February 27, 2014, 10:20 AM

At a time when many shoppers have new credit cards, a new tool helps retailers keep up

Braintree’s automatic updater checks for new card information, helping retailers process more orders with fewer errors and delays in the wake of massive data breaches that are causing thousands of credit cards to be reissued, Braintree says.

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Customers move, criminals steal purses and data, and all credit cards eventually expire. Rather than requesting shoppers update their payment information after a transaction fails to process—or comes back marked as fraud—a new technology from Braintree Payment Solutions LLC automatically checks that the retailer has the most recent and accurate customer credit card numbers, expiration dates, account status and related payments information. Called Account Updater, the tool launched today and is free for existing Braintree customers to use, the payments vendor says.

Bombfell Inc., a subscription retailer of men’s clothing, has been testing Account Updater for about a month, says co-founder Bernard Yoo. In that time, the retailer has noticed an uptick in the number of its customers with cancelled cards, likely as a result of the recent data breaches at Target Corp. and The Neiman Marcus Group Inc., he says. “Knowing that we can quickly get their accounts updated without bothering them is a big advantage to maintaining a quality service,” he says.

Braintree has integrated its payments service with “nearly every major bank in the U.S. and around the world,” a spokesman for the company says. Account Updater runs in the background and checks daily to see whether credit cards are still valid or close to expiring. If necessary, the technology automatically pulls changes to that information from the bank that issued the card and updates the customer’s account saved with the merchant.

“Merchants never touch raw credit card data,” the spokesman says. “Braintree is Level-1 PCI compliant so all credit card information comes directly to us, making it much more secure than if the merchant were to do it on their own.” Level-1 PCI compliance refers following the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards—a set of rules created by payment card networks to protect cardholder data—for merchants that process 6 million or more credit card transactions annually. That’s the top tier in the PCI system, and imposes the strictest security requirements on retailers.

Account Updater so far has updated about 5% of Bombfell’s customers’ payment information, Yoo says. “Additionally, we were able to successfully charge  about 25% of ‘bad debt’ owed from customers for clothing we had sent that we hadn't been able to charge for previously,” because Bombfell ended up with the proper credit card information to push the transactions through, he says.

“Even if you have a relatively small percentage of users with invalid payment methods, it’s worth it” to set up Account Updater, Yoo says. “It takes less than an hour of development time.”

PayPal, the online payments company owned by eBay Inc., acquired Braintree last year for $800 million.

Two retailers in the 2013 Top 500 Guide and three in the Second 500 report Braintree as one of their payments providers. 80 retailers in the Top 500 and 126 in the Second 500 offer PayPal.

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