An authorization is an approval on a cardholder account for a sale amount. An authorization hold is a reduction of the cardholder's credit line for the amount of the sale. This hold can remain on the cardholder's account for up to 30 days, depending upon the issuing bank policy.
When you're conducting a transaction and you need an authorization, remember that the authorization must be for the identical sale amount. If you receive an authorization for the wrong amount, delete the incorrect authorization, and re-authorize for the exact dollar amount. However, you can pre-authorize for a different amount than the sale amount if you're in any of these industries: car rental, hotel, mail/telephone order, or restaurant.
Here are some typical authorization methods, followed by some common response codes and what you should do in each case.

Authorization methods

  • Terminal: Obtained electronically through your terminal by magnetically swipe reading or manually entering the credit card number.
  • Voice: Obtained when a when contact is made with our authorization center, either through the automated system or when speaking to a representative at the authorization center.
  • Direct solutions/Autobats: Obtained when you compile your sales at the end of the day and transmit them to Wells Fargo Merchant Services electronically. Wells Fargo Merchant Services will then authorize and process the merchant sales.
  • Tape authorizations: Obtained through a personal computer or a terminal. Works in the same manner as a terminal authorization.
  • Tape ECR (Electronic Cash Register): Works in the same manner as a terminal authorization.

Response codes

Approved. Normally followed by a 2 to 6 digit code.
Declined. If you receive this response you should never accept the card. Request another form of payment. If you receive an authorization from an alternate source, such as the issuing bank, after receiving a decline message through the terminal or VRU, you may be subject to chargebacks and cancellation of your sales agreement.
If a foreign card gets a referral message, the authorization center should contact the issuing bank for further information. Due to the time differences to reach these countries, it may take up to two business days to get an authorization response. An authorization representative will contact you with the response when it's received. Wait before processing the transaction — or providing the customer with the merchandise. If the response is a referral response or an authorization by phone, the authorization/transaction must be force entered.
Referral. This response indicates the card issuer is requesting direct contact with the business in order to authorize the sale. Contact the Wells Fargo Merchant Services authorization center for Visa®, MasterCard®, and Discover® Network. For American Express, contact the appropriate authorization center.
Hold card/Call center. Indicates that the card issuer is requesting the card be removed from circulation. Never accept the credit card for payment when this response is received.
Call center. This response indicates the card issuer is requesting direct contact with the business in order to authorize the sale. Contact the Wells Fargo Merchant Services authorization center for Visa®, MasterCard®, and Discover® Network. For American Express, contact the appropriate authorization center.
Invalid account number. The cardholder account number entered was incorrect. If you manually entered the card number, verify the account number was keyed correctly.
Invalid merchant number. The network does not recognize the merchant account number. Make sure the account is still in an Active/Open Status. Please verify the account number was keyed correctly. Under certain circumstances, the account may need to be reopened by a Wells Fargo relationship manager. If this happens, an "Okay to Force" will need to be sent to the Wells Fargo Customer Service authorization center, which will allow you to obtain a voice-authorized transaction until the account is re-activated.
Pick up card. This indicates the card issuer wants the card out of circulation. Normally the response indicates a lost or stolen card. Complete a Card Pick Up Form or call Wells Fargo Customer Service to obtain a Card Pick Up form. Complete the form and return to the address on the bottom of the form.
Waiting for line. Indicates that the phone lines are currently busy. The terminal will connect with the next available line.
Unable to connect. Indicates there is a problem with the equipment or the network. Contact the Terminal Help Desk.
Code 10 operator. If a transaction is suspicious or appears to be fraudulent, contact the Wells Fargo authorization center and request a Code 10 Operator. A Code 10 Operator will make an outbound call to the issuing bank of the credit card. The issuing bank may request to speak directly with the cardholder for verification of information on their account.