First Data Merchant Services Review
First Data is the largest merchant service provider in the world, with over 6 million merchants using the service.
The bank was founded in 1971, and today owns more than 45% of the card payment processing market in the USA, with additional branches and subsidiaries in the UK, Europe, and India.
First Data processes over 1,000 transactions per second, amounting to over £2 trillion each year.
So let’s jump into the First Data review now:
First Data is very well established and merchant service providers don’t get any bigger. The bank is also one of the only large acquiring banks to offer services directly to small and micro business. So, First Data merchant services can seem very attractive, especially if your business operates inside one of the company’s custom solutions niches.
However, you should still compare First Data’s card processing rates, contract terms, and fees to ensure that the company offers a good value and services that really work for your business.
- Custom solutions for hospitality, e-commerce, retail, and wellness
- Small business support
- Fees ranging from 2%+20p – 3.5% + 40p
- Monthly fees starting from £15 per month
First Data has a lot to offer small businesses, but like many other large-scale merchant banks, does not offer the best rates. To ensure that you’re getting the best deal, you should compare First Data services and offerings to other local UK options. It’s also important that you know what they offer.
First Data Merchant Services Fees and Prices
First Data offers custom pricing and transaction fees based on business type, software, and other transaction volume. Your pricing will reflect industry risk, volume of sales, and other details such as how many payment terminals you need. This means that your actual costs will change when you request a quote. However, you can look at average costs for most First Data small-business merchants below.
|Transaction Rate||2% + 20p- 3.5% + 40p (standard 2.7% + 20p)|
|Online Transaction Fee||1% + 25p – 2% + 35p|
|Monthly Fee||£10+ per month|
|Online Payment Gateway||£15 + per month|
|Account on File Fee||£5 per month|
|Terminal Setup Fee||£150-£300|
|Terminal Maintenance Fee||£4.75 per month|
|Minimum Monthly Charge||£15|
|PCI Non-Compliance Fee||£35 per month|
|Paper Statement Fee||£5.95 per month|
|Terminal Replacement Fee||£150|
|Terminal Restocking Fee||£250|
|Customer Service Fee||£10 +|
|Early Termination Fee||None|
|Chargeback Review Fee||£250|
Most of these fees are fairly standard for similar merchant account providers, and technically lower than some competitors. As a small business owner with a basic terminal and account with no online sales, you can expect your monthly charges to start from about £35 per month if you don’t choose paper statements and remain PCI compliant.
Standard Transaction Rates
While First Data will give you a custom quote, the following include averages based on transaction volume.
|Contactless Payments||2.69% + 20p||2.29% + 40p|
|Keyed Rate||3.69% + 20p||3.29p + 40p|
While not the cheapest in terms of transaction rates, First Data does offer reasonable pricing in comparison to some alternatives. However, the company’s rates are about average when compared to other payment providers.
What About Early Termination?
While First Data does not charge an early termination fee, the service will cost you in other ways. For example, while there is no early termination fee, there also isn’t any early termination. You will have to buy your way out of the contract by paying the monthly fee for the remaining number of months on the contract. If your contract is 4 years or more, this fee can be extremely high. Some merchants report fees of up to £1,800.
Most First Data contracts are also auto-renewing, you’ll have to cancel before the contract renews or you will be responsible for another 1-4 years on your contract. Your best option for cancellation is to wait until 30 days before the contract is up and send a letter by registered mail stating your intent to cancel on the date the contract is up.
You’ll also have to pay a terminal restocking fee, which averages at about £250. You may be responsible for paying an additional repair fee as well. If you do not send the terminal back, you have to pay the fee anyway.
In short, while First Data advertises no cancellation fee, getting out of a contract can be extremely expensive, especially for small businesses that have difficulty absorbing those types of costs.
First Data Merchant Service Offerings
First Data is the largest merchant service provider in the world. The company offers a full range of merchant service solutions including merchant accounts, online payment gateways, virtual terminals, card machines, Point of Sale machines, and dozens of custom solutions for different types of industry.
First Data provides a basic merchant account service with fees starting from £10 per month for the standalone service. You’ll also pay a minimum monthly service charge of £15-£25. Their biggest advantages over smaller companies are currency acceptance and security. For example, you can accept 116+ currencies with a standard account.
First Data also uses data tokenization for all card transactions, meaning that data is automatically encrypted and only a one-time security token produced at First Data can ‘unlock’ it. If someone intercepts data from your website or physical store, your card transactions are encrypted and safe.
Payment Gateway and Virtual Terminal
First Data’s e-commerce payment solutions start from £15 per month, enabling you to accept up to 500 transactions at a transaction rate of 1%-2%. After 500 transactions, you pay an additional fee of 25p-3p per transaction.
This rate is about standard for the industry, although you will find some fees slightly higher or lower. For example, WorldPay charges an average of 75% per transaction with a monthly fee of £19.95, but no additional fee. This might be considerably cheaper if you primarily process low-value transactions.
First Data offers very good security and fraud prevention, which is included free.
You can also choose between API integration and hosted payments:
Hosted – Hosted payment pages offer full PCI security by redirecting payments to a First Data page. You brand the page and modify it to match branding on your website, but First Data handles all transaction processing.
API Integration – API integration allows developers to create their own checkout pages for shopping carts, websites and apps, using XML. This gives you more control over the end-process, but means that you will have to handle PCI compliance on your own.
Point of Sale and Card Machines
First Data offers card or PDQ machines and POS terminals for sale and for rent with their contracts. These typically come with a setup fee of up to £250 and a restocking fee of up to £250. Most of First Data’s machines are provided by Clover, Ingenico, or First Data.
Clover POS – Clover is a cloud-based Point of Sale system with a tablet interface, security, built-in printer, card reader, and barcode scanner. The system is intended as an all-in-one solution for retail, enabling you to quickly and easily set up face-to-face sales. Clover offers apps, an integrated inventory management system, and the ability to easily upgrade every element of the system. First Data offers countertop, portable, and mobile solutions.
- Clover Station
- Clover Mobile
Ingenico and Verifone Card Machines – First Data leases Ingenico and Verifone card machines including countertop, portable, and mobile models. While not all models will be available, you can typically choose from the following solutions:
- Ingenico iCT250
- Ingenico iCT220
- Verifone Vx520
- Ingenico iPP 320
- Verifone VX 820
- Verifone VX680G
- Ingenico iWL250G
- Ingenico iWL250G
- Ingenico iWL220B
- VeriFone VX680B
However, it is important to call and ask to ensure that you can get a card machine, as some customers complain that First Data does not always have newer models in stock.
POGO Mobile Payments
First Data offers POGO Mobile Payments, a card reader and app for mobile businesses. The app is free, and you can typically get the card reader for £49.95 with a contract. This is slightly more expensive than alternatives from PayPal or Stripe but transaction costs, which average at about 2.65%, are the same.
POGO clips onto your mobile phone, enabling you to accept mobile card payments over your phone’s data plan.
First Data offers custom merchant service solutions for multiple industries including hospitality or service (restaurants and bars), E-commerce, health and wellness (Salons, spas), and more. Larger businesses can benefit from more customised solutions as well as additional support such as ATM processing, prepaid cards, business analytics, and more.
First Data has a range of services which you can add onto your merchant account contract.
ClientLine – ClientLine is an online reporting tool offering real-time transaction management, the ability to generate reports, and chargeback management. However, this service starts from £5 per month, despite most competitors offering a similar service free of charge.
Business Tracker – An online portal for data processing and management
Cashback – Convert cash-on-premises to electronic funds to speed up cash flow
Merchant Cash Advance – a Lending Programme
PCI DSS Compliance Programme – Training and support for ensuring PCI DSS compliance
DCC Services – Dynamic Currency Conversion offered through Fexco
Mobile Top Up – Top up mobile phones using your POS terminal
These services are not necessary for most businesses, but you may be able to use them to add value to your contract by adding on services for your customers.
What About Contract Length?
First Data offers a standard non-cancellable contract starting at 12-48 months. This means that if you choose to terminate, you will have to buy your way out of the contract, or pay the full monthly payment for the contract. If you choose the shorter contract, you will pay higher fees.
How is First Data’s Reputation?
First Data is the largest online payment processor in the world, which means that the company is very reliable and does offer very strong solutions and security. However, it also has a negative impact for small businesses, who likely will not benefit from the kind of service and attention they would get from a small-business oriented solution.
For this reason, First Data does have primarily negative reviews online, mostly left by small business users faced with unexpected fees, higher-than-expected transaction costs, and high termination fees through buying out the contract. If you cannot afford to absorb some unexpected fees, First Data is probably a bad choice for your business.
Importantly, many of the bad reviews surrounding First Data online are through some of the company’s resellers. For example, Paymentsense is a First Data reseller and typically charges higher rates but offers worse customer service. If you choose to go with First Data, it is always a better option to contract directly with First Data rather than choosing to go through a reseller.
First Data Merchant Services Customer Service
First Data is a U.S. business but the company does operate a UK customer service centre in Basildon, Essex. This means that all customer service is handled locally through Essex. As a customer, you will have access to 24/7 email and phone support.
With only one customer service centre in the UK, you may experience slow technical support, especially in case of terminal failure or other technical problems. Despite this, customer service is overall very good, with most users resolving non-technical issues within 30-60 minutes (most merchants list times up to 3 hours for some competitors).
First Data Third-Party Sellers
First Data primarily handles all sales through the company in-house. If you contact First Data directly, you will be quoted fair prices, which you can likely negotiate and given the company’s base rate. However, First Data partners with numerous third-party resellers, who function as intermediaries, offering security for smaller businesses, more small-business services, and advertised discounted rates.
These resellers can vary a great deal in quality, may charge additional fees on top of what First Data is offering, and may lock you into a long contract. The largest of these resellers include:
While each of these companies may offer discounted services, it is important to fully compare what they are offering, check all fees, and decide if it’s actually a better deal over contracting your merchant account directly with First Data. In most cases, the advantage is that you work with a smaller company which may be able to offer more support and may be able to negotiate a lower transaction rate. The disadvantage is that you are using a third-party, which will almost always increase monthly fees.
Comparing First Data Merchant Services
First Data Merchant Services is available for even small businesses, but you do want to proceed with caution. The company will likely grant a merchant account to ‘high-risk’ businesses, but will also charge a security deposit and may withhold funds to get that security deposit.
|Merchant Account||First Data||Elavon||Global Payments||Sage Pay||Worldpay|
|Transaction Fee||2% + 20p- 3.5% + 40p||2.55% – 3.5% + 19p||1.1%-3.3% + 20p (negotiable)||1.9% credit cards / 40p debit cards||From 2.75% credit cards / 20p debit cards|
|Monthly Fee||£10+||£10 + (per service)||£10+ (per service)||£20,90+||£19.95+|
|Payment Processing Time||3-5 Business days||1+ Business Days||2+ Business Days||2 Business Days||7 Days|
|Set Up Fee||£250+||From £25||£150 – £250||None||None|
|Termination Fee||No (contract buyout)||£0||£150 – £500||Yes (Varies)||Yes|
|Contract Length||12-48 months||3- Year||12-36 month||Monthly-36 Month||36 Month|
For most terms, First Data compares favourably and is about the same as its other large competitors. This can make it difficult to decide based on costs without requesting custom quotes from each of the merchant service providers you are considering.
First Data has a lot to offer in terms of merchant accounts, custom solutions, hardware availability, and perks for business users. The company’s rates are also about average, as are fees and extra costs. First Data doesn’t really stand out except for e-commerce solutions, where the company offers a cheaper solution with higher security than most competitors.
Very small and micro business owners should also be aware that any First Data contract will come with hidden fees. PCI non-compliance is high, you have to pay extra to use any specific service, and customer service prioritisation for micro-businesses is very low. If you operate a high-risk business, you will also find that First Data may hold payments for verification and may require a security deposit to continue contracts, which can majorly interrupt cash flow. Therefore, very small businesses are recommended to choose a more small-business friendly solution like SagePay or Shopify for better cost control.
First Data does stand out very well for larger businesses processing in excess of £50,000 per month, which will help you negotiate lower transaction rates and more attention from customer service. You’ll also like the company’s high security, PCI DSS compliance training and support, tokenization authentication for protecting customer data, and wide-range of custom solutions.
First Data is one of the biggest and best card payment solutions providers out there, but the company isn’t for everyone. If you’re trying to make a decision, your best option is to request a custom quote, and compare their rates, services, and customer service capability for your business to make a decision.