Shift4 Payments Review 2019: Features, Cost, Alternatives

Matthew Speiser

Matthew is a staff writer at Fundera. He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Matthew's writing has been published in Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, and NJ.com, among others. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware.
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Shift4 Payments is one of the biggest names today in merchant services. The Pennsylvania-based payments technology purveyor processes more than a billion transactions annually for nearly 200,000 businesses, representing over $100 billion in payments each year. Shift4 owns several point of sale (POS) brands and integrates with over 300 additional POS and property management system platforms. Shift4 also has an army of over 7,000 sales partners reselling their products.

In other words, Shift4 Payments is one of the most ubiquitous merchant services brands in the U.S. Therefore, there’s a decent chance you will encounter them or one of their resellers as you traverse the merchant services market. So let’s learn a little bit more about Shift4 Payments, what they do, and what kinds of solutions they can offer your small business. By the end of this Shift4 Payments review, you’ll have a clear picture of whether they’re right for you—and if they’re not, we’ll also highlight some Shift4 Payments alternatives.

Shift4 Payments: The Basics

Shift4 Payments was founded in 1999 as a credit card processing company under the name United Bank Card Inc. Over the next 20 years the company expanded their offerings greatly while also going through several rebrands and acquisitions. Today Shift4 Payments is a complete payment processing solution servicing a broad range of industries, including retail, food services, hospitality, and ecommerce.

Shift4 Payment’s most notable product offerings include one of the most widely used payment gateways on the market; the Harbortouch, POSitouch, Restaurant Manager, and Future POS systems; and integrations with hundreds of other POS software. Shift4 also sells POS hardware, business intelligence tools, and gift cards and loyalty programs.

As previously mentioned, Shift4 primarily relies on resellers to distribute their products. Merchants should proceed with caution when dealing with resellers. These businesses tend to have a reputation of misleading clients, stuffing contracts with hidden fees, and offering poor customer support. While many resellers are reputable, we recommend doing your research beforehand to make sure you don’t partner with someone who will put their interests before the interests of your business.

shift4 payments

Shift4 Payments Features

We’ve given you a broad overview of all the services Shift4 Payments provides. Now let’s get into detail on the type of services you can acquire from this payment technology conglomerate.

Payment Gateway

Shift4 Payments sells one of the most widely used payment gateways in the world. Its popularity is due to the fact that it connects both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar merchants with a huge selection of back-end payment processors, including First Data, Elavon, Worldpay, and Heartland Payment Systems

The Shift4 payment gateway also has a range of advanced security features, including EMV certification, point-to-point encryption, and payment data tokenization. The gateway accepts all major credit cards, as well as digital wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay. Other features of Shift4’s payment gateway include pre- and post-settlement auditing, a 24-month rolling transaction archive, fraud prevention services, multi-location management, and offline functionality.

When you sign up for a Shift4 payment gateway, you’ll receive a free EMV (chip card) credit card reader with a warranty and replacement plan. Shift4 also waives gateway and setup fees. 

On their website, Shift4 Payments says you’ll get the “lowest total cost to accept credit card payments.” However, it does not specify what that cost is. What we can say is that Shift4 Payments offers interchange-plus pricing, and that the specific cost you will pay is quote-based. Factors that will determine your payment processing rate include your industry type and transaction volume. 

POS Software

As previously mentioned, Shift4 Payments owns four major restaurant POS brands: Harbortouch, POSitouch, Future, and Restaurant Manager. Merchants can use Shift4 Payments as their payment processor with all these POS systems. Each also offers POS hardware through Shift4 Payments and onsite installation. 

Collectively, these four POS brands service some of the largest food service businesses in the world, including Denny’s, KFC, Dairy Queen, Outback Steakhouse, Arby’s, Little Caesars, Houlihan’s, and more. 

Shift4 Payments also integrates with an array of POS and property management system software brands across a broad spectrum of industries, including lodging, food and beverage, retail, ecommerce, gaming, golf, spa, and more. 

POS Hardware

Shift4’s payment processing technology also integrates with dozens of different POS hardware brands and devices. Merchants can even mix and match from Shift4’s list of devices to meet the needs of all of their individual revenue centers. Among the payment devices sold by Shift4 are mobile, handheld, and countertop POS terminals, as well as mobile and countertop credit card readers. Options sold by Shift4 Payments can support magstripe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment. POS hardware brands that are compatible with Shift4 Payments include Ingenico, Verifone, ID TECH, PAX, and Innowi, among others. 

SkyTab

One proprietary payment solution you can purchase through Shift4 Payments is SkyTab—a handheld restaurant POS terminal with a built-in magstripe, EMV, and NFC card reader that is designed for tableside ordering and payment. SkyTab can run on Harbortouch, POSitouch, Future, and Restaurant Manager POS software. Some of the features available with SkyTab include:

  • Order management
  • Customer payment interface 
  • Check-splitting capabilities
  • Tipping suggestions
  • Option to rate dining experience
  • Email and text receipts
  • Ability to save customer emails

Lighthouse

Another unique product sold by Shift4 Payments is the Lighthouse Business Management System. This tool is available on any computer or mobile device and offers numerous reporting and customer engagement tools, plus a variety of other management features.

With Lighthouse you can create a customized dashboard with widgets that provide you quick access to your most important business information. You can also use Lighthouse to remotely add, edit, or remove menu items, discounts, pricing information, table layouts, and POS settings. Lighthouse also provides you with remote access to your POS’ employee management and customer engagement tools.

You can integrate Lighthouse with a variety of other business management tools to extend its functionality, including MailChimp and Sling. 

Gift Cards

The last product Shift4 Payments sells to merchants is a gift card program. Those who sign up for the gift card program will receive gift cards customized with their business’s branding and an extension for their POS that will track gift card balances, monitor for fraud, and track analytics on your gift card program.

Customer Service

Shift4 Payments offers 24/7/365 customer support via phone and email. There is also a Customer Support portal with documentation and videos on how to use different Shift4 Payments products and services. Additional tips and advice can be found via their blog. 

shift4 payments

Shift4 Payments Pricing

Shift4 Payments does not provide any pricing information on their website. This is not surprising, considering Shift4 Payments sells their products through sales partners. Typically, these resellers set their own prices, or offer a quote-based pricing model that varies depending on your needs, business size, transaction volume, industry, and other factors. This is why we say you should proceed with caution when dealing with resellers: You could get an unfair deal because different resellers may sell the same products at different prices.

To help get a better understanding of what Shift4 Payments’ offerings may cost, let’s look at the pricing of two of their most popular POS products: Harbortouch and POSitouch. The price of Harbortouch ranges from $29 per month to $49 per month depending on the subscription plan you choose (price does not include hardware costs or payment processing fees). POSitouch’s pricing, on the other hand, is entirely quote-based. 

Shift4 Payments Pros

Here are the benefits of using Shift4 Payments as your merchant services provider:

Flexibility

The best thing about Shift4 Payments is that it can work with so many different third-party tools and services. The Shift4 payment gateway integrates with just about every major back-end processor, as well as over 300 POS and property management systems, and most major POS hardware brands. Plus, Shift4 Payments is expanding their offerings every day, meaning their payment technology will become compatible with more devices in the future. 

Restaurant Management Software

We see Shift4 Payments as a particularly desirable solution for merchants in the food service industry, given that Shift4 Payments owns four major restaurant POS brands. Users who sign up for Harbortouch, POSitouch, Future, or Restaurant Manager can bundle their payment processing with their POS, and receive lower rates than those who go with a third-party payment processor. Plus, all four POS brands offer a wide range of features, and merchants also get access to the popular SkyTab POS terminal.

Scalability

A large merchant services provider like Shift4 Payments provides a scalable solution: As your business grows and your transaction volume increases, you can expect Shift4 Payments to offer you lower per-transaction rates. Shift4 Payments can also provide you with all of the payment technology solutions you need to accommodate your growth—and if they don’t sell it themselves, they probably integrate with someone who does. 

Shift4 Cons

Shift4 Payments isn’t the perfect solution for every business. We do have one main point of concern with their offerings:

Pricing

Shift4 Payment’s pricing, or lack thereof, is always a concern in an industry like merchant services, where transparency is sometimes hard to come by. We don’t like when merchant services providers aren’t upfront about how much they cost for their services. This often leads to merchants getting unfair deals. Sure enough, Shift4 Payments’ Better Business Bureau page is rife with comments from customers complaining about contracts with predatory terms and hidden fees. This is often the byproduct of working with a sales partner, and why we urge merchants to tread carefully and always read the fine print.

Shift4 Payments Reviews

Shift4 Payments isn’t as widely reviewed as their subsidiaries, but their Better Business Bureau page is revealing. While the company maintains an A+ rating, customer reviews give Shift4 Payments 1.5 out of 5 stars. The company also has 32 complaints filed against it in the last year. In critical reviews of Shift4 Payments, customers complain about poor customer service, deceptive sales tactics, and expensive hidden fees. 

But to get a more well-rounded picture of Shift4, here are the customer ratings for some of Shift4 Payment’s subsidiaries:

Harbortouch:

POSitouch

Future POS

Restaurant Manager

What these ratings tell us is that public sentiment toward Shift4 Payments’ offerings is mixed at best. There’s a chance you get a solution that works for your business, but there is also a chance you get something that ends up hurting you in the long run.

Shift4 Payments Alternatives

If you’re not sold on Shift4 Payments, allow us to recommend some alternatives.

Square

While Shift4 Payments is unclear about their payment processing rates, Square sets the standard for transparency. When you sign up for Square, you’ll be able to start processing in-person payments at a rate of 2.75%, and ecommerce transactions at a rate of 2.9% + $0.30. You’ll also get a free mobile magstripe reader, and access to Square’s free POS software. For additional fees, you can sign up for Square’s paid POS software: They offer one version for retailers and another version for restaurateurs. What’s more, Square offers some of the most popular and intuitive POS hardware on the market, including the Square Register and Square Terminal.

First Data

If you’re going to work with a large merchant services brand, might as well go with the largest one in the world. Like Shift4 Payments, First Data offers quote-based pricing on all their products, but there is nearly no limit to the product options you get. First Data owns Clover POS, and sells their popular POS hardware. They also sell payment gateways, gift card programs, reporting tools, and financing products. First Data’s ratings on customer review websites are also noticeably higher than Shift4 Payment’s, for what it’s worth.

Is Shift4 Payments Right for Your Business?

Shift4 Payment’s product variety, flexibility, and scalability can work for most businesses—if you are able to acquire a fair deal. For that to happen, you have to have a good understanding of the services you need, find a good reseller, and know how to negotiate. It may also help to have your business attorney review any contract before signing. If you can get a fair deal, there is no limit to how far Shift4 Payments can take you. 

Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone. They haven’t been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the companies mentioned above. Learn more about our editorial process and how we make money here.

Matthew Speiser

Matthew is a staff writer at Fundera. He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Matthew's writing has been published in Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, and NJ.com, among others. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware.

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