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A guide to Magento orphan transactions

Home / Blog / A guide to Magento orphan transactions

Written by Giles Bennett

If you or your clients are running a Magento store that accepts card payments in the UK, chances are high that Sagepay is being used as the payment gateway, and if so, chances are higher still that the (excellent) free Ebizmarts module is being used to manage integration between Sagepay and Magento.

If that's the case, then the warning notice above may well be familiar from the Magento admin panel. A large percentage of sites we visit will show this banner on logging in, and most of the time, the Orphan Transactions List will be a long list of historical transactions that store managers can see, but don't really know what it is, what to do with it, whether it's safe to delete it, or how to make the notice go away. They definitely won't know that it's a potentially lucrative source of revenue.

The orphaned transaction comes about because of the way in which the order and payment processes work. With Sagepay a transaction is created in Magento when the customer clicks the 'place order' button - when the payment process finishes (when they've put in their 3D secure code, for example) then the order is created, and the transaction is married up to it. Orphan transactions, as their name implies, are transactions which haven't been married up to a corresponding order.

They can exist for a number of reasons, and not all are indicative of a problem at your end. If the customer's card is declined as being invalid, or not authorised by their bank, then the Orphan Transactions list will show a status of 'ERROR : INVALID' or 'NOTAUTHED' accordingly - that's not a fault with the store itself.

Sometimes, however, it can be because of a hiccup either on the store's end, or in the transition between the store and the payment gateway - customers can occasionally report being left with a blank screen when they would normally expect payment information or 3D secure boxes to pop up.

Whether or not the problem is at your end or the customer's, the presence of the Orphan Transaction gives you a chance to rescue the situation and make the sale. It includes the customer's contact information, and the logs (if enabled) will include full details of the attempted transaction, including what they were looking to buy, their billing and delivery details - everything you need, apart from payment, to make the sale.

With a single phone call the store owner will often find that the customer still wants to proceed with the transaction, and will be grateful for them for getting in touch, even though it's possible that the hiccup was down to the store owner's website in the first place!

Of course, this approach only works if you strike whilst the iron is hot - if store owners never clear out their orphan transactions list (which they can do for old transactions with impunity) then they'll never know when a new one is created, and will never be able to act accordingly.

But if they take care of the orphan transactions, review them when they're created, act on them (if action is appropriate) and delete them when they've been dealt with, then they're sure to find themselves rewarded.

We'll be happy to advise further on how to retrieve the full order information - just get in touch.

Author : Giles Bennett

About the author

Giles Bennett built his first website in 1996, and is old enough to miss Netscape Navigator. Initially a lawyer, he jumped ship to IT in 2008, and after 5 years as a freelancer, he founded HummingbirdUK in 2013. He can be reached by email at