Personal Finance

Leaders Merchant Services Review: Pros, Cons and Alternatives

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Leaders Merchant Services’ reputation precedes it, and it’s not a good one. Customer complaints and negative reviews cite deceptive sales tactics, surprise fees and customer accounts being closed without warning. Business owners should proceed with caution and consider alternative merchant service providers before signing a contract with LMS.

What is Leaders Merchant Services?

Leaders Merchant Services offers several payment processing functions for large and small businesses, including merchant account services, point-of-sale systems, online credit card processing and merchant cash advances.

The California-based company operates as a reseller, meaning the equipment, software and hardware you purchase is from another company. In Leaders’ case, that company is Clover and its parent company First Data, which is now owned by Fiserv — one of the largest payment and financial technology providers in the world.

Services offered

In addition to merchant accounts, LMS also offers physical and virtual payment terminals and online ordering platforms. Services include:

  • Point-of-sale payments. Leaders Merchant Services offers several POS products, ranging from stand-alone terminals to contactless card readers compatible with popular digital wallets and fully virtual terminals for e-commerce businesses. LMS is a First Data reseller and primarily offers Clover and First Data POS equipment.

  • E-commerce solutions. Leaders Merchant Services offers payment gateways and shopping cart software for small businesses that have virtual retail stores or accept online payments. Gateway services are through Authorize.net, which is owned by Visa. Shopping cart services are through CartManager, which calculates sales tax and shipping, can display multiple languages and has a login feature for returning customers.

How much does Leaders Merchant Services cost?

Leaders Merchant Services does not list rates, pricing structure or service fees on its website, though the company does note that pricing varies depending on the number and type of transactions you accept. Independent agents used by Leaders can also set their own rates and fees, and many customer reviews complain of deceptive pricing and sales tactics. Read your contract carefully and inquire about all fees and rates before signing up for service.

Pros

No industry restrictions

Any business that meets Leaders’ underwriting standards may be approved for merchant services through LMS. The company has no rules barring specific industries or business types.

Cons

Lack of transparency

Leaders Merchant Services provides little in the way of upfront pricing information, beyond claiming its rates are among the “lowest rates in the industry.” The company also does not publish any fees charged for its service, though customers may be subject to one-time, monthly and annual fees. LMS settled a civil lawsuit in July 2021 in which the company was accused of not fully disclosing fees to prospective customers. Leaders agreed to pay more than $800,000 in restitution and $1 million in civil penalties, along with other fines, as part of the settlement.

Customer complaints

Leaders Merchant Services has a B+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and a Trustpilot Trust Score of 2.7 out of 5. Negative customer reviews complain of surprise fees, deceptive sales tactics and merchant accounts being closed without warning.

Lengthy contract, early termination fees

Small-business owners must agree to a three-year contract to engage with Leaders Merchant Services. That’s a lengthy commitment, especially given the company’s opaque pricing and negative reviews. Customers can cancel for no charge during the first 30 days; the fee to cancel beyond that point ranges from $250 to $350.

Alternatives

Square

Square is a great alternative to Leaders Merchant Services. The mobile-friendly payment processor boasts transparent pricing and an easy-to-use interface. All services are in-house, so there are no surprise fees or hoops to jump through from a third-party company.

Other benefits include:

  • No early termination fees.

  • No monthly subscription or PCI compliance fees.

  • No setup, refund or chargeback fees.

  • Free POS software and mobile card reader.

Chase Merchant Services

Chase acts as both the payment processor and the acquiring bank for Chase Merchant Services, which translates to seamless transactions and fewer parties to pay along the way — a major draw for small-business owners. Chase Merchant Services also integrates with popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.

Other benefits include:

  • Transparent pricing.

  • 24/7 customer support.

  • Integrates with other POS software.

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