Host Merchant Services | Reviews by SmallBizGenius

Pros:

  • pros Superb customer service
  • pros Very low transaction rates
  • pros Transparent and predictable pricing
  • pros Variety of POS systems and credit card readers available
  • pros Great integration capabilities

Cons:

  • cons Not ideal for low transaction volume businesses
host merchant services reviews

Score: A

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Product Overview

How many times have you encountered a company that seems completely perfect on paper, only to find it has horrible user reviews? It can be discouraging.

Luckily you won’t have that problem with Host Merchant Services, a company famous for its customer-first approach. Nearly all Host Merchant Services reviews are positive. You’ll find ours to be full of praise as well.

Host Merchant Services (HMS) is a merchant account provider that’s been in business since 2009. HMS offers interchange-plus pricing for credit card processing and provides equipment, POS software, and payment gateways. With cheap fees, an all-encompassing offer, and a large variety of useful features, HMS is a great credit card processor, best suited for high-volume companies.

Pricing Plans

The keys to a great credit card processing offer are transparency and clarity. The whole credit card system and its fees are complicated enough and the last thing you need is an overly-complex system of charges and merchant accounts fees to worry about. Luckily, HMS has a pricing structure that’s transparent, easy-to-understand, and predictable.

HMS uses an interchange-plus pricing model. This means that besides paying the obligatory interchange fees charged by credit card networks, you’ll also be paying a markup percentage fee – a small portion of every transaction – to HMS.

The prices listed on the HMS website are without interchange fees. This is because host merchant services pricing does not have a fixed interchange-plus fee. Interchange fees can vary greatly, depending on the card used. That’s why HMS charges a fee dependent on what the real interchange charge is + a fixed small percentage of the transaction + a small per-transaction fee.

There are three separate merchant services pricing plans available at HMS, each suited for different businesses – Retail Storefront, Restaurant, and eCommerce. Each comes with a specific fee.

All of these plans are aimed at businesses that process over $10,000 per month. However, there are no monthly minimums, so you can feel free to contact HMS to set up a plan regardless of your transaction volume. Each plan comes with customer support around the clock – whose lack is cause for many merchant services complaints about other processors. This is an invaluable asset because you don’t want to be stuck with a glitch or hardware problem in the middle of a busy day and not be able to reach support. 

All of the pricing plans accept all card type payments, including Android Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal.

Retail Storefront – This package is suited for businesses performing face-to-face transactions. The fee for this plan is 0.25% and $0.10 per transaction + interchange fees.

HMS provides estimates on your costs based on the card used for an assumed transaction of $100.

Type of Card

Cost for $100 Transaction

Visa Debit CPS Reg

$0.77

Visa Debit CPS

$1.45

Visa CPS Retail

$2.11

MasterCard Debit Reg

$0.76

MasterCard Consumer

$2.17

Restaurant – As the name suggests, this package is aimed at business owners that run restaurants. The transaction and merchant accounts rates for this package are interchange + 0.20% + $0.09 per transaction. These rates are pretty low compared to what competitors charge in their restaurant pricing packages. Furthermore, restaurant transactions tend to be smaller in size than retail ones, meaning you’ll be paying a very low per-transaction fee most of the time.

Other than its specific set of rates, the Restaurant package does not differ from the other two packages in any way – they all have the same features. HMS also provided their cost estimates for different cards, with an assumed sale of $25. This is great as it saves you the trouble of scouring reviews of host merchant services in order to get cost estimates.

Type of Card

Cost for $25 Transaction

Visa Debit CPS Reg

$0.43

Visa Debit CPS

$0.54

Visa CPS Retail

$0.67

MasterCard Debit Reg

$0.42

MasterCard Consumer

$0.69

eCommerce – If you happen to conduct most of your sales online via your website, this is the package for you. Do note that even if you select a different package, you can always get shopping cart integrations set up on your site. The per-transaction costs with this package are interchange + 0.35% +$0.10 per transaction.

While this price is slightly above the rates given with other packages, this is pretty standard for online payments, which tend to be pricier to process. Still, as many reviews of Host Merchant Services show, this is still a very cheap rate.

The estimated prices for a $100 sale with this package are:

Type of Card

Cost for $100 Transaction

Visa Debit CPS Reg

$0.87

Visa Debit CPS

$2.40

Visa CPS Retail

$2.50

MasterCard Debit Reg

$0.86

MasterCard Consumer

$2.58

Additional Fees

Unfortunately, the per-transaction fees are not the only charges you’ll be paying with HMS. While there are providers out there that only charge you per transaction, those are mainly third-party processors that do not provide merchant accounts. In a true display of transparency, the folks behind HMS take pride in the fact that they’ve displayed all the additional fees you’ll be subjected to when using their services. No wonder all host merchant services HM reviews are positive. These additional charges are as follows:

Type of Additional Charge

Amount

Interchange fee

Passed through at cost

Address Verification Fee

$0.00

Closure Fee

$0.00

Pin Debit Fee

$0.00

PCI Compliance

$0.00

Batch Fee

$0.20/batch

Voice Authorization

$0.75

Gateway Fee

$5.00/month (optional)

Monthly Fee

$14.99/month

Annual 1099 reporting Fee

$24.00/year

As you can see, many usual fees, like PCI compliance, aren’t charged by HMS, which is always a welcome sight. The other fees that are included are not too steep, and in most cases won’t make a visible dent in your finances at all.

Setup Process and Ease of Use

As you’ll read in all Host Merchant Services reviews, setting up with HMS is a painless affair. The only ‘difficult’ part is getting your merchant account approved. While there are many processors that do not provide unique merchant accounts – with you effectively conducting business under the processor’s license – HMS does provide you with a merchant account. In order to get a merchant account up and running, you’ll need to provide your financial statements, a cover letter, and your processing history for approval.

HMS will also want to know some basic information about your business, such as transaction volume and chargeback rates in order to determine how to best suit your needs and to see whether your business is considered ‘high risk’ – which may incur slightly different merchant services rates.

Features

Merchant Account – HMS is a merchant account provider, meaning you’ll receive a merchant account – and a unique merchant ID – when you sign up for its services. It provides accounts for both online and in-person businesses of various sizes, nonprofits, and high-risk venues.

Payment Gateway/Virtual Terminal – If you’d like to process online payments, there are several options at your disposal. First, there’s the Transaction Express, a proprietary integrated virtual terminal and online payment gateway. Having its in-house payment gateway definitely places HMS among the top-rated merchant services. The price for Transaction Express is $5/mo for basic or $10 setup fee + $10/mo for the full version.

HMS also offers access to the Authorize.net payment gateway for $9/mo + $0.05 per transaction and the NMI Gateway Basic for $7/mo + $0.06 per transaction and NMI Gateway Full – $10/mo $0.08 per transaction.

Credit Card Readers – HMS has a wide variety of credit card terminal models on offer. While most competitors stick to one model, HMS gives you a broader selection. However, the prices for most of them are not displayed, at least not during the time of writing this merchant cost review. If your business processes more than $20,000/mo, you are liable to receive one free EMV reader. For those that do not fulfill this requirement, you can still get a discounted price on their models. All terminals accept EMV payments, with some supporting NFS as well – Android/Apple Pay transactions and the like. In case you’d like to stick with your existing terminal, HMS will reprogram it for free.

Mobile Payments – Due to present circumstances, mobile and contactless payments, in general, are as important as ever. With HMS, you can get access to the ProcessNow app and qualify for a free reader as well. Also, buying a full POS system will grant you access to mobile payments, but for higher merchant services fees.

Point of Sale Systems – For those looking for complete POS solutions to cover all your processing needs – and more – HMS has got you covered. There are multiple brands of POS systems on offer with HMS – Clover, Vital, Bonsai, and SwipeSimple. The most impressive of the bunch are the Bonsai systems. These include a variety of workstations and management tools – from inventory management and sales analytics to a variety of reports and payroll capabilities. Covering all the features would take another separate review so make sure to check out all the available POS features on the HMS site.

Next-day Funding – As most merchant credit card processor reviews will tell you, Next-day funding is a crucial feature to have when you’re looking for a credit card payment processor. Whichever type of business you might have, getting access to your funds as soon as possible is invaluable. All of HMS’s payment plans come with next-day funding at no additional cost.

Online Payment Integrations – HMS offers payment integrations for your existing sites, as well as providing a custom payment page for your customers as well. Additionally, it offers online shopping cart integrations for WooCommerce.

All of these options are PCI compliant – even if your pre existing site is not. Based on user-written online merchant services reviews, people were very happy with online payment services provided by HMS.

Cash Discount Program – HMS offers a free payment processing program for businesses processing over $5k/mo. If you’re processing less, you can still get access to the service for $20/mo. What this program does is that it basically transfers the costs of processing from you to your customers. Because your customers will be bearing the brunt of the cost with this program, you cannot partake in it if you have a ‘Tip Adjust’ option running.

Contract Length and Termination Conditions

HMS services come with no startup or cancellation fees – the cause of many negative merchant account reviews for other credit card processors. Furthermore, there are no long-term contracts involved – a welcome and unconventional feature when it comes to merchant agreements.

Additionally, it will pay up to $250 in owed termination fees for clients referred through their referral program ($500 if they process over $50k/mo) if they decide to switch to HMS from their previous processor. This is no wonder, as HMS claims their support team is two times larger than their sales team, with a focus on great customer service instead of careless profiteering.

BBB Rating

Host Merchant Services have been in business for 10 years and it has been accredited by BBB since 2011. It currently holds an A+ rating on BBB, clearly showing how it upholds its ‘Service First’ principle. While there are many merchant services complaints about most processors we’ve reviewed, HMS only had one and it ended up being resolved successfully. 

The majority of user reviews praised HMS for its resourcefulness and the politeness of its support teams, most of whom are in-house employees.

Conclusion

We were pleasantly surprised by the transparency and customer-centered approach we found with Host Merchant Services. Easy-to-understand pricing plans, transparent fees, a variety of advanced features, and a huge selection of hardware – it’s tough to find any cons with HMS.

Not only are its approaches and general offer top-notch, but its fees count amongst the cheapest available. However, as most Host Merchant Services reviews point out, it’s not the best option if you have low transaction volumes – less than $10,000 per month. The good thing is that it’s open about which businesses might not find HMS optional. All in all, HMS is a great credit card processor through-and-through.

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FAQ

What is the best merchant service for a small business?

As with most business-related choices, it boils down to your needs and the type of business you’re running. Best credit card machine for small business reviews show that high transaction volume businesses should look for fixed pricing or low interchange-plus rates, like Payment Depot or Host Merchant Services. Those with lower volumes should check out Square.

What does a merchant service provider do?

In short, it allows your business to accept credit card payments either in-person or online, through a variety of payment options.

What is the merchant service fee?

The merchant service fee is the price charged by credit card processors for their services. While some offer fixed monthly pricing + a small fixed transaction fee, most processors rely on interchange-plus pricing, which charges a small percentage of the transaction on top of obligatory interchange fees. As you can see in Host Merchant Services reviews, this provider relies on an interchange-plus pricing model, which will save money for most businesses.