Stax vs Costco Merchant Services

For any business, payment processing vendors are one of the most important third-party relationships. Because of the critical nature of payment processing, businesses should choose a reliable processor that is cost-effective and scalable to the business’ needs. There are many viable options out there, including Stax and Costco Merchant Services, operated by Elavon.

In this post, we’re comparing the two solutions to help you decide which provider best fits your business.

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About Costco Merchant Services

Costco Merchant Services operates through Elavon and offers discounts and special pricing to Costco Executive members; Elavon has partnered with Costco members for over 20 years. Elavon processes five billion payment transactions annually and reports over 1.9 million business customers worldwide.

About Stax

Founded in 2014, Stax is the only all-in-one platform of scalable business tech to manage financials, payments, invoicing, inventory, sales data, and customers. Stax’s payment processing offer is unique in the marketplace because it’s a subscription-based service, meaning that the company doesn’t markup processing fees. You pay a single monthly fee to cover your membership and then you cover the direct cost of interchange.

Pricing

Now that you know the background of each payment company, let’s look at how much they charge.

Costco Merchant Services pricing

Elavon offers special pricing for Costo Executive members, so for this article, we’ll specifically cover that pricing structure. Costco Merchant Services provides several options depending on business needs and size.

For in-person and mobile transactions, the rate is 1.10%, plus 12 cents per qualified swipe or chip transaction. Online purchases are subject to a rate of 1.90%, plus 25 cents per qualified transaction.

It’s worth noting that there’s an unspecified minimum monthly charge applied when the fees and per-item charges are less than $20 per month. This pricing model is available for up to one million dollars in annual processing, after which a custom plan would need to be built.

 

The rate and details for what constitutes  “non-qualified” transactions are not disclosed on the website, so this would be an important question to ask if you’re considering Elavon/Costco Merchant Services.

Another noteworthy caveat about the pricing model is the fine print notes that, “Rates and fees may change without notice,” meaning the percentage per transaction and interchange markup could increase.

Stax pricing

Stax is known for having a transparent, contract-free, simple pricing model. For payment processing up to $500,000 annually, there are three plans—as the tier increases, so do the available features.

  • The Growth plan, at $99 per month
  • The Pro plan, at $159 per month
  • The Ultimate plan, at $199 per month

With Stax, you pay the plan membership fee plus the direct cost of the interchange. Unlike many payment processors, Stax does not markup the interchange. The interchange rate is the fee every merchant must pay with all credit and debit card transactions. These rates are set by the companies issuing the payment card.

For large enterprise businesses exceeding $500,000 in annual payment processing, Stax will work to create a custom plan.

The bottom line on price

Unlike Stax, several variables can affect the charge per transaction for Costco Merchant Services. For example, the fine print states that keyed-in transactions cost 3.20% plus ten cents per transaction—a significant increase from the advertised rate for other transactions. Not to mention, the transaction type also affects the charge, making this more difficult to ascertain your actual cost.

Like many payment processors, Costco Merchant Services has a markup on the interchange rate (the additional 12 or 25 cents per transaction for in-person and mobile, or online transactions, respectively).

To sum it up: though Costco Merchant Services claims to have “transparent pricing”, there are many details (some of which are subject to change without notice) embedded within their tiered pricing model that requires due diligence to fully understand.

Features and Benefits

Both Stax and Costco Merchant Services offer a variety of hardware, software, and features to fit your various business needs.

Costco Merchant Services (Elavon) Features

Some of the notable features offered by Costco Merchant Services include:

  • A variety of hardware for restaurants, retail or online ordering.
  • Dashboard for tracking metrics like sales, transactions, chargebacks, and more.
  • Advanced features for restaurants, including floor plans, menus, seating charts, etc.
  • Special features of healthcare facilities, including the ability to “Connect health plans, providers, and consumers in an integrated network to meet data security and compliance requirements.”
  • Surcharging capabilities.
  • Waived application and statement fees for Costco Executive Members.
  • 24/7 support via phone.

Stax Merchant Services Features

Stax’s payment platform is also packed with useful features, including:

  • The ability to accept comparatively more modes of payment, including credit cards, ACH payments and Text-to-Pay–all included with the service.
  • Hardware to process swiped, tapped, and dipped cards, along with mobile and NFC contactless payments.
  • Backup processing so can keep processing transactions even when your internet goes down.
  • Instant online shopping cart so you can set up a digital shop ASAP.
  • Robust payment analytics solutions, including dashboards and heatmaps for tracking sales, inventory, and customer behavior.
  • Recurring billing to support subscription businesses, and regular invoicing.
  • Linked customer profiles so you can securely store payment details for future use.
  • A secure, HIPAA-compliant platform to safeguard payment data and information.
  • Surcharging capabilities.
  • 24/7 customer support via phone, chat, and email. There’s also a knowledge base that has wealth of useful information available on-demand.

Integrations

Payment solutions work best when they’re connected to your other business apps. Let’s explore Elavon’s and Stax’s integrations below.

Costco Merchant Services (Elavon) integrations

Costco Merchant Services may have some useful integrations available. Some of the company’s marketing collateral allude to integrations with POS systems and payment gateways. However, these partnerships are not listed on their website.

Stax integrations

Stax is a lot more transparent with its integrations, and you’ll find a useful list here. Some of the notable software integrations include:

  • Quickbooks
  • Xero
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Wave
  • Zoho
  • Mailchimp
  • Google Docs
  • Hubspot
  • Asana

Customer rating and reviews

The many review sites will have differing opinions of payment processors. In the case of Stax and Costco Merchant Services (Elavon), the former fares much better.

Costco Merchant Services ratings and reviews

Costco Merchant Services has a 3-star rating on Merchant Maverick and Card Payment Options.

Reviewers praise the company’s modern hardware offerings that enable businesses to accept mobile, NFC, EMV, and digital payments.

However, Elavon’s pricing structure and lack of transparency have raised some eyebrows. As Merchant Maveric points out:

“Costco Merchant Services has some significant problems—namely its misleading tiered pricing rates, some hidden fees, and some potential contractual concerns. Additionally, keep in mind that its terms are very similar to what Elavon can give you if you sign up with them directly, leaving little incentive to sign up with Costco unless you’re already a member.”

Some businesses have also pointed out that the company’s customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

Consider the following merchant review:

“Worst customer service ever, needed to update my account information, called customer support, first they provided me with the wrong form to fill, then they claimed that they have requested more info that they never received so they closed my account. I had to do another application to re-open the account and still has not been reactivated. Very complex and cumbersome and certainly it seems that they don’t care about my business.”

 – Oak Lake Med Spa

Stax ratings and reviews

Stax has a 5-star rating on Merchant Maverick, a 4.9-star rating on G2, and 4.3 stars on Trustpilot.

Professional reviewers and merchants alike commend Stax’s transparent and cost-effective pricing structure. The company also receives praise for its range of offerings and capabilities to serve merchants from various industries. According to Merchant Maverick:

 

“After running the numbers and talking to business owners, we can confidently say that Stax offers an outstanding value for a wide variety of merchants.”

Business owners who shared their experiences on Trustpilot report a seamless and effortless experience with Stax.

“It was very easy to sign up. Any questions we had were easily answered. The onboarding experience has been amazing. The person assigned to us (Jared) has been helpful, responsive, and quick to solve any problems we had. I would for sure recommend this service.

– Ann

“We just started with Stax but it already shows more potential in features than our previous payment processor. Additionally, it has lower processing fees, so we expect to decrease our monthly costs. So far so great.” – Spencer

Which Solution is Right For You?

Both Stax and Costco Merchant Services can get you up and running with payments and enable you to accept credit cards in-person and online.

Costco Merchant Services, which is powered by Elavon, also has some solid software features that can support retail, restaurants, and healthcare facilities.

However, the company’s tiered pricing and lack of transparency may result in higher-than-necessary processing fees, so businesses should be extra diligent and ensure that they’re getting the most value.

Meanwhile, Stax offers a suite of robust capabilities that support the needs of retailers, field service professionals, healthcare establishments, and more. Stax is also known for its membership-based pricing that gives businesses access to the direct cost of interchange, which can save merchants up to 40% in credit card processing.

There’s certainly a lot to unpack, so the wise choice is to carefully review your options. If you’re considering Stax for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch to learn more.

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