And: “Can / Do you charge my card before my merchandise ships?”These are common questions, and ones that our customer care team members address frequently. So, I thought I would write a post today to describe how MaverickLabel.Com handles debit and credit card purchases.
MaverickLabel.Com Shipping Policies
First, please let me say that MaverickLabel.Com tries very hard to ONLY run the charge on both debit and credit cards AFTER purchased items have gone into the shipping process. Unfortunately, this is not always under our control. Please read on for further explanation.
Debit / Credit Card Regulations
Next, let me explain the rules as to when an item can and does ship, when using debit or credit cards to make purchases from MaverickLabel.com and other online retailers in general… There is a common misconception that there is a United States “law” that prohibits merchants from charging a debit/credit card until the purchased item actually ships. While this is not entirely accurate, it is certainly bad business practice to run the debit/credit card before the purchase ships. Most ethical businesses, MaverickLabel.Com included, only charge when the purchased items actually ship from their warehouses. While there is no law that states this to be a requirement, there are in fact VISA and MasterCard regulations regarding the timing relationship between charging the card, and fulfilling (shipping) the purchase.
Contrary to popular belief, the Fair Credit Billing Act (LINK – http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre16.shtm) does NOT flatly prohibit charging your debit/credit card before shipping your purchase. Instead, it makes it illegal to “not ship” within an advertised time period. So, if a website states that a particular item takes “5-7 days to ship,” then the merchant may legally charge your card right away and not have any legal issues provided they do in fact ship your purchase within that 5-7 day window. (Under this same legislation, a website that does not state a turnaround time has up to 30 days to actually ship your merchandise after charging your card.) A slight delay between the charge and the shipping date is a common practice for many online retailers and well within each company’s legal rights. In fact, this helps to protect merchants from debit/credit card fraud as it can provide a buffer period between the time the card is charged and the time the product(s) leave the merchant’s facility. This ultimately helps consumers, as this practice allows online retailers to protect themselves from fraud and keep their pricing at a minimum.
So, When Exactly Is My Debit / Credit Card Charged?
Most online retailers accepting debit and/or credit cards follow the same primary processes. When an order is placed online and you provide your debit or credit card information (once you hit the Submit button that is), an “Authorization Request” is sent to the bank that issued your debit or credit card. Think of this as a “reservation” against the available credit limit on your card. This request checks to ensure that the debit/credit card information you provided is accurate, that the card is valid, and that there is enough available credit (or funds in the case of a debit card) to complete the order. This is where things start to get a little tricky.
From this point forward, most banks and/or credit companies (VISA and MasterCard, etc.) have different rules as to how your funds are held and/or handled. Many financial institutions, and the credit card companies themselves, have different time periods that they “allow” these authorizations to remain valid. Some creditors, for instance, allow these authorizations to remain in “open status” for up to seven days, while others allow them to remain in open status for up to 30 days. These terms can be different for each and every bank or financial institution. And, to add to the confusion, some creditors allow these funds to remain “available” on your credit balance or bank account, while others immediately deduct the total of the Authorization Request from your available balance. This is completely under the control of your bank or financial institution and, unfortunately, there is nothing that any online retailer can do to change these circumstances.
So, to summarize, every time you place an order with MaverickLabel.Com (or any online retailer), your credit card account is immediately sent this Authorization Request. And, each financial institution has different rules on how they process these requests, how long these requests can remain open, and whether or not the funds remain “available” in your account. To make matters worse, these same financial institutions often have completely different policies regarding “debit card” versus “credit card” accounts, and we, as online merchants, have no control over these financial institution policies. Additionally, online retailers have no simple way to determine whether the card provided in the transaction is a debit card or a credit card – so we must treat all orders in the same manner.
The final part of the debit/credit card process is called “Capture.” Once we have an item ready to ship, we run the Capture Request. At this point, your debit or credit card is actually “charged” for the order and the funds are deducted from your available balance (if a debit card was used) or available credit amount (for credit cards). In effect this completes the transaction that was originally “reserved” when the “Authorization Request” was sent. As previously stated, MaverickLabel.Com tries very hard to charge (“capture”) your debit or credit card only when your product actually ships. There are some merchants that skip the Authorization process and just “Capture” the funds immediately when you click on the “Submit” button.
With the above in mind, there are many instances where it is “necessary” to charge (“capture”) a card before the purchase actually leaves the warehouse or manufacturing plant. One example of this would be as follows… Let’s say a company has production and shipping employees that work on weekends, but not office and financial employees. In this instance, if an item is designated to ship on a Saturday, the office worker who does not work on weekends may run the debit/credit card on the Friday before the purchased item is intended to ship. This is just a simple example of many situations where this sort of charge practice not only happens, but ultimately benefits the consumer, as the customer receives the product before they would if the company waited to ship until the card could be charged.
Differences Between “Debit” and “Credit” Charge Cards
The main differences between debit and credit charge cards involve how each card actually works, and the source of the funds.
“Credit” cards can only be used as a credit card; the issuing bank gives you a line of credit, up to your credit limit. You may continue to charge up to your line of credit, and then you are responsible for making the payments.
Debit cards on the other hand, do not carry a “line of credit.” Upon capture, funds are immediately withdrawn from your bank account. So purchases made with a debit card cannot exceed the amount of money that the purchaser has in their bank account.
But here is where it can get tricky. Remember that “Authorization” step when the purchaser first places the order, which reserves the funds until the “Capture” actually commits the funds? With a credit card, the authorization amount is deducted from the available credit limit until the capture commits them, or until the authorization is canceled either by the merchant, or by the time limit simply running out. But you can continue to use your credit card as long as you do not exceed your credit limit, and it does not matter how much cash you have in your bank account. With a debit card however, the authorization step freezes the total funds for the transaction in your bank account. So while your bank account balance may show the total in the account, the available balance will be reduced by the amount of the authorization. This can cause checks to bounce, even though you thought you had enough funds to cover them, and even though the online merchant does not capture the funds until they ship your product.
The other major difference between debit and credit cards is the risk involved for the card owner. Because debit cards are attached directly to a person’s bank account, they carry a higher. Debit cards can (and are) used quite frequently without the requirement of a Personal Identification Number (PIN). This makes it quite easy to fraudulently use another person’s debit card to drain all the money in the associated bank account. Credit cards present risk in the form of having unauthorized persons using the card, but not the same risk of having money drained directly from a personal/business bank account.
I hope this helps to better explain the differences between using debit and credit cards with MaverickLabel.Com, when purchased items can/are charged, and the difference between debit and credit cards in general. If you still have questions, please email or call our customer service team for a prompt response…
(800) 537-8816 (Toll Free from USA & Canada)
(425) 771-6500 (From Elsewhere)
Mark Trumper – CEO
Rick Kent – President / Chief Science Officer
MaverickLabel.Com was founded to meet the growing need for a label source utilizing the latest technologies blended with old fashioned quality and customer service. They specialize in custom label printing for roll labels, custom window decals and hard to find items such as hard hat stickers, in their growing list of label products.