High-Risk Merchant Services Account: Does Your Business Qualify?

If you’re a business owner who has ever processed or tried to process a credit card payment, you’ve likely heard the term “high-risk.” Banks and credit card processors deem some types of merchants (businesses) as high-risk. As a result, high-risk companies can be turned down for merchant accounts.

In some cases, merchants considered to be high-risk can be shut off from processing credit and debit card payments entirely. It is essential for business owners to understand high-risk merchant accounts and determine if they are operating in a high-risk industry.

High-risk merchant accounts are more necessary than some business owners may think. That’s why our San Diego high-risk merchant services providers at Salus Payments created this blog to discuss:

  • What a high-risk merchant account is
  • High-risk credit card processing
  • What high-risk businesses are
  • Five determining factors of a high-risk merchant
  • How high-risk merchant accounts differ from regular merchant accounts
  • A brief overview of getting approved for a high-risk merchant account
High-Risk Merchant Account

High-Risk Merchant Account

Table of Contents:

  1. What is a High-Risk Merchant Account?
  2. Understanding High-Risk Credit Card Processing
  3. What Are High-Risk Businesses?
  4. 5 Determining Factors of a High-Risk Business
  5. How High-Risk Merchant Accounts Differ From Regular Merchant Accounts
  6. Getting Approved for a High-Risk Merchant Account: A Brief Overview
  7. Conclusion

What People Ask

What is a high-risk merchant account?

A high-risk merchant account is a payment processing account for merchants (businesses) considered high-risk by traditional payment processors and banks. High-risk businesses require a processing account that can pay higher processing fees to compensate for the payment processor’s risk.

Is it difficult to get a high-risk merchant account?

Banks and regular payment processing providers have their own guidelines for approving businesses for a merchant account. When involving a high-risk business, it can be difficult for that merchant to get approved.

When working with a company that specializes in high-risk businesses getting merchant accounts, the process often becomes more straightforward with higher approval rates.

How do I get a high-risk merchant account?

The first step in getting a high-risk merchant account is filling out an online application or visiting saluspayments.com to submit our contact form. You will need to set up a merchant account and partner with a high-risk payment processor to accept card payments.

At Salus Payments, we can assist you with both! With our help, you can often expect a straightforward high-risk merchant account application process.

What is a High-Risk Merchant Account?

Any business characterized as a high-risk merchant will need a high-risk merchant account to accept credit card payments. Payment processing accounts designed to enable companies in high-risk industries to accept debit, credit, and online payments are high-risk merchant accounts.

High-risk merchant accounts are ideal for businesses with a higher likelihood of fraud or chargebacks. This is because payment processors that manage high-risk merchant accounts can take on the risk of working with high-risk merchants.

Understanding High-Risk Credit Card Processing

For business owners looking to get a high-risk merchant account for processing card payments, it’s essential to understand the guidelines of banks and providers. For example, what one payment processor may consider high-risk, another provider may consider acceptable.

What is viewed as acceptable or high-risk is based heavily on each company’s guidelines regarding high-risk merchants and high-risk merchant accounts. Businesses that offer high-risk products or services should consider a provider specializing in partnering with merchants operating in high-risk industries.

What Are High-Risk Businesses?

High-risk merchants, also known as high-risk businesses, are typically companies that operate online. These merchants often sell products or offer services in unique verticals.

A business usually classified as high-risk belongs to an industry that has a greater risk for chargebacks or fraud. Examples of high-risk business industries include online gambling and adult entertainment.

Other examples of common high-risk merchants include:

  • CBD (Cannabis), Vapes, and e-cigarette
  • Health and wellness products
  • Credit repair services
  • Travel airfare, accommodations, or packages
  • Prepaid phone card services
  • Discount memberships
  • Multi-level marketing
  • Pawnshops
  • Software downloads

5 Determining Factors of A High-Risk Business

There are many other factors at play besides the industry in which a business operates, resulting in the merchant being labeled as high-risk. Below are five common determining factors of high-risk companies.

  1. Some payment processors can label businesses at high risk if the merchant has never processed credit cards or online payments.
  2. When applying for business loans, low credit scores or poor credit records can result in being labeled by banks and processors as high-risk.
  3. Any merchants that sell controversial products or operate on a “slippery” legal slope will likely be identified as a high-risk business.
  4. Businesses that operate in highly regulated industries by governments or legislations often have high-risk classifications.
  5. Any merchants that are heavily dependent on international sales with typical dynamics of economic unpredictability are often determined as high-risk.

How High-Risk Merchant Accounts Differ From Regular Merchant Accounts

It can seem like the end all be all for businesses labeled as high-risk. However, being labeled a high-risk merchant can simply mean that a processor or bank declined your merchant account application.

If this sounds like your situation, don’t fret! A payment processor may choose to offset your business risk by applying alternative measures, so that your business can still accept credit card payments.

There are various ways a payment processor may mitigate the risk of taking on a high-risk business. One of these is setting up the business with high-risk merchant accounts, which differ from regular merchant accounts.

Some examples of how high-risk merchant accounts differ from regular merchant accounts include:

  • Longer application processes
  • Higher payment processing fees
  • Cash reserve requirements
  • Higher chargeback fees
  • Volume caps for credit card processing

Getting Approved for a High-Risk Merchant Account: A Brief Overview

While many contributing factors can impact high-risk merchant account approval rates, businesses can improve their chances by emphasizing the best features of their company. It won’t hurt for merchants to discuss anything that makes their business stand out, such as proactive investing in proactive measures like fraud monitoring.

Addressing high trading numbers and showing a strong processing history with large sums of money can also help increase the chances of approval. Finally, high-risk businesses should always have a plan regarding long-term fulfillment duration. Fulfillment duration refers to the time it takes between payment collection and product delivery.


Once a business is labeled high-risk, the number of possible processors to work with decreases. Fortunately, at Salus Payments, we won’t be one of them. When working with Salus Payments, your merchant account and payment processing needs will be met, regardless of your risk for chargebacks or fraud.

Contact our San Diego high-risk merchant services providers to get started today!