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 and online advertising boasts that it has been a top-rated credit card processor on TopTenReviews.com for seven consecutive years, but it is unclear at this time how a business qualifies for that honor.
Flagship’s Acquiring Bank is Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. of Walnut Creek, California. Sean McEvoy is the company’s director of operations, while its director of sales is Mark D’Ambrosio.
Flagship Products and Services:
- Debit and credit card processing
- Mobile processing (via iPayment MobilePay)
- Online payment gateway (via Authorize.net)
- QuickBooks integration
- Recurring billing
- EMV and NFC acceptance
- Merchant cash advance
|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, which seem to vary in name and amount. 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 70 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. One complaint, found here, outlines a typical negative experience:
When we signed uo with this nightmare of a company, they advertised that they were BBB accredited and A rated. Once we started having issues with them I checked BBB and they were not even accredited! […] They charged my account 7 times more than what they said they would charge me per month and when I called they said that they can only credit my account if I do not cancle my 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 is reporting that Flagship is not accredited and is assigning the company a grade of “C.” The company has 133 BBB complaints filed in the last 36 months and 44 negative informal reviews. Of the 133 complaints, 78 are regarding billing and collection disputes, 26 with service problems, and 27 with advertising and sales issues. Flagship has resolved 118 of the complaints to the merchant’s satisfaction. It failed to resolve one complaint entirely, and the BBB reports that Flagship made a “good faith effort” with the remaining 14 despite the merchant reporting dissatisfaction with the response.
The BBB has also posted a notice containing the following information:
According to BBB files this business has a pattern of complaint concerning non disclosure of “required” charges. Specifically for PCI*.Consumers state that the business charges for PCI compliance or Noncompliance but that was not disclosed in the original agreement made.Consumers state that the business claims notification was sent however consumers claim this is an additional charge not disclosed to them. Consumers indicate that they want refund or cancellation of service. BBB sent a written notice on 7/28/14 and 9/8/14 to identifying the potential pattern of complaint with a request for a business response. As of 10/14/14 the business did not respond to BBB’s request. *The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a proprietary information security standard for organizations that handle cardholder information for the major debit credit prepaid, e-purse ATM, and POS cards
Given the company’s increase in complaints and negative reviews since our last update, we have adjusted the BBB’s rating to a “D.”
Flagship has seen its grade drop since our last review, due mostly to widespread reports of deceptive sales practices and excessive billing. However, the company does offer 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 1/8/15.
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