Spark Pay Review

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Date Established
2013
Location
Tysons Corner, VA

Overview:

This review is for Capital One’s Spark Pay mobile processing app. If you’re looking for a review of its online sales platform, also called Spark Pay (formerly AmeriCommerce), we’ve got you covered here.

We all know Capital One, but chances are you haven’t heard much about its mobile processing company, Spark Pay. The Capital One mobile processing app has had surprisingly little press since its mid-2013 re-launch and re-branding. (It was formerly owned by the credit card processing hardware company Verifone and was called SAIL.) Spark Pay has had a few tweaks since then, but overall the feel remains the same as the original Verifone service. A few independent reviewers have chimed in, mostly with neutral/positive feedback, but overall adoption is… disappointingly slow. Only 122 users have left reviews in iTunes app store, for instance, and that’s counting all versions combined (admittedly, up from just 78 when we last checked in). Numbers are higher on Google Play — 494, up from 405, in fact — but that’s still an astonishingly small number for a service offered by a company as large as Capital One.

In some ways, I understand how this service could be overlooked. I mean, the market doesn’t exactly need another mobile processor, and Spark Pay isn’t providing anything that we haven’t seen before. Nonetheless, Spark Pay has a solid app with a few features that, while not altogether unique, are not yet ubiquitous, either (social media discount offers, inventory management add-on with barcode scanning, etc).

Plus let’s not forget that it’s backed by one of the ten largest banks in the U.S., Capital One. This is no fly-by-night operation or a clever little fledgling startup with a good concept but limited resources.

Spark Pay has competitive rates and quality customer service alongside a well-designed app. Yes, some account holds and sudden terminations have definitely occurred here, as happens with almost all mobile payment providers. Spark Pay’s customer support is also one of the best available for mobile processing, a fact we don’t take lightly.

That said, Spark Pay has thus far also left us somewhat disappointed, particularly in regards to its lack of EMV support for mobile. The company also has an eCommerce offering by the same name, but the two services do not integrate — at all. The sites have gotten a branding refresh, but the former promise that an integration was coming soon has been conveniently eliminated.

My impression is that Spark Pay is on the cusp of something — I’m just not sure what. It might finally push itself out into the wider world of mPOS, or it might quickly fade into obscurity as more competitive offerings of both mPOS and eCommerce dominate the field. Either is just as likely at this point, and success or failure will hinge on a couple of key decisions.

For the moment, I’m awarding Spark Pay a 4-star rating and a general recommendation. However, I’m being very generous in doing so. If we don’t see an EMV reader by the end of this quarter (as promised), we will be lowering Spark Pay’s rating here on Merchant Maverick, because we’re at a point where all merchants — including micromerchants — need to be able to accept chip cards. Integrating the mPOS and eCommerce solutions would also go a long way toward strengthening Capital One’s position in the merchant services realm, as well.

Check out the full review below or check out our top rated processors. And (as always) please share your thoughts and experiences!

Products and Services:

Like most mobile processors, Spark Pay doesn’t have a huge list of products and services. But it does offer the following:

Mobile credit processing: Spark Pay appears to aggregate merchants instead of issuing individual accounts. This is how most mobile processing works. It’s not completely clear who does the processing, but I’m sure it’s closely connected to Capital One.

Mobile card reader: This hardware is, as far as I can tell, identical to the original Verifone SAIL hardware. Capital One hasn’t rolled out its EMV compliant reader yet — it promises merchants that it will be available during Q1 of 2017 (after previously promising it in Q1 of 2016). We’ll check back in then to see what it looks like compared to other offerings.

Digital Register Setup: In addition to the mobile reader, Capital One offers a register setup complete with full-on terminals, a cash drawer, and thermal receipt printer.

POS app: The Spark Pay mobile app features include:

  • Online reporting/analytics
  • Item management/inventory reporting with StitchLabs integration (sold separately)
  • Barcode scanning with StitchLabs integration
  • QR-code-based offers, distributed through Facebook, Twitter, or email.
  • Customizable electronic receipts
  • Cash drawer connectivity
  • Receipt printer connectivity
  • what about refunds….? full/partial?

Pre-Auth Capability: Something I haven’t seen very often in a mobile processor is the ability to pre-authorize a card. Basically, it means that a merchant can put a hold on funds before the purchase is completed. Pre-auths aren’t very common in retail, but you’ll see them a lot in the hospitality industry — everything from hotels and bed and breakfasts to restaurants. It’s also common in the service industry. Think of a time you were charged for a no-show appointment. PayPal offers this feature (which it calls auth-capture); Square doesn’t.

It’s worth noting a handful of features in the mobile app are only available when you’re using an iPad. This isn’t all that uncommon — Square is the same way. With Spark Pay on an iPad you can create and redeem offers — something you can still do by logging into your Spark Pay account on a laptop or desktop computer, just not on a phone. You can also view reports directly on the iPad, and organize pre-set items for easy display on the iPad’s screen. None of those features are really deal-breakers if you’re running off a smartphone, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this. These features are designed for a more traditional register setup.

What is disappointing is the lack of integration between Capital One’s mobile processor and its online storefront. They’re both named Spark Pay (and both acquired from other companies), but despite the shared name, you can’t sell in person and also run an online store from the same dashboard. The website used to promise that integration between the two was “coming soon,” but with the updated website, that message is gone. It makes me wonder if that plan has fallen through, for sure.

Considering that Square offers an online marketplace (and very limited integrations for web stores), and PayPal integrates so easily with so many shopping carts, it’s a bit disappointing that Capital One hasn’t delivered the same kind of experience, despite having considerable resources and plenty of examples to follow.

Something else I’d like to see supported is invoicing. It’s not a feature every merchant needs, but for those that do, it’s incredibly useful to have it all centralized.

Now, if you just want mobile processing or even a register setup, Capital One does give you an option for everything you need with pre-assembled kits that start at $499. Note: That doesn’t include the tablet, just a receipt printer and cash drawer. A kit with an iPad Air 2 will run you $1,099.

Fees and Rates:

Spark Pay offers two pricing options, one with a monthly fee and one with a completely pay-as-you-go structure:

Go Plan (pay-as-you-go)

  • 2.65% Card Present
  • 3.7% Card Not Present
  • 3.7% Card Present American Express
  • $0.05 Per-Transaction Fee

Pro Plan (monthly fee)

  • $19 Monthly Fee
  • 1.99% Card Present
  • 2.8% Card Not Present
  • 2.8% Card Present American Express
  • $0.05 Per-Transaction Fee

First, those rates have changed since previous reviews. The monthly plan cost has increased from $9.95/month to $19 — effectively, doubling in price. Spark Pay’s rates have shifted ever so slightly, too.

For some context, the Go plan’s card present/swiped rate, 2.65%, is actually marginally lower than both PayPal Here and Square (2.7% and 2.75%, respectively). However, neither service charges a per-transaction fee for mobile processing, whereas Spark Pay will charge you $0.05 for every swipe or keyed-in transaction.

For card not present/keyed-in transactions, the Go Plan’s rates are higher — 3.7% + $0.05, compared to 3.5% + $0.15 for PayPal Here and Square. Flint processes all of its cards as card not present, so the only difference you see is between debit and credit cards.

So basically you pay an additional 0.66% per transaction (down from 0.75%) if you use the Go Plan. So what’s the break-even point? When the Go plan was $9.95/month, that was about $1,300 per month. With the price doubled, the break even point jumps considerably — to almost $3,000:

$2,878 * 0.0066 = $19 = the “Break Even” amount (we’re rounding to even dollar amounts here)

This is all ignoring the AmEx pricing, but that shouldn’t throw off your numbers too much unless you know you process a high volume of AmEx cards.

I feel the jump in price for the Pro plan makes Spark Pay less competitive, and the potential savings from opting for the monthly paid plan, compared to other services, are very small. There’s still an opportunity to save some money, so that’s something.

It’s also worth noting the time to get your money: Spark Pay will hold funds for 4-5 days initially, and after that you should have the funds in your account within 2 business days.

Other Considerations:

  • Spark Pay also discloses a $15 chargeback fee, which is pretty standard and overall fair in my opinion.
  • You’ll get one free card reader, and can order more for $13 apiece, which isn’t a terrible price. Capital One used to offer an additional 3 readers for free, though. Note that these aren’t EMV compliant, and at this time we have no idea how much those will run. I sincerely hope the price is more comparable to Square’s EMV readers ($30-$49), than PayPal’s ($150, or $50 with a $100 rebate IF you process $3,000 in three months).

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:

No contract. No early termination fee. Simple. As. That.

Sales and Advertising Transparency:

As far as advertising goes, Spark Pay has taken a low-key route, existing as part of Capital One’s suite of “Spark” small business products without really working to compete in the greater market. This seems to translate to overall straightforward and honest advertising and sales tactics.

That said, I would like to see this company address processing limits and what merchants should know about them in greater detail. The site does have some information available, but not front and center. Your limits are calculated based on your history and how much of a risk Spark Pay sees in your business.

I also wish that Capital One would make it more clear that “instant access” to its services really means that the company gives you preliminary access for about a month while it reviews your information and processing habits. At that time, Spark Pay may decide to cancel your account and hold your funds. Not being clear about this has led to aggravated customers and will probably continue to do so in the future, as we’ve seen with so many other mobile payments providers.

Spark Pay does use two sales gimmicks: a $50 bonus for processing $5,000 in the first 3 months, and now a free terminal offer.

It’s actually a pretty sound deal, and doesn’t seem to be deceptive in any overt way. But make sure that you consider that the transactions must be processed in the first three months of enrollment, even if it takes a week or two to get your card reader. There’s also the offer

There’s also the free terminal. It’s only the wired model (value $99), but it’ll serve you well.

However, there’s one more niggling detail. I was a little bit disappointed by a little tidbit of information I found in the website footer:

Payment Terminal is equipped with hardware for EMV.  Synchronize Multiple Devices and Users, Inventory Management, Customized Receipts, and Create Custom Promotions or Deals are not available if you use Payment Terminal to accept your payments.

This is frustrating for me because it’s kind of a big deal. It could, in fact, be a dealbreaker for new merchants who want to use these features and accept chip cards. And you’ll only find out about it if you ready the tiny print at the bottom of the site. I’m left wondering if this is only a temporary measure until they can fix some coding, or if this limitation is here to stay. Either way, I’m sincerely hoping we see a mobile EMV reader by the end of Q1, as promised.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Spark Pay offers phone-based customer support to all merchants from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern, seven days a week. That’s an improvement over their (already respectable) former hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Overall, this is also a pretty solid setup when compared to other mobile providers (Square has only lately introduced phone support, and you need to obtain a code through your account online before you can call).

Capital One offers very public and usually very responsive Twitter-based support as well, with the handle @AskCapitalOne. It’s a great feature for first-line complaint defense and problem solving, akin to @AskPayPal or @SqSupport.

You can also receive email support with a one-day turnaround or less. In addition, there’s a fairly thorough FAQ-style knowledge base for self-service customer support. It’s not quite as good or as navigable as Square’s knowledge base, but it’s still good quality and the search feature works well.

Overall, I’m impressed by the level of customer service provided here. Capital One has dedicated some substantial resources, and it shows. For me, the proof is in the pudding – and the pudding is the lack of complaints and attacks to be found on the web. Of the small number of complaints you’ll find for Spark Pay, only a few cite poor customer service – the complete opposite of Square. Even PayPal Here gets a solid number of complaints about quality of service.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

SparkPay doesn’t have its own BBB page, sadly. Sorting through the thousands of Capital One complaints is not practical, so we’ll have to ignore the BBB for this review.

I can tell you, however, that Spark Pay has zero complaints on Ripoff Reports and other similar complaint sites. App stores like Google Play (where the app has a 3.7-star rating on 494 ratings) and Apple’s iTunes Store (where it has a 3.5-star rating for all versions, based on 122 reviews) have provided forums for software and overall service complaints, though, and you can find a handful of reviews elsewhere. The following issues have cropped up most frequently:

  • Software problems/device incompatibility are among the most common complaints. My personal experience with Spark Pay was positive in this regard, but you should probably try it out before cancelling any existing accounts. One nice thing is that Spark Pay does maintain a comprehensive list of supported devices. And it even includes which carriers are compatible, too.
  • Merchants had complained about fees being rounded up even when it wouldn’t make sense (like 3.2 cents being rounded to 4 cents). It seems this problem has been corrected.
  • In order to use this app, you must allow it to access your location via GPS. Some users view this as an invasion of privacy, but both PayPal Here and Square also require this feature to be enabled. It’s a pretty standard security measure.
  • Some merchants have commented that they’d like to see better multi-user functionality. It appears that Spark Pay has addressed the issue by limiting multi-users’ permission. The knowledge base spells out the new permissions.
  • Some merchants complain about sudden account terminations/funds withheld. This is inherent when it comes to an aggregation-style mobile provider with instant access.
  • Among the holding complaints, some cite a 120-day rolling reserve on 50% of transaction volume. For higher-risk businesses, this is a common practice — if you fall into that category, you should probably look at obtaining a high-risk merchant account instead.

Finally, a few people have also complained that Spark Pay runs credit checks on applicants. However, the credit check is spelled out in the terms of service. Which you should be reading before you sign up for ANY sort of mPOS account.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

While it might seem like the above section has a long list of complaints, there’s plenty of good to balance it out. Of the customer input I read, these positive attributes came up most often:

  • StitchLabs integration (especially the barcode scanner)
  • Fair, predictable rates, especially for higher volumes
  • Advanced QR code offers with a high level of customization
  • Quality customer service

While I think Spark Pay has a little way to go before the app and service are perfected, it’s doing a good job so far. It just needs to get that EMV reader out already, and maybe open up some of its features to the terminal users.

Final Verdict:

In the end, I like Spark Pay. Since mobile payments tend to have more SNAFUs and snags than traditional processing, customer service becomes incredibly important.

Spark Pay and Capital One provide a much more intensive support experience than your typical mPOS provider, which goes a long way with me. You get a phone support line with solid hours (and weekend availability), as well as a knowledge base, email support, and even Twitter-based support. I’m not sure where you can get that level of comprehensive support from another mPOS processor, actually.

The app is solid with a simple setup that’s perfect when you’re on the go, or POS capabilities to run a storefront. It doesn’t come close to beating Square for extra features, but if all you need is credit card processing, Spark Pay is a solid contender. The pre-auth feature is sure to be an advantage for some merchants as well. It’d still really like to see an integration between the online store and mPOS as well.

Spark Pay’s pay-as-you-go rates are absolutely competitive. I even like that merchants who process more than $3,000/month can opt for the pro plan and get lower rates, especially because there’s no monthly minimum fee if you fall below that mark in one bad month.

Spark Pay gets a solid 4 stars for now, but we will be watching to see whether it still merits that rating as we move into 2017. If Spark Pay isn’t for you, or you want to know what some other options are, be sure to check out our other mobile processors via this handy comparison chart.

Thanks for reading, and please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson is an independent writer and editor who loves e-commerce, digital marketing, technology, and social media. Once upon a time, she earned a journalism degree, but she went on to discover that she could work from home, researching, editing, and writing about the things she found most interesting. When she's not tied to her laptop, Melissa can usually be found in the kitchen, reading a book, or doing something of the nerdy persuasion.
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52 Comments

    Susan White

    Stay away from this merchant. Maybe OK for a dollar or two transaction, but when I put a large legitimate transaction through for a customer, they put me through the ringer, and even after I sent them all of their stupid documents they requested and getting a signature from my customer and wasting my whole day and possible losing the sale, the fricking morons still wanted my customer's phone number to verify again. What is f'ing world coming to. I flipped out of course because being both embarassing and disturbing it paints a bigger picture about these crooked banks. I did believe in Capital One but now I have my doubts may just go back to cash again...disgusting, disgusting, disgusting. Ruined my day and I hope they have nightmares!!

    1
    Luke steckel

    Spark pay was fine for our gift shop transactions of a few to couple hundred dollars. It was terrible for a large contracting deposit. After taking the transaction, Spark contacted us the following day by email, noting that we would need to submit a signed contract, certain customer info, and a credit card authorization form . I received three calls from a team member, who still hasn't called me back after two messages. I got customer service on the phone , who explained that the transaction was large and randomly flagged for fraud protection. After lengthy conversation, I was promised that if we sent the signed customer contract, that funds would be released upon receipt. We sent it. We then got an email stating that we also needed to send three months bank statements and two years tax returns for review before payment would be released. We are a week in to the transaction and Spark has made us look like fools to our customer and have requested about as much info as it takes to get a mortgage. I didn't have faith that Spark wouldn't arbitrarily change the rules for the fourth time, so I asked how to make the madness stop and we would receive payment another way. Get this, they said that I had to refund the transaction that they took, held for a week and not transfer to us. Do they make interest while they hold funds? It is a terrible way to run business. Why do they take transactions that require further info? Why don't they refuse the transaction before they start this mess? Is it even legal? I have plenty of charges on my cards declined for fraud protection. I call in, verify info and charges and the card gets unlocked. Spark can be a terrible inconvenience. I won't use it again . I can't take the risk of them making new rules arbitrarily to 'protect' my business, even though their actions were the ones hurting my business.

    1
    amahl

    Don't do it! I was enticed by the competitive rates and what appeared to be a very user-friendly app. It's a disaster. Set up from the admin side on desktop is beyond inept. You basically can't do anything yourself and will be constantly having to call customer service to get them to make basic administrative changes for you. (I will say this, their customer service reps are very good and there's no wait time, no phone tree nightmare run-around). Worst of all, they won't do monthly billing--instead you have to look at each individual transaction and manually enter the fee in your bookkeeping software. This is insane--every other service out there will give you one lump sum at the end of the month. We do over $30,000 a month in transactions--I can't be adding in the service fee manually from each transaction. Utter idiocy. There are other problems but that's the main deal-breaker for me. Don't do it!

    2

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Priscilla Mendez

    Hello everyone,
    How would spark work in a Grooming Business. I would be ring up anywhere from $40-$200.
    What should i look out for in my situation?

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Sonyta

    Hi Tom, Thank you for such a detailed review! I have a small marble company that supplies & distributes stone marble & granite; sales range from $400+. We do not do online sales. We have always used the older system where we only accept: check, cash, or wire transfer and I am looking to upgrade to using a credit card system & to integrate with our current Quickbooks. We don't receive too many requests for credit card but think that it'll be a nice/ faster feature to also include as an alternative option. We are currently using Quickbooks Premier, so I was leaning towards the Intuit QuickBooks GoPayment, but after an intensive research I realized that there are more hidden fees & negative reviews in terms of simple processing in sales + almost to non-existent customer service. So, this is why I am wondering if Spark Pay would be the best choice for me. What are your thoughts? Suggestions?

    5

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    clint

    spark pay still does not have an emv reader. according to their faq https://sparkpay.zendesk.com/entries/83693019-When-will-Spark-Pay-offer-EMV-enabled-card-readers-supposedly there will be one in 1st qtr of 2016. I love how some of these companies are dragging their feet.

    1

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Forrest

    Great review! I could use some advice, my business needs unique help. I own a private sports club for an individual sport, I charge for monthly/bimonthly group classes, and for private lessons. I want to have automatic billing set for the monthly/bimonthly classes, and card present mobile billing for private lessons. Is there something I could use that could do both? Thanks for any advice!

    5

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Melissa Johnson

    Hi, Forrest!

    For an additional monthly fee, you can enable recurring billing with PayPal and use PayPal Here to process for in-person payments. Neither Square nor Flint has this capability, though.

    You can also find these features with a merchant account, but it’ll depend on how much volume you process, whether it’s worth going that route.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Amy

    Hi Tom,
    I am starting my own massage therapy business after working for a fitness club for 10 years. I’m not sure yet what I will average for credit card income per month but know it will be less then 10k. I need a very reliable mobile option. Since I offer a service and not a product, clients will most likely be present for transactions and I will have no chargebacks. Printed receipts should not be needed if there is an email option. What company do you recommend will be easiest and in my best interest to use?
    Thanks,
    Amy

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Leo Leilles

    Hi! We are a distributor with accounts in various US states.
    Invoice amounts are $500 – $5000. Orders are via email and we’ll send them an invoice generated in quickbooks. We cannot afford any troubles with the processor as it could affect our business tremendously.
    Which processor would you recommend?
    Thank you very much!

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Leo,

    To have customers pay directly from the invoice, I believe you have to use QuickBooks Payments. If this is not an important feature for you, then you an use any number of different processors. One good one to check out for your type of business is CDGcommerce.

    If you’d like integrated payments but you do not want to use QuickBooks Payments, consider other invoicing options.

    Hope this helps!

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    T-po Services, LLC, Martha Voorhees, Owner

    I would recommend that you steer clear of Spark Pay. My experience has been rude customer service and false accusations of fraudulent use of the credit card app. My biggest and most important customer cannot pay me by credit card without his payment being held by Spark Pay for a full 6 months. Spark Pay refused to disclose the reason for their claim of suspicious activity and they refuse to release the money paid by my client for my services. My Capital One Branch Manager and bank staff were completely shocked and embarrassed at the way the Spark Pay representative spoke to me. I have been a good customer for years at Capital One. They carefully help me set up my business account and sold me on the idea of Spark Pay as a means of providing my customers an easy way to pay for my services. Now I have to insult my customer by refunding his payment and asking him to either write a check, pay in cash, or purchase a money order. I cannot even give my customer a valid reason for Spark rejecting his payment because Spark refuses to give me a reason. Spark has humiliated and embarrassed both me and my customer, has caused us both significant inconvenience, has prevented me from use of funds that I earned and has completely embarrassed my bank branch Manager and financial staff. I believe everyone is taking a huge risk to their credibilty with their customers and ability to pay business expenses because Spark Pay can without explanation or due cause arbitrarily hold funds earned by your services and paid by your customers in good faith. In my case they maintain that they will hold my business earnings for at least 6 months. Don’t risk your business reputation nor the reputation of your customers.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    McFarlane Asphalt

    This is one of the returned emails from Sparkpay. I have never accepted credit cards before and was amazed that they will hold 50% of your total revenue for a full 1/3 of the year, before crediting it to you.
    I also noticed that Tom has not commented on the other posts with the same concern…

    Hi David,
    Thank you for your email. Yes, that is correct. With a rolling reserve we take 50% from each transaction and hold it in a non-interest bearing account for 120 days. After 120 days, we will release the reserve to the bank account attached to your Spark Pay account. This allows us to cover potential losses incurred by any disputes. The decision to revise the rolling reserve can be revisited after six months.
    Alternatively, you may choose to refund your initial transaction to the card holder and close your account.
    We appreciate your business and thanks again for choosing Spark Pay! If you have any questions please feel free to contact us by email or by phone at 877-231-7547.

    Sincerely,

    Credit Support
    Spark Pay by Capital One Bank
    1.877.231.7547
    ms-SparkPay@CapitalOne.com

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi David,

    I really appreciate that you took the time to write in about this, and I assure you that we take all comments into consideration, even when we don’t respond to them directly.

    Holding funds in reserve is not the status quo for Spark Pay, but it can happen. All payment processing agreements have language that allows the provider to withhold funds in reserve at their discretion, and Spark Pay is no different. The 50% 120-day rolling reserve is really annoying (and for some businesses simply not sustainable), but it is actually preferable when compared to the protocols of many other providers, such as Square, who often will withhold 100% of funds and suspend the account if they perceive increased risk.

    Spark Pay will usually only instate a rolling reserve if a number of chargebacks have occurred or if there has been an unusual processing pattern or occurrence, such as larger transactions or a higher average ticket than outlined in the application. They may also use a rolling reserve for certain business types that have a (perceived) increased risk of chargebacks or fraud.

    If this practice is not sustainable/acceptable for your business, we have reviewed a number of other mobile processors that might be able to help you out. But also be aware that funding holds are going to be a possibility no matter who you process with.

    Thank you again for taking the time to share your experience. I will be updating the review today to include information about the possibility of a rolling reserve with Spark Pay.

    -Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Grace

    Tom,

    Thanks for your reviews, they are super helpful for sorting out all the options out there for mobile processing. Most of our curriculum business happens online, but we have added a storefront and we’re going to a lot more conferences this summer where can do up to $10,000 in sales in a weekend. We’ve used Square for both of these for several years now, but we hate that we get no customer information with the transactions. While a lot of the sales we do are grab-and-go and Square is great for those, we do have larger kits for which we receive payments at the conference and ship from our warehouse. For those sales especially, we need to be able to let our warehouse know which orders need to be shipped and give them all of that info. I’m looking at Spark Pay because they say they provide the cardholder name in the sales history, and they integrate with Stitchlabs. I think that will be a huge help to us, but I don’t want to fix our shipping problem by creating a funds-availability problem. Do you think our weird seasonal volume would be a red flag to Spark Pay that would keep them from giving us our money?

    Thanks,
    Grace

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Grace,

    You may want to consider staying with Square, since you already have an established history with them. Square also integrates with Stitch Labs (see here), and in fact Square should also track customer names (see here). Shipping information as well as names can be recorded in the notes section manually.

    I actually prefer Spark Pay for overall account stability compared to Square, but the fact that you have a history with Square might make them a safer bet for you at this point. If customer names are not showing up for swiped transactions, contact Square’s support to see if there’s something they can do to correct this.

    Let me know if I can help further!

    -Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Grace

    I definitely came to the right guy! I NEVER noticed either of those things before in Square, probably because the Note function is in the custom price screen (we live our lives entirely in the item view). I looked in my transaction history and now I do see that a good portion of the receipts do have the cardholder’s name on the receipt. I’m betting the few that don’t have names have something to do with credit vs debit or reward card.

    However, I just did a sale in Square and put the customer’s name in the Notes, but when I looked it up in Stitchlabs, the note came through as a line item just marked “Custom Amount,” none of the info I entered manually made it to Stitchlabs, which is where it really counts for fulfilling the order. And his name is on the receipt from Square, but that detail didn’t make it to Stitch either, at least not in a way that will enable my team to find his order easily for shipping. They give a URL for the receipt in the payment details, but I have to isolate that from all the other gobbledy-gook details and copy/paste it into the browser. Not handy.

    Anyway, we’ll probably follow your advice and stick with Square and just enter shipping information directly into Stitchlabs at conferences. Thanks again!

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Interesting. I haven’t tested the data transfer from Square to Stitchlabs, so I appreciate your insight on that. Entering to Stitch directly is probably the best workaround. If you’re interested to check out a complete feature and integration list for Square, take a look at our Square review.

    Glad to help! Take care.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Matt

    Our experience with Spark Pay has been possibly one of the most frustrating things we've ever dealt with over the course of our lifetime as a business.We recently had two larger transactions that we ran through them (each was about $550 total). Shortly after they were processed we were emailed by Spark Pay in order to provide documentation about the transactions. We provided the invoice, the USPS shipping receipt, as well as the full email correspondence between us and the customer (a retail store in Florida).Fast forward a week, and after calling them both yesterday and the day before and being told that "they're just waiting for management's approval to transfer the funds to our bank account" and that "the approvals were received and we'd receive the full amount owed to us in 1-2 business days.” Problem solved right? Not so much. At the end of the business day yesterday we received an email from them stating that they’re going to hold 50% of these funds, and 50% of any transaction we do in the future, no matter how large or how small, for 180 days so that they “can better understand our business.”If you’re looking for a merchant account, PLEASE do yourself a favor and look elsewhere. If you enjoy being lied to, being told you’ll receive a phone call by the end of the business day and not hearing from anyone, or simply having your money held by a large bank interest free for 6 months, these guys are for you.

    1

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Brandy

    Hi Tom,

    I’m an independent contractor hairstylist. On average I run about $5000-6000/month in credit cards. Do you think Spark Pay Pro would be a good route to go? Also some of my clients prefer paper receipts, do you think the Bluetooth printer TSP650II BTi would be a good purchase?

    Thank you,
    Brandy

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Brandy,

    SparkPay would be a 100% solid choice for your situation. While I like Flint for most mobile processing, they don’t do paper receipts. The bluetooth TSP650II BTi is the printer SparkPay recommends, so that is a sensible choice. I don’t have experience with the printer itself. The LAN model (TSP650) is considerably less expensive, but potentially less convenient.

    Let us know how it goes with SparkPay!
    -Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    jim

    Spark Pay’s rates as they currently stand would work very well for my business, but I’m skeptical that they’re (specifically, the Pro Plan card present rate) going to stay that way. Perhaps I should consider trying to lock my rate with another company rather than face an inevitable increase?

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Shannen

    I had square for a year and a half before being coerced into using spark pay. This is the worst app that I have on my phone. I have a compatible phone with updated software and although all my phone settings are correct and I have location turned on I have to restart my phone two to three times I have to force stop the app I have to walk around outside I have to unplug and plug back in the actual device to get the app to work my clients look at me like I'm an idiot for using it and I just have to apologize repeatedly this app absolutely sucks that I've called in 2 to 3 times about it, and I see no updates to this app.

    1

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Julie

    Been using this since it was sail pay. It has improved but the major problems for my shop is no split transactions, problems with the printer working consistently and the daily sales report on my iPod no longer generates my reports at the end of the day. Still seems cheaper than the other options but I wish they could fix these things

    3

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Barb Clayton

    I am looking into making some changes with our mobile processing. We are using Virtual Merchant, which we have had problems with their readers and have had to key transactions resulting in high fees. We have used the square, but I have an issue with their fees and the inability to do partial refunds. I just have a couple of questions:

    I read the comment above about needing to be connect to wifi to compete transactions, is this true?

    Also, What is the length of time after a transaction that you can perform a refund on said transaction? For the Square it is 60 days.

    Thank you, Barb

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Ofilio

    Hi, Tom. I've enjoyed your reviews for a while and I find them very helpful.I had an issue recently with Spark Pay that I think potential and current users should be aware of. I have a small company in Maryland and one of my clients disputed a transaction that appeared on his visa statement as "Spark Pay CA." Since he didn't recognize the name, he disputed the transaction. It happened that the charge was mine! "Sp-disputes" send me an email about the dispute and immediately withdrew the funds from my bank account. I contacted my client, who I've known for a while, the same day, clarified the matter and right away he contacted his visa card and withdrew the dispute. In spite of this, Spark Pay informed me that it would take them 50 days to resolve this and that until then, my money would not be released. On top of that, Spark Pay merchant services informed me that they are withholding funds from new charges and not releasing them until the one single dispute gets resolved. This caught me totally off-guard! I have been in business for a while and have never experienced a situation like this. Of course, this policy is never mentioned in their sales info, unless it is in the very, very small fine print. But I find the Spark Pay way of doing business very scary and anti-merchant, so I decided to cancel the Spark Pay service right away. Hopefully they will send me my money.

    1

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Mark

    Hi Tom, Great work you've done with your thorough, easy to read reviews. I run a long established technically challenged catering company. With multiple location pos systems. I am currently trying to bring the processing system into the early 21 century. I have had good personal experiences with capital one in the past. Would you recommend Spark for a company like ours ?

    5

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for reading! Spark Pay might work, but I think you should consider other options too. I’m going to send you an email with some ideas.

    -Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Cory Potter

    Hi Tom! I run a museum shop where we already use a retail system (Counterpoint) but are finding it is very expensive and slow. On average we do about $200K-$250K per year in sales and have a large number of transactions and inventory items. We need a system that enables us to pull a variety of reports including cost vs. profit analysis of a particular item, times that item (or category) has sold in a given time period, year-end inventory, lists of every item sold in a particular time period, and every item from a particular vendor. Most of our sales have a card that is swiped, but occasionally we have transactions that we have to key-in manually. Based on your experience, would a mobile system work better for us? If so, do you have one that you would recommend?

    Thanks!
    Cory P.

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Cory,

    Thanks for checking out our reviews. I’m going to send you an email so I can reply thoroughly!

    -Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Kyle Stephen

    Hello,

    I am a novice glassblower and wanted to know is Spark Pay would be helpful in accepting CCs as payment. In today’s world, who carries cash or checks? Transactions would not surpass $100? Thoughts?

    Cheers,
    Kyle

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Joseph

    Tom,Although, the reporting features of this product are quite nice and the ability to setup standard items is very helpful for tracking and reporting. I have found a couple of things that people may need to be aware of and are gross issues with sparkpay.A. On large transactions or transaction volume - spark pay may require the following1, A signature from the customer2.Terms and conditions (or any applicable refund/exchange policy)3.A detailed description of the product sold or services rendered4.The date of the transactionIf you are a service business that uses their items but do not produce invoices this could be a real issue as they will hold the funds until you provide them the documentation they need. They do not explain this in the sales process. B. Also, beware of the website and your account. As I wanted to review the bank account attached to my spark pay. Although I never changed it and canceled out, it deleted the associated bank account and it took several days for me to get it reassociated. Which in turn held up my funds for even longer. C. The customer service and their willingness to help is non existent. They read from a script and are unwaivering when it comes to helping the customer. For a bank of this magnitude the customer service for a small company has been well below sub par and has caused me to look for other solutions at other banks and possibly leave Capital One all together. If there were negative stars I would rate this product below zero because of the customer support and Spark Pays hidden administrative work. Thanks,Joseph

    1

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Timothy Joe

    Thank you Tom!

    5

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    barbara

    I give Capitol One's Spark Pay a zero-zip rating. It had no trouble withdrawing the $9.95 monthly fee from my bank account, but when it came to depositing the $400 charged to my client's credit card, they couldn't seem to approve my Spark Pay account --reason???, Nice of them to give me a choice to return the funds to my client or hold the funds for 6 months and then deposit it in my bank account. (who's going to trust them to do that?) In the meantime my client's credit card account was charged $400, I was out $9.95 for the service (what service) while Capitol One's Spark Pay makes money on the $400.I opted to have the money returned to my client and I hope she can pay me for my services by another means. We'll see whether we get our money back Tons of time lost!My advice -- go with PayPal. B

    1

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Steve

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for your thorough reviews!
    We have a b&b and wedding business and wondering if Spark Pay could be ideal for us?
    Average $100,000 in sales a year and all is paid with credit cards in advance, so all are keyed in.
    Much appreciated,
    Steve

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Steve,

    At that volume, I wouldn’t recommend Spark Pay. Spark Pay is a payment service provider (PSP), also known as a payment facilitator (PF), which means that they aggregate a number of users into one shared merchant account. This is great in terms of cost-effectiveness, but can lead to withheld funds, sudden terminations, and other account stability issues – especially for higher volume merchants and card-not-present transactions. This happens because Spark Pay often sees these users/transactions as high-risk, and thus they take measures to protect themselves from fraud.

    For a 100% keyed-in account, you might consider Payment Depot. (They just updated their pricing, so we’re in the middle of redoing our review.) Their mid-grade account comes with a virtual terminal for keyed-entry from any internet-connected device (computer or smartphone via web browser). They will give you an interchange-plus account, but with a 0% markup. This means you just have to pay the actual fees charged by the credit networks along with a monthly fee and a per-transaction charge. For businesses with larger than average transactions, this usually ends up being a great deal. I also like that if you pay for a year in advance, you get a 20% discount. If you cancel before the year is up, a prorated refund will be issued. Definitely worth considering.

    As a comparative option, you could also check out CDGcommerce. They have a very low monthly fee, reasonable interchange-plus markup, and free gateway/virtual terminal access included. You’d have to run the numbers for your business, but I’d guess that cost-wise, CDG and Payment Depot will be very similar for you. Both end up being much less expensive than Spark Pay.

    Let me know if I can help you further!

    Best,
    Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Gary W

    I work for a small mid size plumbing company. We need mobile credit card processing swipers. Spark pay seems to like with holding payment on large amounts. We usually charge from 200-1200 but many times go up to 5-10 k. We will need up to ten swipers. Who do you recommend?

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Gary,

    Have you considered Flint Mobile? One benefit of going with Flint is that you don’t need swipers to process the transactions. They card data is captured through your smartphone camera.

    The other nice thing about Flint is that they (a) are less likely to withhold transaction than any other mobile processor I know of, and (b) they are very straightforward about processing limits. The default limits will be too low for your needs, but if you submit an additional form they will raise your limits to a more appropriate level. And if they can’t raise your limits high enough, they will at least let you know this so that you don’t end up with your money being withheld. This is one reason that I don’t recommend Square. Square has “no limits,” but really this just means that they don’t tell you what the limits are. Spark Pay is more reliable than Square, but I prefer Flint in terms of reliability.

    If Flint isn’t able to give you high enough limits, your best bet is to go with a more traditional merchant account provider. I’m not sure if you’ll be processing transactions as independent contractors (ie, into your own accounts) or if it goes into a single business account, but if the company already has a credit card processor, you may want to talk to the processor to see if they have a mobile solution. Many processors do without much additional cost. This would probably be the most reliable solution.

    If you could use more help choosing, submit this form any we’ll get back to you ASAP.

    Good luck,
    Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Curtis Nicewaner

    I have been using Spark Pay for a while now and one point that needs to be made is that this unit not only uses your GPS to locate you it also has to connect to wifi to operate.I have a Samsung S3 and a data plan and it will not even come up unless it find an open wifi connection. I contacted Spark Pay about this and all they said was that a wifi connection was necessary. So it works great at home but when I am at a customers house I get some strange responses when I ask to use their wireless connection.

    3

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Rosetta Stoll

    I love Sparkpay, the best customer service ever! With that said, the one glitch I have found to be annoying, is theres no way to cancel out a cash transaction on your sales or report page. My daughter was trying out the new system and randomly entered a cash amt. It will now show up as a sale/income and there is no way to delete it or do a refund to balance out my report. Customer service is great!

    5

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Angie

    Hi Tom,

    I am currently using spark pay as my credit card processing merchant only, Can you provide me some information where to purchase the printer and cash drawer thats compatible with spark pay, so I can use spark pay as POS system as well.

    Thank You
    Angie

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Angie,

    You can find that information on this page.

    Spark Pay integrates with the APG VP320-BL1416 cash drawer and the APG VB448-BL1616 cash drawer.

    Please note: in order to take advantage of these cash drawer options, you will also need to be integrated with the Star TSP650 printer (LAN). The USB version of the Star TSP650 printer is not compatible with Spark Pay.

    -Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Nafeisa Robinson

    I ran my first transaction on July 1st, and today is July 10th and nothing has came yo my account. I havd ran a total of 6 transactions so far and I am still waiting on my money. I have used square in the past and I feel like they are a better choice at this point. I feel frustrated with the whole situation. I emailed customer service but I wish I could call and speak to someone instead.

    1

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Krissy

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for sharing all the information. I have been reading your reviews here for quite some time. You make sense of a subject that, frankly, doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense to me.

    I’m a small bakery owner. I’m currently using a terminal to process cards. Most of our customers pay with credit cards. We take the majority of cards in person, but still do key in cards over the phone on a regular basis. We average about $8000 in monthly credit card sales. I’d like to keep my terminal while I test drive a mobile processor. I’ve read up on square, paypal here, spark pay, and flint. With the small bit of information I’ve provided, do you have a recommendation for a mobile processor that would fit my needs?

    Thanks

    Krissy

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Krissy,

    For card-not-present transactions (phone order, mail order, etc.), you have to be wary of mobile processors. Some do not allow this type of transaction at all, while others allow them but consider the transactions high-risk. With high-risk transactions, there is a greater likelihood of having your funds held in reserve or your account frozen while your transactions are “investigated.” As a rule, I don’t recommend processing a high volume of card-not-present transactions via mobile processors because of this risk of having your funds withheld for up to three months.

    That said, I do think that Flint‘s invoicing feature provides a good solution for card-not-present transactions. With that, you can take orders over the phone and then send the invoice to be paid via email. PayPal Here might be a good solution too, since they do allow card-not-present transactions last I checked, but you’ll have an increased risk of having funds withheld on those transactions.

    Whoever you choose to try, make sure your processing limits are set to the level needed for your business (say, 10K per month or 2.5K per week – always overestimate a bit). Accurately communicating the size of your average ticket and your overall card volume will help prevent issues with your account.

    Good luck, and please come back to let us know how it’s going!

    Best,
    Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Gabrielle Roux

    Hi Tom,

    I am getting confused…

    on your email to Krissy July 7, 2015, you say:

    “I don’t recommend processing a high volume of card-not-present transactions via mobile processors because of this risk of having your funds withheld for up to three months” .

    I own a Fencing Academy and just signed up with Spark Pay. However, they are telling me that weather you swipe the customer’s card or key-in his card number, they will hold funds for 3 months!…so can you please clarify? Also I am currently using a Terminal from PNC Merchant Services, I would like to switch to a more affordable solution so Spark pay has attractive rates but I am not sure if my business can sustain the 3 months hold of SP……any advise/idea would be great! thanks s lot!!
    Gabrielle

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Alison

    THANK YOU sooo much. You are so clear in your explanations and it’s really appreciated. I think I will go with Square. I was just a bit concerned after reading your reviews and others; however, it does seem easy and, as you commented, my amounts won’t be huge – $100-600…not thousands…yet!

    Thanks again for your advice. This is a wonderful service you provide…I may be back.
    Alison

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Alison

    Hi Tom,
    I am new to this “cottage country” small business industry and I am looking for the best mobile processor possible for Canada (I live in Victoria, BC). It appears that FLINT is the best but not yet available for Canada; therefore, would you be able to suggest a mobile processor based on the criteria below:
    – no monthly fee (prefer pay as you go)
    – no huge amounts required before transferring funds (I participate in seasonal Christmas fairs and summer markets while the rest of the year am a school teacher, so I am not making the $25K/month amounts!!!)
    – will accept VISA & MC
    – will work with Samsung Galaxy

    I would really appreciate your advice as I have been reading all your reviews and feel a little overwhelmed with the choices for being such a novice merchant.
    Also, above you mentioned a “chargeback fee” – please will you explain what that is?

    Thank you again.
    Sincerely,
    Alison

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Alison,

    The mobile processing options for Canadian merchants are, unfortunately, fairly limited at the moment. Helcim provides great service, but for you they won’t be a good option because of their moderate monthly fee ($20). Intuit GoPayment does service Canadian accounts, but their billing practices and app functionality leave something to be desired.

    Although I have some concerns about the company, I actually think that Square might be the best choice for you. The main thing you have to be aware of is the possibility for funds being withheld if any of your transaction send up a flag for their computers, which can be somewhat unpredictable. Funds may be held for a few weeks to a few months in these cases. If your transactions will be relatively small, you should be fine. For the vast majority of merchants using Square, these problems never come up. But it’s something to be aware of.

    A chargeback occurs when a cardholder contacts his or her card provider to dispute a charge. When this happens, the contested money will be withdrawn from your account until the matter can be investigated, and you will be charged a “chargeback fee” usually between $15-30 depending on your processor. For a merchant in your position, I wouldn’t worry about this too much. (Here’s our article on chargebacks and chargeback prevention.)

    While some Canadian businesses have reported being able to use PayPal Here in Canada (which I considered preferable to Square), I haven’t been able to officially confirm this yet with PayPal.

    You won’t have to wait for funds to accumulate in order to initiate a payout with any of these providers. Your transactions will automatically go to your bank account within one or two business days, no matter the size.

    Hope this helps! Let us know how it goes.

    Good luck,
    Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Peter

    Excellent and detail info on the pay mobile. I am from Ontario Canada and would like to know if any of the products are available here.

    Thank you
    Peter

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Et

    How’s the security protection?

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Et,

    Spark Pay uses a card reader developed by VeriFone, one of the best and most trusted developers out there without a doubt. I have 100% confidence in this setup. If you want to know more, Spark Pay addresses this in their FAQ:

    Every Spark Pay card reader encrypts sensitive card data with VeriFone’s VeriShield Protect (VSP). VSP is an end-to-end encryption solution that encrypts cardholder data the instant it’s read by the card reader — ensuring that no unencrypted sensitive data is passed to a device, app, or a network.

    -Encrypted data is decrypted at PCI DSS approved data centers to enable merchant settlement. Sensitive card data is never saved on the card reader or in the app.
    -Spark Pay Payments mobile apps are all developed to meet PCI PA-DSS best practices.
    -Your card details are processed on a server behind PCI DSS approved firewalls.
    -We log and monitor all access to our network’s resources, and regularly test our network’s security.

    Thanks for reading,
    Tom

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

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