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Reviews and expert opinion Leaders Merchant Services

Andrés Gánem Andrés Gánem Finance Specialist

Though it has a less-than-stellar track record amongst merchants, Leaders Merchant Services (LMS) has recently made a push to turn things around. Mostly, it’s been a successful one.

A 96% approval rate, essential but reliable features, and top-tier customer service make LMS one of the best credit card processors around, even if some past frustrations remain unresolved.

Overview

Reliable Credit Card Processing With a Checkered Past

LMS homepage
LMS offers great credit card processing services despite its uninspiring website

Leaders Merchant Services (LMS) has a long history in the credit card processing business, and it hasn’t always been a good one. In the past, both merchants and reviewers have reported gripes with the company’s pricing and (lack of) transparency. Recently, LMS has made the effort to turn things around. Has it worked?

After days of careful research involving a deep dive into various reviews and opinions – the good, the bad, and the ugly – I’ve found that the LMS of today is one of the better credit card processors in the business. It not only offers reliable tools for brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores; it also delivers standout customer service.

The quick and convenient onboarding process is especially great for new businesses or those looking to grow. LMS has an impressive 96% approval rate (for authorized business types) and same-day onboarding, making the setting up of your credit card processing pleasantly straightforward.

That’s not to say LMS is perfect. For starters, detailed and up-to-date information about its service is still hard to find, and their pricing structure still needs some work. Still, growing US businesses will find a solid, intuitive payment processor in LMS. Is it the right choice for you and your business? Read on to find out.

5.0

Features

High-Quality Features to Help Your Business Grow

Leaders Merchant Services doesn’t offer a massive selection of “nice to have” features, like some of its competitors. Instead, LMS offers a solid set of fundamental features that deliver efficient, no-nonsense payment processing. With LMS, you’ll have reliable tools for every step of your business journey.

A Wide Variety of POS Equipment to Choose From

LMS Clover Devices
LMS offers a wide array of modern devices for card-present transactions

LMS offers an impressive variety of devices for taking card-present transactions. And unlike many other credit card processors that only lease their equipment to you, LMS sells it to you outright. Though this will cost you more out of the gate, buying your equipment will almost certainly save you money down the line. Plus, if you sign a long-term contract, you can even get your equipment for free.

The First Data FD150 device is a great choice if you’re looking for a classic and reliable customer-facing terminal. If you want to accept checks as well, LMS also offers the Magtek Mini-MICR a small device that lets you process check payments with ease.

Finally, as a verified Clover reseller, you can buy any of Clover’s modern and intuitive POS systems directly from LMS. The Clover POS devices come with special features for various types of businesses, such as restaurants, retailers, and more.

Basic but Powerful Tools for E-commerce

LMS offers two major tools for you to process card-not-present transactions: the popular Authorize.Net payment gateway and its own shopping cart integration for online stores.

You can use this payment gateway to accept online payments, as well as Authorize.Net’s virtual terminal to take payments made over the phone. As a third-party service, Authorize.Net comes with its own integrated customer support and unique security measures.

LMS’s shopping cart integration simplifies e-commerce by letting you add “add to cart” buttons to your website or online store. It can also calculate tax and shipping costs automatically, as well as giving you access to customer statistics that can help you identify the strong and weak points of your business.

Let Your Customers Pay However They Want

LMS offers great flexibility for you and for your customers by letting you accept a wide range of payment methods. Besides processing all major credit and debit cards, LMS lets you take payments with Google, Apple, and Samsung Pay. And If you purchase a Clover device, you’ll also be able to take payments with Paypal and Venmo.

LMS accepted Payments
LMS offers a plenty of options for contactless payment

One standout feature LMS offers is the ability to use Instant Accept. This lets you access a virtual terminal directly from your QuickBooks application, making it easier for your customers to pay any pending invoices.

Whatever method you choose, you can expect a payout in anywhere from 1 to 3 business days.

Grow Your Business With LMS Funding

If you’re just starting out or looking to grow your business, you might need some extra capital. Fortunately, LMS offers options for merchant cash advances, a type of loan you pay back through a small commission on your future sales. This more flexible approach means you avoid the usual pressures of payback deadlines or putting up collateral.

4.7

Ease of use

It’s Easy To Set up an Account, but Finding Information Can Get Tricky

Setting up and managing an account with LMS is exceedingly easy. The onboarding process is fast, and the POS and e-commerce tools it offers are intuitive and straightforward. That said, its outdated and often confusing website can make finding even basic information harder than it should be.

Getting Started with LMS

To get started with LMS, all you have to do is go to its website and click on the big red “Apply Now” button. You’ll be redirected to an application page where you’ll have to enter your name, your business’s name, your average monthly income, your email, and a phone number.

LMS Apply Now Page
LMs makes its incredibly easy to apply for a merchant account through its website

You can also apply by calling the phone number on the top of the page and talking to a sales representative. The representative will ask for your business address, your social security number, date of birth, and checking account number. After you give them the required info, just stay on the line and they’ll guide you through the rest of the onboarding process.

High Approval Rate and Same-day Setup

LMS Onboarding Information
The fast and easy onboarding process in one of LMS’s main selling points

LMS has an impressive approval rate of 96%. If your financial history or industry means you might struggle to find credit card processing elsewhere, you should give LMS a try. Once approved the onboarding process can take as little as 24 hours, so you can start accepting payments almost right away.

Personalized Accounts Based on Your Business’s Needs

Businesses will have different needs depending on factors like their size, the industry they belong to, and many more. A local gym won’t necessarily need all the same features as a local coffee shop.

LMS understands this, offering a variety of services customized to your business’ needs. Some of the extra features LMS offers include subscription tools, gift cards and loyalty programs, and online menus for restaurants. You can either negotiate these extra features when you sign up or contact a sales representative further down the line as your needs evolve.

3.7

Pricing

Low Processing Rates, but Beware of Hidden Fees

A huge part of what drove negative reviews in the past was LMS’s lack of transparency about its pricing model. Though the company has taken some steps to fix this, obtuse pricing information remains one of its biggest weaknesses.

Merchants who sign up expect a flat monthly fee of about $10 with LMS. Though the advertised markup on credit card transactions is as low as 0.11%, customer reviews suggest that the actual value usually falls somewhere between 1% and 5%.

These fees are pretty reasonable on their own. In fact, LMS’s monthly and markup fees are among the lowest in the industry. The problem is that LMS comes with some extra costs that aren’t prominently advertised. If you decide to use the Authorize.Net virtual terminal, for instance, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee of $25. You’ll also be charged an annual $129 PCI-compliance fee, or a monthly fee of around $40 if you’re not PCI-certified.

Finally, you should keep in mind that the average LMS contract has a minimum duration of three years, which is significantly longer than that of most other processors. If you decide to terminate your contract early, you can get charged up to $350, and you’ll still get billed until the early termination process is fully completed.

4.6

Compliance & Security

Full PCI Compliance and Some Extra Measures for Added Security

All the equipment and services offered by LMS are fully PCI compliant, with some devices offering additional security features. LMS will also help you obtain PCI certification, but you’ll need to pay an annual PCI-compliance fee.

PCI Compliance & More

LMS offers a wide range of equipment for card-present transactions, all of which follow PCI regulations. Each device is EMV level 1 and 2 approved and PCI-certified, so you can trust them to keep your customers’ credit card data secure.

The Clover POS equipment in particular offers outstanding security features, like Clover Security Plus. This gives you PCI compliance assistance, a security score benchmark, and access to support agents who specialize in data security. If you’re interested in e-commerce, you’ll also be pleased to know that LMS’s chosen payment gateway, Authorize.Net, is one of the most popular and most trusted out there.

LMS offers services to help merchants achieve PCI compliance, for which it charges a mandatory PCI compliance fee. If you do choose LMS for your credit card processing, you’ll want to achieve PCI compliance as soon as possible. Otherwise, LMS will charge you a monthly PCI noncompliance fee on top of any other fees you might incur beyond LMS’s control.

Additional Security Features

Though it doesn’t seem to offer any additional security features on its end, every peripheral device supplied by LMS comes with built-in security tools. For example, all hardware sold by LMS comes with end-to-end encryption, while the Clover systems it sells offer tokenization and fraud prevention technology.

The Authorize.Net payment gateway and shopping cart integrations also guarantee end-to-end encryption and follow the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol – currently the standard for state-of-the-art network security. Besides this, you can password protect any physical or digital tool offered by LMS.

5.0

Customer Support

Few Channels, but Top-of-The-line Phone Support

Past merchant testimonies cite a lack of satisfaction with LMS customer support. While I don’t doubt these reflect the reality at the time they were written, LMS seems to have stepped up its game massively in this area to improve the overall quality of its service.

Still , if there’s one thing I can fault LMS’s customer support for, it’s a lack of available channels. Besides the toll-free number you’ll find on its homepage, the only other option for contacting support is to fill out a ticket on the “contact” section of LMS’s site, but all this does is schedule you for a future call.

That means that the 24/7 phone line is pretty much your only option for contacting LMS. Luckily, the phone support is outstanding. I called a couple of times in order to ask about where LMS operates, whether it can process multiple currencies, and how to go about the onboarding process.

Every time I called, a support representative picked up the phone in less than 2 minutes. Each representative took the time to listen to my questions and responded with in-depth and informative answers. They also asked additional questions to better understand my business and industry, and showed a genuine interest in helping me get what I needed.

If you have basic questions but don’t want to call, you can always check out the FAQ section on LMS’s website. It’s a detailed, well-written resource that contains lots of useful information about LMS, merchant accounts, and credit card processing in general.

Comparison

How does Leaders Merchant Services match up to the competition?

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Leaders Merchant Services REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE

Despite its unfavorable history, Leaders Merchant Services has made a real effort to improve the quality of its service in recent times. As of 2022, LMS is one of the best credit card processors for growing businesses. Its easy onboarding and quality support make it especially well-suited to startups looking to begin accepting payments as quickly and painlessly as possible.

That said, LMS still has room for improvement. The company could do more to improve transparency and modernize its pricing structure, for example. Still, if you’re looking for a simple but solid credit card processor, LMS could be the right choice for you.

FAQ

What is PCI compliance?For a business or service to achieve PCI compliance, it has to meet the requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This ensures that customers’ credit card data remains secure during transactions. In order to process credit card payments without running the risk of a penalty or data breach, both the business and its credit card processor must be PCI compliant.What Is a credit card processor?Credit card processing is a service that allows merchants to accept and receive payments made with credit and debit cards. A credit card processor is a company that offers credit card processing services to merchants. Depending on the processor, it might also provide the hardware for card-present transactions, software integrations for taking e-commerce payments, and special services such as fraud prevention for merchants.What’s the best credit card processor?This depends on the nature of your business. Not every processor offers the same features, so the best processor is going to be the one that offers the services that best suit your business. LMS is great for brick-and-mortar stores and up-and-coming businesses, but online businesses might prefer a processor that offers more advanced e-commerce features. For a more in-depth look, you can check out our list of the top 10 credit card processors in 2022.Is Leaders Merchant Services trustworthy?Though the company has received some negative feedback in the past, LMS has greatly improved its business and advertising practices in recent times. My research suggests that the LMS is a trustworthy credit card processor that offers a reliable service to its customers.

Andrés Gánem Andrés Gánem
Andrés Gánem is a Colorado-born, Mexico-City-raised freelance writer and content creator. He’s been doing that for a while. When he’s not writing, he should be, but you can find him reading adventure novels, playing video games, or drinking frankly unhealthy amounts of coffee. If you see him, tell him to put down that coffee. He’s shaky enough as it is.

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