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5 Min. Read

What Is ARN Number & How to Track Transactions?

What Is ARN Number & How to Track Transactions?

Each time you buy or sell a product online, the purchase is given a specific number called an acquirer reference number (ARN). This number is shared with the bank and merchant, but it’s not necessarily significant to the buyer, unless they're requesting a refund. 

So what is an ARN number and how exactly does it work? 

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

Acquirer Reference Number

What are ARN’s Used For? 

ARN’s and Refunds 

How to Find ARN number

ARN for Buyers and Sellers

More Accounting Resources for Business

Acquirer Reference Number

An acquirer reference number, or ARN, is a unique number created in credit or debit card transactions when it transfers from the merchant's bank through the payment processor, and to the cardholder’s bank. 

These unique digits make your transaction traceable so if an error occurs with the bank or merchant accounts, the information can be found. 

What are ARN’s Used For? 

ARN numbers are used to trace refunded transactions on online products.

Customer support is a key element of any successful business. Having direct communication with customers instils a level of trust and is essential in growing a thriving business and building a community. 

ARN’s are used for:

  • Credit card transactions 
  • Debit card transactions 
  • Electronic funds 
  • Partial settlements 
  • Transfer of funds 

With so many different types of online transactions happening daily, there’s always the possibility of fraud or unauthorized transactions. It’s up to buyers and sellers alike to minimize card schemes and fraudulent transactions.

ARN gives merchants access to follow the transaction through the full process until it is securely in the bank. 

ARN’s and Refunds 

With any online business, errors can occur, and it’s important to remain transparent and provide excellent customer service when addressing issues. 

If a customer receives a product or service and isn't fully satisfied, you may want to offer them a refund to make it right. If you’re refunding their purchase via debit or credit card, you can typically expedite that process by sending the bank payment amount to the card they used in the initial transaction. Nonetheless, processing transactions takes time. 

But what if they reach out and want to know when exactly they will receive their refund? 

That’s where the ARN number comes in. ARN is assigned to the credit card transaction as it moves through the payment flow. So if a refund appears to be delayed or missing, the unique number can be used by your bank to help trace the refund. 

Just as the bank can trace the transaction, the merchant's bank also has access to the number and can directly track the payment themselves, and the merchant can share that information with the customer.

How to Find ARN number

Merchants that use payment processors such as Stripe can find the ARN number associated with a transaction on their Stripe Dashboard. 

The ARN number will typically appear with several different statuses based on where it is in the process. 

  • ARN is available: The ARN will be displayed within the refund 
  • ARN is processing: This typically means that the refund has been started but it hasn’t finished processing yet. (This is the default status when a refund is created)
  • ARN not available: ARN number hasn’t been supported for the refund (if the refund occurs before the charge has been initially processed with the bank). When this happens, it’s typically easier to just reverse the authorization and drop the charge, rather than waiting for it to fully process and starting a refund. 

Once you locate the ARN number in your payment platform, you can update the customer with where it is in the refund process, or give them the number directly so they can work with their bank for repayment. 

ARN for Buyers and Sellers

Because ARN numbers are given to each credit card transaction, it’s easy for buyers to receive the code and track their return. If a buyer requests a refund, the seller can pull up the number and either give it directly to the buyer, or update them on where the transaction is in the refund process. 

ARN’s are created for peace of mind of the merchant and customer, as the number gives both parties access to tracking the payment when it’s in between accounts. 

  • An acquirer reference number (ARN) acts as ‘bank account proof’ for customers requesting refunds for an online service. 
  • An ARN is available for Visa and Mastercard transactions placed online 
  • Merchants can use their card payment platforms to easily access an ARN number for an acquiring customer
  • ARN’s are used to trace transactions that are in the process of delivering a refund 
  • Merchants can update customers directly with when they should expect a fund transfer back to their card by tracking the ARN, or giving the customer the number to use with their bank
  • ARN’s can help to trace unauthorized transactions and prevent fraudulent payments from being processed 

If a customer reaches out for a refund on a product, it’s your decision as a business owner if you want to honor that request. An ARN code makes the refund process safer and easier for both the buyer and seller so that both parties can track the payment until the customer receives the refund. 

The unique number plays a big part in the trust and security of online credit card sales. 

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