As a creator on Patreon, you have a number of liabilities and responsibilities to your patrons. In brief, you are responsible for refunds, benefits distribution and self-promotion. We're going to cover most of your responsibilities as a creator, but if this doesn’t cover all of them, that does not absolve you of the obligation.
In this article, we will review:
Your Patreon page is your business
What you create and share via Patreon is your product. Your community members are your customers. Your work is your product. You are not working for Patreon: rather you’re working for you. We hope to make that as easy and as profitable for you as possible.
You’re running your own business on a platform created and supported by Patreon. We want to help in any way we can and, at a high level, we can work to resolve a lot but things eventually devolve back to you.
There is no one right way to Patreon for all creators! We are happy to advise but every creator has to come up with a way to reward and charge patrons; everyone must come up with a way to share their work. For example, monthly billing and per-creation billing each function very differently. Making that choice decides how rewards will work and how your patrons will experience your services.
and our Community Guidelines
. There is no one right way to Patreon, but there are a handful of wrong ways! Our Trust and Safety Team is very communicative!
You will need a bank account to get paid. We do use three very popular payment services to get the money to you but you must have a bank account to receive the money. The different services may not work in your country or you may have heard that you can get a payout via a credit or debit card rather than a bank. For Patreon, you will need a bank.
We find that our most successful creators market their Patreon pages widely, using a full range of social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, etc.) to get the word out. The more your network knows about your Patreon page, the more they will be able to support you and tell their friends about your page as well.
Patreon will email receipts to patrons for their pledges. We will send you an annual email tallying up all earnings. If you earn more than $20,000 a year and are a US-based creator, we will send tax documents to you. Yet, as a person running a small business, you need to keep records, documents and do your own bookkeeping.
You can use the spreadsheets we provide on your dashboard and merge that info into any other format or software you wish. For example: if your accountant is asking for a list of how much you earned per month, with Patreon’s logo and snail-mail address, you can take the data from your Payouts tab and make the document.
Check this out:
In certain circumstances, we may issue a refund for a patron at our sole discretion. Any of your Patrons that contact us asking for a refund will be told the following:
- We encourage patrons to contact the creator with their refund requests since we send payments to creators' balances.
- Patreon provides a platform that allows content creators to earn a sustainable income. Each separate creator has their own approach to rewarding delivery/fulfilment, meeting goals, and how they interact with their community as a whole. While it is discouraged, it is not a violation of our terms if a creator doesn’t deliver the expected benefits.
If a patron contacts you and asks for a refund for a charge or a set of charges, your choice in the matter is very important! Please be mindful of your presence in our community of creators and patrons, as well as your obligations to fulfil your promises to your patrons. Check out our article on How do I issue a refund to a patron?
Refunds come from your creator balance, so you must have available funds to issue a refund. For most people that means between the 1st of the month (when the billing cycle begins) and the 5th of the month (when the payout cycle begins). Be mindful of this window and be sure to tell any patrons to whom you’ve promised refunds that they may have to wait until this time.
Off-line refunds are always possible: resolving a situation with a patron by sending money via PayPal or Venmo, or else using their physical address to send them a cheque or money order can lighten the stress.
Chargebacks and Fraud
These are very different and yet are two sides of the same coin. A chargeback is a dispute, filed by the cardholder with the card company or banking institution. Fraud is when a stolen card is used for a purchase.
Patreon will respond to chargebacks for you. Defending against a chargeback often involves saying “This person’s account is legit and here’s our proof” or “This person made a purchase on such a date”. Sometimes you win a chargeback. Sometimes not.
If you get a lot of chargebacks, we may reach out to you to find out why: since such things can be predicated on patron satisfaction.
A subcategory of this is called Friendly Fraud. This is when a family member (a grandchild, sibling, spouse, etc) uses the card with or without the cardholder’s permission. When the Cardholder doesn’t recognise the charge, information on the account (such as the name of the purchaser) may result in interesting family discussions, but rarely are refunds required.
Fraud is another matter. We do not defend against fraud: a card has been stolen and then money was stolen by way of that card. Our Trust and Safety team, working in tandem with Stripe’s teams, do our best to filter out these. When a card looks suspicious, any payment with that card will be blocked simply to avoid the need to make a refund in the future. It can be blocked because it looks like the cardholder is in a different country (from where the card is issued) or because it looks as if the card has been used for too many suspicious activities recently.
Our Trust and Safety team investigates accounts that are reported to check for fraud. They are also alerted by high numbers of transactions, user reports, etc. A fraud account can be blocked before the first billing cycle hits to avoid refunds. If the fraud goes unnoticed, however, by the cardholder and the various creators (they never only pledge to one), the Trust and Safety team will only find out about the fraudulent activity after the fact. In these cases, the fraud refunds will go back several months.
Sometimes fraud refunds can put your account into the negative. We do our best to avoid this situation, but it is a reality of doing business on the internet where identities and data are fluid.
Patreon will refund our portion of the purchase (the Patreon fee, any credit card fees, etc.) to the owner of the stolen credit card. The creator is obliged for their portion as well, returning it to the rightful card holder. To be clear: that money was stolen and passed along under an illegal pretence. It does not belong to the patron, nor to the creator. It belongs to the cardholder.
The funds are removed from the creator’s balance. If there are not enough funds in the account, there will be a negative balance. Patreon does not reimburse based on fraud. Your account will zero out from future pledges and then return to normal.
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What can you do to avoid fraud refunds?
While some users of stolen cards try to look very legitimate, many have a certain look or feel about them. A fraudster will often pledge high above your highest reward tier (or at least pledge into your highest tier). This makes them appear too expensive to get rid of. You find a £500 pledge or a £1,000 pledge: you'll think, “Ooooo”! Not, “Ewww”! As flattering as it may seem, they are not pledging to get you more money (even stolen money) but rather to get your creations for free. They know they will be caught, but they will take all the advantage and time they can get. It’s costing them nothing.
Their email address will seem more like gibberish than a real name (“Kevvyyy” rather than “Kevin”). When trying to guess, think, “Could I spell that over the phone to Customer Service”? Most fraud accounts never have to give out that address and so are not worried about how hard it would be to spell.
This is your account. This is online. You can block. If something feels off, you owe it to yourself to block. You may want to consider the lost income, but that shouldn’t be the first thing or last point in the discussion. If it saves you more lost income in the future, it may be wiser to block now.
If you have any questions reach out to the patron in question. Someone who is legit will be flattered that you took the time to reach out and they will be happy, honoured even, to engage you in conversation. If they never get back to you, you may want to block. If they do get back to you but seem more like a robot than a human, you may want to block anyway. You can also reach out to the Trust and Safety team directly. “I have a very large pledge” or “This appears very odd” is all you need to say. This report is anonymous. No one will know who contacted us. If Trust and Safety feel it is an illegitimate account, they will remove it.
If you block to protect yourself, please do consider reporting the account to Trust and Safety in order to protect others as well. If we end up blocking the patron then no one will get a negative balance!
When you block someone, do a refund! No matter why you block them, this is good practice, but if you think they are a scammer, you should certainly do a refund because you’re returning money to an account of a stranger, someone who probably needs that money or will be hurt when the bill is due on their credit card.
As an artist, you deserve all the support you get from your patrons! Your community deserves all the wonderful work you put into your Patreon page. They deserve your honest fulfilment of all the work you promised them as rewards. Failing that, they deserve an honest statement about why a given reward is late along with appropriate apologies. Patreon will not issue refunds to dissatisfied patrons, but it’s important to note that they do contact us. They do, also, take to social media to share their grievances.