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Wannabe Geek

# 127083 29-Jul-2013 15:22
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As a reasonably regular online purchaser from US stores, this issue is becoming frustrating. I’d be interested in other people’s experiences with US billing address verification. There’s a longer explanation below but specifically:

- what cards have no billing address associated with them: prezzy cards, travel cards, virtual cards?
- will a card verify if you give a US billing address that starts and ends the same as your NZ address (and do you need a five digit postcode on your NZ billing address)?
- what NZ cards can have a secondary billing address entered for them?
- experiences with US credit card types, like Entropay or US Unlocked, preferably ones that don’t have huge fees?

US Shipping Address

First I thought I’d comment on US shipping address, which isn’t directly related but is relevant. This is common for some products, i.e. the online merchant will only ship to a US address. And even if they will ship direct, their standard rates are usually expensive couriers. So the usual terms of free shipping within the US work well if you use a freight forwarder, plus you can access the options of parcel consolidation and cheap (slow) postage/freight. A few online merchants know these addresses and won’t send to them, but many of the freight forwarders have multiple options so this isn’t usually a problem. An added bonus is being able to choose a state like Nevada or Oregon that doesn’t have local sales tax, as adding this is becoming more prevalent.
So you have all this set up and working well when the issue of a US billing address comes up. Sometimes your card is blocked immediately, or you might get a message a few days later to say your order has been cancelled. Annoying if the charge on your debit card is “pending” so that money is tied up until the pending charge is actually removed. This issue seems to be happening more and more with online purchases as a result of AVS being used to fight online fraud.

Address Verification Services (AVS) (thanks Google!)

AVS for credit and debit cards allow merchants to check the submitted billing address in order to see if it is on file with the issuing bank, usually as part of a merchant’s request for authorization. It is supported in the United States, Canada and the UK, for Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Card, and is only available from banks. To make the system work with human-supplied information that has spelling inconsistencies, etc., only the first four to five digits of the address and the zip code are verified. Example: for Mr John Doe, 1234 USA Street, Realtown, ST 56789, “1234” and “56789” would be checked. Even with this the hit rate may not be high (maybe between 40-80%?) due to apartment numbers being in the address, mistakes, and importantly, cards that don’t have a billing address linked to them.

If a merchant only takes orders that are a full match on AVS they would lose sales, so it is up to them how fussy they are going to be, e.g. accepting a partial match or a card with no billing address. This explains a lot of the inconsistency between merchants, payment methods at the same merchant, and even how you fill in the form (for example did you need to supply a valid US phone number as well). Lack of a match might not even be a good indicator of fraud, and who knows why a US billing address is more ‘trustworthy’ than a NZ billing address. But I suppose the reasoning is that it’s better than relying on the security code.

The merchant will have a set of rules in place, for example reject if any of the following are true: AVS information not available, postcode doesn’t match, card security code not available, card security code doesn’t match. In this example they will allow the transaction even if the street number doesn’t match, because in the US streets often have numbers, so No.12 64th Street will get confused with No. 126 4th Street.

So where does this leave you?

If your online merchant will not accept a card without a billing address (like a pressy card or a virtual credit card?), and really wants to see a card that will verify to a US billing address, then you have a problem. Generally speaking only banks issue debit and credit cards and they will have an address on file for you. So having a US billing address entered for a card, such as your freight forward address, would almost certainly mean a secondary address.

Correct me if wrong but generally I don’t think you can avoid this by having for example a PayPal account, as the card linked to the account will still show it’s NZ billing address. Then you will get a message that the card can’t be verified, or that you have a non-US PayPal account. Also I suspect that with options like OneSmart, you will get a similar result if your card is linked through to another credit card for rewards.

I know there are other options like using a personal shopper, or getting a specific US credit card, but apart from not wanting dozens of cards, these all seem to have significant fees attached, either annual fees or transaction fees.

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Uber Geek

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  # 868026 29-Jul-2013 18:53
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I regularly use my ASB Visa card and OneSmart card.  Always put in my NZ address, have never had any issues on any sites I purchase from.

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Uber Geek

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  # 868036 29-Jul-2013 19:27
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Bestbuy and Google Play store are the two biggies I have come across that cancel transactions. They use AVS. I haven't found a solution.

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