Payment Options: AC Pay

Stephen Yagielowicz

Continuing in my series exploring ways of accepting credit cards for recurring adult site membership fees - without having to pay any fees for the ‘privilege’ of doing so, I have an intriguing option to present to you: AC Pay, a payment processing and membership management program from the folks who bring you the Adult Check AVS system:

It was something that I noticed before the advent of today’s “VISA crisis” - an advertisement in one of my favorite publications, AVN Online, for the AC Pay program. While I casually read the ad, and examined the accompanying screen shots, the message was of only passing interest to me, since I was happy using ibill to process my wife’s amateur pay site memberships. Still, the memory of this alternative processing method remained, and when I began investigating payment options for this article series, it was one of the first that I considered - having heard that the new processing fees did not apply to users of this service; a claim that has proven to be true. However, as with all things that may seem too good to be true, there is a slight catch with this program, and while there are no direct fees, that does not mean that there isn’t a price to pay…

A Familiar Concept
Those who have used AVS systems will likely be familiar with the Adult Check brand, arguably the largest “Age Verification Service” and certainly one of the most popular. Using one of these services is a simple matter of adding a snippet of code to an approved site, and reaping the rewards of a percentage of the fee charged for admission. Most AVS programs are ’tiered’ with the highest quality sites earning recurring monthly payouts. The AVS company handles all billing, subscription / member management, and customer service issues, in exchange for their percentage, and the password that they issue to the member is generally valid on all the participating sites within their network.

The advantages of AVS systems include their low-cost, ease of maintenance, and the benefit of offering your customer access to potentially hundreds of thousands of additional sites for one low membership fee; making for a powerful sales motivator. While the drawbacks include a loss of control over your site’s members, forced adherence to restrictive quality and feature standards, and the fact that surfers with a membership ID purchased from a competitive site will have access to your site as well - with no remuneration made to you. And speaking of remuneration, the AVS service sets the membership price and webmaster payout levels…

Coming from this background, it is no surprise that the Adult Check folks realized that a “next step” service was needed, a service that allowed premium level AVS site webmasters to advance upward to the next level: operating their own pay sites. This was a brilliant move, in my opinion, and one that offers some tremendous benefits that could only be presented by a company with Adult Check’s experience and resources.

Tools and Trade Offs
So now consider a traditional premium level AVS site, but one where the password was valid only at that one site, and that would not allow access to surfers who purchased a membership at another site. Add in the benefit of setting your own price, and receiving a much higher percentage of the membership fee, all while retaining the management and customer service functions that are best left to professionals, and you get the basic idea behind AC Pay. Couple this with an innovative reseller program that lets you easily establish your own affiliate program, plus powerful management tools, and you have a flexible system that will suit the needs of many webmasters.

Except me. You see, one of the ways in which you are isolated from the new VISA fees by using this system is that the members of your site are not YOUR members, they’re THEIR members! Just as with a typical AVS site, the member belongs to the service, in this case, AC Pay. The implications of this limitation, such as your inability to retain your recurring membership base if you decided to switch processors, or even a potential prohibition on maintaining a mailing list of your members is a serious drawback worth considering.

Consider the following, taken from the literally dozens of pages within the contract that webmasters must sign and return to the service: “Client must prominently display the following text in Client’s Terms and Conditions on Client’s Web Site:

“To enter this website, we use AC Pay; a third party that provides member service management and id authentication services to web operators like this site. Neither AC Pay nor any person or company related to AC Pay holds any ownership interest in this web site. AC Pay will issue you an AC Pay ID to enter into this website and will pay the owner and operators of this website a fee for referring you to AC Pay. Upon purchasing an AC Pay ID, you will become a customer of AC Pay and not of the owner and operators of this website…”

Well call me silly, but if I’m going to spend the effort required to properly market a pay site, it won’t be to “refer a customer to AC Pay” - and my site’s members would be MY site’s members. If I wanted to just send the prospect off to a sponsor, I would take the $42 GigaCash pays out, and avoid the headaches of running a competitive pay site.

An Interesting Opportunity
While I would definitely not want to hand-off the level of control over my membership required in order to participate in the AC Pay system on a site as *personal* as my wife’s amateur site, the value of this program is not lost on me either. I have built many AVS sites in the past, although none that utilized the Adult Check service, and perhaps it is time to investigate such a possibility.

Imagine, if you will, an enhanced version of a typical “Adult Check Gold” AVS site, that was positioned and marketed as a traditional pay site using the AC Pay system. You could set a decent recurring membership price for the content that you offered, and for surfers who visited your ‘join’ page, but then declined to join, a new ‘follow up’ offer could be made, allowing them access through a lower-priced “Adult Check Gold” membership; with access to the program’s huge quantity of participating sites an additional incentive to join. You could then focus on up-sells using the company’s ‘movie pass,’ ‘free,’ and ‘email’ programs, making for a totally ‘in-house’ revenue stream! While I have not yet fully investigated the details, opportunities, and potential limitations of such an approach, at first blush, the concept has tremendous merit…

While I did find this option to be unsuitable for my intended purposes, I would not hesitate to utilize this innovative program for processing ‘more generic’ adult site subscriptions, and may even build a new site based around the strategy that I outlined above as a future project - if I do, you can be certain that I will document the process for you here at XBiz! ~ Stephen