Is it possible for credit cards to prohibit certain purchases?
OnlyFans, an NSFW membership site, made a surprising move to block sexually explicit content a few weeks ago. The change was necessary for a site designed primarily to broadcast pornography and allow writers to profit from it.
When the company reversed the ruling, it was far more critical.
OnlyFans finally gave in a few days later, claiming that it had “got the needed assurances” to escape the ban. The whole experience demonstrated the depths to which sex workers must go to make a living, but it also made me wonder: if OnlyFans can run into bank limits, might I?
Is there anything I can’t buy with my credit card? What should I stay away from doing with it?
Jason Steele, Money’s de facto credit card expert, was consulted. Although the specifics of what transpired with OnlyFans are unclear, he advised me that chargebacks were most likely a part.
Chargebacks happen when a customer opposes a transaction and receives a refund. It’s easy to see someone signing up to access OnlyFans’ gated content and then regretting it when they get their monthly statement/are discovered by their significant other in this case. To avoid accepting the porn purchase, they report it as fraud.
Chargebacks and penalties on future transactions are so costly for processors that firms want to avoid situations that can arise.
(That’s why, according to Steele, “merely uttering the phrase chargeback is usually enough” to secure a refund if I’m ever in difficulty with a firm that isn’t providing items or services as promised.) Dealing with me and losing money on my sale is preferable to dealing with my chargeback and being fined. However, whatever.)
Chargebacks make the credit card business seem inadequate, so they prevent them by limiting riskier purchases.
Customers have been unable to use their cards to pay for adult entertainment since 2000. An AmEx spokesman told ZDNet at the time that the firm had decided “it was no longer profitable or viable to continue with this business” due to an “unacceptably high amount of customer disagreements.”
According to David B. Shipper, senior research analyst at Aite-Retail Novarica’s Banking & Payments section, Banks and card issuers also want to prevent anything illegal. Due to allegations of child abuse, Mastercard and Visa stopped allowing users to use their cards on Pornhub last year. Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, even though it is legal in several states.
“What they see as a threat is assisting in an illegal transaction,” Shipper continues. “Today, I’m not sure whether any [dispensary] shops can process credit cards or anything,” says the author, “since networks are frightened of such businesses.”
Gambling purchases and transactions are often illegal in sanctioned nations like Iran and Syria. According to Tony DeSanctis, senior director of payments at Cornerstone Advisors, some financial institutions prohibit bitcoin purchases in addition to legal obligations, citing “concerns about customers understanding what they’re getting themselves into – a more protective approach.”
There’s also a reputational risk to consider with things like firearms.
Finally, but certainly not least
I’d also avoid putting my card down anywhere the merchant fee is more than the value of the transaction’s benefits.
My card is often not authorized to be used for adult entertainment, drugs, cryptocurrencies, gambling, or purchases in sanctioned countries. It’s not a good idea to utilize it for items where I’ll lose money.
The conditions of my credit card agreement contain all of this information. But if I don’t want to go through 20-30 pages of tiny print, there is another method to see whether my card is approved.
“The most easy technique is to swipe it and see whether it works,” Shipper says.