7 Reasons Why Issuer Declines Happen & How to Respond
Few things are more frustrating for merchants than a declined credit card transaction.
You lose revenue from the canceled sale. But, you could be on the hook for additional fees and penalties if you try to process payment without authorization. So, what causes issuer declines…and how should you respond?
In this article, we’ll explain what issuer declines are and have a look at some of the consequences you may face if you ignore them. We’ll also examine the top seven reasons why issuer declines happen and how you can avoid them.
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What is an Issuer Decline?
- Issuer Decline
An issuer decline code is a code supplied to a merchant by an issuing bank signifying rejection of a credit card transaction. It means the issuer has placed a stop or hold on a transaction. The specific decline code is meant to give a brief explanation as to why the issuer rejected the purchase.
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There are several reasons why an issuer might decline a transaction. Suspected fraud is a common reason, as is insufficient funds in the cardholder’s account. They do this to protect their own customers, and to insulate themselves from the consequences of potential fraud and abuse.
Transactions that raise one concern or another are considered problematic by the issuer, and would therefore be rejected. To explain the decision, the issuer will assign a decline code for each, summarizing the problem and allowing merchants to respond appropriately.
There are two key types of decline codes:
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Consequences of Issuer Declines for Merchants
Declined credit card transactions can cause all sorts of trouble for you.
The average merchant only recovers one in three declined credit card transactions. Cardholders tend to blame you, the merchant, even though it’s not your fault or your decision to decline the transaction. This negatively impacts your relationship with the customer. It could even drive them to a competitor.
Another big problem is the threat posed by false declines. False declines by both merchants and issuers come to about $443 billion every year. This is several times greater than the actual cost of fraud. And, in higher-risk industries like fashion or travel, payment decline rates of 20% or even 30% can be commonplace.
False declines force merchants to throw away legitimate transactions and alienate good customers. According to our research, four in ten consumers will refuse to purchase from merchants that falsely reject a single purchase. This means that every false decline incurs a loss of revenue during the transaction, plus the loss of further transactions with that cardholder in the future.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to combat criminal fraud and prevent false declines simultaneously. The key is to know the most common reasons why issuers decline transactions, and to take appropriate steps to handle them.
Top 7 Reasons for Issuer Declines & How To Respond
Merchants might be able to respond to or override issuer declines in some cases. That doesn’t mean you should always do so, though.
If the cardholder can verify incorrect details, or the bank has erroneous information on file that the cardholder can rectify, you can fix the issue and override the decline. But, some declines stem from anti-fraud tools designed to catch suspicious activity. In these instances, it’s wise to err on the side of caution and reject the transaction.See the full list of card decline codes
There are scores of issuer decline codes currently in use. However, we can group most of them into seven basic categories. These seven reasons are why most issuer declines happen:
#1 | Insufficient Funds
If the cardholder lacks the funds to pay for the transaction, there isn’t much you can do to change that. This is a common decline code, accounting for nearly half of all issuer declines by some estimates. The long and short of this? It happens.
#2 | CVV or AVS Error
The next most common type of declined transaction is information error, like CVV (Card Verification Value) or address mismatches. These typically happen when cardholders enter their payment details incorrectly at checkout.
#3 | Lost or Stolen Card
Approximately one in ten issuer declines resulted from a lost or stolen card. It should be pretty clear that the declined card will never be accepted, as the cardholder has already been sent a new card. If you try to force the transaction without authorization, you are liable for any resulting fraud activity.
#4 | Unusual Activity
Anything that seems outside of a cardholder’s established purchasing habits can lead to an issuer decline. Everything the cardholder buys is recorded and monitored, and any unusual transactions may be noted and acted upon. Examples can include international transactions, sudden shopping sprees, erratic spending over a certain period, or shopping in suspicious neighborhoods or regions.
#5 | Expired Card
This one should be pretty self-explanatory. This is a common occurrence and can be easily explained by the cardholder. They simply forgot to renew their card or failed to notice that the expiration date had been reached.
#6 | Temporary Hold
This one is a bit tricky. This is caused by someone placing a certain amount of money on a temporary hold on the cardholder’s account, thereby causing the seller to reach their credit limit without realizing it. Hotels, car rental companies, and entertainment vendors commonly use temporary holds.
#7 | Fraud
Lastly, we come to the most serious reason for issuer declined transactions: fraud. Anytime an issuer denies a transaction due to suspected fraudulent activity, they will detail this in their decline codes. They will usually also include instructions for you as to how you should proceed (more on this in a minute).
Fraud-Related Issuer Decline Codes: How to Respond
As mentioned above, if the issuer flags a transaction as fraud, they will include a code meant to tell you what you should do next. These include:
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Preventing Fraud and False Declines
You can take internal steps to manage issuer and false declines in your operations. We recommend that you:
Make data-driven decisions
Don’t accept purchases without metrics. Look into machine learning and AI tools with your payment processor.
Adopt a multi-layer strategy
Use many fraud prevention tools at once, including those you can set yourself, like AVS and CVV verification.
Manually review purchases
You can prevent declines before purchase if you have the correct tools in place and understand decline codes.
Be a customer service pro
Many declines can be resolved with excellent customer service, and those that can’t may help you remedy future problems.
For any of the above solutions to work, you must be prepared to conduct in-depth data analysis. You need to understand how to access and interpret that information, and have a solid strategy in place to put your strategy into practice. As always, the more information you have, the better armed you are against fraud and false declines.
Perhaps the wisest move is to partner with the right service provider to help you mitigate both problems as part of a broader strategy.
Chargebacks911® combines advanced, proprietary machine learning with human expertise to develop customized fraud-prevention strategies, backed by a 100% ROI guarantee.
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