Gravity Payments

Void Transaction vs Refund: What’s the Difference?

Learn what void transactions and refunds are, and the main differences between these two ways to reverse payments.

 Reading Time: 4 minutes

Whether your customers pay with a physical card or pay online, it is important to be able to cancel or reverse a transaction – for example, when an error has been made or if you suspect payment fraud.

Canceling a transaction is called “voiding” the transaction, while reversing a transaction is known as a refund. They both achieve the same end goal – the customer gets their money back – but as a small business owner it’s important to understand the differences and when to use which method.

Issuing a refund when you could have voided a transaction will cost you in unnecessary payment processing fees!

Let’s dive into how voids and refunds work, common reasons they are used, and the differences between them.

What is a Void Transaction and How Does it Work?

A void transaction invalidates a card payment before it’s settled and finalized by your payment processor, and is initiated by the merchant.

Because credit card payments are typically settled in batches at the end of each day, a transaction can only be voided for a certain amount of time.

The time you have to void a transaction also depends on the payment gateway. If you use the Gravity Direct gateway, for example, you can void within 25 minutes of the transaction.

To ensure success, it’s best to void a transaction as soon as possible after the payment was made.

Here’s how a void transaction works:

  1. A customer makes a purchase using a credit card or debit card.
  2. The merchant processes the transaction.
  3. The customer’s bank places a hold (authorization) on the funds, but they aren’t yet transferred to the merchant – the payment hasn’t been settled yet.
  4. The merchant and/or the customer realizes a mistake has been made, and they decide to cancel the transaction.
  5. The merchant locates the transaction on the point-of-sale (POS) system or in their payment processing dashboard, and presses “Void”, “Cancel”, or something similar.
  6. The customer’s bank removes the hold from the customer’s funds, and the funds are released back to the customer.

And then it’s like the payment never happened – it won’t appear on the merchant’s or customer’s financial statements, and you won’t be charged payment processing fees for the transaction.

Voiding a transaction is a good way to avoid chargebacks and the associated costs and headaches.

Common Reasons for Voiding Transactions

Some of the most common reasons for voiding a transaction are:

  • A customer is accidently charged twice. This can be due to a mistake by the employee operating the credit card terminal, or the result of a technical issue.
  • The customer accidently paid the wrong amount. This can happen if the employee entered the wrong amount into the terminal and the customer didn’t pay attention when tapping their phone to pay.
  • The customer mistakenly paid someone else’s bill. For example, items got mixed up at the checkout line. 
  • The item the customer ordered and paid for is out of stock, and can’t be delivered. This can be due to an inventory management issue.
  • The customer changed their mind about a purchase, shortly after paying and before the payment settled. The merchant can decide whether or not to honor the customer’s request.
  • The payment processor or the credit card company flagged a transaction as potentially fraudulent, and the merchant received a notification to void the transaction.

What is a Refund and How Does it Work?

A refund is when funds are returned to a customer after the transaction has been settled, processing fees have been paid, and the funds are already in the merchant’s account.

Refunds are typically requested by the customer. The merchant has to agree to the refund and transfer the funds back to the customer.

Here’s how a refund works:

  1. A customer makes a purchase using a credit card or debit card.
  2. The merchant processes the transaction.
  3. Enough time passes for the transaction to settle, and the funds are transferred from the customer’s bank account to the merchant account.
  4. The customer requests a refund – for whatever reason.
  5. If the merchant agrees, they locate the transaction on the POS system or in their payment processing dashboard, and follow the steps to issue a refund.
  6. The funds are returned back from the merchant’s account to the customer’s account.

With refunds, both the original transaction and the refund appear separately on the merchant’s and customer’s financial statements.

Keep in mind that a refund is not the same as a chargeback – which is when a customer disputes a payment with the credit card company. Read this article to learn more.

Common Reasons for Refunds

Some of the most common reasons customers request a refund are:

  • Their product is damaged, broken, malfunctioning, or does not work as intended. This commonly happens when deliveries are packaged poorly.
  • The product doesn’t fit – common with clothing and shoes.
  • The customer received the wrong product.
  • The customer changed their mind and wants to cancel their purchase – after the payment has already settled.

You are not obligated to honor a refund request – though being reasonable has a positive impact on customer experience and your brand reputation. We recommend creating a clear and detailed refund policy and making your customers aware of it before every purchase.

You might be wondering if you should be indifferent to voiding or refunding a transaction.

But here’s the thing:

With a refund, the payment has already been settled. Unlike with voids, you will have already been charged the processing fees for the initial transaction if you refund the customer. You will not be charged interchange rates for a refund, however.

If you don’t agree to refund the customer – and they’ve paid using a credit card – they may dispute the transaction with their card issuer and request a chargeback. In that case, the card issuer acts as an intermediary and determines who is liable.

Voids vs Refunds: The Bottom Line

To summarize, here are the main differences between void transactions and refunds.

Void Transaction Refund
Initiator Merchant Customer
Timing Before transaction settlement After transaction settlement
Typical reasons Correcting mistakes caught early, suspicion of fraud Returned items, disputes
Administration Doesn’t appear on financial statements Transaction and refund both appear on financial statements
Processing fees Only the per-transaction fee Only the per-transaction fee
Time to return funds Immediately Varies – within 24 hours to 30 days.

Accept Payments with Gravity Payments

Being able to cancel or reverse payments is essential for customer satisfaction, and to avoid unnecessary costs and administrative tasks.

With Gravity Payments, you can void transactions and issue refunds as part of our merchant services.

Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions about how it works.

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