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The company’s website includes a disclosure required by the credit card companies for any registered processing company. The disclosure includes the business name that is registered with the card companies; in this case, Merchant Services, Inc. If the SBGA were simply redirecting you to a partner that handles payments, they would not need to include that disclosure on their website. This likely indicates that Small Business Growth Alliance is another name for Merchant Services, Inc. and that it’s primary purpose is to push payment processing – not to help your business grow, as the name implies.
In this SBGA review, we’ll dig into what the company claims to offer and how those claims stack up to what other businesses think.
The Small Business Growth Alliance lists 6 services: electronic payments, payroll services, web management, accounting solutions, discounted shipping, and funding.
Whether you call it the SBGA or Merchant Services, Inc. the payment options are the same. The company operates on the First Data platform, and can support the Clover POS system. Beyond that, it offers almost no information, simply stating that it can help you get set up with credit card processing for traditional brick-and-mortar stores, online businesses, and taking payments on the road. (There are options for both Android and Apple devices.) It also references a recurring billing option if you need to charge customers for subscriptions or other recurring payments.
While there’s no mention of equipment costs on the company’s website, reviews on third party sites mention leasing, which is often very expensive.
The SBGA mentions that it offers a gift card program where you can choose from pre-made designs or work with the in-house design team to create a custom card.
Related Article: Before You Buy a Clover Station...
The SBGA offers a payroll program to help automate the process of paying employees. The system is online, and includes a dashboard and the ability to approve payroll remotely from your smartphone. You can automatically calculate deductions, including 401(k) or other retirement payments, health insurance, wage garnishments, and more. It can also track accrued paid time off, and handles federal, state, and local payroll tax calculations.
The company says that its system integrates with popular time clock services and provides a direct deposit option for staff at no additional fee. Payroll data can be downloaded and imported into your existing accounting software.
When it comes to web management, the SBGA references the Vanguard Web Management program that claims to help secure good organic search placement, build your online profile presence, manage your reputation online, provide a client dashboard, list your business on maps, offer QR codes to clients, and promote special offers.
However, despite the fact that there is a logo for “Vanguard Web-Management” in the SBGA website footer, an online search for a company with that name doesn’t bring up any results that list the same services on the SBGA’s website.
Additionally, searching by image comes up empty – there doesn’t appear to be a company by that name. Image searches for the MCA logo and Merchant Services logo (pictured above) similarly turn up nothing. Legitimate logos (such as those of QuickBooks and FedEx) may lend authenticity to the other logos at first glance, but deeper research indicates no such companies.
As we can’t locate any information about this “Vanguard Web-Management” option, we have no further details on the services, costs, or legitimacy.
The Small Business Growth Alliance/Merchant Services, Inc. references an integration with QuickBooks to eliminate the need for manual entry of transaction data. The company also offers an electronic invoicing option where customers can pay online with a click-to-pay link in the email containing the invoice.
Related Article: Sending Electronic Invoices for Easy Payment.
Businesses that utilize shipping services can take advantage of discounts from FedEx, with high volume shipping saving the most. The company claims that members see an average savings of $60/month on shipping, with high volume businesses saving $200-600/month. It further claims the members using freight shipping services save more than $1,400/month.
The only details included state that there are no minimums, required usage, or changes to your existing FedEx number.
The funding available from the SBGA is not a loan, but a merchant cash advance. Funds can be used for almost any business expense, and qualified businesses receive funds in 7-10 business days. As with most merchant cash advances, the company claims there is no required collateral and that personal credit is not a factor in the decision-making process.
Related Article: Merchant Cash Advances May Cost You.
Most credit card processors don’t list a lot of information about rates and fees, but the SBGA goes one step further and lists none. You won’t find any reference to rates and fees for credit card processing or about costs to “join” this “business alliance.” There is no information about additional costs for payroll or web services.
On the upside, the CardFellow quote comparison form lets you anonymously request a quote from the SBGA so you can view real pricing in private, and compare it to as many other processors as you’d like. It’s also free and no-obligation – you can use it as a tool to compare your options.
Ready to give it a try? Fill out this simple form.
The SBGA’s website itself doesn’t include any details about contracts, cancellation fees, or other terms, so all we can go on here is the information available on third party review sites. Complaints mention a cancellation fee (with one reviewer stating it was a $495 fee) while others reference non-cancellable 48-month leases. That’s a common term length for equipment leases, indicating that the SBGA leases equipment. It’s not clear from the SBGA website or from consumer reviews if you have the option to purchase equipment instead.
Note that contract terms and termination fees can change, or can be set differently for each business. The fact that some reviews mention a cancellation fee or a lease does not necessarily mean that your contract or terms would be the same. It’s important to read and understand all the details of your own specific contract before signing.
By far one of the most common complaints about the SBGA is aggressive sales tactics and constantly calling businesses. In fact, many of the available reviews (which aren’t from current clients) complain about frequent, harassing calls despite being asked not to call back. The positive reviews available mostly praise the SBGA for good rates.
The SBGA has been accredited with the BBB since 2013, and has an A+ rating as of November 2016. There are 8 positive customer reviews on the BBB website, with reviewers praising the company’s helpful customer service, competitive rates, and assistance with the chip card transition. Interestingly, the reviews primarily discuss the company in terms of credit card processing services, lending credence to the notion that the SBGA is a payment processor first and foremost, and not a business alliance.
The complaints on the BBB website are less favorable. Some reviewers allege that the SBGA constantly contacts businesses in misleading ways, claiming that they already work with the business and that rates are increasing, or using high-pressure tactics to get a business to switch processors. The SBGA responds to complaints at the Better Business Bureau, and denies that they represent themselves as the business’ current payment processor.
The Ripoff Report directory lists 6 complaints for the Small Business Growth Alliance. Allegations include the SBGA lying about a customer’s terminal sending out error messages as a way to get a foot in the door, debiting money while equipment is unusable, lying on the phone to gain access to managers/owners, and promises not upheld.
At CardFellow, we’ve heard from business owners that the SBGA calls frequently, pressuring them to change credit card processors. Some clients also report being emailed by the company – in one instance, we reviewed the email sent to the client and found it to contain multiple inaccurate details, including a claim that the company could offer the client 0% processing for debit cards.
The SBGA does not have a profile with Yelp. There are Merchant Services, Inc. reviews at Yelp, but as we’re not currently able to confirm the connection between the company, we won’t include those here.
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Unlike general web reviews, verified reviews are posted by businesses that have chosen the processor's quote through CardFellow's marketplace, and CardFellow has confirmed with the processor that the business is using its service. Businesses can update verified reviews at any time to ensure the review accurately reflects the processor's performance over time.
Unlike verified reviews which are validated by CardFellow, web reviews can be submitted by anyone viewing this profile. While we validate these reviews as best we can, CardFellow does not verify that a reviewer is using or has used a processor's service.
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Posted by Steve on Jan 03, 2018
Can't give them zero stars I guess. They call my place of work, and I end up having to talk to them because it is purchase and/or computer related. Lady calls, and I tell her I dealt with their calls last year, and that I know they are trying to lure us into using them as a payment processor. She denied it, and said it is a free service to help us review our current credit card processing, and all they need is our recent credit card statements. It's a LIE. First.. don't give anyone your statements to look at except for your current processor, which already has access to them. That's crazy. Second, why lie about it? Tell me what you are doing. Apparently, they use independent sales reps who work off commission and are desperate for the income, so they lie. Doesn't help the company, at all. The lady got mad at me because I said I wasn't interested in her help and that I wasn't providing statements to her. She acted like I was a moron, huffed and puffed, and hung up. Another great sales tactic, right? Then a half hour later, she calls back with the same pitch. I said, "Didn't we just talk about this a half hour ago?" She paused, seemed busted and caught off guard, and admitted they must have two sets of information for our company. This company depends on losers to dupe and lure customers. I guess their small turnover or ratio of success is enough to not care about the negativity.
Posted by G&S Printing on Dec 26, 2017
Totally unprofessional. This rude asshole calls me pretending to be a Small Business Alliance rep and hangs up on me when I tell him to email me some info. What a coward! Stay away from these low-life scum bags. I would give them a negative star.
Posted by Helen on Nov 29, 2017
I've recently been charged $48.31, twice, for their Small Business Platform, or some such nonsense, which includes a bunch of products I don't use and didn't sign up for. I've spent two days trying to get an answer to my question, and today I was finally sent a PDF of an advertisement they claim they sent me on August 1, which I never received. Even so, I never opted in or signed up for any of the services. Today the rep told me that my customers would be glad to know that I had this high level of encryption, because small businesses are targeted more than larger businesses for fraud, and that they are simply ahead of the curve! My bank account lists "Clover" as the company charging my bank account, but I do not have any Clover products. I think these charges to my bank account are bogus and fraudulent, and I will be visiting my bank tomorrow to have them deal with this. If necessary, I'll contact my lawyer as well. My business is too small and precarious to be involved with a less than 100% honest and open business. Shame on you all!
Posted by Ted Mandres on Aug 30, 2017
Only got a one star because can't give less. Total rip off - don't sign anything or you are committed for 3 years, or early termination fee and equipment fees are due. Unethical, even had spouse listen to call and how the rep was saying things. When I challenge it then the rep finally disclosed the whole picture. Was trying to get rid of me as fast as could. Their employees know they are a bad company.
Posted by Ken Beyer on Jul 06, 2017
We have been bombarded with phone calls from this company, indicating that they are working with our current credit card processing company (Elavon) and that they had several "red flags" pop up concerning over charging from Elavon and that they would be able to help get the rates reduced and credited back to us. They insisted that they work with Elavon and that they were not selling anything. Angie was the initial caller and continuously called indicating that we had to do something to stop the charges. We asked numerous times if they were selling merchant services, as we get those calls all the time but they lied every time. We finally relented and provided them a copy of our most recent statement and sure enough a supervisor gets on the phone and starts with his sales pitch. When we asked for a supervisor a woman named Alicia got on the phone and as we continued to complain she just hung up on us. Beware of this company and its tactics; obviously they are as crooked as can be.