This overview includes a thorough section about CardFellow’s experience with Flagship. We’ll always back up that section with firsthand information and statements so that you can see where we’re coming from.
Let’s dive into the company’s services, rates and fees, and those reviews to see what you can expect from a Flagship merchant account.
If you already know what the company does and are just looking for the reviews, jump down to the Flagship Merchant Services Review section.
- What does Flagship Merchant Services do?
- Flagship Merchant Services Rates and Fees
- Is there a contract?
- Flagship Merchant Services’ Reviews and Reputation
- Flagship According to Processor Review Sites
- CardFellow’s Experience with Flagship Merchant Services
Flagship offers payment processing solutions for retail, restaurant, wireless, phone/mail order, and e-commerce businesses. If you’re looking to take credit cards, Flagship Merchant Services will get you set up with your own merchant account so that you can accept payment with major cards.
For “card present” transactions, where your customer is physically at your location to make their purchase, Flagship offers countertop payment terminals and point-of-sale system options. Exact features of the terminals vary by model, but may include backlit LCD screens, built-in PIN pads, and EMV chip card acceptance. You can also choose to use an iPad for your point-of-sale solution, and take advantage of extensive reporting capabilities. Point-of-sale systems can be configured with optional equipment to make your exact
If you need to take payments on the go, Flagship can get you set up with the ROAM app and an optional swiper. (The swiper plugs in via standard headphone jack and is available at no cost.) The swiper allows you to accept all major credit cards with a simple swipe instead of hand keying them into your phone. Mobile processing is available for both Apple and Android phones, and is completely PCI compliant. If your wireless connection is lost, an offline processing mode ensures that you’ll still be able to take payments. You can also record cash transactions, process refunds, add sales tax, or allow customers to add tips.
If you’re processing transactions online through your website, Flagship can get you set up with an Authorize.Net payment gateway, so that you’ll be able to accept all major credit cards, debit cards, Authorize.Net echeck bank accounts, and international transactions. Authorize.Net integrates with many popular shopping carts for easy e-commerce payment acceptance.
For phone and mail order purchases, you can use the virtual terminal option to manually enter card data for your customers.
Online transactions benefit from security with the customizable Advanced Fraud Detection Suite, Address Verification Service (AVS), Card Code Verification (CVV2) and support for Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode.
Costs to use this processor are often high. Flagship doesn’t publish pricing on its website, but generally utilizes a tiered pricing model, one of the most complex and expensive models. In some cases interchange plus pricing may be available. A later section of this profile, CardFellow’s experience with Flagship Merchant Services, details the potential problems and expenses in Flagship’s pricing.
For ease of comparison, you can request a quote from Flagship right through this profile. It’s fast, free, and no-obligation, and will allow you to quickly see how Flagship Merchant Services’ rates and fees stack up to other processors you’re considering. To get started, head over to the quote comparison form.
Contracts with Flagship Merchant Services are month-to-month contracts with no early termination fees. As always when a processor states there is no cancellation fee, be sure to get it in writing.
Flagship Merchant Services is not currently accredited with the Better Business Bureau and has a score of “C” at the BBB website. Flagship has had 126 complaints lodged with the BBB in the last 3 years. Reviews complain of several problems, including unauthorized charges, unresponsive customer service, and deceptive practices. Customers complain of being charged for services they didn’t authorize or use (such as mobile scanners for mobile processing) and for being charged after cancellation despite following the required cancellation policies.
Ripoff Report corroborates the negative reviews, with 47 records available from customers. One Flagship Merchant Services review suggests the company falsely told the customer that Flagship is BBB accredited. Most complaints allege hidden fees, unauthorized charges, and continuing charges after cancellation. Reviewers reference difficult-to-reach representatives and deceptive marketing and fee disclosures.
Flagship Merchant Services offers a video that includes positive reviews and awards, which you can watch below:
Aside from CardFellow, three of the most popular sources for credit card processor reviews are Merchant Maverick, CardPaymentOptions, and TopTenReviews. Merchant Maverick uses a star rating system from 1-5 stars, CardPaymentOptions uses a letter grading system from A – F (no letter E), and TopTenReviews uses a number grading system from 1 – 10.
For comparison purposes, we can roughly say that a grade of 3 stars, a C, or a 5 is average, a grade of 5 stars, an A, or a 10 is excellent, and a grade of 1 star, an F, or a 1 is terrible. Here is a ‘conversion chart’ we’ve created.
If reviews across different sites are consistent, you could expect to match them according to this chart. Let’s see how that works in the case of Flagship Merchant Services when compared across popular review sites.
Merchant Maverick: 3.5 Stars
Merchant Maverick awards Flagship Merchant Services 3.5 out of 5 stars. That would be roughly a B- or C+ with CardPaymentOptions or a 5.5 – 7 with TopTenReviews.
Merchant Maverick’s review explains that Flagship has acquired some deserved negative press for failure to disclose fees and sudden account closures. The reviewer also expresses a dislike of Flagship’s monthly minimums, and references the fact that Flagship tends to favor expensive tiered pricing. He goes so far as to say that the only rate published on the site is a “misleading” debit card rate, and that, “The failure to fully disclose and explain all fees is 100% preventable and entirely unacceptable.” He also warns that your sales rep may not be “100% forthcoming” when it comes to pricing. He also notes that Flagship’s products and services are nothing special, stating that, “Nothing really sets Flagship apart from the pack.”
To counter the negatives, the reviewer comments that there is no early cancellation fee, and stresses the benefit of dedicated reps, stating that the person who sets up your account remains your point of contact. He goes on to say that despite legitimate criticisms, there’s a lot to like. He states that the company provides good value and offers helpful freebies.
CardPaymentOptions – C
Based on Merchant Maverick’s grade, we could expect to see a B/C for Flagship at CardPaymentOptions, and indeed the company comes in with a C.
CardPaymentOptions’ review of Flagship Merchant Services starts with an editorial comment that claims Flagship has repeatedly attempted to force removal of CPO’s review. The site explains that, “We view these actions as not only highly unethical, but as a demonstration of their unwillingness to correct the problems that cause merchant complaints and, instead, a preference for aggressive strong-arm retribution tactics” and invites others to leave comments with their own experience. It does not indicate if the professional disagreement has caused changes to Flagship’s rating, though CPO’s “threats and litigation policy” clearly indicates that ratings may be changed as a result of threats by companies.
As with Merchant Maverick, CardPaymentOptions takes exception to the deceptive pricing on Flagship’s website. The pricing, quoted as 0.38% + 19 cents per transaction, does not apply to all transactions. CPO refers to it as an “unrealistically low rate quote.” The reviewer mentions that Flagship is able to offer interchange plus pricing, but doesn’t promote it. The site does praise Flagship for offering month to month agreements.
TopTenReviews – 9.1
Wait, what? 9.1 out of 10? With a Merchant Maverick rating of 3.5 stars and a CardPaymentOptions rating of C, we’d expect to see a score between 5 and 7 at TopTenReviews. How has Flagship secured a score a full 2+ points higher, and the TopTenReviews “Award of Excellence” for 8 years? This is where the subjectivity of reviews comes in, and why you should take them with a grain of salt.
The main problem with TopTenReview’s review is that they list things as positives for Flagship that aren’t very positive. For example, it states: “Flagship’s tiered rates, especially the 0.38% for qualified debit cards and 1.58% for credit cards are very good.” It fails to mention that these “rates” aren’t the final number for what a customer will pay. 1.58% can easily creep upward when additional fees and charges are added. It goes on to say, “Rates for mid-qualified cards, which are what rewards cards are usually considered, are higher” without clarifying that rewards cards aren’t universally subject to a “mid-qualified” rate. Rather, “qualified” and “mid-qualified” rates are an arbitrary distinction processors impose when they price on a tiered model. Indeed, tiered pricing as a whole is one of the most expensive models available, and should be a huge black mark against Flagship – not something to be praised. Check out why we suggest staying away from tiered pricing in this article: (Evil) Tiered Pricing Merchant Account Services.
More objectively positive details are included as well, like Flagship’s lack of cancellation fee. TopTenReviews also praises the company’s fast setup and dedicated account reps. However, despite noting that Flagship isn’t overly transparent about pricing, TopTenReviews neverthless continues by saying that the company offers “consistently good rates.” Considering that Flagship heavily favors expensive tiered pricing and can adjust rates and fees differently for each business, that doesn’t seem to be enough positive information on which to base a 9.1 out of 10 rating.
Flagship Merchant Services is an ISO that has been around a long time. CardFellow has statements, applications, and sales letters on file for Flagship dating back to 2012, so we have a pretty good pool of data to draw from when outlining our experience for this review and profile.
We do our best to highlight the positive aspects of a processor, but it’s tough to find something that stands out with Flagship. The company favors opaque pricing, it conceals its rates on statements, and even when it uses the more competitive and transparent interchange plus pricing model it often surcharges the majority of sales volume with a contrived “interchange clearing fee.”
One positive point that we have seen with Flagship is the applications we’ve reviewed have not had a cancellation fee.
Just to be clear, the information CardFellow has on file for Flagship has been sent to us over the years by businesses that have used our free service to secure the most competitive credit card processing company. It has not been provided by Flagship directly.
Flagship’s pricing follows the age-old formula of most other payment processors: it provides pricing and terms on a per-case basis. We’ve seen some pretty competitive statements from Flagship, but we’ve also seen some pretty uncompetitive statements. The majority show the latter.
Like many processors, Flagship’s pricing model of choice is bundled pricing, sometimes called tiered pricing. Its primary processing relationship is through First Data, so its statement layout is very similar to that of other First Data ISOs. With that said, Flagship Merchant Services engages in a practice that makes its statements particularly opaque. Bundled pricing is opaque enough on its own. Flagship takes it one step further by hiding rates on its statements.
For example, the Flagship Merchant Services statement below shows the business is being charged via a bundled/tiered pricing model. The “NQUAL” label to the right tells us that Flagship charged this volume at its non-qualified rate, but it doesn’t declare exactly what the rate is. The merchant’s sales volume of $950 and Flagship’s charge of $37.62 are highlighted, and between the two numbers is where Flagship should disclose its rate, but it doesn’t.
A little quick math shows us that $37.62 is 3.96% of $950. Once can’t help but assume that Flagship knows its rates are high, so it prefers not to explicitly disclose them on its statements. We see similar statements from other First Data ISOs that do disclose pricing, so we know it’s possible.
Another example for this point is shown below. As you can see, the Flagship statement discloses the lowest “qualified” rate, but the higher mid and non-qualified rates are not shown.
In an industry already full of smoke and mirrors it’s unfortunate to see a company go the extra mile to conceal its pricing.
Even when Flagship charges a business via the more competitive and transparent interchange plus pricing it often applies a surcharge. This practice isn’t unique to Flagship Merchant Services, and it’s something we’ve explained in detail in our article that outlined why interchange plus doesn’t guarantee competitive pricing.
Flagship’s acquiring relationship is through Wells Fargo credit card processing, and Wells Fargo often applies an “interchange clearing fee” to sales volume that it feels is “non-qualified.” Perhaps this is the reason the fee appears on Flagship statements. Regardless of its source, here’s how Flagship adds a surcharge to its interchange plus pricing.
The snippet below is from a Flagship interchange plus statement. As you can see, the explicit interchange markup is 0.0008 (0.08%), which is highlighted at the top. The business that provided this statement was under the impression that this was the only markup. However, the fees highlighted at the bottom of the snippet are also markups charged by Flagship. These add another 0.04% to the 0.08% already charged.
The real shame in this scenario, which we’ve seen several times, is that the total markup of 0.12% is actually very competitive, so it doesn’t make sense for a company to conceal part of it.
That said, the “interchange clearing fee” is excessive in itself. For example, it’s meant to be a surcharge on volume that doesn’t “qualify” for the original markup of 0.08%. However, all but just $0.57 in sales volume was surcharged on this statement.
The bright spot with Flagship seems to be that it doesn’t levy hefty termination fees. In fact, we have yet to see a cancellation charge on the applications we’ve reviewed.
In most cases, the lack of a cancellation fee indicates that a processor is confident in its ability to retain clients through pricing, value, and service. This is the part of the equation we’re not seeing from Flagship to date.