My Recurring Donation Failed! Now What?

When a donor signs up for a recurring donation, from time to time a payment may fail. This can be for a number of reasons, not all of which are obvious based on the message returned by Stripe.

Failure Codes

If a payment fails, you will receive a notice that lets you know what the reason for failure is. The first portion of the error message will include a failure code. The complete list of failure codes is available here from Stripe's documentation. Common ones we see are card_declined, expired_card, and incorrect_number. 

  • For incorrect_number and expired_card, you merely need to contact the donor to get a current card to put on file. 
  • For card_declined, however, you may have to do more digging to resolve the issue.

Decline Codes

Decline codes can vary widely, and the complete list is available from Stripe's documentation. The most common ones we see are do_not_honor, expired_card, insufficient_funds, lost_card, and stolen_card. 

  • For lost, stolen, or fraudulent cards: It is important to note that per the Stripe guidelines, if a card returns a code indicating that it is lost, stolen, or fraudulent, you should not share the specific decline code and related information with the donor when you reach out to them. You are instead required to merely indicate that there was a problem in processing the card as if it was just a general, non-specific declined transaction, and direct them to contact their card issuer for more information. You can request that they provide you with alternative payment information thereafter. After they determine from their card issuer that the card was stolen, they may have additional concerns about how their payment information is being handled, both by your organization and others. You can assure them that the payment processor you use, Stripe, handles all data securely, and that their card data is never stored in "plain text": that is, the raw numbers are never written to your database in a way that anyone within your organization (or Donor Wrangler) can simply see and/or use at their leisure.
  • For expired cards: You should contact the donor to get a new card number to put on file. 
  • For insufficient funds: While it may be a slightly awkward conversation, it would be best to contact the donor and let them know what happened. Let them tell you how they wish for it to be handled, whether the gift is canceled or just rescheduled to a different date that is more conducive to their pay schedule.
  • For "do not honor": This is the most vague of all of the decline codes. It is sort of a generic catch-all message when nothing else fits. Some banks, based on automated fraud detection algorithms, will decline a transaction if it seems out of line with a donor's usual purchasing habits. In other instances, this can be returned instead of insufficient funds. Some organizations have reported that they had to have the donor call their bank and tell them that they explicitly approved of payments to be made to [Insert Your Non-Profit Organization Name Here], and thereafter they had no problems. Likely, the donor will have to contact their bank, or give you a different card to use.
  • For other codes: We can't cover every possible code here, so please refer to Stripe's documentation to see what other decline codes may possibly mean. Likely you will just need to either update the card or have the donor contact their bank. Contact us if you have any questions.

Updating a Donor's Payment Method:

When you need to change a donor's payment method (because their old card expired, was stolen, or they simply want you to start using a different card) you can do so by using the new "Update Card" feature on a donor's profile. Next to the Edit Donor button, you'll find a dropdown menu option labeled Update Card. ( Note that this is only available to donors who have previously given via a donation form.)

This will take you to a screen where you can enter new payment details from the donor, taken in person or over the phone.  Never ask a donor to email you credit card information! 

Simply complete the form, and the new card information will be stored within your Stripe account for this donor. Recurring donations after this point will be processed against this new card instead of the previous card on file.

Rescheduling/Canceling a Failed Payment:

After you have received new card information or have spoken to the donor who wishes to reschedule the payment to a date more convenient for them, you will need to reschedule any failed payments. These can be identified by viewing a recurring donation's list of payments:

If you select Edit from the dropdown menu for the failed payment, you will be able to reschedule it for a future date. 

Payments can be rescheduled as many times as necessary, so if a rescheduled payment fails, you can simply reschedule it again.

If a donor does not wish to reschedule the payment and prefers to cancel that payment instead, simply delete it.

Rescheduling/Canceling a Pending Payment

Any payment that is identified as "Automatic Payment Pending" in a payment list can be rescheduled simply by editing the payment and changing the Expected Date. The payment will then be processed on that new date instead. If a donation is set to recur, the next payment will be scheduled according to the most recent date that was used. 

For instance: Suppose a donor is signed up to donate monthly and has been donating on the 1st every month. They contact you in June and ask if you can change the date to the 15th of each month instead. If you change the date of the Pending Payment from June 1st to June 15th, the July payment will be automatically created for July 15th after the June 15th payment is processed.

If the donor instead wishes for you to cancel their recurring gift entirely, simply delete any pending payments. No new payments will be scheduled from that point on, and the donor will have to return to the donation form and donate again to start a new recurring gift if they desire to do so in the future.

Other Issues?

If you experience any other issues, please contact us for support. We will diagnose the failure in more detail and help you determine how best to handle it.

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