Choosing Your Billing Descriptor Wisely

A billing descriptor is the way your business name appears on your customer’s monthly credit card statement. This may seem simple, but there’s a lot to know about choosing your billing descriptor, and what you don’t know could cost you.

The job of a descriptor is to describe the product or service purchased by the customer to explain a charge or refund.  These descriptors are fixed in length; standard credit card transaction descriptor length is 22 characters max. It will generally include the DBA name of the merchant and the name of the product or service, separated by an asterisk. Some processors allow for the merchant’s telephone number or website as well.

The billing descriptor is important because it reminds a customer what the transaction was, and helps avoid groundless chargebacks. Therefore it is critical that these descriptors be as specific and informative as possible. For this reason, merchants have several options on how they may choose to appear on customer statements.

The basic information about your company can be presented in two ways:

The static billing descriptor is sufficient for companies offering a single product or service. It is the default descriptor that your processing bank will set up for you.

A dynamic descriptor, on the other hand, provides a more detailed description of the transaction. It allows the description field in the cardholder’s statement to be modified on a per-transaction basis. The merchant’s name is usually shortened to three letters plus an asterisk, followed by a brief description of the exact product or service purchased.

For the majority of businesses, the static billing descriptor gets the job done. A grocery store, for example, is known to its customers by name, so there is no need to specify the exact item purchased.

However, if a merchant carries several lines of products that are recognized independently, or a company holds a special event, they may want to take advantage of the dynamic descriptor feature.

Fidelity now supports dynamic DBA descriptors and will assist each merchant in the customization and setup that meets their needs. Understanding this capability and taking advantage can save your business lots of grief and lost revenue by ensuring transparency on your customers’ credit card statements.