Any business that wants to be profitable will need to be able to accept credit card payments. The problem is that not all merchant services providers will work with every business.
A gun-friendly payment processing company is one that will.
The firearms industry is considered to be high-risk, which means that merchant account providers and payment processors are less likely to work with them.
And those that do are likely to charge more because they carry more of the risk.
Guns are considered to be big-ticket items.
That means that in order for firearms dealers to make sales - whether online or in-store - accepting credit cards, debit cards, and other forms of payment is a must.
Most people don’t carry hundreds or even thousands of dollars in cash, so without a way to process other types of payments, gun merchants cannot be successful in business.
There’s a process that goes into accepting and processing credit card payments, and it’s not nearly as cut-and-dried as most people think it is.
There are basically three parts to the entire process.
You’ll need to set up a merchant account for your firearms business. A merchant account should be considered more like a place for the money from your sales to go while it awaits the next steps.
Once the money arrives, any fees that you need to pay will be removed. They can be everything from transaction fees to monthly or yearly fees.
As a high-risk merchant, you may also be subject to rolling reserves, which means a percentage of your sales is held in a separate account for a period of six months, typically.
Don’t worry. Those funds will be released to you as time goes on once you reach that six-month mark. This helps to protect your business against excessive chargebacks and cover the cost.
Once that is done, the remaining funds are then sent to your business bank account. That’s where you have access to them.
If you find a merchant account provider that you like, there is a good chance that they also offer payment processing services. Many do.
If not, they probably have partners they can refer you to.
Your payment processor is responsible for moving the money along through the entire process until it reaches your business bank account.
That company follows the funds from the moment each transaction is approved. Almost everything they do is done behind the scenes, so you won’t always know it’s happening.
But it is. This is a critical component.
Then finally, there’s your business bank account, which you probably already have set up.
This is the place where money from your sales (minus any fees and rolling reserves) will end up. From here, you can make withdrawals, pay your employees, etc.
In a word, no. Let us explain.
The three major payment aggregators all have language in their terms that specifically disallow firearms merchants.
While using a payment aggregator is typically problematic, there are some benefits. One of them is that you don’t have to wait long before you’re able to start accepting payments.
That makes using any of the above companies as your processor pretty attractive.
A lot of high-risk merchants will get around these terms by not being entirely forthright about what they’re selling. But that can cause many additional problems.
Getting caught lying about your business to a payment aggregator can quickly earn you a spot on the MATCH list. Once you’re there, it can be really difficult to get off.
Not only that, but you’re likely to be unable to secure payment processing services as long as your business is listed there.
Now that you have a general idea of how merchant services for gun retailers work, it’s time to start thinking about finding the right company to meet your needs.
It’s important to keep a few things in mind and there are some decisions you’ll need to make before you move forward.
In the United States, you can have a firearms business that operates online or one that has a storefront.
You can also have both.
It’s important to decide what your business model will be because that will determine what hardware and/or software you’ll need to get started.
If you decide that you’ll be running a brick and mortar store, you may want a POS system, a credit card terminal, or possibly a virtual terminal, depending on your preferences.
But if you’ll primarily be selling your products online, you might need shopping cart integration with a payment gateway.
Regardless, you’ll want to make sure that the merchant services provider you choose is able to meet your needs.
Remember, you’re considered to be a high-risk business. That means that you’re going to pay more for your payment processing services than merchants that are considered standard-risk, like most restaurants and grocery stores.
It also means that you will have to settle for:
The good news is that if you choose the right company to work with, and you get some processing history under your belt, some of these requirements might be relaxed eventually.
There are also companies that work closely with high-risk businesses to help them lower their processing costs. It’s definitely worth listening to all the ways they might be able to help you.
Back in the “good old days,” making a payment was as easy as handing over cash or a check. But times have changed, and now, there are an incredible number of ways to accept payments:
Many of these payment options are a lot more convenient, and because of that, they’re growing in popularity.
It will pay for you to take some time to decide which types of payments you want to accept in your store and/or online. Quite honestly, it’s the only way for any merchant to remain competitive, regardless of their industry.
Whether you’ve decided to talk with one of the firearm dealer payment processors we’ve recommended, or you’ve gone out on your own to find one, eventually, you’ll need to make a decision.
You want to choose the best one to meet your business’s needs. These tips will help you do that.
As we mentioned earlier, as a high-risk merchant, you’ll probably be locked into a long-term contract. Take the time to read it over carefully and ask any questions that come to your mind.
There are some things you’ll want to look for specifically:
Keep an eye out for hidden fees or anything that just doesn’t sound right. Some companies aren’t completely upfront about what they offer and the cost of those services.
Also, it’s important to ask the processor about the cost of hardware, if you need it. This could be a separate contract that is different from the one you sign for payment processing.
Many merchant service providers will give their merchant customers free POS systems and credit card terminals. Some outsource their hardware needs to other companies that lease the hardware to the merchants.
These leases are expensive and can end up costing you thousands of dollars for equipment that could easily be purchased for a few hundred dollars. You may even want to ask if the company can work with any existing equipment you have.
High-risk merchants often have a lot of chargebacks, which is a big part of why they end up in the high-risk category.
A chargeback occurs when a customer disputes a transaction with their bank for any reason. It could be because the customer believes it was a fraudulent transaction due to credit card theft.
But sometimes they occur simply because customers know that they can ask their banks to reverse charges and they will.
Unfortunately, that happens a lot within the payment processing industry, and especially with high-risk merchants.
Any credit card processor you work with should offer you some type of chargeback protection as well as ways to prevent them. For example, some processing companies have services in place to send an alert the very moment a chargeback is filed, before the investigation is completed.
In cases like these, the merchant has time to get in touch with the customer and process a refund instead of allowing the chargeback to complete.
All high-risk merchants should consider working with payment processing companies that offer load balancing. This simply means that instead of just one merchant account, you get two, or possibly even more.
When you make sales, the money is split between the merchant accounts according to the amounts that you and your processor agree upon. Everything else happens as normal, and you still get money from your sales deposited into your business bank account.
The difference is that if your business suffers an excessive amount of chargebacks, the brunt of that is felt across several merchant accounts and not just one. In some situations, your processor may need to freeze funds in one of them, but you’ll still have access to the remainder of your money until the freeze is lifted.
You’re almost ready to start checking out gun-friendly credit card processors. But we have a few more tips before you do.
You’ll need to submit all the required documentation before an underwriter will look at your application and consider your business for a merchant account.
Here’s an example of what you might need to provide:
Of course, you’ll also need your completed application and anything else they might request from you.
The sooner you get everything into the underwriting department, the better. Once everything has been submitted, most companies should get back to you with a decision in about a week.
Take a long, hard look at your processing history. What is your volume each month? Is that likely to change? What can you predict going forward?
Like we mentioned earlier, you’ll want to avoid ending up on the dreaded MATCH list, and the last thing you need is to hit a cap and not be able to accept payments for the rest of the month.
Be honest about your volume and your payment processor will work with you to find a limit that works.
The decision you make now is likely to have an impact on how your business does in the future.
For instance, if you plan to have an online presence in a year, it wouldn’t work to have a merchant account provider that only works with storefront businesses. You could end up signing a long-term contract that you’re not able to get out of.
Take the time to work out your business plan and include your thoughts about the next year, five years, and even ten years. That will give you a better understanding of what your needs are.
Again, here are our picks for the best credit card processing companies for gun dealers.
We know you’ll make the right choice to suit your needs.