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Reviews and expert opinion Flagship Merchant Services

Alexandros Melidoniotis Alexandros Melidoniotis Finance Specialist

Flagship’s easy online application form is ideal for business owners who want to painlessly set up a merchant account and accept credit card payments as soon as possible. Its month-to-month contracts also mean you can try this merchant services provider practically risk free.

Flagship is only really held back by its lack of transparency – no one likes surprises on their statements.

Overview

Choose Flagship If You Don’t Want to Jump Through Hoops to Set up Payments

Flagship homepage
Flagship is a popular merchant account provider that serves thousands of US businesses

Though not without its flaws, Flagship Merchant Services is a popular merchant account provider with small-to-medium and larger businesses alike – and for good reason. It offers reliable brick-and-mortar, mobile, and online payment solutions to merchants of every kind.

Getting set up and ready to accept payments is particularly easy with Flagship. It also gives you plenty of convenient features and freebies to help you stay organized and promote your brand.

Flagship’s review scores have taken a hit in the past, mostly due to complaints about its frustratingly vague pricing structure. The month-to-month contract options certainly sound good (no one likes early termination fees), but Flagship doesn’t disclose its pricing model and fees upfront – the final cost is calculated based on the type and size of your business.

On the plus side, this means that you won’t be paying for services you don’t need, provided you take the time to negotiate with your sales representative.

Read on to find out if Flagship is the right merchant account provider for YOUR business.

4.5

Features

Easy Payment Solutions for All Kinds of Businesses

One of the main benefits Flagship offers is convenient month-to-month contracts with no early cancellation fees. This makes it a quick and risk-free way to begin receiving payments.

Flagship can set up your account in less than a day. It offers in-store, online, and mobile payment processing solutions, as well as merchant cash advances, gift cards, and digital loyalty programs. Every Flagship account also comes equipped with iAccess, an online business management portal you can use to track and manage your business’s activity.

Flagship processes payments from all major credit/debit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, as well as from digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.

Free Credit Card Terminal for Retail Merchants

Flagship retail page
Flagship’s contracts include a free credit card terminal

If you’re a retailer who signs a long-term contract with Flagship, your initial account setup includes a “free” credit card terminal. I put “free” in scare quotes because the terminal won’t be yours to keep – you’ll have to return it when your contract ends. Your monthly bill may also incur a small insurance and maintenance fee for as long as you use the equipment.

Flagship offers several Clover and Verifone POS systems and terminals, but other brands/models might also be available. It’s worth noting that most POS software providers (such as Clover) require a monthly software subscription to use their machines. Still, these devices are not cheap to purchase outright, so having them included for free is a welcome bonus.

Wireless Mobile Payments

Flagship mobile payments page
You can begin processing right away with the MobilePay app

You can take advantage of Flagship’s wireless swiper to take payments on the go. This lightweight gadget plugs into your phone’s standard headphone jack, and it accepts both EMV and traditional magnetic stripe cards.

There’s also an app for both iOS and Android devices that keeps track of cash and card transactions, voids, refunds, tips, and more. Although you don’t have to pay for the swiper upfront, you do have to pay a monthly fee to use MobilePay’s software.

E-commerce Transactions

Like most merchant services providers, Flagship offers a payment gateway that allows you to take credit card payments directly through your website. Provided by Authorize.Net, a subsidiary of Visa, Flagship’s online payment gateway is safe and convenient. It features:

  • AVS (Address Verification Service): A quick way to verify a transaction by checking the billing address tied to a customer’s credit card.
  • CVV2 (Card Verification Value): Verification of the 3 or 4-digit code displayed on the card, often used to validate mail or phone orders.
  • Customized restrictions: To circumvent suspicious activity, you can set limits on the number of consecutive charges and/or the total amount spent in one or more sessions.

You can also use Flagship’s API to integrate a shopping cart into your website without compromising the gateway’s security.

Same-Day Funding

It normally takes two days or more for your money to reach your bank account. If you need steady cash flow to keep your business afloat, you can expedite payouts with Flagship’s same-day funding program – for a price.

Flagship doesn’t share too many details about this program on its official website, but you can expect to be charged a monthly and additional per-transaction fee to use the service.

Gift Cards/Loyalty Program

Flagship can help you differentiate and raise awareness of your business with branded gift cards. These are re-loadable and can support multiple locations. And if you later decide that this is a feature you no longer need, you can opt out of the program at any time without having to pay a cancellation fee.

5.0

Ease of use

Onboarding Is Quick and Easy with Flagship

Aside from its convenient month-to-month contracts, Flagship doesn’t charge any additional set-up fees, and the application and onboarding processes are relatively straightforward. Within a few hours, you can have your Flagship account up and running and ready to receive payments.

Getting Started with Flagship

Flagship’s application process doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to complete. After selecting your average monthly processing volume and filling out some basic information (e.g., name, phone number, website, type of account), you’re good to go. A representative will likely contact you within the next few hours to complete your application and get you started.

Flagship application form
You can easily complete Flagship’s online application in just a few minutes

Unlike other merchant services providers, Flagship doesn’t ask too many questions, nor does it make you provide stacks of documentation. With one of the highest approval rates in the industry, it’s often the go-to choice for merchants who want to get payments rolling in as quickly as possible.

If you don’t want to jump through hoops to get started, you really can’t go wrong with Flagship.

Account Manager

When you first open an account with Flagship, the company will assign you a personal account manager. This representative will outline all services available to you and answer any questions you may have – just don’t expect them to disclose all related fees. Some customers have complained about miscommunication and unexpected charges, so make sure you go over the contract yourself before signing.

iAccess Business Management Portal

Every Flagship account comes with iAccess 3.0, a business reporting tool that can help you stay on top of all the critical elements that power your business. You can use it to get daily, weekly, or monthly sales summaries, generate statements, and more.

iAccess business management portal
Flagship’s version of iAccess lacks some features, but it still provides plenty of insightful data for your business

iAccess also includes a helpful insights tool that analyzes data ranging from customer behavior to online reviews and industry statistics. This allows you to quickly see how your business compares with the competition, highlighting which aspects of your business you stand to gain most from strengthening.

4.0

Pricing

Figuring Out Flagship’s Fees and Pricing Structure Is Like Solving a Puzzle

It’s pretty standard for merchant services providers to be cryptic about their pricing structure, and Flagship is no exception. While its services are generally reasonably priced, there’s zero information about specific fees and rates on its website.

Getting a custom quote is the only way to get a true feel for Flagship’s charges. Although not ideal, this does indicate that there’s quite a bit of room for negotiation – if you play your cards right, you might be able to bring the rate down.

Flagship generally offers new customers merchant accounts with tiered pricing. This means that all transactions are divided into three charging tiers. It usually ends up costing you more because the provider – in this case, Flagship – gets to choose what category different transactions fall under. Unsurprisingly, they tend to set tier fees that are higher than the interchange fees actually incurred by many of the transactions bundled into that tier.

Ideally, you’ll want to negotiate for a more affordable and transparent interchange-plus plan. On an interchange-plus plan, all interchange fees are passed directly to you, so you only need to pay your processor (in this case, Flagship) a fixed percentage over the total amount – no surprises!

As I’ve already mentioned, Flagship doesn’t divulge any pricing information on its website, but after contacting support, I was able to get a rough idea of common rates and charges:

  • Monthly fee: I was quoted a monthly fee of $7.95, but merchants in other businesses may have to pay up to $25.
  • Transaction fee: The tiered pricing model offered to me was 1.58% + 0.19¢ per transaction (in-person) and 1.98% + 0.21¢ (online payments), while the interchange-plus model was 3.58% + 0.19¢ (in-person) and 3.98% + 0.21¢ (online payments). The tiered-pricing model looks cheaper on paper, but many transactions won’t actually qualify for the lowest 1.58% rate. You’ll likely be paying a lot more (3%+) most of the time.
  • Monthly minimum: Many Flagship contracts include a cumulative transaction fee of at least $25 per month, which means that besides your monthly fee, you’ll be paying at least $25 on top of that. You can – and probably should – ask to have this minimum lowered if you have a small business and your transaction volume is low.
  • ACH fee: $5.00/month
  • Gateway fee: Payment gateways cost $7.95/month.
  • PCI compliance fee: Expect to pay a minimum of $99/year for compliance checks.
  • PCI non-compliance: A minimum of $20 is charged every month for as long as you remain non-compliant.

Even armed with this information, you should be aware that Flagship may charge additional fees. For example, if you want to return any equipment, Flagship will charge a 15% to 25% restocking fee to all items returned within the first month of purchase. It’s much easier to calculate your costs with Stax’s straightforward subscription-based model.  

5.0

Compliance & Security

Flagship FAQ section
Flagship’s FAQ section provides information about its security features

Flagship Ensures You’re Fully Compliant by Charging an Annual Fee

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) ensures that customer credit card information is accepted, processed, and stored in the safest way possible.

While filling out the PCI DSS self-assessment questionnaire once a year is your responsibility, Flagship will help keep your account compliant with PCI standards by performing regular security scans. It even incentivizes its merchants to achieve compliance as quickly as possible by charging a non-compliance fee.

PCI Compliance & More

Flagship has a PCI compliance section on its FAQ, but there’s no detailed guide available on the website. If you need help with your application or want to know more about how Flagship handles sensitive information, you’ll have to contact your account manager. Your account manager is your designated point of contact, and you can reach out to them with any questions you may have.

Flagship is also GDPR and CCPA compliant, covering the majority of EEA and California residents.

Additional Security Features

Keeping customer data secure should be your number one priority as a merchant. Flagship’s approved terminals provide end-to-end encryption, giving strong protection against fraud and misuse.

For e-commerce transactions, PCI DSS compliance is executed through Flagship’s payment gateway, adding another layer of protection against fraud. Flagship’s servers store sensitive customer data and secure payments through tokenization – an advanced security system that makes it impossible for hackers to decipher sensitive data.

If you’re an online merchant, Flagship’s payment gateway allows you to upgrade your security levels by adding AVS, CVV2, and specific restrictions on transactions.

4.0

Customer Support

Flagship contact page
Flagship only offers support via phone

Helpful and Informative but Not Always Transparent

You can contact Flagship Merchant Services via a toll-free number. If you’re an existing customer, you can also fill out a form and have Flagship call you instead.

Here’s the issue. Phone lines are great, but not everyone has the time to stay on hold for several minutes to reach a representative. Personally, I’d much rather communicate via live chat if I encounter an issue late in the afternoon.

The first time I called Flagship was outside business hours, at around 2:00 a.m. PDT. I was put on hold indefinitely, and I hung up after 15 minutes or so. It seems that Flagship’s lines aren’t available 24/7.

I called again the next day at around 2:00 p.m. PDT. This time I was connected to a representative almost instantly, and I took the opportunity to ask several questions about Flagship’s account managers, pricing structure, and security features.

I claimed to be the co-owner of a small, up-and-coming vegan-friendly bakery with an average of $12,000 in monthly sales. As expected, the first quote I received ($7.95 monthly fee, 1.58% + 0.19¢ per transaction) was based on a tiered-pricing model, which the representative assured me would be ideal for my business.

The representative was helpful in answering my other questions, explaining that I would receive 24/7 support via a dedicated account manager once my account was opened. They also assured me that Flagship takes security very seriously, operating only the safest POS and terminal solutions (e.g., Clover Flex, Clover Station).

When I asked about available interchange-plus models, I learned that Flagship would charge a significant markup on my transactions (3.58% + 0.19¢). Although friendly throughout, the representative wasn’t too keen to talk about the additional fees I’d encountered during my research (e.g. yearly PCI compliance fees, ACH fee, iAccess fees, etc.).

It turns out Flagship isn’t always transparent with its existing merchants either. Some have found canceling their contract quite challenging, while others have struggled to get answers about undisclosed fees on their statements.

Flagship’s website has a fairly detailed FAQ page, but there are no articles or video tutorials that merchants can turn to for help. Many other top competitors give customers a lot more guidance, so it’d be good to see Flagship expand the information available on its site.

Comparison

How does Flagship Merchant Services match up to the competition?

StaxCompare4.8Compare
Payment DepotCompare4.7Compare
Flagship Merchant ServicesCompare4.5Compare
Square PaymentsCompare4.2Compare

Flagship Merchant Services REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE

Flagship offers convenient month-to-month contracts with no cancellation fees and is a great way for merchants to start accepting credit card payments as soon as possible. In many ways, Flagship has streamlined the onboarding process – after filling out the online application form, you can expect a representative to get back to you within a few hours.

That said, Flagship doesn’t reveal too much up front about its monthly subscription cost, transaction fees, additional charges, and the like. This general lack of transparency could explain why some merchants have complained about Flagship’s poor communication.

If transparent fees and reliable customer support are important to you, Stax offers a clearer pricing structure and multiple support channels.

FAQ

Is Flagship Merchant Services legit?Yes, Flagship is a legitimate merchant account provider with thousands of active accounts. Flagship is mostly known for its easy application process and convenient month-to-month contracts.Is Flagship Merchant Services worth the money?Flagship is a great choice, especially if you’re looking to set up a merchant processing account quickly and painlessly. You can enjoy the best of Flagship Merchant Services for less if you’re willing to negotiate more favorable contract terms.Which merchant account provider is the best?This largely depends on your specific business needs, but we’ve found that Stax consistently outperforms other providers in quite a few categories, including pricing and support. For more options, check out our updated list of the best merchant account providers in 2022.What do merchant services include?Aside from credit card processing, other services often include payment gateways, online transaction processing, point-of-sale systems (POS), and terminal setup. Many providers offer additional services, such as gift cards and loyalty programs.

Alexandros Melidoniotis Alexandros Melidoniotis
Alex is a linguistics nerd who’s got nothing against the Oxford comma. He spends most of his time writing, looking up words, and playing video games. He also enjoys testing software, often sharing his thoughts and ideas here on Website Planet.

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Plus, get a FREE terminal for your business