Document Preparation Services Merchant Accounts:
Voted the #1 High Risk Merchant Account Provider for 2015 and 2016, Soar Payments is focused on providing merchant accounts for companies providing document preparation services relating to student loan consolidation, loan counseling, loan modification, debt negotiation and settlement, mortgage, legal and divorce services.
Our goal is to be the undisputed best doc prep merchant account provider for student loan modification, consolidation, debt settlement, loan counseling, mortgage, legal and other businesses within the broader document preparation industry. To achieve that goal, we have to cater to the unique needs of the document prep industry from a debit and credit card processing perspective. To assist in that regard, for the doc prep industry, we’ve created the following “document preparation credit card processing cheat sheet”.
This page is designed to give document preparation related business owners a single place to obtain all the information they’ll need to obtain a retail, phone order, online or recurring billing document preparation service merchant account and have long term success when accepting credit and debit payments in their doc prep business.
Table of Contents
Getting and Setting Up A Merchant Account
Maintaining Your Doc Prep Business:
Document Preparation Industry Profile:
- There are approximately 8,300 document preparation services companies serving a wide array of industries from healthcare to legal to finance in the United States.
- The document preparation industry generates approximately $5 Billion in annual revenue.
- The doc prep industry is dominated by small businesses, with 130,576 people employed at just over 87,000 businesses.
Categorization of the Doc Prep Industry:
SIC Code: Businesses in the document preparation industry generally determine their SIC code as 7389, however, some choose to use a SIC code indicating their particular industry focus, whereas others use one of the following SIC codes:
- 7389: Business Services, Not Elsewhere Categorized
- 7338: Secretarial and Court Reporting
- 4214: Tax Preparation Services
See the entire list of SIC codes here.
The demand for doc prep services is growing.
At least that’s what a quick look at the credit card processing volume of some of our document prep merchants shows. That’s because as student loan indebtedness increases, the need for reliable advice and assistance to consolidate that debt becomes paramount, and on the legal and healthcare document preparation services side, the need to control costs is causing more law firms and hospitals to use doc prep services.
OK, it’s obviously not perfect, after all there’s still a lot that can go wrong, particularly with payments in a document preparation businesses. Things like:
- Getting approved for a merchant account.
- Get the processing volume you need
- Managing & fighting illegitimate chargebacks
The good news is, these problems are all solve-able. It took me about 12 hours of research, but I put together the below “document preparation company credit card processing cheat sheet” for entrepreneurs in the doc prep industry to help you avoid these pitfalls.
It’s my sincere hope that you find this article useful (because I’ve put a lot of time into it)… and if you need help with doc prep credit card processing for your business, I’d love to help you with that, too. So let’s keep in touch (my email is: AdamCarlson@soarpay.com, don’t hesitate to email me!)
P.S. If you own a document prep related company, and want affordable and easy credit card processing we can help you (in fact, document preparation related businesses are one of our specialties). Click here to begin a free online application.
September 19, 2016.
NAICS Code: Document preparation related businesses generally use one of the following NAICS codes:
- 561410: Document preparation services
- 5614: Business Support Services
See the entire list of NAICS codes here.
Return to Table of Contents
Getting a Doc Prep Merchant Account
- How do I get a document preparation merchant account?
The quick answer is that you apply. The more precise answer is that you apply with a high risk merchant services provider, because document preparation merchant services is categorized as a high risk industry. So, you’ll need to find a high risk merchant services provider whose underwriting guidelines permit them to accept doc prep companies (like us).
When you apply for a merchant account, you’ll generally need to have the following information to include in your application:
- A copy of the owner’s ID or driver’s license
- The owner’s social security number
- A copy of a voided business check
- The most recent 3 months of credit card processing statements (if you’ve accepted credit cards previously)
Note: If you don’t have one or more of those, you can still apply, but before you can receive approval you’ll need to supply those supporting documents.
Then, once you complete the online application, it will be reviewed by the credit card processors underwriting team, and once approved, you’ll be able to accept debit and credit card payments.
- So how do I find a good doc prep merchant services provider?
The best advice is to ask people in your industry who they use for credit card processing, and start there. Then supplement that list by a quick Google search, to see who lists doc prep merchant services on their website, and follow that up with a call to the sales staff to answer any remaining questions.
- Does Soar Payments offer MoTo (phone), recurring billing, and eCommerce merchant accounts for document preparation services?
Yes. Soar Payments offers high risk merchant accounts for document preparation businesses in the student loan consolidation, debt counseling, finance, medical, and legal industries. To apply for an account, complete our online application.
Return to Table of Contents
Frequently Asked Questions:
- How do I get approved for MoTo transactions?
One of the characteristics of the document preparation industry that makes it “high risk” from a credit card processor’s perspective, is the prevalence of taking payment over the phone, via email, or via mail (collectively called “MoTo Payments”). These payments, for obvious reasons, are less secure than retail swiped (or chip) transactions, and even less secure than eCommerce payments. Not only can a rogue employee steal customer’s credit card information, but it’s difficult for the doc prep company to ensure that the credit card number they are given is actually the customer’s credit card. Thus, credit card processors much prefer, from a risk perspective, a retail or eCommerce business.
That said, accepting MoTo payments is an integral part of many business models, as it is with doc prep services. Therefore, you need to be clear when applying for a merchant account for document preparation services that you need to accept MoTo payments. This may make the underwriting process slightly more difficult and, for example, require that you submit an extra document or two, but ultimately it’s doable, particularly if the merchant services provider you are working with has experience serving the doc prep industry.
- How do I get approved for a higher credit card processing volume?
If your doc prep service is a relatively new company, and particularly if it’s a startup that hasn’t accepted credit cards in the past, then the doc prep credit card processor that underwrites your account is likely to place a monthly cap on the amount of credit card processing volume you are allowed to accept. In plain english, that means that you’ll only be approved for say, $100,000 per month, and if you try to accept more than $100,000 then your customers credit card payments will get declined. If your business is growing quickly, this can be a problem which stifles the growth of your business. You have a couple of options: (a) If you’ve been processing for 3-6 months, you can go back to your document prep credit card processor and ask them for an increased monthly cap, or with previous permission from your primary credit card processor (b) You can apply to obtain a second document preparation service merchant account (although note that this will come with a second set of monthly fees).
- What is an underwriter looking for when reviewing my document preparation company’s merchant account application?
The credit card processor’s underwriting team’s job is to assess the riskiness of your business from the perspective of the credit card processor. “Risk” in the context of credit card processing essentially boils down to regulatory risk or chargeback risk.
(a) Regulatory risk is rather straightforward. If your business is legally and responsibly operating, and can provide documentation to answer any underwriter questions which demonstrate this, then you pass this test.
(b) Chargeback risk is a little more nebulous. Essentially, the credit card processor loses money if your business generates customer initiated chargebacks and then does not have the funds to cover those chargebacks. So an underwriter is looking first to determine how many chargebacks they anticipate your business generating. This is determined by your industry, how well organized your business appears, your experience and track record in the industry, etc. Next they look at how financially capable you will be to fulfill those chargebacks. Specifically, does your company bank account look healthy on a consistent basis, did you pay all of your bills with your previous credit card processor and / or any vendors, is your business owner’s credit score decent, etc.
Therefore, to the extent you want your document preparation company to be approved for a merchant account, ensure that you have all of the appropriate documents, that your website clearly outlines the services you offer and the prices and terms of those services, that your owner has cleared up any credit score issues to the extent possible, etc.
Return to Table of Contents
If you’ve got a question about a doc prep payment gateway, chargeback management tool, merchant account or anything else related to payments in a document preparation business, send me your question directly: AdamCarlson@soarpay.com.
Ready to Get Started?
Ready to start accepting payments at your doc prep business, Click here to begin a free online application.
Why are Document Preparation Services Considered High Risk?
Company’s in the doc prep industry are considered high risk primarily due to three reasons:
- MoTo Transactions: Generally speaking, document preparation services accept their payments over the phone, via mail, or via email. These are less secure methods of accepting credit card payments than retail swiped (or chip) or via eCommerce. That’s because the customer’s credit card information can be stolen by a rogue employee at the doc prep service, hacked by a hacker, or actually be a stolen credit card used by the customer. All of these things can happen in a retail or eCommerce setting, however, they’re easier for nefarious actors to accomplish in a MoTo setting, therefore the risk is higher.
- Large Average Tickets: Document preparation services typically charge well into the hundreds of dollars for their services, and many have but a few dozen transactions per month. Larger transactions are often the target of ‘friendly fraud’ by customers who are seeking to circumvent refund rules or just obtain the services for free, and when there are only a few dozen total transactions per month, a couple of chargebacks can make the doc prep business’ chargeback ratio skyrocket.
- Service Based Business: Service based businesses are, by their nature, inherently more prone to chargebacks. Add to that, the fact that many document preparation businesses, particularly in the finance niche assist customers with student loan consolidation, debt counseling and other services which are, by their very nature, serving clientele with debt issues and often poor personal credit. Collectively, this creates a recipe in which a higher than expected number of clientele may resort to the chargeback process in an attempt to resolve payment disputes, both legitimate and illegitimate, with the doc prep business.
Return to Table of Contents
Everything a Doc Prep Company Needs to Know About Chargebacks
Document preparation businesses, particularly those that are consumer facing such as those working in the student loan consolidation, loan counseling, loan modification, debt negotiation and settlement, and mortgage industries typically have a higher chargeback risk than most businesses. Thus, doc prep businesses need to be familiar with the chargeback process, and what steps they can take to responsibly minimize, avoid and combat illegitimate chargebacks.
- What is a Chargeback?
A chargeback, refers to a situation in which the cardholder of the credit card your business charged calls their credit card issuer and disputes the charge. The customer has a 6 month window (in most cases) to dispute credit card charges, and they can dispute charges for a variety of reasons. For example, the customer might state that the service wasn’t provided as advertised, that a refund request was improperly withheld, that the customer was double-billed, the customer doesn’t recognize the charge, their credit card was stolen or the charge was fraudulent, etc.
Regardless of the reason give, once the credit card holder has disputed the charge, your doc prep credit card processing company will immediately withdraw the funds in question from your future deposits (or your company bank account) and hold the funds in escrow until the dispute is resolved. You will then be notified of the dispute, and provided an opportunity to respond and prove that the charge was legitimate. If you win, you get the funds returned to you. If you lose, you lose the funds (and presumably the cost of the service provided).
The chargeback process is incredibly time consuming, expensive insofar as you lose revenue and are assessed fees on a per chargeback basis, and if you have enough chargebacks, your doc prep merchant account can be terminated by the credit card processor.
- How do I keep my chargeback ratio low?
Thankfully there are a number of reliable tips your doc prep business can take to reduce your chargeback ratio. These include:
- Sending detailed confirmation emails:
A large category of chargebacks are initiated by customers who either do not recognize the charge, or feel as though the amount of the charge is wrong. Rather than contacting the doc prep business directly to discuss the charge, they call their credit card processor instead, perhaps because it seems easier, or perhaps because they anticipate a conflict with the document preparation company. To avoid this, you need to make sure that your order confirmation receipts are incredibly detailed, they list the exact credit card descriptor that your customer will see on their monthly credit card statement, they provide a link to your refund policy, they provide a welcoming sentence that invites customers to contact you (by phone or email) if they have any questions or concerns about the charge, etc.
- Integrate Customer Dispute Alerts:
Providing excellent service, not over-promising what your service can achieve, and providing clear documentation in the form of a customer contract and receipt can go a long way to reducing chargebacks, but it won’t stop them all. For those that still come through, enabling Chargeback Alerts will provide you with the opportunity to ‘catch’ an additional 30-40% of potential chargebacks.
A Chargeback Alert is a notification program that you can enroll your business in that will let you know when a customer has attempted to initiate a chargeback, and provide you a three day window to refund the customer and avoid the chargeback process altogether. For service based businesses with healthy margins, often the cost of fighting the chargeback, the associated costs and fees, and the potential risk of having your document prep merchant account terminated by the credit card processor, justify providing a full refund to the customer via chargeback alerts even in situations where the chargeback seems illegitimate.
- List All Refund / Dispute Policies Clearly:
In the document preparation industry, no matter how clearly you outline your role as the doc prep company and that you cannot guarantee results of the related service, whether it be student loan consolidation, divorce filing or medical transcription, the customer will inevitably in some cases blur the lines and accuse you of not providing the services promised because the outcome was not as they’d wished. By having clearly demarcated lines of responsibility which are consistently conveyed in all communications to the customer as well as a clear refund / dispute policy that is clearly presented to the customer, it is more likely that the customer will not initiate a chargeback, and for those that do, it is more likely that you will win the chargeback dispute.
- Fight Illegitimate Chargebacks Professionally:
A significant number of chargebacks encountered by well organized professional document preparation companies are illegitimate ‘friendly chargebacks’. This industry term simply refers to chargebacks in which the customer is not claiming that their credit card was stolen, but rather that they were unsatisfied with the service. In those situations where the customer’s claim is illegitimate, you must aggressively fight and win chargebacks both to deter future chargebacks and to recover funds. Unfortunately, the chargeback fighting process is incredibly time-sensitive and technical in nature. And as a consequence, most small and even mid-sized businesses tend to either lose the vast majority of their chargebacks or fail to fight them at all. So, if your document preparation business is not of sufficient scale to justify having a full-time employee dedicated to managing the chargeback process, you’re far better off outsourcing the fighting of chargebacks to a third party.
Note: If you use the Soar Payments payment gateway a chargeback fighting service will be automatically integrated into your payment gateway.
Return to Table of Contents
Need Document Preparation Merchant Services?
We’ve Got You Covered.
Soar Payments provides ACH, debit and credit card processing services to doc prep businesses serving many industries, ranging from student loan consolidation, loan counseling, loan modification, debt negotiation and settlement, mortgage, medical, transcription, legal and divorce services. So when you’re ready, we’re ready.
- Sending detailed confirmation emails: