Premium cigar payment gateways and merchant accounts 101 –
Accepting credit cards on a tobacco website, like one that sells premium cigars, can be easier than many website owners think.
Just like the methodical process of hand-rolling carefully selected binders and filler into a perfectly aged shade-grown wrapper, setting up payment processing for cigars must be done correctly. And, just like there is more to a great cigar than simply the tobacco, there is more to selling premium cigars online than just a payment gateway and a merchant account.
This online premium cigar e-commerce guide covers cigar payment gateways, merchant accounts, age verification, website requirements for premium cigars, and more.
Remember – if you are looking for a premium cigar-friendly payment gateway and merchant account recommendation that integrates with Shopify, WooCommerce, Weebly, Wix, BigCommerce, Squarespace, PrestaShop, or almost any other shopping cart or site builder, Tasker Payment Gateways LLC can help.
New to selling premium cigars or loose tobacco online? Please read the Premium Cigar Payment Gateways and Merchant Accounts 101 guide below.
Which types of tobacco can be sold online?
In broad terms, premium cigars and loose tobacco, such as hookah or waterpipe tobacco, generally can be sold online legally – with restrictions.
Cigarettes, cigarette rolling tobacco, filtered cigars, and little cigars generally cannot be sold online.
Premium cigars have a specific set of generally understood criteria that differentiate them from other rolled tobacco such as cigarettes, cigarillos, and filtered cigars. A premium cigar is defined as a cigar that has the following features:
- Wrapped in a whole tobacco leaf
- Binder made of tobacco leaf
- Contains at least 50 percent, by weight, whole tobacco leaves that run the length of the cigar
- Has no filter or artificial tip
- Is not flavored
- Is hand-rolled
- It contains only the following three ingredients: tobacco, water, and vegetable gum
- Adheres to the FDA’s “premium weight” classification of at least 6 pounds per 1,000 units
United States Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/03/26/2018-06047/regulation-of-premium-cigars
Suppose you are selling limited edition, box-pressed Padrons. In that case, your products obviously fall into the premium category, but if you have any questions about the legality of what you can or cannot ship, then please site with an attorney. Although we cannot provide legal advice, we can give high-risk payment gateway and merchant account recommendations to online cigar companies. Contact us anytime for free friendly advice.
Yes. The payment gateway piece does allow items like loose tobacco and premium cigars. This flexibility allows us to connect Authorize.Net to a tobacco-friendly merchant account and connect a cigar payment gateway to your website’s shopping cart. Setting up a high-risk merchant account correctly underwritten for loose tobacco and cigars is the key, though.
If you would like to read more about Authorize.Net and high-risk credit card processing, we wrote a summary of some common “Does Authorize.Net allow?” questions on our Authorize.Net prohibited items page. Alternatively, we’ve listed some compatible platforms, site-builders, and carts below.
WooCommerce works best for premium cigar sites using WordPress when integrated with a high-risk-friendly merchant account on the back-end. Once you set up a payment gateway and merchant account, you can connect WooCommerce using a tried and tested plug-in, like the ones we recommend here. If you have any questions about processing payments for premium cigars on WooCommerce, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Magento, PrestaShop, or BigCommerce are all compatible with cigar-friendly high-risk Authorize.Net accounts and merchant accounts – making them excellent options for most online premium cigar merchants. These options provide native integrations and are high-risk-friendly once set up correctly. You can always contact us for premium cigar payment recommendations.
Shopify is an excellent choice for premium cigar business owners as it integrates really well with Authorize.Net. Once it’s combined with a cigar-friendly merchant account, you can safely accept payments and even process recurring billing subscriptions if you run a cigar of the month club. Please remember that the Authorize.Net gateway also needs to connect with a high-risk merchant account on the back-end.
Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix all integrate with Authorize.Net and become great options for premium cigar site owners once it’s connected with Authorize.Net using a third-party solution. In our experience, Foxy.io is an excellent solution for making these platforms work brilliantly for high-risk businesses.
Please check out our Foxy.io integration page to learn about connecting high-risk payments to Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and even GoDaddy.
Does NMI allow cigar sales?
Yes. But again, NMI needs to be connected to a cigar-friendly processor.
A cigar-friendly payment gateway like Authorize.Net or NMI will only work for cigar sales if the merchant account that it connects to is set up for internet cigar sales on the back end. If this is confusing, contact us to learn how to move forward.
Don’t get shut down or blacklisted by using the wrong provider. Let us recommend the correct solutions and make sure you get set up correctly the first time.
Suppose you use a website builder that does not list Authorize.Net or NMI – for example, Wix Weebly, Squarespace, or GoDaddy. In that case, you can usually still integrate either by using a 3rd party cart replacement.
We have written extensively about site builders like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. You can read about selling high-risk products like cigars on Squarespace here, learn about selling items like cigars using Wix here, or check out our Weebly and high-risk payment gateways page.
It can be a lot of work to open an online cigar store. Even a premium cigar site or luxury cigar of the month club has challenges, but finding a stable tobacco-friendly payment gateway and compatible merchant account should not be your biggest hurdle. We can help.
Selling cigars online: research, register, and license
All tobacco businesses should spend time with a qualified attorney and a tax professional. Because, in addition to federal regulations, tobacco and cigars are also need to be aware of state and local laws. Therefore, you must be sure of the rules in each state you want to sell in.
After getting all the necessary info on all the state and federal rules, you generally must file all the paperwork and register as a tobacco vendor in those states. This complexity is why it is helpful, if not essential, to get a tobacco tax consultant and an attorney with experience in the field to make sure you have done all the necessary steps correctly. Tobacco Tax Refund has some pretty extensive links on its site and looks to be a source for more info on state taxes and getting started.
Payment gateways, merchant accounts, and tobacco taxes
Even after you have all of the legalities taken care of, you still aren’t done preparing to sell. Obviously, the tobacco industry is heavily regulated, but it also fits into another highly scrutinized category, that of high-risk merchant accounts. Because many of the standard e-commerce payment processors won’t allow you to use their service, you need to ask questions and trust who is advising you.
You must not only get a payment gateway, but you must also make sure that it is compatible with your high-risk category. Again, we can help you with that. Based on which software platform you use for your website, we will recommend a payment gateway and refer a merchant account through one of our many partners.
Your cigar payment processor must be informed of all regulated items on your website
If you want to take credit cards online for multiple regulated products, for example, whisky and scotch along with your premium cigars, you need to make sure you are approved for all of your products. Not all high-risk payment gateways and merchant accounts allow all regulated products. Reach out to us any time for some free, friendly advice.
Cigar and tobacco merchant accounts for start-up websites
Most processors that offer online cigar payments require prior processing history. This puts folks in a classic catch 22 – they can’t set up an online cigar merchant account without payment processing history, and they cannot build payment processing history without an online cigar-friendly merchant account. There are payment processing solutions for new cigar websites, though.
Tasker Payment Gateways LLC offers trusted solutions that allow cigar business start-ups and brick-and-mortar tobacco shops that are new to selling online. Affordable payment gateways and merchant accounts that integrate with BigCommerce, Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, Squarespace, Prestashop, and Weebly are not only for established cigar sites. Reach out to us any time for a free, friendly merchant account recommendation.
Additionally, Tasker Payment Gateways LLC offers discounts to large volume cigar websites that want to save money on their credit card processing.
Can I sell other smoke shop items too?
Payment gateways and tobacco-friendly merchant account providers are typically open for rolling papers and similar accessories. Online smoke shops that sell pipes, glass, and bongs should set up payment processing that works for smoking paraphernalia merchants. Please review our “Pipe and glassware payment gateways 101” page to learn more about selling headshop items online.
FDA cigar regulations
To get a brief overview of some of the rules, we’ve included this infographic with information from the FDA’s “This Is Our Watch” Program. Keep in mind this infographic focuses primarily on retail sales, but a lot of it translates to online sales as well.
While the graphic above gives a good overview, we want to go through some details to help you in the process of setting up your high-risk tobacco e-commerce store. If you should need any help in the process of setting up your e-commerce cigar or tobacco store, get in touch with us.
We’ll help you out with high-risk merchant accounts and the payment processors you will need. If you want to learn more from the FDA on tobacco sales, you can visit the FDA tobacco guidance and compliance page here.
Requirements all tobacco e-commerce sites must meet
Some requirements are universal for online tobacco vendors. Other regulations are different depending on which state you operate in or whether you plan to distribute your product across state lines. If you are planning on selling premium cigars or other tobacco products online, you will generally need to do the following:
- Acquire a Cigarette & Tobacco License
- Implement age verification on your site
- Obtain a payment gateway that integrates with your shopping cart
- Set up a tobacco-friendly merchant account that integrates with your payment gateway
- Require an adult signature on delivery
- Use relevant tobacco warning labels on your site
- Meet local, state, and federal laws regarding the sale and/or shipping of tobacco products
While we can absolutely help with numbers 2,3 & 4, most of the clear-cut rules are on your end. The main rules the FDA highlights are directly focused on labeling and similar processes applicable to physical stores. Therefore, while the general guidelines we outline do apply, we advise you to seek legal counsel to make sure that you sufficiently follow the regulations the FDA has issued.
This grey area also reflects some of the issues you might face with setting up your merchant account and payment processor, and this is where we can provide you with the expert payment gateway and merchant account guidance you need. Based on our years of experience in the industry, we can help you find the best way to accept credit cards for your online tobacco store.
Age verification or validation for your online tobacco site
You can use multiple plugins to ensure that your e-commerce tobacco site meets this standard processor requirement. Some plug-ins actually verify the user’s age, and others simply make them attest to it. Depending on your situation and your delivery age verification, a simple attestation plug-in may work perfectly well depending on your business and, therefore, the processor we recommend.
As there are quite a few of them, we wanted to highlight a couple of excellent plugins that can help your premium cigar or other tobacco product e-commerce site. As a high-risk merchant of an age-restricted product, you want to verify that your site’s visitors are the right age, but you don’t want to frustrate your potential customers either.
The plugins we recommend are SEO-friendly and will have positive user experience elements, making it easier for your visitor to browse your products and engage with your site. Again, we are not attorneys. You need to consult a qualified attorney to confirm you are following all national and local regulations.
Age verification for tobacco sites on WordPress
WordPress, often combined with WooCommerce, is one of the most common content management systems out there, so chances are either you’re familiar with it or use their services yourself. This is why we want to highlight two specific plugins that will help your tobacco e-commerce store based on user feedback and reviews.
Age Verify is a free plugin that gives you a great deal of freedom over how this age verification gate operates. One of its great features is that you can specify if you want age verification on only certain parts of your site. Another great feature is that you can get Age Verify to “remember” the age of a visitor for a specific amount of time.
While it might require some technical know-how with a custom CSS to make it look great, it will still use stylistic elements pulled directly from your theme by default. Unfortunately, you will need to upgrade to the Pro version if you want to feature your own logo through this plugin. Overall the feedback users give the plugin is positive.
Another plugin option is Age Gate, which is available either free or with a Pro subscription. It provides plenty of features that includes customizing the DD MM YYYY layout, an optional “remember me” box, and customization for color, image, background, and other elements that are relevant to your site’s branding, style, and usability.
One handy feature is that you can use your logo on the free version of the plugin, which helps integrate your brand across all elements relevant to your online cigar or tobacco store.
Age verification for tobacco sites on Shopify
If your site is hosted on Shopify, there are plenty of age verification plugins that might suit your store’s needs. There are many options to choose from, and it can be a little challenging to decide which will fit your online tobacco store best. We’ve chosen two examples – Bouncer and EVS Age Verification – which have been reviewed particularly well by their users.
This makes them excellent examples when discussing the pros and cons of paid vs. free plugins. While free plugins are often a good option when considering your budget, there are definitely some benefits to choosing a paid plugin. In general, on Shopify, the penchant is towards paid Age Verification apps, with more ratings and reviews of paid vs. free plugins.
Bouncer by ShopPad
The Bouncer plugin caters very well to online tobacco merchants’ needs, as it is designed with compliance in mind for tobacco and other age-restricted industries. Customers can verify their age in various ways, including Facebook verification, although you’ll be able to choose which method you prefer to display.
The Bouncer plug-in is straightforward to set up and install, and they have earned excellent feedback from their user base due to this. If you should encounter any problems, they also boast great customer service. Additionally, Bouncer is easy to customize to fit your site’s appearance.
EVS Age Verification
EVS Age Verification, which is free to use on Shopify, is designed with age restriction compliance in mind. This plugin doesn’t have options for you to choose which form of verification your customers will use. Instead, it uses drop-down menus so that your customers can enter their age before entering your online store.
It does have the significant added benefit of tracking and storing the transaction history for your customers. This provides a great added advantage when you’re doing inventory or audits. Although EVS doesn’t boast as many reviews as some of the paid options, users appear satisfied.
Age verification for tobacco sites on BigCommerce
Although Shopify is one of the most well-known e-commerce hosting platforms, there are others out there that you might find better suit your needs. BigCommerce is another platform available for online retailers, which is explicitly marketed toward merchants who wish to create an online store. It has many great features to help you quickly build your site and sell your products or services online.
You can easily accept payments and ship orders with their integrated features and apps. Much like WordPress and Shopify, there are plenty of customizable plugins and options to help you make sure that your high-risk product site is efficient and easy for you and your customers to use, as well as compliant with various regulations that might apply to your products.
BigCommerce has a few age verification apps, although there aren’t as many options as you find on WordPress and Shopify. Therefore, we will quickly go through all three available age verification plugins for BigCommerce.
Veratad age verification for BigCommerce
The Veratad plugin comes at a premium when compared to many other services. While the cost might make you instantly think that other options are cheaper, it depends on your sales volume. If you start generating hundreds of transactions a month, Veratad becomes an excellent deal for the service it provides. This is especially true considering its use of advanced logic and access to various databases that will help you spot discrepancies or unusual activity that might be a red flag when maintaining online tobacco age verification compliance.
AgeChecker.Net age verification
AgeChecker.Net has an affordable subscription fee with an additional charge per verification. It is a little cheaper than Veratad and would be a good option for anyone who needs to consider their budget while maintaining their online store. AgeChecker.Net is specifically designed for age restriction compliance and provides an excellent, secure option. Another handy feature is that the AgeChecker.Net plugin offers 24/7 customer service if you have any problems down the road.
EndsVerify age verification
EndsVerify has no monthly subscription fee but charges per verification. It also provides in-depth analytics for spending, which gives you more insights into your high-risk sales. In addition, the EndsVerify plugin gives you a verification credit when signing up, allowing you a positive starting point when you start selling your high-risk tobacco products online. While being the cheapest option of the three age verification plugins for BigCommerce, it also provides 24/7 customer service support.
If you are using another platform, like Wix or Squarespace, to sell cigars online, feel free to reach out to us anytime for payment processing advice. We have years of expertise to draw on, and we’re more than happy to help you with the expert guidance you need!
Tobacco warning label, and therefore website warning label, requirements
The FDA requires warning labels for cigars and loose tobacco. You should consult industry-specific legal advice before you start selling tobacco products online.
Important note: payment processors usually require that you include one of the following label warnings on your cigar or loose tobacco website as well.
Label requirements for cigars
As of August 10th, 2018, the FDA requires that “all cigar packages that are manufactured, packaged, sold, offered for sale, distributed, or imported for sale or distribution within the United States” are clearly labeled. The products need to be labeled with either of the following warnings:
- WARNING: Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the mouth and throat, even if you do not inhale.
- WARNING: Cigar smoking can cause lung cancer and heart disease.
- WARNING: Cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.
- WARNING: Tobacco smoke increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease, even in nonsmokers.
- WARNING: Cigar use while pregnant can harm you and your baby.
SURGEON GENERAL WARNING: Tobacco use increases the risk of infertility, stillbirth, and low birth weight.
- WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
This applies to all products, and you might be wondering: how am I supposed to label my premium cigars as I sometimes sell them one by one?
Well, this is where the FDA underlines that you need to implement the warning sign “at point-of-sale,” and while they emphasize stylistic points, they don’t clarify how to prepare this label for e-commerce. We advise you to seek legal counsel to ensure that your process and markups are sufficient to meet the legal requirements that are more clearly stated for physical sales.
Label requirements for smokeless tobacco
Since July 2010, the FDA requires warning labels on all smokeless tobacco packaging and advertising. The warning labels must be one of the following four warning statements:
- WARNING: This product can cause mouth cancer.
- WARNING: This product can cause gum disease and tooth loss.
- WARNING: This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.
- WARNING: Smokeless tobacco is addictive.
Additionally, the FDA specifies that these warning requirements also need to meet additional criteria, like being displayed on the 2 “principal display panels.” This means, among other things, that your physical product needs to have the warning clearly displayed where the customer is most likely to see it.
You also must be sure that the warning labels have a clear contrasting text versus background. So, if you have a white background, the text needs to be black, and vice versa. The text needs to be clearly distinct from the rest of the content on your site to be clearly visible and easily recognized by your customer.
You will also need to meet additional technical requirements, so please consult a lawyer and visit the FDA website’s tobacco labeling page to verify that you meet the requirements and don’t expose yourself to unnecessary legal problems.
Label requirements for loose tobacco
When it comes to roll-your-own cigarette tobacco (which generally cannot be sold online), loose pipe tobacco (which generally can be sold online), or other “covered tobacco products,” new requirements are in place as of the 10th of August 2018. From that date on, you “cannot manufacture, package, sell, offer to sell, distribute, or import for sale or distribution within the United States” without clear warning labels. Practically, it means that you will need to follow similar requirements as already are in place for smokeless tobacco and cigars.
The warning you will need to provide is:
“WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”
You need to display this if you’re selling or plan to sell any of the following tobacco products on your e-commerce site:
- pipe tobacco
- vaporizers, e-cigarettes, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)
- roll-your-own and cigarette tobacco
For the label, you need to meet some requirements for your product. As with the smokeless tobacco, the text needs to be black on white, with Helvetica or Arial bold font. It also needs to be located and prominent on the two principal display panels. However, you need to be aware that you may also be required to label products without nicotine as well. For those products, you need to include the alternative warning label; “This product is made from tobacco.” Be sure to check the FDA directions on how these warnings work.
As there are many applicable laws tied to selling tobacco products in general, you ought to ensure that you’re well informed by getting assistance from a certified lawyer specializing in your field. If you’re ready to start selling your premium cigars and tobacco products online, we are more than happy to help you set up and get ready!
Mitigate risk, be informed
The best way to get started in this market is to do a lot of research to keep your business above board. Stay on top of current e-commerce litigation and state laws regarding your product. We have found several useful sites to help you get started. Get a detailed read of frequently asked questions about tobacco sales and tax here. Get the skinny on some FDA regulations for selling tobacco products here. Also, please ask us about chargeback mitigation and prevention services; we have some great vendors in that area.
We hope this information helps you find some answers. When you are ready to set up your payment gateway need a software idea or a merchant account recommendation, please contact us. We can guide you through the whole setup process and support your business, one on one, with a dedicated set-up support agent until you are up, running, and selling.
IMPORTANT NOTE: IF YOU ARE SELLING PREMIUM CIGARS ONLINE, YOU MUST GET SOUND LEGAL ADVICE FROM AN ATTORNEY, NOT A WEBSITE. THIS PAGE IS FOR GENERAL INFO ONLY.
We CAN and DO give website owners and developers advice on tobacco-friendly payment gateways and premium cigar merchant accounts. If you want to sell premium cigars, loose tobacco, or other items online, contact us anytime using the form below.
Need a cigar payment gateway or merchant account? We can help
Struggling to find a cigar and tobacco payment gateway or merchant account for your BigCommerce, Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, Squarespace, Prestashop, or Weebly website? We can solve this problem for you.
Simply complete the short form below, and your dedicated, one-on-one, US-based representative will assist you with a tobacco payment gateway and a cigar merchant account that does not require prior processing. Additionally, most solutions are affordable, easily approved, and do not have nasty surprises like early termination fees.
If you own a new cigar website, we can help you accept credit cards easily and affordably. If you are an established cigar website owner that needs to save money on your credit card processing bills, we can provide a free quote and put everything in writing for you. Let us help your cigar business accept credit cards online.
Pro tip: Before signing up for a cigar-friendly payment gateway or merchant account, you should read all contracts carefully and fully understand the pricing. As with any regulated item, cigar payments can change quickly, and terms can vary.