The beauty of Shopify Payments is that you can sell just about anything. Handbags, antiques, art, clothes, handmade crafts, electronics, jewelry, furniture, books, games, music, you name it. If you pitch the right price, there is almost certainly somebody who wants to buy from your store. But there are also many things you can’t sell on Shopify Payments.
To help you ensure you don’t fall foul of its rules and regulations, this post will explain everything about Shopify Payments. You’ll learn its prohibited items, what happens if you violate the rules, and Shopify Payments alternatives that allow you to sell those prohibited items.
Let’s get started.
What is Shopify Payments?
Shopify Payments is a credit card processing solution developed by Shopify. It allows your potential customers to purchase products or services from your online store using their credit and debit cards. With Shopify Payments, you no longer need to set up a third-party payment provider or merchant account and enter credentials into your Shopify store.
Shopify Payments features
- Automatically set up to accept all primary payment methods right after you create a Shopify store.
- No monthly fees, no hidden fees, and no setup fees involved. Also, no transaction fees for stores located in most supported countries, except for Austria, Belgium, and Sweden.
- Shopify Payments costs vary based on your Shopify pricing plan.
- Available to stores in certain countries and regions: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States.
- Not support all types of businesses and services (more on this later).
Keep in mind that you’ll be required to provide information about yourself and your business. You’ll also need to complete setting up Shopify Payments within 21 days of your first sale. Otherwise, all payments will be automatically refunded to your buyers. Click here to learn more about Shopify Payments requirements.
Shopify Payments pros and cons
- Seamlessly integrated with Shopify.
- Easy to set up and manage.
- Support a wide range of payment methods.
- Competitive rates like no transaction fees.
- Real-time monitoring of transactions.
- Can still use other payment gateways if you’re not satisfied with Shopify Payments.
- Lack of flexibility in terms of refund and accessing information.
- Limitation of supported countries.
- Merchants have to pay chargeback fees.
- Many products and services are prohibited.
What products are prohibited on Shopify?
As said earlier, Shopify allows you to sell many different types of products. The highest trending products for 2021 on Shopify include peel-off face mask, nail polish, exercise bands, water bottles, blankest, yoga and pilates mats, kayak accessories, jigsaw puzzles, kitchen and dining room furniture, rugs, board games, and laptop skins.
Now let’s talk about what you can’t sell on Shopify Payments. Here is everything you need to know about its prohibited items:
1. Financial and professional services
Investment and credit services:
- Securities brokers, mortgage consulting, or debt reduction services.
- Credit counseling or repair, investment services, real estate opportunities, lending instruments.
Money and legal services:
- Financial institutions, money transmitters and money services businesses, check cashing, wire transfers, money orders.
- Currency exchanges or dealers, bill-pay services, crowdfunding, insurance, bail bonds, collections agencies.
- Law firms collect funds for any purpose other than to pay fees owed to the firm for services provided by the firm.
Virtual currency or stored value:
- Virtual currency that can be monetized, resold, or converted to digital or physical products and services or otherwise exit the virtual world (e.g., Bitcoin).
- Cryptocurrency mining equipment, initial coin offerings.
- Digital wallets, sale of stored value or credits maintained, accepted, and issued by anyone other than merchants.
2. IP Infringement, regulated or illegal products and services
Sexually oriented items:
- Pornography and other obscene materials (including literature, imagery, and other media) depicting nudity or explicit sexual acts.
- Sites that offer any sexually-related services such as prostitution, escorts, pay-per-view, adult live chat functionalities.
- Adult toys, adult video stores, and sexually-oriented massage parlors.
- Gentleman’s clubs, topless bars, and strip clubs.
- Sexually oriented dating services.
Counterfeit or unauthorized goods:
- Counterfeit goods, unauthorized sale or resale of brand name or designer products or services, sale of goods or services that are illegally imported or exported.
- Lotteries, bidding fee auctions, sports forecasting, or odds making for a monetary or material prize.
- Fantasy sports leagues with cash prizes, internet gaming, contests, sweepstakes.
- Games of chance include legal or illegal forms of gambling, internet gambling, sweepstakes and contests with a buy-in or cash prize, charity sweepstakes, and raffles for the explicit purpose of fundraising.
Intellectual property or proprietary rights infringement:
- Sales, distribution, or access to counterfeit music, movies, software, or other licensed materials without the appropriate authorization from the rights holder.
- Any product or service that directly infringes or facilitates infringement upon the trademark, patent, copyright, trade secrets, or proprietary or privacy rights of any third party.
- Use of Shopify intellectual property without express consent from Shopify.
- Use of the Shopify name or logo, including use of Shopify trade or service marks inconsistent with the Shopify Trademark Usage Guidelines, or in a manner that otherwise harms Shopify or the Shopify brand.
- Any action that implies an untrue endorsement by or affiliation with Shopify.
Regulated or illegal products or services:
- Cannabis dispensaries and related businesses.
- Sale of tobacco, e-cigarettes, and e-liquid.
- Online pharmacies, prescription-only products including card-not-present pharmaceuticals, peptides and research chemicals.
- Fake references or ID-providing services, age-restricted goods or services, weapons and munitions, gunpowder and other explosives.
- Fireworks and related goods, toxic, flammable, and radioactive materials, products and services with varying legal status on a state-by-state basis.
- Goods or services, the sale of which is illegal under applicable law in the jurisdictions to which your business is targeted or directed.
- Use of the Payments Services or use of Shopify Payments in or for the benefit of a country, organization, entity, or person embargoed or blocked by any government, including any person/entity on government sanctions lists.
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3. Products or services that are otherwise prohibited by law or our financial partners
- Engaging in any form of licensed or unlicensed aggregation of funds owed to third parties, factoring, or other activities intended to obfuscate the origin of funds, payment facilitation.
- Any equipment designed for making or using drugs, such as bongs, vaporizers, and hookahs.
- Bankruptcy lawyers, remote technical support, psychic services, essay mills, chain letters, door-to-door sales, medical benefit packages, telemedicine and telehealth services.
- Travel reservation services and clubs, airlines, cruises, timeshares, circumvention, jamming and interference devices, prepaid phone cards, phone services, telemarketing.
- Offering substantial rebates or special incentives as an inducement to purchase products or services, telecommunications manipulation equipment.
- Forwarding brokers, negative response marketing, subscriptions over one year, extended warranties, government grants.
- Embassy, foreign consulate, or other foreign governments.
- Charities without proper registration.
- Credit card and identity theft protection, the use of credit to pay for lending services, any businesses that pose elevated financial risk, legal liability, or violate card network or bank policies.
- Any business or organization that engages in, encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property.
- Any business or organization that engages in, encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence toward any group based on race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or any other immutable characteristic.
- Pyramid schemes network marketing and referral marketing programs.
- Nutraceuticals, pseudo-pharmaceuticals and other products that make health claims that have not been approved or verified by the applicable local and/or national regulatory body.
Social media activity:
- Sale of Twitter followers, Facebook likes, YouTube views, Instagram followers, and other forms of social media activity.
Substances designed to mimic illegal drugs:
- Sale of a legal substance that provides the same effect as an illegal drug (e.g., salvia, kratom).
Use of Shopify Payments in a manner inconsistent with its intended use or as expressly prohibited:
- Use of Shopify Payments principally as a virtual terminal (e.g., submitting card transactions by manually inputting card information).
- Processing where there is no bona fide good or service sold or donation accepted.
- Card testing, evasion of card network chargeback monitoring programs, cross-border acquiring.
- Sharing cardholder information with another merchant for payment cross-sell product or service.
Video game or virtual world credits:
- Sale of in-game currency unless the merchant is the operator of the virtual world.
4. Unfair, predatory, or deceptive practices
Get rich quick schemes:
- Investment opportunities or other services that promise high rewards.
Mugshot publication or pay-to-remove sites:
- Platforms that facilitate the publication and removal of content (such as mug shots), where the primary purpose of posting such content is to cause or raise concerns of reputational harm.
- Sale or resale of a service without added benefit to the buyer; resale of government offerings without authorization or added value.
- Sites that we determine in our sole discretion to be unfair, deceptive, or predatory towards consumers.
What happens if you sell prohibited products and services with Shopify Payments?
The Shopify Risk Department is responsible for monitoring prohibited items and removing stores when they feel a policy has been violated. The goal is to protect online merchants like you from risky or fraudulent purchases and protect Shopify from lawsuits and liability.
On their legal page, Shopify makes the penalty clear:
We may, at any time and without notice, remove any Materials, and suspend or terminate your Account or your access to the Services if you engage in activities that violate the letter or spirit of this AUP, including activities outside of your use of the Services.
It’s your responsibility to review Shopify’s policies and ensure your online business follows all of its rules. When it comes to risk, Shopify will shut down your store without zero notice or warning.
Shopify alternatives to selling prohibited products
There are many reasons why you want to look for an alternative to Shopify Payments. For example, you sell Shopify’s prohibited items. Or you don’t have a registered business and a local bank account in a supported country. Or you’re selling to a region where Shopify Payments isn’t available.
When falling into this situation, many online merchants often switch to other payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal, WorldPay, or SagePay. But the thing is, each of these payment providers has its own list of prohibited items. Hence, they’re not much different from Shopify Payments.
A better way to sell Shopify Payments’ prohibited items is to look for another ecommerce platform. Here are 5 Shopify alternatives you may want to consider.
Magento is a self-hosted ecommerce platform with robust features and several customization options to give you full control over your store. One of the best things about Magento is it allows you to sell many products that otherwise can’t be sold on Shopify. For example, you can create a Magento ecommerce store to sell alcoholic drinks, cosmetics, supplements, and nutraceuticals. You can even sell certain types of health-related equipment, such as anti-snoring devices.
BigCommerce is a better alternative to Shopify and Shopify Plus when it comes to selling prohibited products. It doesn’t have restrictions on many types of products like alcoholic drinks, games, paintball, publishing, education, cosmetics, and nutrients. BigCommerce is also great for creating stores selling CBD, supplements, vaporizers, and vaping accessories.
Which ecommerce platform you should choose depends on many factors. For example, do you want your website to be optimized for search engines (SEO)? Do you plan to start a small business or a dropshipping store? Will you sell on Google Shopping, Amazon, eBay, Etsy or AliExpress? Take the time to figure out these questions before making a decision.
Apart from this, consider doing thorough research to find winning product ideas. Use Google Trends to search for popular products, check their search volumes, or read product reviews. It’s also a smart strategy to consult Shopify experts so you can know if your chosen products are eligible for selling on this platform.
3dcart is an ideal ecommerce platform for high-risk merchants who want to sell high-regulated products. With 3dcart, you can sell vapes, e-cigarettes, tobacco, adult novelties, firearm ammunition and accessories, nutraceuticals and supplements, cannabidiol (CBD), negative option/trial, payday loans, pharmaceuticals, digital content, and more.
3dcart also offers you over 200 built-in features—many of the same features as Shopify does. For example, it comes with a shopping cart, API access, a Facebook store, 50 mobile-ready themes, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited orders. This ecommerce platform also doesn’t charge transaction fees.
WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin for WordPress. Because of this, WooCommerce doesn’t have many restrictions on products and services to sell. But it should be noted that if you use other Automatic services (the company behind WooCommerce), the rules may change.
WooCommerce allows you to sell highly-regulated products like CBD, wine, virtual tobacco, gaming, and fireworks. As long as your payment service providers don’t prevent you from doing that, you’re free to sell those products on WooCommerce.
A worthy note is that your website shouldn’t be on WordPress.com for selling CBD because Automatic supports and host sites are built on this platform. You should have a self-hosted website built with WordPress.org or choose another website builder like Wix.
One more thing: if you plan to use WooCommerce Payments, you can’t sell certain items like gaming currency, pseudo-pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, e-cigarettes, among others.
Wix is a simple website builder but also comes with useful features for building an ecommerce business. Wix has a long list of prohibited items but compared to Shopify, this platform has more explicit policies for selling some items like CBD. Wix still allows you to sell CBD products as long as you have an actual US-based store.
Wix also gives you the freedom to sell pseudo-pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, or cosmetic products that claim to produce “extreme results.” Having said that, you must obtain express written permission to do so.
For game-related products, Wix doesn’t allow you to sell game cards. But you can still sell video games and consoles on this platform, provided that no copyright infringement occurs on your store.
Final words on things you can’t sell on Shopify Payments
This post covers many items you can’t sell on Shopify Payments, though the rules may change from time to time, depending on the situation. For example, Shopify announced new rules of engagement for the sale of Covid-19 related products, including price gouging, claims, and more.
The advice is whenever you have a vague suspicion that you might be falling foul of Shopify Payments’ rules, do take the time to check up. Otherwise, your store could be removed, and you could even find yourself banned from selling on the platform.
At Gorgias, we always try to help online merchants comply with Shopify’s rules and create a sustainable business. Sign up for a 7-day free trial today and enjoy excellent service from our amazing customer support team.
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Lavender is a content writer passionate about SaaS and e-commerce industries. She's obsessed with research, writing, and reading to publish high-value content for online store owners.