Electronic Merchant Systems Vs Stax

The digital payments market is estimated to be worth $11.29 trillion by 2026, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.21% between 2021 and 2026.

While the industry offers plenty of payment processing solutions with unique features, integrations, and pricing structures, which of them best suits your company will depend entirely on your unique business needs.

Both Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS) and Stax are viable options with each offering a robust platform, diverse integrations, and convenient payment options. In this article, we’ll compare the two solutions to help you choose the right one for your small business.

Electronic Merchant Systems Features

EMS has a number of features that sit well with small and medium-sized businesses. For starters, EMS is a direct processor. This allows you to have a single point of contact if any problems arise, thus making the customer experience smoother.

  • EMS offers a variety of cash discounting and surcharging programs. It can apply cash discounts and surcharges automatically in total compliance with local laws and regulations.
  • EMS also offers a specialized restaurant point-of-sale (POS) solution called Total Touch. It enables open table management, online and mobile ordering, a kitchen display system, employee management, etc.
  • To integrate with eCommerce platforms, EMS offers a proprietary payment gateway. Their website also allows you to set up and run an online store.

Stax is a fantastic counterweight to EMS in terms of its diverse set of features. Stax comes in three types of monthly subscriptions — Growth, Pro, and Ultimate — each with its own set of features.

  • Growth includes most basic features like mobile readers, ACH processing, dashboard, analytics, and free surcharging.
  • Pro includes all that’s covered under Growth plus digital invoicing, website-hosted payment links, mobile payments, API key integration capabilities, enhanced dashboards, and reporting.
  • Finally, the Ultimate plan subsumes features of both Growth and Pro, in addition to offering recurring invoices, scheduled payments, one-click shopping cart setup, automatic updates for stored credit cards, data exports, and dedicated account managers.

When it comes to making a fair comparison between EMS and Stax on the basis of features, the latter prevails hands down. Most of the features offered by EMS are present in Stax’s basic plan. As you go higher, Stax’s features appear unmatchable and irresistible.

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Both solutions can connect to third-party systems. Let’s look at the EMS and Stax’s integration capabilities below.

EMS integrations

EMS provides opportunities to integrate your payment solutions with a number of allied services seamlessly. With its virtual terminals, you can send a custom email invoice to customers or set up a recurring billing schedule, enabling customers to make fixed monthly payments.

Several leading payment gateways have been integrated into EMS through its flexible payment APIs and SDKs. Additionally, EMS also provides inexpensive web services that you can avail to design a responsive website for your business. Their services include cutting-edge web design, hosting, and commerce solutions.

Stax integrations

Stax’s customizable and all-in-one API allows for a diverse range of integrations which is one of its biggest benefits. Stax’s SDKs and API can help you easily integrate any mobile app or platform into the payments ecosystem, so you can meet your unique business needs and control the user experience end-to-end.

This is especially true for large businesses (enterprise-level) that need to find ways to tailor their payments experience and are looking to further enhance their existing software infrastructure.

For example, businesses that are leveling up and want to “personalize” their payments while ensuring there is compatibility between the tools they are already using instead of looking for a net new “right-out-of-the-box” experience.

The Stax Platform also cross-integrates with several software products like QuickBooks (Stax is the only company that does 2-way sync with QuickBooks), as well as shopping carts, gift card software, and POS software. Examples include Antamedia, Invoiced,  Zoho, Salesforce, and Shopify.


In terms of payment processing fees, Stax’s subscription-based pricing model is more advantageous for merchants. Consider the following.

EMS pricing

EMS has one of the most complex pricing structures. This is because of its different charges for different services as listed below:

  • Swiped rate: 1.00% – 4.99%
  • Keyed-in rate: 1.00% – 4.99%
  • Early termination fees: $595
  • Data breach insurance fee: $15 per month
  • Account fee: $15-$30 per month
  • Upgrade/update fee: $75 semi-annually
  • PCI non-compliance fee: $50 per month
  • Monthly minimum: $25 per month
  • Chargeback fee: $25 per occurrence

Stax pricing

Stax, on the other hand, has a fairly simple pricing structure for different subscription models. There are absolutely zero hidden charges and no complex calculations involved.

Stax’s subscription-based pricing with  0% markup on direct interchange rates is perfect for small and mid-sized businesses that have a fair amount of sales every month. The three Stax subscription plans are as follows:

  • Growth: $99 per month
  • Pro: $159 per month
  • Ultimate: $199 per month

With Stax, all you need to pay is a monthly membership fee regardless of how you accept payments. There are no hidden or overhead charges, no ancillary fees, markups, or contracts. It’s this transparency and simplicity that makes Stax an ideal payment processor for small and medium businesses.

Customer Support

How do these two companies compare when it comes to customer service? We break it down for you below.

EMS customer support

EMS has very little to show for, in terms of the customer support it offers. This turns out to be one of its biggest shortcomings — especially in the face of technologically complex business scenarios.

EMS has a fairly large documentation repository and a well-established knowledge base that can be accessed in case of any issues. It also offers domestic phone support, but only during business hours. This obviously doesn’t cater to round-the-clock transactions.

Their live one-on-one interactions seem to somewhat salvage their otherwise limited support. However, overall EMS significantly lags behind in this area.

Stax customer support

Stax has a fairly diversified customer support system. Its customer support team can be reached via phone or their website. They also provide a live chat tool on their site. Stax uses technology from Zendesk to help you create and track support tickets.

The Stax Knowledge Base provides extensive support through well-documented resources. Quite clearly, Stax has an omnichannel presence and customers find their support services quick, easy, and effective.

Customer Ratings and Reviews

Now let’s look at what other merchants and payment experts have to say about EMS and Stax.

EMS customer ratings and reviews

EMS seems to be in a bit of a tight spot when it comes to its ratings and reviews. For starters, a complaint by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was lodged against EMS in 2015 relating to a “phantom debt” scheme.

This has obviously affected its reputation in the market and customers are more than just circumspect before choosing EMS. On Trustpilot, EMS has a 2.8 rating based on 3 reviews, while Merchant Maverick has given it 2.5 stars out of 5. This paints a rather gloomy picture of EMS with regards to the quality of service, financial security, and privacy.

Stax customer ratings and reviews

Stax has received abundant positive reviews across the board. Customers have lauded it for its excellent customer support, transparent pricing, and interoperability.
Stax has a 4.3 rating on Trustpilot, based on 615 reviews — most of which highlight their transparency, proactive support, seamless transition, and excellent experience. Merchant Maverick has given it 5 out of 5 stars.

Pros and Cons

EMS is a direct processor that offers a fairly wide range of products and services. However, the solution falls short on a number of fronts.

The pricing is, by and large, quite expensive and highly tiered. EMS also charges a very high termination fee of $595 and you’re likely to be tied into a long-term contract with an automatic renewal clause.

Plus, they charge a host of additional fees (as listed above) and work with third-party and external sales agents (who typically don’t have the best reputation for disclosing hidden fees or quoting fairly).

Stax, on the other hand, is known for its transparent pricing, highly responsive customer support, seamless integrations, same-day funding, and easy-to-use dashboard and analytics.

However, Stax is only available for businesses that have a presence in the US and may seem to be a bit expensive for businesses that have monthly transactions of less than $5,000.

Final Verdict

Stax beats EMS’s solutions when it comes to small and mid-sized businesses. Stax comes off as hi-tech, modern, and convenient. On the other hand, EMS seems to be rather archaic with serious privacy and compliance issues.

When it comes to small and mid-sized businesses, these issues can be very worrisome as the margins are often very thin. If you are running a small business, you are likely to be price sensitive. Stax offers a rather simple pricing structure with no markup, contracts, or hidden fees, while EMS offers multi-tiered pricing and charges you for every single service separately. That said, if you process a large volume of transactions, you may be able to negotiate lower rates with EMS.

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