Dharma Merchant Services is a San Francisco, California-based merchant services provider that offers payment processing services to a large variety of businesses in different industries, including yoga studios, wellness centers, clinics for speech therapists, occupational therapists, rehab centers, hospitals, emergency medical services, and veterinarians. However, the niche specialties that Dharma particularly excels at are retail, eCommerce, restaurant, and non-profit organizations. These payment processing services are available for online and in-person payment processing, including credit and debit card processing, ACH and eCheck processing, and recurring billing. The company, founded in 2007, also offers various other services, such as donation processing, fundraising tools for non-profits, and a virtual terminal for businesses that need to process payments over the phone or by mail.
Dharma was founded to provide ethical and transparent payment processing services to these industries and has since grown to serve thousands of businesses across the United States. Along with payment processing, Dharma offers a wide range of services, offering virtual terminals and payment processing services for niche events, such as donation processing and fundraising tools, making it an excellent choice for non-profit organizations.
One of the critical benefits that Dharma touts for working with them is the company’s transparency. The founder of the company, Jeff Marcous, mainly focused on offering a transparent pricing structure; interchange-plus pricing, there are no hidden fees or long-term contracts, and thereby on early termination fees. The company also provides various fraud prevention tools to help protect its customers from criminal activity.
Our review of Dharma covers the company’s operations, founding history, service offerings, target market, fees, and merchant rates. We evaluate how merchants rate Dharma’s services, any legal issues the company faces, and how it compares to competitors in the payment processing industry.
Jeff Marcous is the cofounder of Dharma and started the company in San Francisco, California, in 2007. The company focuses on providing the best service with ethical sales practices and transparent pricing. Dharma partners with Synovus Bank as its acquirer, Fiserv and TSYS serve as the company’s payment processor, and Clover, among many other hardware vendors, offers numerous POS and mPOS solutions.
Dharma has numerous service offerings, starting with payment processing, point of sale terminals, mobile apps, and additional services catering to online stores and eCommerce businesses. A breakdown of these offerings is as follows.
Payment Processing – As renowned as Dharma is for its top-notch customer service, it is surprising to learn that the company’s primary payment processing partners in the back end are both TSYS and Fiserv. Neither is known for its customer support. In fact, Fiserv has a very poor reputation in terms of service, as well as rates.
Thankfully, Dharma has successfully offered flexibility to its customers to offer favorable processing rates and a month-to-month contract. This is clearly a better payment processing deal instead of directly contracting with Fiserv for services. Especially since the mainstay of this partnership is that Dharma manages the support services, so there will be minimal direct communication with Fiserv relating to Dharma customer inquiries. So merchants get all the great taste of world-class payment processing without any of the fat and calories of poor support and restrictive contract terms.
The only drawback of the company’s service is that Dharma does not serve riskier clients or any merchants looking to accept payments for international sales. The company is presumed to have a channel partnership with PaymentCloud for high-risk merchants, as all such requests are referred to them.
Surcharging is also gaining ground among merchants, and for quite some time, there needed to be more clarity around the legality of the service in many jurisdictions. As a result, most payment processors stayed away from the practice. However, as there is more clarity around such a service in courts throughout the US, Dharma recently began offering a surcharging service. The company offers that through a specific POS terminal available at a one-time cost of $295.
Dharma has non-profit-specific pricing and has teamed up with 4aGoodCause, an online fundraising platform that enables non-profits to collect donations through a website, monitor contributors, and connect to over 2,000 third-party applications. 4aGoodCause incurs a minimal monthly charge but does not impose any platform transaction fees, allowing non-profits to retain a more significant portion of their raised funds.
What the company does charge extra for are truly great value-adds that merchants would find useful. Dharma offers a B2B program called MX B2B which offers lower interchange pass-through rates for transactions that and processed with Level 2 or Level 3 processing.
Although there is an added cost, given that the average processing size of Level 2 and 3 transactions is very large, the savings in payment processing charges on those transactions would surpass the cost of the MX B2B program.
Dharma offers a HIPAA-compliant solution for healthcare, veterinary, and medical merchants to accept credit cards, debit cards, and HSA cards. The platform also enables merchants to send invoices, receive phone payments, and add a payment button to their websites.
Dharma’s services are ideal for many different industries, but the company specializes in catering to retailers, eCommerce businesses, restaurants, and nonprofit organizations. It is important to note that the company only accepts merchants with a monthly processing volume of more than $10,000. The company refers merchants to Square who do not meet that threshold
Point of Sale and Mobile Apps
Point of Sale terminals – As with payment processing, Dharma partners with Fiserv to offer point of sale systems. Some terminals offered include the Clover series of POS products, including the premium Clover Station Duo and Clover Station Solo. The Clover Mini and the Clover Flex are also available with a monthly fee based on the chosen level of service. It’s important to note that using any Clover POS system requires onboarding with Fiserv. If the merchant uses a previous processor’s POS system, Dharma can usually reprogram it to work with either TSYS or Fiserv.
Merchants within the Hospitality or transportation sector may prefer to opt for the First Data FD-150 or the Ingenico Desk/3500 option. However, the First Data POS is better as it comes with automatic update capabilities and a touchscreen.
The Ingenico Desk/5000 is the sole costly option listed among the five shown on the five POS terminals shown on the company’s website, but it is the best option for B2B transactions as it can handle Level 2 and Level 3 processing.
The Dejavoo Z11 is the POS device that Dharma offers its surcharging service through. The last option, the Verifone Engage V200c, is a more general terminal suitable for most businesses. All the terminals offered by Dharma are EMV-enabled, can process payments from digital wallets such as those of Apple and Google, and offer Chip+PIN encryption, which is one of the strongest encryption combinations available. They also all have color screens and built-in printers.
Dharma also has an entire section of the full suite of the Clover POS family of terminals. The pricing includes the cost of the terminal as well as a monthly recurring fee for the equipment. The hardware cost range from $649 for the Clover Flex to as high as $1,999 for the Clover Station Duo. The monthly fees can start at $4.95 (but can be as high as $34.95) a month for lower-end models to as high as $44.95 a month for the Clover Station Duo.
Mobile POS – Although Dharma offers the mobile POS app for a mobile payment solution as well as a mobile card reader, that option is currently not available on the company’s website as it is out of stock, and there is no timeline as to when it will be available given the current supply chain headwinds as well as other geopolitical issues such as trading bans.
Payments Gateways and Virtual Terminals – Dharma sticks to the tried-and-true solutions for online merchants. Authorize.net is the de facto standard for payment gateways in the payment processing industry. Dharma also offers an in-house payment gateway embedded into its MX Merchant solution.
For the company’s virtual terminal solutions, Dharma offers VPOS in combination with Authorize.net and QuickPay as part of the MX Merchant solution.
Tertiary services include:
Dharma also offers MX Merchant, an all-in-one online account access and reporting system with every merchant account. The main features include a virtual terminal, online reporting functionality, a customer database, and a mobile processing app, among many other features. Additional options can be added for a monthly fee, including integrated ACH payment processing, B2B processing, invoicing, and recurring billing.
Dharma offers a 2-business day funding guarantee for all merchants, with the potential for next-day funding for most card-present retail transactions, subject to underwriter approval. The cost per transaction varies based on industry, card presence, and processing volume, but Dharma offers all processing via interchange-plus pricing. Below is a breakdown of the company’s pricing on its various services and POS solutions.
Payment processing for retail stores and restaurants is available at an interchange + 0.15%, along with additional eight cents for every transaction. For eCommerce and card not present transactions, rates are interchange + 0.20%, along with additional eleven cents for every transaction. For retail stores or those merchants that are classified as high-volume processing merchants by Dharma, those with more than $100,000 in monthly processing volume pay a rate of interchange + 0.10%, along with additional eight cents for every transaction.
Point of Sale
Verifone Engage V200c
Walker 2 card reader for Mobile processing
Clover Station Duo
$1,999 for the terminal + $44.95/month
Clover Station Solo
$1,649 for the terminal + $44.95/month
$899 for the device + monthly fee of either $4.95 or $34.95 based on the level of service
$599 for the device + monthly fee of either $4.95 or $34.95 based on the level of service
$25/month, $20/month for high-volume merchants
B2B processing (L2 and L3 processing)
$20 per month
$10/month + $0.05/transaction
$25 per month + $0.40 per transaction
ACH processing via Authorize.Net
$10 per month + 0.75 % of total transactions processed
Transaction Retrieval charges
Account closure fee, which Dharma charges to recoup the cost of mandatory record-keeping for a minimum of 6 months after closure to protect against late chargebacks
There are no monthly minimums with Dharma, nor are there any fees for PCI compliance, setting up services, or annual fees.
Dharma is also known for its exceptional customer service. The company has a team of experienced and knowledgeable customer service representatives available to assist clients with customers questions or concerns. Whether you’re a small business just getting started or a large non-profit organization, Dharma has the payment processing solutions and customer service to meet their needs.
Dharma offers exceptional in-house phone support during business hours, Monday to Friday, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Pacific Time. The knowledgeable and supportive team will be able to assist you with any inquiries you may have. If you have an issue outside of these hours, you can contact them via phone and email, and the company will queue the inquiry for resolution once regular business resumes. In addition to phone support, Dharma provides a comprehensive knowledge base on their website that can answer a wide range of questions about credit card processing. The information is quite helpful and can assist in troubleshooting many issues merchants face.
Dharma stands by the quality of its services and does not attempt to keep customers by subjugating them to long-duration non-cancelable contracts and then compelling them to pay punitive charges if they intend to end that contract due to a lack of effective service.
In order to contrast customers terminating their services from seasonal businesses that temporarily suspend their account, there is a final payment of $49, which the company charges to recoup the cost of mandatory record-keeping and to protect against late chargebacks, which may take at least 6 months to transpire. Seasonal businesses are not subject to this fee.
We found no legal complaints or ongoing litigation against the company. There are also no FTC complaints filed against Dharma.
Dharma has a positive online reputation, with most of the available reviews being positive testimonials. The company is no longer rated by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), even though it had an A+ rating in the past. There have been no complaints in the past 36 months.
There are very few negative reviews about the company, most of which come from merchants who were turned down for an account. Remember, Dharma only works with merchants with a monthly processing volume of $10,000 or more and does not work with high risk merchants. Nonetheless, the company is not perfect, and there may be occasional issues like funding holds or equipment compatibility. Still, Dharma handles these problems professionally and competently. As we discussed at the start of this review, the manner in which the company manages its customer relationships, starting from the sales process to ongoing Support, is the driving factor in keeping its merchants satisfied.
As with any company, there may be negative reviews or complaints about Dharma. It’s important to note that not all complaints may be valid or accurately reflect the company’s service. It’s always a good idea to research a company thoroughly before doing business with them and consider different sources of information. Additionally, if you have a specific concern or question about Dharma, it would be best to contact the company directly for more details.
24 Hour Phone Help Lines
Monday through Friday 9AM - 4PM PST Office hours
Email Assistance Available
Online Knowledge Base
Dharma is a payment processing service provider offering various services for different industries, including yoga and wellness centers. However, the company specializes in retail, eCommerce, restaurant, and non-profit industries. Dharma provides various payment processing options and specialized services, such as donation processing and fundraising tools for non-profits.
Along with payment processing, the company also offers virtual terminals and point of sale systems. The company was founded in 2007 to provide transparent and ethical services and has since grown to serve thousands of businesses across the US. Dharma offers a variety of payment processing options, including credit and debit card processing, ACH and eCheck processing, and recurring billing. Additionally, Dharma provides various other services, including fundraising tools for non-profit organizations and fraud prevention tools to protect its customers.
Dharma is committed to ethical and transparent business practices and is known for its exceptional customer service. It could be an excellent option for businesses looking for a company that understands their specific needs.