If you want your business to be able to accept credit cards—whether in person or online—you’ll need to work with a merchant service provider. These third parties can provide you not only with the capability to accept credit cards, but hopefully a variety of different payment methods in a capacity that meets your business’s needs. If you’re trying to decide which payment processing company is right for you, however, you may be overwhelmed by the vast array of options and therefore are considering working with a familiar name, like PNC Bank.
PNC is one of many national banks, like Chase, for example, that offer merchant services to businesses. Like other solutions on the market, PNC Merchant Services allows you to choose from their multiple offerings and utilize the specific terminals and technology that will support your business and provide the payment processing functionality you require.
Is PNC Merchant Services right for your business? This PNC Merchant Services review is here to help you answer that question. We’ll explore the different products, features, and pricing offered by PNC Merchant Services, as well as offer top alternatives so that you can determine what kind of payment processor is best for your business.
PNC Merchant Services: The Basics
As a merchant service provider, PNC Merchant Services will give your business the ability to accept credit cards and other payment methods. However, compared to other solutions, the processes behind PNC Merchant Services are more complicated. Let’s explain: Unlike many payment processors, like Square or Stripe, PNC Merchant Services is not a direct processor. This means, although you’re purchasing your services from them, they are not actually the providers of the technology that facilitates the processing of your transactions when they’re made.
Instead, PNC is a reseller of First Data, meaning that First Data is the company that’s actually handling the credit card processing and working between the issuing bank (the institution that issues a customer their credit card) and the receiving bank (the bank that receives the funds and deposits them in your business bank account). In the transaction process, therefore, PNC is only serving as the receiving bank. PNC creates and maintains a merchant account on behalf of your business that allows you to receive credit card funds. They then deposit those funds into your bank account. Essentially, then, this means that as opposed to dealing with one provider that manages the whole of your credit card processing, you’re working with PNC Merchant Services, which, in turn, is working with First Data.
In the end, however, although the behind-the-scenes process is more complicated, PNC Merchant Services can still provide you with a variety of solutions that allow your business to accept credit cards and other payments—in store, online, or on your mobile device.
PNC Merchant Services Features
The solutions offered by PNC Merchant Services can be broken down into three categories, and the features you receive, as the merchant, ultimately depend on the specifics of the solution you choose. As we mentioned above, PNC provides in-store, on-the-go (or mobile), and online merchant services. Let’s dive deeper into what each of these offerings entails:
PNC Merchant Services: In-Store Processing
For businesses that need to accept payments in-store, PNC offers point of sale systems through Clover (which is a subsidiary of First Data). Through PNC Merchant Services, you can choose from Clover’s two POS software options, as well as three at the counter hardware terminals to accept and process credit cards.
The first Clover POS software plan is called Register Lite. This software allows you to accept and process the full range of payments including credit cards, debit cards, EMV chips, and contactless payments. You can also track cash payments and process payments offline. Additionally, using Register Lite you can ring up items, discounts, and tax, capture electronic signatures and tips, and email, text, and store digital receipts. Furthermore, this Clover POS software gives you the ability to manage your employees, track sales, and generate basic reports.
With Register, the second Clover POS software plan, you have access to all of the functionality included with Register Lite, as well as additional tools for inventory management, loyalty programs, customer feedback, organizing tables, and building a mailing list.
Either of these software plans can be combined with the three Clover POS counter hardware options:
- Clover Flex: This handheld terminal can process magstripe and chip cards, as well as contactless payments. The Clover Flex also can print receipts, scan barcodes, and capture signatures on its display screen.
- Clover Mini: The Clover Mini has all of the same functionality as the Flex, but in a mini countertop display. The Mini has a touchscreen and can be used at the counter, as well as carried portably.
- Clover Station: The most powerful of the Clover hardware options, the Station is most like your typical register. The Station has all the functionality of the Flex and Mini, as well as a large countertop display and advanced speed and security.
PNC Merchant Services: On-the-Go Processing
In addition to their in-store processing solutions, PNC Merchant Services offers an on-the-go mobile processing option—also through Clover. Just like the in-store offerings we discussed above, you have the ability to use either of the Clover POS software plans with the Clover Go hardware and mobile app.
The Clover Go terminal allows you to accept both swipe and chip cards, as well as contactless payments by connecting via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet. Clover Go is compatible with iOS and Android devices. Using the Clover Go mobile POS app and hardware, you can not only accept and process payments but also manage tips, send digital receipts, and record cash or check transactions.
Although the Clover Flex is a fully separate hardware terminal, this Clover hardware can also be used for on-the-go processing. As we mentioned previously, the Clover Flex is handheld and portable—giving you all the tools you need to flexibly serve customers and take payments.
PNC Merchant Services: Online Processing
PNC Merchant Services also provides a payment processing solution for ecommerce, mail order, and phone order businesses. PNC offers online payment processing through the Payeezy payment gateway, also a First Data product. With Payeezy, you can process transactions digitally for a variety of different payment methods including credit cards, PayPal, and electronic checks.
There are three Payeezy payment gateway systems that you can choose from, depending on what works best for your business:
- RealTime Payment Manager: This web-based system allows you to process individual or batch transactions on your computer, as well as access reporting, a virtual POS terminal, transaction history, and more.
- Hosted Checkout Page: With this option, you can add the Payeezy gateway to your ecommerce website as a customizable checkout page.
- Web Service API: To create a unique payment portal, you can use and customize the Payeezy API and integrate your payment processing into your website or ecommerce application.
The Payeezy gateway is secure, can convert foreign currencies, and easily integrates with over 70 ecommerce platforms.
PNC Merchant Services: Security and Support
With all of the First Data products that PNC Merchant Services offers, they also give you the option to work with First Data and Clover for additional data security tools. First, PNC offers First Data’s TransArmor Protection, which provides encryption and tokenization when a card is swiped.
You also can have the ability to get Clover Security Plus, which offers a higher level of security and includes TransArmor Data Protection. Clover Security Plus is a software solution that, in addition to the encryption and tokenization capabilities from TransArmor, provides virus protection, liability waivers, and PCI compliance support. Additionally, PNC Merchant Services offers PCI compliance validation from Sysnet.
For customer support, PNC Merchant Services allows you 24/7/365 access to their service center and POS Help Desk by phone. Furthermore, if you have a business bank account with PNC, you receive additional customer benefits including money management tracking and next day funding for certain credit card payments.
PNC Merchant Services Pricing
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine the exact pricing of PNC Merchant Services. Their pricing is complicated for a few reasons. First, PNC Merchant Services, as we explained above, in itself is not very straightforward. Because PNC is a reseller of First Data products, you’ll ultimately be paying not only certain costs for PNC Merchant Services themselves, but for the First Data solution you choose as well.
Additionally, PNC is not very transparent about their pricing information on their website. As you explore the various merchant service pages, you’ll notice a number of footnotes detailing disclaimers regarding services, discounts, and fees. Despite the presence of these notes, it can still be difficult to determine exactly what they mean in regards to the cost of PNC Merchant Services as a whole.
Furthermore, in many places throughout the website, you’re prompted to call a PNC Merchant Service representative to learn more about options and pricing. From these statements, it seems like PNC might offer quote-based pricing for their merchant services, but again, it’s not particularly clear.
This being said, however, there are a few elements we can consider when looking at the cost of PNC Merchant Services. First, you can look at the costs of the various software and hardware options that PNC offers through First Data. As you can see in the footnotes on the pricing page, even though you’re using PNC Merchant Services, you’ll also be responsible for any fees related to the cost of your products from Clover or First Data. In the case of Clover POS software, then, you’ll be paying either $14 or $29 per month plus a per-transaction fee depending on which plan you choose. You’ll also have to pay for the hardware terminal you want, which can range from $59 to $1,199.
Next, you can consider the per-transaction credit card processing fees PNC lists on their pricing page. This page states that PNC Merchant Services charges 2.6% + $0.00 for in-person swipe or chip transactions and 3.45% + $0.15 for online, phone, or manually entered payments. This page, however, also makes the caveat that “transaction and other fees that are available through the online application process are not available through other PNC Merchant Services sales channels… pricing is subject to change at any time.” Again, this statement seems to suggest, more or less, that PNC offers their merchant services on a quote-based pricing system and doesn’t have a standard, transparent pricing model.
Another piece that can factor into the cost of PNC Merchant Services is monthly or one-time service fees. PNC does not explicitly list any of these kinds of fees on their website either, but does specify that to use their merchant services, you not only have to apply for a merchant account, but you also have to agree to a minimum three-year term. Along these lines, PNC Merchant Services states, “An early termination fee will not be applied if you close this account prior to the end of the term.” They do not, however, mention any other service or account fees that you might incur by working with them for payment processing.
Therefore, although you can consider that all of these facets that will factor into the pricing of PNC Merchant Services—software, hardware, transaction fees, service fees—it’s impossible to determine the ultimate cost without talking to the PNC sales team directly.
Photo credit: PNC Merchant Services
Pros of PNC Merchant Services
Now that we’ve gone through everything PNC Merchant Services has to offer businesses, let’s discuss the possible benefits of choosing this provider for your payment processing needs.
Everything in One Place
If you already bank with PNC, you might find it useful to have your business tools in one place and work with one main provider. After all, PNC can not only provide you with merchant services, but also a business bank account, business credit cards, and benefits for your employees. Plus, if you already bank with PNC, you’ll receive money management tracking and next day funding for certain credit card payments when also using PNC Merchant Services.
Cons of PNC Merchant Services
Unfortunately, PNC Merchant Services leave much to be desired. After exploring the information available on their payment solutions, here are the top drawbacks to consider:
Although working with a large provider like First Data allows PNC to offer a variety of payment processing products, it seems that there is little justification for working with PNC Merchant Services instead of going directly to Clover or First Data—or another provider altogether. As we’ve explained, using PNC Merchant Services is complicated and confusing. PNC isn’t actually providing much themselves, but rather works with First Data for the actual solutions and processing, adding another (perhaps unnecessary) player into the payment process for small businesses. At the end of the day, it seems that working directly with the entity providing credit card processing, like First Data, would be simpler, more cost-effective, and ultimately a better choice for the majority of businesses.
Lack of Transparency
This is a significant problem we see with PNC Merchant Services. PNC provides very little information on their actual service and pricing, other than describing the options and capabilities of the First Data products. As we mentioned earlier, despite the fact that PNC has a number of footnotes on every webpage, it is extremely difficult to determine the extent of their service, how much it costs, and what you can expect when working with them.
Additionally, where PNC does specify pricing, they also mention that it’s subject to change at any time and will not be consistent across PNC sales channels. Therefore, with the variety of payment processing options on the market, including those directly from First Data and Clover, it seems that it would be best to look at providers with more transparent practices and information available to business owners.
PNC Merchant Services Reviews
The PNC Merchant Services reviews that you can find online are, without a doubt, concerning. Although there is not a prevalence of reviews in general, there also doesn’t seem to be any that have a positive outlook on this merchant service provider. In fact, PNC Merchant Services reviews are overwhelmingly negative, with a few concerns being mentioned again and again.
One of these concerns, which is not particularly uncommon among payment processors, is hidden fees. Another common complaint is misleading sales tactics reportedly used by PNC representatives. Many customers report that sales representatives either withheld information relevant to their service or made claims that were not reflected in later merchant agreements. In addition to these issues, reviewers also seem to dislike PNC’s long contract term and feel that their service is expensive.
Alternatives to PNC Merchant Services
Luckily, although PNC Merchant Services might not be the best payment solution for most business owners, there are many other options to choose from. In fact, if you’re specifically interested in the products offered by PNC, there are a few top alternatives you might consider:
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no reason not to go straight to the source if you think any of the Clover point of sale systems will meet your business’s needs. In fact, Clover is a very popular POS system and has great appeal as an all-in-one solution for brick-and-mortar stores. Additionally, the Clover mobile POS offering can be particularly useful if you want flexibility in accepting payments as well as for utilizing a smartphone or tablet you already have. Clover also allows you to expand your capabilities even further by using any of the numerous third-party apps in the Clover app market.
In terms of pricing, although you’ll have to pay for both hardware and software, Clover’s prices, as well as transaction fees are on-par with competitors. Therefore, if you want the functionality of PNC Merchant Services without the confusion and hassle, Clover is a great option.
Whether you’re looking for a point of sale for your brick-and-mortar store or a payment integration for your ecommerce website, Square has a solution that can fulfill your needs. Square offers both POS software and hardware—including a free software option, as well as offerings specific to your type of business (restaurant or retail). In terms of hardware, you can choose from a handful of card readers, as well as Square Stand or Register. With Square’s POS system you can accept the full range of payment methods, as well as track inventory, manage employees, and of course, process customer orders.
For ecommerce businesses, the Square Payment platform can be used to accept payments online. You can customize Square’s API for your online store or mobile app, as well as integrate with a number of ecommerce platforms. Although the Square fees and final cost will ultimately depend on what type of solution you need, their pricing is more readily available on their website—including flat-rate transaction fees that only vary based on the terminal you use. Therefore, as one of the most well-known and popular payment and point of sale providers on the market, Square is a worthy alternative to PNC Merchant Services.
PNC Merchant Services: The Bottom Line
Although PNC Merchant Services might be appealing to business owners who already bank with PNC, it’s difficult to say that their payment solutions are preferable to others available on the market. Similarly, even if you’re interested in the variety of products PNC Merchant Services offers, since they’re a reseller of First Data products, you always have the option to bypass PNC and work directly with Clover or First Data for your payment processing.
Since payment processing is such an integral part of any small business’s operations, it seems that it would be better to choose a provider with more accessible information, transparent pricing, and less-concerning customer reviews. At the end of the day, however, only you can decide the payment solution that will best meet your business’s needs—but in this case, we’d recommend exploring PNC Merchant Services alternatives.
Randa Kriss is a senior staff writer at Fundera.
At Fundera, Randa specializes in reviewing small business products, software, and services. Randa has written hundreds of reviews across a wide swath of business topics including ecommerce, merchant services, accounting, credit cards, bank accounts, loan products, and payroll and human resources solutions.