Shift4 Payments Review 2021: Pricing, Features, Alternatives

by Ann deBruyn

Shift4 Payments helps small businesses accept several different kinds of payments, both in person and online. Its services may be especially attractive to small businesses in food, hospitality and a short list of other industries, but if you want upfront pricing and a simple solution, you may want to look at other options.

What is Shift4 Payments?

Shift4 Payments is a merchant services provider, which means it provides small businesses with one or more merchant accounts. Merchant accounts are a special type of bank account where money from processed transactions goes before moving to the business’s bank account.

Shift4 Payments also sells hardware (including four of its own point-of-sale hardware and software lines: FuturePOS, Harbortouch, POSitouch and Restaurant Manager); it also offers free payment terminals to process contactless mobile wallet transactions such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

The company, which started over 25 years ago and whose stock trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, has more than 200,000 customers. It's headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and has an office in Las Vegas.

How Shift4 Payments works

Shift4 Payments’ card processing functionality enables small businesses to accept a variety of payments, including:

  • Credit cards.

  • Debit cards.

  • EMV chip cards.

  • Digital wallets, including Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

  • WeChat Pay and Alipay for overseas transactions.

  • Gift cards.

The platform also allows small businesses to receive and process payments through a variety of channels, including mobile, tablet, online, handheld terminal and point-of-sale systems.

Although most types of businesses can probably use all or some of Shift4 Payments’ offerings, the company takes care to highlight that it puts together special product combinations for businesses in these areas:

  • Food and beverage.

  • Hospitality.

  • Retail.

  • E-commerce.

  • Sports and entertainment.

  • Casinos and online gaming.

For example, the company’s food and beverage package includes features that support tips and customer tabs, and the hospitality package includes tokenized reservations and a secure channel to share guest payment data with authorized third parties such as a concierge.

Pros

  • Integrations and add-ons.

  • Offers free payment terminals that support contactless transactions including Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Cons

  • Zero price transparency.

  • Negative BBB reviews.

Shift4 Payments notable features and capabilities

In addition to its payment processing capabilities, Shift4 Payments has some other prominent features worth mentioning.

Security

Shift4 Payments uses EMV, encryption and tokenization to protect card data and help small businesses avoid fraud and data breaches.

EMV technology helps authenticate a customer’s credit or debit card via chips embedded in the cards. Encryption technology basically scrambles credit and debit card data when it’s entered into the system so nobody else can see it. Tokenization uses electronic tokens to mask card information so that criminals can’t see it.

Analytics

In addition to its basic reporting capabilities, Shift4 Payments offers a Lighthouse Business Management System that provides data reporting and analytics for social media, loyalty programs and customer engagement, as well as tools to manage online reviews. This could be helpful if you’re looking for a way to see what people are saying about your business online, for example, as well as various metrics such as sales by employee or patterns in customer discounts.

Integrations and plug-ins

How well a payments system can work with other systems is an important question for many small-business owners who want to keep things streamlined and simple. Shift4 Payments’ system integrates with more than 350 POS, payment management and e-commerce platforms. Though some big players such as Square seem to be missing, the list does include popular ones such as:

  • Magento.

  • Microsoft Dynamics.

  • NetSuite POS.

  • OpenCart.

  • WooCommerce.

Additionally, Shift4 Payments sells a variety of different EMV devices; it offers them for free to payment processing customers.

Customer service

Shift4 Payments has multiple customer support options:

  • Dedicated 24/7 call center.

  • Email support.

  • Live chat 24/7.

  • Online knowledge base with video tutorials.

Pricing

Shift4 Payments doesn’t specify its cost; you’ll have to contact the company and get a quote. However, the company incentivizes small businesses to use its "end-to-end" processing solution (offering the "lowest cost" and free hardware for doing so). If you just want a payment processor, the multiple POS brands within the company’s portfolio may mean going down a decisions-within-decisions path in order to get the job done.

Some pricing information is publicly available. For example:

  • The company’s March 2021 10-K financial statements state that its payment processing contracts are three years long. They automatically renew every two years after that.

  • A templated Shift4 Payments Gateway Services Agreement shows that there’s an early termination fee equal to the average monthly service fees multiplied by the number of months remaining in the agreement, which could be costly.

  • A templated Shift4 Payments Gateway Services Agreement shows that merchants pay a semiannual $69 “industry compliance fee” every January and July for up to two payment devices and/or terminal IDs.

  • The company’s Account Updater service, which allows you to automatically update a credit card on file for a customer for a recurring payment, carries a $0.20-per-account update fee, billed monthly.

Shift4 Payments customer reviews

Shift4 Payments is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Businesses can get BBB accreditation by undergoing a thorough evaluation and meeting certain BBB standards. Although the company carries an A+ rating, customers have filed several complaints, many about contractual issues and customer service.

Shift4 Payments alternatives

There’s no one provider that works best for all businesses; the best solution will be the one that fits your particular needs. Here are some other providers that stand out as good, affordable options for small businesses.

Credit card processing company

Merchant account provider or payment service provider

Pricing structure

Processing fees

Monthly fee

Helcim

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus.

0.3% plus 8 cents plus interchange for in-person payments.

N/A.

Square

Payment service provider.

Flat-rate.

Starts at 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction for in-person payments.

N/A, unless using specialty software.

Stax (formerly Fattmerchant)

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus and a monthly subscription fee.

Interchange fees.

Starts at $99 per month for a subscription.

Payline Data

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus and a monthly subscription fee.

Starts at 0.2% plus 10 cents plus interchange for in-person payments.

Starts at $10 per month for a subscription. Must meet a monthly minimum of $25 in processing fees.

Payment Depot

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus and a monthly subscription fee.

Starts at 15 cents plus interchange per transaction.

Starts at $79 per month for a subscription.

Stripe

Payment service provider.

Flat-rate.

2.9% plus 30 cents for online payments.

N/A.

Dharma Merchant Services

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus.

0.15% plus 8 cents plus interchange.

$25 monthly fee.

National Processing

Merchant account provider.

Interchange-plus and a monthly subscription fee.

Percentage markups vary from plan to plan.

Starts at $9.95 per month for a subscription.