The banking industry has always had a reputation for being complex and technical. And unless you work in the industry – or you have a keen interest in it – conversations about finance can sound like another language.
There are so many abbreviations and acronyms that it can be tempting to tune out. But there are some banking and payment terms we should all be familiar with. After all, money plays a huge part in daily life – from bank account interest rates to the cost of your weekly supermarket shop.
In this article, we’re going to focus on “ARN”, which is an abbreviation you may have come across while shopping. We’ll explain what it stands for, what it is, and why it could be important for you to know about. We’ll also provide a glossary of some other payment abbreviations.
What does ARN number stand for in banking?
ARN is an abbreviation for “Acquirer Reference Number”, which is a unique number given to every single online debit or credit card transaction when it goes to and from a merchant’s bank (acquiring bank) and a cardholder’s bank.
This ARN is always shared with both the merchant and the banks involved in the transaction, but in some cases, it will also be significant to the customer.
Read on to find out more about ARNs and how they might be relevant to you.
What are ARNs used for?
ARNs are assigned to debit and credit card transactions to make them traceable.
Sometimes errors can occur between banks and merchant accounts, but by assigning these unique digits to every credit and debit card transaction, helpful information can be found. They’re also used to track refunded transactions on items that have been bought online.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a rise in online shopping – which also means a rise in fraud and unauthorised transactions. ARNs are useful for tracing these unauthorised transactions and stopping fraudulent payments being processed, as they allow merchants to follow the transaction process until any payment is securely in a bank.
As well as for credit and debit card transactions, ARNs are used for:
- Electronic funds
- Transfer of funds
- Partial settlements
Why would an ARN number be relevant to me?
The main reason why you would need to know an ARN is if you’re trying to track a refund for an online payment you’ve made with a debit or credit card.
Usually, the merchant will be able to send the payment amount back to you quickly on the card you used to make the initial transaction. However in some cases, this can take time, so you may want an update to know how much longer you can expect to wait before you receive your refund.
With an ARN number, you can track your payment to see what stage it’s at in the refund process or find out whether it’s gone missing.
Both your bank and the merchant’s bank have access to the ARN, so you can either track the refund yourself or the merchant will be able to update you.
This unique number plays a significant role in the trust and security of online card payments. Providing peace of mind for the customer and the merchant, it allows you both to track the transaction until it lands safely in the relevant bank account.
How do you find an ARN number?
You may need to know an ARN because you’re chasing a refund for an online transaction. If so, you should contact your bank or the website or app you made the purchase with, and they will be able to give it to you.
In order for the bank or merchant to find your ARN number as quickly as possible, make sure you give as much information as you can about the refund, including:
- Your order number
- The refund amount
- The payment method
- The date of the refund
Merchants who have had an ARN request from a customer should either contact their bank or, if they use a payment processor, they may be able to find the ARN number associated with a transaction on their dashboard.
Once they’ve located it, it will be showing one of the statuses shown here below, depending on where it is in the refund process. They will then be able to update you accordingly or give you the number so you can deal with your bank instead. These statuses are:
- ARN is processing – This is the default status when a refund is created. It means the refund has been started, but hasn’t finished processing.
- ARN is available – The ARN will display within the refund.
- ARN is unavailable – This is what will show if, for example, the refund is created before the bank has processed the initial charge. In this case, the payment processor will usually reverse the authorisation and drop the charge, meaning it will disappear from the cardholder’s bank account statement, and there is no need for an ARN.
Is there any other way to trace a credit card transaction?
Card transactions can also be traced using a System Trace Audit Number (STAN). This is a six-digit code that’s usually generated internally at the cardholder’s bank in order to identify a transaction.
In most cases, it’s recommended you use an ARN rather than a STAN. This is because ARNs are 11-digit codes, meaning they’re truly unique, and are therefore more traceable than six-figured STANs, as the code resets after 999,999.
What are some other abbreviations relating to payments?
Payment abbreviation glossary
3DS: This stands for 3D Secure, which is an added layer of security provided by certain banks for online credit and debit card transactions. It requires customers to take another step in the authentication process when making online purchases.
ACH: This stands for Automated Clearing House, which is a network for processing online transactions between American banks.
ACS: This stands for Access Control Server. It’s the server that banks need to deploy so they can receive 3DS messages, process them and authenticate the card user.
APM: This stands for Alternative Payment Method. It relates to any electronic payment that’s not made using a debit or credit card, such as prepaid cards, e-vouchers, mobile payments or cryptocurrencies.
AVS: This stands for Address Verification System, which is a fraud protection measure. It checks whether a customer’s billing address matches the one the card-issuing bank has on file.
BACS: This stands for Bankers Automated Clearing Services. A BACS payment is a transfer of funds from one bank to another and is one of the most common types of bank-to-bank transfers in the UK.
BIN: This stands for Bank Identification Number. It’s the first four or six digits of a credit or debit card number and is also known as an Issuer Identification Number (IIN).
CNP: This stands for Card Not Present. A CNP transaction is a remote purchase made over the internet, phone, mail or fax, without a merchant seeing a card.
CVV: This stands for Card Verification Value. It’s the three or four-digit number found on the back of a card’s security strip. Another fraud protection measure, customers are often asked for it when making payments over the phone, as it helps verify that they actually hold the credit or debit card.
EDC: This stands for Electronic Draft Capture. It’s a system that allows merchants to capture and transmit transaction data for debit and credit card processing.
EFT: This stands for Electronic Funds Transfer, which is the electronic transfer of funds between two bank accounts without requiring the intervention of bank staff.
FX: This stands for Foreign Exchange, which is the conversion of one currency into another and also refers to the global trading market, whereby currencies are continually exchanged virtually.
HCE: This stands for Host Card Emulation, which is software that allows a mobile device to make a payment on an NFC-enabled device without needing a security measure.
IBAN: This stands for International Bank Account Number. It’s an internationally-recognised number that’s used to identify individual accounts, so payments between international banks can be made quickly and easily.
NFC: This stands for Near Field Communication, which is a method of data transfer that enables contactless payments. NFC chips are stored inside credit and debit cards, smartphones, and wearable devices, such as smartwatches.
PCI DSS: This stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It’s a set of requirements that apply to any business that transmits, processes, or stores credit cards. If card associations find that a merchant isn’t compliant, they can prevent them from accepting card payments and may issue penalties.
SSL: This stands for Secure Socket Layer, which is a system for encrypting online data like passwords or e-commerce transactions. SSL enables server and client computers to exchange public keys, so they can encode and decode their communication.
SWIFT: This stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. SWIFT oversees international payment transfers and serves more than 200 countries and territories. A SWIFT code is used to identify an individual bank.
ARN stands for Acquirer Reference Number. This is a unique number given to every single debit or credit card transaction when it goes to and from a merchant’s bank and a cardholder’s bank.
This ARN is shared with both the merchant and the banks involved in the transaction, but in some cases, it will be significant to the customer too.
ARNs are assigned to debit and credit card transactions to make them traceable, in case there’s an error or a customer wants to track a refund. They’re also useful for tracing unauthorised transactions and stopping fraudulent payments from being processed.
If you’re trying to trace a refund for an online payment you’ve made with a debit or credit card, you can track your payment to see what stage it’s at in the refund process or find out whether it’s gone missing.
Both your bank and the merchant’s bank have access to the ARN, so you can contact either one to get it, depending on whether you want to track the refund yourself or you’re happy to receive an update from the merchant.
You can also trace a card transaction using a System Trace Audit Number (STAN). However, in most cases, it’s recommended you use an ARN because they’re longer, which means they’re truly unique.
Some of the other payment abbreviations you might not know include 3DS, which stands for 3D Secure, EFT, which stands for Electronic funds transfer and SSL, which stands for Secure Socket Layer.