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Travel Industry Merchant Accounts - Fighting COVID Chargebacks

by Kimberly Baylies on July 20, 2021

In 2019, travel and tourism provided 5.9 million American jobs and contributed approximately $2.9 trillion to GDP globally.

Despite this, travel related businesses have a hard time getting a merchant account to accept payments. This is because banks consider the industry high-risk. And everything that makes these businesses risky just increased 10-fold due to last year's pandemic.

Travel Industry merchant services can be tough.  They have enough to worry about without having to worry about that...learn moreIn 2020, the travel and tourism industry took a beating. Not only did they lose business, like many others, but they also had to refund most of their prior sales. And to add insult to injury, they've had to endure a huge increase of chargeback filings. And the travel industry is one that is already plagued with high chargebacks and rampant fraud.

Travel is a volatile business in the first place. Whether the industry is booming or not depends largely on the economy. Companies that offer travel experiences face seasonal peaks and valleys that affect cash flow. The industry can also be adversely affected by natural disasters such as an earthquake or volcano or weather. People are pretty likely to cancel a vacation if a hurricane just destroyed their vacation destination. 

Unfortunately, companies that sell travel and tourism packages are considered high risk for banks and processors. Many things contribute to banks categorizing travel as a high-risk business model. They have high-ticket items. They are often working with third parties to bring the product to the customer. And they have a higher than normal incidence of customer chargebacks. 

Travel merchant accounts are higher risk for banks.

The very nature of travel as a luxury purchase makes it more of a risk for cancellation. After all, it is not exactly a necessity for most consumers. This means that travel plans are at a greater risk for cancellations and refunds. 

Banks are a conservative bunch and travel industry merchant services are no exception.Travel often involves combining several fairly high priced elements into one quote. High ticket items pose a greater risk for the bank processing the payments. In the event the purchaser changes their mind or cancels their trip, the refund can be significant. 

In addition, travel and tourism companies often partner with third-party services to create a travel package. A travel provider will often work with an airline, a hotel, and an excursion company to complete the travel package. The more parties involved in the transaction, the more opportunity for customer dissatisfaction. And often, customer dissatisfaction leads to higher chargeback incidence. 

Travel companies will also accept payment now for service that isn't provided until a future date. The concern is that there’s too much time between the time of purchase and fulfillment of service. The consumer could change their mind, there could be a natural catastrophe, or a pandemic. 

All these points lead to a high chance of cancellations and chargebacks. Card issuers’ primary goal is to protect their customers. The credit card companies’ chargeback measures are in place to protect their consumer. Even in a normal year, chargebacks for large ticket items can put a travel business in a tough place financially. If a company cannot afford to refund the money, the processing bank is liable. This all translates to an extensive set of risks for the acquiring bank when issuing travel industry merchant accounts. 

Covid related chargebacks cost travel merchants their merchant account and the ability to accept payments.

Covid related chargebacks cost the travel industry billions of dollars last year. And it is estimated they will continue to cost the industry as we make our way through 2021 as well. Estimates from the IATA put losses for the airline industry alone at $118 billion dollars in 2021. And that is just one sector of the many that make up the travel industry. Travel agencies, hotels, car rental agencies were among the hardest hit.

Lockdowns and travel related restrictions brought the travel industry to an abrupt halt. Every travel related business found themselves issuing refunds and credits for future travel. If consumers couldn't get a refund, or weren't happy with a credit, they turned to their credit card company and filed a chargeback.

Studies show that since the pandemic began, fraudulent chargebacks have increased 41% across all verticals. But the travel industry was one of the hardest hit. The ability to file a chargeback was implemented by credit card issuers as a consumer protection. But now consumers are becoming too comfortable with the benefit and use it when they don't get what they want. Regardless of what the rules say. Instead of working with the company, they know they can just file a chargeback, and many times it's just easier. 

The significant increase in chargebacks only served to make already high-risk businesses too much for many banks to handle. We've been seeing many banks freeze the merchant accounts of travel businesses due to high chargeback ratios. and many have had their merchant account closed, leaving them with no way to accept payments. 

Travel coming out of the pandemic continues to be uncertain. Restrictions of various destinations continue to be in flux. And travellers may have to cancel plans. This will only lend to the rise in chargebacks moving forward. Travel agencies, hotels, airlines - all travel related businesses - are working hard to get back on their feet and provide their services. But to do this they need a merchant account they can rely on, despite the circumstances. And they have to protect themselves from "friendly fraud" and chargebacks. 

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A proven and experienced travel merchant account provider makes the difference.Travel companies need reliable and affordable travel industry merchant accounts.

The travel industry is volatile. Success is tied to things out of your control like the economy and public perception. For these reasons, travel companies need to pay close attention to their bottom line. Not just during hard times, but all the time. Travel companies need a merchant service provider that can advise them on solutions that support success. And provide those solutions reliably and at a price they can afford. 

Yes, travel is a bit more of a risk for acquiring banks. But it's also one of the most important industries in the country. The industry must be able to accept payments, and our banking partners know this. Just because travel poses a higher risk than other businesses doesn't mean there aren’t reliable merchant accounts. 

The travel and tourism industry operates through retail, eCommerce, mobile, and MOTO. Travel agencies often take payments over the phone. This means they'll often hand key payment information into the payment gateway or virtual terminal. Because of this, travel businesses of all types must be able to take payments in multiple ways. We can help. Whether you accept payments in your agency, on your eCommerce site, or over the phone, we have affordable solutions.  

Travel companies must accept payments from travelers in the U.S. and across the globe. Your processor must offer the ability to accept payments in all types of currencies, from all over the world. And they must be able to deposit your funds using dynamic currency conversion capabilities. Dynamic currency conversion allows you to accept all types of currency, and easily convert to U.S. dollars for deposit.

The travel industry is unique in that they don't work with just any POS system. Travel companies must have a merchant account that can integrate with specialized POS systems. Our merchant account and payment gateways integrate easily with popular travel distribution systems like TravelWorks, Amedeus, Sabre and many more.

Benefits of a domestic travel merchant account for accepting credit card payments.

Travel companies are not relegated to processing through offshore merchant accounts. We’ve forged strong relationships with domestic banks to bring domestic processing to our travel business partners. 

Domestic payment processing has many advantages.

Domestic travel industry merchant servicesProcessing payments for travel with a domestic processor has many advantages. Your company will benefit from faster funding, competitive rates, and actual customer service.

It also means merchants experience faster underwriting and therefore, quicker approval.

Processing through a domestic bank means lower credit card processing rates in general, compared to offshore accounts. But, your rates aren't low just because they are through a domestic merchant account. Our strong banking relationships have enabled us to negotiate very competitive rates for our travel industry clients. 

You’ll also enjoy much faster funding times with domestic processing. And since you're not having to pay for wiring money, the overall costs and fees are lower as well. Domestic processing, personalized customer service, competitive rates, quick funding, no extra or hidden fees all combine for a beneficial payment solution.

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But of all of those benefits, personal customer service tops the list. When you’re a travel industry merchant, domestic customer service is so priceless. Increased cancellations and chargebacks mean more need for customer service. You may find yourself needing to contact your payment processor more often than other businesses do. And you need someone who will work with you to address your chargeback challenges.

Fraud prevention safeguards and managing chargeback numbers are of utmost importance to the success of a travel company. Fraud and chargebacks cause significant money loss for travel merchants. Both of those can also cost a travel company their merchant account affecting the ability to accept payments. 

A processor that just looks at the numbers is more likely to just freeze your account when chargebacks increase. It is imperative that you have a dedicated merchant account advisor to call. You need to be able to call and speak directly to a person. Not just someone who answers the phone after hours. Travel companies must be able to reach a person who not only understands them, but understands the travel industry and the payments industry.

Our advisors will help you choose the best chargeback mitigation and dispute management services. In addition, our merchant accounts come with an extensive array of fraud-fighting tools that can be customized for your needs. All of these are important ways to help keep costs down and your merchant account operating reliably. 

Not only do we offer domestic customer service through our offices, but so does the domestic bank. When you have a problem, call your dedicated merchant account advisor. And, after hours, you’ll be able to contact a U.S. based customer service agent capable of accessing your account.

Why Bankcard International Group (BIG) for your travel merchant account services?

Why is B.I.G. the best travel industry merchant account provider.Bankcard International Group offers merchant accounts and payment solutions to a wide range of travel-related businesses. Our long-standing relationships allow us to work with travel companies when others can't. Our solutions offer fair and competitive pricing for travel-specific niches such as hotel and airline ticket sales, vacation packages, and travel memberships.

Was your travel merchant account shut down due to increased chargebacks or other challenges from Covid? If you're looking for a reliable and cost-effective solution to accept credit cards in your travel business, look no further. We’ll take a consultative approach to ensure you’re fit with the best solutions for your business needs.

Our staff of ETA- Certified Payment Professionals hold themselves to the highest professional standards. We promise credibility and transparency in your payment processing. At B.I.G., we take pride in being here for you for the life of your business. 

Call us and be prepared to experience the “BIG Difference!”

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Topics: High Risk Merchant Account, Travel Industry