None|
|ACH Charge Fee||$5.00|
|ACH Return Fee||$15.00|
|FANF Fee||Yes, and Fleet Card Fees|
|Chargeback Fees||$25 - $50|
|No Applicaiton Fees|
|Free Customer Service|
Our Take: PCS may not be the right tool for a small merchant. Larger businesses need to be aware that PCS offers a lot of features, but the merchant often must sign separate agreements with different terms for those products (such as wireless service). Our advice: Keep it simple with PCS and be sure to read all fine print. For instance, we found the following fees in the sample application and in the program guide:
The lack of normal complaints about termination fees, hidden fees, and contract terms is nice to see. While PCS seems to lack price and fee transparency online, it appears that their sales representatives must cover the gamut with their clients. In fact, in our interactions with the company we found out that they take a very hands-on approach with their clients. They favor phone conversations and in-person meetings over internet communication. They can afford to do that, because most of their clientele are larger businesses, whereas with smaller merchants that sort of hands on service is impracticable.
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.
Take note that PCS supplies merchants with First Data equipment. The "FD" stands for First Data:
Petrolum Card Services can handle payments from and for merchants in the United States.
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.
PCS isn't consistent with their contract length. We found a month-to-month option mentioned as well as one-year and three-year contract deals. That said, because they're dealing with larger businesses, they aren't really in the business of making additional revenue through one-time termination fees. Rather, it seems that they'd just like to keep you happy and have you stay with them. Those termination fees that did exist seemed to center more on contracts with other services such as ACH or wireless connectivity that merchants might purchase through PCS, primarily because the companies that own the service that PCS is selling created those contracts. That said, be aware of all termination fees with any service you sign up with through PCS.
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: Petroleum Card Services is a registered ISO of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, CA. They use First Data hardware and software products and they also partner with Buypass and Datawire/Systech to offer Internet services. First Data also provides the gateway for PCS.
Account Sales: PCS is a large merchant services company to independent store owners, especially those that offer gas to fleets and marinas. It appears that they focus on the petroleum payment industry with no gimmicks involved in their sales spiels or prices.
Unlike some processors that outsource their customer services, it appears that PCS provides all service in house. We learned that this assumption was true - to an extent. PCS provides in-house services from 7 am to 5 pm PST. Everything is situated in one building, and they can answer all questions and deal with customer problems during those hours on weekdays. Otherwise, customers will deal with First Data, as that gateway service provides PCS clients with 24/7 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.
2/23/2015; TIME: 1:27 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
We called the number on the PCS website and we were met with a fairly detailed phone tree. Since we had questions about their lack of transparency on pricing, we picked the sales department. Chris, a native English speaker, answered all our questions cheerfully and provided information that we lacked regarding gateway, pricing, supports, and about that confusing document posted at Docstoc that offered far different pricing.
Our Take: Chris stated that the company was revamping the current website to be more transparent about the fees on our fine print list. He also stated that anything posted outside the website (like that document at Docstoc) probably wasn't company generated. I have a feeling that Docstoc document may have come from a disgruntled client.
That said, again, we found few complaints online about this company.
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 two complaints, and PCS responded to them both. We also found two complaints at the Better Business Bureau within the past three years, but those issues, which centered on billing, were resolved.
We found one complaint in this department.
PCS responded by stating that he complainer supplied fraudulent information on his application using a Social Security number that belonged to a deceased individual. I think that's good enough reason to shut down a merchant.
One complaint in this arena.
PCS also responded to this complaint. It appears the complainer was calling the wrong number.
Note that we didn't find any great testimonials regarding this company other than those posted on the PCS websites. Given that PCS clients are generally mid-sized to larger businesses that isn't entirely surprising, as most positive reviews are written by small or solo businesses.
WHO IT'S GOOD FOR:
WHO IT'S NOT GOOD FOR:
|PCI Compliance Fee||$8.25|
|Online Reporting Fee||$14.95|
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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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