Mismatched Totals or Out of Balance – How To Fix

You’re tired, it’s late and you want to go home.  After an exhausting day you have just one task to complete on the Point of Sale terminal and that is your end of day settlement.   Usually it is a two minute task but tonight when you go through the normal procedure the terminal is telling you that your sales are out of balance and ‘do you wish to continue’ with the settlement.

The answer is “yes”, complete it and if you’re tired deal with the out of balance tomorrow?

At this point you may be asking why wait until tomorrow and our response is simple:

You’re tired, go home and get some rest. Every reputable POS company has a reporting system that you can view online the following morning.  You never “lose” money per se. In almost all instances the out of balance will probably have something to do with a communication error resulting in a cardholder being charged twice and this can be resolved easily.

POS systems and/or networks are not infallible, somewhere down the line there will be a failure of some sort and Out of Balance would be the most prevalent.  There are basically only two reasons why a terminal will show you a mismatched total.

1.  You attempted a transaction and received a communication error such as “Timed Out” or “Comm Error”. You then proceeded to re-swipe the customers card and complete the transaction.  Occasionally, what will happen is that the host will approve a transaction and during the last leg of approval back to the terminal the transaction will cut off, i.e. disband thus the Comm error.  This can happen because someone picked up the phone or perhaps you have not disabled call waiting and someone called while the transaction was being processed.  Either way, the transaction was completed at the Host level but not at the Terminal level and the result will be the cardholder being charged twice although the terminal only has it once.  Ergo, your end of day will be out of balance.

2.   The second reason is similar to the first but in reverse. The card itself is only swiped once and it is approved at the Terminal level but this time the last leg of the transaction has gone back to the Host side and a communication occurs.  The terminal says approved because the Host has sent an approval yet it is waiting for the terminal to send a message saying that Yes it has received the approval.  If the Host network does not receive this message, the transaction will be  “reversed”. When this occurs, the merchant is required to fax a copy of the transaction (not the transaction list) to the POS provider.  Since the funds for the transaction would have been returned to the cardholder, the POS provider will request that the funds be sent to the merchant account.  This process can take between five and ten days.

In brief,  funds are never irretrievable and although the extra time needed to resolve an out of balance can be frustrating, it does not have to be.  Check your online reports daily and feel safe that you will never lose money.

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Matthew Hunt has been helping small businesses get set-up with Canadian Merchant Account Services since 2007 and helped 1000's do so. Join Matthew on Google+.

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