Heartland Payment Systems Review 2020

heartland payment systems logo

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | 3 April, 2020

Home is where the heart is… but is Heartland the best fit for your business?


Heartland credit card processing

Pros:

  • Powerful data security infrastructure
  • Speedy payment processing
  • Intuitive mobile app and responsive, stylish POS hardware
  • 24/7 US-based phone support
  • Tailored solutions for multiple industries, including retail and hospitality

X Cons:

  • Large PCI non-compliance fee
  • Lacks transparent pricing
  • No Shopify ecommerce integration
  • Poor customer reviews
  • Doesn’t support cryptocurrency payments
At a glance: Heartland sports flashy POS hardware and lightning-fast processing speeds, but is hampered by poor customer reviews, opaque pricing, and a shamefully high early termination fee.

Heartland Payment Systems is a credit card processing company providing merchant services for over 275,000 businesses in the US. Heartland processes over $80 billion worth of transactions annually, allowing businesses to accept payments online, in-person, and over the phone.

Heartland also offers industry-specific POS (Point of Sale) systems, payroll services, and customer engagement solutions. Basically, it’s got more or less everything you need to scale your business, and spend less time sweating the small stuff.

But no business is created equal, and the right credit card processing service for you will depend on your business’ size, sales volume, sales value, and industry – not to mention your budget

So, is Heartland right for the unique demands of your business?

Let’s find out.

Heartland Payment Systems: Quick facts

  • Founded in 1977 by Bob Carr
  • The company is an ISO (Independent Service Organization) of Wells Fargo bank
  • In 2015, the Nilson Report rated Heartland as the sixth-largest merchant acquirer in the US
  • It was acquired by Global Payments in December 2015 for $3.5 billion

What are Heartland’s Features and Benefits?

Versatile countertop card solution

Heartland’s card machines allow you to accept face-to-face payments from your physical store. Its EMV-equipped (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) terminals look good on your countertop, and let you accept contactless payments, too – plus mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Heartland credit card processing mobile payments

A fully mobile solution

The aptly-named ‘MobilePay’ (pictured) is Heartland’s answer to the likes of iZettle and Square. MobilePay is ideal for small merchants (such as tradespeople and market stall vendors) looking to accept credit card payments on the go. So how does it work?

Well, it’s simple, really – you just download an app onto your smartphone or tablet, connect Heartland’s pocket-sized card reader and… start taking payments!

Plus, MobilePay isn’t just convenient – you can take payments on any internet-enabled device – but quick, too. Its processing speeds of 2.1 seconds are the fastest in the industry  perfect for keeping the queues moving, and the profits flowing.
Heartland credit card processing payment gateway

Superior ecommerce capabilities

For businesses not looking to restrict themselves just to face-to-face payments, Heartland offers a host of versatile options for accepting credit cards online. Heartland’s customizable payment gateway, for instance, allows you to slot a neat payment form (pictured) into the look and feel of your website. 

With a slick, streamlined design that’ll inspire consumer confidence at the checkout, Heartland’s embeddable form supports gift cards, as well as Apple Pay, PayPal, and MasterPass.

And if that wasn’t enough, Heartland’s payment gateway also integrates with most of the major shopping carts and online platforms – including BigCommerce and Magento (but sadly, not Shopify).

Industry-leading data security

In 2008, a hacker infiltrated Heartland’s networks, stealing the data from over 130 million credit cards. It wasn’t a great moment for Heartland… but the company proved that what doesn’t kill you does indeed make you stronger. And these days, Heartland has in place some of the finest data security controls in the industry.

All your customer’s cardholder data is encrypted as soon as they make the payment, and is sent directly to Heartland’s servers. That leaves no information hanging around on your device, helping you remain fully compliant with credit card processing rules and regulations.

Excellent customer support

Heartland offers 24/7 phone-based customer support, all delivered by an in-house, US-based team. There are even different numbers for each branch of its services, so you should be able to speak to the right person straight away – morning or night, every day of the year.

Tailored to your industry

Heartland offers industry-specific payment processing and POS solutions for a whopping 16 different industries. Think education, entertainment, petroleum… even the laundry business gets the Heartland treatment.

There’s LiquorPOS, for example – Heartland’s countertop setup tailor-made for alcohol vendors. Heartland also offers pcAmerica for retail businesses. while Digital Dining is its answer to the POS needs of restaurants and bars. 

You name the field, and Heartland probably has a bespoke software and hardware package catering to it.

Plentiful POS integrations

Not into one of Heartland’s own, industry-focussed POS solutions? Don’t sweat it. Heartland’s terminals also integrate with a wide range of third-party POS providers, offering unparalleled flexibility.


How Much Does Heartland Cost?

Merchant account fees are varied, chaotic, and can be extremely tough to get your head around. So, if this review is your first introduction to the world of credit card processing, we recommend first heading to our page on credit card processing fees

We’ll unpack all the terminology below, and you’ll get to grips with the different kinds of fees and pricing plans involved. Plus, there are a few tips to help you barter a better deal when it comes to negotiating a merchant services contract.

Otherwise, read on for a full breakdown of Heartland’s credit card processing fees.

Heartland credit card processing fees: At a glance

Transactional fees

– These fees are charged on each transaction you accept with a credit or debit card. They usually take the form of a percentage of the sale’s value.

  • Swiped/keyed rate: Interchange-plus

– Interchange-plus is a common pricing plan in the payments industry. It means you’ll pay the standard ‘interchange’ rate set by the card networks (Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, and Discover), plus an undisclosed markup fee levied by Heartland

  • Virtual terminal rate: 1% to 4.99%

– A virtual terminal is an online portal allowing you to securely accept credit card payments over the phone, or via mail

  • Payment gateway fee: Undisclosed

– A payment gateway is a piece of software that integrates with your website. It facilitates and authorizes ecommerce transactions, allowing you to get paid online

Scheduled/Incidental fees

– These fees are charged on either a one-time or regular basis (usually monthly). 

  • Monthly fee: $25
  • Analytics fee: $54
  • Service fee: $150
  • Regulatory fee: $69
  • PCI compliance fee: $0
  • Early termination fee: $295
  • PCI non-compliance fee: $125

Because Heartland isn’t transparent about its rates, we can’t say for sure exactly how frequently you’ll be charged these fees.

That’s quite a list of fees. But where do they all go? Are they all necessary?

Well quite frankly, no – they’re not. Most of the charges you see above (particularly those scheduled costs – we’re looking at you, ‘service fee’) are markup fees. Unlike wholesale fees (which go towards the maintenance of the card payments infrastructure, and are inescapable), markup fees are charged to help make the provider a profit.

Let’s take Heartland’s early termination fee ($295) as an example. It’s basically there just to scare a merchant out of leaving a contract early, and punishing them if they choose to do so. 

We don’t like it. And we don’t believe in it. 

Other credit card processors don’t, either – Payline, Fattmerchant, and Payment Depot are all among the companies that choose not to levy it. And at this stage, we’d recommend choosing one of those providers, instead.

Alternatively, you can opt for a flat-rate credit card processing provider, such as Square. It charges just a single, fixed fee per transaction, and includes a free card reader for new merchants.

What we don’t appreciate about Heartland’s pricing, then, is the amount of markup fees you’ll be eligible for on a regular basis. However, the good news is that these costs are negotiable – and online reviews suggest that Heartland are at least willing to waive these fees with a little bartering.

There’s more good news, too – Heartland doesn’t charge a fee for PCI compliance. This is one of the trickier, costlier sides of accepting credit card payments, so it’s a relief it’s all taken care of for you, and at no extra cost.

Ultimately, Heartland doesn’t advertise all of its rates clearly online. Plus, the total you can expect to pay in fees will depend on your sales volume and value, plus the method you’re using to accept card payments. How much you pay in fees will also depend on how well you can understand the fees. So remember to negotiate!


Is Heartland Right for My Business?

All that means that Heartland won’t be for everybody. Find out if it’s for you below.

“I’m a plumber, and I’d like to be able to take payments on the go. Is Heartland suitable for me?”

Absolutely! Heartland’s mobile card reader (MobilePay) is designed for sole traders such as yourself. It pairs with an app on your smartphone, and – providing you have a bit of mobile data handy – will let you accept card payments directly from your customer’s kitchen. 

That said, Heartland isn’t the only way to go – its rates, after all, aren’t transparent, and customer reviews suggest that there are cheaper options elsewhere. Plus, Heartland (unlike well-known mobile card readers such as iZettle, PayPal Here, and Square) doesn’t specialize in mobile payments – they’re just an offshoot of its other credit card processing services. 

For this reason – plus the cheaper rates you can get elsewhere – we’d recommend forgoing Heartland, and opting for a dedicated mobile card reader provider instead.

Try Square today, and receive your first card reader free

“I run a school cafeteria, and we’d like to start accepting card payments should I choose Heartland?”

Heartland’s range of integrations, payment options, and POS services make it well-suited to businesses accepting higher value payments. However, Heartland does also offer a micro-payments service, targeted at businesses doing a lot of low value transactions. Like… a school cafeteria, maybe?

As we’ve seen, Heartland also has POS software and hardware options tailored to hospitality… although in this case, the ability to track inventory, manage staff, and take payments directly to your student diners might be going a little beyond your requirements! 

“I’m just looking for the cheapest way of taking payments online. Where do I go?”

Stripe and PayPal are two of the cheapest credit card processing companies servicing US ecommerce businesses. Both offer processing rates of 2.9% + 30 cents per online transaction. And, unlike Heartland, neither Stripe or PayPal comes with any hidden fees – just a flat rate fee on each card transaction you key in, or accept through your website.


What Do Heartland’s Customer Reviews Say?

If there’s anything we love doing here at Expert Market, it’s cutting through a company’s marketing fluff and getting straight to the stuff that really matters. 

In this case, that means taking a look at what Heartland’s customers are saying – and whether the company’s self-professed ‘dedication to the rights of the merchant’ bears out in its online reviews.

Here’s the good:

“Heartland has been my credit card processor for about ten years. I probably call Heartland about twice a year for service or technical problems. It has never let me down. I am in a service-oriented business so I know good service when I run into it. Also, its statements are clear and concise. My experience with Heartland has been A+. I think it is an ethical and professional company. Just giving credit where credit’s due. Keep up the good work.”

  • Peter, Heartland Payment Systems customer

Most other positive reviews online seem, like Peter’s, to confirm Heartland’s promise of excellent customer support. But it isn’t all rosy:

“[Heartland’s rates are] much more expensive than Square’s. The sales guys loved playing down [PCI] compliance. The readers are twice the cost of Square readers. And [Heartland] will give your phone number and email address to everyone. Don’t waste your time with this circus.”

  • Kevin, Heartland Payment Systems customer

“I called to inquire about cancellation. I wasn’t aware I was in a three year contract. The customer service representative asked me questions then told me that the fee to cancel would be $300… and my contract was due to expire in three weeks! I then told her that I wanted to cancel the cancellation of the contract and wait the three weeks. She said “too late, I have already sent the request”. WOW!!!

  • John, Heartland Payment Systems customer

“Beware of this company, I was charged $500 in [PCI] non-compliance fees because Heartland sneaks the notification on the backside of your statement. Heartland sets its own fee price at $125 per month if you aren’t compliant – highway robbery! Most companies charge $20 to $30 per month.

  • Laurie, Heartland Payment Systems customer

Heartland’s customers, it seems, share the same issues as us when it comes to the credit card processor’s fees – particularly the early termination and PCI non-compliance charges.

As well as the negative comments above (plus a swathe of even more cutting reviews online), Heartland has also received 48 complaints registered against it in the last three years with the BBB (Better Business Bureau). So, while we’d be the first to say that there’s a lot to admire about Heartland’s technology and service, we can’t recommend it based on the customer reviews we’ve found

With that in mind, then, what are the alternatives?


What Other Merchant Account Providers Could I Consider?

Choosing a credit card processing provider will probably be the biggest business decision you’ll make all year. That’s why we don’t recommend making a decision based on a single review alone. 

Check out the rest of our suite of expert reviews at the bottom of this page. They’ll help you understand merchant accounts, and pick the right one effectively.

You’ll also need to take into account the nature of your sales and business, plus its size, how long you’ve been in business, and your credit rating. Don’t get roped into a contract with the first provider to offer you low rates, because if it’s too good to be true, well… you know the rest.

Jump into the table below to learn more about some of our top credit card processing companies for small businesses. Or skip ahead to the expert verdict for our final say on Heartland Payment Systems.

Merchant services providerBetter than Heartland Payment Systems for:Learn more
FattmerchantHigh volume transactionsVisit Fattmerchant’s site
HelcimTransparent, fair pricingVisit Helcim’s site
PaylineHigh risk processingVisit Payline’s site
SquareSimple, flat rate pricingVisit Square’s site
StripeOnline processingVisit Stripe’s site
Toast POSHospitality-focused approachVisit Toast POS’s site

Expert Verdict

As we’ve already said, there’s a lot to love about Heartland Payment Systems. It tops slick POS software with even slicker mobile payments hardware, while (after an admittedly steep learning curve) it now sets the standard for data security. 

Heartland’s customer support is excellent, and its commitment to supplying merchants with a fair deal is well-documented. So much so, actually, that Heartland champions its own ‘Merchant Bill of Rights’ – a manifesto promising greater transparency regarding the fees and middlemen involved in credit card processing.

But does Heartland deliver on those promises? We’re not so sure

Customer reviews aren’t great across the board, and Heartland levies a few too many dubious-sounding markup fees for our liking. We’d also prefer to see more transparency regarding Heartland’s costs (ironic, given its own advocacy of this exact thing), and better disclosure of the hidden fees that have tripped so many other merchants up.

Despite this, Heartland may still be the right pick for you. Just make sure to read the contract very carefully before signing it!

Rob Binns
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, social media monitoring, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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