Recently I sent several credit card payments online. The company that charged my card is a multi-billion dollar company, so not just a small start-up. However on the statements the charges appeared as a bunch of random letters and numbers for the description and location. All other merchants that have ever charged this card appear correctly on the bill.

Since I make probably 30-50 transactions on my card each month, I had no idea who these charges were from, so I disputed them with my card issuing bank and reported the card as stolen. After the company received the dispute, they contacted me and are basically blaming me for not having matched up the amount charged with what my bill from them was.

So my question is, is there any sort of regulation (e.g. PCI) or law that says that a merchant must attempt to properly identify themself when charging their clients' credit cards?


I think some people were a bit confused about this question thinking that the charge shows up with the name of an umbrella corporation, or third party, but it is literally a bunch of random characters. Here's a screenshot of the bill:

Random charge

The third column is the "description" (where the company name usually goes) and the fourth column is the "location". Only one company shows up like this when they make charges to the card.

  • 2
    Do you keep your receipts? You should be checking your statement with your receipts.
    – user9822
    Mar 21, 2015 at 19:58
  • Good idea, @MarkDoony. In an ideal world, this is what I should have done.
    – Mike
    Mar 21, 2015 at 20:01
  • They have to identify themselves as a "something" but not necessarily what matches the name on your receipt. That's why you should cross check the dates/amounts because when they report the charge under the umbrella corporation or old business name or whatnot, it may not necessarily match. Mar 22, 2015 at 4:40
  • @GµårÐïåñ In this case they didn't even identify themselves as "something". If it were at least an umbrella corporation that would be understandable, but this was literally a string of random numbers and letters that appeared on my statement.
    – Mike
    Mar 23, 2015 at 3:49
  • 6
    @MarkDoony I thank you for your comments, but you've deviated completely from the point of the question. I wasn't asking how I can identify charges on my credit card statements when I don't recognize the company. I should have kept a record of all of the charges, yes, but I didn't. End of story. I'm not complaining about that or even wishing that I had kept record. Call me lazy if you wish, but my question specifically asked if there were any sort of regulations that a merchant must follow when making a charge.
    – Mike
    Mar 23, 2015 at 3:50

3 Answers 3


Here's an excerpt from VISA's Card Acceptance Guidelines for Visa Merchants (PDF)

Merchant Name

The merchant name is the single most important factor in cardholder recognition of transactions. Therefore, it is critical that the merchant name, while reflecting the merchant’s “Doing Business As” (DBA) name, also be clearly identifiable to the cardholder. This can minimize copy requests resulting from unrecognizable merchant descriptors.

Merchant applications typically list the merchant name as the merchant DBA. This may differ from the legal name (which can represent the corporate owner or parent company), and may differ from the owner’s name which, for sole proprietorships, may reflect the business owner.

  • Keep in mind that the purpose of the merchant name is to identify the merchant to the cardholder.
  • Work with your acquirer to ensure your name is clear and discernible to cardholders when they read their statement.
  • To verify that you are using the merchant name that is most recognizable to the cardholder, compare the merchant name that you want to use to: * Signage in the site photo * Advertisements or brochures, and/or * A telephone directory listing

I think that the key statement above is "Therefore, it is critical that the merchant name [...] be clearly identifiable to the cardholder." Since this merchant was not clearly identifiable to the cardholder, they are in breach of a critical point in these guidelines.

This is from VISA, but I would assume that all other major credit cards would have similar guidelines for their merchants. However keep in mind that these are "guidelines", and not (necessarily) rules.

  • 1
    Note, however, that when the transaction flows thru a third party such as Paypal, this only requires that Paypal be recognizable; the clarity of their vendor suffix is up to them. Also note that a charge may legitimately flow thru a different business name than the one the customer expects -- corporate parent, for example. If in doubt keep records; if still in doubt phone the vendor and check who they are; if still in doubt after that work with the card issuer to identify the transaction.
    – keshlam
    Mar 22, 2015 at 0:01
  • @keshlam as I mentioned in the question, this was literally a random string of numbers and letters that appeared on the statement. Even my credit card issuing bank could not recognize who made the charge when I asked them who made it.
    – Mike
    Mar 23, 2015 at 3:53

In some case the customer wants the name to be cryptic or misleading. They don't want to advertise the true nature of the business they visited.

In other cases the transaction may be reported through another business. A few years ago the local PTA was having a silent auction as a fundraiser. A local business allowed the PTA to use their credit card reader to process transactions over a certain amount. Of course when the credit card statement arrived it looked like you spent $500 at the florist.

I have seen PayPal listed when donating to some small charities.

I have noted another case where confusion can occur. I used a debit card to buy a soda from a vending machine: the name and location were the name of the vending machine company and the location of their main office. It didn't say soda machine city A. It said Joe's vending company city B.

In most cases the business and the credit card company want to make it easy to identify the transactions to keep the cost of research and charge backs to a minimum.

  • 2
    Cryptic is one thing, but random characters just makes the transaction more suspicious. Oct 12, 2018 at 3:55

Obviously, the credit card's administators know who this charge was submitted by. Contact them, tell them that you don't recognize the charge, and ask them to tell you who it was from. If they can't or won't, tell them you suspect fraud and want it charged back, then wait to see who contacts you to complain that the payment was cancelled.

Note that you should charge back any charge you firmly believe is an error, if attempts to resolve it with the company aren't working. Also note that if you really ghink this is fraud, you should contact your bank and ask them to issue a new card number.

Standard procedures exist. Use them when appropriate.

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