Whether they’re single-person LLCs or multi-member corporations, the vast majority of small businesses need to be able to accept credit card payments at their point of sale, wherever that point of sale may be. On a practical level, that means signing up with a payment processor that can handle your business’s various credit card transactions—and TSYS Merchant Solutions is just one payment processing company worth consideration during your search.
TSYS is a top-to-bottom payment solutions provider whose products and services enable businesses of any size, and in any industry, to accept credit card payments in almost every conceivable way. That’s a pretty broad proposal, we know, so in this TSYS review we’ll go into greater detail about what those products and services actually entail for merchants. And for the business owners who decide that TSYS isn’t quite what they’re looking for, we’ll offer three alternative payment processing platforms for you to consider instead.
What Is TSYS?
TSYS is one of the largest payment processors in the world: In 2017 alone, TSYS processed $27.8 billion in transactions, and they currently handle credit card transactions for 787,000 merchants.
TSYS is composed of four channels: TSYS Acquiring Solutions, which acts as the credit card processor for third-party companies that provide payment processing technology; TSYS Issuing Services; TSYS Prepaid Card Services; and TSYS Merchant Services, which is the focus of this TSYS review.
Through TSYS Merchant Services, the company works with businesses directly to provide virtually every credit card processing service or product they may need, including a payment gateway, merchant account, mobile and physical POS terminals, and more. These solutions enable businesses of any size, and in any industry, to process several payment types, including most major credit and debit cards, ACH payments, checks, prepaid cards, EBT payments, and electronic wallet payments such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
As we mentioned, TSYS Merchant Services offers business owners all the tools they need to process payments at any point of sale. TSYS provides ample descriptions about their products and services online, but that information isn’t organized intuitively (or, at the very least, it’s easy to get lost in that glut of information, albeit valuable!). So to cut down on confusion, here’s a simpler breakdown of TSYS’s major products:
As a direct credit card processor, TSYS provides businesses with their own, individual merchant accounts. Merchant accounts are simply a type of bank account into which funds obtained through your business’s credit card transactions are held, and they’re necessary tools for businesses to be able to accept credit cards. The merchant account provider fronts you the majority of those transactions, minus their fees—that way, you can receive those funds ASAP, without needing to wait until your customer settles their credit card bill.
TSYS also offers a proprietary payment gateway, a software plugin that businesses need in order to accept credit card and ACH payments online, both in card-present and card-not-present transactions. TSYS’s payment gateway is loaded with features and capabilities, including recurring billing, shopping cart integrations, automatic account updates, and detailed transaction reports. It can also be used by multiple merchants, which is a must-have if you own several locations. Alternately, you can choose to use Authorize.Net as your payment gateway if you’d prefer not to use TSYS’s proprietary service.
TSYS also offers a variety of POS terminals by Ingencio and Verifone that allow business owners to accept credit cards in person. Included among these physical terminals are countertop terminals, mobile and wireless terminals, PIN pads, credit card swipers, and a printer. Most of these terminals are equipped to process all types of credit cards, including swipe cards, EMV cards, and NFC payments.
Other Payment Processing Solutions
In addition to their countertop payment solutions, TSYS can also provide the appropriate technology, hardware, and support for businesses that need to process payments via mobile devices; over the phone through DIALPAY; and online through their virtual terminal, which turns your computer into a credit card terminal.
Although they do offer plenty of information about their products, unfortunately TSYS doesn’t disclose processing rates and account fees online. That means you’ll need to negotiate your pricing plan with your TSYS point of contact, and thoroughly review your contract for any additional fees.
Note that as you’re negotiating, the company might offer you either an interchange-plus pricing or a tiered pricing plan. Interchange-plus pricing means that the vendor charges a standard markup in addition to the interchange rate. With tiered pricing, on the other hand, the vendor charges a different rate for different cards, and they may not disclose to you exactly which rate a certain type of card falls under. For that reason, we generally recommend that merchants choose an interchange-plus plan, as these rates are predictable and consistent.
According to the TSYS Merchant Card Processing contract (which can be viewed online), TSYS merchant accounts are bound to a three-year term. After those first three years, the contract will automatically renew every year. You’ll be subject to a $250 early cancellation fee if you decide to cancel your account before term is up and don’t follow proper early-cancellation procedure, which will be detailed in your contract. However, you might be able to negotiate your way out of an early cancellation fee as you’re defining the terms of your contract with TSYS before signing.
3 Alternatives to TSYS Merchant Solutions
TSYS is certainly worth your consideration, especially if you’re looking for a comprehensive payment processing solution that encompasses all aspects of the credit card transaction process. However, some merchants simply may not need all the bells and whistles that TSYS offers, and might prefer a simpler, perhaps more user-friendly payment processing solution. If that sounds like you, take a look at three of the best alternatives to TSYS Merchant Solutions:
With PayPal as your payment processor, you can accept credit card payments online, via invoice with PayPal Invoicing, or in-person with PayPal Here, their range of external card readers. PayPal is an especially good option for businesses seeking an easy solution to process payments online, as PayPal Checkout is a simple checkout button that you can integrate into your existing business website. In comparison to their ecommerce solutions, however, PayPal Here is a bit lacking, as the company currently only offers mobile card readers.
On the plus side, all PayPal merchant fees are standard for all businesses, and they’re outlined on the PayPal website—so you don’t need to worry about getting hit with unexpected processing fees.
As they’re especially focused on small business owners, Square’s range of hardware and software makes it easy for businesses to accept credit card payments in-person, online, or on the go. This should be an especially appealing option for online-only businesses, since Square’s ecommerce tools are among the best in the industry. And as a major bonus, Square pricing is transparent and straightforward; you can find all relevant Square fees, both for payment processing rates and hardware costs, right on their website.
Like PayPal and Square, Stripe pricing and fees are remarkably straightforward: Unless you opt for a customized package, you’ll simply pay 2.9% + $.030 per transaction, which is aligned with the industry standard.
However, keep in mind that Square, Stripe, and PayPal don’t offer individual merchant accounts; rather, they aggregate all of their customers into a single, large merchant account. Although that means you don’t need to worry about an application and underwriting process to be approved for a merchant account, the level of risk is heightened. And as the processor is more sensitive to unusual behavior in your account, you’ll also be at a greater risk of held funds and account freezes.
The Bottom Line on TSYS Merchant Solutions
All told, TSYS is an excellent option for merchants who are seeking a one-stop shop for all their credit card processing needs. A real plus here is that your business will receive its own, unique merchant account, rather than the aggregate account that many payment processors offer their customers. And as they’re a direct service provider, you won’t need to work with a third-party merchant account provider. It’s also a great option for businesses that need to accept credit card payments via several points of sale, including in-person, online, and on-the-go.
That said, the lack of readily available information regarding TSYS payment processing rates and additional account fees may turn some businesses away from this particular service. If you’re a new business, or if you simply process a relatively low volume of credit card transactions, then it may not be worth the hassle of contacting a TSYS representative, designing a bespoke payment processing service, and negotiating your way through a contract. In that case, you might be better off with a payment processor that offers greater transparency in their pricing, and which may prove to be a simpler signup and user experience than TSYS overall.
Sally Lauckner is the editor-in-chief of the Fundera Ledger and the editorial director at Fundera.
Sally has over a decade of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan magazines.