A Summary of Wells Fargo Merchant Services
Wells Fargo Merchant Services provides small business merchant accounts and connects these merchant accounts to First Data credit card processing services. Before opting for Wells Fargo Merchant Services, be sure to note their $500 early cancellation fee—any other Wells Fargo Merchant Services fees your business would pay aren’t available until you call for a quote.
You likely know Wells Fargo as the mega-bank that offers both consumer and small business services to almost 70 million customers across the United States.
But what do you know about Wells Fargo Merchant Services? As a small business owner and merchant, you might have stumbled across the newer merchant services division of Wells Fargo, but many small business owners aren’t even aware that Wells Fargo credit card processing is even an option.
If you’re considering using Wells Fargo Merchant Services as a solution to your business’s credit card processing needs, here’s what you need to know.
The “Merchant Services” in Wells Fargo Merchant Services
New to the world of merchant accounts and merchant services?
It’s a complicated space, and one worth knowing well before you venture into it. So, before we dive into the details on Wells Fargo credit card processing merchant services, let’s first solidify what merchant services are in the first place.
(If you already get the gist of merchant accounts, feel free to skip ahead to our breakdown of what Wells Fargo Merchant Services credit card processing has to offer.)
Merchant Services Include Merchant Accounts
A merchant account is an account that lets a business accept credit card payments. About four out of five consumers use credit cards, and businesses that accept credit cards are more likely to produce higher sales and upsell customers.
In a way, a merchant account is pretty similar to any old checking account. Just as a checking account lets you cash a check from someone else, a merchant account allows you to take a payment from a customer. But unlike a checking account, a merchant account doesn’t hold the money you accept.
Instead, a card payment gets passed through the merchant account and is deposited into your business checking account once the funds have been cleared through the merchant account. This process usually takes at most 48 hours from the time the credit card is swiped at your store front.
Accessing Merchant Services Isn’t Necessarily Simple
Most credit card issuers (besides American Express) do not directly provide merchant accounts for small businesses owners processing credit card payments. Instead, companies like Visa, MasterCard, and Discover rely on banks, independent sales organizations (ISOs), or financial service providers to supply the merchant accounts.
In order for a third-party sales organization to legally supply these merchant accounts and process credit card transactions, it must be registered as an ISO and backed by an FDIC-insured bank—also known as an “acquiring bank.”
If you set up a merchant account from an acquiring bank, the bank will treat this account like a line of credit account. That’s because your business will get paid before any actual money is collected from the customer.
An Overview of Wells Fargo Merchant Services
Remember those acquiring banks we mentioned above? Wells Fargo is technically an acquiring bank in this whole exchange. That means that when you sign up for Wells Fargo Merchant Services, Wells Fargo won’t be your direct credit card processor.
Wells Fargo is the acquiring bank that fronts the money you’re owed from your credit card transactions, and First Data is the credit card processor that clears the customer’s transaction with their credit card issuer. So, Wells Fargo credit card processing merchant services will actually be First Data and Wells Fargo credit card processing merchant services.
Wells Fargo doesn’t fully explain this relationship on their Wells Fargo Merchant Service website. But what you really need to know is that when signing up for a Wells Fargo Merchant Services account, you’ll be working with both Wells Fargo Merchant Services and First Data. For example, all of the physical equipment used to process credit cards in your store is provided by First Data Global Leasing.
The Details on Wells Fargo Merchant Services Offerings
A merchant account from Wells Fargo Merchant Services will make it so your business can accept credit card and debit card transactions from all four of the major credit card issuers in your physical store, online, and on mobile devices.
But remember, all the credit card processing is done through First Data, so if you hear “Wells Fargo credit card processing,” know that it’s likely referring to First Data credit card processing through Wells Fargo Merchant Services.
Beyond a general merchant account and connection to First Data credit card processing, here’s a list of what else Wells Fargo Merchant Services offers:
- Terminal sales or leases. As an account holder with Wells Fargo Merchant Services, you’ll have the ability to purchase terminals for you business. If you choose to rent your terminal, you can set up a lease with First Data Global Leasing.
- Mobile processing. You can also accept and process mobile payments with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and more.
- Data encryption. Wells Fargo Merchant Services’s “TransArmor solution” will help protect your customers card information with encryption technology.
- EMV support. Wells Fargo Merchant Services also helps your business accept EMV-chip cards.
- Payment gateway. Having a Wells Fargo Merchant Services account will also help support your ecommerce presence. You can set up a payment gateway through First Data’s Payeezy Gateway so you can accept payments online. You could also choose to use CyberSource or Authorize.net as your payment gateway.
- Point of sale. Wells Fargo Merchant Services also works with First Data’s Clover Station and other Clover products for point of sale solutions.
Wells Fargo Merchant Services Fees and Rates
If you visit the Wells Fargo Merchant Services website, you’ll find from a quick scan that Wells Fargo Merchant Services fees aren’t readily available.
You can take a look at their rates and fees section on their frequently asked questions page. But if you were to ask, “What will Wells Fargo Merchant Services fees cost my business?”
The answer is “it varies.”
In general, Wells Fargo Merchant Services fees depend on:
- The kind of business you run
- Your business’s processing volume
- Your processing method (in person, online, or by phone)
- The kind of card your customer uses
- And simply how your merchant account is set up
What Wells Fargo Merchant Services Fees Include
While we don’t know exactly what Wells Fargo will charge you—and you won’t know exactly until you call the Wells Fargo Merchant Services phone number and ask for a quote—here’s a general idea of what might show up on your statement:
- Discount rate. Wells Fargo refers to the discount rate as service charges. They’re essentially the percentage Wells Fargo takes from a transaction as the cost of authorizing, processing, and settling a transaction.
- Interchange charges. Wells Fargo Merchant Services fees will include an interchange fee. This is a variable fee that compensates the card issuer for advancing the payment to the merchant (you) until the settlement from the cardholder. You pay this fee on your Wells Fargo Merchant Services statement, but the exact amount you pay depends on the card issuer.
- Transaction fees. Wells Fargo will also charge you a fixed-rate transaction fee (for instance, 2.5% of each transaction no matter what), or a fixed-rate transaction fee that varies based on the credit card issuer of the given transaction. Unfortunately, Wells Fargo doesn’t make it clear what these rates will be, as they vary from account to account.
- Cancellation fee. One fee that Wells Fargo does make clear is their cancellation fee. If you cancel your Wells Fargo Merchant Services account, you’ll face a $500 cancellation fee—if you’re processing less than $1 million per year in transactions. If you’re processing over $1 million per year in transactions, you’ll be charged both the $500 early termination fee and liquidated damages equal to “six times the highest amount of revenue in any single calendar month during the initial term or any renewal term.”
A Caveat About Wells Fargo Merchant Services Fees
Unfortunately, that’s all we can really tell of rates and fees for Wells Fargo Merchant Services. If you go through their online resources, the most you’ll get on information for rates and fees is that “they vary.”
You won’t know exactly what you’ll be charged until you talk with one of their sales representatives. The rate structure you’ll get depends on the kind of business you run and how your account is set up, but if you’ve been a Wells Fargo customer in the past, you might be able to take advantage of relationship-based rates.
Wells Fargo Merchant Services: The Positives
Now that you’ve got a general sense of what Wells Fargo Merchant Services has to offer, what are some of the factors that might make you want to use their service?
Here are a few perks to consider.
All Four Major Credit Card Networks Accepted
With Wells Fargo credit card processing services, you can accept all the major credit cards for your business.
This is definitely a plus—you wouldn’t want to be paying for a service that doesn’t let you accept the major cards found in your customers’ wallets.
But when it comes down to it, accepting all the major credit cards is pretty run-of-the-mill for merchant services.
Different Ecommerce Platform Integrations
Wells Fargo Merchant Services has a strong offering for businesses that host many of their transactions online.
You can use Wells Fargo’s own SecureSource Web Payment Account, which accepts all major credit cards, completes transactions on the same day of purchase, and offers a wide range of security protections.
But Wells Fargo also allows you to use Authorize.Net, CyberSource, SecureNet Payment Systems, PayFlow Gateway, and almost any other payment gateway. So when it comes to offering online payment processing, Wells Fargo’s flexibility is an added plus.
Possibility of Next-Day Funding
Whereas most credit card payment processing takes 48 hours, Wells Fargo offers the possibility of getting your payments processed the day after the purchase.
If the speed at which you get your credit card payments deposited into your business checking account is important to you, you’ll benefit from this feature. Any credit card transactions from Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express networks will come in the next day.
However, it’s important to note that the next-day funding benefit is only available to you if you have your business checking account with Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo Merchant Services: The Negatives
As with any decision for your small business, you need to weigh the pros against the cons you face by choosing to work with Wells Fargo Merchant Services.
Unclear Rates and Fees Structure
Notice that we can’t give you a clear breakdown of what you’ll face in rates and fees if you choose Wells Fargo Merchant Services?
That’s because Wells Fargo is very vague across all their informational resources on fees and rates. It’s really unclear what your rate structure will be and how that rate is determined.
While most of Wells Fargo Merchant Services fees are dependent on what services you specifically choose for your business, it’s better to work with a merchant account provider that’s fully transparent with their rates and fees.
After the discount rate, interchange fees, transaction fees, and so on—these merchant accounts can really add up. You wouldn’t want to work with an account provider that isn’t totally upfront about what you’ll need to pay.
Third-Party Payment Gateway
It’s crucial to know that, if you sign up for Wells Fargo Merchant Services, you’ll be working with both Wells Fargo and First Data—the credit card processor.
Although this isn’t necessarily a problem, you just need to know that you’re working under two different contracts.
First Data could spike their rates, making your overall monthly statements more expensive. Or they could change their security features while Wells Fargo’s services remain the same.
When it comes down to it, you’ll be juggling two different contracts with two different companies for one service.
Steep Cancellation Fee
Wells Fargo Merchant Services fees will include an early termination fee of $500 to go with it.
Wells Fargo offers to “buy out” your existing contract with another merchant account provider in order to win your business—paying a portion or all of your cancellation fee. (You can only qualify for this deal if you’re doing at least $100,000 in processing annually.)
They say you’ll receive up to $500 when you switch to Wells Fargo Merchant Services.
This is pretty misleading. You won’t get a check deposited into your bank account when you switch from your current provider to Wells Fargo. You’ll simply get refunded for whatever your cancellation fee was—up to $500.
And back to Wells Fargo’s own cancellation fee—$500 is quite steep.
Poor Customer Service
Wells Fargo Merchant Services provides customer support and technical assistance through a telephone line that’s available 24/7.
You can also reach them via email, but there’s no chat function on their website.
While it’s good to have the 24/7 service, having customer support be primarily offered through the phone is an inconvenience. That means that if something is going wrong as you’re serving a customer, you’ll have to get on the phone to get any assistance with the problem.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to get things done over the phone, this might work for you. But with customer support being a common complaint in Wells Fargo Merchant Services reviews, clearly their technical support is an issue.
The Government’s Involved
If you’ve seen them in the news, then you know that Wells Fargo hasn’t had the best few years.
In September 2016, the bank reached a $190 million settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over allegations that Wells Fargo employees had intentionally and systematically set up over 2 million unauthorized accounts in order to meet sales quotas.
To deal with this issue, Wells Fargo’s CEO John Stumpf was forced to resign and the bank fired about 5,300 employees.
The majority of this issue remained on the consumer side of the bank’s products, but there’s some indication that the opening of unauthorized accounts happened on the small business side, too—possibly 10,000 unauthorized small business accounts have been identified.
There’s not much Wells Fargo Merchant Services news specifically, and hopefully this issue won’t affect more merchants using their services. But with many complaints of shady sales tactics and lack of full disclosure with fees—especially the early contract termination fee—it’s possible that this problem might be an issue across all of Wells Fargo’s divisions.
The Bottom Line on Wells Fargo Merchant Services
As always, you should weigh the pros and cons with any service for your small business—and Wells Fargo Merchant Services is no exception.
There are a few reasons why this merchant account might be the right move for your business—namely if your business already has a bank account set up with Wells Fargo—but the service has its fair share of downsides.
Always shop your options to see if you can find a merchant account that has fewer add-on fees, and is a little more transparent with what you’re getting.
Georgia McIntyre is the director of content marketing at Fundera.
Georgia has written extensively about small business finance, specializing in business lending, credit cards, and accounting solutions.