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Merchant account is a contract between a business and a bank or a financial institution. This contract ensures that the bank accepts payments for the products or services on behalf of the business. These Credit Card acquiring banks ensures that a merchant or company can accept payment from international customers for the products or services they deliver. Thus merchant accounts form a vital part of any E-commerce business.

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There are two types of merchant accounts. First is the normal account, where the Credit Card can directly access the card and ensure that it is a legitimate customer, thereby the risk involved is minimal. The second type of Credit Card involves the accounts where it is not possible to visually testify the customer. These types of accounts include adult entertainment merchants, online tobacco merchants, replica merchants, online gambling merchants, pre-paid calling merchants, VOIP merchants, multilevel marketing merchants, or any transaction that takes place with the customer physically not present. Thereby, the possibility of fraud activity is much greater with this type of business which results in classifying these types of accounts as “high risk” ones. Naturally, these high risk merchant accounts present the risk of the dreaded charge backs for the banks in question. It has been proved by various researches that these high risk processing transactions are more susceptible to fraudulent transactions.

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A high risk merchant account is a merchant account or payment processing agreement that is tailored to fit a business which is deemed high risk or is operating in an industry that has been deemed as such. These merchants usually need to pay higher fees for merchant services, which can add to their cost of business, affecting profitability and ROI, especially for companies that were re-classified as a high risk industry, and were not prepared to deal with the costs of operating as a high risk merchant. Some companies specialize in working specifically with high risk merchants by offering competitive rates, faster payouts, and/or lower reserve rates, all of which are designed to attract companies which are having difficulty finding a place to do business.

Businesses in a variety of industries are labeled as 'high risk' due to the nature of their industry, the method in which they operate, or a variety of other factors. For instance, all adult businesses are considered to be high risk operations, as are travel agencies, auto rentals, collections agencies, legal offline and online gambling, bail bonds, and a variety of other online and offline businesses. Because working with, and processing payments for, these companies can carry higher risks for banks and financial institutions they are obliged to sign up for a high risk merchant account which has a different fee schedule than regular merchant accounts.

When a merchant applies for a merchant account with a bank, payment processor, or other merchant account provider, there are many factors to consider before settling on a particular merchant provider. It is often possible to negotiate lower rates, and one should always request multiple quotes before choosing which high risk merchant account provider to use for their processing needs.

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