Shift4 Payments is a merchant services provider offering card payment processing for retail, restaurants, and ecommerce merchants. Like most large companies in the industry, it has gone through numerous high-profile mergers, which include Harbortouch (now its proprietary POS) and 3dcart (now Shift4Shop).
While Shift4 has some good software solutions (including its retail POS and ecommerce site builder), we don’t recommend Shift4 Payments for small businesses because of its opaque pricing, unfavorable terms and conditions, and extra fees. It earned an overall score of 2.69 out of 5 in our evaluation of best merchant services for small business.
Why We Don’t Recommend Shift4 Payments for Small Businesses
Initially popular for its payment gateway service, Shift4 Payments has grown into a huge merchant service provider with products from fully integrated shopping carts to POS systems. However, it’s difficult to recommend a provider (1) with not-so-transparent fees and rates, which may be a result of having a large list of affiliates that create their own pricing structure; and (2) with reports of anti-trust issues lobbied against it.
In 2018, an antitrust complaint was filed against Shift4 Payments related to its merger with Lighthouse (a restaurant management system provider), effectively cutting out Shift4 competitors from working with clients on the Lighthouse platform. In 2021, and again in April of this year, Shift4 Payments was the center of a potential violation of federal securities laws and breach of fiduciary duties filed by a large shareholder rights law firm.
On top of unpublishing its pricing details, some clients have reported being offered tiered pricing. Additionally, the use of its payment gateway alone carries a three-year contract. Shift4 also markets offerings with free terminals, which then binds merchants to a longer contract and hefty cancellation fees.
That said, Shift4 would not grow without a large list of merchant account clients, but then again, these are bigger companies with multiple locations, such as Burger King, Gold’s Gym, and Sleep Number. A closer look into their case studies shows similar business types.
It is, therefore, our recommendation that smaller businesses would be better served by one of our recommended merchant service providers that offer more small business-friendly terms and pricing.
Shift4 Payments charges a variety of fees from setup and installation to early termination. Actual transaction rates, however, are not disclosed. Hardware is available when you subscribe to their proprietary POS product Harbortouch and Skytab, which can either be leased or purchased. Shift4 also requires a monthly minimum and charges annual or semi-annual compliance fees on some of its services.
Rates and fees will vary depending on which back-end processor underwrites your account—and Shift4 Payments has many. It also offers a combination of services customized for particular business types, which will most likely include a custom terms and pricing structure.
You can, however, find incidental and monthly fees information listed in the provider’s merchant agreement contract. They are as follows:
- Merchant processing fees:
- Annual regulatory compliance fee: $89.95
- Inactivity fee: $15/month/terminal after 30 days of inactivity
- Voice Authorization fee: $1.75/transaction
- Retrieval fee: $25/request
- Reject/Returned ACH fees: $25/transaction
- Transaction processing in excess of approved monthly volume: 5%/transaction
- Contract length: 1–3 years with 1 year auto renewal; 1 year minimum requirement
- Same day bank deposits are available though not explained thoroughly on the website
- Payment gateway fees:
- Monthly service fee: $25/location
- Transaction fee: 5 cents/transaction
- Monthly minimum: $50/month/location
- Installation fee: Not disclosed but offers expedited service from $500–$1,000
- Contract length: Three years, with 2 successive 2-year auto renewal
- Early termination fee: Prorated by the average fees invoiced since the start of the contract, multiplied by the number of months remaining in the current term
- The website advertises $0 gateway fees, which could mean signing up for a combination of Shift4 Payments services
One of the glaring downsides to using this provider is that it lacks inexpensive mobile card readers often found among Shift4 Payments competitors. It only supports mobile payment terminals, which you can use as a standalone or around your shop. Shift4 provides you with the option to either purchase hardware outright or lease terminals through its “free terminal” program—which comes with signing up for its POS system, Harbortouch.
Payment processing hardware options for Shift4 Payments are as follows:
(Contact Shift4 Payments for pricing)
(Contact Shift4 Payments for pricing)
For countertop setup
For standalone and mobile payments
Note that the “free terminal program” includes an additional cost of $79 (annual fee). In the event of contract termination, you will be required to return the leased hardware within 15 days; otherwise, you will be charged with a “No return fee” listed below:
- Standard EMV/Contactless terminal (ex. VX520, S80, iPP320): $200
- Enhanced EMV/Contactless terminal (ex. PAX A930, S300, S90, iPP350): $300
- Premium POS terminal bundle (ex. iSC480, POS Bundle): $500
Shift4 Payments offers one- to three-year contracts, with one-to two-year auto-renewal for all its merchants. The terms vary depending on the type of service you sign up for, with better rates for higher volume merchants. While we do not recommend Shit4 Payments for small and midsize businesses, busy establishments—like restaurants, subscription-based businesses, nonprofits, and casinos—that are interested in the provider should:
- Avoid signing up for a tiered-pricing payment plan.
- Consider purchasing the payment terminals outright instead of leasing.
- Review the incidental fees on the merchant application form.
- Ask to clarify funding options and timeframe for transfer of funds.
These are recommendations arising from stipulations included in its payment gateway and merchant agreement terms and conditions.
Application starts by filling up an initial sign-up form on the website. The provider will then match you with a Shift4 Payments affiliate who will offer solutions based on your business needs. If you wish to get a customized plan for your unique business model, then you will need to work with them to come up with the best payment processing rates. Approval time depends on the business type and usually takes a few days after submitting all the requested paperwork.
Shift4 supports all payment methods but surprisingly does not carry mobile credit card readers or payment apps. It can accept credit cards and bank transfers through in-person and online transactions. However, transaction rates are not disclosed, and each method requires some form of additional fee to process.
Shift4 Payments allows merchants to accept online and in-person credit card payments. It supports payment terminals to process magstripe and EMV payments, NFC, digital wallet, and gift cards. Its gateway service allows for keyed-in credit card payments, and while it does not have built-in ACH or eCheck payment processing, you can easily add this feature through one of Shift 4 Payments’ integrations.
Long before the big mergers, Shift4 Payments’ gateway was a popular service among medium and large businesses. You can sign up for a merchant account and waive the monthly fee for accessing the payment gateway, but you can also opt to integrate its payment gateway with your POS. Apart from having all your in-person and online transactions processed through the gateway, it offers a virtual terminal solution plus real-time access to reports and analytics on any available browser.
Shift4 Payments has a full suite of ecommerce solutions, from a free website builder to a customizable ecommerce platform. It also has shopping cart integrations and even recently acquired 3dcart (now Shift4Shop, a popular Shopify alternative). Shift4 Payments allows you to process various remote payment types, such as over-the-phone, card-on-file, and book and ship transactions. You can also integrate additional payment channels in minutes.
This provider offers a special set of services for gaming and casino businesses, which you won’t find with popular low-risk Shift4 payments competitors. It lets you accept payments for online gaming, live sports betting, live virtual casino floor games, and poker tournaments. Use the SkyTab on a mobile terminal and self-service kiosks for mobility around the casino and sports betting floor to minimize cashier lines and to arrange for same-day bank deposits for your funds.
Shift4 Payments supports nonprofit organizations by offering various tools for managing donations. It allows you to provide your donors with the option to cover processing fees, sign up for recurring donations, and even donate in cryptocurrency. It also integrates seamlessly with The Giving Block, a popular marketplace for cryptocurrency donations.
With Shift4, merchants have a wide array of payment processing as well as POS product options to choose from. But like its payment methods, most features come with incidental fees that can considerably affect your bottom line. That said, Shift4 does offer numerous integrations and 24/7 customer support.
SkyTab is Shift4 Payments’ mobile processing solution that works on supporter-provided payment terminals. It allows merchants to accept all types of card payments, process refunds, and split tenders anywhere in their store. This product works both as a standalone software or as an extension of your countertop setup on your mobile payment terminal. The software also includes features such as online ordering and pay-at-the-table options for food and retail businesses.
Lighthouse offers transaction management functionalities that work great with restaurants and nonprofits. This product doubles as a payment platform with advanced reporting and auditing capabilities, so you can easily track and manage performance. It also entitles you access to the Lighthouse business manager software with marketing and reputation management, remote POS, employee scheduling, and reporting and analytics tools on a customizable dashboard.
Part of Shift4 Payments’ set of features is its ability to offer a unified commerce solution. It allows you to manage multiple payment channels on a single Shift4 Payments platform, providing you with real-time sales reports and analytics when you accept in-person, ecommerce, mobile, and contactless payments. You also get access to available software integrations and app marketplaces, regardless of which payment channel you prefer.
There are over 350 software integrations available for Shift4 Payments merchants in different industries, such as point-of-sale and retail management applications. Third-party apps are also available on Shift4 Payments’ marketplace.
While Shift4 Payments offers 24/7 call and chat support for its customers, there are many reports of unresolved issues, particularly after sales. You have the option to look for answers on Shift4 Payments knowledge base available on its website—the resource is quite extensive, with downloadable documents and videos available for following installation and troubleshooting procedures.
Shift4 Payments is among the growing number of all-in-one merchant service and POS providers in the industry. But unlike Square or SumUp, Shift4’s services are a better match for established businesses.
In our evaluation of merchant services and payment providers, we look for key features such as transparent pricing, affordability, scalability, and ease of use. And while Shift4 does offer an impressive breadth of products and integrations, setting up a merchant account with this provider is far from being small business-friendly.
For one, you will need to sign up for one of Shift’4’s POS products, and this is not uncommon—but the list of incidental fees is simply discouraging. The Harbortouch POS website also claims that there are no early termination fees, clearly in contrast with the terms of service.
It is for these types of inconsistencies that we find it difficult to recommend Shift4 to small businesses and startups. We believe larger companies with experience in going through in fine detail and negotiating contracts will be a better match for Shift4.
What Users Say in Shift4 Payments Reviews
There are not a lot of recent Shift4 Payments reviews, although the ones that are available seem authentic. The consensus among users is that Shift4 Payments’ gateway service is easy to integrate and use, but there are some issues with trying to manage deposits and working with customer service.
Shift4 received a customer rating of 1.2 out 5 in Better Business Bureau, with a total of 178 complaints in the last three years, of which 67 were closed in the last 12 months. Meanwhile, there were only a handful of new user reviews on G2 and Capterra, which both resulted in lower ratings since our last update.
- G2: Around 20 users rated Shift4 Payments an average of 3.6 out of 5 stars.
- Capterra: About 15 users rated Shift4 Payments an average of 3.4 out of 5 stars.
|Users Like||Users Don’t Like|
|Free payment gateway with customized plans||Billing issues and unauthorized fees|
|Real-time payment authorization||Difficult to cancel merchant accounts|
|Flexible payment processing||Poor customer service|
Methodology—How We Evaluated Shift4 Payments
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:
30% of Overall Score
Transaction fees weighed heavily here. We also awarded points for month-to-month or pay-as-you-go billing and no monthly, cancellation, 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.
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.
20% of Overall Score
20% of Overall Score
Shift4 Payments Review Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Shift4 Payments would not have retained a long list of merchant clients if it does not have security protocols in place for payment processing. However, it is not an ideal provider for small businesses because it lacks pricing transparency and does not protect merchants from numerous incidental fees.
Shift4 Payments offers merchant services, payment processing, and a range of point of sale products both for online and in-person sales, including its popular payment gateway.
Transaction rates for Shift4 Payments are custom quoted and are not disclosed on its website. However, the general rule is that rates are based on your business type (Shift4 works with some high-risk merchants) and sales volume.
The list of Shift4 Payments clients includes mid- to large-sized retail and restaurant businesses with multiple locations.
While it offers a wide range of merchant service, Shift4 Payments is better suited for established businesses with multiple locations and the resources to better negotiate for lower rates and manage recurring fees. We recommend small business owners consider one of our recommended merchant services that offer price transparency and more flexibility in terms of fees and contract terms.