Payment reversal sucks, regardless of your business size or industry.
When a customer reverses a charge, all your efforts to create the business opportunity go to waste. It leaves you without the payment you were expecting and possibly without the product or service you provided. Plus, you might incur additional expenses trying to counter the payment reversal.
This guide will explore key strategies to help prevent payment reversals and keep your transactions smooth and secure. We’ll also look at the various types of payment reversals and how to handle each scenario.
What Is a Payment Reversal on A Credit Card?
Whenever transaction funds return to the cardholder's bank account, that scenario is called a "payment reversal," otherwise known as "credit reversal" or "reversal payment."
To understand payment reversal meaning in simple terms, think of it this way: a payment reversal is the undoing of an initial payment in credit card transactions. It’s a blanket name for different techniques customers use to get their funds back after completing a transaction. The cardholder instigates some of these strategies, while the merchant or bank initiates others.
The various payment reversal methods include authorization reversal, refunds, and chargebacks.
Despite the known mishaps with transaction reversal, they can benefit both parties and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty when applied thoughtfully. However, credit card reversal does cause more harm than good, especially in forced transaction reversals by the customer's bank.
What Causes a Payment Reversal?
There are several reasons for a card payment reversal. While some payment reversals are due to actual issues, like a misstep on the merchant's side, others are purely baseless and unnecessary.
Have a look at the prominent reasons for credit card payment reversals:
- The merchant charged an incorrect amount or multiple times for the same transaction.
- The customer is unhappy because the seller's product did not match the description on their website.
- The purchased order was out of stock.
- The transaction was unauthorized.
- There was an incident of buyer's remorse or online shoplifting.
Understanding these causes of payment reversal on a credit card is only one side of the coin. The other side is getting a good grip on the application processes and the rules governing each method. We’ll dissect those in the following section.
Types of Payment Reversals
As we noted earlier, there are three types of payment reversals, which includes:
- Authorization reversals
- Payment refunds
Each one of these credit reversal techniques has a distinct impact on your finances and business sustainability. Let’s path the curtains on how they work and what you must do to limit exposure.
1. Authorization Reversal
An authorization reversal happens when a merchant cancels a transaction before settlement and funds' withdrawal from the cardholder’s account. In other words, authorization reversal occurs when a payment is reversed before it’s fully processed. This payment reversal method is the quickest option and involves less hassle for merchants and customers.
An ideal case study is when a customer or merchant finds out there's a problem with payment and reaches out to the cardholder's bank to prevent the transaction from going through. Upon receiving the electronic message from the acquiring bank, the issuing bank will reverse the payment.
Another typical scenario is when a seller accidentally charges incorrect amounts but swiftly reverses the charge to remedy the situation without the customers knowing about the error.
Reversing an authorization is a more convenient option for merchants as it doesn't require them to pay interchange fees usually associated with refunds. Also, merchants do not have to worry about order return hiccups since the transaction hasn’t gone through.
2. Payment Refund
Payment refunds are easy to understand. Customers use refunds to reverse payments when products or services do not meet their expectations. Hence this payment reversal happens after transaction processing but before the buyer initiates a formal payment dispute.
The process usually starts with the buyer contacting your company through phone, email, or online chat. When you reach a refund agreement, your acquirer will reimburse the buyer, and you must receive the product back from the buyer.
Unlike authorization reversals, payment refunds take time. Your acquirer handles it as a separate transaction (i.e., a reverse payment of the original transaction). They essentially take money from your account and remit it back to the customer’s original form of payment. This process takes nothing short of three to 10 business days.
The ancillary cost of payment refund includes lost sales, interchange fees, return shipping costs, etc. These bills can accumulate over time.
Chargeback is the third remediation option for cardholders when the above scenarios are impossible. A chargeback happens when a cardholder disputes a transaction to their bank or card issuer. While chargebacks differ from refunds regarding the application processes, parties involved, and consequences, both scenarios ultimately lead to transaction payment reversal.
Again, chargebacks come with significant baggage like chargeback fees, lost revenue and merchandise, sales cannibalization, shipping costs, interchange fees, and possibly other penalties, conditional to each case and your chargeback rate.
Credit card chargebacks follow a strict process and timelines, and not adhering to those stringent procedures means trouble for you.
Understanding that you must work to prevent all payment reversal triggers and protect your business from the cost of issuing transaction refunds.
Take the steps below to achieve that objective.
Ways to Avoid Payment Reversals Without Hurting Your Business
The causes of credit reversal listed earlier give you some ideas of preventive measures to protect your business from funding reversals.
Granted, you can’t possibly eliminate payment reversals. But you can take careful steps to prevent internal errors leading to disputes and chargebacks and shield your business from scammers.
Here are eight actionable ideas to consider:
- Before submitting transactions, Quality Assure (QA) all details, including Transaction Identifier Numbers (TID) and Retrieval Reference Numbers.
- Send orders for clearing immediately after you've QA'd all relevant details to avoid cardholder confusion on transaction authorization.
- Make your billing descriptors accurately display the name, URL, and a brief description of the purchased product to avoid any confusion.
- Use your order confirmation email to confirm shipping/delivery dates so everything is clear about the order status.
- Use incremental authorization for strategic advantage if your business model requires periodic customer billings.
- Process any authorization reversal promptly and immediately release the customer's funds to pre-empt disputes.
- Use Surface Trace Audit Number (STAN) to track the status of a refund, prevent fraudulent charges by tracing unauthorized transactions, giving your customers peace of mind.
- Prevent chargeback fraud with secure payment systems and anti-fraud tools.
Payment Reversal vs.Refund vs. Chargeback
If you’re wondering: Is a chargeback a reversal? Is a payment reversal a refund? The answer to both questions is NO. Both chargeback and refund are a type or subset of payment reversal.
That means refund and chargeback are distinct legally binding techniques for cardholders to annul a completed transaction to reclaim their money. Consumers using chargeback for payment reversal must appeal to their card issuer, while payment reversal through refunds is a mutual agreement between the seller and the buyer.
With that on the back burner, let’s also touch base on what you must do in times of credit reversal.
Handle Payment Reversals Like A Pro
While handling authorization reversal and refunds is no big deal, payment reversal by chargebacks is a sore tooth for eCommerce businesses – big or small.
Thankfully, Chargeflow’s automated chargeback solution helps eCommerce businesses fight disputes without lifting a finger. To secure your sales revenue and prevent scammers from taking your business under, you should talk to the Chargeflow team today!