Review Snapshot

A+ with BBB, 24/7 tech support


not well liked in the forums.


There are other companies with a better rep and comparable services. I recommend Merchant Warehouse.

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Casey Dalton : I write reviews of products I deem worthy of review. Generally if I'm reviewing...Member Reputation 335 • 69 active Krits
Leaders Merchant Services from
Leaders Merchant Services Review Does Leader Live Up To The Name
Casey Dalton rates this 3.5/5
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Leaders Merchant Services Review - Does Leaders live up to the name?

What's everybody so mad about?

The merchant services industry is among the most confusing and maligned on the web. Why? Because confusion and money are like oil and water… especially when it comes to your own money! How does this play out? Usually, some unsuspecting small business owner contacts a merchant service provider and assumes that because they have a great rating on the BBB, all will automatically be well. 

This is like going into a car dealership and, without any negotiating, expecting to get the best deal they offer. It's actually a step worse than that. It's more like walking into a car dealership and asking them to educate you on how to purchase from them and then making the purchase. We can laugh at the absurdity of that and envision the "Sucker" sign pasted on your forehead, but sadly this is happening all the time with small business owners and merchant services providers. The upshot is shock and outrage when unexpected charges start occurring. 

For instance?

For example, one of the complaints I read describes how well the negotiation went until, suddenly, the business owner was asked to contact to purchase a gateway service. According to this business owner, it was a completely  unexpected request. The business owner got suspicious and decided to cancel the merchant account. They clearly did not understand the basics of owning an online business and had perhaps relied on the merchant service provider salesperson for education. 

Meanwhile, the merchant service provider salesperson is there to make a sale and focused solely on the product they are selling. It's not really their job to say "oh and by the way you'll also need a payment gateway to run your business and that's an additional expense." It's nice if they offer that information but to be frank, it's the business owner's responsibility to self-educate about what's needed to run their business. 

It's down to you:

As you hopefully know, payment gateways and merchant services are completely separate entities which work together. You need both to run your business online. (The third component you need is a shopping cart.) Sometimes companies offer free with their merchant services, as an incentive, but that has it's pluses and minuses. It means all your data is tied up with that merchant service provider. Whereas if you keep your accounts separate you can change merchant service providers without losing your payment gateway data. That's why a merchant service provider can't make any assumptions about what you want.

You need to know how you want to run your business. If you don't mind having your data tied up with the merchant service provider, ask them if they have a free gateway service… but have them send their basic terms to you first so you know they aren't just giving something "free" in one place and taking more of a % in another place. Treat your merchant service provider like a car dealer. 

MSP accountability:

Having said all that, of course there are companies with shiftier and less shiftier practices on the web. Furthermore, there are companies who may not be shifty but they may have a very poorly trained sales team, which can end up in gross misunderstandings. As a general rule, I think more companies have the latter problem. Poor training, in general, which then leads to very unfortunate results for all involved. In the big picture, it's a huge waste of a company's resources to end up in a dispute over $25 with a small business owner. HUGE. Certainly not profitable. Nor is it profitable in the long run to have tons of complaints waged against you on the web. Companies generally end up in that position as a result of poor, even pathetic, top down management and not as a result of malicious intent. 

Have you ever noticed how the companies with the most sterling rep online tend to make an effort to address complaints whereas those with poorer reputations don't even bother? This is an indication that the company needs better managment. They may be offering essentially the same services and terms as every other company but because of their mismanagement, they become a target and the complaints stick.

So how does Leaders Merchant Services compare?

They have an A+ with the BBB and they've been accredited since 2004 which confers substantial credibility so kudos for that!

Their us vs. them page is telling. It's somewhat useful but not in the way they intend. 

Here's what's useful to know: 

1. It's good that they don't have an application fee but since they don't mention it, they probably have a termination fee so if you decide to check Leaders out, find out what their termination fee is. 

2. They have no setup fee which is good and you are assigned a personal account rep which is also good as long as you trust that person. So part of your job as a merchant is to suss out their support as you negotiate and converse. 

3. Tech support is 24/7 which is good. Not all MSP's provide that. 

4. Average approval time is just 24 hours. This could be part of why Leaders has a bit of a public image problem (more on that later.) Leaders takes high risk businesses with problem credit, which could be asking for trouble. But if you're a business owner who falls into that category your options may be limited on finding a merchant service provider. Companies like Leaders often become a funnel for unstable businesses and the result is lots of complaints online.

5. Ignore the % rates they mention for retail and online. The asterisk indicates they only pertain to debit (or check) cards. You want to know their terms for credit cards and you want to know their terms in all three categories of low, mid and high qualified cards. That's when you'll know how they truly compare to other companies. For more on that check out my article on negotiating with Merchant Service Providers.

6. Wells Fargo is their processing bank which is good. It gives Leaders legitimacy.

7. Leaders is partnered with which is another feature lending to their credibility. As I mentioned earlier you can also choose to start the process by setting up your payment gateway first. is the most respected and international payment gateway on the web. 

My thoughts:

Leaders clearly has credibility but also has a fairly awful online rep which tells me they have a serious management and training issue going on. Based on their credibility they deserve a recommend. I doubt what they offer is radically different from their competitors. Realistically, it can't be. Their problem is in execution. So I can't give Leaders the recommend I'd like to. Having said that, I don't think it would take much to improve their service. They need to clean up their online image and most importantly, provide better training for their employees. 

As an alternative I recommend Merchant Warehouse.

Date Reviewed: March 5, 2012, 5:44 pm
Reviewed by Casey Dalton
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an example of a naive merchant pointing the finger at Leaders.
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