Getting it Right: Credit Card Website and Authorization Requirements

There are often times when the rules and best practices imposed by the card brands seem like they do not apply to churches and ministries. Online donations are unique since there is not an exchange of goods or services. This makes many of the best practices seem irrelevant to the nature of your business and in some cases, you may be right; but even in these cases, there are many practical applications that should be applied. Many churches and ministries offer events for their patrons to attend, or allow their constituents to purchase CD’s and DVD’s from their site, but often do not include the required policies on their sites for accepting these transactions. Whether you are providing goods or services or accepting donations, the purpose of this blog is to provide you with practical applications for creating your website and obtaining proper authorization to meet these requirements. Other guidelines such as implementing procedures to mitigate fraud and strategies to protect your organization from chargebacks are addressed in other posts.

Website Requirements

As a merchant accepting online payments, you will need to ensure that your website meets minimal requirements as outlined by the card brands.  These requirements are rather simple in nature: include a complete description of goods and services, include your customer service information, provide your country of origin, provide a refund or cancellation policy and provide a delivery policy.

If you are processing transactions as part of online giving, then donations are your goods and services. Make mention that the funds processed will be received as a tax-deductible donation. If there are other services being offered on your site, be sure to clearly specify what the cardholder is purchasing.

Include a contact page on your site that includes a physical or mailing address and your country of origin. Post a phone number a cardholder can call with questions and be sure this number is answered as the name of your organization.

The guidelines require that e-commerce merchants provide refund, cancellation and delivery policies on their sites. With the exception of the delivery policy, these apply to all merchants, including those only processing donations. For those of you using our QSuite, great news! We’ve already got you covered! If you are not using the QSuite, then be sure to include these policies on your site.

Refund Policy

The purpose of a refund policy is to explain how you handle returns, refunds and exchanges. This information should be included on the product, donation page or at checkout.

Sample Language for donations: If an error has been made in your donation, or you wish to cancel a recurring donation, please contact us. Refunds are returned using the original method of payment. If your donation was made via credit card, the refund will be issued to the same credit card.

Sample language if providing goods or services: If you are not 100% satisfied with your purchase, you may either return your order for a full refund or exchange it. You can return or exchange your purchase for up to {insert number} days. Returned or exchanged products must be in the condition in which they were received.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellation policies are designed to provide information regarding how and when a cardholder can cancel their recurring contribution, their memberships and subscriptions, or the length of time they can receive a refund for an event registration. The sample refund policy for donations has been scripted to meet the requirements for the cancellation policy as well. Below is sample language for memberships, subscriptions and events.

Sample language for events: Please submit any cancellation requests via e-mail to {insert e-mail address here}, or by calling {insert customer service number here}. E-mailed cancellation requests must include your full name and contact information and must match the information on file. A full refund will be issued if the request for cancellation is received 72 hours prior to the event; otherwise the cost for registration is non-refundable.

Sample language for memberships and subscriptions: Please submit any cancellation requests via e-mail to {insert e-mail address here}, or by calling {insert customer service number here}. E-mailed cancellation requests must include your full name and contact information and must match the information on file. Refunds are only available for membership cancellations received within 14 days of registration.

Delivery Policy

If you are not shipping products, then including a delivery policy is not applicable. However, if your site does enable cardholders to purchase items such as CD’s, DVD’s, books or other merchandise, then you will need to be sure to include a delivery policy.  A delivery policy should answer questions customers want to know. For example: By what means will the product be delivered? When should they expect to receive delivery? Are signatures required as part of delivery? How much are the delivery costs?

Sample Policy: All orders are shipped within 48 hours Monday – Friday. We trust {insert names of companies utilized for shipping products} to deliver our products. The tracking number is provided by the shipping carrier and will be e-mailed to you when the product has been shipped. The rate charged for shipping is based on the weight of the product and your location. Signatures are required on orders exceeding {enter dollar amount here}. If you have any questions about your shipment, please contact us with your inquires {insert customer service number or e-mail address}.

Authorization requirements 

When accepting online transactions, merchants must verify the cardholder’s identity and validity of the transaction to the best of their ability. This means that at minimum, you need to collect the following details about the cardholder:

  • The card number
  • The name as it appears on the card
  • The expiration date on the card
  • The Card Verification Value, or CVV code (three digit code on the back of the card)
  • The cardholder’s address
  • It is also advised to collect a contact phone number

When a cardholder submits a payment to your organization, they are authorizing you to debit their payment method for the exchange of funds. According to the card brands, formal authorization must be obtained by the cardholder. This is completed by having the individual agree to authorization language found at the bottom of your donation or payment page. Tip: The language provided in this message can be used to meet the requirements of your refund and cancellation policies as well. Luckily, if you are using our QSuite product, we have already got this covered, as the authorization language needed to meet this requirement is included at the bottom of your giving page! If you are not using our product, you will want to make sure that your giving or registration page includes similar language as is found below.

I authorize {Company Name} to collect $0.00 from my account.

I hereby authorize {Company Name} to collect from my Account the above amount. If this transaction is a donation, it is considered non-refundable. If I need to request a refund of a donation, or cancel a recurring donation, I agree to contact {Company Name} as soon as possible to make the request, knowing that there may be circumstances that prevent such a refund or cancellation from being made. By checking the box I acknowledge that my account will be charged as outlined above and that payment is to be made when billed in accordance with the standard policy of the issuing bank.

Whether you are processing payments or donations, it is important to ensure that your website is equipped with the requirements and policies outlined by the card brands. By clearly stating your company’s policies and procedures, you set expectations clearly for your patrons and add protection for yourself. Hopefully, this post has helped provide you with insight to the simplicity of implementing the website and authorization requirements.