HIGH RISK MERCHANT ACCOUNTS vs THIRD PARTY PROCESSORS

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The ability to accept credit cards on your website is a prized possession. To keep the process smooth and as efficient as possible, we take a look at your options and a few FAQ's.

I'm assuming here that you fall under the high risk category. The first question to be decided is whether you have to use a merchant account or a third party processor. The factors which determine your choice are transaction volume, location, type of service or product, credit rating, expected growth in future.

Third Party Processors:

These are also known as Internet Payment Service Provider ( IPSP ). An IPSP is an online entity that enters into a contract with an Acquirer ( Merchant Bank ) to shoulder financial responsibility and liability for “high risk?merchant accounts, by which registered sponsored merchants ( website owners ) are allowed to process and settle Internet transactions. The benefits of using an IPSP are obvious. Easy setup, no need to convince a fat old buzzard at the bank that you are a sound financial proposition. Also, IPSP's sheild you from the spotlight in case of problems with your account. You can be accepting credit card payments on your website, realtime, in around 15 minutes, without any paperwork or formalities. On the negative aspects, the one which hurts the most is the cost. IPSP's charge sky high commissions for high risk merchants. Two more problems are related to do with reliability: The IPSP could close shop anytime or they could stop processing high risk or adult related merchants leaving you high and dry in either case. One more issue, though not a major source of worry, is about fraud. You just cannot prove it if your IPSP is taking you for a ride.

High Risk Merchant Accounts:

With a merchant account, you have the freedom to setup your card processing the way you want, for relatively low commissions and a hell of a lot more reliabilty and transparency. You need to apply for a merchant account with a bank, then set up the account with an eCommerce gateway and required scripts and certificates on your website for a secure and complete transaction.

IKobo - Instant credit card payment processing for your website

So Which One Is Better?

The most important deciding criteria is the volume of your transactions. If you have a large volume every month, and you see a bright future ahead ( no sarcasm intended ), go for the merchant account. Even if you are a startup with limited transactions, but you have the big bucks to burn, go for the merchant account. If you are a startup, and you are looking at the returns rather than spending some more, then get a third party bill processor. It also depends where your business is located. As per VISA - "For entities that provide only digital goods, presence is defined as the specific business location where the principals of the business work." Your credit rating is, of course, a factor on which your approval of a merchant account depends.

What Lies Ahead?

In the last one year, billing for the adult industry has been grinding towards an inescapable fact - No more VISA. I think you can start with Paypal showing the door to smut peddlers, followed by VISA's implementation of 750$ USD for becoming a VISA Sponsored Merchant, which requires you to provide pertinent information regarding your business. Next comes information about legal problems with IBill, it's parent company and shareholders. Verotel has just come up with new regulations for merchants with large volumes, which include disclosure of the company name on the customers' bill. How would it look for John Smith's credit card bill to show 60$ charged to XXX porn company? Considering the strict penalties for crossing chargeback limits and all the straitjacket rules coming up, it's safe to say that within a few years, accepting VISA and Mastercard will be looked upon as a golden age by the porn industry. The basic problem here is not an attitude of disdain for porn, nor is it about politics. It's the volume of scams and fraud that goes on, as compared to mainstream businesses, that has powered this drive to cut off the adult entertainment industry. Way I look at it, make hay while the sun is shining.

For a full list of billing providers, IPSP's and high risk merchant account providers, click here.

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