High Risk Credit Repair Merchant Accounts:

Voted the #1 High Risk Merchant Account Provider for three year’s running, Soar Payments is laser focused on providing high risk credit repair merchant accounts for our clients.

Our goal is to be the undisputed best high risk merchant account provider for credit repair companies. To achieve that, we have to understand the unique needs of the industries that we specialize in. For the credit repair industry, we’ve created the below “credit repair credit card processing cheat sheet”. It’s designed to give credit repair business owners a single place to obtain all the information they’ll need to obtain a credit repair merchant account and thrive when accepting credit and debit payments in this high risk industry.

To Get Your Credit Repair Merchant Account:Apply Now

A Note From Our CEO

Adam CEO Credit Repair Merchant Services

Adam CarlsonSoar Payments, CEO

Running a small business is flat out tough.

At least that’s what a few credit repair business owners have told me personally. (One guy I spoke to recently quit the industry altogether, even though he was grossing over $2 million a year.)

OK, maybe it’s not always that bad, but there’s a lot that can go wrong with your credit repair business unless you plan ahead:

  1. Managing recurring billing across multiple gateways
  2. Avoiding “Friendly” chargebacks
  3. Getting a high enough card processing volume cap.

The good news is, these problems are all solve-able. It took me about 8 hours of research, but I put together the below “credit repair credit card processing cheat sheet” for entrepreneurs in the credit repair industry to help you avoid these pitfalls.

It’s my sincere hope that you find this article useful (because I’ve got a lot of work in it)… and if you need help with high risk credit card processing for your credit repair business, I’d love to help you with that, too.

AC-Sig
P.S. If you own a credit repair business, and want affordable and reliable credit card processing we can help you (in fact, credit repair is one of our specialties). Click here to begin a free online application.

February 1, 2016

 

Credit Repair Industry Profile:

  • Domestic (US) total annual revenue for the credit repair industry totals $6.0 Billion (2015)
  • There are 135,701 people employed in the industry, spread over 123,010 credit repair businesses (2015)
  • The industry has shrunk by approximately 5.2% over the last five years from its height in 2010.
  • The credit repair industry is almost entirely comprised of small businesses. No single company accounts for more than 5.0% of credit repair industry revenue.
  • The average US Household has $129,579 in debt, and nationwide, US consumers have approximately $11.91 trillion in total debt (2015)
  • The average US household is paying a total of $6,658 in interest per year, or 9% of their total income. (2015)

Sources:

Categorization of the Credit Repair Industry:

SIC Code: Businesses in the credit repair industry would generally fall into one of the following SIC codes,

  • 7299: Consumer credit counseling services; Credit repair (i.e., counseling) services
  • 8748: Business Consulting Services
  • 7323: Credit Reporting Services
  • 7389: Business Services, Not Elsewhere Categorized

See the entire list of SIC codes here.

NAICS Code:: Credit repair or credit consulting businesses generally use one of the following two NAICS codes:

  • 541990: Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
  • 561450: Credit Bureaus
  • 541618: Other Management Consulting Services

See the entire list of NAICS codes here.

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The largest US credit repair companies:

The credit repair industry is extremely fractured, with no publicly traded companies, and the largest companies having revenues in the millions of dollars and total staff levels below 100 persons. A few of the largest companies are listed below:

  • RMCN: RMCN, based in McKinney Texas was founded in 1997, the company is regarded as one of the largest credit repair providers, despite only having 50 employees, a testament to how fragmented the credit repair industry is.
  • Sky Blue Credit Repair: A privately held company, founded in 1989, they have approximately 50 employees. They generate leads through a robust affiliate program.
  • Lexington Law: A privately held law firm operating under the dba Lexington Law, the firm boasts 25 attorneys in their Utah, Arizona and Alabama offices.

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Getting a Credit Repair Merchant Account

How do I get a credit repair merchant account?

This is a pretty basic question, and the answer, at least in theory, is pretty simple… apply with a merchant account provider. The merchant account provider will then complete the application, send it to their underwriting department to review, and once approved, you’ll be ready to accept payments. If, however, you’ve applied for a merchant account with your local bank, or frankly, almost any other payment processor, you’ve found that at least for credit repair companies, that simple answer is wholly inadequate, as most banks and their processors will not write credit repair companies. Instead you’ll need a high risk credit repair merchant account.

So how do I find a credit repair merchant account provider?

If you owned a storefront retail business, almost every sponsor bank and credit card processor would be happy to provide you with processing. Unfortunately, for the credit repair industry, that isn’t the case. That’s not because the merchant account salesperson you’re talking to doesn’t want your business, but rather because their sponsor bank or their processor will not write credit repair businesses because of the regulatory and chargeback risk. So, the first question you should ask when calling a merchant account provider is, “Do you actually provide merchant accounts to credit repair businesses?”. And then ask… “Are you sure?”. Because often the salesperson, who is more concerned with getting applications submitted, then making sure not to waste your time, may initially tell you that they do, only to find out it’s on their underwritings prohibited list.

Does Soar Payments offer credit repair merchant accounts?

Yes, at Soar Payments we provide all-inclusive credit card processing services to credit repair merchants, ranging from startups to businesses processing millions of dollars a month, and ranging from DIY credit repair software providers to all-inclusive credit repair services. Getting started is simple. Just complete our 5 minute free online application, then we’ll email you a PDF copy which lists all terms and pricing for your electronic signature. And once approved, you can begin processing. We’ll handle setting up your chargeback management tools, and gateway, explaining how everything works, how to read your statement, and any other training you need to make the process easy and simple.

How do I get a higher processing volume limit?

Most credit repair businesses want to scale their business to $100,000 per month or more in sales. The problem, is that their first merchant account is typically capped at somewhere between $25,000 to $50,000. So how do credit repair companies increase their processing cap? There are two answers:

  • Time: A merchant account is in some ways a line of credit from the credit card processor to you. Just as with a business loan, your track-record enables you to obtain a larger line of credit. And while having a good personal credit score is great, the proof is in the pudding. So typically after 3 to 6 months of successful processing (which means a stable chargeback ratio, steady volume, predictable transaction sizes, etc.) you can request to have your account re-reviewed and obtain a higher limit.

What is an underwriter looking for when reviewing my merchant account application?

If you’ve applied for credit card processing for your credit repair in the past, you’ve probably heard from the salesperson you were speaking with that the ultimate decision maker for your account’s approval is the underwriter. The underwriter’s role is to make sure that the business is a good risk, from a chargeback and regulatory perspective, for the credit card processor. Specifically, they are looking at the likelihood that chargebacks or bills will go unpaid, or that the processor will face fines to the extent the business is engaging in fraudulent or credit repair activity outside or US regulations. In sum, they are looking for stable, well capitalized businesses, and with a clear understanding of US credit repair regulations. Obviously a startup business or small business isn’t going to have these credentials to the same degree as a large established business will, and for that reason small credit repair businesses often have either higher rates, or rolling reserves to cover the processor’s additional risk.

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Question? Fire Away. We’re Ready to Help.

Adam, Credit Repair Credit Card Processing

Adam CarlsonSoar Payments, CEO

If you’ve got a question about a payment gateway, CRM, chargeback management tool, merchant account or anything else related to growing a credit repair business, and want some advice, email me your question directly: AdamCarlson@soarpay.com.

Ready to Get Started?

Ready to start accepting payments at your credit repair company, Click here to begin a free online application.

Reviews of Credit Repair Payment Gateways

Credit repair companies primarily accept payments over the phone (what is often called MoTo payments) or the internet (called eCommerce). For both of these payment types, the customer’s credit card information is actually entered into a payment gateway. This is a user interface that the business owner or customer types their card info into, and then the payment gateway encrypts the data, and sends it to the processor. There are hundreds of payment gateways to choose from, but most credit repair businesses use one of a few:

  1. Authorize.net Gateway: Owned by Visa, simple to setup, and simple to use, Authorize.net is the most popular payment gateway overall, which means that a lot of credit repair businesses use it. Almost all CRMs and chargeback programs integrate with it, but it does have some limitations, such as not handling recurring billing very well, nor being able to manage multiple merchant accounts at once.
  2. NMI Gateway: The NMI Gateway is the high risk payment gateway of choice, and as such is used by a lot of credit repair businesses. It’s a little more difficult to setup, and not every CRM integrates with it, but a number of chargeback management tools do. And because it has multiple login levels built in, so chargeback management services or individual salespeople’s sales can be tracked based on their login ID.
  3. USAePay Gateway: One of the cheapest payment gateways on the market (as an aside, you the merchant pay for your payment gateway as an additional per transaction cost each time you make a sale, so “cheaper” generally means $.03 to $0.05 per sale in savings). Because of the savings, USAePay is often chosen by some startup credit repair businesses. It’s generally equivalent to Authorize.net without as robust of integrations. So if you know that your CRM and website integrate with USAePay, AND you don’t plan to use multiple merchant accounts at the same time (that is, you plan to stay small) then this is a decent option and will save you some money.

Once you’ve decided on your payment gateway, it’s typically cheaper and easier to obtain it through your merchant account provider rather than directly. The merchant account providers get it at a significant discount, and will pass those savings on to you normally, plus if they’re a full service merchant account provider, they’ll help you set it up properly and make sure your chargeback management services are fully integrated.

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To Get Your Credit Repair Merchant Account:Apply Now

CRMs for Credit Repair Businesses

Customer Relations Management (CRM) software is used by credit repair businesses to manage their customer’s information, profile, track disputes, import credit reports, perform recurring billing, track the performance of advertising campaigns, send automated emails, and other customer targeted organizational activities. There are dozens of CRMs on the market, but credit repair companies typically use one of a small number of CRMs, which are discussed below:

  • Credit Repair Cloud CRM:   [Integrates with Soar Payments]
    Custom tailored for credit repair companies, includes credit dispute automation, private labeling client portals, credit report importing, e-signatures, recurring payments and can handle affiliates. At $179 per month, it’s reasonably affordable for a startup credit repair company.
  • Credit Repair Tracking Pro CRM:   [Integrates with Soar Payments]
    Built for the credit repair industry, it includes the ability to send templated credit disputes, the ability to send SMS (text) notifications to clients, and a few other unique factors. You’ll need to go through a guided demo in order to receive a customized quote.
  • Dispute Suite CRM:   [Integrates with Soar Payments]
    Another CRM tailor made for credit repair, it has attractive white labeled client portals, automated dispute management tools, automated client update tools like SMS Texts, and automated client voice mail messages, and some pretty robust affiliate management tools. At $300 per month it’s about middle of the road cost-wise.
  • Limelight CRM:   [Not Currently Integrated]
    Branded as “for marketers, by marketers”, Limelight is the go-to CRM for continuity (free trial offer) and recurring billing businesses. It is not particularly tailored for credit repair businesses, but because of the extensive features it offers, automatic payment decline recovery, and call center integrated tracking it actually works as a pretty good option for credit repair companies. The problem, is that it’s fairly expensive. While they “custom quote” every business, you can generally expect a subscription to cost you more than $500 a month, plus a set up fee.
  • Zoho CRM:   [Integrates with Soar Payments]
    Priced as low as $12 per month, Zoho is the CRM of choice for startup credit repair businesses who’ve outgrown using an excel spreadsheet but who aren’t ready to make the commitment for a customized CRM. Zoho integrates with the Authorize.net gateway to enable recurring billing, and does a decent job of tracking leads, sources, etc. but ultimately if you’re going to grow your credit repair business you’ll want a more customized CRM.
  • Google Sheets:   [Not Currently Integrated]
    As strange as it sounds, a lot of startup credit repair businesses just use Google’s free cloud based spreadsheet service to manage their customer’s information when they first get started. The big benefit is that its free, and by pairing it with an NMI gateway, credit repair businesses can achieve basic functionality for very little cost. Obviously, this is not long term solution for a credit repair business that achieves any significant scale, but if you’re looking for a free option to get started, Google sheets is an option.

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Everything a Credit Repair Business Needs to Know About Chargebacks

Merchants in the credit repair industry have to be aware of and manage their chargeback ratio, because, most often, excessive chargebacks is what causes credit repair merchant accounts to get shut down, or not be able to obtain a new one.

How to Calculate a Chargeback Ratio?

One of the most misunderstood things we discuss with merchants, when they call us about past chargeback problems, is how their chargeback ratio is determined. Your chargeback ratio, is primarily what the credit card processor uses to determine whether you should keep your account. By definition it is the number quantity of chargebacks per month divided by the total number of monthly transactions. The dollar amount of the chargeback is irrelevant. Also irrelevant is whether or not you win, lose, or don’t fight the chargeback. Once a chargeback has been initiated it counts as a chargeback. So, if your credit repair business has 200 transactions in a month, and 8 clients initiate a chargeback dispute, you have a 4% chargeback ratio for that month. Again, that’s regardless of whether or not you win those chargeback disputes

Why does a processor care what my chargeback ratio is?

Your credit card processor faces potential Visa and MasterCard fines if they allow you to continue processing and your chargeback ratio exceeds 2%. Those fines are significantly larger than any amount of revenue they make from your account. Thus, once the processor begins looking at your account, and sees that the chargeback ratio exceeds 2%, they will almost always terminate your account. So the key, as a credit repair business that wants to process for the long term, is to keep your ratio below 2%.

Why do credit repair businesses get lots of chargebacks?

Credit repair companies are prone to high chargeback rates for a few reasons:

  • Credit repair clients, by definition, have bad credit, which generally means that they are short on funds and/or will take questionable tactics to ensure that they can maintain their cashflow, which can include disputing valid charges
  • When clients do have a legitimate complaint, many credit repair customers are unsophisticated and do not know to call the customer service number listed on their credit card statement, OR when the customer does call, the call is not answered promptly or the customer service rep does not handle the call well
  • Many credit repair companies do not send out electronic receipts bearing their company’s contact information, leading to the customer forgetting that they ordered the service weeks or months later when reviewing their credit card statement,
  • Credit repair businesses often use recurring billing for their services, but do not send out monthly invoices to customers to remind them that a charge is about to hit, thus the customer initiates a chargeback in an attempt to recover funds for a service they no longer wanted
  • Typically, credit repair services are relatively large expenses for individuals without a lot of extra cashflow. These large tickets (aka large sale price) is significant enough that dissatisfied customers, or customers seeking to free up cashflow identify the credit repair service as a good target, whereas they might simply ignore a smaller charge,
  • Most credit repair businesses are small businesses without a strong brand name. Thus, dissatisfied customers may not be presented with all of the refund opportunities they would from a larger company, such as 24/7 customer service, nor have the name recognition of their service provider, causing the customer to contact their issuing bank instead,
  • Many credit repair business owners do not understand that a chargeback, regardless of whether won or lost, contributes to their chargeback ratio, thus they do not immediately grant refunds for disgruntled clients, but instead try to fight all chargebacks
  • Many credit repair business owners do not have chargeback alerts enabled, nor use any sort of fraud or chargeback prevention service, and when they do it is not integrated, thus they are not able to avoid chargebacks even if they wanted to.

How do I keep my chargeback ratio low?

In the credit repair industry, you typically aren’t dealing with stolen credit cards. Rather, you’re dealing with customers who may be dissatisfied with the service, or may be looking for a way out of paying a recurring charge. Unfortunately, that’s not an excuse your credit repair merchant account provider is going to be very sympathetic to. Rather, they care only that you maintain the 2% ratio. Thus,the key is to make sure that you provide every opportunity for a disgruntled customer to contact you directly, when they do respond quickly and with a full refund, and keep your transaction count high enough so that a few chargebacks do not dramatically swing your chargeback ratio. Some specific ideas that our credit repair customers have used are:

    1. Send confirmation and customer satisfaction emails: When you take a credit card payment for credit repair services, make sure that you send an electronic receipt, which includes the business’ contact information and customer service phone number. At the end of the month, before the customer receives their credit card statement, send a customer satisfaction email, asking whether the customer was pleased with their credit repair service, and if not, to contact you so that you can make it right. Similarly, send an invoice 24 hours prior to any monthly recurring billing charges.
    2. Integrate Customer Dispute Alerts: There are a number of services that will alert you if a customer calls their issuing bank to initiate a chargeback, and provides you with a 72 hour window to issue a full refund or otherwise resolve the issue with the customer. While we at Soar Payments integrate this service into all of our credit repair merchant accounts automatically, saving merchants the hassle of figuring this out for themselves, you can also obtain similar services from a third party and integrate them yourself.
    3. Train customer service folks to start with a refund: If an unhappy customer contacts you complaining about the credit repair service, instead of starting the conversation with an explanation to the customer that they agreed to the charges, first issue a full refund. And only once a full refund has been issued, for which a receipt has been sent, then attempt to provide an additional service (which the customer would then pay for) to make it right. In doing so, you remove the chargeback potential of the first transaction, which will ensure that you can keep processing long-term.
    4. Maintain high transaction counts: Your chargeback ratio is determined by the number of transactions divided by the number of monthly transactions. So while it’s important to keep the numerator (the number of chargebacks) down, it’s equally important to keep the denominator (the number of monthly chargebacks) up. For example, a credit repair company with only 25 transactions per month is much more at risk of getting shut down by a few rogue chargebacks than one with a few hundred transactions. So for small credit repair businesses, make sure that you don’t shut down sales for extended periods of time (e.g. for a vacation) particularly when you have chargebacks in that month.

A few other ideas can be found in a recent blog article, ‘3 Tips for Credit Repair Businesses to Lower their Chargeback Ratios

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Credit Repair trade associations and memberships:

The following list of membership groups and trade organizations are specific to the credit repair industry:

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To Get Your Credit Repair Merchant Account:Apply Now

List of credit repair industry web resources and forums:

The credit repair and credit counseling industries have a number of reputable forums and web resources, displayed below, that entrepreneurs and professionals can use to help start and grow their business, as well as deal with issues.

  • NFCC Member Notices: Available to members only, this board and regular email keeps you informed of any legislative changes in the credit repair industry.
  • Warrior Forum: A forum for internet marketers with a substantial section devoted to marketing credit repair companies, as well as dealing with payments issues.
  • Credit Info Center Forums: Dozens of active forum threads on building and marketing a credit repair business.

There are also several resources and articles that entrepreneurs considering starting their own credit repair business may find useful:

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List of credit repair industry web resources and forums:

The credit repair and credit counseling industries have a number of reputable forums and web resources, displayed below, that entrepreneurs and professionals can use to help start and grow their business, as well as deal with issues related to credit repair credit card processing.

  • NFCC Member Notices: Available to members only, this board and regular email keeps you informed of any legislative changes in the credit repair industry.
  • Warrior Forum: A forum for internet marketers with a substantial section devoted to marketing credit repair companies, as well as dealing with payments issues.
  • Credit Info Center Forums: Dozens of active forum threads on building and marketing a credit repair business.

US Laws Governing Credit Repair Companies:

The credit repair industry is highly regulated with severe consequences for violating the law. As a consequence, it is important for entrepreneurs in this industry to understand the laws that apply to their business.

    • Credit Repair Organizations Act – This US federal law, prohibits credit repair firms from making untrue or misleading representations, requires certain disclosures when selling credit repair services, bars them from accepted advanced payment, requires contracts to be in writing, and provides some consumer cancellation rights.
    • IRS Credit Repair Review – This opinion letter provides a good summary of IRS related rulings and caselaw applicable to the credit repair industry, particularly relating to taxation issues.

State Credit Repair Laws
Below are links to each of the individual state laws governing the practice of providing credit repair services.

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List of credit repair credentialing / certifying organizations:

The following organizations provide well-regarded certifications and credentials common to the credit repair and credit counseling industries:

Partnership for Financial Education:

National Foundation for Credit Counseling:

Arbor Education:

National Assn of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC):

FinCert:

Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE):

Credit Counseling Certification Inc.:

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Credit Repair Industry Infographics

The following infographics provide some of the most interesting data about the credit repair industry in a visual manner. These infographics posted here are under published under fair use rules, the source for each is credited, and you must click on each thumbnail image to view the entire original infographic.

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Soar Payments provides ACH, debit and credit card processing services to hundreds of credit repair businesses, ranging from new startups to businesses processing millions of dollars a month. So when you’re ready, we’re ready.
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