Vantiv Payments Review

Vantiv Payments Review

  • Updated on: Oct 31, 2016
  • Review by: Tom DeSimone

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Date Established
Cincinnati, OH


Vantiv (formerly known as Fifth Third Processing Solutions) is a large credit card processor located in Ohio. Well, large doesn’t quite cover it. Huge, perhaps? The company is the second-biggest merchant acquirer in the US, and the biggest PIN debit acquirer (based on number of transactions) as well. Vantiv has been in operation since 1970, when it was known as Midwest Payment Systems, and then became Fifth Third. It’s been using the Vantiv brand name since 2011.

We’re dealing with a very large company here, with revenues of $3.16 billion in 2015. Not only that, but Vantiv owns National Processing Company, Jeanie (ATM network) and SKIPJACK (payment gateway).

Vantiv’s service network includes hundreds of thousands of merchants.Not only that, but many other payment processors (such as FattMerchant and Payline Data) rely on Vantiv for processing. They also acquired Element Payments in 2013 and Mercury Payments in 2014. (That’s a story we’ll come back to.)

With that many customers, one would expect to see a ton of complaints, but — surprisingly — I couldn’t find very many. The BBB profile is low on complaints, comparatively speaking, and so is the rest of the web. One could argue that it’s because the brand name Vantiv has only been around since 2011, but if you search their previous name “Fifth Third Processing Solutions” for complaints, you won’t find much either. That seems like good news, but in this business we have to take everything with a grain of salt.

Much like any other large processor, Vantiv’s merchant accounts do have a contract with an early termination fee ($295+), although it can be negotiated. I was troubled, however, to hear from a number of merchants complaining that they were asked to pay liquidated damages into the thousands of dollars in order to close their accounts. I can confirm that many Vantiv contracts I’ve seen contain provisions to collect liquidated damages, although the company does not seem to consistently enforce this.

So here’s my advice: If you want to sign up with Vantiv merchant services, make absolutely sure that this liquidated damages language is removed from your contract. You do not want to get stuck paying that. And while you’re at it, ask them to waive the early termination fee altogether. If they won’t do both of these things, then walk. If you need help, feel free to contact us.

While we have doubts about the overall quality of Vantiv’s service (your comments certainly make us skeptical), the overall complaint volume is shockingly low for any company, but especially one of this size.

Moreover, I do think that Vantiv is at least making an effort to cater to small businesses and provide educational resources. They aren’t perfect. You’ll get better information from our top-rated processors overall. But I do have to commend Vantiv for trying — and their efforts are greater than what I’ve seen from other large processors.

We’re raising Vantiv’s rating to 4 out of 5 stars. We have our concerns — quality of service, transparency, the ETF and liquidated damages — but overall, we at Merchant Maverick think it’s possible to get a fair deal with Vantiv. We like that Vantiv has such a huge network of POS systems that merchants can use, tailored to a wide variety of industries. We encourage you to be on your guard, read your contract, and negotiate fiercely to get a deal that meets your need. But if you have a POS that locks you into Vantiv, that’s no reason for automatic concerns.

If we think that Vantiv is taking a step back, we won’t hestitate to drop that rating right back down to 3.5 stars (or worse, if the situation merits). But for that, we need you! The more comments we have from Vantiv customers, the easier it is for us to accurately assess the company. So whether you are still with Vantiv or left Vantiv for whatever reason, please leave a comment and tell us about your experiences — good or bad.

If you want the best deal on processing and outstanding service to boot, I’d recommend that you check out one of our higher-rated providers. Otherwise, read on for our full review and find out whether Vantiv is for you!

Products and Services:

Formulating any list of Vantiv’s products and services seems like a futile effort, since the company basically does a little bit of everything you could imagine. But I would like to touch on the main offerings:

  • Merchant Accounts: Vantiv tailors its website to address the needs of customers seeking a variety of merchant accounts: e-commerce, retail, nonprofit, to name a few. This makes a lot of sense given that each type of business has different risks associated with it, but it means you’re going to encounter different rates and terms for each as well. I actually like that Vantiv breaks down solutions by business type.
  • POS Systems: Vantiv offers integrated POS solutions. All of them are now consolidated under a new branch, Vantiv Integrated Payments, which was formed by acquiring and then merging Element Payments and Mercury. Anything that was integrated with Mercury is now integrated with Vantiv, too — such as Vend POS. Some of the POS systems that process cards using Vantiv are proprietary. But a lot aren’t. According to its own site, Vantiv has partnerships with “over 500 independent software vendors and 2,500 value added resellers.” You can expect Vantiv’s systems to accommodate pretty much every type of business out there. That’s one advantage to doing business with such a major company.
  • Terminals: Vantiv offers a voice of EMV-compliant terminals. The site specifically lists the Verifone VX520 and Ingenico iCT220 and iCT250 terminals with optional pin pads.
  • Virtual Terminal: This shouldn’t be a surprise. There’s not a lot of information available because well, there are so many POS options that Vantiv partners with. But you can get this option if you need it.
  • Mobile payment support: Vantiv’s services include support for Apple Pay, Android Pay and other NFC-based payments.
  • Developer-friendly tools: While I can’t judge the quality of Vantiv’s tools (I’m no programmer), the resources provided appear to be comprehensive and address a whole host of situations, from e-commerce to what Vantiv calls “omni-commerce” — a comprehensive platform for mobile apps, e-commerce, and EMV.
  • Analytics: Vantiv’s iQ service delivers comprehensive analytics; even better, you can also get analytics and data reports on the go. So if you’re always on the move, you can still check in.
  • Alternative Payment Methods: Vantiv gives you access to eCheck and PayPal payment support in its e-commerce setup.
  • Recurring billing and account autoupdates: With Vantiv being as large as it is, you really shouldn’t expect anything other than support for these features.
  • Mobile processing: We know Vantiv has a solution (it’s called Mobile Accept), but there isn’t much information out there about it. The Mobile Accept page on the site is still accessible but isn’t linked to anywhere on the main site. But the app is still available in Google Play and iTunes. I’d like to see more information about this, myself.
  • Gift cards/stored value cards: Again, with a processor this large you should absolutely expect Vantiv to offer gift cards and other stored value programs targeting a wide variety of industries.
  • Shopping cart integrations: If you run an e-commerce shop, you can integrate Vantiv with a variety of shopping carts. Vantiv doesn’t provide the complete list, but you can definitely integrate with WooCommerce, Magento, and OpenCart, at the very least.

If one thing impressed me more than anything else it’s probably the scalability of the solutions. Whether you are a small business or a mega-corporation, Vantiv can meet your needs, and it’s rare that we say that. Far too often, companies that support large enterprises fail at serving smaller ones in equal capacity, but that really does not seem to be the case here. Vantiv’s site content is specially tailored to the different business types it serves, and we know there are POS systems for business of all sizes.

Check out the site or speak with a sales reps for more details, but basically Vantiv does it all, and most of its solutions are proprietary. It helps to have massive resources at your disposal, that’s for sure.

Fees and Rates:

Vantiv does not disclose any fee or rate information publicly, and doesn’t seem to standardize these numbers across the brand. Your quote will largely depend on the sales agent/sales office you sign on through as well as your business attributes, and the type of merchant account you’re after. While this is always disappointing, it’s also not unexpected given how large Vantiv is.

In general Vantiv will pitch you a tiered pricing plan, which may include the following fees:

  • $99 annual fee
  • $50-$90 PCI compliance fee (annual)
  • $10-$20 PCI non-compliance fee (monthly)

Chargeback fees and card network fees like the FANF are also to be expected. The annual fee is always negotiable. I’d recommend that most businesses, especially those who will do a high volume of card payments, request an interchange-plus markup quote instead. Remember that the 3-year contract and ETF (and the liquidated damages provision) are also negotiable. 

Vantiv also offers OptBlue pricing for American Express transactions through its Integrated Payments branch (notably, there’s no mention of this on the main Vantiv site).

The site does claim to offer “interchange management” tools, but doesn’t say much about them beyond that. They’re supposed to help you “optimize” your interchange fees, so in theory, you pay less. However, as we’ve said time and again on Merchant Maverick, tiered pricing plans are confusing and often make it difficult to check whether you’re actually getting the fairest rates.

It bears mentioning here that two of our top-rated merchant account providers, Payline Data (which offers interchange plus) and FattMerchant (which uses a monthly subscription plan), actually process through Vantiv. Check out their reviews (linked above) for an idea of rates.

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:

With Vantiv, you can expect a 3-year auto-renewing contract with a $295 early termination fee. This is the industry standard, but I don’t usually recommend signing on with any company that requires an early termination fee unless you’ve worked with them in the past. If you request to have this fee waived, most agents will make an exception for you. Just be sure to get a signed waiver form attached your contract before you sign the contract.

You should note that in some cases I’ve heard from merchants who had contracts with Vantiv that included liquidated damages, generally 10% to 15% of the total earnings the company would have made on the remainder of your contract. I find this type of early termination fee entirely unacceptable, and I’d encourage you to absolutely refuse this if you see it in your particular contract.

We were able to find a sample e-commerce contract from June 2015, which includes the following language regarding liquidated damages:

“We have a right to assess fees and recover all costs associated with our investigation of suspected fraudulent activity or an Event of Default. You agree that we may retain the entire amount of the Reserve Account as liquidated damages if you engage in an Improper Transaction. If you accept transactions in connection with an Event of Default, we have the right to hold settlement funds and to subject them to a per month fraudulent transaction fee equal to 15% of the amount held.”

This sounds pretty harmless…until you look at what includes an event of default, as seen below:

Default Event. You are in default under this Agreement (“Event of Default”) if:

(i) we believe there has been a material or potentially material deterioration of your financial condition;

(ii) you become subject to any voluntary or involuntary bankruptcy, insolvency, reorganization or liquidation proceeding, a receiver is appointed for you, or you make an assignment for the benefit of creditors, or admits your inability to pay your debts as they become due;

(vii) we determine that your Card transactions or the circumstances surrounding your Card transactions have become irregular or increase our exposure to chargebacks, reputational, or other security risks;

 (xiv) you cease doing the kind of business described in the Merchant Application;

(xv) you fail to pay any amount to us when due;

 (xvii) we believe that you have violated or are likely to violate the Operating Regulations, Rules Summary, or the Laws.

Please note, these are just some of the terms spelled out. Check out the contract for yourself for the full details (see Part 7, Termination or Suspension of Services).

Sales and Advertising Transparency:

Like most big processing companies, Vantiv doesn’t make any real disclosures or promises in its public marketing material. Your sales experience will depend on the particular agent you talk to, and whether that agent works as a Vantiv employee or as a as an independent agent. We always recommend dealing with the company directly when you can. We find there is typically more oversight and fewer hoops to jump through when you work with the companies, not ISOs. Because the sales force is managed directly, you are less likely to encounter shady reps who will promise you the world just to get you to sign your life and livelihood away.

When I looked at Vantiv’s social media and the educational resources it puts out, I was impressed…at first. In my experience, large companies — especially those that serve enterprise clients — don’t handle either very well. Corporate clients don’t do their research via blog posts and Facebook; there are sales presentations and meetings and votes. Blog posts and social media are for reaching small businesses. Vantiv does seem to have a grip on what it’s doing.

Vantiv has FacebookGoogle+ and LinkedIn pages, as well as a Twitter channel. All are active regularly, and they do have a customer service rep who seems quite responsive. There’s confirmation from the people posting on the page that the social media rep is able to ensure people receive the phone calls they request and get issues settled. That is a good thing, though I don’t like that there are multiple complaints about how hard it is to get hold of a customer service rep via phone.

Not only that, but Vantiv does post new blogs regularly through its Integrated Payments branch. There’s also some educational resources through its Vantage Point page.  I really want to like these efforts. I do. But looking at the content in-depth, it feels very superficial. Vantiv could do better, period. Even the case studies available through Integrated Payments are just recycled Mercury Pay case studies, which I pointed out in my previous Mercury Pay review were of questionable quality.

(I will say, I am excited that there’s a search box on the site. I’ve come to accept that these are very rare in the world of payment processing, and I am excited when I do encounter them.)

So even though Vantiv definitely has a handle on social media and marketing, I think it needs to step up its content game a little bit. The company shouldn’t be in the content game just for the sake of content — it should be in the game to educate merchants. I mean really educate them. Informed merchants make for happy merchants who stick around for a long time.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Existing customers get 24/7 service and support. The website specifically states, “Telephone numbers, online sites and portals, log-in screens and videos too—everything you need for our most popularly requested service items—self service or live-help.”

That sounds great, right? Except that the few complaints we can find about Vantiv explicitly mention the terrible customer service.

What we can locate is not good, even if it’s a small quantity of the kind of complaints a lot of processors receive.

But the gravity of complaints just doesn’t match up with the volume. I’m suspicious that there are a lot of hidden complaints. Here’s why:

A lot of merchants aren’t necessarily hunting for a new payments processor. They’re looking for a POS that meets their needs. And in doing that, they might be locked into a contract with Vantiv without even really giving it a thought, because they found the POS they need. Who handles the processing is just a secondary concern. I think it’s fairly likely that lot of customer service first gets routed through Vantiv’s MANY POS system partners, or its proprietary systems. And running down those complaints is rather like falling down a rabbithole.

At the same time, we can’t penalize Vantiv for what we don’t know even exists. It’s only my suspicion. Which is why, once again, we need your help.

One final concern is how it’s absorbed Mercury Pay and rebranded it as Vantiv Integrated Solutions. For me, this is a wildcard. After Vantiv acquired the company it continued to operate pretty much the same way it always had. And Mercury didn’t have a great reputation for service (despite winning Stevie awards for it). That may change as it comes more fully under the auspices of Vantiv….or it may not. Only time will tell, but we’ll definitely be watching to see how that plays out.

Have you worked with Vantiv? What is the customer service like for you? Feel free to leave us your review, which helps us better assess what’s working and what’s not. Don’t forget to read the user review and comment policy.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Vantiv impressed me with its responses to merchant complaints via the Better Business Bureau. The responding representatives provide extremely thorough, reasonable, logical and even generous rebuttals. In most cases the company will provide refunds when merchants complain, even if no refund is legally or even ethically required. I think it’s fairly likely that if you go through the BBB, you’ll be able to get a resolution to your issue.

Overall, Vantiv has 98 complaints filed with the BBB in the last three years (up from 76 at our last check-in six months ago), which is still very low for a processing company of this size. Of those, 52 complaints were closed in the past 12 months though, which is the majority the complaints in the past year.

Granted, the Vantiv brand has only been around since 2011, but even the previous brand “Fifth Third Processing Solutions” is low on the complaint count as well. You will find another 91 complaints under “Vantiv Integrated Payments,” some of those are in fact leftovers from when Mercury Payments was still operating under its own name, even if it was technically owned by Vantiv, but some are fairly new and have been responded to.

Ripoff Report has just 5 complaints listed for Vantiv; 2 from 2014, 1 from 2015, 2 from 2016. The rest of the negative complaints are scattered across the web.

Most of the issues people have with Vantiv arise, unsurprisingly, during the cancellation process.

  • Liquidated damages: This is probably the most worrisome complaint I’ve heard, and it came up a number of times. Some merchants cited cancellation fees in the thousands of dollars, which is just unacceptable in my mind. But it appears to be inconsistently enforced.
  • Unknown auto-renewal: Many merchants who have processed with Vantiv long-term are surprised to find out that they owe an early termination fee even though they have been using the company for the better part of a decade. This is a common problem, and is not unique to Vantiv. Since most contracts auto-renew after the initial 3-year term is up, the so-called “early” termination fee can be collected whenever you cancel, unless you do so during a very small window of time. The good news is that Vantiv seems to be willing to waive these fees for long-term merchants.
  • Difficulty cancelling the account: What’s worse than paying an early termination fee? Being billed — unknown to you — monthly for years after you thought your account was closed. I encourage you to follow up aggressively and check your bank statements to be sure that you are not being billed for the service after you cancel. Also be aware that unless you submit a cancellation request in writing, your account cannot be closed. If you set your account up with an ISO, go through Vantiv directly. Don’t let your rep handle closing the account.
  • Unresponsive customer service/long hold times: This is, next to ETFs and hidden fees, the most common complaint we see about any merchant service provider. And frankly, it always disappoints us. Despite the promise of 24/7 phone support, we’ve seen numerous complaints of hours-long hold times, merchants being shuffled from one rep to another, and a general inability to solve problems when they arise. The good news is that going through the BBB seems to be effective in getting the company’s attention and therefore results.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

You can find some video case studies on the Vantiv VIP page. However, some of the videos are also from partners and highlight the company’s offerings. Many pages on the Vantiv site also include short, written testimonials from Vantiv customers. There are more videos on Vantiv’s YouTube channel, as well. And Vantiv maintains a shiny-looking page on its site about all the awards and recognition it’s won.

Beyond that, you’re not going to find too much out there singing Vantiv’s praises.

Had a good experience with Vantiv? We’d love to hear it! Good reviews are just as important as the bad ones.

Final Verdict:

Vantiv is a huge processing company with vast capabilities. It can service enormous businesses in need of complex payment systems and offer competitive rates to win these businesses over. There is no doubt in my mind that Vantiv is a very capable company.

Vantiv also seems to want to serve small businesses and new merchants. It’s tailoring its products and solutions to appeal to these smaller companies. The company even has a handle on social media, even if the content itself appears weak.

One concern I have is that Vantiv Payments might not treat these small or new merchants the way they need to be treated. If you are not particularly adept at navigating the payments space and do not know which questions to ask or what to look for in your processing contract, you could be in for a rough ride. It will really depend on your sales rep. Some are willing to go the extra mile to help you make an informed decision, while others might take advantage of your lack of experience.

In addition, it’s pretty clear that Vantiv isn’t exactly an innovator or a leader in the payments industry. It has everything you’d expect, but nothing particularly unique or outstanding. It offers a tiered pricing plan with 3-year contracts and an ETF (although not the worst I’ve seen). The liquidated damages provision in the contract is incredibly worrisome. Although it doesn’t seem to be enforced with regularity, if you do get hit, you’re looking at some serious expenses.

Our top-rated processors, by comparison, typically offer interchange plus or flat-rate subscription plans and month-to-month contracts with no early termination fees. That includes Payline Data and Fattmerchant, both of whom actually process through Vantiv.

For now, I’m cautiously raising Vantiv to 4 stars. I don’t think it’s a bad company, and you should not automatically panic if you find out your new POS processes through the company. You can get pretty much any sort of feature or service you need, from mobile processing to EMV and NFC support. The company’s shortcomings are the same we see with many processors. And while the educational content could use work, the fact that it exists sets Vantiv apart from many competitors. I look forward to seeing improvements from here on out.

If you’re thinking about signing on with Vantiv, reach out to us. We can work with you to make sure that you are getting a legitimate deal. Otherwise, you may want to check out one of our higher-rated providers instead for your small business needs. Keep leaving your comments and let us know how Vantiv is doing — we’ll re-evaluate Vantiv’s rating as necessary to ensure we accurately reflect the quality of the company’s offerings.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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