Whoever heard of a credit card processor that doesn't use a swiper or a terminal? Try Flint's service on for size if you're a small business owner who sells online or at shows to U.S. customers within the U.S.
Flint is an innovative credit and debit card processor that avoids the "free" card reader by offering a means to "swipe" the customer's card with your Apple or Android mobile device's camera feature. Offered only to U.S. merchants and customers, Flint combines an array of payment and customer marketing tools in a single app that you download into your smartphone.
We loved Flint's ease of use and their straight-forward business model that uses no fees whatsoever. With that said, I feel Flint has some serious limitations for anyone but the small entrepreneur or business owner who doesn't have a brick-and mortar operation. In the end, Flint's product and service are perfect for small home-based business owners who conduct consistent sales with a consistently-priced product or service.
Below is a detailed review of Flint Merchant Services offering. The review is broken down into the following categories.
Depending upon the type of business you own, some of the following features may or may not be important to you.
Greg Goldfarb founded Flint in 2011, and Flint's headquarters is located in Redwood City, California. Backed by some top Silicon Valley investors, including Verizon Ventures, this product seems to still be in the crawling stages; but it's about to get up and walk with a few alterations that the company made this past year. Early in 2014, for instance, Flint didn't offer an online store option. Now, users can sell items on a website or through an email with a "Buy Now" button that sends customers to Flint's easy-to-use payout process.
|Microsoft Dynamics GP||xxx|
|Windows / Blackberry||No|
|iPhone / iPad||Yes|
|Alternative Transaction Types:|
|Snail Mail Orders||Yes|
|American Express (AMEX)||No|
|Add Tips to Bills||Yes|
|eCommerce / Shopping Cart||Yes|
|EMV Chip Cards||Yes|
|Loyalty / Gift Cards||No|
|eChecks / Electronic Checks||No|
|Welfare Benefits (EBT/SNAP/TANF)||No|
|Security / Fraud Prevention:|
|AVS Fraud Protection||No|
|PCI DSS Secure Transactions||Yes|
|HIPAA Compliance (Healthcare)||No|
|Trust Account Debiting (Legal)||No|
|Fleet Cards (Petroleum)||No|
|Online Menu Orders (Restaurants)||No|
Almost every merchant account services company uses either Interchange Plus or Tiered Pricing (to learn the differences read here). Where companies allow us to disclose pricing information, we show the deals that our secret shoppers were able to achieve. When companies offer both Interchange Plus and Tiered Pricing, we try to get a quote on both options.
Our Experience: We didn't call Flint about their pricing or solutions, because their pricing is simple and laid out on their website. Flint, like Square, doesn't subscribe to Interchange Plus or Tiered Pricing. Flint's flat fees are on the high side, but you won't need to pay other fees like FANF or gateway charges:
Flat Fee Pricing
The transaction fees are higher than normal, especially with credit cards (comparable to Square), but there are few hidden costs involved.
I felt that Flint's options were very narrow, considering all the different types of transactions that can be handled through other services such as PayPal. But, if you operate a small business and your sales are consistently priced, Flint might prove to be the perfect solution for your operation. Flint maintains enough options to keep the small business person satisfied, and it appears that they're adding more investments and rolling out new features soon.
Flint's terms of service are easy to understand and accessible to anyone, even if you're not registered. Here's a rundown:
|Fine Print Fees:|
|Setup / Application Fee||None|
|PCI Compliance Fee||None|
|PCI Inaction Fee||None|
|Online Reporting Fee||None|
|Monthly Minimum Volume Fee||None|
|Accept International Pymt Fee||None|
|Voice Authorization Fee||None|
|Monthly Min. Process Fee||None|
|Daily Batch Fee||None|
|ACH / Direct Deposit Fee||None|
|ACH Charge Fee||None|
|ACH Return Fee||None|
|Online Reporting through Flint's online dashboard|
|Online (your website) or Email Orders|
|Phone and Email Support|
Flint's interest rates cover a lot of territory, especially the risk this company takes in accepting any user who can answer the personal questions in the registration process and who has a bank account. You, as a merchant who uses this service, might find other costs involved depending on the type of business you own and how you conduct your transactions.
Flint makes it easy to take debit cards, and the transaction fee is even lower than taking credit cards. Speaking of credit cards - although VISA and MasterCard cover about 90% of all transactions - this lack of ability to accept other major credit cards may be the deal changer for you. Additionally, there are no ACH fees, because this app isn't set up to take check payments.
Now, let's talk about chargeback fees...Flint doesn't charge anything on the front end for chargebacks, but the details become a little more complicated after that. If you have a chargeback, you must agree to pay all costs and expenses, including attorney fees if things get interesting and you create a dispute by refusing to pay any unpaid balances created by chargebacks. Before you use the Flint software, you must provide your bank account information. This is where Flint has access to pull funds from you if you make any refusals to pay accrued debts. Additionally, Flint retains the right to put a hold on your account until a chargeback is resolved.
While the hold seems unreasonable, Flint can stop any further chargebacks (especially fraudulent ones) until the initial chargeback is resolved. If your business is notorious for an inordinate number of chargebacks, you might look elsewhere. Make sure you keep an eye on your Flint account, especially if you rack up plenty of sales within a month's time.
If you do rack up some sales, be happy - but also be aware that there is a limit to how much money Flint will pay out to you within a given time frame. If you process more than $1,000 during any trailing seven day period, Flint may defer depositing the amount in excess of $1,000 for 30 days. You can fill out an application to raise that limit, but that application process could take longer than three days to take effect.
Finally, Flint is designed as a card present app, however you do have the option of manually keying in the card number. The option to manually key in the card number would allow for payments to be processed without the card holder being present, so phone orders are applicable. According to Flint, the fees are exactly the same for scanned and manually keyed transactions.
While your transactions usually take place electronically, the actual device that you use to swipe a customer's card is referred to as "the equipment." This equipment includes hardware and, often, software or apps for that hardware to function properly.
What? No free card reader? That's right - we were impressed with Flint's setup, which doesn't include the cost (to Flint, and ultimately to the merchant) of a swiper, a terminal, or any other hardware items. Read on to learn more about what Flint does have to offer...
When I say "immediately," I mean after you register on the website to open an account. When you register, you need to inform Flint about the type of business you operate and what you intend to sell. Flint has a list of approved and denied services and products in their user agreement, which anyone can read before signing up. You also need to answer a series of questions that only you would know the answer to when you fill out the registration form. We signed up to use the app and downloaded that app all within five minutes.
You can create a new account on your mobile device, too, after you download the Flint software. So, if you forget your Square Reader on the way to a trade show, you now have a seemingly viable option to replace that Square...
...in reality, I had a glitch in the works the first time I signed up for Flint. I learned that other folks also had this problem, so I waited a few days and tried to sign up again. I was successful the second time, and I gained access to the site immediately. As per the other complaints we discovered online (just a few), my application may have been denied because I answered one of the personal questions incorrectly.
While the ideal dream would be to operate Flint immediately upon download, I had to also fill in a profile with business details, bank account information, and other tweaks to assure myself that this software would work. After all was said and done, I tested one of my own credit cards. I had a little difficulty getting used to the scanning process, but otherwise all went well.
In the end, I would advise you, the small business owner, to download and practice using the software before using your mobile device for sales. And, I think I'd feel more comfortable carrying a backup, too (another card reader, which is easy to lose!). Fortunately, Flint offers invoicing online through their site, so you can always use this service as well.
Flint Merchant Services can handle payments from and for merchants in the United States.
I generally don't like long-term contracts or termination fees in merchant services agreements, because the ability to cancel keeps the credit card processor on its best behavior, including the willingness to make you happy if there's a dispute. Plus, this ability to cancel gives you the ability to move on if you find a better deal.
Flint offers a very flexible termination offer...it is month-to-month and you can terminate the account at any time as long as you don't have any pending charges. If you are disputing a chargeback, you cannot close your account. But, Flint may close it for you. Flint has the option to close your account at any time without notice and for no reason. Granted, your actions may trigger this termination, but be aware that Flint likes communication. Use that ability to communicate to your advantage.
If, for instance, you decide that you're going to use Flint as your merchant processor for a new item in your inventory, but you don't know how the public might receive your initial sales. If that item takes off like a rocket and you make over $1,000 in sales in a seven-day consecutive period, you'll have to be comfortable with Flint holding some of that money for possible chargebacks or refunds.
My advice is to contact Flint before you roll out that item and work out a deal where your initial sales are not deemed suspicious. Flint notes more than once in their help articles and in terms of service that you alone are responsible for your account and that they don't mind a call from you. Do it. Make that call before your sales lottery turns into a sales loss.
By the way, if Flint owes you money, I'd advise you to keep that account open rather than close it in a momentary fit of rage. Otherwise, Flint may determine that you don't want your funds. Read that fine print!
The merchant account services industry is multi-layered. Understanding how those layers fit together can be confusing (Read More in this Article). A good thing to know, however, is whether or not your company is a direct processor (good if yes) or, if not, then to know who they process with and whether or not that processor is reliable. The second thing to know is whether or not the service or sales staffs are in-house or outsourced. In-house staffs are preferable for you, as these staff members may have more access to sources that can resolve your issues.
Processor: Flint bills itself as a mobile payment service for small businesses and a secure Payment Service Provider. Flint is a uses 5/3 as its acquiring bank, and merchant deposits are made via 5/3 into merchant bank accounts within two days if all goes well. According to Flint, they will pay out charges you make made prior to entering bank account details via ACH transfer. You must provide Flint with bank account information to be paid, as with any other payment processor.
Account Sales: Flint doesn't carry hardware, and they also don't support a sales team. Instead, they maintain a marketing department and they're heavy on affiliate and reseller programs. Considering Flint has few complaints against their product and services, users might become evangelists. Since Flint is young, this mode of operation probably works well for them at this point.
Account Service: We've read very few negative comments about Flint (see below), and have heard tons of praise. Considering that Flint is a credit card processing company, we're suspicious. So, we decided to try out the service department ourselves.
As part of our review process, we try to test merchant account service companies' claims by placing test calls and working through the customer service process. We made the following calls at the number listed under "support" when logged into an account I developed at Flint to "test drive" this product:
1/2/2015; TIME: 12:48 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
When we placed the first call, we received a voice mail that didn't give us enough time to press "1" to leave a message. We called back immediately, and received a message, "Thank you for calling Flint..." then silence.
1/22015; TIME: 1:15 pm EST
Call to Customer Support
I tried calling again, because I really wanted to resolve the issue about not receiving an email from Flint when opening my account. This time Ashley answered, and I learned that I had input my email wrong with the first attempt. Thus, I had two accounts, and Ashley informed me that this issue would cause a problem down the road when it came to payments. Ashley was very friendly and personable and she was willing to help eliminate one account so I could go forward with processing my information.
As a small business owner, you might want to call Flint with your concerns before you begin doing business with them. My gut feeling is that they're spot on when they say not to hesitate in establishing a relationship with them on the front end. We'll see how that process works out, and I'll report back if I experience any glitches.
Flint is not a mega-company, and their staff is small and in-house. Flint's support is only available Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, so if you're the impatient sort, you might need a company with 24/7 service.
We scoured the web to find past and current customer complaints about this processor. Then, we investigated those complaints that seemed legit, and provide our verdict on how well the processor handled the issues. For Flint, since it[' a fairly young company (in my opinion), there were few complaints.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, I had trouble opening an account and we learned that a handful of other people experienced the same issue. For the most part, that problem is resolved by waiting a few days and trying again to answer the personal questions correctly, or by calling customer support to see how you might have screwed up the application. We did see two complaints that stated that the merchants were unable to open an account because they consistently answered the questions incorrectly.
From what we understand, Flint, like all companies that use this type of identity verification security feature, utilizes a third-party identification service. Flint, therefore, doesn't have the power to override or reset the authentication process when something goes awry. My suggestion is to take your time and answer the questions correctly (about past addresses, etc.). Also, be sure you input all your information correctly the first time, because Flint's system is not forgiving.
We saw a handful of these complaints related to poor customer service.
Since the praise for Flint's customer service is 100 times the number of complaints, we're opting for the perspective that those complaints must be something special.
COMMON CUSTOMER COMPLIMENTS
We found quite a few customer compliments, and we're sharing some of these kudos here:
This is the most common praise we saw for Flint. Everyone who spoke about customer service, even with their limited hours, said that the individuals who answered the phone were knowledgeable, nice, and willing to go the extra mile.
After our experience with customer service, we'd agree. It sounds as though this company treats their customer service reps well, and that the folks who answer the phone know what they're talking about. Our rep knew exactly what to do to remedy our situation.
The customers who were praising Flintss services also said that the tool was very easy to use and that the service was straightforward.
We haven't experienced use yet, and we didn't hear anything from merchants about the new online "storefronts" where merchants can send customers to complete a sale. Still, we have to take the small number of complaints with a grain of salt when it comes to being overwhelmed with positive feedback.
|PCI Compliance Fee||$0.00|
|Online Reporting Fee||$0.00|
Questions About This Processor?
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About the Reviews: These reviews, and for that matter any reviews, are inherently subjective, and should be regarded as our opinion, not as a statement of fact. Selecting a merchant services provider is an important decision, and we urge you to use no single source of information as the basis of that decision.
About the Pricing: This pricing is an estimate based on limited available information. In some cases, the Processors' pricing information was provided directly by the company, in others, we obtained it from public information, through calls to the company, or through past or current clients of the company. Where, despite these efforts, we were unable to obtain any information about certain fees, we used estimates based on similar providers in the industry. While we're working, in some cases, with the company directly to get more accurate pricing, even in those circumstances, we can't guarantee the pricing's accuracy. Complicating all of this, is that for some companies individual salespeople are given authority to modify terms on a deal by deal basis. In any case, if you know of an error, please let us know and we'll fix it.
About the Calculations: With respect to your estimated savings, this is based on a lot of factors and some hard math. The reason we do it, along with the "Actual Gross Rate" calculation is that every Processor prices their product differently (e.g. interchange v. 3 tier v. 4 tier v. flat v. membership, etc.) and some make it intentionally complicated or opaque. Trying to convert their pricing structure to a consistent "Overall Cost of Processing" is the only way you, the merchant, can do an apples to apples pricing comparison and know whether an offer is actually a good deal. Our system isn't perfect but we're trying.
Conclusion: In sum, these rankings, ratings, and scores are inherently subjective, and should be regarded as our opinion and not as a legal statement of fact. Moreover, use these prices and estimates at your own risk, and make sure to verify the pricing you see here in any formal contract you receive. Finally, if you do find something wrong in our pricing, terms, etc., tell us and we'll try to fix it.
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