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Independent Merchant Services

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Thursday, February 15th, 2018
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What We Like

Independent Merchant Services has knowledge, responsive staff and it does not charge merchants for its brokerage services.

What We Didn't Like

Since Independent Merchant Services acts as a third-party negotiator between merchants and merchant account providers, you have no idea what type of fees, terms, and contracts you are getting into until you are matched with a provider.


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Marketing

Sales

Support

Pricing

Overall

Overview

Based in northwest England, Independent Merchant Services Ltd. (IMS) was established in 2011 to make it easier to find trusted, quality merchant services providers. After spending too many hours searching the internet, calling call enters, dealing with incompetent sales agents, conflicting quotes, and confusing contracts, Roger Milne started IMS to guide merchants through the process.

Independent Merchant Services is not a merchant account provider. It is a broker or third-party that connects merchants with some of its preferred payment providers and negotiates with them on your behalf.

Independent Merchant Services specializes in card payment audits in an effort to help you reduce card payment fees, improve the payment processing experience, and find the best provider that matches your needs. During audits, IMS identifies potential cost savings and the most cost-effective payment processing procedures that best your individual business’ needs. In a nutshell, Independent Merchant Services assist merchants by explaining, comparing, and negotiating terms with acquirers. During comparisons, Independent Merchant Services highlights the small print of terms and contracts, such as hidden fees, exit fees, and automatic contract renewals, so merchants can make the best decisions.

Marketing

Independent Merchant Services clearly and honestly reveals itself as a third-party broker for merchant account services. Its content is easy to understand and its site is easy to navigate. There are no gimmicks and no misleading claims. Its approach was a breath of fresh air in a business sector that often is wrought with over-the-top claims.

It says it uses its group buying power to get better rates than an average business would get if it tried to do so on its own. It claims to get the most competitive rates for merchants by working with many partners. Because of the way it works, it always has its hand on the pulse of what is happening in the market, including the newest and best offers from major card providers.

Also, there is no obligation if Independent Merchant Services review your business and can’t find a better way to save you money or find you a better provider.

Honesty

Independent Merchant Services is honest about what they do and their preferred payment providers, including Elavon, WorldPay, Barclaycard, First Data, Global Payments, and Allied Irish Bank. It claims it has no loyalty to any of the providers and promises that all of the providers recommended are tried, tested, and approved on prices, after-sales services, terminal, and the nature of their contracts. Independent Merchant Services also goes one step further and promises to remove any provider from its approved list if it felt one of them wasn’t no working above board. Finally, Independent Merchant Services makes it clear that merchants do not enter into contracts with its business. Instead, merchants entered into agreements with providers. However, IMS promises to guide merchants throughout the process and help them negotiate.

Sales

It is important to note that some of their payment providers use independent sales to market its products and services. Many of these agents get bad reputations for reasons. Though not all are bad, it is not rare for independent sales agents to be pushy and to forget to disclose vital contract terms.

The bottom line is that if you feel you are being pressured into closing a deal that seems to be too good to be true or you don’t completely understand, then don’t sign. Thoroughly review any materials provided before making a decision. If any agent is applying to much pressure or if your gut is telling you something seems off, walk away from the deal. Agents often only employ these tactics when they have something to hide. Chances are you will be saving yourself from a future headache if you decline a pushy agent and move on to another business.

Support

While speaking on the phone, a representative gave basic information about merchant account services, speaking openly and honestly about transaction processing and the general products and services available. They were upfront about the information they required to complete a thorough audit. After explaining that we needed to gather some of the information requested, the representative offered to follow up in a day or two to see if we had any additional questions. They were confident, prompt, and communicated clearly. They also volunteered information, which we always consider a huge plus. The staff seemed well informed and we felt confident that they could help guide us through the selection of a merchant account provider.

After another call, we felt its staff could easily and successfully guide merchants through the challenges of getting and maintaining merchant account services.

Staff Interaction

In our experience, we found getting Independent Merchant Services on a call to discuss the details of their services was simple and easy. The staff was upbeat,  quick to respond, answered questions, and clearly outlined its duties. Their confidence was not only refreshing but enjoyable.

Availability

Independent Merchant Services makes itself very available to current and potential customers. Staff is available by phone, email, and by submitting an inquiry form. Also, several well-placed “Get a Quote” buttons are found throughout the site. Customers also can get information from its Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts. IMS updates its Facebook page on a quasi-regular basis. It has more than 4,800 Twitter followers, but it tweets on very inconsistent basis. IMS has not updated any Google+ content since 2016. Though these channels are available, we found it fair to say that customers don’t use these platforms to reach the business.

Responsiveness

Minutes after filling out an inquiry form, we received an automated response from Independent Merchant Services, notifying us that it received our request for a call back. Within 12 hours, we received a call from a pleasant, knowledgeable representative. Emails were answered just as promptly. However, it is important to note that you could gather much more detailed information via phone calls.

Customer service issues that arise after a contract is signed is dealt with by the payment service provider’s support team. Since each provider has its own style, approach, and resources, it is best to follow up about this prior to signing a contract.

Pricing

In most situations, there is no obligation or charge when you work with Independent Merchant Services. Payment providers pay IMS a flat fee for each merchant it refers and signs up. When you do sign up, you are entering into a contract with the payment service provider not IMS. The processing fees, chargeback fees, costs per transactions, and other costs are determined by the payment service provider, therefore none of the pricing is disclosed on IMS’ site. For example, one of IMS’ providers, WorldPay, lists standard credit transaction rates at 1.99% plus $0.20 per transaction. Keep in mind that those rates come with plenty of fine print, including merchants are only eligible if they have processed less than $5 million in credit and debit card transactions in the previous 12-month period.

All pricing should be discussed during negotiations with the provider and the final agreed upon rates should be outlined in your contract. Since each company has its own rates and (some providers do and others don’t disclose pricing on their sites), merchants will not know what to expect until they begin discussions with IMS and one of its providers.

If IMS is unable to help a merchant or feels like it cannot negotiate a better offer for you, it will give you some pointers to help you in the future. There is no charge for this assistance.

Depending on the nature of a merchant review and if more work than usual is needed to estimate annual cost-saving benefits, Independent Merchant Services will charge a merchant a small fee. IMS would not go into greater detail about the amount of the fee or what specific factors would lead to the fee.

Hardware Costs

Costs for hardware, such as terminals and card readers, are set by individual payment service providers. For example, one provider charges $82 plus tax for a mobile card reader plus a 2.6% fee for each transaction. Any hardware cost concerns should be addressed with IMS when they are negotiating with payment service providers.

Termination Fees

Again, since you are not entering into a contract with Independent Merchant Services, these fees are not disclosed on its site. Merchants need to ask about any early termination fees when they sign up with their individual payment service providers. These fees are something that we believe should be part of the negotiations IMS conducts on your behalf.

Also, it is important to note that IMS states on its site that it stands by its recommendations throughout the life of your contract.

Complaints

Search the internet and you will find that Independent Merchant Services has more than 100 positive reviews from customers. It is important to note that some complaints have been filed against individual providers that IMS connects with merchants. Customers have complained that some of the providers’ customer service is unresponsive and fees are too high. However, no negative complaints have been lodged against IMS itself.

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