Review Snapshot
Pros

Business Specific Solutions, A+ with BBB, Excellent Rep

Cons

No cons. One of the top ranking... the rest is up to the merchant

Verdict

US Merchant Systems is an excellent Merchant Service Provider

Reviewed by:
Casey Dalton : I write reviews of products I deem worthy of review. Generally if I'm reviewing...Member Reputation 335 • 69 active Krits
US Merchant Systems from USMS.com
US Merchant Systems Specific Solutions For Your Business
Casey Dalton rates this 5/5
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US Merchant Systems detailed information
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US Merchant Systems REVIEW - Specific Solutions for Your Business

Confused?

The transition to opening a merchant account is a momentous one in the life of a business. We all know what a huge leap in income is possible when our business is able to accept credit cards, whether online or in person. But, chances are, much of your energy and focus is going into actually running your business right now and you don't have the time to comparison shop for merchant accounts. 

The problem is that when you go online, the information you find is confusing, contradictory and incomplete. Some merchant account websites list rates with the disclaimer that they aren't comprehensive. Other companies list prices on equipment but no rates and still others just want you to apply first. 

Then there are online solutions like Authorize.net or Paypal as well as merchant service providers that specialize in online solutions. Where do they fit into the picture? You check out the forums hoping for clarification and some straightforward advice and it's equally confusing. People are griping about this company or that, or comparing companies, only to discover they're comparing apples to oranges. One person loves a company, another hates them. Review sites are blatantly pushing one company over all others in a way that makes you feel skeptical.

So why is this happening and what can you do to cut through it?

Providing merchant services is a dynamic process which includes general terms of service which are non-negotiable, terms that are negotiable and terms specific to each contract or agreement with a merchant. That's why info is incomplete. It depends, to a great degree, on you. Many business owners hoping for simple solutions are not aware of this fact.

Also, the reason many companies don't bother listing numbers is because numbers alone can be misleading. 

There are three main reasons for this:

1. Merchant Account contracts include a range of rates which may be affected by variables unique to you, such as your credit score or your sales volume, etc. etc. 

2. In most cases, the terms in Merchant Account contracts are negotiable. Business owners who have not had time to do their homework don't realize this. It's a similar process to buying a car. You need to know the negotiating points and pit one company's terms against another's to find the best deal for yourself.

3. Since there are a million ways to slice it, companies can't truly be compared line for line with other companies. It's all about finding and negotiating a good match for your needs.

What's the difference between a payment gateway and merchant service provider?

If you're doing business online, you'll need both a payment gateway and a merchant service provider. Many merchant service providers partner with major payment gateways to offer you an all in one package. The down side is this packaging can tie all your data up into your merchant account so if you ever terminate your contract you may lose valuable customer data stored in your online payment gateway. If this concerns you, I'd recommend confirming with the merchant service provider that your account with the payment gateway is separate… and get it in writing! Another way to go is to start with the payment gateway and then find the best merchant service provider for you among the ones they partner with. 

So let's talk about what makes USMS worth checking out:

For starters, US Merchant Systems is a 20 year old company with an A+ rating with the BBB and an excellent online reputation. USMS has also developed a system unique to them which you can learn about by clicking on Business Solutions on their home page. 

Taking each major industry into consideration, USMS has developed a Merchant Account specific to your needs. It's an extremely clever and thoughtful way to give business specific rates and I'm surprised more merchant service providers don't use this approach. All in all they have 18 categories from New Merchant to Golf Industry, to B2B, Fast Food, Health Care, etc. Each of these merchants is, of course, going to have very different needs from their service provider based on where they tend to do their highest volume of sales as well as other features unique to their business, so it makes sense for a merchant service provider to know the industry to a point where they can anticipate those needs and make distinctions useful to the merchant. Kudos to USMS for coming up with this system to better serve their clients.

How do you proceed with your quest to find a quality Merchant Service Provider?

If your business does over $20,000 in sales/month and/or you have good credit and/or you are aware of better rates at a competitor's company, these provide leverage for negotiating. Here's the main area you'll have some wiggle room as you check out contracts and terms:

There are 3 (or sometimes 6) categories of transaction fees encompassing Retail, Mail Order/Telephone Order and Ecommerce or Card Not Present. The basic interchange fees are set by visa/mastercard but they include a mark up when presented to you as transaction fees. 

There are 3 tiers of rates - Qualified, mid-qualified and non-qualified and these are sometimes grouped further into credit vs. debit cards, making a total of 6 possible tiers. Each tier has it's own % so to get a true picture of how much of a cut your MSP will take on sales,  you want to be aware of the rates you'll be getting charged in every tier. 

The mid-qualified rate is the number to look at. That's where the MSP generally makes a good chunk of their profit so there may be some wiggle room in that number. 

Other than that, check out monthly fees, equipment costs, etc. and see whose terms look most favorable. If a company with higher fees in certain areas appeals to you more see whether they will match the other company's rates. Regarding equipment costs, don't lease (it isn't worth it) and remember that free, isn't. Usually it translates into a greater contractual commitment on your part or control of data on their part. Of course remember to check out termination fees as part of your comparison.

So here's what I recommend:

1. Do a comparison of USMS and Merchant Warehouse, which are both top rated Merchant Service Providers. Fill out an application and compare their contracts side by side and feel free to substitute, these are just my recommends based on my research.

2. Reviewing the contracts side by side you'll be able to see who offers what for more or less. Consider your needs and your budget and zoom in on negotiating points that are viable and meaningful to you (cc equipment price is another area where there's room for haggling.)

3. When you're ready to negotiate, as you engage in the negotiating process, take note of their customer service. Notice how you feel about the way you are being treated through this process. Are you comfortable? Do you feel heard and understood? Are you getting clear responses? This is a company whose service you will be relying on for years to come. You deserve to have a comfortable experience and feel free to ask for whatever you need, in the service of your business.

4. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend opening your payment gateway acct. separately for greater control of your customer data but if you feel confident in the MSP you're going with some of them (like Merchant Warehouse or CMS) offer free Authorize.net which might appeal to you. 

A note about Authorize.net and payment gateway pricing:

Authorize.net is the payment gateway of choice for most Merchant Service Providers. For the merchant, they're also a more economical choice than competitors like Google or Paypal pro and Authorize.net is recommend most for businesses that do a lot of International sales. Payment Gateway agreements and price comparisons are much more straightforward, fyi, because their transaction fees don't contain the same degree of complexity as MSP transaction fees. Don't feel obliged to go with the MSP Authorize.net refers you to. They've partnered with a ton of Merchant Service Providers including the ones I've listed.

Final Thoughts:

Yes, the process of finding a merchant service provider can be DRY and you may feel confused or even overwhelmed. Think of it as laying the foundation for that beautiful house you're building. Your payment system is an essential, even fundamental part of your business. Done smoothly and efficiently, it will add up to better conversions and more money in your pocket over the long haul. So take a little extra time to look at the contracts or terms, become clear about your needs and sharpen those negotiating skills to get the best possible deal from your provider. 

I hope I've helped clear up some of the confusion and may your business prosper!!!

Date Reviewed: February 13, 2012, 8:51 am
Reviewed by Casey Dalton
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