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➠ The secret to minimising wrongly declined online payments

Every online business has two primary objectives: to get people to visit the site and convert those visitors into customers. Over the years, conversion efforts have evolved from focusing on shopping cart completion to capitalising on every feature of the website to enhance customer experience and maximise conversions.

However, these efforts falter at the final hurdle if the customer does not complete payment. Sometimes the reason customers abandon a cart is purely because they change their mind, while consumers will also abandon a cart when the site declines to accept a payment. Not only does this deny the merchant revenue, but a declined payment also dissatisfies the customer and may send them to a competitor. So it is essential wrongly declined payments are minimised.

Here are some of the reasons why payments are wrongly declined and how such rejections can be minimised.


Optimising the checkout experience can significantly increase conversion rates. Every point of friction that makes the checkout experience longer or more complex will result in small percentage increases in abandonment. For large companies, even a small percentage of cart abandonment can seriously affect revenue.

Purchases are also abandoned when a consumer goes to pay and encounters a problem. According to research from PayPal, almost one-third of Australian consumers (28%) have abandoned a purchase because their preferred payment method wasn’t available.Sales can also fail when legitimate customer payments are rejected due to inappropriate or inaccurate risk analysis.

‘According to research from PayPal, almost one-third of Australian consumers (28%) have abandoned a purchase because their preferred payment method wasn’t available.’

To maximise revenue it is essential merchants offer the widest possible range of payment options and ensure no payment is rejected without justification.

A study by Mercator estimates that only four per cent of visitors to a website reach the stage of initiating payment. Suppose a website has 100 million visitors per year. Increasing that four per cent of would-be buyers to say 10 per cent could result in a significant increase in revenue.


There are many reasons why a payment provider may reject a transaction. Here are the main ones.

Overly strict fraud rules

Fraud is always a risk for merchants when physical or smartphone-loaded cards aren’t used for a transaction. Fraud protection systems are a vital part of conducting an online business so it’s important to get the right balance and ensure fraud rules are optimised to ensure genuine transactions aren’t declined in error. If anti-fraud systems are not using a deep base of data to inform machine learning or their analysis and AI is not sophisticated enough, fraud protection systems can block legitimate transactions to an unacceptable level.

Outdated card and customer information

When the seller stores customer and card information to expedite transactions it can become out of date. Some payment service providers and major global card networks offer tools to enable merchants to keep card information up to date.

Cross-border payment risks

Cross-border transactions get declined more frequently because international cards often operate on local networks that are not connected to global networks, making transaction verification more difficult. If a merchant wants to optimise the accuracy and volume of cross border payments being authorised, they may need to use a payment provider specialising in international transactions.

Data incompatibilities

There are multiple parties required to authorise each transaction: the merchant, the acquirer (the bank or financial institution that processes the payment), the network, the card issuer and the payment platform. Ideally, information formats are standardised across all parties, but often they are not. And authorising banks sometimes change the information they require or the format in which it is needed.

Routing problems

If payments are not routed through the appropriate processing channels, the chances of them being declined can increase. Partnering with a payment platform that intelligently optimises routing based on the type of transaction, dollar amount, location of origin and other factors helps alleviate the issue.


Without understanding the reasons transactions are declined, it’s difficult for merchants to optimise their authorisation rate. They should analyse all available information: the decline code, the payment method, country, industry, customer and order levels. A good payments service provider can often help merchants with this process.

Declined payment minimisation is a complex process that requires large amounts of data and sophisticated processing techniques, which must be applied in real time. This is where partnering with a global payment platform can be a game-changer. With more than 400 million customers globally and longstanding experience in digital payments, PayPal is able to draw upon vast and sophisticated data sets to help merchants improve payment authorisation rates and reduce declined payments.

Discover more about how PayPal can evolve your payments system.

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