Taking $5,000 per month or less in card payments?
You’ll save with Square
- Date Established
- Boca Raton, FL
- Few public complaints
- Month-to-month agreement possible
- Good for high-risk merchants
- No pricing disclosed online
- Expensive for low-volume merchants
- Early termination fee possible
Did you know there’s a pile of cash on every street corner in America? I certainly didn’t–that is until I was enlightened by FlashBanc, a merchant acquirer based in Boca Raton, FL. This bold assertion is emblazoned across FlashBanc’s sales rep recruiting website, chargeintothefuture.com.
By “piles of cash” they really mean small businesses just waiting for FlashBanc sales reps to swoop in and sign them up for card processing services, thereby generating residual income for the rep each time a customer runs a card.
Although I’m gently teasing FlashBanc here, it’s not meant as a harsh criticism of the company. This is merely how the merchant acquiring business works. Co-founders Michael Gross and Jason Wright understood this concept when they established FlashBanc in 2008, both having previous experience as entrepreneurs on the merchant side of the processing equation.
The “about us” section of the FlashBanc website features a helpful and rather adorable history of the company in timeline form. I asked Mr. Wright over the phone what transpired in between that first handshake with Mr. Gross at a kitchen table in 2008, and signing with First Data as a registered ISO of Wells Fargo in 2010. He talked about working together as sub-agents at first, carefully developing their business model, growing a merchant portfolio, avoiding debt, and emerging as a profitable company.
Once they started hiring employees and recruiting agents, they implemented an agent CRM program and “FlashBanc University” to help standardize training. With backgrounds in sales themselves, the founders are especially proud of their ability to train people with no prior experience to become effective sales reps.
We are always leery of merchant acquirers that heavily rely on ISOs and agents to resell their products and services. These companies tend to devolve into an unwieldy mess. However, FlashBanc’s calculated and steady approach seems to have paid off quite well so far. They’ve made the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies the past three years in a row. That’s #982 in 2014, #2483 in 2015, and #3666 in 2016 if you’re counting. They process around 1 billion per year for 5000-6000 merchants, all while amassing a relatively small number of complaints.
The founders would say their positive company culture sets them apart from other acquirers. A brief look through social media reveals a plenty of happy looking folk, often in matching t-shirts, playing games, sharing food, or decked out for the holidays.
But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, not-so-fun stuff, how does FlashBanc perform? What’s their pricing like? How about their contract terms and customer service? Do they offer any unique or cutting-edge products or services? We’ll examine FlashBanc on these and other core issues in the rest of this review.
Hold on to your pile of cash for now, and read on.
Table of Contents
Products & Services
- Merchant Account: FlashBanc offers traditional merchant accounts. First Data is their preferred backend processor, but accounts are also set up with other big names such as TSYS, Vantiv, and TransFirst.
- Payment Gateway: Although the website copy identifies Authroize.Net as FlashBanc’s “payment gateway of choice,” they now also partner with lots of other common gateways, including TrustCommerce, NMI, and USAePay.
- Virtual Terminal: Gateways such as Authorize.Net include a simple virtual terminal option if you just need a merchant-facing portal for entering mail and telephone payments.
- eCommerce: If you’re running an eCommerce business, FlashBanc will use the API provided by whatever gateway you chose to integrate with shopping carts and other features of your website.
- Check Processing and ACH: Any of those aforementioned gateways can also facilitate check processing/electronic conversion, ACH and recurring billing. Note that there are often separate rates and fees associated with these services.
- Loyalty and Marketing Program: The business partners who founded FlashBanc also helped create a loyalty and social media marketing company called SpringBIG in 2012. Multiple packages are offered, from a simple email marketing setup, to an on-site kiosk where customers key in their phone numbers to rack up rewards. Expect an associated monthly fee for SpringBIG services. FlashBanc also resells and integrates with other loyalty rewards software.
- Card Terminals: EMV and NFC-ready terminals and pin pads are offered for purchase here, along with a price list. If you chose to purchase a terminal through FlashBanc, you can pay the full price or pay in installments over three months. I’m told they don’t lease basic equipment as a matter of principle, which is admirable.
- POS systems: With First Data as their preferred processor, we’re not surprised that FlashBanc resells the full suite of Clover point-of-sale products. However, you’re not necessarily locked into Clover. FlashBanc partners with other POS vendors as well, or you can bring your own point-of-sale equipment. They also have leasing partners for the more expensive POS equipment if you chose to go that route, but we’d still recommend avoiding leasing if at all possible.
- Mobile Payments: The mobile payment section of the website displays a photo of Clover Mobile tablets, and the text is focused on wireless payments. An example of this type of mobility is a server at restaurant bringing a tablet over to your table. They don’t mention the audio-jack Clover Go card reader (nor the Bluetooth “All-in-One” device) on the website, which is actually the most mobile and least expensive solution from Clover. However, I have been assured that it is offered through FlashBanc. They said they also partner with other vendors for these type of audio jack devices.
- Merchant Cash Advance: You may qualify for a cash advance with one of FlashBanc’s loan partners for up to 300,000, depending on your business history. We’ve published several articles on this topic that I’d heartily recommend perusing before you sign up.
- High-Risk Accounts: This is under “Non-Traditional Businesses” on the FlashBanc site. FlashBanc prides itself on its ability to find a solution for any merchant. The COO has even founded a separate company (t3payments.com) specifically geared toward helping high-risk merchants, although it’s not mentioned at the FlashBanc site. I’m told they use multiple processors to underpin these accounts.
Fees & Rates
The FlashBanc website copy includes the following statement: “Unlike some other electronic payment processing companies, we offer clear and full disclosure of our merchant fees and pricing.” Regrettably, there is no pricing information on their actual website (cue the appropriate sound effect).
All I really have for you are a few tidbits gathered from BBB complaint dialogues. First of all, don’t be surprised if a monthly minimum fee comes with a FlashBanc account. This is an amount you must pay in processing fees each month (or else make up the difference) and is often around $25. A complaint rebuttal from FlashBanc confirms the existence of this fee.
You’ll also likely have some sort of basic monthly fee to operate the account. This fee frequently includes items like a statement fee and PCI fee, but you’ll need to check specifically what it does and doesn’t cover. One complaint and subsequent company rebuttal concerning a very low volume, mobile account discussed a $35 monthly fee.
Regarding processing rates, the COO confirmed that FlashBanc offers all types of account setups, including both interchange plus and tiered. The sales team is trained in all the pricing models, even the dreaded enhanced bill back plan. FlashBanc’s philosophy is to educate the merchant on all the models and let the merchant decide what’s best. They’re also likely to offer you whatever rate model you’ve had with your previous processor by default, on the principle that you’ll be most comfortable with the familiar. Of course, they will try to beat your old rate on that model if they can.
Regardless of the pricing model, Mr. Wright explained that FlashBanc errs on the side of ultra-competitive rates and razor-thin margins in order to guard against the next merchant acquirer who may come along afterward with a better bid. They also apparently don’t have predetermined pricing brackets based on processing volume.
If this is all true, you ought to be able to negotiate an awesome deal. Make sure you do the math on the entire pricing package as a whole for your specific situation. We recommend seriously considering interchange plus pricing, as it’s the most transparent system.
Remember that the fees I’ve discussed above are only a few of the flat and incidental fees that may be charged by FlashBanc. Mr. Wright declined to provide a list, so check out our rate and fee guide to view a more thorough breakdown of potential fees.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
Month-to-month plans and long-term contracts are both possibilities with FlashBanc. The standard contract with First Data, as well as with many other major processors, is a three-year term with a subsequent one-year automatic renewal. Those terms may come your way in an initial proposal from FlashBanc, but I wouldn’t take it. FlashBanc puts merchants on month-to-month plans “all the time” according to Mr. Wright, so thoroughly investigate that option first.
Regarding early termination fees, here is a company statement gathered from the BBB:
Our standard policy when merchants sign up with a new account at FlashBanc is to inform them that if their current processor has an early termination fee we will reimburse them up to $499.00, which is the equivalent of our early termination fee.
The important piece to note here is that you will automatically be on a long-term contract with FlashBanc with that same early termination fee as a condition of this deal. Also, remember that this is a reimbursement, so you need to pay your old processor first and then submit the appropriate paperwork to FlashBanc.
I’m not 100% sure they’ll take that ETF off your contract once you’ve finished your initial three-year term with them, so double check that it’s waived once you renew. Otherwise, if it were me and I was actively looking to change processors, I might just cut my losses and pay that stinkin’ ETF to the first processor. Then I’d look for only month-to-month plans with a clean slate, whether or not I decided to go with FlashBanc in the end. But maybe that’s just me. ETFs make me really mad.
Lastly, note that even if you’re not relying on FlashBanc to cover your previous processor’s ETF, your contract with them may still come with an ETF of $299 to $499.
Now, all that said, Mr. Wright told me they never charge any liquidated damages and that merchants should ultimately be free to go if they so desire. I do like that attitude–just get it in writing! Ensuring the freedom to leave is the main reason we always recommend month-to-month accounts with no ETFs.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
My first test of a merchant acquirer’s transparency is the availability of pricing information. If I can’t find specific rates or fees on the website, I look for a general discussion of pricing in the industry—articles, blog posts, FAQs, glossaries–anything. I want the proverbial bone thrown my way, at the very least, when it comes to cost. Unfortunately, Flashbanc.com provides no pricing nor explanations.
The COO graciously took a few minutes out of his busy day to answer many of questions over the phone, but he never got back to me with any concrete rates or fees. We understand most merchant acquirers like to customize a pricing package for each merchant. However, in this competitive and notoriously scammy industry, we can’t let merchant acquirers plead the “customization defense” and still expect a high transparency score. They must figure out a way to provide some pricing info online for all to see.
With that said, FlashBanc is a company that takes pride in its commitment to honesty and transparency. They promise “ZERO hidden fees.” Now, any merchant acquirer can say that, but how do we know it’s true? The strongest evidence is FlashBanc’s relatively low complaint volume. Especially for a company that’s so ISO and agent-centric, I’m fairly impressed with this. Signs indicate that FlashBanc has developed solid programs and systems to train their fleet well.
Secondly, they are quite open about their ETF policy. While there’s no mention at FlashBanc.com, I’ve seen them discuss this policy with merchants elsewhere online, and they were also very forthcoming with me about how it works. That might not seem like a big deal, but sadly, it’s refreshing to see a provider openly discuss this common policy.
Most of FlashBanc’s web advertising is focused not on the potential merchant, but rather on employee and agent recruitment. You’ll recall their separate website over at chargeintothefuture.com with more enticements to join the sales team. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather proceedcautiouslyintothefuture.com when choosing either an employer or a merchant account provider. I guess that’s not quite as catchy.
Back on the main website, we find a couple of small annoyances. They say, for example, “If we cannot reduce your credit card processing costs, we will write you a check for $250 dollars!” Whether or not they ever pay that $250, these types of offers are teasers meant to get a sales agent’s foot in your door.
Other website claims I’d classify as minor exaggerations. Is it really 24/7 customer support if you’re automatically passed to First Data after hours? Is your local service and support really advertisement-worthy if it just means clients can call their sales agents? Were you really “featured” on CNBC, Bloomberg, BusinessWeek and Market Watch if the articles are either virtually impossible to dig up, or focused on the other partner in the B2B relationship?
These nit-picks aside, I’d say FlashBanc is above average in sales transparency. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, however. I suspect they do a decent job disclosing rates, fees and terms out in the field. We’d just like to see some concrete proof online.
Customer Service & Technical Support
While FlashbBanc advertises 24/7 customer support, their normal business hours are 9am-6pm EST. If you’re calling outside that time window, you’ll be passed to First Data or another third party by FlashBanc’s automated system.
I also tried the contact form on the website but didn’t hear back. Not only that, but the web form Capitalized The First Letter Of Every Word I Typed In The Message Box Automatically, Like This. It Was Super Weird And Annoying. I Mentioned This In My Comment To Them But I Just Checked And It Hasn’t Been Fixed So Far.
On two separate days, I called FlashBanc for more information about the company. Both times I was purportedly forwarded to the marketing coordinator’s voicemail. I can’t confirm that really happened because both times the line went completely dead. My guess is that her voicemail box was full or that there was some other technical glitch in the system. When I let them know this was a problem, it didn’t seem to cause them any alarm, nor did it appear they would investigate the issue further. They took down handwritten note for her, and I didn’t receive a response.
I had much better luck just emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com later, to which I received a very prompt response. While my not-so-great experience as a reviewer with FlashBanc’s web contact form and phone system may not be representative of their overall service quality toward merchants, it didn’t fill me with tons of confidence either.
“Nationtionwide Presence with Local Service and Support” is advertised on the website, which I confirmed with the customer service department means their sales agents receive training for technical issues. Between the in-house sales team and their associated ISOs and agents, FlashBanc touches all 50 states.
There is no knowledge base or FAQ for merchants on the website. The search bar just takes you in circles through the five main tabs. Vague traces of a WordPress blog show up when you enter a search term, but no posts ever materialize. Agents manage their merchant portfolios at myflashbanc.com, so it’s possible there’s more info for merchants contained therein. Still, I’d like to see more pre-signup educational resources.
FlashBanc’s social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and we’ll throw in YouTube) are largely geared toward recruitment and fostering their “fun” company culture. If you like office holiday parties, dressing up at work, and game days, you’re in the right place.
By the way, as far as recruitment videos go, this sample below is sort of awkwardly endearing. It features several actual employees and a real merchant trying to act natural. I legitimately applaud their efforts!
Negative Reviews & Complaints
A FlashBanc profile was opened and accredited with the Better Business Bureau in 2011. It currently scores an A+ rating and shows four complaints in the last three years. One of these complaints displays no details, but I’m here to tell you that the other three make up for it in spades. The dialogues between merchants and FlashBanc can only be described as epic sagas. Totally boring, totally confusing epic sagas–but epic nonetheless.
I’ve read the rambling back-and-forth multiple times, complete with copied-and-pasted call logs (take pity on my weary soul). My conclusion is that FlashBanc went out of its way to rectify a couple of truly odd situations, whether or not it shared some of the initial blame. Not only that, but my gut instinct was that the merchant maintained the larger share of nuttiness in these cases. However, a sticking point for each complaint was that pesky early termination fee of $299-$499.
FlashBanc’s Facebook reviews and a few comments elsewhere around the web tell a slightly different story. Facebook displays seven one-star reviews, for example. Here we discover a variety of claims: undisclosed fees, pushy sales tactics, unresponsive customer service, difficulty closing accounts, fees charged post-closure, and processing bills generally turning out more expensive than the merchant expected.
Most of these negative comments were posted in the past year. In contrast, only one BBB complaint is less that a year old, and it was resolved to the merchant’s satisfaction. I think we’ll just need to watch carefully to see if there’s a growing pattern since FlashBanc’s reputation isn’t too bad overall so far. The complaints are all a bit troubling, but also not uncommon for growing merchant acquirers with lots of sub-agents in the field.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Seven very brief client testimonials scroll across the bottom of the FlashBanc website. Six of these express happiness with FlashBanc’s customer service and one says it’s “astounding” how much money they’ve saved. All are two or three sentences long and appear to come from small to medium-sized businesses.
They’re all pretty generic, but not many processing companies pull off the whole client testimonial thing particularly well. Interestingly, the video and text testimonials over at SpringBIG, the loyalty marketing company that the founders of FlashBanc also helped start, are very well done.
Most of the five-star reviews for FlashBanc over at Facebook come from employees or agents. Other high ratings don’t include any text and the names are grayed out with inaccessible profiles. Honestly, I come across this sort of “reputation management” frequently in my research on merchant acquirers. It’s a little sketchy, but I don’t see anything terribly egregious here. FlashBanc’s made sure they have at least twice as many five-star as one-star ratings on social media. I would too if I were them.
As always, we’d love to hear from you in the comments if you’ve had any direct, verifiable experience FlashBanc.
In FlashBanc we have a merchant account provider serving all types of clients–small to large, high-risk to traditional. As far as any truly noteworthy product offerings go, FlashBanc feels like “just another Clover reseller” in many ways, perhaps with a bit more flexibility than some. I’m also intrigued by the founders’ loyalty program side-venture.
FlashBanc’s reputation so far tells me they’ve worked hard to systematically train both their in-house reps and outside agents that full disclosure of fees and terms is the best policy. While I’ve seen signs of a few rogue agents, so far this looks like the rare exception rather than the rule.
With that said, I’ll never be able to whole-heartedly recommend a processor that doesn’t provide open, public access to their pricing. The best I can do is give them an above average rating if they seem honest and maintain a decent reputation overall. One need only investigate some our best-rated providers to see how high the bar’s been set in recent years.
The reason I like to talk to merchant account providers before I review them, especially when they publish no rates or fees, is because often the situation is not as dire as you might infer from complaints. I was able to confirm, for example, that interchange-plus pricing on month-to-month plans with no early termination fees are regularly offered at FlashBanc. You cannot gather this basic, promising information from complaints. More importantly, you can’t even tell from FlashBanc’s own website.
Could you still end up on a long-term contract with an auto-renewal combined with a high ETF and a difficult monthly minimum fee with FlashBanc? Or could you end up with tiered pricing when the transparency of interchange-plus pricing was at your fingertips? I still think these are all real possibilities.
I believed the FlashBanc COO when he told me they educate merchants and then let them decide the best pricing option. So whether you choose FlashBanc or another merchant account provider, hold tightly to that pile of cash of yours. Wait until you’ve fully educated yourself, apart from any sales rep, to determine your specific needs. Then, and only then, do you have my blessing to “proceed cautiously into the future.”
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.