A lot has changed since First Data first entered the credit card processing scene in 1971; new technologies and younger, evermore flexible providers continue to disrupt the marketplace.
It might have been the first on the scene, but is it still the first choice?
What is First Data?
First Data provides credit card and payment solutions for businesses of all sizes, including SMEs, multinationals and financial institutions.
First Data were pioneers in the credit card processing scene. In 1976, they became the first processor of Visa and Mastercard bank-issued credit cards. The company now handles over 45% of all debit card and credit card transactions in the United States, equivalent to more than $2.2 trillion in card transactions each year.
Of all the payment solution providers, First Data has the largest customer base, dealing with six million merchants and processing as many as 2,800 transactions each second.
First Data Products, Features and Services
As you’d expect from a company of such scale, they’ve got more than a few weapons in their arsenal.
Dealing with everything from small independent high street vendors to huge global brands, First Data has a range of products and services to meet the needs of businesses of all shapes and sizes:
First Data offers a range of card terminals, both wired and wireless, allowing businesses to take card payments quickly and efficiently. These include:
Mobile Card Machines
Suitable for businesses on the move, these can take payments anywhere with a 3G signal. If you do any type of pop-up events such as farmers markets or festivals then having a mobile card machine might even help you boost your sales – who even carries cash anymore?
Contactless card machines
Who doesn’t have contactless nowadays? NFC enabled card machines supporting Apple Pay and Android Pay will keep transactions quick, efficient and secure – no matter whether your customer wants to pay by card, phone or smartwatch.
Portable Card Machines
Do you have a business in the hospitality sector? You may not have the budget for a Wetherspoons-style mobile app for customers to order and pay for food and drinks without ever leaving their seats (or perhaps you’d rather have more face-to-face time with your customers), but you can still stop queues at the bar by taking payment processing to wherever the customer is sitting.
First Data has built a range of Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) systems which are tailor-made for sectors such as hospitality, health and beauty and retail.
First Data’s ‘Clover’ range of POS systems also come in a range of form factors to suit the needs of individual businesses.
The Clover Station
This is the company’s flagship model. With an 11.6” high definition swivel neck touchscreen, fingerprint login, a built-in camera and barcode scanner, a ‘smart’ receipt printer with a 4.3” screen and NFC payment and a backup battery, you’ve got all the bells and whistles.
An additional screen or an all-in-one compact countertop POS, the Clover Mini adds flexibility to your payment set-up. You can choose the components you need and customize your Clover Mini with tons of apps, adding accounting, marketing and gift card functionality.
Need something even smaller? The Clover Flex is built to be carried around with you. Just hand it to the customer and they can pay by traditional EMV chip and pin, swipe, tap and sign whether they’re in the queue, the shop floor or at the table. It even comes with a built-in receipt printer and scanner.
Whether you need a bare-essentials payment solution or a powerful POS, Clover has a software plan to suit. Clover’s app marketplace is sure to provide a solution to even the most complex of business problems. Users can add E-receipt functionality and ‘suggested tip’ screens for customers, track employee shifts and assess the profitability of stock – all from one system.
First Data Mobile Pay
A smartphone is already a veritable swiss-army knife of antennas, sensors and other inputs – so why not make the most and turn your phone into a portable POS?
First Data Mobile Pay allows you to process credit, debit and gift card transactions through a mobile web app, wherever you are. This works in one of two ways:
Clover Go app
Download the Clover Go app from the Apple or Play Store and plug the encrypting card reader into your iPhone, other smartphone or tablet. This allows you to process credit card transactions using EMV and swipe, as well as other NFC-based methods. The reader connects via BlueTooth, so you don’t have to awkwardly huddle together as the customer pays and you try to keep the reader connected to the phone as with previous iterations.
Web-Based First Data Mobile Pay
Visit the First Data Mobile Pay web page and simply enter your customer’s credit card number.
You will be able to process payments using both solutions wherever you have a wifi signal. Payments are processed instantly and you can arrange for an e-receipt to be sent to the customer’s email address.
First Data offers a convenient mobile payment service which allows your customer to pay for their purchases using only their mobile phones – they simply ‘wave and go’.
First Data’s PayEdge Solution offers merchants a cloud-based mobile payment solution, which is based with the Automated Clearing House (ACH) and facilitates secure, low-cost payments.
But it doesn’t stop there – First Data technology integrates with mobile wallet applications to enable some pretty forward-thinking marketing and loyalty strategies.
Promotions can be sent directly to customers on the same mobile device that they used to activate an account and make payment method decisions.
Loyalty card info can also be stored directly on your customers’ phones so that your business is able to build more effective targeted loyalty initiatives.
If your business operates online or if your business is a through and through eCommerce store, First Data’s Payeezy Gateway is functional and secure. It integrates with over 70 different shopping carts, supports multiple currencies and can accept payment by debit or credit card, e-cheque or Paypal.
First Data Costs, Fees and Pricing
First Data does not disclose any of its prices for EU customers on its website. Yes, it is annoying.
But it is also understandable. First Data work with everything from independent small businesses to gargantuan global chains. It would be nigh on impossible, for example, to suggest a price for a POS package suitable for your business when there is so much flexibility when it comes to functionality.
On top of this, the company has a different pricing structure for each customer. Depending on the nature of your business, you could be offered a flat-rate, tiered or interchange-plus pricing structure.
If you’re looking for a quote, contacting them is the way to go. You can fill out a form on their website or give them a call. They also have a 9-5 live chat.
Once they know your business and what type of service you’re looking for, they’ll be able to offer you a tailored quote. And let’s be honest, getting a custom quote is way better anyway than thinking something’s going to cost £64/ month but turns out to be £140 because your net profit is above a certain threshold.
When you compare the reviews for First Data left across a number of review platforms, it paints a slightly mixed picture:
That’s a pretty solid Trustpilot score, but what about the Better Business Bureau reviews?
Well, the Better Business Bureau actually offers its own business rating based on how they believe the company is likely to interact with its customers. This ‘BBB rating’ factors in complaints received from the public and uses the information provided directly from businesses and public data sources.
Clearly, in spite of the negative reviews left on the Better Business Bureau, and the fact that they are not accredited by the BBB, First Data is considered a reliable merchant service provider. You can find the full list of factors taken into consideration when grading here.
So why is there such a difference between the two scores? Well, let’s not forget that this company works with six million merchants, globally.
So what’re 107 negative reviews in 6,000,000 customers?
We’ll let you work that one out.
In spite of the grand reviews, you might want to think twice before dealing with First Data’s equipment leasing subsidiary: First Data Global Leasing.
Consumeraffairs.com 1 / 5 (371 reviews)
On Consumeraffairs, First Data ratings are poorer, and many of the negative reviews are directly faulting the company.
The main issues are as follows
Overpriced Equipment Leases
All of these leases have noncancelable four-year terms. You could sell your business or permanently close but you’d have to keep paying. Not only will you have spent far more than the equipment is actually worth, but you also won’t own the equipment at the end of the term.
Our advice? Avoid leasing. It won’t be cheap to purchase First Data terminals and Clover POS systems, but it will work out a lot less expensive in the long-run.
First Data charges a fee for just about everything. For example, you can buy the terminal, but you have to pay a subscription for the software. You’ll pay more depending on what apps you want to use. Then you’ll be charged a percentage per transaction, which will depend on the type of business you are and the pricing structure to which you have been assigned. This is very normal across the industry, but as we see it, First Data’s solutions are better suited for a certain type of business.
Generally, First Data has a great pricing structure for large businesses, who will save on lower processing fees. However, with small businesses, this isn’t always the case. If you want all the additional software functionality, expect to pay the premium. If you just need a bare-bones merchant account for a small barbershop, you should probably look elsewhere.
Many merchants hate this. It’s not hard to see why.
Essentially, First Data will charge you a flat rate, let’s say 2.5%, then charge you an additional amount the following month for things that you weren’t initially billed for.
Different types of transactions have different rates. For example, a card-not-present (CNP) transaction will be riskier than a POS transaction, as it doesn’t require a PIN or a signature, so these will be charged a higher rate. Anything over and above your flat-rate will, therefore, be billed back to you the following month.
But there are also plenty of positives too!
One of the overwhelming impressions that you get from reading the reviews is that unless unlucky, or if a business has gone off the rail whilst under a leasing agreement, customers are generally very happy with First Data. It’s no big surprise to us, they are the largest payment processing company in the world for a reason.
Well earned reputation
Founded in 1971 in Nebraska and now headquartered in Atlanta USA, First Data started off by just providing payment processing services to the Mid-America Bankcard Organisation.
Today, First Data is the world’s largest payment processor and also processes payments for a wide range of big UK banks (including Lloyds & HBOS), which should give you a big confidence boost choosing to use them.
Good for high volume merchants
If, say you run a large eCommerce store, First Data would be able to offer you some very competitive rates due to your sheer size.
First Data is a great company to work with, especially if you’re a high volume merchant looking for low rates.
In April 2019, Fiserv announced a deal to acquire First Data, and in July 2019 the two companies joined forces and are now the global leader in payments and fintech.
Although rebranded, First Data is continuing to run their business under the old brand – at least for a little while as far as we’re aware as they let the new brand settle and can do the full swap over.
If you do intend to do business with them, it will likely be under the new name Fiserv.