Credit Card Processing Blog

“Cash only” is so three decades ago. If you’re going to be running a business in 2018, you need to provide your customers with the option to pay by credit or debit card — no ifs, ands, or buts. If you’re an online business, you can probably get away with having PayPal as your sole option, but as your sales grow you’re going to need to upgrade to provide more payment options.

With that said, not all businesses are treated equally. Businesses are treated differently based on the perceived level of risk they present for the credit card processor. While high-risk credit card processing comes with its share of challenges, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your business.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind while navigating credit card processing as a high-risk merchant.

  1. The processor determines whether you’re high-risk.

When you apply for a merchant account your processor will determine whether you fall into one of their high-risk business categories. Unfortunately, there’s no negotiating here. What qualifies as high-risk varies based on the processor. For example, some processors will deem pornography or drug-related paraphernalia as high-risk merchants, whereas others may have different criteria. If you’re not sure if your business qualifies as high-risk, reach out to the processor for more info before you apply.

  1. How your high-risk business is treated depends on the processor.

How a high-risk merchant is treated also varies based on the processor. Some processing companies simply won’t accept high-risk merchants at all, whereas others may just charge you higher than normal fees. There’s also a third branch of companies that specialize in high-risk credit card processing. Do your research and find what a processor’s high-risk criteria are before you waste time applying to a processor that will likely reject you.

  1. Understand why you might be considered a high-risk merchant in the first place.

While criteria vary slightly depending on the processor; high chargeback or fraud rates, offshore businesses, products with questionable legality (for example, pornography), questionable sales or marketing practices (i.e. if your business appears as a potential scam), bad personal credit or a high-average ticket sale (for example, if you’re routinely selling big-ticket items) are all considered factors when considering whether a merchant is high-risk.

  1. High-risk merchants typically pay more in fees and have to sign longer contracts.

When it comes to contracts, the industry average for non-high-risk merchants is usually around 3 years with some room for negotiation. However, as a high-risk merchant, you’re going to typically be stuck in longer contracts from 3-5 years with very little wiggle room due to your high-risk status. Your contract may even include an early termination fee and a liquidated damages clause if you decide to get out of the contract before the end of its term. Add in the higher processing fees you pay and being a high-risk merchant will cost you more overall.

  1. Beware of predatory high-risk credit card processing companies.

Yes, you should expect to pay higher fees as a high-risk merchant, however, be aware that there are also businesses out there that are looking to take advantage of your situation. Check out their website. Is it modern and looks like it’s been updated recently? Read what other customers have to say about them online. Is the feedback positive? Before you sign on with a high-risk credit card processing company make sure you read the contract carefully — including all the fine print — to avoid any hidden fees or clauses that could be detrimental to your business.

American Express was founded all the way back in 1850. Since credit cards obviously weren’t around yet, the company’s roots were in express mail. In 1891, Amex expanded to traveler’s cheques. This helped them create a global presence. After first discussing the possibility of a charge card in 1946, the company spent over a decade to launch their Diners Club Card in 1958. By that point, there was so much demand for this type of card that the company issued over two hundred thousand prior to their official launch date.

Since then, the company has added their Green, Gold and Platinum cards, as well as a number of branded partnership cards. This had led to more than one hundred million Amex cards being in circulation, with about half of those belonging to consumers in the US. While this may sound like a clear success story, the company has hit some obstacles along the way.

One issue that plagued American Express for a long time was their practice of charging higher fees than other card companies. This made many merchants reluctant to accept Amex cards from their customers. However, they’ve been able to work around these obstacles and are on the cusp of hitting a very big milestone.

Amex is On Pace to Pass Mastercard

While the year is shaping up to be really strong for all credit card companies, American Express is seeing especially good results. Although Visa is still the dominant market player with a share of over 50%, the momentum Amex has built means they’re poised to take the #2 spot from Mastercard. If this occurs, it will be the first time any of these positions have changed in several decades.

The big move that American Express has made is thanks to posting a growth rate of 10% for the last two quarters. In terms of specific strategies that have helped the company reach this point, the reduction of merchant fees has been instrumental in its recent success. After losing an exclusive deal with Costco in 2016, the company decided to shift to this new model with the goal of driving a faster increase in card loans as well as transaction volumes over the coming years. Based on its current position, this strategy appears to have been the right one.

What This Means for Your Business

Because American Express has long been associated with higher transaction fees, plenty of merchants have made a habit of not accepting this card. But since that’s changing and more people than ever want to use Amex to pay, this is a policy that all businesses should revisit.

If you’re thinking about revising your practices for accepting Amex cards, having the right payment processing partner will make this easy to do. And even if you’re less than thrilled with your current processor, the good news is our online resources ensure that switching to a new credit card processor is as simple as possible.

The past year has been anything but easy for Facebook. Not only have they been in the middle of the fight over online privacy, but their recent earnings report showed that fewer people are using the site. While it’s easy for some pundits to point to the rise and fall of MySpace, the reality is that Facebook is in a much different position.

Not only is the platform still far larger than any network that came before it, but the company also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, which are both thriving. So even though the Facebook brand is going through an identity crisis, the company itself still has an incredible amount of resources.

Those resources aren’t sitting idly. Instead, it appears that Facebook is aggressively exploring a number of different opportunities that could unlock their future growth. One of those opportunities is the blockchain. Although we’ve discussed how this technology can be used for a variety of applications, it appears that Facebook is specifically interested in payments.

Facebook’s Recent Blockchain Moves

The first sign that Facebook has plans to roll out some form of payments involving the blockchain is one of their senior employees left Coinbase’s board to avoid any type of conflict of interest. This same employee previously worked at PayPal.

Another move that signals the company’s interest in this type of payment solution is their meeting with Stellar. Although they ultimately passed on creating any type of partnership, it’s obvious this is something they’re exploring.

Facebook Isn’t the Only Company Still Moving Ahead with the Blockchain

After the huge spike and decline of the main cryptocurrencies leading into 2018, certain trends like ICOs cooled off considerably. But as prices have reached a more stable point (at least for the time being), it has actually given a lot of companies like Facebook the room to focus on interesting projects related to the blockchain.

One company that’s taken this type of step is UPS. They recently filed a blockchain patent that utilizes this technology as part of a distributed system for sending packages worldwide. The patent focuses on storing numerous types of data within a distributed ledger network, including information about a package’s destination, its movement, and transportation plans for shipment units.

Capital One is another major player that has shown recent interest in this space. The patent they filed is actually a continuation of a previous one, and it’s focused on a proposed system that’s designed to receive, store, record, and retrieve authentication information for a user in multiple blockchain-based member platforms.

We will continue to keep you updated with any blockchain news that may be relevant to your business. And if you want to be confident that you’re always able to take advantage of the latest technology, working with a leading payment processor will ensure you’re never left behind.

With the exception of mortgages, debt is generally viewed as something negative for consumers. But for businesses, the issue is a little more complicated. While businesses can definitely take on bad debt, strategic debt in the form of a business loan can be very beneficial. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at several different universities found that a loan of just $11,000 can increase a small business’s three-to-five-year survival rate by more than 50%.

Given that very significant finding, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more than 10% of all small business entrepreneurs are expected to apply for a business loan during the course of 2018. If you’re one of the entrepreneurs planning to go down this path, it’s completely normal to feel at least a little overwhelmed. Not only does the application process itself require a lot of effort, but you may still have some reservations about the burden of taking on a loan.

Because there is so much to manage during this process, we want to share several helpful insights about what to expect as you go through the different steps of applying:

There are Different Types of Business Loans

Not all business loans are created equal. There are actually several different types of loans that you should look into for your business, including a bank, SBA, and alternative lender loan. Each type comes with its own list of pros and cons, which is why it’s important to evaluate them in relation to the specific needs of your business.

Know Your Cash Flow and Expenses

Cash flow and expenses are both metrics that you’ll want to take into account as you’re looking into which type of loan makes the most sense for your business. For example, if you typically get paid in 90 to 120-day cycles, the loan terms that work for your business may be very different from a business that operates on 30 to 60-day payment terms.

Not All Banks are the Same

Just as there are different types of loans, keep in mind that if you decide to apply for a bank loan, these institutions can be very different as well. Banks often have specific types of businesses that they prefer to loan money to, so finding one or more banks that fit the profile of your business can save you a lot of frustration and potentially wasted time.

5 Factors Loan Providers Evaluate

Although every lender will have factors that matter to them the most, you can count on almost any lender looking at a handful of specific factors. Those factors include your collateral, capacity for handling debt, existing capital, macro conditions and the reputation of your business.

Only you can ultimately decide if applying for a loan this year makes sense for your business. If it does, the above information will help you throughout the process. And if you’re tackling other financial aspects of your business as well, be sure to take a look at our credit card processing 101 guide.

Even though the e-commerce landscape is quite competitive, it still offers an amazing way to sell to customers across the United States and even the globe. If your business already has an e-commerce site online but it’s not driving the level of results you want, there are a number of ways to improve it. To help you out, here are solutions to five of the most common challenges merchants face with e-commerce:

  1. Slow Load Times

Consumers expect websites to load quickly. And if a site doesn’t load, people are going to leave. That’s why when Amazon did an internal case study about speed, they found that over the course of a year, a single second of lag time would cost them over a billion dollars in sales! What makes this situation more challenging is e-commerce platforms often have complex features that can slow them down. You can avoid this problem by running a speed test, identifying any sources of slowness and then changing or eliminating them.

  1. Poor Mobile Performance

A big part of why people are buying more online than ever before is they no longer need to be in front of a computer to make purchases. Instead, they can just pull out their phones. However, you will only benefit from this consumer behavior if your site performs great on smaller screens. If this is currently a problem area, a great way to start remedying it is by switching to a responsive web design.

  1. Lack of Engagement

Social media has transformed the Internet from a publishing platform into a two-way communication channel. People want to be able to chat and express their opinions online. So if you don’t feel as connected to your customers as you would like, the good news is there are several ways to change this. The first is to increase your social media activity on both Facebook and Instagram. You can also increase engagement by using your email list to interact with potential and current customers on a regular basis.

  1. Not Enough Traffic

Because there is so much competition online, simply having an e-commerce site up and running is not enough to guarantee that people will visit it. If a lack of traffic is the reason your site isn’t generating the type of revenue you’d like, there are both short and longer-term strategies. In the short-term, paid advertising through Facebook or AdWords can start bringing in targeted visitors right away. Just keep a close eye on your spending. And for long-term traffic, making the right SEO content and link investments can really pay off down the line.

  1. Low Conversion Rate

What happens if people are coming to your site but not buying? One way to start figuring out what’s keeping your conversion rate low is to install a live chat tool. This can help you identify any technical or other obstacles. A less than ideal payment experience is a common culprit. If you find out that people are having trouble when they want to check out, switching to a leading processor can solve this problem for you.