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The bank was founded in 1852 in New York City, and has since expanded to offer a wide range of financial services, including loans and credit card processing. Wells Fargo offers card processing for almost all industries and business types to US-based businesses.
In 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that Wells Fargo had perpetrated a major consumer account scandal, where employees opened "ghost" accounts for consumers without their knowledge in order to hit sales goals and receive bonuses. Wells Fargo fired more than 5,000 employees associated with the scandal, and was fined heavily by the CFPB.
In 2017, The Wall Street Journal published an article that stated that Wells Fargo has restructured its credit card processing after an internal investigation that showed some employees were reporting false numbers related to customer sales. The WSJ states that some employees were fired and other measures like requiring management approval to refer a small business to the merchant services department are now required of retail branches. Additionally, the WSJ states that there is a new head of merchant services overseeing the department.
The article also details cases of individual business’ experience with Wells Fargo’s pricing and leasing. In the cases described, business owners were allegedly misled about the fees they would pay or about the details of the terminal leases.
We’ve reached out to Wells Fargo for further details on the "restructuring" of the merchant services division, and were provided with the following statement:
Our primary objective is to make things right and restore trust in Wells Fargo. We have taken several steps to strengthen Wells Fargo Merchant Services to ensure our team members do what’s right for our customers, including:
- Eliminated incentives for retail bankers to refer sales to Merchant Services
- Changed the compensation structure within Merchant Services
- Continue to explore ways to make our merchant services even better and simpler for our customers as we work to build a better bank
Wells Fargo Merchant Services is committed to delivering simple and efficient payment processing to merchants of all sizes so they can focus on running their businesses.
It’ll get you set up to take credit cards for payment. You’ll be able to take lots of major cards, including MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, and JCB. (Note that both American Express and JCB may require separate approval before you can start taking them.) Cards can be accepted in person, by phone/mail, online, or using a mobile device. In addition to traditional payment methods, Wells Fargo supports Apple Pay and advanced EMV chip technology. You can also accept checks, and optionally take advantage of gift card programs.
For fast payment processing in a traditional retail or restaurant setting, Wells Fargo Merchant Services offers in-person card processing solutions so that you can accept major credit and debit cards, cash, checks, and gift or loyalty cards easily. Full point-of-sale solutions designed for the needs of specific industries are also available.
If you want to accept credit card payments by phone or through the mail (such as for catalogue businesses) Wells Fargo can get you set up with a virtual terminal. The virtual terminal is a browser-based payment acceptance form that will allow you to manually enter credit card information into your internet-connected computer. Wells Fargo’s online and virtual terminal options also support recurring billing, allowing you to set up a payment schedule for any goods or services offered at regular, set intervals.
Wells Fargo offers integration with popular online payment gateways to accept credit card payments through your website. With a gateway, you can integrate payment acceptance into an e-commerce website that uses a shopping cart, a process with which most online customers are familiar.
Need to accept payments outside of a traditional store or restaurant setting? Wells Fargo Merchant Services can support mobile processing through either handheld wireless terminals or smartphones. Payments can be accepted at tradeshows and fairs, at customers’ homes or businesses, and more. Payments are processed quickly, and receipts can be emailed to your customers. Mobile device processing features the same high security standards as in-person processing, including encryption at the time of swiping a card. Note that to process payments from smartphones, you’ll need a cell phone signal. Smartphone processing won’t work in locations where you don’t have service.
Wells Fargo Merchant Services supports many popular equipment brands and models. If you are already processing, you can contact Wells Fargo directly to determine if your existing machines can be reprogrammed to work with Wells Fargo. If you do not currently have equipment, or if you are looking to upgrade, Wells Fargo can work with you to determine which equipment is compatible. Wells Fargo supports equipment ranging from basic credit card swipers to robust full-featured point-of-sale systems, and can also support First Data’s proprietary Clover station.
A quick reminder about the Clover: As of January 2016, Clover stations cannot be reprogrammed. This means that if you purchase one from a processor, it will ONLY work with that processor. If you want to switch processors down the road, you’d need to purchase new equipment and will not be able to transfer for your Clover POS to a new processor. If you’re thinking of buying a Clover POS system, make sure you know you’re going to stick with the processor that sells it to you for awhile.
For cardholder and business safety, Wells Fargo offers fraud management tools designed to protect you from fraudulent transactions and chargebacks. Available tools include Address Verification Service (AVS) and Card Verification Value (CVV)/Card Identification (CID). With AVS, businesses verify the customer’s address at the time of purchase and compare it to the address on file with the credit card company to ensure authorized use. With CVV and CID, businesses verify the 3 or 4 digit code on the back or front of the credit card to prove the card is present with the purchaser at the time of sale. Wells Fargo also offers a list of tips to prevent chargebacks on their website.
Wells Fargo offers several tracking and reporting tools. Reporting functions are available at any time at no additional charge. You can view a quick summary of the past week of payments or drill down for deeper information, including viewing and printing processing statements, viewing dispute and chargeback information, and viewing tax information.
Wells Fargo Merchant Services certainly has the ability to offer competitive pricing, but whether or not it does is a different story. Wells Fargo does not include information about pricing on its website, stating that the rates are determined on an individual basis. In CardFellow’s experience, Wells Fargo Merchant Services pricing is usually expensive. (See CardFellow’s Wells Fargo Merchant Services review and experience at the end of this profile.)
In 2018, Wells Fargo announced a new flat rate pricing model for businesses processing under $100,000/year. Designed to complete with popular flat rate options like Square, the flat rate model offers one price for swiped, dipped, or tapped transactions, and one for keyed transactions. Wells Fargo currently sets the flat rates at 2.6% + 15 cents for swiped/dipped/tapped and 3.4% + 15 cents for keyed.
If you’re curious what your exact costs would be, you can use our free quote comparison tool. Just sign up here.
Wells Fargo has numerous complaints online, but some reviews are about Wells Fargo banking services instead of merchant services and card processing. Sifting through reviews to get to complaints about the merchant services branch takes a little effort, but shows many unhappy customers. Wells Fargo does not currently list any testimonials from customers on their website.
Wells Fargo has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 1981 and currently has an A- rating on a scale of A+ to F. It has had 4,725 complaints lodged with the BBB in the past 3 years but not all of those complaints relate to the merchant services offerings. Relevant complaints allege unexpected or high fees, unauthorized debits, and difficulty getting money owed.
Ripoff Report includes a specific merchant services complaint, alleging that Wells Fargo promised lower rates, but didn’t deliver. The complaint also states that Wells Fargo held the business’s money and charged fees after account cancellation.
Wells Fargo Merchant Services is responsible for some of the highest rates and fees we have ever seen in the ten years we’ve been helping businesses secure the most competitive credit card processing company.
We have seen competitive pricing from Wells Fargo, too, but it’s few and far between. From the statements, applications, and quotes we have reviewed over the years it is very apparent that Wells Fargo Merchant Services favors opaque tiered/bundled and bill-back pricing models with aggressive (high) fees.
It leverages its banking relationships to lock its business clients into generally uncompetitive credit card processing solutions with lengthy contract terms and high cancellation fees.
It uses First Data as it’s processor, so Wells Fargo does not offer any equipment or software options that cannot be found elsewhere through a far more competitive and transparent merchant service provider.
Proceed with extreme caution if you’re considering Wells Fargo Merchant Services to process your business’s credit card transactions.
Price isn’t everything, and there are instances where a merchant service provider can justify charging higher fees if it is able to offer equipment or service that provides a value that offsets the higher fees.
This isn’t the case with Wells Fargo Merchant Services.
Wells Fargo is an acquiring bank that uses First Data’s platforms to process its transactions. The equipment it offers, such as the Clover POS, or Clover Mini can be purchased from another merchant service provider of First Data at much more competitive pricing and terms than those offered by Wells Fargo.
As we stress here at CardFellow, credit card processing reviews are often misleading because processors set pricing and terms on a per-business basis. There is no guarantee of consistency, and this is very true for a large company like Wells Fargo.
The rates, fees, pricing model, and terms offered by Wells Fargo’s countless sales people are all over the map. The only consistency we’ve noticed over the years is its tendency to use opaque aggressive pricing and pricing models.
One such pricing model that is a staple in Wells Fargo’s arsenal is called bill-back. Bill-back is particularly opaque because it assesses charges for a previous month on the current month’s statement. Charges on a single statement are a mix of qualified rates and fees in addition to surcharges from a prior month based on interchange categories incurred during that month.
Bill-back is confusing, and most people can’t make heads or tails of a processing statement where it’s used as the pricing model.
In the examples below I’ll use a Wells Fargo Merchant Services statement that uses bill-back pricing to provide an overview of this unscrupulous pricing at work.
We’ve seen bill-back pricing that spreads charges out over a three-month period. However, Wells Fargo prefers pricing that spreads charges out over two months, so the examples below are taken from two consecutive statements.
Identifying bill-back pricing is a matter of looking for charges that were incurred in a prior month. For example, the statement snippet shown below is for the month of December, but the highlighted charges were actually incurred in the month of November.
The charges that are dated 12/30/13 are those that were actually incurred during December. In order to calculate the charges for a given month, the current charges from the current month’s statement must be added to the surcharges on the next month’s statement. For example, it’s not possible to calculate Wells Fargo’s charges for December until the January statement arrives that shows the surcharges incurred in December but actually charged in January.
The reason I used a statement from 2013 for this example is because this statement represents one of the worst examples of price gouging we have ever seen at CardFellow.
This statement was sent to use by a business that used CardFellow’s free service to drastically lower its processing fees. This business processes well in excess of $1 million dollars annually, and Wells Fargo Merchant Services was charging it an effective rate of over 8%. This business knew it was overpaying, but it wasn’t able to accurately determine how poor its pricing was due to the opaque bill-back pricing model that Wells Fargo was using.
Although we don’t see it used as often as bill-back and bundled pricing, Wells Fargo does offer interchange-plus pricing on occasion. The statement I’ll use to show Wells Fargo’s interchange-plus pricing is also a prime example of why interchange-plus does not guarantee competitive credit card processing fees.
The interchange-plus pricing model is often regarded on the Internet as the solution to high credit card processing fees. As this article explains, interchange-plus does not guarantee competitive pricing. It’s simply one ingredient of a larger recipe, as I’m about to prove in the example below.
The following is a snippet from a Wells Fargo credit card processing statement that uses interchange-plus pricing. The highlighted line shows the processing markup (rate) that Wells Fargo is charging this business.
The statement shows the markup as a decimal of 0.0174, which is 1.74% expresses as a percentage. An interchange markup of a 1.74% is extremely high. For example, businesses that receive processing quotes through CardFellow are routinely quoted a markup of 0.15% or less.
A markup of 1.74% is high enough by itself, but Wells Fargo didn’t stop there. The red arrow in the statement example above points to a line called “Interchange clearing fee.” This looks like it’s part of the interchange charges, but it’s not. The Interchange clearing fee is a charge that Wells Fargo assess to interchange categories that it does not feel qualifies for the quoted interchange-plus markup.
In other words, Wells Fargo has introduced a type of surcharging used in bundled pricing into its interchange-plus offering. Most of this business’s volume was subject to the Interchange clearing fee of 0.35% in addition to the 1.74%, which brings Wells Fargo’s total processing markup to 2.09%. This is one of the highest markups we’ve ever seen charged via an interchange-plus pricing model.
Any respectable merchant service provider will not attempt to lease credit card processing equipment. It never makes sense for a business to pay $49 a month over four years ($2352) for a credit card machine it could have purchased for $300.
Processors know that, as you can see, leasing is very profitable. This profit is likely what leads Wells Fargo Merchant Services to continue to push leases for credit card processing equipment. We’ve reviewed many Wells Fargo Merchant Services quotes where it is attempting to lease business inexpensive processing equipment at higher prices. For example the snippet below is taken from a Wells Fargo quote where it is proposing a charge of $35 over 48 months for a First Data FD130 machine that can be purchased for just a couple hundred dollars.
Wells Fargo Merchant Services has the ability to offer competitive pricing, but we haven’t seen it happen very often. If you’re considering Wells Fargo Merchant Services, proceed with extreme caution.
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Posted by Shawn H on Jan 17, 2019
Opaque pricing. WF Merchant Services set up my terminals incorrectly twice...most likely on purpose. One machine did not even have a category for debit cards so we ended up paying higher fees. Another machine did not batch out automatically like they said it would. When you call, they provide empty words and zero action. If you are a small business you would be wise to avoid their business.
Posted by Drew H on Jun 27, 2018
Awful! No fraud protection! After becoming victims of fraudulent transactions to fake accounts Wells Fargo created, they seized money from us and demanded additional funds. Avoid Wells Fargo at all costs. Awful customer service. No one gives you an answer or responds.
Posted by joanna on Mar 10, 2018
AVOID AVOID AVOID ... do not use them they are all a scam.
Posted by Sandra on Aug 24, 2017
I opened my small business a little over a year ago and did not know anything about credit card processing. The Wells Fargo representative (know known to me as a salesperson) told me to trust her because she had my best interest in mind and that if I didn't sign up with Wells Fargo Merchant Services I would be sorry. She said that other servicers would be too expensive for a startup. Little did I know! The Wells Fargo salesperson got me to sign up for their merchant services and a 4 year lease on First Data equipment. I was told by her that it would cost me several hundred dollars if the credit card processor broke down so a lease was the best way to go. Once upon a time, a banker could be trusted, and maybe some still can, but from my experience Wells Fargo sales people cannot. My credit card and equipment leasing fees are very high compared to other merchants. This review should be a zero star rating, Wells Fargo Merchant Services is a rip-off.
Posted by Fred Mariani on Aug 22, 2017
Please take my advice and stay as far away from Wells Fargo Merchant Services as possible. You will thank me.
Posted by Bob on Jan 05, 2017
Terrible customer service. Strongly do not recommend Clover or First Data Merchant Services. If I could give it 0 stars I would.
Posted by Ryan B. on Jan 31, 2016
WF's merchant services come with hefty fees and contracts with high cancellation fees -- they'll take advantage of any small business for a quick buck. 0/10 do not recommend.
Posted by CardFellow on Jan 14, 2016
We've reviewed a lot of information from Wells Fargo Merchant Services over the years including statements, applications, quotes, lease agreements, and more. This information has shown that Wells Fargo consistently uses opaque pricing and inflated fees to extract maximum profit from its clients. Wells Fargo has even introduced opacity into its interchange-plus pricing by applying a general surcharge to certain interchange categories through the use of its “interchange clearing fee.” The questionable tactics and excessive fees charged by Wells Fargo are not offset by any additional value. Wells Fargo uses First Data to process its transactions, so any ISO or reseller of First Data will be able to provide the same services, equipment, and POS options as Wells Fargo Merchant Services, but likely at a much lower cost.