Companies that qualify for low-risk merchant accounts often pay lower service fees and benefit from other perks that help them succeed. Can your business take advantage of low-risk merchant account processing? Learn more about what constitutes a low-risk merchant account, so you can focus on the best processing options that match your business’s features.

Qualifying for Low-Risk Merchant Accounts

Low-risk merchants tend to have several features in common. When National Merchants Association looks at your business, the payment processor pays attention to things like whether:

  • You operate a brick-and-mortar location
  • More than 85% of your credit card transactions come from card-present purchases
  • Your business has a low chargeback ratio
  • Customers limit their number of returns
  • You and your business maintain high credit scores

More often than not, you need to meet all of these goals to get a low-risk merchant account. For example, you could lose your low-risk merchant account processing benefits when you start selling more products online, which increases your card-not-present transactions.

Qualifying for a Low-Risk Merchant Account

Depending on your industry and business structure, you could find that taking a few steps helps you qualify for low-risk merchant account processing.

Not every business can use the following steps to qualify. For example, companies that sell all of their products online will need high-risk merchant accounts. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t a way to avoid it because online businesses represent more risk to payment processors.

If you operate an in-person business, use the following steps to help your company qualify for a low-risk merchant account.

Use the Correct Merchant Category Code

Your merchant category code (MCC) describes the type of business you operate. MCCs can vary by the credit card provider, so you should contact all of the credit card companies you accept to verify your codes.

For example, Visa uses the following MCCs:

  • 5211 for lumber and building materials stores
  • 5311 for department stores
  • 5411 for supermarkets and grocery stores
  • 5531 for automobile supply stores

Why does your MCC matter? Since the code tells credit card companies what type of business you own, it helps determine whether you qualify as a low-risk or high-risk business. If you unintentionally use the MCC of a high-risk industry, you aren’t eligible for a low-risk merchant account.

Additionally, many credit card companies charge lower fees and rates for certain MCCs.

Make sure you use the correct code to get an appropriate account and pay the correct fee.

Lower Your Number of Chargebacks

Every business should expect some chargebacks. That’s the nature of accepting credit and debit card payments. Unfortunately, unfair chargeback policies can also put you at a disadvantage. However, you can take action to reduce the number of chargebacks your business gets.

Some important moves include:

  • Including credit card charge descriptions that help people remember what they bought
  • Sending confirmation and reminder emails, so customers know the status of every order
  • Choosing a point-of-sale (POS) system with strong security and payment verification features
  • Creating clear refund and return policies
  • Focusing on customer service that solves problems before customers dispute charges

If you can limit your chargebacks, you should find that more payment processors accept you as a low-risk merchant.

Keep Your Average Credit Card Charge Low

Ideally, keep your average credit card charges below $500. Obviously, you can’t do this in every situation because you don’t want to turn away a high-value customer who wants to pay with a credit card. If you have a high credit card charge average, though, payment processors will consider your business riskier than those with low averages.

You might consider pairing high-value customers with sales personnel who can provide excellent service. If you can impress the consumer, you could benefit from generating a higher revenue without risking a chargeback.

Alternatives to Low-Risk Merchant Accounts

Some companies and industries cannot qualify for low-risk merchant account processing no matter what they do. If you can’t get a low-risk account, you will need to find an affordable high-risk payment processor that matches your needs.

Some examples include:

A high-risk account doesn’t always mean you have to pay outrageous fees. For example, National Merchant Association offers a Surcharge credit card processing program that passes some of those fees on to the customer helping business owners keep those profits in their pockets.

Explore Options From National Merchant Association

National Merchant Association has extensive experience working with low-risk and high-risk merchants. We Work For You™ to find a payment processing solution that matches your unique needs. Visit National Merchant Association to explore your options and get started!


National Merchants Association is a merchant advocacy group dedicated to reducing the unnecessary fees associated with accepting credit card payments. Since 2004, they have delivered tailored payment processing solutions and best-in-class merchant service and support for all levels of risk. Whether it’s high-risk or low-risk, brick-and-mortar or e-commerce, National Merchants Association will create the best processing experience for your business. For more information, visit or call (866) 509-7199.