Credit Card Account Updaters: How They Work and How to Use Them

Between expirations, customer upgrades, data leaks, and fraud detection, credit card data can change at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, this data is a key factor in authorizing credit card transactions. If you don’t have the latest data in your system, the transaction will fail, forcing you to reach out to the customer directly and ask them for updated information.

A better solution to this issue is to use a credit card account updater. Here’s how account updaters work and how to use them in your business.

What Is a Credit Card Account Updater?

A credit card account updater is a type of program that automatically updates cardholders’ card data. These updates usually take place as soon as a cardholder’s personal information changes or expires. All four major credit card companies in the United States (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover) offer some variation of this service to their customers.

How Does an Account Updater Work?

An account updater service will record any changes made to credit card expiration dates or account numbers. These changes can happen for a variety of reasons, such as:

• Card brand updates

• Card upgrades

• Re-issued cards

• Account closures

• Mergers

Once it records the change, an account updater will implement a series of methods to analyze the card data in its subscriber database. These methods include:

• Requesting information on declined credit cards

• Requesting information on a card’s next billing installment

• Checking any credit cards processed in the past six months

Benefits of Account Updater Services

Account updater services can be of big help to merchants who store credit card information or offer recurring payments. Whether they involve routine services or subscriptions, recurring payments require credit card data to be kept on file. By having all credit card data automatically updated, merchants can ensure their invoices are paid on time, every time.

Brands That Provide Automatic Card Updates

Out of the four major U.S. card brands, only Discover and American Express allow merchants to subscribe to their account updater services directly. With Visa and Mastercard, you’ll need to subscribe to this service via your issuer, acquirer. or payment processor.


Visa offers the Visa Account Updater (VAU) service that updates cardholders’ account information as soon as it changes. Qualified merchants can enroll in VAU via a participating acquirer. Visa’s VAU program usually responds within two business days.


Mastercard’s Automatic Billing Updater (ABU) gives access to updated card information to merchants, acquirers, and service providers. Through the ABU, a merchant can either request information for a specific account or select automatic notifications for all accounts on file.

American Express

American Express has a Cardrefresher program that ensures that on-file credit cards and recurring billing systems always have current information. With Cardrefresher, you have the option to receive card updates via a payment processor, vendor, or AMEX directly.


You can enroll in Discover’s Global Network Account Updater through a Discover relationship manager. Once enrolled, you’ll need to inquire for updates on all stored Discover card data.

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