Confusing business

As an online business owner there are a ton of items on your daily to do list that you have to juggle and prioritize. Running a business can be exceptionally fulfilling, but by no means does that mean it will be easy.

You list of items to check every week might include:

  • Making sure your website is delivering a great user experience
  • Making sure your business and brand is being represented how you want it
  • Working on day to day updates to the design elements of your store, product images, banners, logos, etc…
  • Updates to your marketing plan, and keeping up to date on the metrics you use to evaluate your progress
  • Working with your manufacturers and distributors to ensure you’re your inventory and shipping logistics are all in order

Like I said, a day in the life of an online business owner is busy to say the least. Every element of the business needs to work together like a well-oiled machine for your customers to be able to buy and love your products.

But there is one gear in the machine that sometimes gets overlooked that may in fact be more important than any other factor. In fact I even forgot to include it in the list above.


Will your customers actually be able to give you money? Sounds simple right? Usually it is, but it’s important not to overlook this part of your business.

For those of you still at the planning stages of your online business. Do you know if you will have any trouble establishing an account with a payment gateway? Sounds easy enough, but have you done the research to see if your product line or category falls into any of the prohibited lists? No way, you may think, but you’d be surprised how long some of these lists are.

Take Stripe for example. Here is their list of prohibited products and businesses.

  • Online or other non-face-to-face tobacco, e-cigarette sales, or related items (such as personal vaporizers or e-juice)
  • Weapons and munitions
  • Virtual currency that can be monetized, re-sold or converted to physical or digital products or services or otherwise exit the virtual world
  • Sexually-oriented or pornographic products or services
  • Marijuana dispensaries and related businesses
  • Door-to-door sales
  • Offering substantial rebates or special incentives to the cardholder subsequent to the original purchase
  • Negative response marketing
  • Engaging in deceptive marketing practices
  • Sharing cardholder information with another merchant for payment of up-sell or cross-sell product or service
  • Evading Card Network’s chargeback monitoring programs
  • Engaging in any form of licensed or unlicensed aggregation or factoring
  • Airlines
  • Age verification
  • Age restricted products or services
  • Bail bonds
  • Bankruptcy lawyers
  • Bidding fee auctions
  • Collection agencies
  • Chain letters
  • Check cashing, wire transfers, or money orders
  • Counterfeit products
  • Currency exchanges or dealers
  • Embassies, foreign consulates, or other foreign governments
  • Firms selling business opportunities, investment opportunities, mortgage consulting or reduction, credit counseling, repair or protection, or real estate purchases with no money down
  • Credit card and identity theft protection
  • Cruise lines
  • Essay mills
  • Flea markets
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Extended warranties
  • Psychic services
  • “Get rich quick” schemes
  • Gambling (including but not limited to lotteries, Internet gaming, contests, sweepstakes, or offering of prizes as an inducement to purchase products or services)
  • Sports forecasting or odds making
  • Illegal products or services
  • Mail-order brides
  • Money transmitters or money service businesses
  • Multi-level marketing or pyramid schemes
  • Online or other non-face-to-face pharmacies or pharmacy referral services
  • Prepaid phone cards, phone services or cell phones
  • Pseudo pharmaceuticals
  • Quasi-cash or stored value
  • Securities brokers
  • Shipping or forwarding brokers
  • Substances designed to mimic illegal drugs
  • Telemarketing
  • Telecommunications equipment and telephone sales
  • Timeshares
  • Centralized travel reservation services or travel clubs
  • Personal computer technical support
  • Selling video game or virtual world credits (unless you are the operator of the video game or virtual world)
  • Selling social media activity, such as Twitter followers, Facebook likes, or YouTube views
  • Any product or service that infringes upon the copyright, trademark, or trade secrets of any third party
  • Any product, service or activity that is deceptive, unfair, predatory, or prohibited by one or more Card Networks
  • Funding any of the items included on this Prohibited Businesses list

Most of these seem pretty obvious. Gambling as an example, but you’ll notice that right at the top of the list is one of the fastest growing, most popular product categories online. E-cigarettes.

This doesn’t in any way mean that you shouldn’t start an e-cigarette or vaporizing accessories business. What it does mean however, is that before you start one of those businesses, or any business online, you should do the due diligence to make sure your business will be able to accept customer payments.

Stripe as a payment processor leans on the stricter side of things when it comes to how long their prohibited list is, there are many other providers who don’t prohibit quite as may products. Moneris for example allows e-cigarette businesses, from what I’ve seen anyway, and they are an even bigger payment processor than Stripe. But that doesn’t’ meant hey don’t have their own quirks when it comes to what you can and cannot do as listed here.

They call out industries such as cell phone sales and vitamins as requiring special levels of insurance for example. Again, that’s the type of surprise you don’t want to be getting in the final stages of starting up your online cell phone store.

The message is simple don’t leave vital parts of your ecommerce business to the back-burner. We all love to focus on the “fun” parts. The parts like design and branding. But leaving the discovery of the best payment processor for your business to the last minute can end up being a big, and stressful mistake.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well. What other behind the scenes elements of an ecommerce store have you seen people forget to iron out? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.