Credit Card Processing

How to Become a High-risk Credit Card Processing Agent

May 21, 2023

The payment processing solutions market is booming, making it the perfect time to pursue a career in the merchant services industry. According to Glassdoor, the estimated total annual pay for a Credit Card Processing Agent is $54,927. This amount is the sum of the average salary and additional income earned from cash bonuses, commissions, and tips.

Aside from the great pay, agents in this industry can work part-time or full-time. They can work for an independent sales organization (ISO) or run their credit card processing business.

In addition, they get to choose which merchants to offer credit card processing services to. Clearly, this is a lucrative job that comes with great benefits.

However, you must understand the ins and outs of credit card processing before you dive in. This guide will discuss the industry and what a credit card processing agent does. It will give you a clearer understanding of high-risk merchant accounts. More importantly, this guide will teach you how to become a high-risk credit card processing agent.


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Basics of Credit Card Processing

Credit card processing is a payment system that handles a business’ credit card transactions. It involves several parties, such as the issuing banks, the payment processor, and the merchant service provider. Here’s a breakdown of the key players:


This is the person who owns the credit card, using it to pay a business for goods or services.


This is the business that sells goods or services, accepting the credit card for payment.

Acquiring Banks

These banks provide a merchant account where the money from credit card sales will be deposited.

Issuing Banks

These banks issue the credit card to the cardholder. They are the ones that provide final approval of the purchase and send the payment to the acquiring bank.


Credit Card Networks

These are the major credit card companies that determine the interchange rates. They partner with banks in providing credit cards to customers. Some examples are Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.

Payment Processor

This is the middleman, the organization that provides the equipment and software, the customer service, and the technical support. They are the ones who communicate with the acquiring bank. As a credit card processing agent, you sell the service of payment processors to businesses.

So, how does credit card processing work? Let’s say a customer purchases coffee from a cafe and pays for it with a credit card. His data is collected by the payment processor either through a payment gateway, software, or credit card machine.

This information is then sent to the credit card network (e.g., Visa, Mastercard), which determines which bank issued the card. It then sends a request to the issuing bank for funds. The issuing bank checks the information, confirms that the account is in good standing and has the appropriate funds, and then sends an approval message to the credit card network.

Once the approval has been sent to the payment processor, the transaction is finalized. The customer gets his coffee while the payment processor deposits the funds into the merchant account.

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What Are High-risk Merchant Accounts?

The payment processing industry categorizes businesses as either low-risk or high-risk accounts. There are different reasons why a merchant services provider considers a business high risk. One of the most common reasons is that the business belongs to a high-risk industry.


An industry is labeled high risk if it has a history of chargebacks. For example, subscription services get a high volume of chargebacks because customers tend to sign up for a free trial and then request a refund when the trial ends and they get charged.

In addition, some banks are hesitant to work with certain businesses, such as cannabis shops, adult entertainment, and firearms dealers. Because of this, businesses are considered high-risk merchant accounts.

Other characteristics of high-risk merchants may include the following:

  • The average monthly sales volume is more than $20,000.
  • The average transaction for credit card sales is more than $500.
  • The business accepts multiple currencies.
  • The merchant sells high-ticket items.
  • The merchant sells to countries that have a high level of fraud.
  • The business or the owner has a bad financial history.

Other examples of high-risk businesses include bail bonds, electronics, and credit repair companies.

High-risk Vs. Low-risk Merchant Account

Compared to a regular account, a high-risk merchant account will have the following:

  • Higher payment processing fees
  • Higher chargeback fees
  • Longer application process
  • Volume caps
  • Cash reserve requirements

With all this in mind, is there a benefit to learning how to become a high-risk credit card processing agent? There’s nothing wrong with offering services to low-risk merchant accounts. But businesses in the high-risk category have a larger sales volume. Also, they are charged higher processing fees. As a result, the agent earns more in commissions.

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Getting Started As a Credit Card Processing Agent

The process of becoming an agent or reseller is pretty straightforward. There’s no need to have a sales background. Follow the steps below and get your residual income stream up and running.

Understand the Fundamentals of Credit Card Processing

While you don’t need to be an expert, you must understand the fundamentals of credit card payment processing before offering these services to merchants. A business owner is more likely to trust someone knowledgeable. Make sure to learn how transactions are processed, as well as the rates and fees of the provider.

Pick a Niche

The credit card processing industry is highly competitive and can be separated into several market segments. Narrowing your focus to a specific niche or two will ensure you can become an expert in this field. You’ll be able to better understand the business needs of the merchants, their current challenges, and the available solutions that will suit them best.

Compare Merchant Services Agent Programs

There are plenty of merchant services agent programs, but not all are created equal. You will need to do a lot of research before signing up to ensure that you won’t have any problems in the future. Below are some tips that can help:

  • Look for a program that deals with businesses in your niche.
  • Check how fast funds are transferred into a merchant account after the transaction. Merchants prefer to have their money in their accounts within the day.
  • A good MSP provides marketing resources that you can use to close sales.
  • Choose a partner program that gives you a fair share of the residuals and pays on time.
  • Make sure that they have up-to-date equipment and user-friendly software.
  • Aside from marketing assistance, the partner program should provide you with responsive customer support.

Start Selling

Once you’ve found the perfect partner program and signed up, it’s time to start knocking on doors. Don’t forget that you need to provide businesses with reasons why they should choose your payment processing solution. Make sure to explain why the transaction rate is higher – high-risk industry, better customer service, more payment options, etc.

Remember, you are not just a reseller. You are also their future partner, one who will help them grow their business.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Learning how to become a high-risk credit card processing agent is less complicated than starting your own business. You need only to invest a small amount of time to hit the ground running in the industry.

It’s a lucrative job that even earns you residual income. Plus, you get to keep your own schedule. Just make sure that you partner with a merchant services provider that has your back, and you’re already on the road to success.

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