Continuity & Subscription Merchant Account

high risk merchant account payment gateway
Bankcard was referred to me by my developer. From the jump, they were impressive. They were super responsive, they asked great questions and their solution was really robust. Also, working with Katherine and Hanna is a dream!
High risk merchant account
Emily Wallace
CEO

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subscription box

In recent years, subscription accounts have taken the e-commerce world by storm, as consumers have embraced the convenience of having products automatically sent on a regular basis. Through continuity marketing, which is based on the traditional magazine subscription model, people can now get everything from flowers and food items to clothing, cosmetics, streaming channels, and internet services. These products and services are paid at a basic rate through continuity (or recurring) billing that’s typically monthly, but can also be quarterly or annually. And as internet shopping becomes even more popular nationwide, studies show that the continuity subscription market is slated to grow to 7,813 million USD by 2025. Likewise, the e-commerce subscription market is experiencing an annual growth rate of more than 17 percent, making it an attractive business model for startups and new entrepreneurs.

Despite these statistics, however, banks and financial institutions continue to be reluctant to offer payment processing services to subscription companies. If you own or manage a subscription business, you may have already discovered the difficulties in getting a continuity and subscription merchant account. This is due to a number of factors, all of which contribute to a “high-risk” designation for the continuity subscription industry.

Given the industry’s monumental success, it’s hard to understand why continuity subscription merchants would be considered high-risk for credit card processing. The subscription model has worked tremendously well for businesses like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Spotify, subscription box services like HelloFresh, Dollar Shave Club, and FabFitFun, and countless others that have become household names in a relatively short time. In fact, industry analysts report that by the end of 2022, more than half of software revenue in the US will be generated from a subscription platform.

Yet continuity and subscription merchant accounts continue to be out of reach for many entrepreneurs, even if they have a stellar business record. But fortunately, Bankcard can help. As a leading merchant account specialist for high-risk industries, Bankcard offers a complete line of payment processing services, including credit card, debit card, and e-check processing, for all types of high-risk merchant accounts, including subscription billing companies.

Why are subscription companies high-risk?

A large number of highly successful industries are considered high-risk for merchant account services. These include:

  • Continuity subscriptions
  • E-cigarettes
  • Cannabis and CBD
  • Supplements and nutraceuticals
  • Tourism and travel
  • Adult entertainment
  • Pawnshops
  • Gun vendors
  • Property management
  • Document preparation
  • Antiques and collectibles
  • Online dating
  • Pay-day lending
  • Online gambling and gaming
  • Fantasy sports
  • Health and beauty

As with many of these industries, subscription businesses are considered to be especially high-risk because they’re prone to an unusually large chargeback ratio.

How chargebacks impact a continuity subscription merchant account

Chargebacks are refunds issued on credit cards that occur when customers want their money back because they’re not satisfied with a product or service. At least, that’s the reason why chargebacks are supposed to occur but, unfortunately, a growing number of chargebacks are due to a phenomenon known as “friendly fraud.”

Friendly fraud occurs when a customer claims they didn’t authorize a credit card charge and that it was made fraudulently. Of course, in many cases, these are legitimate claims, and credit card processing companies are only too glad to help. But in a friendly fraud scenario, the customer actually did make the purchase, and either had second thoughts about it or wanted to hide it (as in the case of a charge from an adult entertainment company). In friendly fraud, a customer will typically bypass the merchant and go straight to the credit card company to demand a refund.

Subscription merchant services are especially prone to chargebacks — including friendly fraud — because of cancellations. Customers may change their minds about a subscription, or they may find that they can no longer afford it. And in some cases, a subscription may skyrocket in price after the first few months. This is especially true with magazine subscriptions, in cases where a promotional price is offered for the first three to six months, only to be more than doubled afterward. In the subscription industry, where everything depends upon a successful recurring billing model, a cancellation is tantamount to a chargeback and greatly impacts revenues for the company, as well as the payment processor.

Significantly, chargebacks continue to increase every year, with analysts predicting that by 2023, one in 10 chargebacks will involve some form of friendly fraud. And here’s another staggering statistic: Each year, some type of fraud costs merchants almost five percent of their revenues worldwide, reflecting a cost of 3.7 trillion USD annually.

Here’s a look at why excessive chargebacks are so bad for merchants and merchant processors

Revenue loss  

In 2017, chargeback loss totaled a whopping 31 billion USD, making a significant impact on business owners, as well as payment gateway companies. As a merchant, with every chargeback that’s transacted, you lose all the revenue from that sale.

Fraud

Criminals can use chargebacks to get money that isn’t theirs or get something for free.

High fees    

If chargebacks are excessive, payment processors will typically raise their merchant fees. And in some cases, a payment processor may cancel an account altogether because of high chargeback rates. Fortunately for high-risk businesses, Bankcard is able to provide a wide range of payment processing solutions at affordable rates, so these industries can get merchant account services at fair and reasonable prices.

There’s another important reason why chargebacks are such a nightmare for merchant account providers, and it has to do with something called underwriting.

Underwriting and payment processors

Underwriting is simply another term for financial backing. Credit card processing companies are all underwritten, or backed financially, by the nation’s major banks and financial institutions. Think of it this way: If you apply for a business loan, the bank underwrites your loan, so you need to have stellar credit and prove that you’re a low risk, or the bank will deny the loan. In much the same way, banks underwrite payment processors — and they’re wary of accepting merchant accounts from high-risk industries. 

Toward this end, payment processors usually charge higher fees for high-risk merchant accounts, and this is where Bankcard can help. With years of working in high-risk industries, Bankcard specializes in providing a full line of payment management solutions at fair and reasonable rates that businesses can afford.

Tips for preventing chargebacks

Give full descriptions of your subscription services

Whether you’re selling subscription gift boxes, streaming services, or other types of products, it’s vital to give complete information about exactly what you’re selling, and what customers should expect to receive from their subscription. Chargebacks typically occur when customers feel that their needs weren’t met, so it’s important to provide a full description that includes photos and videos.

Give full disclosure on returns and cancellations

As a subscription service provider, you already know that cancellations are inevitable with the type of business you’re in. You can make these easier for yourself and your customers by giving full disclosure on your refund, return, and cancellation policy. By making everything crystal clear, you have a better chance of mitigating customer complaints, as well as a better chance of getting customers to come back later.

Be fair and accurate in your pricing

If you’re running a promotional sale or an introductory offer, make it clear exactly when the price will revert back to normal rates. Also, let people know exactly what they can expect to pay each month, and provide added perks and benefits for customers who decide to stay on past the introductory phase.

Be flexible, and offer attractive replacement options

If you offer a subscription box.service and a customer isn’t happy with one of the products included, have the flexibility to provide an appealing alternative that the customer might like. For example, if you sell cosmetics or food products, a customer might be allergic to an item in last month’s box and ask for a full refund. Be prepared for this by having a variety of replacement items on hand that you can offer. This may help you avoid having to issue a chargeback for that month’s subscription box.

Issue refunds promptly

There will always be dissatisfied customers along the way, and returns often can’t be helped. You can make the process better for everyone by issuing refunds promptly, as well as sending an immediate email or letter to let the customer know that the charge has been refunded. With this level of service, a customer will be more inclined to come back. This is especially true if a customer discontinues a subscription for financial reasons. When their finances are better, they’ll remember how courteous you were, and this may influence them to purchase another subscription.

Communicate with your customers

It’s important to be there for your customers — and that means having someone available to answer questions, either personally or via phone and email, depending on your business. By providing fast email responses and return phone calls, you can go a long way toward generating a feeling of trust and goodwill with your customers.

Ultimately, one of the best ways you can prevent chargebacks is by using a high-risk merchant account specialist. Bankcard offers a variety of user-friendly payment tracking tools so you can stay on top of every transaction, from the point of sale to its successful completion. Bankcard also offers a secure payment system, with encoding and encryption to ensure that you’re protected from scams.

How a merchant account benefits a subscription business

As the owner or manager of a subscription business, you probably already spend a lot of time with administrative work online. With a continuity subscription merchant account, you can greatly streamline your operations, as well as offer customers a wide variety of payment options and services, including:

Multiple methods of payment

Not surprisingly, studies show that 90 percent of customers prefer the convenience of multiple credit card payment options, whether they want to use VISA, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express. A merchant account will enable you to provide your customers with all types of credit and debit card payment choices, as well as mobile app and e-check payments.

Streamlined subscription services

These include a variety of benefits for your customers, including:

  • Easy recurring payment schedule
  • Free trials or introductory offers
  • Deferred billing options
  • User-friendly automatic renewals

Billing and tracking tools

With a continuity and subscription merchant account, you’ll be able to send automated bills according to your preferred schedule — which means you won’t have to spend hours sending manual invoices every month. In addition, a merchant account will give you the tools you need to track every transaction, so you won’t have to waste time tracing and chasing down late payments.

If you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of having a high-risk merchant account provider, Bankcard can help. Bankcard specializes in providing high-risk industries with a full roster of payment processing services, including credit card, debit card, mobile app, and e-check payment options. Plus, Bankcard offers secure payment tracking and convenient automated billing tools, as well as security protections like encryption and encoding, so you can safely track and monitor your financial accounts.

To learn more, contact Bankcard and find out how we can provide you with the payment solutions you need to reach a whole new level of success.

Integrations

Bankcard Connect plays nice with others

Bankcard Connect integrates seamlessly with ISV software to simplify payment processing for merchants: any payment type, on any device, anywhere. 

Bankcard integrates with over 99% of the tools you are already using, including popular accounting software and e-commerce apps, regardless of your industry. Our payment services were designed to be adaptable to provide seamless integrations for our customers.

merchant account integrations c

BigCommerce
Formsite
Infusionsoft
Keap
Magento
Microsoft Dynamics
Network Solutions
SalesForce
Shopify
Volusion
Web.com
Weebly
WIX
WooCommerce
WordPress
Yola

Cart66
Checkfront
EASYCART
eShop
Event Espresso
events manager
GetShopped.org
GRAVITY
Jigoshop
Paid Memberships Pro
Shopp
SHOPPERPRESS
templatic
TheCartPress
WishList MEMBER
WooCommerce
WORDPRESS eSTORE
WP GATEWAYS
WpInvoice
wpmudev

Drupal Commerce
Ubercart

HikaShop
Miwisoft
VirtueMart

911 Software, Inc.
ACR Systems
Activant
Aldelo Systems, Inc.
Applied Micro Technology
Advanced Retail Management Solutions (ARMs)
Auto star
Cantaloupe Systems
Data Business Systems
Datacap Systems, Inc.
DataTech Corp
DataVantage
Edgil Associates
Elavon*
Epicor (CRS, NSB)
Freedom Pay
Gateway Ticketing Systems
Idalica Corp
IJN Systems
IT Retail
KWI
Main Street Softworks
MBS Textbook Exchange
Medasyst, Inc.
Microsoft
/n Software, Inc.
PC America
POSiFlex
RATEX Business Solutions
Retail Data Systems
RTL Payment Systems
ScanSource, Inc.
Sicom Systems, Inc.
Slim CD
Tempus Technologies
Tender Retail Systems
The Software Mills
Tomax Corporation
Total Computing Solutions
TouchNet Information Systems
XProtean, Inc. (C-Payment Software)
XPient Solutions
Vista Entertainment Systems

911 Software, Inc.
Data Business Systems
Dinerware
Datacap Systems, Inc.
Main Street Softworks
Menusoft Systems Corp.
Micros Systems
Midnite Express, Inc.
/n Software Inc.
NCR
onePOS.com
Ordyx
Radiant Systems
Revel Systems
Sicom Systems, Inc.
Squirrel Systems
Tempus Technologies
XPient Solutions
XProtean, Inc. (C-Payment Software)
Elavon (previously Southern DataComm and Global Card Services)

Dresser Wayne
Excentus
Fuel Links
Fiscal Systems, Inc.
Gilbarco
LOC Software
Main Street Softworks
Petro RX
PetroVend
Radiant Systems
Retalix
VeriFone Ruby System

Datacap Systems
JPMA
LOC Software
Logivision
MTX/EPS
RORC
StoreNext
Torex

911 Software, Inc.
Hotel Software Systems
Slim CD
Elavon
Tempus Technologies

Government organizations face a growing need for secure payment processing services while managing highly specific needs for content management and security. 

We can work with popular technology products government agencies prefer, like Ciber and Cubic, to create an integrated solution that meets all your needs for processing payments, managing information, and more.

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High risk merchant account payment gateway

We partnered with Bankcard in 2017 and they've been there for us every time. Everything is super fast and I love how well they communicate with our staff. They really know their stuff, and we work in a very complex industry! My account executive knows our business inside and out.

Alexandria, CMO

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FAQs: Table of Contents

Accepted Industries and Countries​

The industries we accept for high risk merchant accounts include, but are not limited to the below industries.

  • Adult merchant account
  • Bad credit
  • CBD
  • Credit Repair
  • MLM
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Payday loans
  • Private airlines
  • Subscriptions
  • Travel
  • Vape & eCig
  • Illegal business activity
  • Businesses without the proper license
  • Illegal drugs (CBD with less than 0.30% THC is acceptable)

Bankcard can provide merchant accounts to customers in the below countries. Kindly note that many payment solutions are regulated based on location.

  • Andorra
  • Austria
  • Bear Island 
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Channel Island
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Faroe Islands
  • Finland
  • France
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Hungry
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • San Marino
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Vatican City

Being a start-up business will not hinder a business from getting approved for a merchant account. While having a processing history helps your likelihood of getting approved,  the lack of processing will not necessarily stop you from getting an approval. Consult an experienced Account Executive today to learn more. 

There are never guarantees when it comes to the approval of a merchant account. However, we do work with merchants that have low credit scores. Reach out to an Account Executive today for a consultation. 

If you’re a United States citizen applying for a merchant account for a United States registered business, a social security number is required. 

A merchant account can be labeled high risk for many reasons. You can be labeled as such due to high average tickets, being in an industry that historically has high chargebacks, or an industry that tier one banks do not support.

Applying for a merchant account

To apply for a high-risk merchant account, you need to complete our pre-qualification form and upload all required documentation. Once the pre-qualification is complete your Account Executive will locate the best placement for your account, and send you a final agreement. Once that final agreement is signed, underwriting will complete a full package review for approval. 

There is no fee to apply for a merchant services account with Bankcard. However, If you get approved with us there may be a small setup fee for your gateway account.

Square, Stripe, and Paypal are all payment facilitators and do not accept high-risk merchant accounts. Signing up with Bankcard gives you a direct merchant relationship with a sponsor bank. The approval process requires more documentation, but you’re at a significantly lower risk of getting terminated.

This depends upon how quickly you, the merchant, completes our pre-qualification form. Once we have all of your documentation, we get to work. We can typically locate placement for your merchant services account in 48 hours.  

Once you get an approval, you’ll be able to accept credit card payments within 24 business hours. 

Depending upon the program, you will receive your funds anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after the batch is settled. 

The industry type is a major determining factor when it comes to risk levels of merchant services. But, other factors such as credit, card-present vs not present, and chargeback ratios can also push an account into the high-risk category as well. 

Completing the Application

Your legal business name should match the business name on the state business registration or licensure. However, if you are a sole proprietor, your name would be the legal business name. 

If you’re not sure how much processing you’ll do, we recommend applying for $5,000 to $10,000 monthly. You don’t need to hit that number each month, but if you’re close to going over, reach out to your Account Executive for assistance. 

Your average transaction amount should be the average of all transactions you would accept with your merchant account. Your maximum transaction should be the anticipated maximum amount accepted in one transaction. If you attempt to process a transaction that is higher than the maximum amount provided, additional proof of purchase may be requested. 

You may provide personal bank statements in lieu of bank statements if your business bank account is new or does not have any activity. 

If you’re applying for a merchant account for ecommerce processing you will need a fully functional website with products or services listed with associated pricing. 

Yes, a credit check is required in order to obtain a high-risk merchant account. Once a final agreement is signed, a hard credit pull is done.  Credit scores are taken into consideration when underwriting reviews a full application for merchant services. 

If you’re a United States citizen applying for a merchant account for a business registered in the United States, your social security number will be required to apply. 

Documents

The first step to applying for a high-risk merchant account is completing the pre-qualification form. Three months bank statements, three months processing statements (if applicable), a voided check or bank letter, and driver’s license or passport will be required to apply. 

If your business does not utilize checks, we can accept a bank letter that includes your full account and routing number as well as the business or account holder’s name. The letter should be on bank letterhead, be dated within the last 30 days, and be signed by a bank representative. 

If you don’t have three months of business bank statements, don’t fret. We can accept three months’ personal bank statements from a business owner, or director. 

Bank statements show a lot about a prospective merchant, namely, processing activity, and the average monthly ending balance. If a merchant is currently processing, we want to know why they’re switching, if we know a merchant’s pain points we can find better solutions for their needs. The average monthly ending balance is also relevant to show financial stability within the business as well as validating the monthly volume requested.

If a merchant is currently processing credit card payments and successfully managing a merchant account this can increase the likelihood of getting approved. Some payment facilitators such as Paypal, Stripe, and Square might not supply monthly processing statements. Underwriting may request login credentials so they can get an overview of the processing activities. 

Equipment and Gateways

For in-person retail card acceptance, Bankcard can provide equipment that will arrive programmed and ready to accept payments. Discuss your equipment options with your experienced Account Executive.

Here at Bankcard, we do offer our own gateway solution that’s exclusive to merchants that sign up with us. Of course, if there’s a gateway you prefer we are willing to work with you as long as integration is possible. Please reach out to your dedicated Account Executive for details. 

Bankcard integrates with NMI, Authorize.net, and more. For specific gateway integration questions reach out to an experienced Account Executive. 

Your merchant account will be set up to accept Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, and ATM cards. 

Load balancing is the strategy of spreading transactions over more than one MID. It’s not necessary for all high-risk accounts, but can be considered as a way to manage chargeback ratios with high-risk merchants. 

Existing Merchant Accounts

Not to worry, this number can be increased as needed. However, the bank underwriting your merchant account needs to be aware of the expected monthly volume to ensure they have capacity available for all merchants processing with that bank. 

If you go over by a small amount you might be asked for a copy of the invoice or receipt. However, if you go over the monthly limit by a large amount there is a chance your excess funds might be held temporarily. 

When it comes to high-risk accounts, banks ideally want chargeback ratios below the 3% threshold. If you can provide long term processing history the bank may take this into consideration. Lower chargeback ratios are ideal. Consult your knowledgeable Account Executive for assistance in lowering your chargeback ratio. 

Rolling reserves are a way to financially protect the processing bank from potential losses from chargebacks or refunds. Not all high-risk merchant accounts require a rolling reserve. The risk department will determine if and when a rolling reserve is required. 

Interchange fees refer to the issuing credit card brand fees such as Mastercard, Visa, Discover, and American express. These fees vary depending on the card type, American Express tends to be the most expensive card to process. Interchange rates can range from 1% to 2.5%. 

Of course! Once you’ve established a healthy processing history, you may reach out to your Account Executive for a rate review. We recommend only doing this if your processing history shows low chargeback ratios and relatively low refund activity. 

You may request an increase in your monthly volume at any time. However, it’s recommended to wait until your merchant account reflects healthy processing history as well as financial stability from your bank statements. 

Reach out to our support team, or your dedicated Account Executive for any account-related updates you may need. 

Depending on the program your merchant account fees are either taken at the beginning of each month. Some programs require daily discounts. Program details will be notated on your final agreement and if you have further questions you can always consult your Account Executive. 

ACH payments

Bankcard can assist with ACH or eCheck services. An application and approval process still applies to this service, or it can be an added service with your processing account. Reach out to your Account Executive for details. 

The approval process requires less documentation than applying for a merchant services account. And if you’re already processing with Bankcard an approval can be expedited. 

Every account is different, however, most programs allow next-day settlements for ACH transactions. 

ACH payment acceptance can be integrated into most website platforms. Reach out to a dedicated Account Executive for more information. 

Pricing and Approval

High-risk merchant accounts are priced higher than low-risk accounts because fewer banks are willing to work with businesses labeled “high risk”. Banks also need additional financial protections from loss on these accounts.  

Bankcard will always provide fair pricing based on the risk level of every merchant. And if a current processing statement is provided we’ll do everything in our power to beat the merchant’s current rates. 

While we love working with merchants that are considered high risk. There are limitations put in place by bank and card brand rules. If a merchant does not abide by the specific program rules described by the Account Executive assisting them we cannot ensure an approval.

Think of merchant accounts as a loan or a line of credit. And processing banks take on the risk of transactions getting charged back. Banks can end up liable for the actions of merchants, a problematic merchant can damage the reputation of the bank funding and processing the transactions.