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Card Processing Quick Reference Guide
Card Processing Quick Reference Guide
Emily Bowen avatar
Written by Emily Bowen
Updated over a week ago

Fighting fraud on every transaction

If you are a card-present merchant, take the following steps to ensure the legitimacy of every card, cardholder, and transaction. Merchants or their sales associates must check the card security features, request an authorization, and obtain the cardholder’s signature.

Quick steps to Card acceptance

  1. Check the card security features (listed in the Card Acceptance Guide). Make sure that the card has not been altered.

  2. Swipe the stripe. Swipe the card through the terminal in one direction only to obtain authorization.

  3. Check the authorization response. Take appropriate action for the specific response:




Ask the customer to sign the sales receipt.


Return the card to customer and ask for another card.

Call or Call Center

Call your voice authorization center at 1.800.944.1111 and tell the operator that you have a "Call" or "Call Center" response. Follow the operator instructions.

Note: In most cases, a "Call" or "Call Center" message just means the card Issuer needs some additional information before the transaction can be approved.

Pick Up

Keep the card if you can do so peacefully.

No Match

Swipe the card and re-key the last four digits. If "no match" response appears again, keep the card if you can do so peacefully. Request a Code 10 authorization.

  1. Match the numbers. Check the embossed number on the card against the last four digits of the account number displayed on the terminal and the cardholder receipt.

  2. Request a signature. Have the cardholder sign the transaction receipt.

  3. Check the signature. Be sure that the signature on the card matches the one the transaction receipt.

If you suspect fraud, immediately make a Code 10 call to your voice authorization center at (1.800.944.1111).

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.

  1. Check the terminal. Be sure your terminal is working properly. If the terminal is okay and the problem appears to be with the magnetic stripe, continue to step 2.

  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.

  3. 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.

  4. Make an imprint. Get a manual imprint of the card.

  5. Get a signature. Ask the customer to sign the imprinted sales draft.

  6. Check the signature. Be sure that the signature on the card matches the one on the sales draft. Do not accept any unsigned cards.

Six warning signs of fraud

Certain customer behavior could point to card 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:

  1. Purchase a large amount of merchandise without regard to size, style, color, or price.

  2. Ask no questions on major purchases.

  3. Try to distract or rush you during the sale.

  4. Make purchases and leave the store, but then return to make more purchases.

  5. Make large purchases just after the store’s opening, or as the store is closing.

  6. Refuse free delivery for large items.

Card features and security elements

Every card contains a set of unique design features and security elements to help merchants verify a card’s legitimacy. By knowing what to look for on each type of card, you can avoid inadvertently accepting a counterfeit card or processing a fraudulent transaction (refer to Card Acceptance Guide for Card Features and Security Elements for each type of card).

  1. Keep cards in your possession during transaction processing. While waiting for authorization, check the card’s basic features and security elements.

  2. If any of the card features or security elements appear to be altered or are missing, hold on to the card and make a Code 10 call to the authorization center. You may be instructed to try to recover the card or simply return it to the cardholder and decline the transaction.

  3. Always request authorization on an expired card. If the card issuer approves the transaction, proceed with the sale.

  4. Never accept a transaction that has been declined.

Dealing with unsigned cards

If the signature panel is left blank...

  1. Request a signature. Ask the cardholder to sign the card and provide current government identification, such as a driver's license or passport (if local law permits).

  2. Check the signature. Be sure that the cardholder signature on the transaction receipt matches the one on the card and the additional identification.

  3. 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.

If the card has a “See ID” in place of a signature…

  1. Request a signature. Ask the cardholder to sign the card and provide current government identification, such as a driver's license or passport (if local law permits).

  2. Check the signature. Be sure that the signature on the card matches the one on the transaction receipt and the additional identification.

If the signatures appear reasonably the same and the authorization request is approved, go ahead and complete the transaction.


Extra protection when there’s no card

Card-not-present (CNP) merchants must take extra precaution against fraud exposure and associated losses. Anonymous scam artists bet on the fact that many fraud prevention features do not apply in this environment.

Card Not Present (CNP) payment acceptance

Take these steps to accept CNP payments:

  1. Obtain an authorization.

  2. Verify the card’s legitimacy:

  • Ask the customer for the card expiration date, and include it in your authorization request. An invalid or missing expiration date might indicate that the customer does not have the actual card in hand.

  • Use fraud prevention tools such as Address Verification Service (AVS), Card Verification Value and Card Verification Code (CVV & CVC).

  1. Look for general warning signs of fraud (listed below).

  2. If you receive an authorization, but still suspect fraud:

  • Ask for additional information during the transaction (e.g., request the financial institution name on the front of the card).

  • Contact the cardholder with any questions.

  • Confirm the order separately by sending a note via the customer's billing address rather than the “ship to” address.

  • To report suspicious activity, contact your merchant financial institution.

12 potential signs of CNP fraud

Keep your eyes open for the following fraud indicators. When more than one is true during a card-not-present transaction, fraud might be involved. Follow up, just in case.

  1. First-time shopper: Criminals are always looking for new victims.

  2. Larger-than-normal orders: Because stolen cards or account numbers have a limited life span, crooks need to maximize the size of their purchase.

  3. Orders that include several of the same item: Having multiples of the same item increases a criminal's profits.

  4. Orders made up of “big-ticket” items: These items have maximum resale value and therefore maximum profit potential.

  5. “Rush” or “overnight” shipping: Crooks want these fraudulently obtained items as soon as possible for the quickest possible resale, and aren’t concerned about extra delivery charges.

  6. Shipping to an international address: A significant number of fraudulent transactions are shipped to fraudulent cardholders outside of the U.S. AVS can't validate non-U.S., except in Canada and the United Kingdom.

  7. Transactions with similar account numbers: Particularly useful if the account numbers used have been generated using software available on the Internet (e.g., CreditMaster).

  8. Shipping to a single address, but transactions placed on multiple cards: Could involve an account number generated using special software, or even a batch of stolen cards.

  9. Multiple transactions on one card over a very short period of time: Could be an attempt to "run a card" until the account is closed.

  10. Multiple transactions on one card or a similar card with a single billing address, but multiple shipping addresses: Could represent organized activity, rather than one individual at work.

  11. In online transactions, multiple cards used from a single IP (Internet Protocol) address: More than one or two cards could definitely indicate a fraud scheme.

  12. Orders from Internet addresses that make use of free e-mail services: These e-mail services involve no billing relationships, and often neither an audit trail nor verification that a legitimate cardholder has opened the account.

CNP fraud prevention tools

Appropriate preventive action can help reduce fraudulent transactions and potential customer disputes. Make use of these tools and controls to verify the legitimacy of the cardholder and the card in every card-not-present transaction.



Address Verification Service (AVS)

Allows card-not-present merchants to check a cardholder’s billing address with the card Issuer. The merchant includes an AVS request as part of the authorization and receives a result code indicating whether the address given by the cardholder matches the address on file with the Issuer.

Card Verification Value / Code

Is a three-digit number imprinted on the signature panel of cards to help card-not-present merchants verify that the customer has a legitimate card in hand at the time of the order. The merchant asks the customer for the CVV/CVC code and then sends it to the card Issuer as part of the authorization request. The card Issuer checks the code to determine its validity, then sends a result back to the merchant along with the authorization. CVV/CVC is required on all cards.

To protect CVV/CVC data from being compromised, Operating Regulations prohibit merchants from keeping or storing CVV/CVC numbers once a transaction has been completed.

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