What is a credit card descriptor?

on Mar5
credit card descriptor
Written by
James Davis
Written by James Davis
Senior Technical Writer at United Thinkers
Author of the Paylosophy blog, a veteran writer, and a stock analyst with extensive knowledge and experience in the financial services industry that allows me to cover the latest payment industry news, developments, and insights. Read more
credit card descriptor
Reviewed by
Kathrine Pensatori
Product Specialist at United Thinkers
Product specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the Payment Processing Industry. I help payment facilitators and PSPs solve their various payment processing issues. Read more

What is a credit card descriptor (soft descriptor)?

A credit card descriptor is a text, rendered on a cardholder’s statement, describing a particular product or service, purchased by the cardholder. Descriptors are intended to help the cardholder identify the products or services purchased. More information on credit card descriptors can be found here.

What is the difference between static and dynamic descriptors?

Depending on the acquirer and the underlying technology, used to process transactions, it may or may not be possible to specify a description for each transaction, as it is processed. The term “dynamic descriptor” is used to signify, that the underlying system is able to describe transactions on per-transaction level at the time of processing, so that each transaction can have its own descriptor. When “static descriptor” term is used, it is implied that the descriptor for all transactions, processed through a given MID, is specified at the MID level, and, therefore, description of individual transactions is not possible.

Are descriptors available for both credit card and ACH transactions?

Generally, some form of descriptor is always used on all credit card transactions. In the ACH world per-transaction description is not really possible. However, NACHA file format (used for ACH processing) allows merchants to include item descriptions for groups of ACH transactions. Therefore, it is possible to have both name of the merchant, and description of the item, i.e., group of related ACH transactions. The concept is, thus, similar to the one of dynamic descriptors.

How can billing descriptors reduce credit card chargebacks?

Billing descriptors reduce the risk of erroneous credit card chargebacks. If a billing descriptor is informative enough, it will remind the customer\cardholder of a previous purchase. In case of poor billing descriptor (if there is no descriptor, or if a descriptor is not informative) the customer might not remember a specific transaction and request a chargeback, which the merchant will have to deal with.

What are the best practices for descriptors?

At the very least, a billing descriptor should contain merchant name and customer service phone number. In the ideal case, if a customer copies your descriptor and does an online search (in Google or Bin), your company should come in as the first page on the list.

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