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Do's and Donts of Going Offshore

Though many business owners are hesitant to sign up with offshore credit card processing companies, sometimes an international service is the best option available.  Here are some dos and don'ts for processing credit cards using offshore or international merchant services: DO:  Do consider the international option if your business is involved in gambling, adult entertainment, pornography, or another "high risk" industry, as these businesses are likely to be rejected by merchant service providers in the United States.  American banks often put strict restrictions on these types of businesses because of their questionable nature.  While this is not a slight against your own personal business practices, these industries can be particularly hard to regulate and pose a great risk to merchant services that process credit card transactions for them.  Some of these companies would be turned down outright by merchant services in the United States.  Others would be subject to great scrutiny when processing transactions at home.  Still others would be subject to prohibitive transaction fees.  Business owners can circumvent these difficulties by having their customers' credit cards handled by an offshore bank. DON'T:  Don't leap before you look.  There are hundreds of thousands of international merchant service companies out there.  While offshore cc processingis a legal and reasonable choice for some businesses, it is absolutely critical that you investigate the company and make sure that they are operating ethically.  Many international banks have far fewer protections for their customers than American banks have, which means that your business could face an unrecoverable loss if you end up dealing with an unreliable merchant services provider.   DO:  Do think about using an international bank to process your company's credit cards if you have a poor credit history or if you business has a history of frequent chargebacks.  Merchant services in the United States are hesitant to deal with customers with these risky histories, and will reflect their concern using high processing fees.  Some will even refuse to service businesses with bad credit, no credit, or a prior chargeback history that they feel is excessive.   DON'T:  Don't decide to proceed without the ability to accept credit cards in order to avoid having an offshore merchant account.  There are legal and ethical international banks that can make your business dreams a reality even if you have been turned down in the United States.  Our economy thrives on diverse industries, and unfortunately not all of them can process low risk / card present credit card transactions.  That does not mean that merchants who are classified as high risk should stay out of the marketplace.  It simply means that what is acceptable for a poor credit history operation might not work for a higher risk one.  Taking  credit card business overseas with an offshore account is a viable solution if your business is prevented from partaking in low risk credit card processing. DO:  Hold an offshore credit card processor to the same high standards that you would apply to an American corporation.  Expect prompt, responsive customer service, comprehensive answers to all of your questions, and extremely competitive transaction rates.  Some industries and individuals must rely on  offshore cc processing services.  They are still entitled to respectful treatment and all the protections offered by the country where the bank is established.   So DON'T despair if an international merchant account is one of your business' only options for credit card processing.  With due diligence, time, and careful consideration, your company may find that signing up with a merchant account is the best decision you ever made for your corporation.

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