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How to Avoid Failed Payments on Your E-Commerce Site

An empty bottle.
  • Jul 29, 2019
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  • by A2 Marketing Team

To be direct, declined payments can have a negative impact on your e-commerce site, even if they’re not your fault. They can cause delays in your income, and lead to both cancelled memberships and lost customers.

In order to avoid these issues, it’s important to put preventative measures in place and to have a reliable line of communication with your customers. It’s also vital to know how to recover payments when failures occur.

In this article, we’ll explain what causes failed payments, how to prevent them, and how to ultimately recover lost ones. Let’s get started!

The Primary Causes of Failed Payments

There are a number of reasons your payments might fail, and many of these issues are related to credit cards. Of course, using them is easy and popular. However, because of this, you’ll find the outcome more disastrous when something goes wrong, and will need to quickly ascertain the reason.

For example, your customer may use a card with a spending limit (or is linked to a bank account that does.) If the customer has already reached this limit by the time they shop with you, the payment is of course going to fail.

It’s also possible that your customer’s card has been cancelled due to possible fraudulent activity or date expiry. While there are lots of reasons for a credit card to be put on hold, card expiry is very common. It’s easy for the customer to simply to forget to update their information.

Yet another possibility is that your chosen payment gateway has failed to process the payment. There are a number of points along the path between your user’s computer and the card server, and it’s easy for communication to break down. In this case, re-running the transaction usually solves the issue, but not all payment gateways do this automatically.

Finally, the majority of cases involve simple human error as a reason for the failed payment. For example, seemingly minor issues such as the customer mistyping their information or failing to update it will see the payment fail out of the gate.

Why It’s Important to Prevent Failed Payments

Failed payments can cause a number of problems for your e-commerce business, not to mention for you personally. For example, you may be counting on revenue to pay your bills at a certain time each month. As you can imagine, too many failed payments could delay your income, which could obviously be a serious issue.

However, it’s worth considering that if a customer’s payment fails, this may also result in loss of trust for them. Businesses without a seemingly secure method to process payments can see potential sales become your competitors’, and your business earning a bad reputation.

Your site’s growth is also at risk, especially if you’re running subscriptions or memberships, where failed payments need to be handled deftly and swiftly.

Finally, consider that every time a payment fails, your customer is given an opportunity to reconsider their purchase. They may even decide buying is not worth the hassle and walk away, which will result in lost sales that will be harder to reconcile.

How to Prevent Failed Payments on Your E-Commerce Site

As with many aspects of running a site, prevention is your first defense against failed payments. What’s more, many shopping cart and membership apps have elements in place already to help you.

If you are using a third-party payment platform, or even a dedicated checkout app such as ThriveCart or SamCart, there should already be some measures in place in case of a failed payment. If so, it’s important to make sure they’re fully setup.

When a payment fails, most shopping cart apps will send a notification to the customer and to your business. Many of them will also retry the transaction after a set number of days – four or five usually.

If you are running a membership site using a tool such as SubHub or EasyMemberPro, there’s an automatic process in place that will notify the customer and your business, suspend member access, and retry the transaction after a few days.

If the payment fails again, most platforms will retry again a few times before cancelling the membership. Again, it is important to check your settings to make sure everything is working the way you want it to.

However, it’s important to note that not all payment gateways have features to prevent failed payments. For example, PayPal doesn’t send failure notifications, in which case you will need to monitor failed payments and send your own messages. Stripe, another popular payment gateway, will send failure notifications – but not personalized ones. You may want to consider using an app such as Churn Buster, which offers customized failure notifications in addition to a number of features to reduce and recover failed payments.

How to Recover Failed Payments When They Do Occur

When a payment fails, the first thing you will need is a way to contact your customer. Most issues can be resolved with your customer through communication. In many cases, the automated notification system you employ may be all you need to recover a failed payment.

If retrying the transaction does not work though, you’ll need a further way to communicate with your customer.  It could even be that they may not be aware of the payment failure.

As such, regardless of the nature of the failed payment, avoid accusatory language – instead be polite and diplomatic. In most cases, a simple and direct message is all you need to recover payments. Here’s a template you could use for a one-off transaction:

Hello [name],

We’re emailing because your recent payment for [product name] failed to process correctly, and still hasn’t been resolved after sending an automated reminder.

Please log into your account and check that all of your details are up to date and accurate, then attempt the payment again. If you need further assistance, simply reply to this email and we’ll try our best to help!


This keeps things friendly, while giving you scope to escalate your action down the line. Note that you’ve given the customer the responsibility of settling the payment, rather than offering to do the work for them. This will help future issues from arising, and lets the customer self-solve the problem in the first instance.


When payments fail on your e-commerce site, it’s never good for business. Failed payments can cause delays in your income, and can hurt your relationship with customers if not handled correctly.

However, by putting preventative measures in place, you can avoid most issues involved with failed payments. When they do occur, it’s important to be polite to maintain a good relationship with your customers.

Featured image: Gadini.

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