Flint Mobile Review
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- Date Established
- Redwood City, CA
Flint Mobile used to be our favorite mobile POS system (an honor now held by Square). Then it shut down — very unexpectedly and with virtually no warning — in February 2016. It recommended that everyone switch over to Stripe. That was pretty much the last anyone heard from Flint until November, when the company resurfaced, accepting new merchants and offering pretty much the same suite of services but at Stripe’s processing rate — which makes sense, given that Stripe is now Flint’s back-end processor.
Flint did allude to its shutdown being a “platform transition” — and we did hope we’d see the company back. however, re-emerging 9 months after unexpectedly shutting down with a more expensive pricing model isn’t quite what we’d hoped.
When I approached this review, I thought about the best approach. Given the circumstances of Flint’s shutdown, I think the best approach is a (mostly) fresh start. So I looked at the new Flint the way that I’d look at any other newcomer to the mPOS space: with a bit of skepticism and an eye for what sets this particular option apart from the rest.
One thing that sets Flint apart from most other mPOS systems is its determination to free merchants from their dependency on hardware. Terminals can be expensive. New EMV mobile readers can be pricey, too, depending on which one you choose. Flint instead uses a scanner based on your smart device’s camera. It captures the card number and expiration date, no need for any extra equipment.
However, that does mean all of the mPOS transactions are technically processed as Card Not Present. This eliminates the liability for swiping fraudulent chip cards — but presents its own set of concerns. CNP transactions are generally higher risk that swiped or dipped transactions, which is one of the reasons why Flint’s rates are higher. They are, in fact, on part with most other pay-as-you-go eCommerce options.
I am not thrilled about the new pricing model. for Flint. Not only is this a major price increase over Flint’s old rates (which, admittedly, probably weren’t sustainable), but this is far beyond what you’d pay for most mPOS systems. The per-transaction fee is going to be prohibitively expensive for merchants with low ticket volumes (under $20 on average). With the $100/annual plan, you get multiple users, Buy Now buttons, and unlimited invoicing, which is not a bad starter omni-channel commerce package. However, I’m not sure those features justify the cost, especially with no savings on processing rates.
At this point, there is very very little in the way of user commentary about the new Flint. This isn’t surprising, but it does make it hard for us to get accurate assessments of the company’s customer support. We’ll be playing close attention to user reviews and commentary in our Flint review updates.
Right now, I’m awarding Flint Mobile 3.5 stars. We know the company is legitimate, and the price increase probably translates to increased financial stability for the company. The fact that it’s disclosing that Stripe is the back-end processor is a mark in its favor — transparency is a good thing. But it’s still pretty expensive for what you get. I’m not sure that the features available in the Flint premium packages justify the cost. However, if you like the price and the feature set, I think you could do well. Just don’t be suckered into thinking its the most cost-effective or value-filled solution.
In the meantime, if you want to explore your other merchant account options (which include mobile processing apps as part of their services), check out our merchant account comparison chart. To see how other mobile-only processors stack up against Flint, see our mobile processing comparison chart.
Products and Services:
There are two aspects of Flint Mobile: the payment processing and the actual software. Flint sets you up with a Stripe account for payment processing. Stripe is, like Square and PayPal, a third-party aggregator. That means you’re approved to start processing almost instantly, but there’s some risk to this model because you don’t get your own unique merchant account. We’ll get to that later on.
The software consists of a mobile app and a merchant portal accessible via a web dashboard.As we already said, Flint’s mobile processing app is a little bit different than most others. Namely, it relies on the device’s camera to scan cards instead of swiping. But if you’ve played around with any sort of other mPOS, it might take you a moment to get your bearings. Flint isn’t a radical departure from most other apps, but it’s just different enough that you might be perplexed for a moment. Fortunately there are a couple of tutorials to guide you through when you log in for the first time.
That said, the mobile payments app appears to be similar to earlier iterations of the app, including iOS-specific features. Here’s what you get:
- Multi-user capabilities: If you opt for Flint Pro or Enterprise, you can add additional users to the account (3 for Pro, 5 for Enterprise). This is great for growing businesses that want to be able to take payments from multiple locations at the same time. However, PayPal Here offers this feature for free, with unlimited users, and so do most other mPOS apps besides Square.
- Customized receipts: Make your email receipts a little flashy with a logo, business info, coupons and additional notes. You can also make access to social media easy by including a link to post Facebook reviews right on the receipt. You should note, however, that you cannot print a paper receipt with the Flint app unless you go into the merchant dashboard at your computer, which is not a great workaround.
- Customized tip settings: You can toggle tips on and off, specify whether to use a percentage or dollar amount for tips, and specify 3 recommended tip amounts.
- Customized sales tax settings: This is fairly basic. You can specify whether an item is taxable or not and specify the rate.
- Item library: Keep an inventory of items in your app so you can pull up products with ease. However, don’t expect the robust inventory management you get with Square. This is very basic: just the item name and price, plus tax settings. There’s no photos, no variants, no other information. However, the item library does sync with the online dashboard and you can specify which items are to be sold online and which ones aren’t.
- Dollar amount discounts: Many apps make discounts really annoying to apply. Flint handles this feature flawlessly. I might like to see a percentage discount option in the future.
- Logging cash and checks: While you can’t deposit checks with the app, you can track cash and checks for a more complete cash register experience.
- QR-based coupons (iOS only): Flint Mobile allows you to create and issue coupons, attaching them to email receipts. Customers can save these coupons via Apple Passbook or email. This is actually a fairly sophisticated program to offer for free, especially considering you can use the merchant portal to keep track of issued and redeemed coupons. Plus the app sends customers an automated reminder before the deal expires. However, this is an Apple-exclusive feature, which is a bit of a disappointment.
- Security features: I’m taking a moment to bring this up because I’d imagine many merchants are wary of the camera scan function in terms of data safety. First, Flint is PCI compliant. Although the app uses the camera as a scanner it doesn’t actually take photos of the cardholder information. Second, Flint offers two additional security features: Mask Card Scan and Mask CVV and Expiration Date. Enabling this feature will block out the middle numbers of the card on your screen as well as the expiration date and three-digit security code.
That’s about it for the app. You’ll want to note that apart from items and invoices, you can’t control app settings from within the browser dashboard. Still, it makes more sense than requiring all the settings be adjusted in the browser, so I guess there’s that.
Flint Mobile: Features Beyond the App
While the mPOS app is definitely the core offering in the Flint Mobile suite, it’s not all you get. There are two more main features to take note of:
- Invoicing: Flint allows you to send invoices from within the mobile app and the online dashboard. The invoicing feature lets you send a client an invoice with a link to pay it. Flint also sends automated reminders sent to customers with unpaid invoices. Plus, clients are automatically added to your client database so you can more easily send future invoices — it’s basically, a list of clients you’ve worked with so you can refer back to them and send invoices more easily. This is helpful if you work with a lot of the same clients on a regular basis. However, take note: With the base plan you get only 10 invoices and 10 clients per year; with the Pro account you get unlimited invoices and up to 50.
- “Buy Now” buttons: If you want to sell online but don’t want to deal with (often-expensive) shopping carts, Flint will let you create “Buy now” buttons that you can place on your website and other places online to sell. However, customers can only purchase one item at a time with the buy-now buttons. You can’t load items into a shopping cart and check out all at once or offer discounts for buying multiple products. This is a very pared down solution — and Flint isn’t the only one to offer it. But it’s definitely one of the things that makes Flint even remotely viable in the online space. However, if you have more than about 5 products you may want to start looking at other, fully fledged eCommerce options.
That’s about the extent of what Flint has to offer, beyond your standard analytics and dashboard reports. In all, it’s a pretty basic package. That’s not bad — but it’s hard to see the value when other solutions can do a lot more for less.
Flint Mobile Fees and Rates:
Flint processes transactions at standard Stripe rates: 2.9% + $0.30. That’s the rate you’ll pay for keyed or scanned transactions, invoices, and online sales.
This is a pretty standard rate for invoicing and eCommerce. It’s exactly what PayPal and Square also charge.
However, as far as mPOS rates go, it’s not a good one. That $0.30 transaction fee is going to hurt a LOT, especially for low volume tickets. Keep in mind that most mPOS systems offer a percentage-based transaction — 2.7% or 2.75% percent. This is what PayPal Here, Square, and SumUp charge.
A few other mPOS options charge a per-transaction fee: Spark Pay, Intuit GoPayment, even Fattmerchant Mobile. It’s usually in the $0.05 to $0.25 range, but they usually also offer slightly lower percentage fees.
To run a comparison, we’re going to need a couple pieces of information. namely, we need a monthly transaction volume. But to really see how the per-transaction fee hurts, we also need the average ticket size. Let’s assume an average monthly volume of $3,000, and average ticket sizes of $20 and $45.
(2.7% per swipe)
(2.75% per swipe)
(2.9% + $0.30)
(2.9% + $0.30)
|Monthly Fee||None||None||$0 to $14.99||$0 to $14.99|
First things first: notice that at a 2.9% swipe rate, the price difference between Flint and Square/PayPal here is only $5-6. The significant difference in processing fees some from that $0.30 transaction fees.
Second, notice how big the difference in cost is just between an average ticket size of $20 and $45 — a full $25. But it’s almost another $25 difference between Square and Flint assuming a $45 ticket. If your average transaction size is $20, the difference is $50, and at this volume, that’s a LOT of wasted money. That’s another $1,800 in transactions at Square’s rates.
That’s what I mean when I say the per-transaction fee will hurt merchants a lot, especially if you have a low average transaction volume.
Flint Mobile Monthly Plans
That’s just the rates for payment processing, however. Flint actually offers 3 plans for merchants to choose from:
- Free Plan: Unlimited mPOS processing, 10 invoices per year, 10 clients in client database, 1 user, no online sales
- Pro Plan ($99.99/year or $9.99/month): Unlimited mPOS processing, unlimited invoices per year, 50 clients in client database, 4 users (owner + 3), unlimited online sales
- Enterprise Plan (149.99/year or $14.99/month): Unlimited mPOS processing, unlimited invoices per year, unlimited clients in client database, 6 users (owner + 5)
The “Free” plan here would be OK for someone who only processes any sort of payment seldomly. You can’t sell online, and you’re maxed at 10 invoices per year. This is not a solution for even moderately busy business merchants. About the only ones I can see this working for are crafters who occasionally do custom orders and sell mostly at shows, and contractors who only freelance once in a blue moon.
The Pro plan is a little better, but still an expensive value proposition:. You can sell online, but it’s only by creating a Buy Now button. You still have to get your own site, your own domain, your own hosting and then manually add the code. It’s nice that you get unlimited sales and multi-user support, but I’m not sure it’s enough to justify the cost. It’s even harder to justify the cost of the Enterprise plan, where for $50 more per year you can get unlimited clients in your database an extra two users. It does not appear right now that you can add users beyond that.
If you’re primarily after an mPOS, I have a hard time recommending Flint because of the cost. Even if you do save money in the short term because of the lack of hardware (HEY! Did you know Square sells its Contactless + Chip card reader for $49?), you’re going to pay more long term. If you are looking for a more robust invoicing platform or very, VERY light eCommerce, Flint starts to make a bit more sense.
Nothing that Flint offers is unique or revolutionary, but it’s definitely capable. Still, looking at that mPOS pricing makes me upset because there are so many better options. Even if you add the value of invoicing to the mix, it doesn’t justify the cost!
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
The good news is that since Flint uses Stripe as its back-end processor, you get more or less the same contract terms as processing directly through Stripe. Specifically, Flint’s user agreement says that you are also agreeing to Stripe’s Terms as Flint’s payments partner. I do recommend reviewing Stripe’s user agreement as well as Flint’s because educated merchants are empowered merchants.
For payment processing, it’s pay-as-you-go. If you opt for the Pro or Enterprise plan, you can pay for your subscription on a month to month basis, or opt for the annual plan. You can cancel whenever you want and just stop using Flint without having to pay any early terminations or other penalties.
This is definitely good news.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
Flint’s website discloses all the contract terms and pricing very well. It even makes it clear that Stripe is the back-end processor. There’s a clear run-down of the core offerings. All of this is good, but let’s take a moment to talk about the elephant in the room: that very unexpected shut-down.
To say it wasn’t handled well is a bit of an understatement, and I think merchants have every right to be wary. However, I’d be far more worried if Flint hid its backend processor from merchants. Stripe isn’t exactly the best company in the world. It’s still an aggregator like PayPal or Square, and because of that, you’re going to risk the possibility that your account could be terminated with no warning. But for the most part, Stripe is stable. Stripe powers a lot of platforms’ payments services, including Shopify. So I think that arrangement, while expensive, reduces the likelihood that Flint is just going to cave and disappear off the face of the planet again.
Flint still has a blog, though posting is sporadic. The Twitter account is active but has very little interaction with its 2,500 followers. The Facebook page is very nearly dead, despite nearly 20,000 likes. It’s unsurprising, but I think Flint is probably still having a hard time winning over merchants and it’s probably running a very lean operation. I’m not seeing a stream of help requests on social media, though, which I usually interpret as a good sign — or at least one that the company is doing at least an OK to satisfactory job of customer service. and speaking of:
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Here’s one of the areas where I think Flint is running lean. Currently, the only customer support option is a ticket-based email system. No phone support, no live chat. However, most technical, payment-related issues will almost certainly be routed through Stripe, which has a much more robust customer support system.
Lack of real-time communication tends to be a serious sore spot for merchants, but it can also be a costly investment. If Flint does well, I hope to see an option for live support in the future.
The other option for support is a self-help knowledge base. However, it leaves much to be desired in my eyes. There’s not a lot of information about how to use Flint’s features. It’s not a super complex mPOS, but I would still expect to see a little bit of instruction on how to use some of the various tools and features.
Flint Mobile Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Flint doesn’t have a lot of user testimonials from the re-launch one way or another. With the exception of a handful of comments, virtually everything dates to February 2016 or earlier. The most notable complaint is a lack of customer service — claiming Flint is non-responsive.
At this point, the most we can do is watch and wait and see what happens.
If you’ve had first-hand experience with this company, please leave us your independent, unbiased Flint Mobile review in our comments section.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Again, not much chatter from the relaunch of Flint. However, you’ll still find a few testimonials on the Flint website, as well as a list of names, including NerdWallet, Gigoam, TechCrunch, and Dow Jones. Given that they’re not linked and there’s no preceding text, my guess is this is a list of clients. It’s not clear how current that list is, which is problematic for me.
I think a lot of merits of Flint from before the shutdown still apply. The app is easy to use, the lack of necessary hardware is nice. Flint is a good little starter omnichannel platform… in so far as features are concerned. It’s the cost that really hurts Flint’s viability.
I think it’s fair that Flint has earned a fresh start. With a stable back-end processor and clear disclosure, Flint is absolutely a viable contender for merchants who need an mPOS, invoicing, and maybe some “buy now” buttons. It’s deserving of a spot on the shortlist when you get around to narrowing down the options.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option out there, and absolutely is not the most cost effective. In our Flint Mobile review, we’re awarding a total of 3.5 stars for being highly capable and overall reliable. But it won’t break into the 4-star or 4.5-star ranks until we see more competitive pricing.
Both PayPal Here and Square give you everything that Flint does, generally at a lower cost. And while we do know there’s plenty of people who are itching for a solution that is neither of the above, I think there are still other options besides Flint that you should try first. Shopify Lite will give you everything Flint offers (including Stripe as its back-end processor) for $9/month, and you’ll get lower swipe rates plus live chat support, and the option to upgrade to a much more robust eCom and/or retail platform if business does well.
Zoho Invoice offers some affordable plans that Integrate with Stripe and PayPal for online payments. You could combine that with SumUp for mPOS capabilities if you’re against PayPal Here. If you’re only after an mPOS, I’d consider Payline Mobile, even. Like Flint, it has a per-transaction fee that will make it more expensive for some merchants, but the lower percentage rate and per transaction fee make it more viable. Plus you’ll get your own unique merchant account.
If, after all of that, you’re still pretty darn sure Flint is the solution for you, go ahead. Be aware that it’s definitely one of the more expensive options. But despite all that, you should be able to expect reliable payment processing on an interesting platform.
Are you using the new Flint? Check out our comment guidelines and leave us a note about your experiences thus far!