Credit Card Processing

5 Great Ways to Get Ripped Off by Credit Card Processors

by Ben Dwyer

We’re always talking about how to lower credit card processing fees. In this post, we’ll take a break from the norm to discuss five sure-fire ways to get ripped off by credit card processors.

1 – Get bundled pricing.

Bundled pricing is what you want if you’re a fan of hidden surcharges and paying (way) too much for credit card processing. Ready to get ripped off by credit card processors? Go for bundled (also called tiered) pricing.

Type the term “credit card processing” into your favorite search engine and you’ll see tons of ads for “rates as low as (insert unrealistic rate here).” If you take a look at the current interchange fees, which are the lowest possible rates for all processors, you’ll see that the advertised rates are lower than actual cost.

How can processors offer such ridiculously low rates? It’s simple: They’re not telling the whole story in their ads. They’re only posting the rate that they charge for “qualified” debit card transactions. A debit card processing charge is lower than a credit card processing charge, so processors advertise the lower debit rate.

Fall for this trick and you won’t realize that you’re being hit with “mid-qualified” and “non-qualified rates” on your transactions until you get your first processing statement. And the mid and non-qualified rates are often in the two and three percent range or higher. It’s a very easy way to get ripped off by credit card processors.

non qualified interchange rate

Stick to strictly interchange plus pricing like the kind offered here at CardFellow, and you never have to worry about mid-qualified and non-qualified surcharges from tiered pricing.

2 – Sign an agreement with an early cancellation fee.

Agreeing to an early cancellation fee is a great way to get ripped off by a credit card processor.

Cancellation fees are usually several hundred dollars or more, and some are even based on the processor’s lost profits. In the case of the latter, the cancellation fee could run you thousands of dollars. It’s a type of cancellation fee known as “liquidated damages.”

There’s nothing worse than having to stay with a processor that’s gouging you on rates because the merchant account cancellation fee makes switching unfeasible. That’s why we don’t allow processors to charge cancellation fees here at CardFellow.

Keep in mind, cancellation fees don’t have to be a reality of processing. Find a solution with a processor that offers good service at a fair price, and there’s no reason to have a cancellation fee since you won’t want to go anywhere.


3 – Skim the fine print, and don’t check to make sure you have all the information.

Who likes to read fine print? It’s boring, and it never makes sense anyway. Skimming the fine print of a merchant service agreement is an excellent way to get ripped-off.

It’s not fun, but reading the fine print on your merchant account agreement is a must. You’re sure to find at least one or two skeletons buried somewhere in that size four font. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything that sounds strange. If the sales representative stutters over an answer, think twice before signing the agreement.

Many merchant service agreements are more than forty pages long including supporting documentation. Take First Data (now Fiserv) for example. The part of the merchant account application that you sign is three pages long, but the guide that describes the service and your responsibilities is more than thirty. It’s not uncommon for sales people to “forget” to include those other thirty pages.

If the merchant service agreement makes reference to a section or piece of information you don’t have, clarify the missing details with the sales rep and get the additional piece of information in writing before moving forward.

4 – Lease a credit card machine.

Paying $3,000 over four years for a credit card machine that can be purchased outright for $200 is certainly a stellar way to get ripped off by a credit card processor. And, unfortunately, business owners do it all the time.

There’s never a good reason to lease credit card machines or PIN pads. That’s why we don’t allow processors to lease equipment to businesses through CardFellow. Many credit card machines cost less than $300 to purchase. It’s a wonder how some companies are still getting away with leasing them for thousands of dollars.

A credit card processor that’s trying to lease you a credit card machine simply does not have your best interests in mind. Take the hint and dump them quickly.

The only time leasing may be a financially viable option is when your business needs a robust, customized point of sale system that costs tens of thousands of dollars to purchase outright. If this doesn’t describe your situation, don’t lease credit card equipment.

5 – Go for the free stuff.

Ah yes, the elusive free credit card machine. Basing your search for a credit card processing company on whether or not you will get free equipment is a super way to get ripped off.

Think about it — did the credit card processor have to pay for the machine? Any processor willing to give you a machine that they paid $100 for must be making enough on your processing fees to make it worth it.

That “free” credit card machine will end up costing you a lot more over the life of your merchant account.

There are many ways that processors can mislead you and take advantage of your business by overcharging. If you do the things on this list, you’re almost certain to pay more than you have to for processing.

2 thoughts on “5 Great Ways to Get Ripped Off by Credit Card Processors”

  1. Thanks for all the info on credit card processors. I am currently using a processor, but I was thinking of switching to Square or Intuit. After reading your comments about them, it leaves me turned off. I may just stick with my current processor.

    1. You shouldn’t have to settle for a sub-par credit card processor. Take a minute to sign up here at CardFellow, and you will receive instant offers from as many as six different processors. Each offer is bound by CardFellow’s terms and support to protect your business and ensure pricing is honest and competitive.

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