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First Data Merchant Solutions Review
If you’re an established business, with a long experience of dealing with complex financial products, then First Data merchants services could be of use. If you’re a young company, there are likely more straightforward options available to you as our research into First Data revealed a lot of dissatisfied customers, many of whom complain about unexpected fees and lack of support from the payment partner.
Things we like:
Things we don't like:
First Data was established in 1971 and serves over 6 million merchants worldwide, making it one of the largest processors on the market. The business handles 2,800 transactions per second and over $2.2 trillion in card transactions each year. In July 2019 it was acquired by Fiserv.
This transaction volume is so high, in fact, that First Data’s SpendTrend Report is used as a key metric for US retail spending – regularly mined for insights shared on national news channels.
But does this volume translate to good business for merchants like you? Sure, as one as the world’s biggest processors, First Data has a wide product range. However, online reviewers report that fees and contract terms do vary, and can end up higher than alternative options.
To get the full picture about First Data, read on…
Products & services offered
First Data Merchant Solutions offers a huge range of services aimed at small businesses, multinationals and financial institutions. The merchant-focused product range consist of:
- Card machines available on lease agreements or to be purchased outright. This includes mobile card machines and stationary terminals, with support for contactless. We’d recommend purchasing outright rather than leasing if you can afford it, as First Data’s leasing arm (First Data Global Leasing) has very critical online reviews.
- POS systems, ranging from the top-end Clover Station to the portable Clover Flex.
- The Clover Station has an 11.6″ touchscreen, camera, barcode scanner and a receipt printer and is a complete POS solution.
- The Clover Mini has a 7″ touchscreen display and takes card payments via swipe, chip or contactless.
- The Clover Flex is a portable terminal with a built-in receipt printer and barcode scanner. Give it to the customer and they can pay with a swipe, chip or contactless card.
These POS are well-reviewed and work for retailers and restaurants, but are expensive and require an additional service charge, on top of your merchant fees. We’d recommend carefully comparing POS systems before choosing Clover from First Data.
- Mobile payments with a portable card reader, in partnership with SumUp. A transaction fee of 1.69% per debit or credit card is charged on each payment.
- Online payments via ahosted or API payment platform. For the hosted payment page, your customer will pay through First Data Connect, which handles your PCI DSS compliance. If you take the API option, on the other hand, you’ll send card data to First Data for processing. The latter option is more suitable if you’re tech savvy and want to control your customer experience closely.
Like most payment processors, First Data does not disclose fees on any sales pages of the website. The reason for this is simple: it’s intended to channel you towards a sales representative and you’ll be offered a different pricing structure depending upon your business type, sales volume and processing needs.
We can get negotiate discounted rates on your behalf from them and other processors which can often result in significant savings.
But dig a little deeper in their website, and you can find some further information about the sorts of fees you can expect to pay – and there’s quite a lot of them!
Reviewing their UK Merchant Agreement reveals a wide range of additional charges, including:
- £35 charge for notifying you of “irregular or improper usage of your Merchant Account”.
- £30 fine for each direct debit request from First Data that is rejected by your bank.
- £25 charge per chargeback if your chargeback volume exceeds 1% in any month.
- £40 charge per mailing if First Data need to contact you about “your responsibilities under your Merchant Agreement”.
- £40 fee if you need to enter a repayment plan for debts owed to First Data.
- £50 p/hour management fee if First Data need to monitor or review your account.
- £200 termination fee if you leave your merchant agreement outside allowed terms and conditions.
- £35 per month fee if you fail to comply with PCI DSS.
Whilst First Data gets brownie points for publishing these fees somewhere on their site, many of them do seem excessive and, potentially, designed to make a little extra money from inexperienced merchants.
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Sales & advertising transparency
First Data’s website has a lot of information about the services available, including downloadable summary PDFs for many products. However, this doesn’t help overcome the lack of straight-up processing and transaction fees – when you’re shopping around for a payment partner, you want to know how much it’ll cost you, before reading too much on each product available.
To get a clear answer, you’ll need to contact the company to negotiate your merchant service agreement. We’d discourage inexperienced merchants from doing this, as fee structures can be complicated.
But, if you do decide to proceed, get a quote in writing and review the contract carefully – many small merchants are vocal in their customer reviews about unclear fees in the contract.
Customer service and technical support
First Data’s client support portal is impressive, with a wide range of information and FAQs available. However, all this information is contained in PDF documents, making it difficult and burdensome to navigate.
If you need to speak with support, then email and phone lines are available – working hours are not published online, though.
Problem is: online reviews are very critical of their customer support, saying replies are delayed and hold periods are long.
Typical user reviews
Our research into First Data revealed a lot of dissatisfied customers, many of whom complain about unexpected fees and lack of support from the payment partner.
First Data has a strong Trustpilot rating of 4/5. On Google, however, the score isn’t quite so high with an average rating of 31/5 from 120 reviews. Many of the positive and negative reviews relate to one of the following topics:
- Great onboarding experience from sales.
- Enjoyed using the Clover POS system.
- Competitive processing rates.
- Hidden fees with increases with short notice periods.
- Customer support unhelpful or unavailable, particularly on evenings and weekends.
- Unfair and unexpected charges. New merchants struggled with PCI DSS compliance and were fined.
In particular, the separate leasing arm, First Data Global Leasing has very critical reviews. Customers noted misleading terms, high fees and very long contract terms.
First Data Verdict: 5/10
If you are an experienced merchant, First Data offers a comprehensive range of products with competitive fees – just watch out for that long list of extra charges and fees!
However, new merchants should find a friendlier – and perhaps more supportive – provider to help them get started. With poor customer service reviews, difficult to understand contracts and unclear pricing, First Data may require more time to get your head around than it deserves.