What does referral mean in the processing of a credit card

The referral is the response received by a credit card terminal after one of these is passed to authorize. The answer does not mean that the credit card has been declined, although the merchant can choose to do so.


When a credit card is passed, the terminal’s response can be: approved, declined, referral, take or not supported. A referral indicates that the merchant must call the authorization centre, as more information about the bearer is needed.

Other names

The response of the merchant’s terminal can also say “call” or “call centre” also indicating that it must call the authorization centre.

Needed information

The authorization centre representative may ask the merchant to check the carrier’s identification. You can ask to speak with this directly. In most cases, the authorization is approved.

If the referral is ignored

A merchant can choose not to call the authorization centre and process the transaction. This can make you responsible for a charge. When a transaction is improperly authorized, and the cardholder does not pay it, the transaction will be charged to the merchant.

Other actions

A merchant can choose to decline the transaction. In this case, the cardholder will have to present an alternative form of payment.