2023 Heartland Payment Systems Review & Alternatives
This article is part of a larger series on Payments.
Heartland Payment Systems, founded in 1997, is a merchant services provider and direct processor powered by Wells Fargo Bank. The provider features flexible payment processing, automated invoicing and recurring payments, mobile and ecommerce payments, virtual terminal solutions, and business management tools.
In our review of the best merchant services, Heartland Payment Services earned an overall score of 3.19 out of 5. Although it performed decently in our evaluation and it is essentially Global Payments’ arm for providing small business payments solutions, we do not recommend this processor to our readers. We consider long-term contracts and hefty early termination fees as major concerns. Other users also report being charged for unauthorized and hidden fees, which are risky for small businesses operating on a budget.
Heartland Payment Services at a Glance
- Instant funding
- Has both interchange-plus and flat-rate pricing
- Wide range of integrations
- Long-term contracts
- Pricing depends on application
- Expensive cancellation and early termination fees
Why We Don’t Recommend It for Small Businesses
- Lack of pricing transparency: Actual rates are subject to your application and business profile
- Long-term contracts: Three years with automatic one-year renewal
- Hefty early termination fees: $295 fee for canceling service early
- Reports of hidden fees: Many users and reviews report extra fees or increased rates without due notice
Supported Business Types
Retail, professional services, restaurants, mid- to large-size businesses
Monthly Software Fees
Starts at $0
Setup and Installation Fees
3 years with 1-year auto renewal
Heartland POS, integration with other POS
Payment Processing Fees
Small businesses just starting out
Occasional in-person sales
Low-cost credit card processing with no percentage markup
Monthly fee starting at
Card-present transaction fee
Starts at 2.6% + 10 cents
2.6% + 10 cents
2.29% + 9 cents
Interchange + 18 cents
Keyed transaction fee
Starts at 2.9% + 30 cents
3.5% + 15 cents
3.49% + 9 cents
Interchange + 18 cents
Ecommerce transaction fee
Starts at 2.6% + 10 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
starts at 2.59% + 49 cents
Interchange + 18 cents
Looking for the lowest rates? The payment processing rates you will pay can vary based on your business size, type, and average order value. To find the most affordable option and compare multiple processing rates, read our guide on the cheapest credit card processing.
In the News:
In 2021, three restaurants filed a class action against Heartland Payment Systems for allegedly imposing hidden and excessive fees during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the complainants, Heartland charged them Payment Card Industry (PCI), reporting, regulatory, customer intelligence suite, non-EMV assessment, and non-EMV program fees that were unauthorized or undisclosed in their respective merchant processing agreements. The case is ongoing.
Three of the top red flags we watch out for on behalf of our small business readers are a lack of pricing transparency, long-term contracts, and early termination fees. Unfortunately, Heartland Payment Systems has all those.
Controlling cash flow is important for small businesses, and unpredictable payment processing expenses would not help. And while the provider offers some of the best software integration and add-ons, users will find similar—if not better—features in a simpler and more cost-effective solution in one of our recommended merchant service providers.
With Heartland Payment Systems, there are no monthly fees for basic payment processing solutions, and both interchange-plus and flat-rate pricing are offered. However, with its three-year contract and cancellation fee, this provider did not score well for pricing and contract. There are starting prices on the website, but the exact fees that will apply to each merchant will depend on individual merchant agreements. Additional services may also come with extra fees, such as the monthly subscription fee for using its POS.
We would be remiss not to note that Heartland Payment Systems has made improvements in pricing transparency. While it used to only state an interchange-plus pricing model on its website without any other pricing details, a more defined starting flat rate is now available when you go to the pricing section.
Heartland Payment Systems seems to decide on each individual merchant’s applicable processing rate depending on the nature of the business. Here are the current starting fees:
- Card-present processing fee: Starts at 2.6% + 10 cents
- Card-not-present processing fee: Starts at 2.9% + 30 cents
- Point-of-sale plans: Starts at $89 per month
A quick scan of its most recent merchant processing agreement also suggests the following incidental fees:
- ACH Returns: $25
- Voice Authorization: 65 cents/transaction
- Early Termination Fee: $295
- Equipment Agreement Cancelation Fee: $100 (for leased equipment)
- Fee for Declined Transactions for Ancillary Products: $25
Fees such as chargeback and PCI compliance are not mentioned in the agreement. The website implies that PCI compliance is included, but user accounts in various review sites have reported being charged for it.
Ancillary products and services like back office management tools are also offered and specified on a month-to-month subscription basis, which carries an undisclosed monthly fee and a $45 fine for late payments.
Heartland Payment Systems provides a set of payment processing hardware in conjunction with its point-of-sale (POS) products. You can purchase these outright, but Heartland has options to purchase in installments or lease (although we don’t recommend this). Note that it imposes a $100 cancelation fee for leased hardware in the event of an early termination of your contract.
Payment processing hardware for Heartland Payment Systems Payments are as follows:
(Contact Heartland Payment Systems for pricing)
(Contact Heartland Payment Systems for pricing)
(Contact Heartland Payment Systems for pricing)
Best for small and on-the-go businesses
Standalone POS terminal best for in-store mobility
Best for restaurants
One of the most common (and serious) complaints about Heartland Payment Systems is the unexpected fees. For instance, one user said that for two years, they had been charged $125 for PCI fees that were not included in the merchant agreement. To make sure that you avoid this, it’s important to closely inspect both Heartland’s TOS and merchant application form. This is especially true for providers like this that are not so transparent about their rates and fees on the website.
Aside from a three-year contract, other important things to note on a Heartland Payment Systems contract are:
- It can suspend or terminate your merchant account if you fail to meet PCI security standards.
- The security guidelines itemized in section 4 must be reviewed in order to ensure that these are all implemented and to avoid incurring fees or have your merchant account put on hold.
- The merchant is required to securely keep records of transactions for two years from the date of the sale or credit.
- The first three chargebacks on the start and anniversary of your contract date are free. Afterward, a chargeback fee (of an unspecified amount) will be added to the transaction amount and processing fee for merchants who lose a chargeback dispute.
- It has the right to amend its fee structure and is required to inform the merchant at least 15 days prior to the effective date of the new payment processing rates.
Those who apply for its POS system are automatically considered for a Heartland Payment Systems merchant account. But if you only need a mobile payment processing solution, you can start your application by going to Heartland’s website and filling out the sign-up form; a representative will contact you within the next 24 hours.
Expect to be asked for the following information as part of the application process:
- Evidence of a business bank account
- Employee Identification Number
- Proof of business
- Proof of overall business financial health
- PCI compliance
- Refund/return and exchange policies
Approval will depend on your business model, and you may be requested to send additional paperwork if the provider feels it needs further information.
Heartland scored the strongest when it came to the variety of payment types. It lost a few points for the added monthly fees, such as for the use of its POS. Merchants whose only concern is payment flexibility will find that Heartlands fulfills this need.
Heartland Payment Systems allows merchants to accept EMV chip cards, ACH, digital wallet, and gift card payments. You can accept payments over the phone or with configured standalone terminals, a POS, a mobile device, and a browser. The provider offers an interchange-plus pricing method for all its merchants, which is a good option for large-volume businesses. Smaller businesses with low-volume monthly transactions are better served with a flat-rate pricing method that’s simple and easy to understand.
Merchants can send invoices online and provide their customers with the means to make payments directly from the invoice. Heartland provides tools for designing templates, creating customized invoices, and tracking invoice status on a simple-to-use platform. This functionality also integrates with popular accounting platforms like QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Xero.
Heartland has tools to design customized checkout pages that are easy to navigate and streamline the payment process. The software is also equipped to create mobile-friendly checkouts and seamlessly integrates with popular ecommerce platforms such as Magento, WooCommerce, Drupal Commerce, and WordPress. The provider even offers a Software Development Kit (SDK), access to over 500 integrations for developers, and an instant sandbox testing environment for creating even more customized shopping carts.
Small businesses can sign up for mobile payment processing with Heartland Payment Systems and use a mobile card reader to start accepting EMV credit or debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay payments. The Mobile Pay software allows merchants to register up to three users to start taking card payments and automatically calculating taxes. It also gives you access to real-time sales reports on your mobile device, allows customers to add a tip, and turns your camera into a barcode scanner.
Encourage customers to sign up for automatic payments by offering ACH payment options. It is a convenient, low-cost alternative to credit card payments, ideal for recurring billing and subscription-based businesses. Heartland’s ACH payment method also streamlines and automates your accounting process.
Heartland features 24/7 customer support and instant funding, which earned it good scores in this category. However, other considerations for this criteria are tools such as business and customer management which incurs additional fees, causing Heartland to lose a few points.
Heartland Payment Systems offers two POS solutions—one for retail businesses and another for restaurants. Using these POS systems will incur monthly fees starting at $89, and you are tied to using Heartland for payment processing. Merchants will find it hard to find a Heartland POS review that does not mention its lack of pricing transparency, so clarify the terms of your merchant agreement before signing up.
All of Heartland Payment Systems’ processing solutions are protected by its state-of-the-art security features. It uses EMV, end-to-end encryption, and tokenization tools to protect your customer’s card data whenever the card is being used. However, it has a history of data breaches.
In 2008, it suffered from a data breach that resulted in a financial loss of more than $200 million, a 50% stock price loss, and PCI DSS compliance suspension. After the 2008 data breach, Heartland implemented security measures to prevent another data breach. With the security measures in place, Heartland Secure was considered one of the most secure card processing solutions in the industry and comes with a comprehensive warranty.
However, Heartland had an office break-in in 2015, resulting in a large number of unencrypted computers being stolen. The data loss involved names, email addresses, home addresses, Social Security numbers, and other personal banking details.
Heartland offers capital lending in partnership with Lendio. Funding can be anywhere from $5,000 to $5,000,000, or you can claim a $250,000 line of credit, which you can apply for in a matter of minutes and get funding in days. Once you sign an application form, Lendio will email you loan options offered by its marketplace of lenders. Expect to be asked for business information similar to your merchant account application, such as the age of your business and average monthly sales.
Heartland Payment Systems has a credit card surcharge payments program for merchants looking for a way to offset the cost of accepting credit card payments. It is only available in states where surcharging is allowed, and the program ensures that businesses under the program are registered and compliant with card brand regulations.
Heartland Payment Systems can provide instant deposits for single and recurring transactions. You can transfer up to $10,000 per batch processing and set customized deposit schedules 365 days a year, including weekends and holidays.
Heartland reports pre-built plugins for over 550 technology platforms, the majority of which are for shopping cart integrations. It also supports integration for popular POS systems, payroll, and customer management.
A dedicated 24/7 phone line is provided for answering customer complaints. Heartland also includes an online portal that contains documentation for all of its products, plus a platform for submitting questions to Heartland developers and experts.
Heartland Payment Services received fair scores for this category. It is easy to use and has wide integrations. However, it lost major points for pricing transparency and affordability and for popularity.
Based on our evaluation of merchant service providers, there are other better options available aside from Heartland Payment Services. The many user reviews on different websites are not negligible, especially because the complaints are major issues such as billing and overcharging.
Heartland Payment Systems Reviews from Users
There are not a lot of Heartland Payment Systems reviews, and reactions are mixed but mostly favorable. Users like the system for its user-friendly software and reliable credit card processing.
- G2: More than users rated Heartland an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
- GetApp: More than 40 users gave Heartland an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars.
It’s also important to note that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) listed about 71 user complaints for Heartland, 14 of which were submitted this 2023, mostly centered around billing errors. There was also an issue of a fraudulent request for a refund entertained by this provider. Of the total complaints, nine have been closed, and 29 have been answered as of this writing, with actions that include reversal of transactions and return of funds.
We noticed these trends when reading through Heartland Payment Systems reviews:
|Users Like||Users Don’t Like|
|Easy-to-use platform||Billing errors|
|Quick access to funds||Chargeback complaints|
|Auto payment features||Hidden fees|
Methodology—How We Evaluated Heartland Payment Systems
We test each merchant account service provider ourselves to ensure an extensive review of the products. We compare pricing methods, identifying providers that offer zero monthly fees, pay-as-you-go terms, and low transaction rates. We then further evaluate according to a range of payment processing features, scalability, and ease of use.
The result is our list of the best overall merchant services. However, we adjust the criteria when looking at specific use cases, such as for different business types and merchant categories. This is why every merchant services provider has multiple scores across our site, depending on the use case you are looking for.
Click through the tabs below for our overall merchant services evaluation criteria:
25% of Overall Score
We awarded points to merchant account providers that don’t require contracts and offer month-to-month or pay-as-you-go billing. Additionally, we prioritized providers that don’t charge hefty monthly fees, cancellation fees, or chargeback fees and only included providers that offer competitive and predictable flat-rate or interchange-plus pricing. We also awarded points to processors that offer volume discounts and extra points if those discounts are transparent or automated.
30% of Overall Score
The best merchant accounts can accept various payment types—including POS and card-present transactions, mobile payments, contactless payments, ecommerce transactions, and ACH and echeck payments—and offer free virtual terminal and invoicing solutions for phone orders, recurring billing, and card-on-file payments.
25% of Overall Score
We prioritized merchant accounts with free 24/7 phone and email support. Small businesses also need fast deposits, so payment processors offering free same- or next-day funding earned bonus points. Finally, we considered whether each system has affordable and flexible hardware options and offers any business management tools, like dispute and chargeback management, reporting, or customer management.
20% of Overall Score
We judged each system based on its overall pricing and advertising transparency, ease of use (including account stability), popularity, and reputation among business owners and sites like Better Business Bureau. Finally, we considered how well each system works with other popular small business software, like accounting, point-of-sale, and ecommerce solutions.
Heartland Payment Systems offers a wide range of payment processing solutions and excellent POS software. However, there are numerous drawbacks, including undisclosed pricing and consistent complaints of unauthorized and erroneous billings. For these reasons, we encourage small businesses to consider alternative merchant services that are more cost-effective and straightforward with their fees.