Can I defend a chargeback with pencil rubbing of a card?

Your credit card terminal goes down or your wireless unit can’t get a signal, but you’ve got customers lined up to buy. Is a pencil rubbing of the credit card or a photocopy of the credit card OK to defend against chargebacks?

No. The merchant must have an imprint of the card on a credit card voucher form that is fully completed and signed by the customer.

Below are excerpts of the relevant rule from Visa and the condition I most often see cited on merchant chargeback forms. (Other cards have similar language. Please note the Visa International Operations Guidelines book is over 1100 pages so too keep this brief, this is a very narrow look. Link t

Visa Chargeback Reason Code 81 Fraud Card-Present Environment

Chargeback Conditions – Reason Code 81
pg 825 One of the following:
1. Cardholder did not authorize or participate in a Card-Present Environment Transaction.


  • A signature and imprint or magnetic stripe card data is required on all retail merchant accounts with a Terminal ID that is set up for retail  presentment. For most merchants, this means they need two merchant accounts- one for card present or retail, and another for card not present or MOTO if they have key entered transactions and the card is absent.
  • To save time, merchants will only partially fill in the form, but this is not sufficient. All fields must be completed and the customer must sign.
  • When a merchant account is opened merchants are issued a metal plate with their required merchant account identifying information to use with imprinting forms.  Don’t toss is into a drawer. Buy an imprinter (about $25 from most office supply stores) and some voucher forms, put your plate in and keep it secured but handy in case you need it.  If you don’t know where your plate is, call your processor and ask for a new one.

Editors note: Two merchant accounts will help mitigate risk because card absent aka card not present requirements differ from card present. For example, depending on the transaction method,  address verification and or security code may be required. Merchants with a single dial up terminal that has two merchant accounts my experience costly errors when the salesperson or cashier processes the transaction on the wrong account. It happens.  I see it all the time when I review statements and dig for downgrade reason codes. One solution is automated merchant account switching via Cenpos.


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