How to Avoid Refunds (But Still Get Paid) with Acuity Scheduling

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Requiring a Valid Credit Card and Taking Payment After Services

As you begin to dive into your payment settings for your appointment types in Acuity, you might wonder what the subtext is here. Why does your payment workflow matter? Let’s explore this question from a business logistics perspective.


Why wouldn’t I want to get paid in advance?

There is a built-in payment setting option in Acuity that many types of businesses might want to consider using: “Require a valid credit card, but don’t charge.”

The #1 reason why this feature benefits us and so many of our clients is that it allows for those occasional last-minute adjustments without having to refund our clients each time something goes differently than expected.

What’s wrong with the occasional refund?

Well, aside from the fact that it takes extra time, the short answer is: 1. It costs you money in the form of non-refundable processing fees, and 2. It can get your merchant account flagged by your payment processor, which can in some cases result in having your account suspended or your rates increased. So, it is in your best interest to avoid situations that necessitate issuing refunds!

That’s why LightPress switched over to using the “Require a Valid Credit Card, but Don’t Charge” feature, and why I often try to convince my Acuity Scheduling clients to use it, too.

Why should I lower the stakes for my clients to choose my services?

Keeping in mind that we want to avoid refunding payments, let’s take a look at a real-world example of what kinds of perfectly normal business operations could get you in a bind if you take payment for your services up front.

From a business perspective, it is a really good idea to try to find some kind of paid service that you feel confident offering before ever speaking to a new client. That’s because if someone shows up on your website with a credit card in hand, very eager to get started working with you ASAP, providing a product or service that allows them to jump in right now, today, ensures that you don’t lose them.

Plus, you’ll basically be getting paid to do the “interview” that many clients prefer to have before they sign up for larger service packages.

Rewarding your website visitors for their motivation and readiness increases your chances of winning new clients who would have just floated on to your competitor.

For instance, if you’re a dog-walker who also has some animal behavior expertise, you might want to harness the nifty Zoom integration with Acuity to offer a remote “Ask Me Anything” session that people can schedule right on your website. You might be surprised how many takers you’ll have if the low-commitment “trip wire” service you provide costs less than $200 or so.

Plus, if you offer this service remotely, you can complete it in the comfort of your pajamas. What’s not to love about that?

For our business, the relatively low-cost products we offer directly on our site are ones that we feel confident marketing to just about anyone: our 1-Hour Initial Website Workshop session (for Squarespace website design help) and my 1-Hour Cram Session (for Acuity setup assistance).

Having these miniature service packages available for direct scheduling on our website works out really well for us–we probably get at least ten new clients each month through these channels. Many of them go on to become more long-term clients, and the ones who don’t are generally thrilled that they were able to get the little bit of help they needed quickly, with no hassle.

Avoiding refunds when things get complicated

…However, occasionally someone schedules on the wrong calendar, or they aren’t qualified for the service for whatever reason, and we don’t realize it until we actually get on the call. And that’s fine–things happen! But we don’t want to be in a position of needing to refund these people, so it’s very handy that we haven’t allowed them to pre-pay. All we have to do is cancel the appointment and move on with our lives.

On the other hand, in the majority of cases where everything worked out great, the fact that we have already captured the client’s credit card information makes it very quick and easy to charge at the end of the session. It takes just a few clicks from the admin side in Acuity to simply charge the card on file once the session is complete, and many clients actually appreciate that they get a chance to approve this charge after service has been provided to them.

How else does this setting help me get paid?

Two words: cancellation policy. If you don’t have one yet, you probably need one, and you should include it as a Terms & Conditions agreement in your intake forms area in Acuity.

So for instance, let’s say your cancellation policy indicates that you will charge 50% of the appointment’s cost at the time of the missed appointment if the client fails to cancel or reschedule less than 48 hours in advance. This is a pretty typical agreement term, and you can back up your policy using the calendar settings in Acuity to set a deadline for changes.

If you have a no-show or a late cancellation, and the client has both entered a credit card and signed off on this agreement during the scheduling process, then you are within your rights to charge the 50% fee. Just click Make a Payment from the admin side of the appointment per usual, and adjust the total according to your policy.

Can I do this with any of the payment processors that Acuity integrates with?

Unfortunately, no. You can only do this with Stripe, Square, and Braintree. Even if Paypal is only one of the payment methods you offer in addition to another processor, this option will become unavailable to you.

That’s one reason why we only use Stripe. If you believe that the benefits to your business of accepting PayPal or Authorize.net are significant enough to outweigh other considerations, then you won’t be able to use this handy feature. Womp womp.


Thanks for reading! If you think of anything else I should add to this post, please shoot me a message.

You might also want to check out our other posts about Acuity Scheduling.

If you need more personalized help, feel free to find a time to work together with me on a live Zoom call.

With Love and Pixel Glitter,
Cooper