Processing Errors: How Merchants Get In Trouble

The impact of processing errors can really add up — in terms of both time and money.  Take a minute to see if your business is making any of these common processing mistakes:

  • Not swiping enough. Plain and simple, manually entered cards cost more to process — from a higher percentage rate to a static fee tacked on to your processing costs.

Action: Swipe — even if it takes multiple passes to get that old card with the scratched up mag stripe to go through. If your terminal is no longer reading properly, consider replacing your machine.

  • Splitting transactions. Some credit cards have set limits on transactions. Problems can occur when clerks or customers try to avoid those limits by splitting a charge into two separate transactions. Not only will you be charged for two separate swipes, but the second swipe may come back as an error or even trigger a fraud message. 

Action: "Split tender transactions" are the better way to go. Instead of attempting to split the transaction on a single card, try getting two different forms of payment - for example, a $75 prepaid card and $25 in cash for a $100 purchase.

  • Not protecting against downgrades. Most merchants are billed under a three-tiered pricing schedule. The best rate is typically applied in cases where a standard consumer credit card is used, the cardholder is present, the card is swiped, and the transaction is settled or batched out within 24 hours. Transactions that deviate from this may be "downgraded" to a higher rate.

Action: Many times your merchant account statement will have a description next to each downgrade, describing why the transaction was downgraded. If you need help understanding these items, please contact PNC Merchant Services® Customer Service at 800-742-5030.

  • Not employing fraud protection. The responsibility of screening for and identifying fraudulent transactions falls solely on the merchant. A single incident can increase the risk of having your merchant account terminated or seeing your fees increase significantly.

Action: Ensure that your point-of-sale software regularly collects AVS and CVV data, checks the billing address against the shipping address and tracks GPS data from the entry.

  • Failing to become PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) compliant. All merchants and service providers that store, process or transmit cardholder data must comply with PCI DSS and the Card Association Compliance Programs. Failure to do so may result in a merchant being subject to fines, fees or assessments and/or termination of processing services.

Action: If you haven't already, visit the PCI Security Standards Council website at and learn how to become compliant.

If you have questions about avoiding processing errors, contact PNC Merchant Services® Customer Service at 1-800-742-5030


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Merchant Services provided by PNC Merchant Services Company and are subject to credit approval. PNC Merchant Services is a registered trademark of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.