Chargebacks – What They Are and How to Avoid Them in your Campground

Credit Card Chargebacks for Campgrounds

If you accept credit cards at your campground (hint:  you should!), then you’ve probably heard of chargebacks already. Hopefully they’re a rare occurrence for you.  There are several reasons why you’ll want to keep them that way. In this article, we’ll review what chargebacks are, why they’re bad news and what you can do to limit them.

First things first: A chargeback is when a transaction made via a credit card is reversed, returning the funds to the buyer. They usually happen when a guest at your RV park disputes a charge with their bank or credit card company. This may be because the guest was unhappy with the quality of their stay, or because the booking was made without their permission.

Chargebacks exist for a good reason, but that doesn’t mean the system is perfect. A guest, for example, might mistakenly initiate a chargeback on a campground booking made by their spouse, or in rare instances might opt to recoup their money through a chargeback because they simply don’t want to pay!

When you’re subject to a chargeback as a campground owner, you don’t have much in the way of recourse — unless you’re willing to pour a lot of time and money into fighting the claim. On top of that, some payment processors will charge you a fine for each chargeback you receive, and may end their relationship with you if you encounter a high number of chargebacks.

While this may all sound quite worrying, there’s no need to panic. There are several simple things you can do to keep your chargeback ratio low, and your guests happy at the same time!

1. Great Customer Service

If you’re able to resolve any issues your guests have in-house, the chance that they’ll resort to their bank or credit card provider is minimized. Take all complaints seriously, and be willing to offer a refund if a guest is really unhappy.

Make sure you’re easy to contact, too — have a phone number and email address displayed prominently on your campground’s website, on any check-in information you give to guests and on any promotional materials.

2. Be Recognizable

Guests will often dispute charges when they see a name or description they don’t recognize on their credit card statement. You can cut down on chargebacks by calling up your payment processor and changing your descriptor to something immediately recognizable. Try to be specific, and include a reminder of what you do. A descriptor like “TwoTreesLLC” could be anything from a boutique shop to a leisure complex, but “TwoTreesCamping” will immediately remind a guest of the camping trip they recently took.  Always try to include the name of your campground in the descriptor, as well as something that says “campground” or “RV park.”

You may take payments in several different places within your RV park. If this is the case, make sure to update the descriptors for all of your different payment terminals. Having a clear, recognizable descriptor for any charges made through your main office will do you little good if your guests initiate chargebacks on purchases made in your shop or snack bar!  I have seen many cases where the front desk descriptor was great, but the snack bar would show up as “Random Name, LLC” that would have nothing to do with the name of the campground.

If you can include your location or even a contact phone number in your descriptor, all the better. You might even consider going a step further — as one company did — and incorporating the URL of your campground’s website, so guests can look you up and be reminded of where they spent that money.

3. Be on the Lookout for Fraud

For the most part you’ll be taking money for bookings at your RV park, and so direct theft isn’t something you have to worry too much about. Nonetheless, it’s still important to keep an eye out for fraud. If you take payment from a guest who is using a stolen credit card, the charge could later be subject to a chargeback, costing you money!

If you take payments on-site you may already request ID as part of the check-in process. If so, train your staff to check the name on the guest’s ID against the name on the credit card supplied to ensure they both match. When taking bookings over the phone, train your staff to ask for the CVV (Card Verification Value), which fraudsters often won’t have immediately on hand.


The occasional chargeback is a normal (but frustrating) part of running a campground — indeed, during the busy season you might even see an increase in the number of chargebacks as your overall volume of bookings increases. Take the steps above, however, and you should be able to keep your ratio under control, and avoid getting into hot water with your payment processor.

At Campground Accounting, we specialize in working with Campground and RV Park owners throughout the USA.  Our industry knowledge is focused on taking the headaches out of accounting and helping you grow your campground’s value.  Don’t you owe it to yourself to see how we can help you?  Schedule a complimentary chat with us today

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