Founded in Colorado in 2001, Mercury Payment Systems provides payment processing services to small and medium-sized businesses.You may have come across Mercury Payment Systems (also known as Mercury Payments or just Mercury) due to some well-publicized lawsuits, including one from Heartland Payment Systems. This Mercury Payment Systems review and profile will give you the details of those lawsuits and what they mean as well as all the info you need on Mercury’s services, rates and fees, contracts, reviews, and more.
- Payment Processing Services
- Value Added Services
- What will Mercury cost me?
- Is there a contract?
- How’s customer service?
- Mercury Reviews
- CardFellow’s Experience with Mercury Payment Systems
With Mercury, you can take credit cards (including Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and JCB) as well as debit cards, EBT cards, and checks. You can also offer gift cards. Cards can be taken in-person using traditional point-of-sale equipment or credit card terminals, or through the virtual terminal option. The virtual terminal allows you to use your computer and an internet connection to take payments, and is designed for businesses that take mail, phone, and fax payments.
MercuryPay provides Stand-In Authorization to allow transaction approvals even if the regular authorization network fails. If the internet disconnects, the internet backup system automatically switches to dial-up.
Mercury’s online reporting, MercuryView, offers the ability to customize your transaction reporting and streamline your bookkeeping.
Mercury Payments has several additional services available, including:
The Mercury StoreCard combines a gift card, rewards card, and mobile payment card into one.
Mercury claims that the Mercury StoreCard can help reduce checkout times in addition to rewarding customers for making purchases. The payment card offers:
- Cash back rewards
- Mobile payments
- A customized website to purchase personalized gift cards
- Card registration to protect against loss or theft
The StoreCard can be loaded and reloaded online for extra flexibility for customers. The card can be used as a digital gift card for online payments and allow customers to make purchases with their smartphones. You can also create a cash back rewards program. You choose the reward amount and customers will receive the cash back directly on their StoreCard whenever they make a purchase with their card.
Mercury’s gift card service, MercuryGift, offers unlimited transactions and includes merchandising materials. Mercury Payment Systemsoffers custom or express gift cards.
The custom package includes:
- Designs to match your brand
- 500 custom cards
- 500 pre-designed carriers for cards
- Double-slot display rack
The express package includes:
- 500 pre-designed cards imprinted with your logo (in black)
- 500 pre-designed carriers for cards
- Double slot display rack
There are 4 ways to offer and market gift cards:
MercuryGift On Demand™ lets you sell gift cards via your website with a customized page. Customers purchase your gift cards online to arrive by mail.
Virtual eGift cards can be printed from email or pulled up on a mobile phone for redemption. This option allows last minute purchases of gift cards when waiting for the mail isn’t feasible.
Gift Card Mall
Mercury helps you sell gift cards to customers in other locations, such as grocery and convenience stores, by placing them in end-cap displays, or online in gift card malls at places like Amazon, Ebay, and more. This option provides greater exposure to possible customers.
Gift Card App
Reach iPhone and Android users by providing a mobile gift card app to market your gift card cards on social media.
Mercury offers customized promotional material in the form of a promotional card to encourage a purchase. Designed to increase traffic to your business, you decide on the amount of the promotional card, and Mercury will produce the mailer for you. Mercury Payment Systems suggests tracking the effectiveness by simply reviewing how many cards are redeemed for purchases.
Mercury Payment Systems partners with Trustwave to help businesses with PCI compliance and stay protected from fraud and security problems. Mercury’s Merchant SecureAssist includes up to $100,000 for assistance dealing with costs in the event of a security or data breach. The protection can be used in the event of costs incurred by audits, credit card replacement costs, or fines by card companies for security breaches.
Mercury’s compliance solution provides a number of tools, including TrustKeeper (to monitor your compliance over time) online education, a PCI wizard to guide you through compliance, a to-do list to keep track of tasks you need to complete for compliance, and Security Policy Advisor, a set of templates and guides to help you develop your security policies and procedures.
Mercury Payments doesn’t publish rates or fees on their website. Tiered and interchange plus pricing are both available, though interchange plus isn’t actively promoted. PCI fees are not included by default, and can run up to $150 per year, depending on the contract.
Even when Mercury offers interchange plus pricing, it’s possible your fees will be padded. Mercury Payment Systems has had two lawsuits filed against them, both alleging deceptive pricing and fees. One lawsuit was filed by competitor Heartland Payment Systems in 2014 and is still going on. The other was filed by two businesses (Archer’s Barbeque and WokChow Developement) at the end of October 2015.
These lawsuits clearly illustrate that interchange plus pricing isn’t a silver bullet, so be sure you know what you’re getting when signing up for processing.
Certified quotes available through CardFellow are fully disclosed, and require interchange plus pricing with true pass-through, meaning you’ll pay the true cost of processing. Mercury Payments does not place certified quotes through CardFellow, but we can still show you how their charges stack up. Sign up for a free CardFellow account and request a quote from Mercury Payments to see what you can expect to pay.
Yes. Mercury contracts range from one to three years, to be determined in your initial account set up. Early termination fees do apply, with some customers charged $295 and other contracts including a higher $495 fee. Mercury Payments may also utilize liquidated damages.
However, Mercury Payments does offer month-to-month agreements that can be canceled without penalty with 30 days’ notice. Some restrictions apply. Be sure to read any contracts carefully before signing.
Mercury Payment Systems offers separate customer service and technical support at no extra cost.
U.S.-based customer service is available 24 hours a day. Customer service can assist with almost any processing requests.
Mercury’s technical support team is available Monday through Friday. Technical support can assist with bulk processing requests as well as terminal support troubleshooting.
Mercury Payment Systems doesn’t have the greatest reputation, in some cases for valid reasons. As mentioned above, Mercury has been sued on two separate occasions for deceptive overcharging. In the “CardFellow’s experience with Mercury” section below, we detail the problems we’ve seen firsthand with Mercury.
Despite negative publicity elsewhere, Mercury has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, where it has been accredited since 2012. As of November 2015, 72 complaints have been lodged with the BBB in the past 3 years; with 40 in the last year. Most complaints were about billing, including being charged for services that weren’t wanted or used. The company has made attempts to resolve most of these complaints, which is a contributing factor to the high grade from the BBB.
Mercury Payment Systemshas 9 one-star reviews on Yelp, with most referencing fees and hidden charges. Some reviews complain of high cancellation fees, and still being charged monthly fees after cancellation. Ripoff Report also shows negative reviews for Mercury, including comments that Mercury takes money from accounts unauthorized.
Mercury lists several awards on their website, including:
- RSPA Vendor of Excellence Gold Medallion winner in from 2010 – 2013
- RSPA Vendor of Excellence in Payment Processing (Gold level) from 2009 – 2013
- Best Channel Vendor by Business Solutions Magazine from 2009 – 2014
We’ve watched Mercury Payment Systems maintain an impressive growth rate over the last several years by forging partnerships with point of sale (POS) developers that effectively eliminate businesses’ ability to shop for credit card processing services. Through its partnerships, Mercury becomes the sole payment provider for a POS system and then charges businesses using a mix of bundled and pass-through pricing, often with assessments marked up beyond true cost.
In addition to forcing its processing upon businesses through its POS partnerships, Mercury further strengthens its hold on its clients by leveraging cancellation penalties that range from flat fees to liquidated damages.
Mercury’s Strategy: Buy POS Partnerships, Eliminate Competitive Choice
Mercury’s business model has been pretty effective. It has grown quickly by focusing its efforts on partnering with POS developers. Mercury’s tactic is to enter into an agreement with POS developers whereby it becomes the sole payment provider in exchange for paying the developer a commission. The commission paid to the POS developer is calculated as a percentage of profits earned by Mercury on the businesses referred by the developer.
This is a great strategy for Mercury Payments because it leverages POS developers to eliminate a business’s ability to shop for a competitive processor. For the same reason, it’s unfortunate, and arguably unprincipled, for POS developers to put their clients in such a disadvantaged position.
While POS developers collect commission, their clients are stripped of the ability to shop for a competitive payment provider and must use Merchant Payment Systems in order to use the chosen POS system. As I’ll outline below, we have seen many examples over the years where Mercury used its leverage to charge excessive fees.
More on Overcharging Assessments
As I’ll outline in detail below, Mercury Payment Systems has a well-documented habit of charging hidden fees in the form of excessive assessments.
Assessments are fees charged by Visa, MasterCard, and Discover and they’re the same amount for all processors. Mercury was padding the amount it charged for assessments and putting the overage in its own pocket. The hidden income Mercury was making on assessments allowed it to make its explicit markup seem artificially low.
Mercury’s favorite assessments to pad are authorization access fees. These assessments are transaction fees that Mercury typically increases by $0.04-$0.041 on credit transactions and $0.044 on Visa debit transactions.
For example, the actual cost of the credit authorization assessment for Visa and MasterCard is $0.0195, and the actual cost of the authorization assessment for Visa debit transactions is $0.0155. As you can see from the Mercury Payment Systems statement below, these assessments are all being charged at $0.0595.
The first highlighted line with the label “MC NABU” refers to MasterCard’s network access and brand usage fee (NABU) that has an actual cost of $0.0195. Mercury is charging $0.0595, which is $0.04 more than true cost.
The last two highlighted lines are Visa’s credit and debit authorization access assessments that have an actual cost of $0.0195 and $0.0155, respectively. Mercury is charging $0.0595 for both, which is $0.04 and $0.044 more than true cost.
Mercury Payment Systems Bundled Pricing
Mercury charges its “qualified” rate in a statement section labeled “SETTLEMENT/DISCOUNT.” As you can see from the Mercury statement snippet below, the qualified rate in this example is 1.49% and the transaction fee is $0.14. Another tactic that Mercury Payment Systems uses relatively often is rates that are too good to be true. As we’ve explained in our article about credit card processing bait-and-switch, the 1.49% rate that Mercury is charging this business is too low to be realistic. It’s less than virtually all interchange rates, so Mercury knew that almost all of this business’s transactions would be surcharged.
After Mercury has charged its qualified rate and transaction fee, it proceeds to assess a second round of charges to the same sales volume in a section on its statements called “SURCHARGES.” The snippet below is taken from the same statement as the snippet used above to show the qualified rate and transaction fee.
As you can see, Mercury charged this business another $15.41 for $774.10 in sales volume for which it already charged 1.49% and $0.14 per transaction. 1.49% of $774.10 is $11.53. Adding $11.53 to the surcharge of $15.41 yields Mercury’s actual charge for this card type (Visa rewards), which is $26.94, or 3.48% of volume. That’s a far cry from the 1.49% disclosed as the “qualified” rate.
I realize this is just one example, but I assure you, we’ve see this type of pricing and tactic on many of the Mercury Payments statements we’ve reviewed, which date back to 2012.
Mercury Payment Systems Interchange Plus Pricing
Like any processor, Mercury has the ability to assess charges via an interchange plus pricing model.
Mercury lists its volume markup and transaction fee in the “SETTLEMENT/DISCOUNT” section of its statements as shown in the example below. In this case, the business is being charged a markup of 0.10% + $0.07.
Mercury lists interchange charges in the next section of the statement, but oddly, it leaves the title of this section as “SURCHARGES,” which is the same title it uses when showing its surcharges for bundled pricing. This is unusual because interchange is not a surcharge. The charges shown in this section are a result of interchange, not a surcharge from Mercury.
Mercury Payment Systems Early Termination Fee
Mercury Payment Systems is well known for charging a cancellation fee, and it’s expensive. As you can see from section “13 TERM AND TERMINATION” of Mercury’s terms of service, the cancellation fee is the greater of $495 or the lost profits on an account.
The cancellation charge based on lost profit is referred to as liquidated damages, and can range into the thousands of dollars.
As we stress in our article about credit card processing contracts, it’s always best to avoid a processor that requires a hefty cancellation fee.
Unfortunately, CardFellow has seen the deceptive pricing alleged in the lawsuits against Mercury. While Mercury does not place certified quotes in the CardFellow marketplace, we’ve had the opportunity to do statement reviews for Mercury clients. You can check our article on the lawsuits against Mercury for examples of statements and explanations of Mercury’s expensive pricing.
We will note that we reviewed an October 2015 application for processing through Mercury and found that the assessment fees listed are correct. It’s possible that Mercury is now charging assessments at actual cost, instead of the inflated pricing found in our past statement analyses. However, we cannot guarantee anything about Mercury’s pricing.