When shopping in person, retail stores often allow you to use two different cards to pay for purchases. However, it’s a different story when online shopping, for a few reasons.
You’re shopping online and find the perfect wedding gift for your friends, and it’s on sale. You quickly click it into the shopping cart.
Since your credit card balance has grown uncomfortably high, you decide to split the payment between that card and the debit card from your bank, where the balance is uncomfortably low. Seems like a good solution, right? Probably not.
For the most part, though retailers permit split payments in person, they don’t accept them online. This is for a few reasons: technology and verification, mostly, when the payment method is being processed.
Are split payments possible?
Most online merchants won’t allow you to split your payment. Internet stores may allow you to combine a gift card with a credit card when you make a purchase, but they rarely let customers use two credit cards, or a credit and debit card mix, to do the same. Of the 10 e-commerce retailers CreditCards.com spot-checked, we were only able to find one that did (see chart below).
“In the 17-plus years I’ve been involved with online payments, I’ve never seen a single shopping cart offer me the option to use multiple credit cards at checkout,” said Rey Pasinli, executive director at payment processing company Total-Apps, in a previous interview.
While retailers accept a growing array of payment forms, and some brick-and-mortar stores do accept multiple cards for one transaction, shoppers are hard-pressed to find online stores that will allow them to combine two or more cards for one sale. Technology, security and expense are among the probable stumbling blocks preventing e-commerce sites from supporting multiple-card payments, experts say.
Online retail giant Amazon states on its website: “You can split payment between one of the accepted credit or debit cards and an Amazon.com Gift Card, but you can’t split payment among multiple cards.” Amazon also prevents customers from splitting payment between credit cards and prepaid Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards.
While Target stores allow customers to use more than one credit card per sale — “Our checkout registers can process multiple credit cards in one transaction,” among other “multiple payment method sales,” Target states on its website that “Target.com only accepts one credit card payment per order.” However, the site does allow customers to combine a credit card with up to 10 Target gift cards for one order.
A company spokesman confirmed that Target.com doesn’t accept multiple credit cards for online transactions and does support use of a Target gift card plus a credit card but had no other comment on the subject. Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment about its split-payment policies.
Which retailer accepts split payments?
It’s difficult, but not impossible, to find U.S. e-commerce sites that allow multiple credit cards for one order. CreditCards.com did a spot-check of 10 online retailers and found only one that does allow the customer to use two credit cards for one transaction at checkout.
|Retailer||Allows split transactions online?|
|CrateandBarrel.com (and affiliated LandofNod.com)||Yes|
Source: CreditCards.com research, October 2022
Reasons why split payments aren’t commonly accepted
Gift cards don’t require the same verification that credit cards do, according to Pasinli. “The primary inhibitor is a technical issue. Merchants typically use a third-party shopping cart vendor to help facilitate the checkout process. Invariably, these shopping carts are configured to only accept a single credit card at checkout,” Pasinli said.
Pasinli said another challenge involves address verification services (AVS), an anti-fraud tool that allows merchants to see if the submitted billing address matches that on file with the card issuing bank. If a consumer uses multiple cards, each one would need to be validated by AVS. “Coding a shopping cart to dynamically do this would require some pretty sophisticated programming,” he said.
Gift cards, on the other hand, don’t require AVS or CVV (card verification value), so it’s easier for online merchants to accept them alongside a credit card, rather than multiple credit cards.
In addition, merchants anticipate that people may receive several gift cards and combine them for a large purchase, Pasinli noted. A consumer using 10 separate credit cards with $2,000 limits to buy a $20,000 Cartier watch, however, might raise suspicions, he said.
Using multiple credit cards also could complicate the repayment process for the consumer. What happens if a consumer uses three cards at checkout and later returns the item? “Which card gets the refund? As you can see, things can get extremely complicated once you start adding another variable into the checkout process,” Pasinli said.
Don Bush, the former vice president of marketing at Kount, Inc., said in a previous interview that many merchants — both online and offline — simply choose not to support split credit cards and multi-tender transactions because of the various information technology components, operations and systems required.
Many systems — tax, e-commerce, fulfillment, promotion — don’t support it, and when retailers need to involve multiple systems in a transaction, “there’s an increased chance of delay, complications and collisions that can cause headaches for both the company and the consumer,” Bush said. “All the systems have to collaborate to make sure criminals aren’t working the loopholes between systems and working with split cards can complicate this even further.
As for the practice of some retailers allowing more than one credit card for a purchase at a physical store but not online, Bush noted that in-store systems run on different platforms than online systems.
“They don’t collect as much data and can cross between gift and credit cards easier.” In a “card-not-present” environment, in other words, one used in phone or online sales, “the systems are not as easily combined and there is a big window for fraudsters to exploit,” he added.
Restrictions on merchants
Combining credit cards for one purchase also could cause problems if it allows a sale to exceed the authorization limits set by a retailer’s credit card service provider. Merchant accounts have a maximum ticket size, Pasinli explained, “so if a merchant has a $2,000 max ticket, they are prohibited from splitting a transaction using multiple cards” to circumvent that max, he said.
How to use two cards for one transaction
As noted, it’s rare to find a website that allows you to split your transaction across two credit cards, or even a credit card and a debit card.
If blogs and internet forums are any indication, some consumers have found their own ways to work around e-commerce sites’ one-credit-card-only policies, essentially by using credit cards or credit-card-company gift cards to buy retailer gift cards to make a desired online purchase.
Outside of online shopping carts, there are some industries where multiple cards might be used in a transaction, Pasinli noted. A large wedding catering bill could amount to $50,000, and since most consumer credit cards don’t have that size of a limit, the consumer might utilize five different credit cards with a $10,000 limit each, he said, adding that split payments also would be allowed for areas such as legal services, travel, timeshare, wholesale bulk orders, commercial and construction.