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CardConnect is a quote-based payment processor serving over 230,000 merchants in the United States. Its flagship product, CardPointe, is a complete payments platform for businesses — offering everything from transaction management software to a hosted payments page. CardConnect also sells security tools that integrate with other software to allow tokenization and point-to-point encryption.
CardConnect offers one of the more distinct product catalogs of any merchant services provider. There are POS tools, but not a dedicated POS system. There are security features that can be integrated into other software, and there is a platform designed to help CardConnect third-party sales agents manage their merchants. Overall, it makes the most sense to think of CardConnect as a payment processor with some high-tech add-ons that may be right for your business.
CardConnect: The basics
The first thing to understand about CardConnect is that it is a First Data subsidiary. First Data is the largest merchant services provider in the United States, processing over 3,000 transactions per second and over $2.4 trillion every year. First Data acquired CardConnect in 2017 to go along with its impressive portfolio of vendors that also includes Clover Point of Sale. This means that when you use CardConnect as a payment processor, you’ll be getting a First Data merchant account.
The next thing to know is that CardConnect uses both internal and external sales agents. CoPilot is CardConnect's third-party sales agent platform that gives CardConnect resellers access to online applications, pricing templates, sales metrics and more. While CardConnect provides resellers with a structured system for selling their products, we recommend always trying to work with an internal sales agent, as third-party sales agents in the payment processing industry have a track record of unethical behavior, such as offering quotes above market value and not disclosing hidden fees. If you do have to work with an independent sales agent, tread carefully and be sure to negotiate to the best of your abilities.
Lastly, CardConnect is designed to work for both small and large businesses across a wide variety of industries.
CardConnect and CardPointe capabilities
CardConnect sells three branded products, two of which are security-focused. Its flagship product is called CardPointe. CardConnect calls CardPointe its “complete platform for business.” Indeed, it does have most of what you would need as a small-business owner and then some. Note that you can also purchase most of these products individually.
CardConnect offers merchant accounts through First Data. First Data merchant accounts can accept credit and debit card transactions, as well as ACH payments. There are also merchant account options for high-risk merchants. Note that all merchant accounts come with a built-in payment gateway, making them a great solution for e-commerce merchants.
CardPointe’s transaction management system is a desktop application that gives merchants a high-level overview of their business’s payments in real-time. From the platform, merchants can conduct refunds, voids, reprint receipts, set recurring payments, manage PCI compliance obligations, create customer profiles, edit their product catalog and parse sales data.
Credit card terminal
CardPointe integrates with a variety of credit card terminals that can be purchased through the CardConnect store. Amongst your traditional countertop terminal options are the Ingenico iCT220 ($170) and the Ingenico iCT250 ($220). Both feature point-to-point encryption and can accept magstripe and chip card forms of payment, but only the iCT250 can accept contactless forms of payment.
Note that CardConnect also sells a mobile credit card reader that works in conjunction with the CardPointe mobile app for a cost of $25.
CardPointe comes with a virtual terminal that can run on your desktop device to accept transactions where a card isn’t present. The platform comes with tokenization and point-to-point encryption. The software can also be integrated with a variety of countertop credit card processing machines that feature keypads — allowing you to key in credit card information for card-present transactions.
Compatible credit card processors include the ID TECH SecuRED ($115), ID TECH SREDKey ($160), Ingenico iPP 320 ($310), Ingenico iPP 350 ($360) and Ingenico iSC Touch 250 ($500). All of these products can be purchased in the CardConnect store.
The CardPointe Mobile App is an extension of the CardPointe Transaction Management system. It’s free to download from the Apple or Google Play stores and works in conjunction with a mobile card reader to process payments. Note that you cannot process chip card payments with the mobile card reader.
Hosted payments page
The CardPointe hosted payment page allows e-commerce merchants to build a customizable checkout page for their website. The payments page is integrated directly with the CardPointe payment gateway and features tokenization, plus the ability to send invoices and set recurring payments.
CardPointe integrates with most popular e-commerce shopping carts, account software and point of sale systems. As a CardConnect customer, you can also acquire a Clover POS system through First Data.
CardSecure is software that integrates into enterprise resource planning systems, customer relationship management systems, web stores, mobile apps, POS devices and other legacy software to enable electronic payment acceptance. All transactions are backed by tokenization and point-to-point encryption. CardSecure can also function as an omnichannel solution, consolidating the payment experience across a variety of different sales channels. Other features include data breach protection and a reporting suite.
The point-to-point encryption (P2PE) is powered by another CardConnect product called Bolt. You can use Bolt separately to enable P2PE on any software. Bolt also works for card-not-present and omnichannel transactions.
Lastly, CardConnect offers a variety of developer tools that allow you to customize the connection between your website and its payment gateway. You can also use the API to integrate third-party tools.
CardConnect offers 24/7 customer support via phone and email. The CardConnect website also has resources for merchants, including a dedicated Support Center, a blog called LaunchPointe and an API documentation database. Another interesting feature is CardConnect’s free startup cost calculator, which provides entrepreneurs with an estimate of how much it will cost to launch their business.
CardConnect is also active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.
The two most common costs with a payment processor are the per-transaction fee and the fee for maintaining a merchant account. CardConnect does not disclose any pricing information on its website, leading us to conclude that pricing is entirely quote-based depending on the products you need and the type of business you operate.
Generally, higher-volume merchants usually get interchange-plus pricing while smaller businesses and high-risk merchants get stuck with a tiered pricing plan, which is more expensive. Additional fees you may encounter include a PCI compliance fee, payment gateway fee, paper statement fee and chargeback fee. Remember that CardConnect uses independent sales agents who may try to lock you into deals with higher fees, so negotiate aggressively.
An additional factor to be wary of is your contract type. This is another area where smaller businesses can get a raw deal, as payment processors typically try and offer them longer-term contracts with early termination fees. You want flexibility, so try and negotiate month-to-month pricing that allows you to leave at any time. CardConnect contracts vary widely from business to business, so push hard for terms that are in the best interest of your business.
Let’s look at the pros to this payment processing service:
CardPointe is a very cool service. With it, you get a payment processor that can do a ton of stuff, like host a website payments page and track your transaction history. Plus, it integrates with most POS devices, meaning a little tinkering can turn it into a full-fledged POS system. The only drawback is that it’s unclear how much you will pay to use CardPointe.
It’s clear that CardConnect prioritizes security. Its payments platform has built-in tokenization and P2PE, and these tools are also capable of being integrated into other platforms. It also provides assistance in helping merchants meet requirements for PCI compliance, which can be a headache to deal with on your own.
Our major qualm with CardConnect is its pricing model. It’s common for payment processors to be ambiguous when it comes to how much their service costs, but that doesn’t make it any less customer-friendly. However, we could accept CardConnect’s ambiguous pricing if it wasn’t for the fact that it uses third-party sales organizations. The combination of these two things makes us feel that customers are at risk of getting an unfair deal when working with CardConnect. There are plenty of services on the market today that offer transparent pricing and honest sales practices.
CardConnect User reviews
Here is what customers are saying about CardConnect on major review websites:
G2 Crowd: 2.9 stars out of 5.
Capterra: 4 stars out of 5.
Better Business Bureau: A.
The reviews are a bit of a mixed bag. In negative reviews, customers unsurprisingly complain about being hit with hidden fees and having trouble getting out of their contracts. They also say they dealt with dishonest sales agents, and they found CardConnect’s customer service to be unhelpful when they reached out.
In positive reviews, users say they were able to get a fair deal with low interchange-plus pricing. Note that this varies from customer to customer, so low pricing for one customer isn’t indicative of CardConnect’s overall pricing model. Other users say they find CardConnect very easy to set up and use and its API simple and intuitive.
If CardConnect’s pricing model leaves you wanting, here are some other payment processors to consider:
Payment Depot is the polar opposite of CardConnect in that it offers one of the most transparent and cheapest pricing models in the industry. For all transactions, you’ll pay the wholesale interchange price (the cheapest price on the market) plus a small fixed fee ranging between $0.15 and $0.05. The catch is that you will also have to pay a monthly fee ranging between $49 and $199. The membership fee you pay is determined by your processing volume. Each membership comes with everything you need to process payments: A merchant account, credit card terminal, payment gateway and virtual terminal. Payment Depot also sells third-party POS systems.
If all else fails, there is always Square. Square won’t charge you anything outside of its interchange-plus pricing and the cost to buy one of its credit card readers. As for those fees, users pay 2.75% on all in-person transactions, 2.9% + $0.30 for e-commerce transactions and 3.5% + $0.15 for virtual terminal transactions. There are lower rates if you purchase one of Square’s more advanced credit card readers, such as the Square Terminal or Square Register. When you sign up you also get free POS software and a free mobile credit card reader.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.