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The 5 Best Merchant Accounts For Adult Oriented Products & Services

If you run a business in the adult entertainment industry and need a way to navigate the world of merchant accounts, this article will guide you through the process and our top picks for processors.

    Frank Kehl
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Entering into the Digital Age has allowed the adult entertainment industry to expand dramatically in terms of sales volume and the number of customers making purchases. And with the industry moving online, small business owners in this industry will need an adult merchant account to accept credit and debit card payments.

However, getting approved for an account is much trickier in the adult entertainment industry than it is for other businesses. For a variety of reasons, most providers won’t approve an account for an adult entertainment business. Virtually every payment processor classifies adult entertainment as a high-risk industry. To get approved, you’ll need to work with a high-risk specialist that accepts adult entertainment businesses.

Below, we’ll explain the challenges faced by the adult entertainment industry when it comes to payment processing and recommend some top-notch providers for your business.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyFeaturesNext StepsFeatures
PaymentCloud

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  • No account setup fee
  • Free credit card terminal
  • Excellent customer support
  • No account setup fee
  • Free credit card terminal
  • Excellent customer support

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Durango Merchant Services

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  • Durango Pay payment gateway
  • No early termination fee
  • eCheck & cryptocurrency processing available
  • Durango Pay payment gateway
  • No early termination fee
  • eCheck & cryptocurrency processing available

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Host Merchant Services

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  • Supports adult websites & toys
  • Interchange-plus pricing available
  • Excellent reputation for customer support
  • Supports adult websites & toys
  • Interchange-plus pricing available
  • Excellent reputation for customer support

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PayKings

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  • 20+ acquiring banks available
  • Integrates with Shopify
  • Requires long-term contract w/early termination fee
  • 20+ acquiring banks available
  • Integrates with Shopify
  • Requires long-term contract w/early termination fee

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Instabill

Not Yet Rated

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  • Wide range of terminals & POS systems available
  • Extensive support for online adult businesses
  • Anonymous payments available
  • Wide range of terminals & POS systems available
  • Extensive support for online adult businesses
  • Anonymous payments available

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Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

Why Getting An Adult Merchant Account Can Be A Challenge

The term “adult entertainment industry” is a broad description of a wide variety of adult-themed products and services. There are many separate sectors within the adult entertainment industry, and virtually all of them are considered high-risk by banks and processors. However, some sectors are riskier than others in terms of getting approved for a merchant account.

Here’s a brief list of the most common categories found within the adult entertainment industry:

  • Online dating websites
  • Sex education courses (books, videos, webinars)
  • Lingerie items
  • Fetish-related items
  • Sex toys and novelty items
  • Lubricants and lotions
  • Streaming video services
  • Adult-themed video games
  • Adult videos and photography
  • Telephone sex operators
  • Escort services

Why Is The Adult Industry Considered High Risk?

Most high-risk providers who accept adult entertainment businesses have specific lists of categories that they accept, and these lists vary from one provider to the next. In searching for a provider for your adult entertainment business, it’s vital to look for a list – usually posted somewhere on the company’s website – that details the specific types of adult businesses the provider will accept.

Factors that cause businesses in the adult entertainment industry to be considered high-risk include the following:

  • Reputational Risk: While most processors will gladly work with any profitable business, they do have their reputations to think about. Some providers simply don’t want to be associated with these types of businesses, even if they’re perfectly legal.
  • Heavy Regulatory Compliance Requirements: Adult-oriented businesses are more heavily regulated – particularly at the state level – than other types of businesses. Minimum legal age requirements for both performers and customers apply in virtually every jurisdiction. In other states, the sale of sex toys and other adult products is prohibited outright. With eCommerce businesses operating in virtually every state, compliance with these laws adds an additional layer of complexity that many processors simply don’t want to deal with.
  • High Chargeback Rates: Having a higher-than-normal chargeback rate (i.e., over 1% of sales) is the single most common factor in causing any business to be considered high-risk, and it’s a common problem in many sectors of the adult entertainment industry.
  • Higher Risk Of Fraud: Although fraud is an ever-growing concern for all eCommerce businesses, it’s historically been a larger problem in the adult entertainment industry.
  • Additional Security Concerns: Adult businesses have been frequent targets of hackers and other cybercriminals, requiring an additional level of security than other businesses. If a provider feels that your business is at an elevated risk of a data breach, it may not approve you for an account.
  • Organizational Policies: Even if a provider doesn’t categorically exclude adult entertainment businesses, it may have written policies – often related to the factors listed above – that preclude it from doing business with an adult entertainment vendor.

The 5 Best Adult Payment Processors

Finding a provider that will process payments for your adult entertainment business, while obviously essential, is not the only factor to consider. A good provider will also offer a full range of products and services, fair contract terms, and reasonable pricing. Top-notch customer service is also a critically important consideration. These are our top picks for adult merchant account providers:

  • PaymentCloud
  • Durango Merchant Services
  • Host Merchant Services
  • PayKings
  • Instabill

1. PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud



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Pros

  • No account setup fee
  • Reasonable rates and fees
  • Excellent customer support
  • Few public complaints

Cons

  • No publicly disclosed pricing
  • No support for escort services

PaymentCloud Features

PaymentCloud is an excellent all-around high-risk provider, but the company also offers a lot of specialized features for adult entertainment businesses. The company supports both eCommerce and retail businesses with a variety of features, including the following:

  • High-risk merchant accounts
  • Integrated web hosting
  • Payment gateway (Authorize.Net or USAePay)
  • Virtual terminal
  • “Free” credit card terminal with each account
  • Multiple POS systems available

Contract Requirements/Warnings

Like most high-risk providers, PaymentCloud usually requires a long-term contract (typically with a three-year initial term). While you might be able to get a month-to-month contract in some cases, you should expect to have some type of long-term commitment — especially if you accept the company’s “free” credit card terminal offer. Specific contract terms will vary according to which backend processor underwrites your account.

Where PaymentCloud Really Shines

Unlike most high-risk providers, PaymentCloud doesn’t charge an account setup fee for new merchants – despite the additional underwriting required to approve your account. Customer service is another important consideration for any business, and the company has an excellent reputation in this area. As with virtually all high-risk providers, specific pricing information is highly variable, so you’ll have to contact the company for a pricing quote that’s tailored to your business.

We’d also note that PaymentCloud is so well respected in the high-risk sector that providers such as Stripe and Dharma Merchant Services frequently refer their declined merchants to the company.

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2. Durango Merchant Services

Durango Merchant Services



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Pros

  • Fair processing rates and account fees
  • No early termination fees (in most cases)
  • Offers offshore merchant accounts for some international merchants
  • Offers dedicated account manager for customer support

Cons

  • No pricing disclosures on website
  • Usually requires long-term contract

Durango Merchant Services Features

Durango Merchant Services is one of our top picks for any high-risk business that needs to accept credit cards. While the company accepts a variety of adult entertainment businesses, it doesn’t provide a specific list of approved sectors within the adult industry on its website. With a primary focus on eCommerce, Durango offers the following key products and services:

  • High-risk merchant accounts
  • Durango Pay payment gateway
  • eCheck payment processing
  • Cryptocurrency processing

Contract Requirements/Warnings

You’ll probably have to agree to a long-term contract with Durango, as this is nearly unavoidable in the high-risk processing sector. However, the company usually doesn’t charge an early termination fee if you switch to a different provider. It also doesn’t lease processing equipment, so you can either have your existing hardware reprogrammed or purchase a device from Durango.

Where Durango Merchant Services Really Shines

Durango works with a number of domestic banking partners but is also one of the few reputable companies to offer safe offshore accounts for merchants who need them. While the company doesn’t disclose any pricing information on its website due to the variety of backend processors it works with, it has an excellent reputation for fair pricing and great customer service. Every merchant placed with Durango will have a dedicated account manager assigned to them for customer service.

In addition to credit card processing, Durango offers support for alternative payment methods as well. This includes eCheck processing (but not ACH transfers) and cryptocurrency processing.

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3. Host Merchant Services

Host Merchant Services



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Pros

  • Accepts several sectors of the adult entertainment industry
  • Offers a full line of products and services
  • Fair and reasonable pricing
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Will usually require a long-term contract for high-risk businesses
  • High-risk pricing not disclosed
  • Usually requires a rolling reserve

Host Merchant Services Features

Host Merchant Services (HMS) is one of our favorite providers for low-risk businesses, but the company also serves a number of high-risk industries as well. The company advertises support for adult-themed websites (including membership sites) and adult novelty/toy businesses. However, it may support others as well. Key products and services include the following:

  • High-risk merchant accounts
  • “Free” EMV-compatible terminal available
  • Wide selection of POS systems
  • Choice of Transaction Express or Authorize.Net payment gateways
  • $100,000 data breach insurance with all accounts

Contract Requirements/Warnings

Unlike Host’s low-risk clients, you should expect to have to accept a long-term contract that may or may not include an early termination fee if you’re in a high-risk industry. HMS doesn’t offer specifics on its website, but your contract terms will likely depend on which backend processor you’re assigned to. All processing hardware is offered for direct sale, as the company does not lease any equipment.

Where Host Merchant Services Really Shines

Host Merchant Services is one of the most transparent providers we’ve found, with extensive disclosures of its interchange-plus rates and account fees on its website. Unfortunately, this information does not apply to its high-risk merchants. Pricing for high-risk merchants is, however, very competitive with what other reputable high-risk specialists can offer you.

The company also offers a very broad range of third-party products and services for any type of business and has a remarkably low complaint volume from its users. While you won’t get features such as month-to-month billing or transparent pricing disclosures, you will enjoy the same high level of customer support that low-risk businesses receive.

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4. PayKings

PayKings



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Pros

  • No application or account setup fees
  • Multicurrency options
  • ACH & eCheck processing available
  • Dedicated account manager for customer support

Cons

  • Uses untransparent tiered pricing
  • Requires early termination fee

PayKings Features

PayKings enjoys an enviable reputation as a top-notch provider specializing in high-risk industries. The company accepts a wide variety of adult entertainment businesses and has a dedicated website page describing its services for adult industries. Key features to look for include the following:

  • High-risk merchant accounts through 20+ acquiring banks
  • Choice of NMI or Authorize.Net payment gateways
  • Shopify integration available
  • ACH & eCheck processing available
  • Extensive developer support

Contract Requirements/Warnings

PayKings doesn’t discuss contract terms on its website, but you can expect to have to agree to a long-term contract with an early termination fee due to the high-risk nature of your adult business. Like most other high-risk providers, PayKings also uses rolling reserves as a hedge against your business going under while you’re still under contract. The terms of a reserve account can have a significant impact on your business, so be sure that you understand how it works before you sign up. Also, be aware that there is some leeway to negotiate the specific terms of your rolling reserve when setting up your account.

Where PayKings Really Shines

Unlike many other high-risk providers, PayKings offers significant support to adult entertainment businesses. This includes a separate page on the company’s website explaining the details of getting approved for an adult merchant account and highlighting the services available to merchants. The company places a particular emphasis on eCommerce, with extensive developer support resources accessible from the website. Although PayKings used tiered pricing and requires a long-term contract (with an ETF), these terms are hard to avoid for any high-risk merchant. PayKings also has a favorable reputation among its merchants for high-quality customer support, including assigning a dedicated account manager who will be your first point of contact for any support issues.

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5. Instabill

Instabill



Not Yet Rated

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Pros

  • High-risk merchant accounts
  • Offshore merchant accounts available
  • Anonymous payment processing solution available
  • Extensive support for numerous adult industry sectors

Cons

  • Usually requires long-term contract
  • Usually requires early termination fee
  • Usually requires rolling reserve

Instabill Features

Instabill is a small, but reputable high-risk merchant services provider. The company accepts a variety of adult entertainment businesses, including adult toys, gentlemen’s clubs, escort services, and many others. Key products and services include the following:

  • High-risk domestic merchant accounts
  • Offshore accounts
  • Proprietary payment gateway
  • Hosted payment page available
  • Wide range of third-party terminals & POS systems
  • Mobile EMV-compliant solution available

Contract Requirements/Warnings

Like almost all high-risk providers, you’ll usually have to accept a long-term (typically three-year) contract with an early termination fee (ETF). Specific terms will depend on whether you sign up for a domestic or offshore account, and which acquiring bank is underwriting your account. Rolling reserves are also usually required, although the specific terms are variable and subject to some negotiation. Note that negotiating to drop the reserve account entirely is probably not an option.

Where Instabill Really Shines

Instabill has extensive experience in the high-risk sector and can often get you approved for an account when other providers cannot. The company offers a very impressive lineup of products and services for both retail and eCommerce businesses and specializes in working with the adult entertainment industry. One unique feature now offered is the ability to accept anonymous payments for eCommerce transactions using gift cards from major retailers like Amazon or Walmart and a special widget installed on your website. Payouts can be received in either cryptocurrency or via ACH transfer.

 

Read our in-depth review

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Looking For One Of These Adult Merchant Service Providers?

While we highly recommend any of the providers listed above, they aren’t the only choices available. There are several other high-risk specialists that work with the adult entertainment industry that we weren’t able to include among our top picks for one reason or another. If you’re having difficulty getting approved for an account, the following companies are also worth considering:

eMerchant Broker

eMerchant Broker is another great choice for an adult merchant account and stands out for its willingness to accept some of the adult entertainment industry’s riskier sectors (including escort services). Unfortunately, this larger appetite for risk comes at a cost. Although the company advertises rates as low as 2.99% for qualified high-risk merchants, you’ll usually end up paying much higher rates than this. While eMerchant Broker excels at customer support, its reputation for higher-than-average processing rates kept it from making our best-of list. However, if you’re having a hard time getting approved for a merchant account, it’s worth getting a quote from eMerchant Broker to see what it can offer you.

CCBill

CCBill also specializes in placing high-risk merchants and has a particular focus on the adult entertainment industry. So, why wasn’t it included among our top picks? The answer comes down to pricing, which is particularly expensive for an adult entertainment business. If you’re running an adult entertainment business, you’ll pay processing rates of 10.8 % to 14.5% per transaction. That’s on top of the $1,000 annual fee that the company also charges. While CCBill certainly earns praise for being transparent about its prices, they’re higher than what other high-risk providers usually charge. Again, the company scores high marks in almost every other category, so it’s worth looking into if you’re unable to get approved anywhere else.

How To Increase Your Chances Of Approval For An Adult Merchant Account

Getting approved for a high-risk merchant account can be particularly challenging for merchants in the adult entertainment industry. You should be prepared to answer a lot of detailed questions about your business and your finances. You’ll also need to provide a lot of documents and personal information. The underwriting process for a high-risk account is more extensive than it is for low-risk merchants, and it’s usually done before you can be approved for an account.

Although getting approved for an account is never guaranteed, there are things you can do to make the process go more smoothly and increase your odds of approval. Here are several things you can do:

Gather Documentation

Providers will want to see an extensive list of documents before they can approve you for a merchant account. Every provider has its own list of required documents, and newly-established businesses will have to provide more upfront information than established ones with a verified processing history. Here’s a list of the most commonly requested documents:

  • Completed merchant account application
  • Valid business owner’s identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.)
  • Valid business license
  • Voided check or business bank letter
  • Articles of incorporation (or articles of association)
  • Three months of statements from your business bank account
  • 3-6 months of payment processing statements (if applicable)

Shore Up Your Personal Credit Score

This step mostly applies to new business owners, who won’t have an established processing history. If your personal credit score is on the low side, anything you can do to improve it (e.g., paying off bills or credit cards) will increase your odds of being approved.

Be Honest

We can’t emphasize this last point enough. Every day, merchants get turned down for accounts or have their existing accounts terminated because they misrepresented the nature of their business. It’s critically important that you be completely open and honest about what products and services your business is going to provide. As long as you won’t be doing anything that’s actually illegal, the high-risk providers we’ve profiled above will be more than happy to work with you. However, getting caught lying about your business, even at the application stage, can get you placed on the MATCH List (or Terminated Merchant File), making it far more difficult to get an account in the future.

What To Look For In Adult Merchant Services

Adult merchant accounts today come with far more features than just basic credit card processing. Most — if not all — of the features listed below will be essential for any business owner, so you’ll want to be sure that your chosen provider offers them and that they’re adequate for your needs. Here are the most important features to look for in selecting an adult merchant account provider:

Support For Multiple Payment Methods

Being able to accept credit and debit cards is much better than operating on a cash-only basis, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll want to be able to accept as many alternative payment methods as possible in order to increase your overall sales volume. In other words, the more ways you can offer for your customers to pay you, the more sales you’ll rack up. Important alternative payment methods to look for include the following:

Security Features

With card-not-present surging to unprecedented levels, securing your merchant account (and your customers’ payment data) is more important than ever. Providers are well aware of the risks, and most will offer a variety of both standard and optional security features to keep you protected. Be aware that not all of these features are included for free with your account, but usually the most important ones won’t require an additional fee. Carefully evaluate any paid optional security features before agreeing to include them – the processing industry is notorious for up-selling merchants on extra features that they might or might not actually need.

Look for the following security features to protect your account:

Risk Management/Chargeback Prevention Tools

Chargebacks are the bane of any business, but they’re a particularly acute problem for adult entertainment companies. So-called “friendly fraud,” where the customer makes a purchase and then pursues a chargeback by claiming that they never made the purchase, is a major concern in the adult entertainment industry. Most providers today offer some type of chargeback prevention program to help detect and stop chargebacks before they occur. These programs, usually from third-party vendors, will often require an additional monthly fee. While they aren’t 100% effective, they can save you a lot of money in chargeback investigation fees and put a real dent in your overall chargeback rate. For most adult entertainment merchants, they’re well worth the extra cost.

Subscription Management

Offering products or services on a subscription basis is an essential way to ensure a steady cash flow for many adult entertainment businesses. While almost all providers now offer recurring billing support with their payment gateways, features and costs will vary from one provider to the next. In particular, basic recurring billing support is now a standard feature with many popular payment gateways. However, some providers will charge extra for this service. You’ll also want to ensure that the recurring billing features your provider offers are adequate to meet the needs of your business.

How Do I Find The Best Adult Payment Processor?

Like any other business owner, merchants in the adult entertainment industry just want to know which adult merchant account provider is the best one on the market. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. While all of the providers we’ve reviewed above can offer you dependable service at a fair cost, none of them are perfect. The best that you can hope for is to find the provider that’s the best fit for your business. This will take a lot of research and negotiating on your part, but we hope that this article will at least get you started in the right direction.

In addition to researching prospective providers, we also highly recommend that you obtain quotes from multiple vendors. Don’t just sign up with the first provider that offers to approve you for an account! Although high-risk payment processing will always be more expensive than what a comparable low-risk business will have to pay, you can still get a relatively good deal if you shop around.

If you’re looking for more information about starting up an adult entertainment business, the following articles can help:

In Summary: The 5 Best Adult Payment Processors

  1. PaymentCloud:
    • No account setup fee
    • Free credit card terminal
    • Excellent customer support
  2. Durango Merchant Services:
    • Durango Pay payment gateway
    • No early termination fee
    • eCheck & cryptocurrency processing available
  3. Host Merchant Services:
    • Supports adult websites & toys
    • Interchange-plus pricing available
    • Excellent reputation for customer support
  4. PayKings:
    • 20+ acquiring banks available
    • Integrates with Shopify
    • Requires long-term contract w/early termination fee
  5. Instabill:
    • Wide range of terminals & POS systems available
    • Extensive support for online adult businesses
    • Anonymous payments available
Frank Kehl

Frank Kehl

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
Frank Kehl has been researching and analyzing merchant services, payment gateways, and international money transfer services since 2015. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State and a Juris Doctorate from the Ventura College of Law.
Frank Kehl
View Frank Kehl's professional experience on LinkedIn.

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