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7 Things You Should Know About Having a High Risk Merchant Account

7 Things You Should Know About Having a High Risk Merchant Account

Conceptual business illustration with the words merchant account
Having a high risk merchant account is a necessity for some businesses. Learn more about this type of account with these seven facts.

If you have an online business, accepting credit cards as a form of payment is absolutely critical to your success and your bottom line.

But if your business is considered high risk, finding the right match can be a daunting task.

So, what do you need to know about having a high risk merchant account before you begin looking for the right company to serve your needs? Here are nine things you should be aware of before you make a commitment.

1. Determine if Your Business is Considered High Risk

Before you select a merchant processor, you need to know if your business is even considered to be high risk. The criteria can vary widely between providers, but one of the first things they look at is if your industry typically has a high rate of fraud or chargebacks.

If you’re not operating from the United States, this is another potential indicator of high risk. Certain categories like firearms, drug paraphernalia, or even auction sites may also be considered high risk. Find out if you fall into this category first so you can be prepared for the next steps.

2. Prepare for Higher Fees and Longer Contract Terms

If you have a high risk merchant account, you can expect to pay more in processing charges and billed account fees. The reason is that your processor is taking you on as a risk, so they’re passing the cost of that risk on to you.

You’ll also likely have to keep your contract with the processor longer than you would if you were not a high-risk client. On average, high-risk accounts must stay with the same processor for three years or even longer.

An auto renewal clause is usually included which can force you to remain an ongoing customer for periods of a one-year minimum after each renewal. If you want to cancel, you’ll likely get hit with an early termination fee.

3. Check Available Plans for Your High Risk Merchant Account

Merchant processing plans can vary, so shop around until you find one that offers terms you can live with. Traditionally, these fees are charged on something called an interchange-plus pricing plan, although your rates will be higher than a low or no-risk account.

Find out if you can get a flat-rate pricing plan which will make billing a lot easier. If you discover that a merchant processor is charging extremely high per-transaction charges, you may want to steer clear. Compare rates and plans until you find one that’s within a reasonable amount.

4. Be Aware of Rolling Reserves

The term rolling reserves refers to money that is set aside from the proceeds of your sales in order to cover certain expenses. These reserves will help pay for things like chargebacks, and they’re put in place to protect the merchant processor.

Since many high-risk accounts tend to go out business, these reserves are there to cover any unexpected costs to the merchant processing company. If you’re new in business, you can almost guarantee that this is a requirement. However, as time goes on, the rolling reserves should decrease as long as your account remains in good standing.

5. Read the Fine Print

Any reputable merchant processor will give you a contract that spells out all of your fees and terms. Make sure you read this thoroughly before you make a commitment.

Look closely for different clauses that could cause you to pay even more than you expected. Some companies claim to specialize in high-risk accounts so they feel that they can charge their merchant accounts exorbitant fees. Do your homework and never sign anything until you’re completely comfortable with the terms and the cost.

If you’re ever in doubt about a potential merchant processor, ask your fellow business owners who they recommend. You can also read reviews online to find out which ones most high-risk customers are happy with, and which ones to avoid.

6. Security Measures will be Added

A quality payment processor will add some layers of additional security to your account. This can actually benefit you since it will help prevent fraudulent transactions and dishonest chargeback claims.

Requiring things like CVV2 verification is a good thing since it protects you and your processor from fraud. Ask your provider about what kinds of security measures they take to protect themselves and your business from unscrupulous transactions.

7. Develop a Good Track Record

If you really want to lower the costs associated with a high risk merchant account, work diligently to prove your salt. This could mean anything from reducing or completely eliminating chargebacks to consistently showing a profit for a long period of time.

The longer your business does well and maintains its reputation, the better off you’ll be in the eyes of the merchant processor. Some providers may even reward their high-risk accounts with lower rolling reserves over time or even reducing fees as time goes on.

Ask several potential merchant processors what kind of benefits they offer high-risk accounts if they do well. You might be surprised at the progress and positive benefits you can reap once the business is more established.

Success is Possible

Even if you operate a high-risk business, there’s no need to despair. With a few helpful bits of information and a little research, you can find a quality high risk merchant account that will serve your needs well.

Visit our website for more information about: High Risk Merchant Services.

7 Life-Saving Tips That’ll Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

Do you want to raise your credit score quickly? If you follow these tips, you'll see improvement in your score in no time.

7 Life-Saving Tips That’ll Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

16% of Americans have a credit score of below 579. This is the lowest level of the FICO score and is categorized as “very poor”.

A poor credit score can have a serious impact on your personal life and can affect your business negatively as well.

While no one can guarantee that you will hit an exceptional score, there are steps you can take to improve your credit score.

Here are seven tips to raise your credit score quickly.

1. Check Your Report for Errors and Omissions

The very first step to take is to get a copy of your credit card report. This is the only way to know where you stand before you figure out the specific actions to take to make things better.

This is, however, not all you will be doing with your report. Go through it carefully, checking for any error and omissions.

Look for things like a repaid debt that’s been listed as a default or a loan you repaid on time that is not listed.

If you identify any of these issues, move to have them corrected. This action in itself can add a few points to your rating.

2. Negotiate on Outstanding Balances

You will be surprised at how helpful your creditors can be. Unfortunately, if you never ask, you will never find out.

If you are having trouble making payments, make contact with your credit card issuer and communicate this with them.

Most providers have temporary hardship programs you can take advantage of. The benefit of this is that you can have your repayment amounts reduced until you get back on your feet.

Smaller, more manageable installments mean you can pay a lot more comfortably. This is better than skipping payments and having a creditor send a negative report that sheds a few points off your score.

3. Get Added as an Authorized User

This is a great way of giving your credit score an immediate boost. This works particularly well if you are just starting out and have little information on your credit rating.

You do this by getting someone with a high credit card limit and an even greater repayment history. Their card issuer sends them a card with your name on it.

Legally, you are not obligated to make payments on any debt accrued on the card. But its usage reflects positively on your credit score.

The key is finding someone with above board transactions. In a sense, you inherit the person’s positive credit history.

However, not all credit card companies report authorized users. Before you get on it, do your research and find out if it will be reported.

4. Ask Creditors to Delete Late Payments

It’s not uncommon to fall behind on payments from time to time. However, these small mistakes lower your credit score.

If you are in good standing with your creditors, it does not hurt to request them to delete some of the reported late payments. Financial institutions regularly communicate with Credit Referencing Bureaus, and all it would take is a quick phone call on your behalf.

If the request goes through, then you will have fewer negative reports, which will add some points to your credit rating. Nevertheless, try and restrict your late payments to 30 days. Creditors will not report late dues failing in this time frame.

If your issue is forgetfulness, rather than availability of funds, you can have your banker or employer make direct payments if this facility is available. If not, there are numerous software tools you can use to remind you when your payments are due.

5. Old Debts Can Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

You might be eager to forget about your car loan or student loan debts once you make the final payment.

However, as long as you completed your payments promptly, those records may help your scoring. The same is true for credit card debt.

All you need to do is keep these debts on your record. If they were entirely left out, then provide all the information to the credit Reference Bureau so they can use it to calculate your credit score.

Bad payment histories are deleted with time. However, bankruptcies stay on your report for 10 years and late payments for seven years. You don’t have much leeway with these.

6. Watch Your Credit Utilization Rate

Credit utilization is the amount of credit card balance you have compared to your credit limit.

This is the second largest factor affecting your credit score. The first is your credit repayment history.

The more credit you use on your credit card, the further down your credit rating drops. This trend indicates you are spending a significant portion of your income to repay debt, which makes you likelier to default on payments.

The best credit utilization is 0, which means your credit card limit is untouched. This defeats the purpose of applying for a credit card in the first place.

As a rule of thumb, keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%. This means using less than 30% of the credit limit availed to you. Anything above this can cause your rating to drop.

Under the FICO system, people with the highest scores have a utilization rate of 7%. The lower your utilization, the better.

7. Jump on Score Boosting programs

The average age and number of accounts you have held are an important consideration in evaluating how you handle debt.

This tends to disadvantage people with a limited credit history.

UltraFico and Experian Boost allow people with limited credit histories to puff it up using other information.

Experian requires access to your online banking data and allows Credit Referencing Bureaus to add utility payments to your history.

In the same way, UltraFico allows you to give permissions for savings and checking accounts to be used alongside your report when calculating your credit score.

Consistency Is Key

All in all, while it is possible to raise your credit score quickly, expect a few bumps along the way and allow yourself some time.

At First Financial, we understand that while you work on your credit rating you might still need help from time to time. No matter your credit score, we have a financing solution for you. Contact us today for more information.

Take the Pain out of Monitoring Your Finance

Go from bad credit to good credit without beating yourself up

Can there be any joy in monitoring your finances? Your bank balance is disappointing more often than not. Trimming expenses doesn’t bring any joy. Reminders of irresponsibility can be a gut punch.

Still, a different mindset can help you make the changes to put you on the path to good credit.   

Begin by forgiving yourself for financial mistakes

The shame and blame we heap upon ourselves for not being where we want to be financially can make our situations worse. It leads us to avoid confronting credit spending, recurring debits from bank accounts, balances on personal loans or car loans, and important conversations with family members.

Shame springs from an idea that the individual has departed from social norms. Start dismissing your shame when you understand that one in three others you’ll meet today also have credit under 601. That’s right—one-third of Americans today have bad credit.

The individual experiencing bad credit has lots of company. And is this all their fault?  With aggressive companies relentlessly bombarding us with messages that we deserve their products and that we must keep up with our peers, it’s no wonder we overextend ourselves.

If you can grab your financial issues “by the horns” so to speak, you have made the first

 step on the path to success. Some psychologists tell us that, “a willingness to endure discomfort and capitalize on challenge is a trademark among successful, fulfilled individuals.” While it will require a little effort, put a budget in place, inform those who may impact it, stick to it. You’ll quickly find positive feelings about yourself and your financial situation multiplying. As Benjamin Franklin told the framers of our constitution, “Once begun, half done.” Those quill pens got to writing, despite their enormous task. 

Gamify Your Savings

Rather than tracking every $3 coffee, focus more on a positive indicator: your savings level. As that rises, set a reward after reaching certain amounts. The reward could be you get to buy a new piece of clothing or 10 shares of SnapChat stock. Set these levels up ahead of time and stick to these commitments. These rewards can offset the sense of loss from avoiding day-to-day overspending.

Take the pressure off when you avoid social media

First and foremost, understand that social media is simply carefully selected snippets of your friends’ and family members lives. What they choose to share is designed to elicit envy. Those of us here at First Financial are constantly surprised at friends’ life-is-so-great posts and how these compare to what we know are their real struggles.

What’s more, when you focus on others, you remove your attention from your own issues. If you have bad credit, all your attention needs paid to your spending and savings plans.

Let the social world turn without you when you use a religious tradition, mindfulness, meditation or good old smart reading to understand how pointless it is to compare yourself to friends, relatives.

Deepen Your Relationships when You Lay It All Out for Loved Ones

Serious conversations with loved ones can be intimidating, particularly when they’re about money. Strategize how to take the sting out of belt-tightening before you tackle it with those you love. In other words, have alternate plans to take the place of lavish habits so that your new financial regimen doesn’t translate as 100 percent loss.  

First, explain how it’s important now to join forces for common goals and how these efforts will unite you. Emphasize that working together for financial fitness by cooking meals together, going to resale and thrift shops and competing for better money saving strategies will get you talking and sharing more. Also, make sure you include your family members’ long- and short-term goals in your planning. Study after study reveals that children and spouses prefer experiences and time spent together over material goods anyway. Shared experiences just connect us better and for longer than shared material consumption. Use that research if you have to!

Your new financial fitness system may benefit from gratitude journals. Everyone should jot down at least one thing they’re grateful for every day. Sharing is optional, but when these grateful moments that include others are shared, it strengthens bonds. These journals, particularly effective when an individual is feeling particularly short-changed, have proven to increase happiness significantly.

Overlooked Benefits of Credit Card Usage

Want to maximize your money and scrutinize your spending? Use credit cards! Most come with no monthly fee, and if you pay them off every month, no interest accrues. In addition to convenience at the parking structure exit and online store, credit cards make life easier in so many ways.

Credit Cards Protect Your Purchases

Hopefully, you choose your purchases only after careful consideration. If you want extra protection, however, use credit cards for online purchases and even large in-person transactions. Money transferred via debit card, check or cash is far tougher to retrieve if the purchase turns out to be defective or not what you have expected. With credit cards, however, you can call the issuer and dispute the charge. This puts the financial transfer on hold until the vendor can satisfy the buyer, until the vendor agrees to return the money, or the bank sides with the consumer and refuses to pay. The protections afforded by the credit card give you a chance to try out the product so you can make sure you’ve gotten what you expected.

Consider, too, putting home and lawn remodeling on a credit card to protect yourself. If you cut a down-payment check up front, that money is gone. A landscaper can leave your yard an excavated mess and never show up again. If you put the down-payment on a credit card, you can dispute the charges and hopefully get your money back from the bank. While a dispute is pending, you won’t have to pay interest charges according to federal law.  If your credit issuer decides in your favor, you won’t owe anything.

Credit Cards Protect You from Fraud

Barely a month goes without hearing about how a large company’s customer data has been hacked. Your financial liability for charges resulting from identity theft depends how quickly you find out about it and alert the card issuer. Federal law mandates that your liability for credit card fraud can never be more than $50.00.

You Want Vacation Benefits

Hotels, restaurants and car rental companies know your credit card most likely has a higher limit than the money in your checking account. They want you to use your credit card and will offer all kinds of incentives if you pull out the plastic. All you need is a little self-discipline to take advantage of the perks without getting into over-spending. And, whatever you do, don’t fall for messages that you can afford more. Stick to your budget. They’re happy to run your credit cards up to the limit, but you have ultimate control.

The cards themselves, too, pass along incentives from time to time. If you read your credit card agreement, you may find extended warranties on large purchases, insurance coverage on rental cars or price guarantees on products bought with the card. Want to leverage every penny you earn? Read your credit card fine print! You won’t find rewards on debit cards.

Transacting business in the United States today often takes credit cards. They not only make life convenient, they make it safer and filled with more fun perks. If you want a credit card that fits your lifestyle and helps you achieve your goal, don’t hesitate to review First Financial’s wide variety of credit cards here.


First Financial

First Financial ® Corporate Headquarters 2850 Womble Road Suite 100-604 San Diego, CA 92106

Client Service Center:  Main: 1-800-315-7791  Fax: 1-800-215-0217 (Monday–Friday 5:00am–6:00pm Pacific or 8:00am–9:00pm Eastern)

Merchant Services / High Risk Merchant Accounts: Main 1-800-950-0212  Fax: 1-800-215-0217

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