Acquirer Reference Numbers (ARNs) are unique 23-digit numbers. They are linked to online Visa and Mastercard debit and credit card transactions between a merchant’s bank (the acquiring bank) and a cardholder’s bank (the issuing bank). An ARN is created when a transaction flow takes place via a payment gateway. The reference numbers instill confidence in online payments because transactions can be traced and verified as they move through payment flows.
What are ARNs used for?
By creating more transparency, ARNs help to prevent fraud and unauthorized transactions. They give buyers a better online buying experience and the same reassurances that they would receive when making offline purchases. The unique acquirer reference number means a transaction can be tracked and checked in order to reveal any errors or irregularities. This is useful as refund transactions can take time to process so having insight into what is happening during this process is important. If a refund is delayed or fails to process, the unique number will help your bank to trace the refund.
Apart from being assigned to debit and credit card transactions for online purchases, ARNs are used to verify electronic funds transfer, partial settlements, and transfer of funds.
How to track an ARN number for refund management
One of the main reasons a merchant may need to check an ARN number is to manage customer refunds if there is an issue with a purchase. For example, a customer may not be satisfied with the quality or condition of the purchase or has failed to receive the goods, which is where an ARN comes in to log the refund from the merchant.
For refunds via debit or credit cards, payment (ie, the refund) can be made directly to the card used for the transaction. If a customer wants to know when the refund will be made, it is easy to track the payment flow using the ARN number. Both the issuing bank (the customer's bank) and the acquiring bank (the merchant’s bank) can access the number to trace a transaction. Either party can share the information with the customer.
How to find an ARN number
Merchants can obtain ARN numbers from their payment providers, and the numbers usually appear with information showing the status of a transaction. For example, if it is processing or a number hasn’t been assigned yet because the charge hasn’t been processed. The status information is expressed as follows:
- ARN is not available – this is displayed when the refund has been completed. The payment processor will reverse the payment authorisation and remove the charge, so the refund is made before the charge is processed with the bank
- ARN is processing – this indicates that the refund transaction is taking place but has yet to complete
- ARN is available – this is when the acquirer reference number appears within the refund
When you use Checkout.com for payment processing, the ARN associated with each transaction can be accessed via the Checkout.com Dashboard and can help to manage disputes if a customer queries a transaction with their card issuer. Access to the ARN via the Checkout.com Dashboard allows you to monitor and respond to disputes quickly and easily.