If you’re getting support tickets, emails, or calls from customers complaining that their cards are being declined on your eCommerce website, you could be losing sales.
Network declines are an inevitable part of doing business and accepting card payments, but they’re frustrating for both customers and merchants. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent declines and increase your payment authorization rate.
Keep reading to learn:
- What network declines are
- How to manage network declines
- How to increase payment authorization rates
- How Shopify can help
Table of Contents
What are network declines?
Network declines occur when your customer's credit card network rejects requests to authorize a payment. Some customers might troubleshoot a network decline by entering their credit card information again or by trying a different card or payment method. Other shoppers might contact you and ask for help.
In the best case scenario, patient customers are eventually able to check out. In the worst case scenario, impatient customers not only abandon their carts, but they also never shop with you again and leave a poor review.
The bottom line: network declines are bad for business. It’s crucial for online merchants to reduce network declines, and thereby increase payment authorization rates, to improve sales and customer satisfaction.
How to manage network declines
Unfortunately, declines are a normal part of doing business online. The good news is, if you manage network declines effectively, you can minimize their impact on sales. Here’s how to do just that.
Understand the reason
While network declines seem cryptic, they typically come with a reason code. When you know what these codes are, you can identify why a transaction was declined and troubleshoot. Insufficient funds, expired cards, or suspected fraud are some of the most common reasons for network declines.
Communicate with customers
If a customer reaches out to you about a network decline, inform them immediately and provide the reason for the decline, if possible. Encourage them to contact their bank or card issuer for more information. Oftentimes, cards are declined because of something to do with the customer and not your store, such as an incorrect address or an expired card. When customers know why their cards were declined, they can troubleshoot.
Offer alternative payment methods
Sometimes customers troubleshoot but are still unable to gain payment authorization to complete their purchase. To avoid losing the sale, offer multiple payment methods on your online store, such as digital wallet payments (like Apple Pay or Google Pay), bank transfers, or cash on delivery.
Review and update security settings
Sometimes cards will be declined due to your payment processor’s security settings. Review these settings to ensure they aren’t too restrictive. Adjust the settings you have control over, as needed, but be careful not to compromise the security of your transactions.
Contact Shopify Support or payment processor support
If you're experiencing a high number of declines and you're unsure why, contact Shopify Support or your payment processor's support team. They can help you understand the reasons for the declines and suggest ways to reduce them.
How to increase payment authorization rates
Payment authorization rate expresses the percentage of payments that work as they should (i.e., that aren’t declined). For example, if 960 of 1,000 payments on your website are approved, then your payment authorization rate is 96%.
While many declines are a normal part of business, there are things you can do to boost authorization rates. Here are some tricks for doing just that.
Optimize for mobile
Forty-two percent of ecommerce sales were made via mobile devices in 2022. That figure is predicted to reach 44% by 2025. These statistics show that people are increasingly shopping from their smartphones and tablets.
If your checkout process isn’t optimized for mobile devices, customers could have a difficult time entering their payment information correctly, making declines unavoidable. Create a smooth mobile checkout to improve authorization rates.
Address Verification System (AVS)
Ask customers to provide their billing addresses to take advantage of AVS, which matches the billing address that the customer provides to the one associated with the given credit card. A mismatch can often lead to declines.
Card Verification Value (CVV)
A card verification value is the three-digit code usually located on the back of a credit card, near the signature bar. CVV is an additional security measure that can help prevent fraudulent transactions. Ask for the CVV during checkout to prevent network declines and improve your payment authorization rate.
Surprise fees are just as frustrating as network declines to customers. Be transparent about all the costs you’re going to charge shoppers, including shipping and taxes, before customers reach checkout. Unexpected costs can lead to abandoned checkouts or declined transactions.
Fast and reliable website
Ensure your website loads quickly and works reliably. Slow or glitchy websites can result in poor customer experiences and failed transactions.
You can use a free tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test your website’s speed and get actionable steps to take to fix performance barriers.
Keep your payment software and systems up to date. Outdated software can lead to compatibility issues and transaction failures.
When possible, opt in to automatic system updates. Make sure you’re subscribed to tools that are maintained and updated regularly, rather than using software with a one-time license fee and no support.
Clearly communicate with customers about potential issues that might arise during the payment process and how to resolve them.
Consider publishing the most common network decline reasons on an FAQs page on your website, as a customer support email autoresponder, or in your store’s chatbot to help customers troubleshoot and save your employees time.
Contact payment processor for insights
If you're experiencing a high number of declines, contact your payment processor. They may be able to provide insights into why transactions are failing and suggest solutions.
How Shopify can help
Shopify Payments is a fully integrated payment stack solution by Shopify. It's designed to work seamlessly with your Shopify store, reducing the likelihood of technical issues that can lead to declines. Here’s how:
- Shopify Protect: Available for businesses that leverage Shop Pay in the US, Shopify Protect automatically sets orders as protected, meaning if a chargeback occurs due to fraud, your business will be reimbursed.
- Shopify Fraud Control: Shopify Fraud Control uses machine learning to help you prevent fraud before it happens by automatically blocking fraudulent transactions. This security feature is available to Shopify merchants worldwide.
- Multiple payment options: Shopify Payments supports a wide range of payment methods, including major credit cards, local payment methods, and accelerated checkouts like Shop Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. Offering multiple payment options can help improve authorization rates and reduce abandoned cart rates.
- Detailed payouts reporting: Shopify provides detailed reports on your sales and transactions, which can help you identify patterns in declines and take steps to address them. For example, you could use this data to include helpful hints during the checkout process to reduce declines.
- Security features: Shopify Payments includes several security features, including AVS (Address Verification System) and CVV (Card Verification Value) verification that can help prevent fraudulent transactions and decrease declines.
Here’s how Shopify can help improve your payment authorization rates outside of Shopify Payments:
- Dynamic checkout: Shopify's dynamic checkout feature can help reduce cart abandonment and declines by allowing customers to checkout directly from the product page, reducing the number of steps in the checkout process. Think of it like Shopify’s answer to Amazon’s “Buy Now” button, which circumvents the “Add to Cart” process and finalizes purchases more quickly.
- Mobile Optimization: Shopify stores are automatically optimized for mobile devices, ensuring a smooth checkout process for the roughly two in five customers who shop on their phones and tablets.
- Shopify Support: Shopify's support team is available 24/7 to help you resolve any issues that might be leading to declines. With around-the-clock support, you can identify and fix problems faster.
- Shopify Scripts: Available for Shopify Plus merchants, scripts can be used to create personalized experiences at checkout, which can help reduce cart abandonment and improve authorization rates.
While some network declines are an inescapable part of doing business online, you can reduce others by understanding their source and troubleshooting. Fortunately, Shopify features and services can help improve your shop’s payment authorization rates and reduce network declines.