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Leaders Merchant Services review

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Prepare for multiple fees and a three-year contract with this provider.

California-based Leaders Merchant Services offers payment processing, merchant accounts and a range of point-of-sale hardware options. But while it boasts a high merchant approval rate, it isn’t honest about the length of its contracts or its multiple account fees.

  • Choose this provider if you’re a high-risk merchant and don’t mind a three-year contract.
  • Consider something else if you prefer month-to-month processing.

Details

SolutionsIn-store, Mobile, E-commerce
ProductsPayment processing, POS software
Monthly fees start at$14.95/month
Processing fees start at1.59% plus $0.19 per transaction
Contract required?Yes
High-risk merchants accepted?Yes

Leaders Merchant business services

Open up your business to customer payments with the following services:

  • Payment processing. Accept cards and checks online or in-person with specialty processing for retail stores and restaurants.
  • Merchant accounts. Dedicated account with 24/7 access to online portal and sales, deposits and chargeback summaries.
  • POS software. Includes industry-specific features, like online ordering solutions for restaurants.
  • POS hardware. From Clover point-of-sale bundles to Verifone card readers.

Features

Leaders offers many of the standard features you’d expect from a payment processor:

  • Payment gateway. Authorize.Net supports unlimited transactions and account users with integration across in-person, online and phone transactions.
  • Shopping cart integration. CartManager works on any hosting platform and allows for unlimited products, tax and shipping calculations and payment by e-check and credit card.
  • Check reader. The Magtek Mini-MICR opens up the ability to accept paper checks and connects to POS terminals and cash registers for streamlined processing.
  • QuickBooks integration. Instant Accept integrates with QuickBooks and offers access to customer and transaction information with an Internet connection.
  • Leaders Funding. Business loans and merchant cash advances of up to $1 million are available to businesses as young as six months — though you’re likely better off applying with a traditional lender.

What hardware is available?

Leaders Merchant Services advertises a range of POS hardware options on its site, including terminals from Clover, Verifone, First Data and Pax.

If you already have hardware from another payment processor, Leaders may be able to reprogram it as long as it’s unlocked and compliant with PCI.

Leaders Merchant Services pricing and fees

Leaders Merchant Service isn’t forthcoming about its rates or fees online. We spoke with a representative to confirm everyday transaction and penalty fees:

  • Credit cards. Processing rates start at 1.59% plus $0.19 for each transaction.
  • Debit cards. Qualified PIN debit card transactions cost $0.10 per transaction.
  • POS fees. If your business requires POS solutions, you’ll pay $14.95 monthly.
  • Setup and activation. Setup and activation fees range from $10 to $99, depending on your hardware. The larger and more complex your system, the higher the fee.
  • Early termination. Canceling before your contract is up results in a steep fee of $250 to $350.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Open to riskier merchants. Leaders advertises a 98% approval rate for merchant applications regardless of credit score. But that rating doesn’t factor in applications from prohibited business types — and Leaders doesn’t list what business types are automatically denied.
  • Wide-ranging payments. Accepts swiped, EMV and NFC payments, debit and credit cards and Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
  • 24/7 support. Technical support is available by phone whenever you need it.

    Cons

    • No transparency on fees. To get a clear idea of processing rates, account fees and POS pricing, you’ll need to call and speak with a rep. This tactic is common among processors, and depending on the rep you connect with, you could be in for a hard sell.
    • Long contract required. You must sign a three-year contract — a detail that’s not advertised on its site and that we had to source from a rep.
    • Early termination fee. Leave Leaders before your contract is up, and you’ll pay a penalty of $250 to $350.
    • Overwhelmingly negative reviews. Leaders amassed a whopping 254 complaints with the Better Business Bureau over the last three years.

    Customer reviews and complaints

    Leaders Merchant Services is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), though it earns a B based on the BBB’s internal criteria that includes years in business and response to customer complaints. It averages 3 out 5 stars based on 115 BBB customer reviews and has 254 complaints to its name, which is unusually high for a business of its size.

    Positive reviews mention round-the-clock technical support. But negative reviews appear to expose a worrisome common complaint: deceptive sales tactics, including a failure to disclose account fees. Some merchants even claim their Leaders reps advertised no account cancellation fees, only to encounter hefty early termination penalties when they tried to cancel.

    While many competitors don’t include rates or fees on their websites, few have been accused of the deceitful sales tactics mentioned in so many of Leaders’ customer reviews.

    Compare other payment processors

    Data indicated here is updated regularly
    Name Product Monthly fees start at Processing fees start at Processing time High-risk merchants accepted?
    Chase Merchant Services
    None
    2.6% + 10¢ per swiped credit card
    Next day when you deposit into a Chase business checking account
    No
    Accept, process and deposit customer payments in your store, online or on-the-go.
    Fattmerchant
    $99/month
    $0.08 + interchange per transaction
    Next day for qualified businesses
    No
    Businesses that process more than $10,000 monthly can save with Fattmerchant's interchange+ pricing.
    Square
    None
    2.9% + 10¢
    Next day
    No
    Square is a one-stop shop with both e-commerce and in-person solutions.
    Helcim
    $20/month
    1.92% + $0.08 per transaction
    Two business days
    No
    Conveniently packaged into three service tiers for in-person and online sales.
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    How do I open an account with Leaders Merchant Services?

    The Leaders Merchant Services process begins online — but you’ll need to speak with a rep to fully sign up:

    1. Click Request Info from the Leaders Merchant Services homepage.
    2. Enter your full name, business name, email address and phone number.
    3. Enter your estimated monthly credit card volume. Click Get A Quote.
    4. Wait one to two business days to speak to a rep to confirm your details.
    5. Complete and submit full online application.

    Your Merchant Services rep will ask you to provide personal, business and financial details like:

    • Residential address
    • Business address and phone number
    • Federal tax ID number
    • Account and routing number of an externally linked business checking account.

    What other products will I need?

    As with most merchant service providers, a linked business checking account is required before you can begin processing payments.

    What is Leaders Merchant Services?

    Leaders Merchant Services is a merchant account and payment processing provider founded in 2000 and headquartered in Camarillo, California. It serves business across the US and provides in-person and online processing services for a variety of businesses in the restaurant, retail and service industries.

    Leaders also offers business loans and merchant cash advances of up to $1 million through its Leaders Funding program.

    How do I contact Leaders Merchant Services support?

    You can touch base with Leaders Merchant Services in three ways:

    • Phone. Call 800-220-4143 anytime.
    • Email. Complete a secure online form for a response within one business day.
    • Live chat. Chat live online weekdays from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT.

    Bottom line

    Leaders Merchant Services offers merchant services with an advertised high approval rate for businesses across the US. But its lack of transparency about account fees, contract lengths or processing rates leave room to pause.

    Before signing a contract, compare the fees, rates and contract requirements of other business payment processors to find a fit with your sales volume and budget.

    Frequently asked questions

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