Summer travel: The beach, the open road — the use of plastic

We’re in that time of year where AVP Solutions’ clients in travel and related businesses can predict an uptick in sales, customers — and credit card use. Visa Inc. recently released its “travel snapshot” — based on data from the previous year — noting an increase in spending “on international travel-related purchases from 2010 to 2011.” This trend, the release says, is “building momentum toward pre-recession levels.

Another report, also Visa-sponsored and released this past month, came from the Global Business Travel Association, which states that “business travel will reach its pre-recession levels by the middle of 2012, with measured growth throughout the year as economic headwinds persist.” Chief among those headwinds, however, is “the ongoing uncertainty of the European debt crisis and rising oil prices.”

Still, given the point we’re at on the calendar, it’s a good bet that those in the travel industries can expect to do more credit processing over the next several months, as people take vacations, go to and from school, and even get some business done. The thing to be aware of, according to yet a different report from another Visa subsidiary — in this case, e-commerce fraud control firm CyberSource is that “online travel agencies are well-known fraud targets,” but these “OTAs,” as they’re called the experience “fraud losses as a percentage of revenue… actually less than elsewhere in the travel business.”

The figures break down, roughly, like this: “Overall, travel merchants lose an average of 0.44% of annual revenues to online fraud. The mean for airlines is identical at 0.44% and 0.59% for the rental cars-cruise lines-rail-lodging sector. But the average of OTAs, including packaged-tour operators and some related merchants, is a bit lower at 0.36%.” Which means if you’re not Travelocity or Orbitz, say, you might want to be doubly aware, in the season ahead, when the flurry of card use will increase.  

On the other hand, in another CyberSource report, looking at online purchasing in general, for the previous year, they announced that “merchants are making gains against fraud but the battle continues. The fraud rate … dropped from 0.9 percent in 2010 to 0.6 percent in 2011—the lowest in the 13 year history of the survey.” So everyone is benefiting from everyone else’s vigilance. But the report also went on to note that  “the cost of combating fraud continues to grow. Dollar losses were up, the manual review continued to climb, and merchants reiterated their concern that fraud is becoming more difficult to detect.” 

In an effort to keep your business and merchant accounts safe during this busy time,  AVP Solutions’ in-house experts  pass along these tips and reminders:  For online and e-commerce transactions, utilize the raw data available to you.  Capture IP addresses and match the geo location to the customer’s telephone area code and billing address zip code.  Monitor declined sales data and  do read the “reason texts” provided by your gateway.

 You may learn, for example, that  a  sale was declined with the response of “Pick up”.  This means the credit card issuer has blocked the card because it has been reported lost/stolen.  A response of “Call Center” means that the issuer, for one reason or another, wants to speak with the owner of the card before authorizing the sale.  It can typically be an indication that there has been recent suspicious activity on the card and the issuer wants to speak with the card owner to verify recent sales.

 Additionally, look for suspicious trends.  For example:  Are there excessive amounts of declined sales coming from a specific IP address or IP range?  A specific email or shipping address? If you determine certain criteria to be fraudulent, implement a blacklist/negative database.  Program your shopping cart to reject activity from that IP address, email address, shipping address, etc.   Always retain your data and study it.

 AVPS offers a Gateway that can assist in creating all of the features listed to help improve the quality of transactions being accepted through your online business. For more information on the Gateway, contact your AVP Solutions rep at 1-800-719-9198

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