By David Goodale, Merchant 

If there is one singular, critical best practice as it relates to declined transactions, it is to monitor your website traffic for clickoffs. (If I am not stating that strongly enough I might re-word myself by stating it's critically, incredibly important to monitor all website clickoffs, especially at the order form.) 

We have to keep in mind that the card issuing bank has ultimate control. The card issuer has the ability to decline any transaction, at any time. Because of that, it means that you, the merchant, must implement a reactive process to deal with this. 

In other words, you need to be on the ball, catch a decline when it happens, and get in touch with that customer to recover the lost sale. 

This must be done by capturing customer data before it is sent to the payment gateway to be processed. 

Then, if the order does not proceed you can have a staff member reach out to that prospect to find out why they did not proceed. You can also cross reference your records ahead of contacting the customer to see if the reason for the abandonment was a declined transaction. 

For an example, at Merchant we provide credit card processing services. This requires an application process in order to get approved. Sometimes people click off because the application asks for something they don't have on hand at the time (like their business registration number). In other cases, they might have tried to submit payment for the setup fee and had their credit card declined for any of the reasons mentioned in this article. In all of these situations we reach out to the customer to find out what went wrong and help them continue with the application. 

As a salesperson you don't want to lose an opportunity. That is why we collect this information before the customer is sent to the payment gateway. We get an email that is very similar to the "Order Approved" email, except that it is the "Sent to Gateway" email. That way we can easily follow up if the customer does not proceed. 

In some cases, due to the nature of an integration (for example, if you are using a transparent redirect or javascript to encode cardholder data) this may be more difficult to accomplish. If possible, try to structure your form so that two requests occur on a single button click by the user. The initial request could be an AJAX request that is sent to your server (but without any cardholder data), is parsed and stored/emailed to your sales team. Immediately after, the transaction request is rebuilt and immediately sent onto the payment gateway as normal. This is never intrusive to the cardholder because it happens instantly, and they cannot see it occur. With a little ingenuity it should be possible --and while more work--can help significantly increase sales. 

If your integration cannot allow for this, another good idea is to use the reporting on your payment gateway. You should be able to construct reports of all declined transactions, and can reach out to those cardholders to see what went wrong. 

The reason why this is important is because it is the business owners' job to hold the door wide open for your customers. Make purchasing easy, and don't be afraid to reach out to a customer, even if they clicked off. There are even more reasons for doing this beyond declines, which are beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice to say that if you reach out and speak to your customers and prospective customers, it's almost impossible to walk away with anything but useful feedback that will help improve your business. 


Declines are inevitable. With that being said, some businesses will be more prone to declined transactions than others. For example, if your business sells very expensive products, or if you sell to a high percentage of foreign customers, you will see more declines than business selling an inexpensive product to local customers. 

It simply hurts to have an otherwise hard-won customer and lose them over something as simple as a declined payment. The good news‚ even if your business does happen to be prone to declined payments, by understanding the reasons why declines happen, you can build processes to catch it when it occurs. With a knowledgeable and well-trained customer service staff, you can confidently reach out to help your customers--reversing declined transactions and turning them into sales. 

 About the Author This article was written by David Goodale, CEO at Merchant David has over 12 years of industry expertise in the field of credit card processing, specializing in the area of cross border and multi-currency e-commerce payments. 

Merchant is one of Canada's longest established credit card processors. In particular, Merchant specializes in multi-currency credit card processing and is able to help businesses transact in many different currencies such as CAD, USD, GBP, EUR, AUD and JPY. With a client-focused approach, each merchant works with the same dedicated account manager for the lifetime of the account. This consultancy model helps to make it much easier and faster when launching an e-commerce project, no matter the scale, number of currencies, or territories involved.  

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