Updated January 13, 2024

Adult Merchant Account

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Applying for an adult merchant account can be a challenge. But with the right processor, you'll have all you'll need to grow your business.

How to open an adult merchant account?
You can get an adult merchant account from:
  1. PaymentCloud as the Best Overall
  2. Host Merchant Services for Best Customer Support
  3. Durango Merchant Services for Best Adult Membership Sites
  4. eMerchantBroker for Growing Adult Businesses
  5. National Processing for Small Businesses

Looking for an adult merchant account? It can be a little difficult at times, especially because not all high-risk payment processors provide them.

Your adult entertainment business has specific needs, after all. This may include discreet payments, subscriptions, and chargeback protection — and some processors may not have the tools for them.

On top of that, there are regulations that both you and the payment processor need to consider. But don't worry, here are some of the best adult payment processors to help you out.

5 Best Adult Merchant Accounts

Not every adult merchant account caters to each niche in the adult entertainment industry. So ensure that the payment processor caters to yours.

PaymentCloud: Best Overall

PaymentCloud is the best overall adult merchant account for online and in-person adult businesses. They've been working with the adult entertainment industry for years.

Why Choose PaymentCloud:
PaymentCloud supports several adult industries, like toys and novelties, lubricants and lotions, sex education courses, and online dating. You can even create entirely new adult websites through PaymentCloud's partners.

Your high-risk merchant account will come with dedicated customer support, so you're more assured that you'll get the help you need. And if you're a retail business in the adult industry, you may even get your first terminal for free.[1]

Also, PaymentCloud offers chargeback and fraud protection tools to help protect your customers and business. It's especially handy for adult industries, which are susceptible to chargebacks.

How to apply with PaymentCloud:
You can apply online through PaymentCloud's website. You can also call them at 1-866-395-5612. They typically approve applications within 48 hours.

Pros + Cons:

  • 98% approval rate
  • Works with over 20 banks
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Dedicated account representative
  • Monthly volume limit
  • Potential for increasing rates over time

Accepted Payments, Contract, and Processing Fees:
PaymentCloud lets you accept credit card payments online and in person. You can also take eChecks, physical checks, ACH payments, and offer subscriptions.

Because PaymentCloud offers customized pricing solutions, the terms and rates may be unique to your business. You'll need to get a quote personally.

If you're just starting out, PaymentCloud recommends a monthly volume limit of $5,000 to $10,000.[2] You don't need to achieve/process this amount, but you can't have more sales than this. You can increase your sales volume as needed (after every 3 months).

Host Merchant Services: Best Support

If you're looking for great customer service, Host Merchant Services might be the best option for you. Your calls are answered within 3 rings and they even have a very high rating on Trustpilot.

Why Choose Host Merchant Services:
Host Merchant Services provides merchant account services for all business types. And they work with Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS) to provide adult merchant account solutions.

Some adult-oriented businesses it supports include retail businesses selling adult products or toys and adult membership websites.

Your adult merchant account comes with business tools like customer analytics, email tools, and website features. Additionally, you can choose from various POS systems for your in-person store, like Clover POS, SwipeSimple, Vital POS, etc.

If you already have a payment processor and HMS can't compete with your current rates, you can get $50 from them.[3] The idea is that they're confident that they can provide you with affordable processing rates that can be hard to beat.

Pros + Cons:

  • Great customer service
  • Free mobile terminal
  • 4.7 Trustpilot rating
  • Locked-in processing rates (no increase)
  • Monthly fees, batch fees, and other miscellaneous fees

Accepted Payments, Contract, and Processing Fees:
You can accept all credit and debit card payments with Host Merchant Services. If you have your own app, you can even integrate HMS processing into it.

Like with PaymentCloud, you'll need a personal quote to determine your processing rates. Fill out the form on their website or call them at 877-517-HOST (4678).

Because you're a high-risk business, you may end up with a long-term contract. Read the fine print for all the fees to watch out for. For your reference, here are the rates for regular merchant accounts:[4]

Monthly fee$14.99/month
Batch fee$0.20/batch
Voice authorization$0.75/authorization
Annual 1099 reporting fee$24.00/year
Gateway fee (optional)$5.00/month

Durango Merchant Services: Best for Adult Membership Sites

With its built-in features for shopping cart integrations and fraud, Durango Merchant Services is the best option for adult membership sites.

Why Choose Durango:
Like the others on this list, Durango Merchant Services specializes in high-risk businesses. It's a trusted company with over 25 years of experience in the industry.

Though Durango is not quite experienced with the adult entertainment industry per se, it is experienced with subscription services, membership websites, and high-ticket businesses.

Your adult merchant account will come with free features to help you avoid fraud. You can get tools for real-time fraud scrubbing, payer authentication, and tokenization.

There are also over 150 shopping cart integrations to choose from for your adult website. You can work with BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Shopify, etc.

Pros + Cons:

  • 3-day average approval time
  • Dedicated account manager
  • No application fees
  • 4.5 Trustpilot rating
  • Not ideal for small businesses
  • Not much experience with adult businesses

Accepted Payments, Contract, and Processing Fees:
Aside from taking online payments, you can accept in-person, mobile, and self-service payments with Durango.

Some accepted payment types include major debit and credit cards, Google Pay, and Apple Pay.

To know your processing rates, you'll need a free quote. Just fill out their online form on their website. Or call them at +1 (866) 415-2636. Just like with other high-risk payment processors, expect a long-term contract for your account.

Durango Merchant Services Requirements
Here are some requirements Durango may ask of you:[5]

  • Business financials
  • Photo identification
  • Bank details
  • Credit card usage history
  • Address and website

eMerchantBroker: Best for growing businesses

Because they offer cash advance and ACH business funding tools, eMerchantBroker (EMB) is a great option for those looking to grow their adult business. You can borrow the capital you need.

Why Choose eMerchantBroker:
eMerchantBroker supports a variety of adult entertainment businesses, including adult toys and novelties, adult-rated websites, and dating. It even has no problems working with businesses in the sex industry.

EMB also has a 95% approval rate. You'll get chargeback protection through fraud filters. And you'll be using a PCI-compliant high-risk payment gateway so your customers can transact quickly and safely.

Plus, you can work with cryptocurrency payments like Bitcoin. This will allow your customers to make more discreet payments.

Have an app for your adult business? You can use your adult merchant account with it. EMB offers APIs that let you build a custom e-commerce experience.

Pros + Cons:

  • Specialty in adult entertainment businesses
  • 48-hour approval
  • High Trustpilot rating
  • Business funding options available
  • Poor customer service
  • Used to have a 99% approval rate
  • Chargeback ratio should be less than 2%

Did you know?
For typical businesses, unidentified business names on a customer's transaction history may cause chargebacks. But the opposite can be true for adult businesses. They might feel the shame of being associated with adult products or services, causing the chargeback. Your customers may prefer to pay more anonymously.

Accepted Payments, Contract, and Processing Fees:
You can accept different kinds of currency with eMerchantBroker, which is great if you're an international business.

As for your contract, you'll have to contact them to know your terms. High-risk businesses are usually tied to long-term contracts, so just keep that in mind.

You can apply through eMerchantBroker's online form to get customized pricing options. There won't be any application fee or startup fee.

eMerchant Broker Requirements
Here are some of what eMerchantBroker may ask of you:[6]

  • Government ID
  • Bank letter or voided check (pre-printed)
  • Most recent bank statements (3 months)
  • Most recent processing statements (3 months, if applicable)
  • SSN or EIN
  • Less than 2% chargeback ratio
  • Secure and working website

National Processing: Best for small businesses

National Processing is especially suited for budding adult businesses with subscription services.

National Processing can work with you regardless of your sales volume. It's also a great option for small businesses since you can get $500 if they can't beat your current processing rates. This price is guaranteed for businesses processing at least $10,000 per month. [7]

Why Choose National Processing:
Although National Processing doesn't specify which adult entertainment merchants they support, they mention that they work with subscription services and high-volume businesses.

You can count on them to get to know your customer base, goals, and common challenges and provide what you need accordingly.

You'll get to access tools for mitigating chargebacks and fraud. Just like the others on this list, National Processing integrates with many apps like QuickBooks, WooCommerce, and Shopify to help you manage your business.

Pros + Cons:

  • You can receive a free terminal or card reader
  • Customized solutions for your business
  • A+ BBB rating
  • Doesn't specify supported adult industries
  • Free equipment has cancellation fees

Accepted Payments, Contract, and Processing Fees:
You can take online, offline, and mobile payments with National Processing. There are different POS systems to choose from based on what you need.

You can also get bundles/equipment for your in-person store. Unfortunately, the free equipment you'll receive has a cancellation fee, so it may not be technically "free".

Although National Processing is very transparent with its transaction rates and fees, yours will likely differ as a high-risk business in adult entertainment.

To get a quote, you can apply through their website. Be sure to read the fine print to know your specific terms and rates.

National Processing Requirements[8]
Here are some of what National Processing may require of you:

  • Type of ownership
  • Business name
  • Doing Business As (DBA) information
  • EIN or SSN
  • Personal contact details
  • Other business details

What Is an Adult Merchant Account?

An adult merchant account is a type of high-risk merchant account. It's a merchant account for businesses in the adult entertainment industry. And they enable merchants to accept payments such as credit card and debit card payments.

This industry includes businesses that offer:

  • Online pornography
  • Pornographic magazines
  • Webcam and communication platforms
  • Escort services
  • Lingerie stores
  • Adult toys and novelties
  • Other businesses that offer the same nature

Keep in mind that just because a merchant account provider caters to adult businesses doesn't mean they will cater to yours. Some providers work with very niche adult businesses (like online dating).

And an adult merchant account provider is a high-risk payment processing company. So you can't opt for payment processing services with the likes of Stripe and Square if you sell or publish adult content. Stripe and Square only caters to low-risk businesses.

This comparison of high-risk and low-risk businesses may help better explain the difference.

High-risk MerchantsLow-risk Merchants
Chargeback ratios are typically 1-5%Chargeback ratios are typically less than 1%
Highly-regulated businesses and businesses with controversial productsStable and widely acceptable industries like retail (i.e., clothing and books)
High sales volume (around $20,000+ per month)Lower sales volume (less than $20,000 per month)
Higher risks of fraud (like online service businesses)Lower risks of fraud (like in-person or mobile businesses)
Newer businesses with no track recordBusinesses with a track record and good credentials; more established businesses
Accept multiple currencies (especially from countries with higher risks of fraud)Accept U.S. dollar only (or including currencies in Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan)

How to Apply for an Adult Merchant Account

The process for applying for an adult merchant account may vary. Typically, you can apply for a quote on the payment processor's website. You could also call and talk directly to a representative.

Before you fill up an online form, however, make sure you're ready with the requirements:

  • A valid government ID
  • Pre-printed voided check or bank letter
  • Most recent bank statements
  • Most recent processing statements (if applicable)
  • EIN or SSN (for sole proprietors)
  • Business name and business details
  • Personal contact details
  • Personal and business credit history
  • Business financial documents
  • Other business documents (e.g., business licenses)
  • Business website
  • Chargeback ratio

Providers may require more, less, or all of these. After you apply through the online form, a representative may reach out with the details. You can get approved (or declined) in about 48 hours.

That said, you may need to "optimize" these requirements to increase your chances of getting approved.

Why do I need to get an adult merchant account?
An adult merchant account benefits your adult entertainment business by enabling you to accept credit card payments and other forms of online payments. It can also help you reduce chargebacks and fraud with the tools that come with the account.

Requirements for Adult Merchant Accounts

It's important to remember that there are laws adult entertainment businesses need to abide by. Card networks like Mastercard also have rules you'll need to follow.

Adult payment processors won't break any laws to support your business. This means they'll have to check on your legal compliance. Here are a few you need to look out for:

The 2257 regulations
18 U.S. Code 2257 states the requirements for businesses in the adult entertainment industry that have performers of any kind.[9] This could include phone sex operators, strippers, and cam girls.

Your business should obtain government-issued IDs to verify that the performers are 18 years old and older. You must keep these in your record for 7 years.

For the full requirements of the law, you can visit Cornell Law School's website.

Mastercard Rules for Adult Entertainment Businesses[10]
In addition to 2257, Mastercard requires the following for businesses in the adult entertainment industry:

  • You should have the ability to monitor, block, and remove illegal content.
  • Your business should receive unambiguous and documented consent from the persons involved.
  • Your adult website should verify the age and identity of the publishers and persons.
  • You should review content before publication.
  • You need to have a complaint resolution process where you'll take action against illegal/nonconsensual content within 7 business days; a person should be able to request their content be removed.

Now that you know the laws and rules involved (and assuming that you've complied with all of them), you're more ready to apply.

How to Choose an Adult Merchant Account

Adult payment processing is a little different from other high-risk businesses. There are many more niches within this industry, meaning there are additional things to consider:

  • Adult Entertainment Industry Accepted
    Adult merchant services have their own expertise. You could be an adult toy industry or a dating app. The two may have different needs.

    Opening an account from a different country? Then look for offshore adult merchant accounts.

  • Alternative Payment Methods
    Adult merchant accounts do more than let you accept credit cards and debit card payments. Ask about your preferred payment method, such as invoicing or ACH payments.

  • Processing Rates and Fees
    You will almost always need a custom quote from high-risk payment processors. So be sure to ask around and compare. Don't be afraid to negotiate, too.

    Due to the nature of your business, you will also likely have long-term contracts. So ask about early termination fees and other fees you may encounter.

    How much does an adult merchant account cost?
    Applications for adult merchant accounts are typically free. However, processing rates will vary. You can expect higher processing rates with a whopping 3% to 10% transaction fees. This is to alleviate the risk posed by your business to payment processors.

  • Customer Support
    Customer service is always an essential consideration. The processor should be willing to help your business grow and help in time of need. You can test their responsiveness through inquiries during the application process.

Why is an adult merchant account hard to get?

Adult payment processors need to be connected to the right banks, adult payment gateway, and POS systems to provide for your business's special needs. They will also need essential tools like chargeback and fraud prevention tools.

This means adult merchant account providers deal with more complications. Note that a merchant account is already hard to get because of the underwriting process.

A high-risk merchant account is even harder to apply for because of the greater risks posed by a high-risk business. Having a lot more to consider, it makes sense that getting an adult merchant account is extra challenging.

That said, some payment processors may ask for reserves for high-risk businesses. This is another thing you need to prepare for.

What are reserves in payment processing?
Merchant account reserves are portions of your funds held to alleviate the risk of your business to payment processors. They are another reason why it can be hard to apply for a high-risk merchant account such as an adult merchant account.

How to Increase Chances on Adult Merchant Account Approval

First, you'll want to be as honest as possible with your application. You wouldn't want to lose your adult merchant account because of a "mistake" or misinformation.

Next, you can do the following:

  • Lower your chargeback ratio.
    As a high-risk business, it's understandable that you'll have a high chargeback ratio. But payment processors may still have their requirements on the maximum accepted ratio.

    eMerchantBroker, for example, accepts businesses with chargebacks lower than 2%.

  • Make sure your adult website is secure and lawful.
    Requirements include age verification, recordkeeping, terms and conditions, etc. Adult merchant account providers may require you to link your website for approval.

  • Pay all business debts.
    Merchant account providers may review your business finances. It may be better to have no unpaid debts. It can be a sign that your business handles money well or that there is sufficient cash flow.

  • Make sure you have a favorable personal and business credit score.
    Speaking of how you handle money, credit scores reflect that too. Some payment providers don't need your business credit history but they might check on your personal credit score.

  • Explain your circumstances well.
    If you're switching providers, you can explain why. You'll also need to provide the reason why if you've been declined or canceled for an account. Payment processors will need to know if they can provide exactly what your business needs.

  • Complete necessary documents to avoid delays.
    It's best to prepare all requirements to get approved more quickly. Because requirements differ from processor to processor, you can inquire about them through a call.

How to Prevent Frauds and Chargebacks in the Adult Industry

Adult merchant account providers typically provide tools and training programs that help you avoid fraud and chargebacks.

Generally, you'll want to:

  • Require website visitors to agree to your site's terms and conditions
  • Verify a customer's identity through Address Verification System (AVS), Card Verification Value (CVV), 3D secure technology, etc.
  • Use encrypted devices and work with an adult payment gateway with tokenization
  • Provide means for discreet payments (i.e., cryptocurrencies)

Some payment processors offer a chargeback alert system. This way, you can get notified and work on the issues or disputes right away. Others have fraud scrubbing tools that let you catch fraudulent transactions in real time.

Methodology

Businesses in the adult industry can have a challenging time applying for a merchant account. This is why we considered the following:

  • Specialization on the type of high-risk business or adult entertainment business
  • Approval rate and requirements
  • Customer service and application process
  • Other perks and features

Specialization is most considered since you don't want to waste time on the wrong provider. Payment processors will have their own sets of expertise and experience. Hence, you'll want to go for the most suitable one for your business type.

And with high approval rates, you have an increased chance of getting accepted. Customer service is also essential since your business will likely have unique needs from other industries.

Lastly, the most essential feature we considered was chargeback and fraud protection. After all, these can help preserve your profits.

What the Experts Say

CreditDonkey asked a panel of industry experts to answer readers' most pressing questions. Here's what they said:

Bottom Line

It can be hard for businesses in the adult entertainment industry to get approved for a merchant account. But it's not impossible. Just find a processor that offers what your business needs.

Many adult payment processors are willing to work with your industry. If you meet all the requirements and fully comply with the laws, you'll get your adult merchant account in no time.

References

  1. ^ PaymentCloud. High-risk Merchant Services, Retrieved 09/22/23
  2. ^ PaymentCloud. FAQ: I'm just starting out, how do I know what processing limit to put?, Retrieved 8/17/2023
  3. ^ Host Merchant Services. $50 Challenge, Retrieved 8/17/2023
  4. ^ Host Merchant Services. What About Other Fees?, Retrieved 8/17/2023
  5. ^ Durango Merchant Services. High Risk Credit Card Processing, Retrieved 8/17/2023
  6. ^ eMerchantBroker. Adult Subscription Merchant Account, Retrieved 8/17/2023
  7. ^ National Processing. High Risk, Retrieved 05/31/2023
  8. ^ National Processing. Setting Up A Merchant Account with National Processing, Retrieved 05/28/2023
  9. ^ U.S. Department of Justice. 18 U.S.C 2257- 2257A Certifications, Retrieved 8/17/2023
  10. ^ Mastercard. Protecting our network, protecting you: Preventing illegal adult content on our network, Retrieved 05/29/2023

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