September 6th, 2005 by Jamie Estep
What is a high risk business?
Often businesses run into the problem of being labeled as a high risk business for processing electronic payments and are forced into unconventional processing agreements. Many business owners have no idea that their industry falls into a high risk category.
Shades of Grey and Red:
High Risk businesses fall into either the gray area between a normal business and a definitive high risk business, or fall into the red zone for truly high risk businesses.
What determines if a business is high risk?
There are several factors that determine if a business is to be considered high risk for credit card processing. The main reason that a business is considered high risk, is the type of business that it is. Risk is based on the merchants probability of chargebacks, returns, the businesses history, and the planned method to accept credit cards. Yes, returns are a large factor in determining the risk of a certain business type. Processors assume that if there is a lot of returned merchandise, then the merchant isn’t doing something right.
I believe the exact opposite of this, as merchants who accept returns are doing what is required, to keep their customers happy. To me this equates a lower risk business.
Certain business types are considered high risk no matter what the individual businesses history is. These businesses are in the red zone. They must find an international method to help them accept credit cards. Businesses that land in the gray area, are either high risk due to their own processing history or their business is determined to be high risk on a case by case basis.
Businesses that fall into the gray area that have good processing and financial history can usually find an American provider to help them accept credit cards, while new businesses or businesses with poor history are more likely to be considered high risk.
Common High Risk Businesses (Red Zone):
Travel and Advanced Booking
Products requiring a long term commitment (magazines, subscriptions, etc.)
Online Pharmacies and Supplement Websites
Gaming, Gambling, and Sports Booking
Common High Risk Businesses (Gray Area):
Ecommerce & Card-Not-Present (in general)
Short Term Businesses
If a business lands in the gray area, the businesses history is going to play a large roll in what types of credit card processing is going to be available to them. New businesses are always at a disadvantage, especially for card-not-present businesses. Fraud on the internet has created close scrutiny of all potential online businesses.
The most unfortunate incidence for an existing business is for their business type to be changed to high risk even though they are currently processing and have a successful, honest history. While rare, this does happen from time to time and is generally applied for all businesses within a certain industry.
If you are high risk:
If you are a high risk business, your options are a third party processor or using an offshore merchant service provider. Either way, make sure that you shop around to find the best possible solution for your business. If you business is in the gray area and you are having trouble at one place, check all of your domestic options before moving onto an offshore provider. The most expensive domestic provider is generally cheaper than the cheapest offshore provider.