Flagship Merchant Services
Flagship Merchant Services Overview
Flagship Merchant Services (cardservicesales.com & flagshipmerchantservices.com) is a large merchant account sales organization based out of Charlestown, Massachusetts. The company was founded in 2001 and looks to have grown rapidly in the last 10 years. Flagship is a reseller of processing services primarily provided by First Data and iPayment but appears to handle the customer service of its accounts in-house. Flagship’s website boasts that it has been the top-rated credit card processor on TopTenReviews.com for seven consecutive years.
Aside from providing credit card processing services and merchant accounts, Flagship also supplies business cash advances, electronic check services, and gift card programs.
Flagship’s Acquiring Bank is Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. of Walnut Creek, CA.
|Key Points – Sales & Marketing|
|Uses independent resellers?||No|
|Promotes deceptive rate quotes?||Yes|
|Discloses all important terms?||No|
This reviewer located one use of deceptive marketing by Flagship in which the company advertises on its homepage and in Google Adsense ads that “rates start at 0.38% plus $0.19 per transaction.” This rate quote is misleading because it only applies to a particular transaction type, and the majority of a merchant’s transactions will run at much higher rates. Flagship fails to mention that the merchant will experience other rates and fees in addition to the unrealistically low rate quote. As you can imagine, these types of quotes can lead to confusion.
Flagship appears to primarily use inside sales staff to market its services, instead of using outside independent sales agents. Inside sales personnel are the preferred marketing strategy for this reviewer because the sales tactics of the agents can be better controlled. This is of course assuming that the company doesn’t encourage deceptive sales practices, which may be an issue with Flagship due to numerous complaints indicating that agents failed to fully disclose important fees and contract terms (covered in more detail below).
|Key Points – Costs & Contract Terms|
|PCI compliance fee:||$99 per year|
Rates and fees of Flagship merchant accounts may vary for a variety of reasons including a merchant’s business type, processing volume, and the agent setting up the account. The company offers month-to-month contracts with no cancellation fees but charges an annual PCI Compliance fee of around $99 in addition to several other monthly fees. Merchants are encouraged to carefully read and understand Flagship’s merchant account agreement prior to signing, as many of the complaints about the company relate to its pricing, which appears to vary from merchant to merchant. Be sure to read “Fee Sweep” to understand merchant account fees and how to negotiate them in your favor.
|Key Points – Complaints & Service|
|Live customer support?||Yes|
|Most common complaint:||Hidden fees|
For a provider of Flagship’s size and time in business, there are a moderate number of Flagship Merchant Services negative reviews filed in the usual forums, as well as over 60 in our comment section below. Many of the complaints follow a common theme, which is the reason Flagship is receiving a low rating in this section. Of the reports, numerous merchants complain of receiving higher than quoted fees after signing up, sudden increases in fees without notification, hidden/undisclosed fees, and difficulty cancelling service.
These types of complaints usually indicate systemic problems in the sales practices in which agents often fail to disclose fees and instead rely on the merchant to find them within the contract. It can also be an indication of problems with the billing system. Either way, Flagship can improve its rating in this section by eliminating future complaints of this nature.
|Key Points – BBB Report|
As of this update, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is reporting that Flagship is not accredited and is assigning the company a grade of “C+.” The company has 112 BBB complaints filed in the last 36 months and 32 negative reviews. Of the 112 complaints, 67 are regarding billing and collection disputes, 25 with service problems, and 19 with advertising and sales issues. Flagship has resolved 98 of the complaints to the merchant’s satisfaction and the BBB reports that Flagship made a “good faith effort” with the remaining 14 despite the merchant reporting dissatisfaction with the response. Given the company’s increase in complaints and negative reviews since our last update, we have adjusted the BBB’s rating to a “C-.”
Flagship has seen its grade drop since our last review, due mostly to widespread reports of deceptive sales practices and excessive billing. The company offers month-to-month agreements, which makes it attractive for many businesses. Flagship can improve its rating in this review by eliminating future merchant complaints about billing, hidden fees, and difficulties cancelling service.
This review was originally published on 7/20/10 and was last updated on 7/30/14.
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