Elavon processes more than 5.5 billion transactions every year,1 accepting payments in 121 currencies,2 making it one of the largest payment processors in the world. But despite its size and history, it doesn’t quite have small-business processing dialed in.
Elavon Merchant Services Review 2020
Elavon has an interesting suite of features and functionalities for businesses that need payment processing. It has a little bit of everything: point-of-sale options, a line of terminals, 24/7 customer service, and international payment compliance.
Yet, despite its features, Elavon struggles to stand out among the competition as a viable option for small businesses. The model it’s put together doesn’t really make sense for the modern small business.
Elavon has a middling price point. It costs about the same as Square but doesn’t even come close to what Square offers in terms of helping small businesses seamlessly integrate payment processing into their business.
Also, Elavon has a bit of a pricing transparency issue. What we know of Elavon’s pricing comes straight from their website:
- 2.6% + 10¢ per swipe, dip, or tap transaction
- 3.5% + 15¢ per keyed transaction
- $10+ a month for equipment rental
While this pricing model seems pretty straightforward, we’re cautious about using it to represent the actual cost of processing with Elavon. This is because a number of online user reviews from sites like TrustPilot and Better Business Bureau speak of hidden fees built into Elavon’s business model.
Possible hidden fees mentioned by online reviewers
Fees mentioned by users online include the following:
- Minimum processing volume fee
- Card association fee
- PCI compliance fee
- Miscellaneous payment fee
Unfortunately, Elavon does not have its processing contract publicly available, so we cannot confirm the existence of these fees or how much they cost. Because of this, it’s crucial that you thoroughly read and understand Elavon’s contract before signing with them as your merchant services provider.
Now that we’ve made it out of the weeds of Elavon’s problematic pricing practices, we can saddle up for a ride through some of Elavon’s compelling features. And there really are some useful functionalities that may be compelling to businesses with specific processing needs.
24/7 customer service
This feature is pretty self-explanatory, but why would you need constant access to a support team? There are a few reasons:
- Processing issues can arise anytime. This is especially true if you process online because online shopping can happen at all hours of the day.
- Many small businesses operate outside normal business hours. If you own a corner store or a late-night restaurant, it’s crucial to have access to service if any issues arise.
- Terminal issues are a common occurrence. This is true for all processing services. Terminals have a complicated job to do, and sometimes issues arise that you can’t take care of yourself.
- Your bottom line is directly tied to your ability to accept payments. Whenever you have questions about how to use your processing system, it’s crucial to have access to a good support team right away.
Good customer service is essential when it comes to payment processing, so we like that Elavon makes an effort to offer solid customer service.
Triple-layer security features
Securing payments is essential to keeping your customers’ payment information safe and protecting your business, and Elavon offers triple-layer payment protection for each transaction.
What are the three layers? EMV, encryption, and tokenization. And to avoid going into too much detail about how each of those layers works, here’s what you need to know: any hacker that intercepts a payment signal will be looking at total nonsense and will be unable to get any information from the data.
So your payments will be secure and compliant, eliminating the worry of data breaches. That said, you’ll still have to be compliant in your own use of credit card data, so be sure you know the PCI compliance rules for businesses.
Solid selection of POS terminals
Point-of-sale is becoming more and more important for the businesses of today that need to automate and streamline their business processes. Elavon offers point-of-sale integrated terminals from Poynt and NCR.
Both Poynt and NCR have interesting offerings in the point-of-sale space, meaning you’ll have some flexibility in deciding on a point-of-sale system that best fits your business. But no matter what you choose, point-of-sale terminals bring a number of key functionalities to your business:
- Transaction reports
- Email receipts
- Third-party app integrations like QuickBooks
- Loyalty programs
- Inventory management
- Digital terminal
- Restaurant management
Restaurants can especially benefit from a solid point-of-sale solution. With one, you can manage tables, orders, and bills all in one place—as well as create a loyalty program to turn customers into regulars.
Worldwide payment compliance
As stated earlier, Elavon can accept payments in 121 currencies. This is a crucial feature for businesses that do international business transactions or sell their services across the globe.
One thing to note here, though, is that Stripe offers similar compliance across the globe and has a really powerful kit of tools to help you design an online payment system. So Elavon doesn’t quite make the cut as the best worldwide sales provider, but it does have a solid offering that may be compelling for businesses looking for a payment platform that works well for both brick-and-mortar and online sales.
Really, that’s who Elavon is designed for: businesses that are a mix of local and international sales both online and in-store. Which leads perfectly into the most important question for small-business owners.
Digital punch card app
Remember when you used to have five or six punch cards to your favorite places stashed away in a purse or wallet? Well, that’s a thing of the past with Pirq, a digital punchcard app that works with Flagship’s processing platform. It’ll allow you to collect more data on your customers and offer them great rewards for their visits.
Is Elavon right for my small business?
Elavon works best for those businesses that take advantage of all it has to offer. If you’re making in-store sales, using point-of-sale features, building an online store, and selling your wares across the globe, then Elavon is a great option for you.
Yes, it may be a pain to work with due to the possibility of hidden fees, but when all its features come together, there’s actually a unique merchant service on offer here.
That said, it’s time to talk about why Elavon may not be for you.
Why Elavon may not work for your business
Elavon was not designed for small businesses. Its services are tailored to businesses with consistent transaction volume that are large enough to be opening up physical stores in foreign countries. Because Elavon was designed with multinational corporations in mind, it’s really not a good fit for businesses looking for their first processing company.
Also, its price point isn’t really all that competitive for businesses that have consistent processing needs. Companies like Payment Depot and Fattmerchant offer much more competitive rates for growing businesses. So unless you really need international compliance, Elavon may not be for you.
Even if you do need international compliance, it may be easier just to set up a Stripe account and run all your international charges through it. Really, Elavon is only useful if you want all those features in the same place.
That’s why it’s hard to recommend Elavon to most small businesses. It just doesn’t have a good small-business offering dialed in yet.
Elavon is a tricky processor to recommend. It doesn’t have a great price point, but it has a unique set of features. So its service really only makes sense if you’re taking advantage of all those features.
If you’re not, then Elavon is probably not for you. There are cheaper, more transparent, and more small-business-focused merchant service providers on the market today that offer essential features at a fraction of the price and with less headache.
To learn more about the best and most affordable processing providers on the market today, check out our picks for the cheapest processing providers of 2020.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.