Pay Theory Blog
November 30, 2023

What is An Account Updater and How to Use it for a Better Customer Experience


An account updater is a service that will systematically check stored credit/debit card information and run it against the most up-to-date data from the issuing banks (Chase, American Express, Capital One, etc). Incorporating an automatic account updater into your user experience is a simple and meaningful way to improve the efficiency and reliability of your money movement.

Why Should I Care?

The path to creating better customer experiences is understanding the key use cases where account (both credit and debit cards) updating makes accessing your product simple. For example: Your user doesn’t care that your data health is strong as much as they care about keeping unfettered access to your service.

As a software platform, you want to provide solutions that ensure your Merchants get paid. As a merchant, you want to be sure you have all the right payment solutions at the point of sale to make a transaction happen. A card account updater is a perfect solution for Platforms and Merchants who offer recurring payments or have customers revisit purchases often (Card on File).

Key Use Cases

  • Open and closed-end subscriptions
  • Payment plans
  • Recurring visits to make different purchases (ex: Drug Prescriptions, School Districts, Telemedicine Visits, etc.)

Key Card Conditions Resolves

  • Cards that are expiring
  • Cards that have been reported to be lost or stolen
  • Card account closures

What Actually Happens When a Card Expires?

Card expiration means that the information on the card (expiration, CVV, etc) is no longer a valid way to access your account. It does not mean the account itself has expired or been closed.

Impacts on Your Organization and Bottomline

If a customer's account-on-file is outdated it will lead to declined transactions (authorizations) for things like subscriptions and other types of recurring payments. This breaks a customer's interaction with your organization and may mean that some transactions don’t go through. These moments of friction eventually lead to churn.

Organization Impact

  • Increase approved authorizations (successful transactions)
  • Improve accidental customer churn
  • Reduce customer service tickets
  • Reduce Cost Per Customer Maintenance
  • Prevent the loss of sales

How Pay Theory Handles Account Updating

Finding a payment provider that offers an account updater is becoming the expectation for Merchants with the use cases we outlined above. Card on File is becoming more standard in the Must Pay space as these Merchants strive to “stay connected” to payors in the most convenient way. Card Account Updater ensures that all of your customers’ cards are valid and that their cards-on-file are automatically updated. Pay Theory’s account updater can flexibly, and systematically submit card numbers to the Card Networks (MC, VISA, DISCOVER, AMEX) a few days prior to billing a subscription or on a calendared basis. Our solution allows Platforms and Merchants to design an approach that best fits their needs. If we find that card account information has changed, we will update the account-on-file so that the next transaction will process successfully.

Sources Referenced

Visa® Account Updater for Merchants - PDF