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First Data

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Wednesday, February 21st, 2018
Best Payment Providers

What We Like

As a global technology leader, First Data offers state-of-the-art solutions for terminal, mobile, and point-of-sale systems. Due to its wide reach, it operates in countries all over the world and is able to support multiple currencies.

What We Didn't Like

Most merchants are required to sign four-year contracts that automatically renews. First Data charges an early termination fee and leasing equipment from its subsidiary is expensive, and the lease can never be cancelled.


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Marketing

Sales

Support

Pricing

Overall

Overview

Founded in 1971 in Omaha, Nebraska, First Data Merchant Services (First Data) began providing processing services to the Mid-America Bankcard Association (MABA). In 1976, the organization became the first processor of Visa and MasterCard bank-issued credit cards. Over the years, it has grown and thrived, become a global technology leader in payment technology and services solutions.

In addition to its global headquarters in Atlanta, it operates in 36 countries, including the UK, and has 24,000 owner-associates. First Data is a trading name of First Data Europe Limited, which is based in Basildon, Essex, in the UK.

First Data provides secure and innovative payment technology and services to more than six million merchants and financial institutions around the world. The company also boasts that secures and processes more than 2,500 financial transactions per second for businesses in 118 countries. Needless to say, First Data is huge and its reach is wide in the payment services industry.

Additionally, First Data offers some of the must cutting-edge point of sale technology fueled by powerful analytics to cut down on fraud and learn customers’ buying habits and preferences. Its innovations in mobile payments, ecommerce and prepaid solutions, payment processing, fraud protection and authentication solutions, online banking, check guarantee and verification services, and point-of-sale (POS) services are what draws customer to this payments giant.

Marketing

At first glance, First Data pulls no bunches when it comes to marketing and advertising. Each page of its site and those of its branches around the world look like, shiny brochures. The site is attractive and easy to navigate but it is way too salesy and offers little important details.

The organization’s referral page displays a cheap gimmick. It promises that every new client that a customer refers who begins using First Data’s payment gateway, earns: a £40 cash payment and up to 15% of the net profits on every transaction processed by the merchant that was referred. The promotion also promises a listing on the First Data Web Developer Directory, co-marketing opportunities, and UK-based phone and email customer support. We wonder what the “up to 15%” language really means. Which factors determine whether the rate is the full amount or less? We also believe transparency about actual costs and fees are better than gimmicks.

Also, First Data’s site looks slick, and it’s filled with lots of marketing fluff. The organization also is very active on social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, there isn’t must company/client engagement. Both platforms are used to promote its products and services. First Data also has a YouTube channel with a number of videos. Again, these videos again are more marketing than education. Even, the marketing aspect is pretty vanilla. Don’t expect to gain much from them.

Honesty

When we began viewing First Data’s materials, we didn’t notice anything overtly misleading. However, a number of customers have complained that they were given cost estimates in writing and then, were completely surprised when they received their first bills. Nevertheless, some of these issues were due to customers not fully reading their contract terms.

We liked that First Data offered success stories from their clients, as well as testimonials. Also, the information listed on their sites, also used the commenter’s first and last names, as well as their positions and companies. We find that admirable, especially at a time when people can try to mislead potential customers with augmented or fake testimonials. Offering up this information gives future customers a chance to try an reach out to their clients directly and confirm their experiences.

Sales

In additional to a referral program, First Data allows other organizations to partner with them as Independent Sales Organizations. As a partner, business have pricing flexibility when they sell First Data’s products and services.

Partner programs help companies increase revenues, however, the these tactics can be misleading and can hurt customers. Partners are able to set their own prices, so moving forward with one of its partners, instead of First Data, can result in paying much more. This, of course, can lead to many customer service issues.

Additionally, First Data Merchant Service, LLC is a registered Independent Sales Organization (ISO) of Wells Fargo Bank in Concord, CA, Deutsche Bank AG in New York, NY, and Compass Bank in Birmingham, AL.

Staff Education

During our interactions, we found the staff to be very knowledgeable and confident. They were quick to ask questions and to answer question with vague responses. We felt like the skills and experience were there, but it seemed like they were hiding something.

Staff Interaction

The staff is very knowledgeable but, in our experience, when you push too hard for information or present them with a scenario that we experienced in the past, staff members are pretty offensive. Conversations feel more like they are interrogating you than trying to supply you with positive resolutions.

We find that be unacceptable. From customer reviews, it seems others have had the same experiences.

Also, it is very active on Facebook and Twitter, and it has some company information on its LinkedIn profile. However, due to the lack of engagement between the company and customers on these pages, I would not consider the best way to reach staff. It is definitely used more as a marketing platform.

Support

When we emailed First Data, we received a response almost immediately. We found this very positive. However, the responses were canned answers with no responses to my questions. However, one bright spot was that the email did encourage me to email my phone number back or to call its sales department. After many efforts, we did reach someone in sales. At first, he was courteous but grew annoyed as the conversation continued. Then, he patched me through to another department. This happened several times. We eventually got off the phone not knowing more than when we started.

Availability

First Data offers live chat support, but, it is only available during business hours. The company also makes itself available via email, phone, and via an inquiry form.

Pricing

First Data does not disclose any transaction or processing pricing on its parent site or any of its affiliates. Most customers sign four-year contracts with one-year automatic renewals. To keep the account open, some of their customers have noted it costs about $40 per month to maintain their accounts. In some cases, merchants have been able to negotiate the terms, fees, and rates but since each customer gets charged based on their specific needs, it is difficult to nail down estimates.

Additionally, First Data charges a $30 chargeback fee per transaction, a $30 fee for each checking account change, ACH rejection, or account closure.

Hardware Costs

Customers can lease or purchase credit card terminals and other equipment from First Data. The business does not provide any of the pricing information until you sign up as a customer.

What we do know is that it is much cheaper (though still not inexpensive) to buy equipment than lease it from its subsidiary, First Data Global Leasing. Leases are for four years and cannot be cancelled. Customers have complained that equipment has stopped working and they still must continue to pay monthly fees for the duration of the lease agreements. We find this unacceptable.

Termination Fees

Like with many other contracts that are lengthy and are automatically renewed, there is an early termination fee.

First, we want to applaud First Data for including a sample contract on its site. The praise ends there. According to First Data’s sample contract, the early cancellation fee  is equal to your monthly minimum, plus your monthly customer service fee and your monthly account fee, multiplied by the number of months remaining in your contract. Depending on how early you plan to end the contract, you could be looking at an exorbitant fee.

Complaints

Currently, First Data has 1,017 complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). We found this surprising considering it has more than six million customers. So, all this considered, this is a pretty small number of complaints. Many of the complaints were related to poorly functioning equipment, problems trying to end equipment leases, account closures, and misleading sales information and hidden fees. Also, it is important to note that First Data is not an accredited by the BBB. To be accredited, it means the BBB has determined that the business meets its accreditation standards, which means a business is committed to making good faith efforts to resolve consumer complaints. First Data does respond to most complaints on the BBB, but whether issues are resolved are unclear.

On Trustpilot, First Data has more than 130 reviews. More than 70% that fall into the excellent or great categories. Reviewers have called out specific sales agents, calling them friendly and helpful. It is important to note that First Data has “claimed” its profile on Trustpilot. This gives First Data access to its business account, but Trustpilot does not have information that First Data is actively collecting reviews.

In other online forums, individuals made similar complaints about misleading sales information and hidden fees and also complained about working with one of its partners, SBGA.

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