Not an Expert in Payment Processing? Then Don’t Fund Merchant Cash Advances
If you have no experience in underwriting payment processing accounts, don’t bother becoming a Merchant Cash Advance (MCA) provider.
After a quick underwriting process, a MCA provider purchases Business ABC’s future card sales. Business ABC receives a lump sum of capital and a percentage of each card sale is now directed back to the MCA provider. Two weeks later, Business ABC loses a $2,000 payment dispute with a customer and suffers a chargeback. Unwilling to bear any additional risk, the payment processor terminates Business ABC’s account. Business ABC can no longer accept card payments. What does the MCA provider do?
Why did we hypothesize this scenario? Because this situation happens. The underwriting of a MCA doesn’t start with a credit score and end with a cash flow examination. The focus should be on the merchant’s future card payments. If the merchant’s ability to accept payments is at risk, then all the other factors aren’t worth diddly. You can have a client with 800 credit, processing consistent volume, have $50,000 in the bank at all times, and it just won’t matter. So what can go wrong? Your client’s funds can be frozen or their account closed in any of the following situations:
- The merchant processes a sale that is outside their approved parameters. For example: A restaurant has a $50 average ticket with a maximum allowable sale of $300. During the holidays they book a catering gig and attempt to swipe a $3,500 sale. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant is set up to swipe 95% of all card transactions but lately has been key-entering the card numbers nearly 70% of the time. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant you funded owns a retail store. His brother has a landscaping business. Occassionally the landscaping business will swipe cards through the retail store’s credit card machine and the brother will pay him the proceeds. If a business accepts payments on behalf of another business…. then BAD NEWS.
- The merchant has too many customers disputing charges. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant has insufficient funds in the bank account to cover the month end fees to the payment processor. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant processes payment far in advance of the services being rendered. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant’s average sale size is in excess of $1,000. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant swipes their own credit card through the terminal, effectively giving themselves a cash advance. This is illegal. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant has no refund policy. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant is processing with non-pci compliant equipment. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant changes their business ownership structure or legal entity type. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant takes payment for a prohibited item or service. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant has a security breach. BAD NEWS.
- The merchant violates any policy of their payment processor or payment network. BAD NEWS.
These are just a few situations that MCA providers need to be prepared for. One day everything is perfect and the next day their client’s ability to accept card payments is suspended or terminated. Historical statements can provide clues but anything can happen. A merchant with no chargeback history can have their account jeopardized with just one chargeback.
Alternative methods of collection such as direct debit and lockbox will be futile since they still depend on proceeds of payment processing. Simply speaking, if there are no more card sales, then you cannot recoup what you have purchased. And that’s the end of it.
It’s a risky business. MCA providers place an unbelievable amount of faith in their clients’ continuing ability to accept card payments. Rookies often comment that MCA providers are in a much better position to collect funds than a bank is on outstanding loans. This is outright false. A bank is entitled to payment no matter what happens to the business. Failure to pay a loan results in the reposession of collateral.
We have witnessed hundreds of MCA deals go south due to unforeseen payment processing issues. Being a funding provider may look attractive on paper, but if you think looking at the average sales volume, credit score, and cash flow history will get the job done, you’ll get smoked in this business. There’s a reason our site has two sections, Merchant Processing and Merchant Cash Advance. They go together. Don’t learn the hard way.
– The Merchant Cash Advance ResourceLast modified: February 21, 2013
Sean Murray is the President and Chief Editor of deBanked and the founder of the Broker Fair Conference. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter. You can view all future deBanked events here.