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January 5, 2017
3 min to read

Why Does Mastercard Not Want Vapers' Business?

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Jim McDonald

Thanks to the FDA, ordering a new mod or your favorite e-juice with a Mastercard is about to become a real pain. And vaping vendors will suffer because of it.

Beginning on Jan. 15, the credit card giant will institute several conditions for credit card processors and their customers that will make it harder for vape retailers to turn a profit when accepting payment with Mastercard.

The changes were apparently made because of the FDA's deeming regulations, which place vape gear and e-liquid squarely in the tobacco products category. Tobacco products sold online or by phone fall into a high-risk category covered by Mastercard's Business Risk Assessment and Mitigation (BRAM) compliance program.

The processing companies have notified their vape clients that they must be in compliance with Mastercard's rules before January 15. The new requirements for non-face-to-face sales (online and telephone orders) include:

  • Perform age verifications on all customers
  • Meet all new rules for labeling, marketing, advertising, promotion and manufacturing
  • Ensure that all federal and state requirements are followed (verified by a letter from an attorney)
  • Register with Mastercard through their credit card processor by Jan. 15 ($500 cost)
  • Display a nicotine health warning on their website
  • Billing terms must be disclosed on the website
  • Must require an adult signature at delivery

Adult signature required

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While most of these new requirements may seem like common sense, they will cost money, which means either increased prices to customers or reduced profits for the seller. For example, hiring an attorney to verify that all rules and procedures are being followed could be a large expense for a very small business. And while a $500 fee from Mastercard may not seem excessive, it's likely that the other three big credit cards will follow Mastercard's lead and institute similar policies, which will have similar costs.

"For many vendors, adult signature will become standard operating procedure."


The worst rule is the requirement for an adult signature to receive a shipment. Not only is it inconvenient (how many people are at home when mail is delivered?), it's also expensive, adding about $7 to the cost of each shipment. And the U.S. Postal Service's adult signature protocol requires the signature of someone 21 or older, which excludes legal vapers between ages 18 and 20 from making online purchases.

Also, most online vaping retailers don't have the ability to have separate shipping policies for each different payment method. For many vendors, adult signature will become standard operating procedure. And that's the kind of pointless regulation that kills small businesses.
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Jim McDonald

Vaping since: 13 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

Jim McDonald

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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