SPECIALIZES IN B-TO-B
DEDICATED CARDFELLOW REP
ACCEPTS HIGH RISK
In this Leaders Merchant Services review, we’ll go over all the info on services, pricing, and more.
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Leaders was founded in 2000 and is a registered ISO and MSP of Wells Fargo. In 2017, Leaders was purchased by its longtime partner iPayment, but will continue to operate under its own name.
Leaders Merchant Services offers payment processing options including CheckPoint check processing and credit and debit card acceptance. Leaders also offers cash advances if you’re looking for working capital for business expenses.
Leaders’ check assurance program lets you choose a paper check guarantee or electronic check conversion (ECC). Using ECC, if a check bounces, you’ll be reimbursed and won’t be charged bounced check fees. You also won’t need to make a trip to the bank to deposit checks with the electronic check conversion option.
Leaders credit card processing solutions offer the ability to accept payments in multiple ways, including in-person using traditional credit card machines, on the go using your smartphone, by phone with a virtual terminal, or online with an Authorize.Net gateway. If you run a brick-and-mortar store, the traditional option using a credit card machine is the way to go. If you’re constantly taking cards at different places (such as on deliveries, at tradeshows, or at craft fairs) the mobile/smartphone solution will suit your needs. If you take cards by phone, fax, or mail (such as catalogue businesses or professional offices, including dentists and doctors) a virtual terminal will allow you the flexibility to take cards with the safety of a secure online form.
Leaders Merchant Services offers cash advances. To qualify, you must have been in business for at least 9 months and processing credit cards for at least 6 months. Other conditions apply. Be aware that cash advances do have drawbacks and may be an expensive option for securing working capital. For more information, see our article Should I Get a Cash Advance?
When you process with Leaders, you can take Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.
Leaders Merchant Services uses tiered pricing, a model prohibited at CardFellow due to its opaque and expensive nature. Tiered pricing is one of the most common ways that businesses overpay for processing.
Leaders has three rate tiers - "qualified," which is the least expensive rate, "mid-qualified" which is a mid-range rate, and "non-qualified," which is the most expensive. Leaders only publishes their starting rates of 0.15% for swiped cards and 1.79% for keyed cards, but keep in mind that Leaders can arbitrarily determine that your transactions are charged more expensive rates. The actual rates and fees depend on many factors, including the type of business you are, what kind of cards you accept, whether you’re swiping or keying cards, and other variables completely at Leaders’ discretion.
To receive the qualified rate, you must meet certain criteria, including but not limited to:
Meeting these qualifications doesn’t necessarily mean your transactions will achieve the qualified rate. Note that you will be charged the non-qualified rate on all transactions if you don’t batch out your terminal daily. If you’re considering Leaders Merchant Services, be sure to review documents carefully to determine what your non-qualified rate will be, as it’s likely that many of your transactions will be charged at that higher rate.
Leaders Merchant Services also has a $500 "beat your rates" offer, where the company promises that if it can’t save you money on your credit card processing, it will give you $500. While it seems like a good deal, these types of offers are often used deceptively. Be sure to check out our article on the truth about credit card processing rate match offers.
Leaders’ contracts are 3 years, but include a 30-day trial period. There is no early termination fee if you cancel in the first 30 days. After the first 30 days, the cancellation fee is $350. It drops to $250 if you cancel in the second or third year of your contract.
Leaders offers seasonal downtime, but the terms are not readily published on their site. Terms for your specific business will need to be discussed directly with Leaders.
Leaders’ offers free equipment, which can be a bit of a red flag. There’s no such thing as “free” equipment, so it’s likely that if you’re getting it, you’re being overcharged somewhere else.
Leaders’ equipment brands include Ingenico, Verifone, Hypercom, Nurit, and Magtek. The company offers wired and wireless credit card processors, mobile card readers, check readers, debit pin pads, and gateway Authorize.net. Equipment features vary by model, but offer conveniences like backlit LCD screens, ergonomic keys, and built-in thermal printers.
Leaders’ website claims that the company has one of the biggest chargeback and fraud departments to help clients, and works with you to help you achieve PCI compliance. It doesn’t offer further information on what steps it takes to help prevent fraud, or what is involved in the chargeback process from the business side when chargebacks do occur. For specific details, contact the company.
Leaders Merchant Services is not currently accredited with the Better Business Bureau, but does have a profile at the BBB. The company has bounced back from a 2015 rating of B to an A+ rating in 2016. This is likely due to complaints falling. In 2015, the Leaders profile showed 213 complaints lodged with the BBB in the past 3 years. In autumn 2017, there are 157 complaints listed for the past 3 years. Most complaints refer to unexpected fees or costs they were not expecting. The company does reply to customers who complain, in some instances offering refunds. The BBB responds positively to companies actively participating by addressing concerns, so that may also affect Leaders’ new higher grade.
In addition to the official complaints, there are 56 text reviews on the BBB’s website, wplit fairly evenly between positive and negative experiences.
The negative reviews claim that salespeople used deceptive tactics or lied to businesses and complain of hidden fees and unexpected pricing as a result. The reviews also warn of poor customer service. By contrast, the positive Leaders reviews say that the company is easy to work with, that integrating mobile payment processing was helpful, and that staff is knowledgable.
Unfortunately, Yelp corroborates the negative Leaders reviews filed with the BBB, with 12 one-star reviews listed as helpful. 104 additional reviews warn of hidden or high fees, unhappiness with the transparency of the costs, and unhelpful customer service.
Leaders also racks up 70 complaints on Ripoff Report, with reviews complaining once again of hidden fees, but also unauthorized holds on funds and deceptive practices, and 16 1-star reviews on Consumer Affairs, where clients express frustration over undisclosed fees, shady sales reps that promise the moon, and high cancellation fees.
There are no testimonials available on the company’s website.
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Posted by Tom on Mar 29, 2018
I would give them a zero if that were an option. This company's sales person is possibly the most dishonest individual I have ever spoken to in retaining services of any kind. Their salesperson told me over the telephone how their fees are low by industry standards, and that they have no long-term contract, so I could leave at any time without charge. After the sales pitch, they send you a very short agreement over the Internet for your online signature. In the small print, they reference a "Guide" that you will be receiving once you've signed up. AFTER you have engaged them, you receive a 64 page "Guide" chock full of fees which were never discussed by their salesperson, including a $350 fee if you discontinue their services. So far, their "low" fees have averaged approximately 6% of my total receipts. I wouldn't wish this company on anyone.
Posted by Kevin on Mar 05, 2018
This company is the absolute worst and in my opinion, highly unethical. They charge all manner of junk fees, obfuscate the terms, and make it extremely difficult to terminate. Read as many different review sites as possible for this company. You have options, don't let them smooth talk you into something you are likely to find very difficult to get out of and for which you will pay more than you should. I don't think "crooks" is too strong a word, but that's just my opinion.
Posted by CardFellow on Dec 15, 2015
Leaders Merchant Services is an older independent sales organization that has been around for some time, so CardFellow has quite a bit of experience in reviewing its statements, quotes, and even its applications over several years. We’ve found that Leaders heavily favors bundled pricing and has a tendency to overcharge for card brand assessments. We have seen statements and quotes from Leaders that use pass-through pricing, but they’re far more uncommon than bundled statements and quotes.