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Alpha Card Services Inc.

MLS contact:

Ted Lasch, National Sales Manager
Phone: 866-253-2227 ext. 15

Company address:

6445 Frankford Avenue, Suite 2
Philadelphia, PA 19135
Phone: 866-253-2227
Web site:

MLS benefits:

  • Signing and conversion bonuses
  • Free terminals
  • Co-op marketing materials
  • Lifetime residuals

Building the Foundation

We can usually empathize with someone only if we've been in their shoes. For example, who better knows what merchant level salespeople (MLSs) need than someone who has worked as an MLS?

Co-founders of Alpha Card Services Inc., Lazaros Kalemis and Dimitrios Tsikoudis, used their experiences as MLSs to design a program that helps sales professionals build and enjoy lucrative careers.

"Our company's vision is to create the best trained and most efficient sales force in the industry," Kalemis said. "We want every one of our groups to have the opportunities and help that we were never given while we were MLSs and struggling to make it."

Alpha Card focuses on providing credit, debit, gift, loyalty, check and ATM services to small and mid-sized merchants nationwide. The company's headquarters is in Philadelphia; it also operates a West Coast office in Roseville, Calif.

In the past year and a half, Alpha Card has grown from a direct sales force based within 100 miles of Philadelphia to having more than 100 sales groups nationwide. The company processes more than $250 million annually and signs more than 250 new merchants each month.

Part of the reason for its rapid growth is the founders' philosophy. "The hardest part for someone getting into this business is they don't have enough capital," Kalemis said.

Alpha Card offers creative programs, such as free terminals and conversion bonuses, so agents don't have to wait for residuals to realize success and build their businesses.

Programs, such as those detailed below, help increase revenue for MLSs and Alpha Card, while keeping both merchant and MLS attrition rates low.

Free Terminal Placement Program

In November 2004, the company initiated its Free Terminal Placement Program in order to help MLSs close sales so that just in case MLSs are about to lose a deal, they can offer merchants a free terminal.

Alpha Card will furnish merchants with a terminal, usually a Hypercom T7Plus or a Lipman NURIT 8320, at no cost, for as long as merchants process with the company. MLSs don't have to absorb the cost of the terminal; it's free to them and merchants.

MLSs still receive residuals on all transactions for the life of the account as well as bonuses for more than $200.

Buy 1 Get 1 Program

Not only does Alpha Card provide free terminals to merchants, but it also provides them to MLSs. In April 2005, the company launched another program designed to grow MLS' businesses: the Buy 1 Get 1 Program.

This program differs from the Free Terminal Placement Program in that Alpha Card supplies the terminals free to MLSs, who can then resell them to merchants at whatever price they determine.

Let's assume an MLS sells 10 terminals in January. Starting in February, he is eligible to receive a free terminal for each of the next 10 merchants he signs, up to 10. If he sold 40 terminals in January, he can receive 40 starting in February.

The MLS determines what price to charge each merchant for the terminal, and he keeps that revenue, in addition to residuals on the account. There are no minimums or limits in this program.

Conversion Bonus Program

Alpha Card also offers conversion bonuses. "Many times MLSs will be hesitant to approach a merchant who already has service from a competitor because he believes there won't be any revenue from an equipment sale and probably not enough revenue generated to make it worth his or her while," Kalemis said.

To help solve this problem and encourage reps to convert business, Alpha Card initiated its Conversion Bonus Program. With this program, MLSs need only to fax a competitor's statement to Alpha Card's office.

Within an hour it will fax, e-mail or mail MLSs a professional proposal, including pricing. According to the company, nine times out of 10, agents win the business. They receive a bonus of $50 for every $25,000 processed the first full month of processing, in addition to residuals for the life of the account.

100/100 Program

Alpha Card's incentives also include the 100/100 Program. Here's how it works: After an MLS's 100th day of writing business for Alpha Card, he receives $100 for every deal approved and processed with the company. It's that simple.

"We do what we can to help reps make more per sale," Kalemis said.

Co-op Marketing Program

In addition to the bonus programs, Kalemis and Tsikoudis have also developed a Co-op Marketing Program to help MLSs secure new business without having to develop their own marketing programs.

"MLSs benefit from the hands-on approach both my partner Dimitrios and I take," Kalemis said.

Through the Co-op Program, Alpha Card develops and pays for the creation of customized postcards and flyers and provides free leads to help agents bring in more business.

Sit Back and Watch the Cash Pour In

Since Alpha Card designed its bonus and incentive programs to help MLSs earn more, the company understands that reps need a way to monitor their residuals, accounts and success. In April, it introduced the I.R.I.S. system.

With I.R.I.S. and any standard Web browser, MLSs can log in and view the status of all their residuals, new account applications, existing account customer service issues and more.

The system displays every customer service and support call and the details of the call. MLSs can log in to see if any of their clients need attention or service. Agents' information is password protected so they see only their own information.

If a rep has a few MLSs working for her, she can see all of her employees' progress and status with the security of knowing the MLSs cannot see the whole portfolio.

Customer Satisfaction

Tsikoudis and Kalemis understand that success not only requires attracting and selling new business, but also keeping all clients happy.

To keep attrition low and ensure customer satisfaction, Alpha Card has implemented a quality assurance department. This department works to make sure customers are satisfied, thus increasing each MLS's residual check by keeping merchants longer.

"The most important thing is not how many merchants you write up, but how long you keep merchants," Tsikoudis said.

To keep newly signed merchants satisfied, Alpha Card calls them a week after receiving their equipment to ensure that they are happy, the equipment works well and that they know how to use it properly. Merchants continue to receive Quality Assurance (QA) calls every six weeks to ensure complete satisfaction.

"Our attrition rates have declined astronomically in direct result to this program," Kalemis said. Merchants even receive calls on their birthdays.

These calls "... keep our names on the merchants' lips," Tsikoudis said. "When someone comes in and tries to convert them, they call us because they are accustomed to talking to our QA people."

Tsikoudis also said that the ongoing dialog helps them stay on top of any issues that might become problems. "We hear about things before they become major issues," he said. This constant contact helps Alpha Card extend the life of the account and the agent's residuals.

Another Alpha Card program that keeps merchants satisfied is the Merchant Referral Program. Any client or merchant referring another business that signs with Alpha Card receives $50.

"The best part of the program is that the MLS that sold the account gets the lead, the sales and residual, and Alpha Card Services corporate pays the fee," Kalemis said.

One of the benefits of being an MLS, and what attracts many to this profession, is the ability to work independently. But there is a tradeoff: With flexibility and autonomy, there are risks.

Alpha Card is an organization that understands the risks associated with being an MLS. It has designed incentive and bonus programs tailored to minimize risk while increasing the bottom line for both the company and the agents who represent its services.

"We help our reps grow and sell more," Kalemis said.

"We thank all our MLS partners for giving us feedback, both negative and positive," Tsikoudis said. "They have made us a better company."

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