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Review of Merchant Services

1600 Capital One Drive, McLean, VA 22102

DISCLOSURE: Ads, Affiliates and Conflicts Merchant Negotiators accepts advertising via the Google Adsense platform, directly from advertisers, and has common parent ownership interests with other payments related companies leading to potential conflicts of interest. Read our Affiliate / Conflicts / Advertising Disclosure for a more detailed disclosure.


Owned by Capital One and using a Verifone gateway, Spark Pay offers one more way a merchant can take sales via a mobile app and card reader. Low-risk merchants making more than $1,300 per month in sales are the best fit for this service.

You'd think that a company as large as Capital One would make more noise about their Spark Pay service, but that's not the case. Capital One took over this service from Verifone ("Sail"), rebranded the product, and put it back out on the market in 2013. Spark Pay supplies merchants with a swiper and accompanying app, and that's it. Athough we initially believed that this service was aggregated, Capital One states that it is a full-blown merchant account.

With that said, Spark Pay acts more like an aggregator, including the prices levels. Small merchants really don't see an advantage of using this service over an aggregator like Square or PayPal. Additionally, the major source of complaints center around Spark Pay's quick reaction to high-risk businesses and chargebacks with fund withholding without notice.

The app and card reader are solid, but the service is limited to the U.S. at present. Spark Pay seems to have plans for expansion in the near future, however. If you manage a low-risk business, Spark Pay may be worth a look...

Detailed Review

Below is a detailed review of 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 be very important to you, while others may not matter.

Spark Pay is limited to a number of capabilities, and far less useful than Square. Square, at least, offers a variety of options when using their services, including the ability to conduct international sales.

Software Compatibility:
Intuit Quickbooks Possible
Sage 50 No
Microsoft Dynamics GP No
Hardware Compatibility:
Windows / Blackberry No
iPhone / iPad Yes
Android Yes
Alternative Transaction Types:
Phone Orders Yes
Internet Orders Yes
Wireless Orders Yes
Mobile Orders Yes
Snail Mail Orders Yes
American Express (AMEX) Yes
Add Tips to Bills Yes
eCommerce / Shopping Cart No
International Sales No
Recurring Payments Possible
EMV Chip Cards Yes
Contactless Cards Yes
Loyalty / Gift Cards Possible
eChecks / Electronic Checks No
Welfare Benefits (EBT/SNAP/TANF) Possible
Security / Fraud Prevention:
AVS Fraud Protection No
PCI DSS Secure Transactions Yes
Industry Specific:
HIPAA Compliance (Healthcare) No
Trust Account Debiting (Legal) No
Fleet Cards (Petroleum) No
Online Menu Orders (Restaurants) Possible
Countries Served:
U.S. Yes
Other Countries No
International No

We're a little confused about the tip option, as the eCommerce online order possibility seems impossible. We're guessing that the swiper can be used face-to-face with table sales in this case.

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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.

Spark Pay offers two payment plans based upon sales volume. Spark Pay suggests that $1,300 is the switch point, stating that merchants can save considerable money by using the "Go Plan" for under $1,300 in sales and the "Pro Plan" for sales over $1,300 per month:

Go Plan

  • 2.7% per transaction for VISA, MasterCard, and Discover
  • >
  • 2.95% per transaction for American Express
  • >
  • 3.7% per keyed or manual transaction
  • No monthly fee

Pro Plan

  • 1.95% per transaction for VISA, MasterCard, and Discover
  • 2.95% per transaction for American Express
  • 2.95% per keyed or manual transaction
  • $9.95 per monthly fee

Spark Pay doesn't offer non-qualified card numbers (meaning gift cards, reward cards, etc.). Basically, it appears that this plan is better for those merchants who conduct more than $1,300 in sales, despite the monthly fee.

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Contract Fine Print

While some of the prices above may seem attractive, we're concerned that Spark Pay may whack the merchant with hidden charges. Here's what we discovered:

Fine Print Fees:
Termination Fee None
Setup / Application Fee None
PCI Compliance Fee None
PCI Inaction Fee None
Gateway Fee None
1099-K Fee None
Statement 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
FANF Fee None
Chargeback Fees $15


Initial Consultation

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that there are no hidden fees or charges at present. What Spark Pay doesn't mention is that they regard some businesses as high risk that normally are not listed with high-risk companies. For instance, they consider furniture and appliance stores as high risk. Also, the company provides a long list of prohibited businesses in their "legal" section on their website. Most of those prohibited business types are typical, such as illegal activities or goods, telemarketing, and adult entertainment.

Merchants need to scour this list to make sure their businesses comply, because the largest complaint about this company centers on reserve withholding for chargebacks. The legal terms on the Spark Pay website aren't very clear about the first month's service to merchants: Be sure to keep all sales documentation, including a detailed and dated invoice, any contract copies, and additional information about the cardholder...but they don't state the information that the merchant needs to collect. That's the kicker with this service -- the first month with Spark Pay is, basically, a review about your business and or services. If Spark Pay doesn't like what you're doing, they can withhold funds or terminate you without notice. While this is a common practice with aggregating services like PayPal or Square, Spark Pay states up front that the use of their service consistutes a merchant account.

A final note on usage: Spark Pay states that they have the right to "round up" all payments to the nearest $0.01. That "rounding up" concept is rare enough to mention here.

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Capital One via Spark Pay offers a swiper to use with mobile devices.

While your transactions will take place via your merchant electronically, the actual device that you use to swipe a customer's card into is referred to as "the equipment." This equipment includes hardware and, often, software or apps for that hardware to function properly.

Spark Pay is all about the mobile solution and its app:


    • Swiper: Spark Pay works on iOS and Android. The company posts a list of compatible devices on its website. Spark Pay warns on that page that updates on your mobile phone may affect how Spark Pay works. The company will replace a card reader if you lose it, and if you change bank account information, you'll also need a new reader. The mobile swiper currenly is compatible with the Star TSP65011 BTi printer (Bluetooth) and the Star TSP650 printer (LAN). The Star USB version of that printer is not compatible with the swiper. The first three readers are free, and following orders are $13 per reader.


    • The app that comes with the card reader offers compatibility with the Spark Pay dashboard, where users can view reports, send email receipts, and manage inventory and devices. That inventory management is accomplished with the application, "StitchLabs," which is an additional cost. To begin using Spark Pay, download the Spark Pay software from iTunes, the Apple Store, or from Google Play. Once you download the software, you can open an account and even accept credit cards before your device arrives. Keyed-in, or manual, transaction rates apply to accepting cards without the reader. spark Pay says that it does have the ability to perform a credit check. You also can use the software to choose a payment plan for your business by inputting information about your business.

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Countries Served

Spark Pay currently operates only within the U.S. Spark Pay states they plan to roll out service to American territories in 2015.

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Contract Length / Termination

We generally don't like to see long-term contracts or termination fees in merchant services agreements, because the ability to cancel a contract keeps the credit card processor on its best behavior (and more likely to try to make you happy if there's a dispute). The ability for the merchant to cancel gives you, that merchant, the ability to choose a better deal that might come along down the road before your current contract expires.

Spark Pay offers a month-to-month contract with no early termination fees. Pay attention to the termination guidelines, especially with monthly payments. Even if you're not using Spark Pay, they may continue to deduct the monthly fees from your "Pro" account.

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About the Company

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.


We're not sure which company processes the accounts, but Capital One owns this service, so we'll presume that Capital One processes the accounts. The gateway is VeriFone's PayWare Connect Gateway.

Account Sales:

Spark Pay has chosen to be very quiet about its initial offering and subsequent sales. No reseller opportunities exist as far as we can see.

Account Service:

Spark Pay offers phone support to existing customers from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm EST from Monday through Friday, plus weekend support from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Email support offers a one-day turnaround. When we went searching for complaints about Spark Pay, very few of those complaints pointed to lousy customer service. The site contains a fairly comprehensive FAQ regarding the most asked questions about this service.

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Customer Service

As part of our review process, we try to test out the claims made by the Merchant Account Services provider by placing a few test calls, and working through the customer service process.


5/12/2015; TIME: 11:58 am EST


Call to Customer Support

Our Experience:

When I called in to Spark Pay, I had three options to choose -- one was existing customer, another suggested I hang up and look again at the FAQ page, and the third suggested I stay on the line to talk to a Capital One representative. Beth answered, and she was most helpful with my questions, although when it came to answering my question about antiques or vintage as "high risk," she couldn't answer that question. I asked, since that category wasn't listed, and antiques can be listed as high risk for other processors. She stated I would just need to apply and then see if I was accepted or turned down. Beth did clarify that the information a merchant needs for documentation on a customer included name, zip code, credit card number, expiration date, CVC code. This information is especially important for a manual (no card present) transaction.

Our Take: I wasn't dissatisfied with the customer support responses, but felt like I was left hanging with no answer to my question other than to apply for an account.

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Common Customer Complaints / Our Verdicts

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.

Withholding Funds:
Customer Complaint:

Funds withheld on chargebacks and with large transactions.

Our Verdict:

This company is becoming more notorious for its reserve fund withholding. We can't emphasize enough that Spark Pay uses that first month's service as a way to scrutinize you, the merchant, as a user. If you have bad credit, chargebacks, or other red lights that show up on their radar, they can and will either begin withholding funds or terminate your account altogether. Withholding funds, especially large amounts, can prove disastrous for any business, but especially for small businesses. Note that some of the complaints stated that Spark Pay withheld funds for longer than the stated 180-day period.

Although Spark Pay appears to be transparent about their pricing and services, they seem to arbitrarily alter their guidelines when they see fit. This problem, along with lack of international sales and limited sales potential with a swiper only, also limits the use among merchants.

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Who Should / Shouldn't Use this Processor


  • Low-Risk Merchants making more than $1,300/month in sales: Don't think about using this service if you have a business with high chargebacks or that is listed on Spark Pay's list of high-risk business types or prohibited business types. Otherwise, give them a shot if you think you like the service and prices. The pricing seems more to your advantage if you can go with the Pro account.


  • International Businesses: Spark Pay is not adequate for international business. First, they conduct business only within the U.S. with U.S. merchants and customers. Secondly, that app alone isn't going to cut it for international sales.
  • Small Businesses: Frankly, even though Spark Pay's customer service seems stellar, we think you can find better terms with these merchant account services.
  • High-Risk Businesses: Don't go near Spark Pay. Instead, take a look at this list of high-risk merchant account services.

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For More Information About This Processor or To Sign Up Merchant Services
Customer Service
Customer Reviews
1.95% - 3.7%
  • Mobile Pay Focused
  • No Termination Fee
  • iOS / Android Compatible
Monthly Fees Breakdown
Setup Fee$0.00
Monthly Fee$0.00
PCI Compliance Fee$0.00
Online Reporting Fee$0.00
Batch Fee$0.00
Gateway Fee$0.00
Chargeback Fee$0.00
Termination Fee$0.00
Contract LengthMonth-to-Month
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DISCLOSURE: Advertising, Affiliate and Conflicts of Interest: Merchant Negotiators accepts advertising via the Google Adsense platform, directly from advertisers, and has common parent ownership interests with other payments related companies leading to conflicts of interest. Read our Affiliate / Conflicts / Advertising Disclosure for a more detailed disclosure.

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. is now offline.

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