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FrontStream Review | Expert & User Reviews
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UPDATE 8/14/2021: FrontStream was acquired by Marlin Equity Partners in May 2018. The company continues to operate under the name FrontStream in the non-profit sector, but its conventional merchant services division is now called FastTransact. However, they do appear to still process payments for the charities that work with them under the name Frontstream Payments.
A Focus on Nonprofits and Charities
Founded in 2007, FrontStream (also see FrontStream Payments here) is a merchant account provider that appears to be a reseller of merchant accounts provided by Chase Paymentech, Elavon, First Data (Fiserv), and TSYS. In the past two years, the company has radically shifted its focus away from traditional merchant services in order to provide an all-in-one payment fundraising platform for non-profits and corporations. This new emphasis appears to be accompanied by some new executive leadership at the company as well as a new location in Cambridge, Massachusetts. FrontStream also appears to have once operated under the name of Direct Technology Innovations (DTI).
FrontStream Payments Payment Processing
FrontStream as FrontStream Payments processes all types of electronic payments or charitable donations, including credit cards, debit cards, ACH payments, electronic checks, recurring billing, payroll deductions, stock transfers, and personal checks. They feature PCI Level-1 compliant and tokenized processing and distribution, the ArgoFire payment gateway, Level 2 and 3 processing, and a complete lineup of POS terminals and equipment from basic EMV card readers to Clover Station. FrontStream Payments supports a variety of connectivity options, contactless payments, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet. On their charities and donations side, the company offers a variety of fundraising creation and management tools.
FrontStream Location and Ownership
FrontStream’s corporate headquarters are at 11480 Commerce Park Drive, Suite 300, Reston, Virginia 20191. FrontStream Payments, Inc. is a registered ISO/MSP of Esquire Bank N.A., Jericho, NY; Elavon, Inc, GA; Citizen Bank N.A., Providence, RI; Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Concord, CA; and Peoples Trust Company, Vancouver, Canada. Chris Broderick is listed as the CEO of FrontStream Payments.
- Sales & Marketing: FrontStream appears to hire independent sales representatives but has not received any complaints about its sales practices.
- Costs & Contract: FrontStream offers separate pricing plans for its online fundraising services as well as traditional merchant account contracts.
- Complaints & Service: FrontStream has received fewer than 10 public complaints.
- BBB Rating: FrontStream has a “B+” rating with the BBB, with 10 complaints over the last 3 years.
FrontStream Customer Reviews
Here's What Their Clients Say
|Total Online Complaints||10+|
|Live Customer Support||Yes|
|Most Common Complaint||Internal Mismanagement|
Medium Complaint Total
As of this update, we are able to locate more than 10 FrontStream complaints on this and other consumer protection websites, most of which stop just short of accusing the company of being a scam or a ripoff. Frequently cited issues include difficulty canceling service, unavailable customer support, undisclosed rates and fees, frequent name changes by the company, and unauthorized withholding of funds. The bulk of the available complaints has been posted by current and former employees of the company who disapprove of the management, but there are enough merchant complaints to get a sense of the issues they might face. Both merchant and employee complaints have decreased since FrontStream’s pivot to fundraising-style payment processing, so this shift may have resulted in improved service for the company’s users. As a result, the company is on pace to increase its rating by our next update of this review.
FrontStream Lawsuits and Fines
We have not found any outstanding class-action lawsuits or FTC complaints filed against FrontStream. Dissatisfied merchants who wish to pursue a non-litigious course of action against the company should consider reporting it to the relevant supervisory organizations.
FrontStream Customer Service Options
FrontStream offers a ZenDesk interface for customer support on its website as well as a customer service chat option.
FrontStream Online Ratings
Here's How They Rate Online
|Product & Service Complaints||6|
|Billing & Collection Complaints||4|
|Advertising & Sales Complaints||0|
|Guarantee & Warranty Complaints||0|
Nearly 10 Complaints
FrontStream as FrontStream Payments, Inc. currently holds a “B+” rating with the BBB and is not accredited. The company’s profile is currently showing 10 complaints in the last 36 months. 6 of the complaints were due to a problem with a product or service, and 4 were billing or collections issues. Only 2 of these 10 complaints were resolved by the company to the satisfaction of the merchant. The remaining 8 were resolved to the dissatisfaction of the merchant or received no final response.
A “B” Rating
The available complaint details have led us to agree with the BBB’s “B” rating at this time.
FrontStream Fees, Rates & Costs
A Closer Look at The Contract
|Early Termination Fee||Variable|
|PCI Compliance Fee||Variable|
|Equipment Lease Terms||Variable|
FrontStream appears to offer separate pricing and contract terms for its fundraising tools and its merchant accounts. The company charges a fixed monthly fee for its cloud-based fundraising and donor management tools, but it also provides conventional merchant account contracts on its website. We will address both pricing structures in this review.
FrontStream offers a single primary product called Panorama that actually consists of four smaller services: FirstGiving, Artez, GiftWorks, and Bidding For Good. The company’s website does not list the cost of Panorama (which includes all four services), but it does provide pricing for some of the smaller services.
FirstGiving is a tool for creating online corporate fundraising campaigns. It comes with a $500 annual fee, a 5% peer-to-peer donation fee, a 2.5% credit card processing fee, a 1.75% general donation fee, and a 2.5% event registration fee.
GiftWorks is a cloud-based donor management tool that makes up the core of Panorama. Its pricing is based on “number of seats,” which appears to refer to the number of users who will be using the product to raise money. Its monthly fees are $149 (one user), $269 (three users), $379 (five users), and $599 (10 users). It also charges a one-time setup fee of $75 per user.
Artez is a tool designed to optimize communication with fundraisers and donors, while Bidding for Good is an auction management tool. The company does not disclose its pricing for these services. In addition, FrontStream also offers three other workplace management tools called Truist, Approve For Good, and ArgoFire, but it does not disclose its pricing for these services either.
FrontStream also provides its merchant account contracts through Cynergy Data, First Data, and TSYS. These contracts each have different terms and will be addressed individually.
FrontStream’s Cynergy Data contract is a three-year agreement with an early termination fee of $495. FrontStream’s First Data (Fiserv) contract is a three-year contract with an early termination fee ranging from $295 to $995 and a built-in equipment lease through First Data Global Leasing. FrontStream’s TSYS contract is a three-year agreement with automatic renewal for two-year terms and an unspecified early termination fee.
At this time, it is unclear whether FrontStream combines its cloud-based pricing with its conventional merchant account contracts, or whether only one set of contract terms will apply. Merchants should be aware of both sets of fees and inquire as to what exact contracts will govern their relationship with the company.
FrontStream’s conventional contract terms are more expensive and restrictive than industry averages, and its cloud-based service pricing has the potential to be much higher than its competitors. On the other hand, we are unable to locate any FrontStream complaints at this time that mention issues with the company’s pricing and fees, so we will assume for the time being that most of its users are satisfied with the rates they pay. If you have any knowledge of the pricing structure that most FrontStream users receive, please share it in the comment section below this review.
FrontStream Employee Reviews & Sales Tacitcs
Should You Work For Them?
|Employs Independent Resellers||Yes|
|Advertises Deceptive Rates||No|
|Discloses All Important Terms||No|
Outside Sales Team
FrontStream appears to partner with ISOs and independent sales agents to market its services. In general, this practice is often tied to high complaint volumes, as it is difficult for any company to monitor the conduct of independent sales entities. In this case, we are unable to locate any complaints by merchants that accuse the company of unethical sales tactics, but we have found numerous negative FrontStream reviews posted online by former and current employees. This does not compare favorably to our list of best credit card processors.
Many of these employees express dissatisfaction with the hiring decisions made by management and the lack of support for lower-level workers in the company. There are also multiple reviews accusing FrontStream management of posting fake positive reviews. In our opinion, several of the positive reviews we found did seem to describe a sudden and improbable turnaround in the company’s policies, and these reviews stood in stark contrast to the larger overall pattern of dissatisfaction expressed by other employees. We are therefore inclined to believe that the negative takes on the company’s corporate environment are accurate. Since an unhappy workforce can sometimes translate to negative experiences for merchants, we have given FrontStream an average grade of “B” in this category.
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