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Frequently Asked Questions

Transaction Processing

What do I need to do if I need to run a transaction for an amount higher than my approved limit?

Contact 1-800-239-1220 and provide details about the transaction in question such as amount, what is being purchased, have you obtained a signed authorization from the cardholder, etc. A representative will review your account and determine if you are eligible to process the transaction in question. Approval is not guaranteed.

Am I allowed to place a surcharge on payment card transactions?

No. Always treat payment card transactions like any other transaction; that is, you may not impose any surcharge on a payment card transaction. You may, however, offer a discount for cash or another form of payment (e.g., proprietary card or gift certificate) provided that the offer is clearly disclosed to customers and the cash price is presented as a discount from the standard price charged for all other forms of payment.

The discount may not be applied to a "comparable card." A "comparable card" is any other branded, general purchase payment card that uses the cardholder's signature as the primary means of cardholder authorization (e.g., Visa, MasterCard, Discover Network, American Express). Any discount made available to cardholders who pay with "comparable cards" must also be made available to the card brand presented by the cardholder.

In 10 states it is prohibited by law for merchants to charge consumers a fee for using a credit card (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas). Consumers should know that they have protection against these fees. Consumers who are subjected to payment card checkout fees in states where they are protected by law may report the merchant to their state attorney general's office.

Am I allowed to charge a convenience fee?

For merchants who offer an alternate payment channel (i.e., mail, telephone, or e-commerce) for customers to pay for goods or services, a convenience fee may be added to that transaction amount. If the merchant chooses to assess a convenience fee to its customers, the merchant must adhere to the following rules:

  • The fee is being charged for a bona fide convenience of using an alternative payment channel outside of the merchant's normal business practice (see example below).
  • The fee:
    • must be disclosed to the customer as a charge for the alternative payment channel convenience
    • is applied only to non face-to-face transactions
    • must be a flat or fixed amount, regardless of the amount of the payment due
    • is applied to all forms of payment products accepted in the alternative payment channel
    • is included as part of the total transaction amount
    • cannot be added to a recurring transaction
    • is assessed by the merchant that provides the goods or services to the cardholder and not a third party
  • The customer must be given the opportunity to cancel prior to the completion of the transaction

Example: The merchant provides utility services to its customers, and the customary way to pay is by mail or in person at the merchant's location. For convenience of its customers, the merchant also offers a website for payments. In this example, the merchant may apply a convenience fee to payments made via the website.

What is a Code 10 call?

If you are suspicious of a card or cardholder at any time during a transaction authorization process, you will need to make a Code 10 authorization request.

The Code 10 authorization request alerts the card issuer to the suspicious activity – without alerting the customer. During a Code 10 call, you will speak to the card issuer's special operator, who will provide instructions on any necessary action. This type of authorization request is the most likely to result in a call to law enforcement.

If you receive an electronic authorization, but still suspect fraud, do the following:

  • Keep the card in hand to quickly respond to questions.
  • Call your voice authorization center (Visa, MasterCard, and Discover Network 1-800-291-4840, American Express 1-800-528-2121) and say “I have a Code 10 Authorization Request.” You will be connected to a special operator and who ask a series of yes/no questions to help determine whether you are suspicious of the card or cardholder.
  • When connected to the special operator, answer all questions calmly and in a normal tone of voice.
  • Follow all operator instructions.

If the operator asks you to retain the card, comply with this request only if it is safe to do so.

Emphasize to your staff that they can make a Code 10 call even after a cardholder leaves the store. A Code 10 alert at this time may help stop fraudulent card use at another business, or perhaps during a future transaction at your business.

What if a cardholder presents an unsigned card?

If the signature panel is left blank… If the card has a "See ID" in place of signature…
Black Card Merchant Service Signature Card Merchant Service
  • Request a signature. Ask the cardholder to sign the card and provide current government issued identification, such as a driver's license or passport.
  • Check the signature. Be sure that the cardholder signature on the transaction receipts matches the one on the card and the additional identification.
  • Complete the transaction. If the signatures appear reasonably the same and the authorization request is approved, continue the transaction. If the cardholder refuses to sign the card, do not accept the card.

What is a Card Verification Value (CVV)?

A card verification value is a 3 or 4 digit number associated with a card that is used when processing card-not-present transactions. The CVV is entered by the merchant when processing a transaction and the CVV is included in the authorization request to the card issuer. The card issuer checks the CVV to determine its validity, then sends a CVV result code back to the merchant along with the authorization. To protect CVV data from being compromised, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) prohibits merchants from keeping or storing CVV numbers once a transaction has been completed.

Card Type Number of Digits CVV Card Location
Visa 3 Digits Back of card, last set of numbers in signature panel
MasterCard 3 Digits Back of card, last set of numbers in signature panel
Discover Network 3 Digits Back of card, last set of numbers in signature panel
American Express 4 Digits Front of card, above card number on left or right side

Why is it important that I enter sales tax?

Your payment card acceptance solution may prompt you to enter the sales tax amount when processing business, commercial, corporate, or purchasing cards. This prompt is generated from the card issuer based on the type of card you are processing. When prompted, enter the tax amount associated with the transaction. Failure to enter the tax amount may have a negative financial impact to your business.

What is AVS processing?

The Address Verification Service (AVS) helps reduce the risk of fraudulent use of account numbers in card-not-present environments. It is imperative to utilize AVS to help decrease potential fraud and minimize your processing expenses. Failure to process AVS may have a negative financial impact to your business.

To use AVS, simply ask card-not-present customers for their billing address as it appears on their monthly statement. For example, if the cardholder provided an address of 1234 Main Street, Anywhere, US 98765, you would enter 1234 as the address and 98765 as the zip code. If the billing address of the cardholder is PO Box 5555, Anywhere, US 98765, you would enter 5555 as the address and 98765 as the zip code.

This information is then submitted with other transaction data for electronic authorization. Address verification and authorization occur simultaneously – in a matter of seconds – and you will receive an AVS response code with the authorization.

You should evaluate the AVS response code and take appropriate action based on all transaction characteristics and any other verification information received with the authorization (i.e., expiration date, CVV2, etc.). An authorization response always takes precedence over AVS. Do not accept any transaction that has been declined, regardless of the AVS response.

AVS can only be used to confirm addresses in the United States, unless a card issuer supports International AVS. If you submit an address outside the United States, you will receive the response message "G" for "Global." In such cases, you should take further steps to verify the address. You will be liable for any chargebacks if you accept the transaction, even if the card issuer approves it.

AVS Response What is Means
Y – Match Both street address and five-digit zip code match. Complete the transaction; you can be relatively confident it is legitimate.
A – Partial Match Street address matches, but zip code doesn't. Visa as a sign of potential fraud. Depending on the transaction amount, you may decide to complete the transaction or investigate further to ensure it is valid.
Z – Partial Match Zip code matches but the street address doesn't. View as a sign of potential fraud. Depending on the transaction amount, you may decide to complete the transaction or investigate further to ensure it is valid. Unless you sent only a zip code AVS request and it matched, you may want to follow up before shipping merchandise. Note: For a zip code only request and a PO Box address, issuers may respond with either a "Y" (Exact Match) or a "Z" (Partial Match-Zip Code Matches).
N – No Match Street address and zip code don't match. View as a sign of potential fraud and take further steps to validate the transaction.
U – Unavailable The card issuer's system is not available or the card issuer does not support AVS. The address cannot be verified at present. You must decide to accept or refuse the transaction, or investigate further.
R – Retry The card issuer's system is not available; try again later. The card issuer's system may not be working. You should resubmit your AVS request later.
G – Global International Address. AVS not supported. Take further steps to verify address.

What are the appropriate responses that I will receive during the authorization process?

During the authorization process, you should receive one of the following responses (or one that is similarly worded).

Response Meaning
Approved Card issuer approves the transaction. This is the most common response, about 95% of all authorization requests are approved.
Declined or Card Not Accepted Card issuer does not approve the transaction. The transaction should not be completed. Return the card and instruct the cardholder to call the card issuer for more information on the status of the account.
Call, Call Center, or Referrals Card issuers need more information before approving the sale. Most of these transactions are approved, but you should call your voice authorization center and follow whatever instructions you are given. In most cases, an authorization agent will ask to speak directly with the cardholder or will instruct you to check the cardholder's identification.
Pick Up Card issuer wants to recover the card. Do not complete the transaction. Inform the customer that you have been instructed to keep the card, and ask for an alternative form of payment. If you feel uncomfortable, simply return the card to the cardholder.
No Match The embossed account number on the front of the card does not match the account number encoded on the magnetic stripe. Swipe the card again and re-key the last four digits at the prompt. If a "No Match" response appears again, it means the card is counterfeit. If it can be done safely, keep the card in your possession, and make a Code 10 call to your voice authorization center.

What are the warning signs of fraud?

Certain customer behavior could point to fraud, but it doesn't necessarily indicate criminal activity. You know your customers, so let your instincts steer you in the right direction.

Watch out for customers who:

  • Purchase a large amount of merchandise without regard to size, style, color, or price.
  • Ask no questions on major purchases.
  • Try to distract or rush you during the sale.
  • Make purchases and leave the store, but then return to make more purchases.
  • Make large purchases just after the store's opening, or as the store is closing.
  • Refuse free delivery for large items.

Are there any tips on handling key-entered transactions?

If a card cannot be swiped, you must key-enter the card account data into your POS terminal. When you key-enter a transaction, you run the risk of accepting a counterfeit card because the magnetic stripe information is unavailable.

  • Check the terminal. Be sure your terminal is working properly. If the terminal is okay and the program appears to be with the magnetic stripe, continue to step 2.
  • Match the account number. Check to see that the embossed account number on the front of the card matches the number indent-printed on the back.
  • Check the expiration date. Look at the "good thru" or "valid thru" date to be sure the card hasn't expired. If the card has a "valid from" date, be sure the card isn't being used before it is valid.
  • Make an imprint. Get a manual imprint of the card.
  • Get a signature. Ask the customer to sign the imprinted sales draft.
  • Check the signature. Be sure the signature on the card matches the one on the sales draft. Do not accept an unsigned card.

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Customer Service

M-F 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. CT

By Phone 1-800-239-1220

By Fax 205-297-6132