Transaction Descriptors in a Nutshell

Alisa Tkach

Descriptors are easy, chargebacks are not.

Descriptors are easy, chargebacks are not.

Every bank statement features several key points that help identify the transaction. These points may vary, but they always include the date, sum, and operation’s description, aka a transaction or billing descriptor. Descriptors come in handy when reviewing the statement. The date and total amount are often not enough to figure out the nature of the past transaction, but a well-delivered description can prevent some unwanted issues. 

It is up to merchants to come up with a clear and informative descriptor. Not only will it help your customers, but it also minimises chargebacks. 

Types of Descriptors

There are three types of descriptors: static, dynamic, and soft. 

Static Descriptors

If you sell one type of product or service, static descriptors may be your best fit. Let’s say you own an online comic book store. Chances are, your customers know exactly where they buy their comics, so using a static descriptor with your shop name would be more than enough. 

Static descriptors typically consist of a company name and contact information like a postal code or a phone number.

Dynamic Descriptors

Dynamic descriptors, in turn, are linked to a specific product or service. In this case, every product will feature its own description, and the descriptor will be assigned via the API during the transaction. 

Giving all your comic books unique descriptors would be problematic and not necessarily helpful. On the contrary, if you sell electronics, it is likely that your customers, especially the new ones, won’t remember what your store is called. So going with a dynamic descriptor with a product name is probably a better idea. 

Soft Descriptors

Soft descriptors are temporary descriptors that are often given to pending transactions. Once the payment is processed, it will be replaced with the permanent descriptor.

The Art of Optimising Transaction Descriptors

A typical descriptor consists of twenty to twenty-five symbols. Ideally, it would contain a company name, a website, location, and a phone number. However, it’s not always possible to fit all the information in a few characters, so the merchant has to improvise. Here are a few tips on getting the best out of what you have.

Keep It Simple

Squeezing your office’s location into the short descriptor won’t do you any good if you run an online store. Try to keep it short and sweet, using only that information that would allow your customer to remember the nature of their transaction. In this particular case, a website helps a lot better.

When using a dynamic descriptor, don’t get too creative with naming the product or service you’ve sold. Straightforwardness is the best policy. 

Brand Name

Don’t get too official by using your company’s legal name, but stick to the one displayed to your customers. The purpose of a descriptor is to clarify, not confuse. At the same time, make sure your brand name is visible throughout your website so that a client would recognise it in the descriptor. 

Phone Number

People don’t necessarily like to use their phones for calls unless their money is involved. Although it is only natural that a suspicious transaction will make a customer call their bank, a phone number in a descriptor would suggest contacting you directly. This way, you can resolve the issue much faster.

Test It First

Depending on the credit card, descriptors might be displayed differently. Sometimes a bank would cut or hide some essential info, and it wouldn’t hurt to double-check. Merchants should send out test transactions, checking different card issuers to see what the final version of their well-thought-out descriptor comes down to. 

The Bottom Line

Chargebacks are dreadful, but the good news is that you can reduce their rate by cutting down the number of customers who filed for them by mistake. Not everyone keeps track of their spendings, but a short and comprehensive billing descriptor will save you from honest mistakes. 

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