High-risk merchant accounts are payment processing services that allow businesses considered to be high risk by banks to accept credit cards from customers. Businesses classified as high-risk typically are not approved for a traditional merchant account, so you will need a dedicated account that can work with your business type.
Though high-risk merchant accounts almost always have higher fees than traditional accounts, the best ones offer transparent pricing, dedicated customer support, and tools to prevent chargebacks.
Based on our evaluation, the best high-risk merchant accounts are:
- PaymentCloud: Best overall high-risk merchant account
- Durango Merchant Services: Best for online sellers, including international or offshore
- Host Merchant Services: Best interchange-plus pricing for hard-to-place businesses
- SMB Global: Best for chargeback monitoring and management
- Soar Payments: Best for instant quote and automated application process
- eMerchant Broker: Best for online CBD sales
Top High-Risk Merchant Accounts Compared
Works with MATCH List Businesses
Standard 1 year, 1 year auto-renewal, also offers month-to-month
Card-present, Ecommerce, Virtual terminal, Mobile payment
Month-to-month, 3 years for very high risk,1 year auto-renewal
Card-present, Ecommerce, Mobile payment, Virtual terminal (w/fee)
Standard 1–3 years
$0 for qualified merchant accounts, otherwise $250–$500
Card-present, Mobile payment, Ecommerce (w/fee), Virtual terminal (w/fee)
Expect standard 3 years, unspecified auto-renewal
$500 (Standard for high-risk merchants)
Card-present, Ecommerce (w/fee), Mobile payment (w/fee)
Standard 2 years, 1 year auto-renewal
Card-present, Mobile payment, Ecommerce (w/fee), Virtual terminal (w/fee)
Standard 1–3 years, unspecified auto-renewal
Ecommerce, Card-present (limited), Virtual terminal (w/fee), Mobile payment (w/fee)
What Are High-Risk Merchants?
A high-risk merchant is a business that may be considered high risk to banks or other financial institutions. Any business prone to chargebacks or operating in an industry that makes it susceptible to financial failure or is otherwise potentially questionable (such as CBD vendors or offshore businesses) can be classified as high risk. This is because financial institutions are taking on a higher level of risk working with you.
Examples of high-risk industries*:
Your business may be considered high risk if you have:
Financial or legal services
An offshore business
High chargeback or fraud rates
Poor personal credit
Life and other coaching services
Multilevel marketing tactics
CBD and vape
Very high average order sales (above $500)
Travel services or clubs
Extended fulfillment timeframe
Health, wellness, and supplements
*This is just a small sample of industries that could be considered high risk. Classification is determined differently by every bank and financial institution.
What Is a High-Risk Merchant Account?
A merchant account is a type of bank account. Having a high-risk business makes it harder to open a merchant account, just like certain factors can impact your business’ ability to get insurance coverage or financing.
If your business does not fall under the credit policies of a tier-one traditional bank, your application for a merchant account may be rejected. In this case, you will need to find a merchant account provider that specializes in working with high-risk customers.
The main differences between a traditional merchant account and a high-risk merchant account are the high-risk merchant account’s much higher fees and processing volume restrictions. So, it’s important to apply for traditional merchant services before opting for a high-risk provider. PaymentCloud, our best overall pick for this article, also serves low- and medium-risk businesses. You can also see our guide to the best overall merchant services for our recommended low-risk providers.
PaymentCloud: Best Overall High-Risk Merchant Account for Small Businesses
PaymentCloud is a high-risk processor that specializes in getting hard-to-place businesses approved for merchant accounts. It has a very hands-on approach, helping businesses through the application process and using multiple backend processors to find the lowest rates. Once you are onboarded, PaymentCloud continues to offer dedicated support.
Like most high-risk payment processors, PaymentCloud does not publicly disclose pricing. This is common because pricing usually varies based on your business and its associated risks.
Fantastic service, along with competitive pricing, earned PaymentCloud a 4.61 out of 5 in our evaluation. It earned a perfect score for its range of payment types and has a great industry reputation. Many low-risk processors—including Dharma Merchant Services and Stripe—actually refer their high-risk applicants over to PaymentCloud. The lack of 24/7 support, as well as certain businesses being subject to two-year contracts and rolling reserves, prevented PaymentCloud from getting a perfect score.
- Payment types: All major credit cards, debit cards, and automated clearing house (ACH) payments
- Online payment methods: Payment gateways, virtual terminal, and online shopping cart integrations
- In-person payments: Credit card terminals, POS systems, and mobile payments
- Chargeback prevention: Partnership with Chargeback Gurus to get instant dispute alerts, dispute tracking, a dispute cause analyzer, and prevention analysis
- Fraud prevention: Industry-standard Address Verification System (AVS) technology, tokenization, 3D Secure technology to validate cardholders at the point of purchase, and temporary payment halts to pause suspicious transactions until they are verified
PaymentCloud Compatible Industries
PaymentCloud has one of the most extensive lists of approved industries out of all the high-risk merchant service providers on our list, boasts a 98% approval rating with its banks, and offers free quote comparisons. It works with tobacco, vape, topical CBD, hemp, and other products, as well as electronics, firearms, and nutraceuticals.
For high-risk services, it works with debt consolidators, diet and nutrition coaches, educational and online seminar providers, moving services, software and e-book providers, tech support, and more.
What PaymentCloud Is Missing
Overall, PaymentCloud’s customer support is extremely helpful but a bit difficult to get in touch with. It is only available via phone or email from 7 a.m.–6 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday; some customers dislike the fact that support isn’t available 24/7 as its website also provides limited answers in the FAQ. If customer service quality is important to you, we recommend Durango, which has consistently received outstanding reviews of its customer service.
Durango Merchant Services: Best for Online Sellers
Durango Merchant Services is one of the oldest merchant service providers specializing in high-risk accounts and has a long-standing reputation for offering reliable and affordable processing for hard-to-place merchants. It is also one of the more lenient high-risk merchant account providers, especially when it comes to helping small businesses with bad credit secure payment processing services.
Durango does not publicly disclose pricing on its website. Like most high-risk accounts, the rates, fees, and contract terms will depend on your business and financials.
In our evaluation, Durango earned a 4.52 out of 5. It earned high marks for its proprietary Durango Pay payment gateway and Durango Cart shopping cart technology, making it a great option for online businesses. It also works with companies on the MATCH list, as well as with offshore and international businesses.
MATCH (Member Alert to Control High-Risk Merchants) list: A list of businesses with one or more merchant accounts previously closed by their acquiring banks. This database is created and managed by Mastercard and typically used by acquiring banks to screen merchant account applicants. Previously, this was known as the TMF (terminated merchant file) list.
Limited Mountain time support hours prevented Durango from earning a perfect score. The company also uses rolling reserves on high-risk startups and will require up to three-year contracts for some high-risk businesses.
Durango Merchant Services Features
- Payment types: All major credit and debit cards, ACH, e-check payments, and cryptocurrency
- Payment methods: Point-of-sale payments, mobile payments through the iProcess app, online payments though Durango Cart, or integrate with ecommerce or web builder platforms with Durango Pay payment gateway
- Fraud protection: All accounts come with anti-fraud services, including Verified by Visa, Mastercard SecureCode, Fraud Scrubbing, and EMV 3d Secure 2.0
Durango Merchant Services Compatible Industries
All of the merchant account providers on our list accept a wide range of companies—and Durango is no exception. The company works with membership businesses, horoscope and fortune-telling services, mail or telephone order businesses, multilevel marketers, online auctions, telemarketing or telecommunications firms, timeshare advertisers, high-ticket businesses, pawnshops, and more.
Unlike most of the other merchant account providers in our guide, Durango does not explicitly list all of the businesses it works with. However, it does mention a few businesses that it won’t, including businesses that require age verification and those offering synthetic cannabinoids, remote PC support, and replica or counterfeit products.
What Durango Merchant Services Is Missing
Some high risk companies require age verification tools to legally conduct business, which Durango does not provide. This means it cannot support businesses that sell age-restricted products or services. If your business falls under this category, we recommend PaymentCloud as an alternative.
Host Merchant Services: Best for Hard-to-Place Businesses
Host Merchant Services is a traditional merchant account provider that also offers high-risk credit card processing and competitive interchange-plus pricing to businesses that qualify. Host Merchant Services advertises that it can help many businesses get merchant accounts that other processors would not work with. Specifically, its website says it can help businesses “selling anything that ‘borders’ on illegal”—in addition to adult businesses.
Host Merchant Services offers competitive interchange-plus pricing. Most high-risk merchant service providers’ default offer is tiered pricing. However, Host Merchant Services exclusively offers interchange-plus. Like the other solutions on our list, specific pricing details are not disclosed and may vary for each business.
In our evaluation, Host Merchant Services earned a 4.02 out of 5. Rolling reserve requirements, a somewhat complicated pricing structure, and limited customer support prevented the company from earning a higher score. This merchant account provider is also on par with Durango in terms of flexibility with payment types, offering full card-present transaction options, mobile payment, ecommerce, and an in-house gateway and virtual terminal feature.
Host Merchant Services Features
- Payment types: All major credit and debit cards, ACH payments, recurring billing, gift cards, and loyalty programs
- Payment methods: POS solutions include Bonsai and Clover; mobile payments through Vital and SwipeSimple apps; virtual terminal and payment gateway available through Transaction Express and Authorize.Net; and integrates with Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and more for online payments
- One primary processor: A registered independent sales organization (ISO) of Wells Fargo Bank and uses a partnership with Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS) to place high-risk accounts
Host Merchant Services Compatible Industries
Host Merchant Services provides high-risk accounts for a wide range of industries, including:
- Debt collection/recovery
- Adult novelties/toys
- Electronic cigarettes
- Adult including membership sites
- Life coaching
- Nutra deals
- Offshore business
- Loan modification companies
- Some travel
- Gambling and casinos
- Modeling agencies
- Pawn shops
- Vape shops
- Real estate
- SEO services
- Vitamin and supplement sales
- And many more
What Host Merchant Services Is Missing
Having one primary processor means that it can provide more specific pricing information. On the other hand, it also means that if your business does not qualify for its high-risk merchant qualifications, Host Merchant Services may be less likely to approve your account. If this is a deal breaker for you, consider Durango or PaymentCloud for more back-end processor options.
SMB Global: Best for Chargeback Management
SMB Global is a merchant service provider partner of Payline Data, a popular and reputable low-risk processor. SMB Global exclusively deals with high-risk and international businesses. It has chargeback prevention features (including an auto-response feature to fight chargebacks quickly) and two popular payment gateway options—and each integrates with more than 175 online shopping carts.
Like most high-risk merchant service providers, SMB Global does not disclose specific pricing information. The rates you receive, contract terms, and any other fees will also depend on your business. A number of factors—such as how long you have been in business, your processing history, proven cash flow or business model, and type of high-risk business—can all impact your rates and contract terms.
In our evaluation, SMB Global earned a 3.66 out of 5. This company was particularly hard to evaluate because it partners with more than 20 other banks and back-end processors. In theory, this means businesses should get competitive rates and ideal contract terms. However, it also means pricing structures and fees vary significantly between businesses.
SMB Global Features
- Payment types: All major credit and debit cards, ACH, and e-check processing
- Payment methods: POS terminals, including Verifone; online and mobile payments available through Authorize.Net and NMI payment gateways
- Short application process: Sends your application out to many processing partners to find the best rates and contract terms (like most other high-risk merchant accounts)
- Chargeback prevention platform: Analytics platform to display your chargeback counts and ratios in real time and forecast your month-end results in advance; also has a feature that responds to chargebacks automatically so that they can be fought quickly and accurately
SMB Global Compatible Industries
- Debt consolidation
- Auto transport
- E-cigarettes and tobacco
- Nutraceuticals/Herbal supplements
SMB Global highlights the industries listed above on its website. Like PaymentCloud, SMB Global has a long list of products, industries, and services that it works with. It is worth noting that SMB works with many types of unconventional product sales, including auto parts, weight loss programs, electronics, firearms, supplements, and collectibles.
SMB also works with a variety of online services such as gambling, fantasy sports, furniture, and travel sites. Although SMB works with electronic cigarettes, vape, and tobacco products, there is no specific mention of CBD or hemp products.
What SMB Global Is Missing
If your business involves selling CBD products, SMB global may not be a suitable candidate for your merchant account. Consider other solutions like Host Merchant Services with its extensive list of compatible high-risk businesses.
Soar Payments: Best for Instant Quotes
Soar Payments is a high-risk merchant service provider that specializes in working with businesses that have trouble getting approved for a merchant account. Soar works with a variety of industries and business types and offers the most direct integrations with accounting, CRM, and ecommerce platforms out of all the solutions on our list.
Overall, Soar offers reputable payment processing with fast estimates and approvals, plus no application fees. Like all of the other solutions on our list, Soar does not disclose pricing. However, it offers transaction fees as low as 2.49% for high-risk merchants. Specific rates will vary for each business.
One of Soar Payment’s standout features is that it offers instant online quotes which you cannot usually find in highly rated alternatives such as PaymentCloud. In our evaluation, Soar earned a 3.49 out of 5. Two-year contracts as standard practice, incompatibility with merchants on the MATCH list, and slower 48–72 hour deposit times prevented Soar from earning a higher score.
Soar Payments Features
- Payment types: All major credit and debit cards, ACH, and e-check
- Payment methods: POS payments, plus mobile and online payments through Authorize.Net, NMI gateway, and USAePay
- Chargeback protection: Partnership with Chargeback.com to include alert emails, representation to fight chargebacks, fraud detection, and more
Soar Payments Compatible Industries
Soar Payments does work with over 50 high-risk business types, including those with bad credit and those involved in cannabis support, SBD products, credit repair and monitoring, fantasy sports, firearms, multilevel marketing, pawnbrokers, nutraceuticals, survivalist businesses, and travel.
However, Soar Payments does not work with any merchant on the MATCH list, adult businesses, bitcoin, debt consolidation or relief, tech support, very poor credit businesses, or other businesses listed below:
- Any illegal activity
- Debt collection
- Gambling and casino
- Hate or racial content
- Offshore and non-US businesses
- Payday loan/cash advance
What Soar Payments Is Missing
One of Soar Payments’ major downsides is its inability to work with merchants on the MATCH list. If your business falls under this category, consider PaymentCloud or Durango Merchant Services.
eMerchant Broker: Best for Online CBD
eMerchant Broker (EMB) is a high-risk credit card processing company that offers high approval odds. EMB is also one of the few credit card processing companies that actively advertises working with CBD vendors, hemp products, and medical marijuana dispensaries. However, it does not offer the lowest pricing, even among other high-risk merchant accounts.
Like the other solutions on our list, EMB does not disclose pricing information. However, it has lengthier contracts and hefty early cancellation fees. The company also uses a tiered payment processing pricing model, which is typically more expensive and unpredictable than the interchange-plus models available through PaymentCloud and Durango.
In our evaluation, EMB earned just 2.98 out of 5—so it’s not our first choice. However, if you sell CBD oil, vapes, extract, or edibles and are having trouble getting approved for a merchant account, it can be a good option.
Heftier fees, lack of dedicated account managers, and lack of in-person payment solutions prevented EMB from scoring higher. We felt it was important to include EMB in this evaluation as the company is often mentioned as a workaround solution for selling CBD products on ecommerce platforms like Shopify.
- Payment types: All major credit and debit cards and checks
- Online payment methods: Accept online payments through a proprietary EMB payment gateway, Authorize.Net, or integrations with Square, Wix, BigCommerce, and Shopify
- Chargeback prevention: Partnership with Verifi and Ethoca to minimize and notify merchants of chargebacks
- CBD merchant accounts: Works with businesses selling CBD supplements and vitamins, beauty products, CBD oil, pet products, hemp oil, vaping oil and pens, CBD edibles, creams and topical treatments, pain-relief sprays, extracts, and more
eMerchantBroker Compatible Industries
EMB works with a wide range of high-risk businesses including electronic cigarettes, adult, tech support, credit repair, nutraceutical, collection, weight loss, and electronic businesses. According to its website, it has a 95% account approval rating, which is very high, especially for high-risk merchant services.
Its website lists the following approved industries:
- Adult entertainment and novelties
- Auto accessories and parts
- Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smoking accessories
- Collectibles and antiques
- Designer fashions
- Luxury goods and services, such as private planes and travel
- MLM and direct sales
- Moving companies
- Penny auctions
- Precious metals and coins
- Sports betting
- Tech support Tickets for flights, concerts, excursions
- Water purifiers
- Debt collection
- Credit repair
- Weight loss and fitness consulting or coaching
- Insurance policies
- Phone and wireless
- Magazines subscriptions
- Educational seminars and online courses
- Downloadable and mobile app software
What eMerchant Broker Is Missing
Retailers that usually start with an online business eventually venture into in-person sales. If this is in your business plan, then eMerchant Broker might not be the right solution for you. Consider PaymentCloud as an alternative that accepts both online and in-person payments, including a mobile payment option.
How We Evaluated High-Risk Merchant Accounts
Naturally, we considered rates and fees. However, unlike the best low-risk merchant services, high-risk merchant account providers don’t publicly disclose pricing. That is because these businesses partner with many different underwriting banks and will help you fill out an application to shop around for the best rates. So, rates will vary for each business.
We looked at the overall pricing structures and fee transparency for each company. For example, we reviewed average contract length, cancellation fees, rolling reserve policies, and whether they offer interchange-plus pricing to qualified merchants.
In addition to fair and transparent pricing, high-risk merchants specifically need dedicated customer support plus chargeback prevention and protection tools to monitor for fraud or any other activity that could potentially jeopardize the merchant account.
While many processors claim to specialize in high-risk merchant services, some of those companies are actually very selective in their approval process, will automatically reject applicants on the MATCH list, or deny businesses that operate in certain industries. We prioritized processors that work to get merchants placed regardless of history or business type.
Finally, we considered standard payment features, like what types of payments each processor supports, deposit times, customer support hours, and user reviews.
Based on our evaluation, PaymentCloud emerged as the best overall high-risk merchant account for small businesses. PaymentCloud offers dedicated customer support, competitive pricing, fast approvals, and next-day funding, which is rare for high-risk accounts. Plus, the company offers plenty of hardware and solutions for online, storefront, and mobile sellers.
Click through the tabs below for our specific evaluation criteria:
30% of Overall Score
We awarded points to processors that have average contract lengths below the three-year industry standard, have minimal or negotiable rolling reserve policies, and do not charge cancellation or early termination fees and any application or setup fees.
20% of Overall Score
Processors earned points for offering point-of-sale payment options, ecommerce or shopping cart integrations, and mobile payment solutions. Though nearly every processor provides payment gateway solutions, we awarded bonus points for those that charge minimal or no fees.
30% of Overall Score
We prioritized 24/7 customer support and processors that offer dedicated account managers, include free chargeback monitoring and protection tools, and provide fast deposits. We also considered what industries and business types each processor works with, awarding points to those that are the most flexible.
20% of Overall Score
Processors earned points for positive user reviews and overall transparent pricing practices. Our experts also considered the company’s overall reputation, reliability and their personal experience interacting with its representatives.
Navigating the process of choosing a credit card processor as a high-risk business is tricky because there are few options for high-risk merchant services. Choosing a provider that is easy to work with and you can trust to charge fair rates is paramount.
PaymentCloud is a reliable credit card processor that specializes in high-risk merchant accounts and works with many back-end processors to service a wide variety of online, ecommerce, and retail businesses. It also offers fast approvals, competitive pricing, and next-day funding. Visit PaymentCloud for a free quote.