Best practices for recurring and subscription payments

How to optimize your recurring billing to maximize card authorizations for signups and subsequent payments.

We talked to some of the world’s leading subscription and recurring companies to find out how they approach payments for maximum growth. 

We learned that, if you have a carefully planned and executed payments strategy, you'll deliver a better customer experience, increase retention and ultimately grow your revenue.

Based on our findings here are the key best practices:

Validate card details at signup 

A $0 or $1 authorization is a way to ensure that a card is valid before an actual transaction is made. The simplest way to explain how it works is as a preauthorization.

No money is actually deducted from the customer account, and it is carried out before charging a real transaction.

Where possible, we recommend a $0 authorization. Some customers don't understand why a $1 charge appears on their account – even though it is not actually deducted. But, not all issuing banks accept $0 authorizations. Use the amount that the issuing bank prefers to achieve the highest authorization rate.

If you validate your customer’s card details at the point of sign-up, it's more likely the next payment will be successful.

Reduce churn by optimizing your billing and retrying strategies

One of the most common reasons for a transaction rejection is insufficient funds. But there are also other reasons a transaction might not go through. By analyzing the data from each transaction, you can increase your chances for success. 

Examples: If the rejection is due to technical issues or Do Not Honor, you may want to retry in a space of time from an hour to three or four days. Sometimes it's simply a matter of insufficient funds.

Businesses that bill monthly often find it works to identify local payday cycles and trying to bill immediately after that. This is especially applicable if customers are paying with debit cards.

Ensure your customers’ card information is up-to-date with Account Updater

Roughly 3% of cards expire every month. And this doesn’t account for cards that have outdated billing information or have been lost or stolen. So you won't always have the most up-to-date information, which can lead to declined transactions.

For example, if a card is stolen and a new one sent to your customer, you won’t know they have a new card.

The major card schemes offer a service that lets you check your stored customer cards to see if there are any updates.

Enroll in the account updating services such as our Account Updater to ensure you don’t have to worry about a declined transaction due to outdated information.

Enable recurring and subscription payments with key local payment methods

In many parts of the world, credit cards are not the main way to pay. In China, only 1% of online shoppers pay with international credit cards, while 520 million shoppers use Alipay.

In Europe, shoppers are more likely to use debit rather than credit cards. And payment methods like Giropay (when used with SEPA Direct Debit) and iDEAL support recurring payments.

It's also important to note that many payment methods don't support recurring or subscription payments. And some methods carry more risk than others. So you should get expert advice before offering these options.

Read next: 10 tips to thrive in the subscription economy

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