This article will explain how to get an offshore merchant account and list some popular providers that you can review further.
Why Get an Offshore Merchant Account?
There are two reasons why a business might choose an offshore merchant account for taking card payments.
- If they are a large business they may be seeking tax advantages.
- If they are a small business which is considered high risk, or if they are a start up with no credit history, then they may have difficulty obtaining a domestic merchant account.
Tax benefits - a business with an offshore merchant account can end up paying low or no tax on the revenue they receive from card payments.
High risk business- sometimes the only option for a high risk business is an offshore merchant account because domestic providers will either refuse them outright, or charge a premium. High risk businesses can include pharmaceutical companies, membership services, online gambling, dating services and suppliers where there is a higher than average delay between a payment and the customer receiving their goods.
Poor credit history - a business with a poor credit history will be accepted by an offshore merchant account more easily than a domestic one.
Incorporation - the offshore merchant account may require the business to incorporate in their jurisdiction, with fees of between £500 - £1,500.
Higher rates in general - while offshore rates for a high risk business may be slightly lower than average, rates for offshore merchant accounts are higher overall than for domestic ones.
Reputational risk - businesses choosing an offshore merchant account run the risk of damage to their reputation as offshore accounting can have negative connotations. They may also find themselves being more closely monitored by banks and authorities at home.
Higher risk - businesses may find it harder to settle legal disputes with offshore merchant accounts.
How to Open an Offshore Merchant Account
Does it really need to be offshore? Different areas of the world have different regulations and underwriting requirements, meaning that a business finding it hard to acquire a merchant account in the UK may do so more easily in the US or vice versa.
Some domestic providers specialise in accounts for high risk or low credit rating businesses, so there are several avenues to consider before an offshore merchant account.
When applying for an offshore merchant account, research the reputation of the provider and read any documentation very carefully before signing. A business should also find out what their bank's policy is regarding the acceptance of offshore transactions.
They are recommended to open a separate deposit account specifically for payments from that provider, and set withdrawal limits on it. They should then monitor their accounts regularly to make sure no suspicious transactions occur.
Offshore & High Risk Merchant Account Providers
The following four companies offer offshore merchant accounts. Review them for yourself to see if this is the best option for your business.
Instabill are a US-based company specialising in supplying offshore merchant accounts to high risk businesses. They promise a fast approval, merchant services that are reliable and affordable.
They operate in territories such as Mauritius, Bermuda, Belize, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Malta, Cyprus, Cayman Islands, Panama and Hong Kong.
Payline is a payment gateway who also includes merchant accounts as part of their service. Based in the US, they have 24-7 support and offer credit card and debit card processing, countertop terminals, mobile payments and PCI compliant security.
Incorporated in the UK, VeriPayment has been operating since 2002 and offers high risk, offshore, replica and pharmacy merchant accounts.
Setting up a merchant account is free, with a monthly maintenance fee of $40 US dollars (about £25.49), a discount rate from 4.95%, a process rate from $0.65 (about 41p), a chargeback fee of $45 US dollars (about £28.68) and a rolling reserve of 10% for 6 months.