Partial Authorization

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A partial authorization occurs when a payment card authorization is attempted for a transaction and there are not enough funds available in the account to cover the full amount. The issuer returns an authorization for the amount available in the account, leaving the merchant to obtain an additional form of payment from the customer for the balance.

Partial authorizations result in fewer declined transactions at the point of sale. Additionally, in the case of prepaid gift cards, the issuers return a card balance printed on the receipt for the cardholder’s convenience.

Partial Authorization Specifics

MasterCard® and Discover® require processors to support partial authorization transactions on debit and prepaid cards. To simplify this mandate for our merchants, TransFirst® supports partial authorization transactions on all card types, including Visa® and American Express®.

The receipt below shows a partial authorization for a Discover card purchase of $71.99 on a $100 purchase. It also indicates in bold type an amount due of $28.01, which the merchant must collect from the customer to complete the sale:

In this transaction, the merchant needs to inform the cardholder of the partial authorization and request the $28.01 balance through some other form of tender, such as cash, check or another payment card.

As a merchant, it’s important that you pay close attention to the authorization message and receipts that are returned at the point of sale. If a partial authorization is returned, you must collect another form of payment for the remaining amount that you are owed; otherwise, you will lose money on the sale.

Partial Authorization Reversal

In the event that partial authorization is issued and the cardholder does not have another form of payment to cover the amount due — or they choose to use a different form of payment for the full amount — a partial authorization reversal must be performed by the merchant to free up the funds that were previously held by the authorization.

For example, in the purchase illustrated above, if the cardholder doesn’t have $28.01 in another payment form — or wants to reverse out the $71.99 to use another card for the full $100 purchase — they can request that the merchant do a reversal of the partially authorized amount of $71.99, and the merchant must comply.

Partial Authorization Support

If you process with TransFirst and your current terminal does not support partial authorizations, we can update it and train you in its use.

TransFirst’s Transaction Express® payment gateway supports the partial authorization mandate. Merchants using software or gateways provided by other vendors should confirm with them that they support the mandate.

TransFirst Service and Support representatives are available at 800.654.9256 to answer any questions you may have about partial authorization and reversals.


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