Stax, a merchant service provider formerly branded as Fattmerchant, stands out with its subscription-based pricing and 0% markup. It's a good fit for mid-sized companies or larger that are processing a decent amount of money per month. It’s also a great, affordable option if you don’t need to purchase multiple subscriptions to accommodate different ways to accept credit cards. The transparency, simple monthly fee and a variety of included features seem unparalleled by industry competitors.
What is Stax?
Stax is a subscription-based, flat-rate, merchant account provider. Essentially, Stax partners with small businesses in order to help them process their credit card payments. Unlike other services, Stax offers the true cost of interchange (the lowest cost of accepting credit cards). While many services charge a variable percentage in addition to the interchange on each credit card, Stax subscribers pay interchange plus zero.
For a monthly subscription fee (and no contract required), users receive the payment terminal of their choice as well as Omni, Stax’s integrated payment platform. This platform, included with all of the terminal solutions, has features such as custom-reporting, statements, invoicing and inventory. Stax subscribers receive a personal account manager as well as access to a customer success team at no additional cost.
Stax has a variety of different payment terminal solutions that allow users to receive and process credit card payments. These six options are available for subscription a la carte, meaning if a user pays for a mobile subscription and wants to add an EMV terminal, they would have to pay the monthly fee for that subscription as well.
Stax’s EMV terminal is for in-person payments. This service provides secure physical terminals that businesses can use for their customers to utilize and accept payments. Stax “Dejavoo terminals” integrate with its Omni analytics platform and can be used two ways.
First, they can be used alone, meaning a payment amount is entered on the device and then the credit card is swiped. The terminals can also be integrated with the virtual terminal; here, the sale begins in the virtual terminal and then the payment is accepted in-person on the Dejavoo terminal.
In this service, Stax also offers two mobile card reader options: a Chipper BT which accepts magstripe and EMV compliant cards via Bluetooth on iOS or Android devices or Chipper 2X BT, which has all the functionality of the Chipper BT, plus ApplePay.
The shopping cart is Stax’s service specifically for e-commerce businesses. With shopping cart, Stax can either create a new gateway or integrate with your current one. Shopping cart allows you to receive secure online payments while simultaneously storing your sensitive data in compliance with PCI standards.
Stax’s shopping cart solution gives you the freedom to customize your design and checkout process. It gives you the ability to keep everything in line with your brand, and customers can complete their entire purchase process while never leaving your site.
The Stax virtual terminal allows you to accept payments on any device with its platform. The virtual terminal includes online invoicing, allowing you to send a one-time invoice or schedule recurring ones. It also can send auto-reminders to clients so you get paid even faster.
The virtual terminal gives you the ability to create a customized payment flow. You can integrate physical terminals and mobile payments, as well as sync bi-directionally with QuickBooks Online. Additionally, this terminal offers customer-management tools, the ability to key in functionally hosted payments, catalog and industry tracking and receipt and notification capabilities.
Stax’s mobile service allows businesses to accept, track and manage payments through either its Android or iOS app. In addition to card-not-present features of the mobile apps, Stax makes it easy to accept payments in person with its mobile swipers, easily integrated countertop terminals and the ability to scan card information on-site.
In the app itself, you receive cash payment tracking, invoice tracking, inventory and catalog management, catalog grid view, barcode scanning and key-in functionality.
Stax also offers a subscription that allows users to integrate with other tools and providers that they are already utilizing. Businesses detail exactly what they want, Stax programs the machine, and the hardware is ready to go. This way, businesses can get the benefits of Stax without having to change or disrupt their existing system.
Stax supports integrations into more than 90% of third-party solutions. For example, it is compatible with the following gateways and platforms: First Data Omaha, Nashville, North and Rapid Connect, TSYS, Authorize.Net, Blackline and SPin. Stax can also integrate with point of sale systems like Aloha, Micros, Revel, Vend, ShopKeep and more.
Stax’s API subscription provides developers with the tools to build and customize a unique payment process solution for your businesses’ app, website, software or hardware. This solution can come complete with customer management, inventory tracking, invoicing, recurring billing and more.
With each of the different subscription options that Stax offers, there are a number of included features. These features are consistent across its full range of offerings and only differ based on your subscription level (starter vs. enterprise).
All of the starter Stax subscriptions include:
0% markup and 0 basis points.
No cancellation fee.
No statement fees.
No batch fees.
PCI compliance support.
24/7 technical support.
Next-day funding available.
Tokenized and encrypted customer data.
QuickBooks online integration.
Standard risk monitoring.
The enterprise subscriptions include all of the above features as well as:
Integrated analytics reports (these can be available to starter subscribers for the additional cost of $20 per month).
Dedicated customer success manager.
Data breach protection and tokenization.
Account updater for cards on file.
For all of the different subscription plans, add-ons are also available and include:
QuickBooks online sync: PRO (coming soon according to the Stax website).
Terminal protection plan.
Stax is priced as a subscription service. There are two subscription levels: starter and enterprise, and these are based on how much money your business processes annually. The starter platform runs at $99 per month and is for businesses processing less than $500,000 annually. The enterprise platform starts pricing at $199 per month for businesses processing more than $500,000 annually.
The subscription fee, whether it’s starter or enterprise, is consistent across Stax’s six different solution offerings. A mobile terminal starter platform is $99 per month and so is a shopping cart terminal starter platform. The cost per transaction, however, differs based on which option you’ve subscribed to.
Pros of Stax
The consistent, monthly subscription fee seems to be a huge benefit of Stax. With this fee, there’s no confusion; you know exactly how much you’ll be paying each month and what you’ll be getting for that fee. Another great aspect of Stax is that you’re receiving a number of different, beneficial features included with your subscription. Beyond the straight-up payment processing part of its service, statements, customer support, invoicing, PCI compliance and even a QuickBooks Online integration are all covered under the monthly fee. Even if your business is operating at the starter subscription level, the number of features included is significant.
Additionally, there are no fees and no contracts, and the 0% markup is impressive. This seems almost unheard of among other merchant service providers and credit card payment process companies.
The list of included features with every Stax subscription is weighty. The Omni platform is a huge draw as it offers everything you need, aside from the actual payment processing, in one place. As a centralized portal, you can access your customer database, inventory, invoicing and more.
Finally, the range of different solutions that Stax offers is quite appealing. With six unique options, each with the full list of features and customizable possibilities, Stax seems to have an offering for many different types of small businesses.
Cons of Stax
Although the transparent, monthly subscription fee can be beneficial for some, it can also be difficult if you’re on the smaller end of the business spectrum. If you process a smaller amount of money per month, the amount you save might not be enough to off-cost the subscription fee.
Fee per solution
Stax offers great solution options; however, they are all a la carte. If you accept credit card payments multiple ways, like through an online store and in a retail location, the subscription fees you pay for each solution could quickly add up. Although you receive a number of beneficial features in any Stax subscription, the fee-per-solution is certainly something to consider when deciding if this service is right for your business.
Alternatives to Stax
Dharma Merchant Services
Dharma Merchant Services is a merchant service provider that has three core offerings: virtual, storefront and nonprofit solutions. Its low-cost pricing is interchange-plus for all of its offerings, which means you pay a rate, plus cents per transaction above interchange (i.e. 0.20% plus 10 cents/transaction).
Dharma Merchant Services doesn’t charge an annual fee or monthly minimum, doesn’t have early termination fees and offers reduced rates both for processing over $100,000 per month and for qualified non-profits. Dharma is also extremely transparent with its processes and offers great customer service.
Square is a technology-based point of sale system. Square technology plugs into mobile devices, allowing businesses to ring up and charge customers quickly and easily. Square’s POS software is free to use; you only pay when you take payment. The rate for the transaction depends on the Square hardware product you’re using. Like Stax, Square offers a variety of different options, includes many free features and doesn’t have hidden fees.
However, Square’s pricing is complicated and includes the added cost for the Square hardware. Because it’s a third-party processor Square is also known for terminating accounts when they’re thought to be too much of a liability.
Despite this, Square is known as one of the best point-of-sale options and is great for tech-savvy small businesses.
Helcim is a merchant account provider that offers retail and online options. Each option has month-to-month payment processing with cost-plus pricing, regardless of how many cards are processed. Helcim’s pricing changes, however, based on your type of business and monthly payment volume.
Similar to Stax, Helcim doesn’t have introductory rates, hiked-up fees, cancellation fees or hidden charges. It also offers a variety of different features in addition to the actual payment processing. Despite these benefits, Helcim’s equipment is not automatically included in your cost. You have to rent equipment on a month-to-month basis or buy it outright.
Stripe is perhaps one of the most well-known payment processors in the industry. Stripe has pay-as-you-go pricing and doesn’t have setup or hidden fees. It also does not have a monthly fee or a cancellation fee. Stripe’s pricing is flat-rate: one charge for every credit card transaction and another (0.2% less) for every in-person credit card transaction using a Stripe terminal. Stripe also has excellent developer tools, features and support.
Despite its exceptional technology and software, Stripe is often criticized for freezing or canceling accounts with little notice. Like Square, if Stripe considers your activity to be too much of a risk, it’ll hold your funds or cancel your account.
Even so, if you’re a mid-to-large sized business that is technology-focused or primarily online, Stripe is certainly worth a look.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.