What Does it Mean to Force a Credit Card Payment?

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When you swipe your credit card at a restaurant or store, you are electronically authorizing the credit card company to lend you the money for the transaction. Occasionally, something goes wrong with the credit card processing software and the merchant must call your creditor to authorize the charges. This process is called a force transaction.

Applies to Transactions

  • Forcing a credit card payment involves getting an authorization for a credit card payment after you swipe your card at the terminal. It is, therefore, only relevant to business transactions; the name is a bit of a misnomer because nobody is forcing you to make a transaction -- the software is merely authorizing the transaction after you voluntarily swipe your card at the register or credit card point of sales machine.

Voice Authorization

  • Merchants only have to force a credit card transaction if the credit card software asks them to call the creditor for a voice authorization. Most credit card transactions go through electronically and the merchant does not need to do anything further to record the transaction after the software processes your card. Occasionally a transaction does not go through automatically and the software directs the merchant to force the transaction.

Process

  • If the credit card processing software tells the merchant to force the transaction, the merchant must call the creditor and provide them with your card information and the amount of the transaction. The creditor will then authorize the transaction over the phone and provide the merchant with an authorization number. The merchant then re-swipes your card and enters the transactions as a force transaction along with entering the authorization number to make the transaction go through.

Consequence

  • There are no adverse consequences to forcing a transaction. The transaction is charged to your card and your merchant gets paid by the credit card processing company he uses just like if the transaction went through the first time you swiped your card. You should not get double charged; check your credit card statement to make sure. Usually merchants only have to force transactions when there is a connection problem with their software, but if you are concerned about why a transaction didn't go through the first time, call your creditor.

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