3131 S. Vaughn Way, Suite 350, Aurora, CO 80014
TransFirst offers what appear to be great deals on credit/ debit card processing and check payments. They're a good option for businesses in a wide range of industries such as petroleum, retail, healthcare, restaurants, groceries and government, because they offer more features and options than most other processors. Not a good fit for Canada-based or high-risk businesses.
TransFirst was founded as ACS Merchant Services in 1995. This company offers a full range of account services to retail merchants, professional service providers, trade shows, mail order, telephone order, Internet based, and home-based businesses. They're not into high-risk businesses at all, but they will take a look at startups to decide if they are a fit.
Headquartered in New York, they partner with several third parties for items like QuickBooks integration, gift cards, gateway, and other products, but they also are keen on internal development. Their association with Authorize.Net's gateway service, for instance, is rebranded as Transaction Express.
We were thrilled, frankly, over TransFirst's transparent prices and fees, but we're not happy with some of the complaints we read about this company's sales. Although TransFirst ultimately resolved all the complaints, those issues are still worth looking at closely.
Below is a detailed review of TransFirst 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. To learn more about any given feature, just click on it.
TransFirst offers, at first, what seems to be an overwhelming array of features. However, when broken down, these features become more apparent as to their uses within TranFirst's merchant services offerings:
|Intuit Quickbooks||Yes, add-on|
|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, 3rd Party|
|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)||Yes|
|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.
TransFirst is fairly open about their fees, and we were very happy to see that they included transparent rates for voice authorization and check processing rates. Not many processors offer that information, even in the fine print. All fees listed below do not include a $9.95 monthly service fee. That monthly fee is across the board:
TransFirst also sets industry-specific pricing, such as a petroleum/convenience store price that covers fleet cards like Voyager and Wright Express. MerchantNegotiators.com can help you with deciphering those industry-specific costs for petroleum industries, healthcare, non-profits, government entities, restaurants, retail sales, associations, mid-market corporate sales, eCommerce, and the automotive industry through our MatchTool.
Our Experience: We're satisfied with TransFirst's retail cost structure. They're very clear on basic costs, although they don't offer transparency by industry. But, the devil in this industry is in the details, so let's look at the fine print...
TransFirst offers a sample statement online, as well as a list of definitions of all the possible fees that a merchant might incur. However, they're not transparent on the amount of those fees. Why? Because, they can vary significantly depending upon the business type, business risk factors, and - significantly - the merchant's knowledge or lack thereof about these hidden fees when negotiating rates:
|Fine Print Fees:|
|Setup / Application Fee||None|
|PCI Compliance Fee||$6.26|
|PCI Inaction Fee||$9.95|
|Online Reporting Fee||None|
|Monthly Minimum Volume Fee||$20.00|
|Accept International Pymt Fee||Per Transaction|
|Voice Authorization Fee||$1.50 per call|
|Monthly Min. Process Fee||Yes|
|Daily Batch Fee||$0.20|
|ACH / Direct Deposit Fee||None|
|ACH Charge Fee||$10.00|
|ACH Return Fee||$10.00|
|Free 24/7 Customer Service|
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.
Transfirst provides standard equipment for all types of transactions, and some twists on software and service:
TransFirst does not process for merchants located outside the United States. TransFirst, however, does support international sales from U.S. businesses to other countries.
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.
We were offered a month-to-month contract during our call to sales, along with no termination fee. In complaints we read, we understand that Transfirst does or did offer contracts with termination fees that were not discussed initially.
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: TransFirst, LLC is a registered ISO/MSP of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, California, and Synovus Bank, Columbus, Georgia. They use Authorize.Net as their main gateway. TransFirst's corporate headquarters are in New York, their legal department is in Texas, and their operations are located in several Colorado locations.
Account Sales: All sales are in house, located mostly in Colorado. TransFirst also works with partners to market their services. Finally, TransFirst might offer some sales gimmicks designed to get merchants to refer other merchants. We noticed one on the sample statement that offered merchants $100 for each successful referral. As always, we feel that a good company can rest on merits rather than on gimmicks, so while we understand why they'd do this, we'd rather they not.
Account Service: TransFirst offers 24/7 support services along with a major knowledge base of information about all their equipment and services online.
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.
3/17/2015; TIME: 4:36 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
When I called TransFirst I had to choose between support and sales. Since support required a merchant account number, I opted for sales. I was put on hold ("all our account representatives are currently busy"), but Angie picked up on the call within two minutes. All sales are in house (as is support), and the services are based in Colorado. When I asked why they didn't publish their fine print fees online by business type, Angie explained that because they offered a number of optional features the price would vary, plus she said that the risk factors involved in the business would contribute to pricing. Angie also provided answers to the other "fine print" options that we listed above.
Our Take: While we feel great about being treated so well, this is not a company I would want to negotiate on my own with. Because they are full service, they have nearly a dozen different types of optional fees, and trying to understand those, and possibly getting charged them, seems daunting. Not to toot our own horn, but this is a company you're definitely going to want to use MerchantNegotiators.com with so that you're getting a good price. Because while representatives can make promises all day long, without actually understanding these fees, the potential for getting talked into one is too high.
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 numerous complaints about TransFirst at BBB. With that said, 109 complaints closed within three years (34 within the past year) against a company that serves 200,000+ customers is better than what we'd suspect for a company of this size.
What saves TransFirst in my mind on the customer service side is that they resolved all the complaints and they never pointed a finger at a merchant (even when some merchants got ugly). The complaints varied, but all of them focused on three items:
The majority of complaints centered on problems with equipment leases and contracts that outlived the life of the merchant's relationship with TransFirst.
We don't advocate equipment leases, because those actions require contracts and they're often different than the contracts that a merchant develops with a credit card processing company. If you're going to walk away from a merchant service, please realize you cannot walk away from an equipment contract. Better yet, just buy equipment from them instead of leasing and avoid the whole problem.
Mostly about hidden fees and sales representative promises that weren't kept.
We wish every merchant could take a course in merchant account services so they'd know that promises are just that - as thin as the air they're written on. In this case, we like the month-to-month terms so merchants can have the leverage of walking away if they see a fee they don't think is fair. That said, when you look at the substance of these complaints, the majority seemed like they were based on the business owner not understanding the industry, as opposed to actual hidden fees.
Again, merchants complained about promises made that weren't kept.
Again, get your promises in writing, even if you don't have a long-term contract.
WHO IT'S GOOD FOR:
WHO IT'S NOT GOOD FOR:
|PCI Compliance Fee||$6.26|
|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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