Flagship Merchant Services Review
While Flagship does offer an array of solid payment processing services, it is hampered by a poor reputation and a high volume of consumer complaints.
Flagship Merchant Services At A Glance
- Offers full-service merchant accounts through Fiserv
- No long-term contracts (except with “free” terminal)
- Offers Clover terminals & POS systems
- No early termination fee (if free equipment offer declined)
- No setup or application fees
- No gateway setup fee
- Limited pricing disclosed online
- High complaint volume
- Poor reputation for customer service
Table of Contents
- What Is Flagship Merchant Services?
- Flagship Credit Card Processing & Services
- Flagship Merchant Services Fees & Rates
- Sales & Advertising Transparency
- Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
- Customer Service & Technical Support
- Flagship Merchant Services User Reviews
- Final Verdict On Flagship Merchant Services
What Is Flagship Merchant Services?
Flagship Merchant Services is a merchant services provider that functions mainly as a reseller for iPayment. The company offers month-to-month billing with no long-term contract (or early termination fee) as a standard feature. Beware, however, that if you accept a “free” credit card terminal with your account rather than buying one outright, you may get stuck with a three-year contract.
Flagship doesn’t offer any publicly disclosed pricing information, relying instead on a quote-based business model that is frequently disadvantageous to small business owners. The company has also received a high volume of complaints alleging excessive account fees, poor customer support, and difficulty in closing accounts.
Flagship scores just 3 out of 5 stars overall, and we don’t recommend the company to small business owners. Check out our article on the best credit card processors for small businesses for some more affordable choices.
Flagship Credit Card Processing & Services
Flagship Merchant Services covers all the bases with products and services to support retail, mobile, and eCommerce businesses. However, the Flagship website provides only a cursory overview of what is available. Here’s what you’ll find:
Flagship Merchant Services Fees & Rates
Like most traditional merchant services providers, Flagship doesn’t disclose any prices on its website. Instead, you’ll have to obtain a customized quote from the company’s sales department to see what your rates are going to be. You’ll also have to review your proposed contract for more specific information about account fees.
Note that while Flagship does include a Rates & Fees page on its website, it doesn’t disclose any actual rates or fees on it. Instead, all you’ll find is some meaningless marketing fluff about how great the company is.
Fortunately, Flagship has dropped its previous claim of offering “rates as low as 0.38%” — a very misleading reference to what was most likely its lowest available PIN debit processing rate. Feedback from merchants suggests that the actual rates paid by most small businesses are closer to a whopping 4% per transaction — or more.
Flagship appears to follow the popular practice among providers of using both tiered and interchange-plus pricing rate plans. However, it will almost always offer the more expensive tiered pricing option as part of your initial quote, knowing that many merchants will accept it without question. We highly recommend that you negotiate for a more affordable interchange-plus plan, and carefully compare any lower rates you’re offered against what other providers can give you.
Account fees will also vary widely from one business to the next. Based on merchant feedback, these are the most common fees you’ll have to pay:
- Monthly Account Fee: This fee varies but seems to start at around $7.95 per month.
- Monthly Minimum: Most contracts will automatically include a $25 monthly minimum. If your processing volume is low enough to be affected by this fee, you’ll want to negotiate to have the minimum lowered or even waived altogether. Likewise, seasonal merchants should ask to have it waived for the months when they’re not using their accounts.
- Gateway Fee: If you need a payment gateway, it will probably cost you around $7.95 per month.
- PCI Compliance Fee: Flagship will charge you $99 (or more) per year for security scans and other features to keep your account compliant with PCI DSS standards. There have been a lot of complaints from merchants about sales agents not disclosing this fee.
- PCI Non-Compliance Fee: If you don’t take the necessary steps on your end to keep your account PCI-compliant, Flagship will charge you an additional $19.95 per month for being non-compliant. You can avoid both non-compliance and this penalty fee simply by filling out the required PCI assessment survey.
For a better idea of what you should be paying for credit card processing, check out our complete guide to credit card processing fees.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Flagship’s website is uninformative and hopelessly outdated.
It offers very limited information about products or services, focusing instead on vague marketing claims and name-dropping some of the suspicious websites that have given the company positive reviews.
While it has dropped the misleading “rates as low as…” claim that teased an unrealistically low processing rate, it’s now replaced this tired sales gimmick with another one. Flagship claims that it will give you a $200 Amex gift card if it can’t get you the lowest total processing cost. Gimmicks like this never work out in the merchant’s favor, as the processors offering them have the final word on whether you’ll qualify for that gift card. Quote comparisons can easily be manipulated by basing them on projected costs, even if your actual costs later prove to be more expensive with Flagship.
The company uses an in-house sales team and does not rely on independent sales agents to market its accounts.
While this practice usually results in a better sales experience, that’s apparently not the case with Flagship. We found many complaints from merchants alleging that their sales representative failed to disclose important contract terms or provide a complete breakdown of the many “hidden” fees that later appeared unexpectedly on their processing statements.
Although some of this can be blamed on merchants simply not reading their contracts before signing up, this issue came up frequently enough to indicate a problem with the way Flagship manages its sales team. Complaints from sales agents — many of them former Flagship employees — confirm that the company treats its sales agents very poorly and applies tremendous pressure on them to sell, sell, sell in order to earn a commission and meet their quota. Unsurprisingly, turnover is high among both sales agents and merchants.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
Competition from Square and other low-cost providers has forced the payments industry to move away from multi-year contracts and offer month-to-month billing. Following this trend, a standard contract with Flagship Merchant Services includes neither a long-term commitment nor an early cancellation penalty.
However, in an attempt to discourage merchants from closing their accounts whenever they want, Flagship and other similar providers have come up with a new trick: the “free” credit card terminal offer. Rather than having to buy a terminal or getting stuck in an expensive equipment lease, merchants can receive a “free” terminal when they sign up for an account. While this might sound like a good deal, there are several caveats that you should be aware of:
- The offer is limited to one terminal per merchant account. If you need more than one terminal, you’ll have to either purchase the additional terminals or open multiple accounts.
- The terminal isn’t yours to keep. Although you won’t have to pay for your equipment, the company is basically loaning it to you for as long as you maintain your merchant account. You’ll have to return it promptly if you close your account.
- You’ll often get a cheap terminal. Free terminals available through this offer tend to be less expensive models with only basic features. Flagship currently touts the Clover Mini as its “free” terminal but doesn’t mention the monthly software subscription fee that comes with it.
- You’ll have to accept a long-term contract. As a tradeoff for your “free” terminal, you’ll usually have to accept a long-term contract (typically for at least one year) — and an early termination fee if you close your account too soon.
- You’ll still struggle to close your account. We’ve found numerous complaints from merchants alleging that Flagship made it inordinately difficult to cancel their accounts. Whether you’re on a long-term contract or month-to-month billing, you’ll have to file the appropriate paperwork and promptly return any equipment you’ve received.
Overall, we’re less than impressed with “free” terminal offers from Flagship or any other provider. In most cases, you’ll be much better off if you simply buy your processing equipment outright and stick to a month-to-month billing plan that won’t cost you hundreds of dollars to get out of.
Customer Service & Technical Support
|Flagship Merchant Services Support||Availability|
|Dedicated Support Representative|
|Knowledge Base or Help Center|
|Videos & Tutorials|
Flagship offers 24/7 support via telephone and email and assigns a dedicated account manager when you open your account. While having a single point of contact for customer support can lead to a better experience when you have a problem, realize that the person assigned to your account won’t always be available. You may also be referred to Fiserv if your issue involves a transaction or account hold. As a reseller, Flagship has little control over these types of issues.
Self-help options with Flagship are, unfortunately, limited to a very basic FAQ on the company’s website. You can also refer to Clover’s website if you’re having a technical issue with your Clover terminal or POS.
We’d also note that Flagship has received many complaints from merchants regarding the poor quality of the customer support they experienced when they had to reach out to the company with a problem. While this isn’t unusual when dealing with resellers, it’s still very disappointing.
Flagship Merchant Services User Reviews
Final Verdict On Flagship Merchant Services
Unfortunately, there are few reasons to recommend Flagship Merchant Services to any small business owner looking for a merchant account. Flagship’s one notable feature — the lack of a long-term contract or early termination fee — is becoming increasingly common across the entire processing industry. It’s also diminished when you take into account that you’ll have to give it up if you want to take advantage of the company’s “free” terminal offer. Other Flagship products and services, while generally quite good, are readily available elsewhere. When weighed against the company’s reputation for high rates and fees, and poor customer service, we think you’ll be better served with a different provider.
Flagship ultimately scores a mediocre 3 out of 5 stars, making it neither better nor worse than the industry average.
If you run a brick-and-mortar shop, check out our article on the best retail credit card processors for some stronger recommendations. Likewise, online merchants should consult our article on the best online credit card processors for small businesses.
Merchants interested in the popular Clover line of terminals and POS systems can refer to our article on the best Clover resellers for some better choices.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.