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So in a previous business, I had all my business accounts at a small local bank called Suntrust. Mediocre service, monthly checking fees if your minimum balance was under $2k for business, $1500 for personal, and I guess they had a partnership with first data for integrated merchant accounts.Naturally, I went with the banks recommendation for my merchant account, and signed up with First Data right there in the bank agents office. I didn’t think anything of it, after all I though they had my best intentions at heart. Little did I know…
Bullshit PCI Compliance Fees – What A Rip Off
Fast forward a year later, and I’m getting charged a $99 dollar PCI Compliance Fee from First Data that is supposedly mandatory even if you are only using their virtual terminal. (for those out there that might not be familiar with eCommerce payment gateways… unless you’re utilizing a shopping cart on your website, and connecting to a payment gateway upon checkout, paying a PCI compliance fee is complete bullshit.)
The only thing I signed up for a merchant account for, was to process credit cards over the phone for clients whom I didn’t have meetings with locally. No ecommerce. No mobile credit card swiping. Nothing else.
Awful Backend From The Dinosaur Age
Seriously. I don’t know what else to say about trying to navigate the virtual terminal to process recurring payments, but it looks like it hasn’t been updates since 1999. Mobile integration? Forget about it.
You have to log in to a separate website entirely to see your monthly reports, and they make it so difficult to navigate, that no one bothers to use it after your password automatically expires after the first 3 months. Yep, get this… You have to CALL every. single. time. To log in to your own damn monthly reporting account. You can’t reset it by email or text for “security purposes.” My ass! (translation: “sorry, we haven’t updated our system in about 9 years, this is the only way it works even though we could enable two factor mobile authentication with your cell phone to make things much easier and faster for you.”)
High Monthly Fees: First Data Merchant Services Review After Getting The Shaft
So I called up to cancel after I realized their rates were shit anyway, and now they were automatically charging me a PCI Compliance Fee without my consent since my business checking account was all integrated… even when it was THEIR responsibility to keep their own terminal secure. (if you run a third party cart/gateway that connects to their API to process payments, THEN it is your responsibility to remain compliant, and the fee is normal. If you’re only using a merchant provided virtual terminal that requires two-factor authentication, you should not be paying any compliance fee, that is their responsibility.)
Then they politely inform me that the bank had entered me into a 3 year contract with First Data for my merchant account, and there would be a $300 early termination fee. Thanks Suntrust.
I called the bank, and of course, you can’t get customer support for a third party service from them, but they’re happy to enroll you in third party services right?
So essentially I was fucked. Pay the early termination fee? Nah, couldn’t do it out of principle. Fight with these larger insinuations and lose valuable time, money, and energy? Nah. Blog about it to help other people avoid these shit services after I started a blog a year later? Yep!
How did I mitigate these fees?
I moved all my recurring billing off of their platform, and just paid the $20/mo account fee for the remainder of the contract. Yes it was my fault for not catching the 36 month contract, but it’s easy for smaller local banks to make you feel like they’ve got you covered. Lesson learned.
First Data Merchant Account Review: Conclusion
If you need a merchant account and your bank suggests First Data, run. Look out for the high monthly fee ($20 +) just to have an account, not including your processing rates. (there are tons of companies that provide free accounts now, with more competitive processing rates!)
If you need a small business merchant account with recurring billing capabilities, I’d recommend one of these companies here. I hope this First Data merchant account review helps someone steer clear of a 36 month contract and unnecessary fees. If you have any questions, comment below and I’ll help you out the best I can.
Update – I don’t use or recommend Suntrust Bank anymore either for my small business checking accounts… No need to have monthly fees or balance minimums when you can get a free business checking and savings that has better mobile apps!