Where Credit is Due: Expert Advice on Merchant Services

“Credit or debit?”

There’s just no getting around it. Those are words that you need to be able to say. Sadly, for many in our corner of the market, that ability often hangs by a thread. Banks work in the concrete world of numbers and figures. Nuance doesn’t calculate. Our products are legal, yes, but that status is based solely on our intentions. For most banks, that level of ambiguity just doesn’t fit within their formula.

But according to Ryan Mirpanah of Vector Payments it’s not hopeless—and he should know. He’s been working in the “at risk” space for the last few years, building an extensive network and developing unique protocols to accommodate just about any business on the right side of the law, no matter how close to the edge. His primary focus has been on the cannabis space, where he and his team have forged a significant degree of success. Suffice it to say that if he can help an MRB (marijuana-related business) he can probably help you.

“There are ways and partnerships to find those angles to get compliant payment processing to any sort of vertical, whether it’s, smoke shops, CBD or even cannabis,” he confirms confidently.

For an MRB, obtaining the necessary services is possible, but it’s anything but easy. When comparing it to the ease of a traditional smoke shop, Ryan likens it to “running a marathon with concrete blocks as shoes.”

It hasn’t stopped him, though. He and his team have developed several avenues with which to connect MRBs with the services they need, the most innovative among them being what he calls the “dual transaction” method. Here’s how it works:

You walk into a dispensary and select your purchase. The cashier then rings you up and gives you your total, at which point, you swipe your card. But instead of charging your card and closing out the transaction in the traditional method, they pass the screen to you. You then must authorize the purchase of a digital gift card in the exact amount of your store purchase. Next, you will be asked if you would like to put that gift card toward the amount owed. Choose “yes” to close out your transaction and wait for not one, but two receipts; one for the gift card and one for the products. Everyone loves it but the trees.

“Hence, ‘dual transaction,’” Ryan points out.

For the smoke shop side of things, it’s much simpler. Generally speaking, retaining merchant services in our space is just a matter of paying attention to the details and staying within the lines. As Ryan sees it, there are three major pitfalls that could potentially damn you to the cash-only abyss.

You lied on your paperwork. This is arguably the most dangerous of them all, but also the easiest avoidable. To put it simply, don’t lie. It might take longer to find a bank who will service you, but it’s worth it in the long run.


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