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Dunning emails: examples, tips, and a template to create the perfect email sequence

Email can be a truly powerful channel to recover failed payments and reduce involuntary churn—if you’re getting your emails right, that is.

So let’s walk through some key recommendations and examples of dunning emails (aka: the emails you send your customer when a payment fails) done right—and if you need a dunning email template, no problem: we’ve got one ready for you to use at the bottom of this page.

How to write and send your dunning emails: examples to follow and mistakes to avoid #

1. Use a straightforward subject line and “From” name #

Your “From” name and subject line are the first things a recipient sees in their inbox and they are making the difference between an email that gets opened and one that’s ignored or deleted right away.

Always use a straightforward subject line for your dunning emails that makes it clear that the recipient needs to take action and combine it with a recognizable “From” name—that’s usually your brand name. Together, they should make it crystal clear that there’s a payment issue for your service.

Here are a few examples of simple, easy-to-understand subject lines that will encourage your customer to take action:

  • Action required: We couldn’t process your payment

  • We’re having trouble processing your recent payment

  • Update your payment information to keep using [service]

2. Keep your copy concise and to the point #

When sending dunning emails, you have one primary goal: getting your customers to update their payment information. With that goal in mind, it’s clear that dunning emails aren’t the place for wordy copy. Instead, focus your writing on answering these three key questions:

1. What’s the problem?

2. How can your customer fix it?

3. What happens if the issue isn’t fixed?

Using these questions as guidelines will help you write effective copy while keeping your email short and to the point, just like the folks at KISSmetrics did in their dunning email:

Source: Really Good Emails

3. Include a clear call to action #

Don’t forget to include a CTA that sends your customers straight into their account and payment settings, so they can double-check and update their billing information. You can either include a text link or use a button like the team at Squarespace did in their nice-looking dunning email:

Source: Really Good Emails

4. Be friendly and human #

Just because you should keep your email concise and drive towards a primary CTA doesn’t mean your email can’t be friendly and human, too.

Failed payments can be a stressful experience for a customer, and the last thing you want is add to the stress with harsh or accusatory copy. Instead, be human, helpful, and approachable, just like UXPressia in their dunning email copy:

It’s a short email that’s straightforward and easy to follow—but notice the little human touches in there, like the playful “Uh-oh” or the encouraging “Don’t you worry!” line. They do wonders in making this email friendly and approachable. 

5. Share how customers can reach your support team if needed #

Giving customers a way to reach your support team is a great best practice for all kinds of emails, but it’s especially important for emails that deal with payment issues.

Always make sure you’re including the support channels your customers prefer. For example, if you know that customers prefer to ask billing questions over the phone, include a number like the folks at Butcher Box are doing in this simple, friendly, and straightforward dunning message:

ButcherBox: A dunning email done right (via Churnbuster)

6. Pick a reliable service for email delivery #

Even the most perfect dunning email can’t have an impact if it doesn’t make it to your customer’s inbox. That’s why you need a reliable email delivery service to get the job done.

There are lots of transactional email delivery services available, and you’ll want to look for a provider that…

  • Is easy to integrate into your tech stack

  • Has a track record of fast and reliable email delivery

  • Offers knowledgeable and reliable customer support should you need it

  • Offers fair and predictable pricing

Take the time to compare providers side-by-side (this comparison guide for transactional email providers might come in handy) to find the tool that fits your needs and your budget.

More dunning email examples we thought you might like #

Are you looking for even more inspiration for your dunning emails? We’ve got you covered. Here are a few more dunning emails we loved (and we thought you might, too.)

Pura Vida Bracelets: A payment reminder sequence that’s on-brand (and absolutely not boring) #

Who said dunning emails are boring? If you have a bold brand with a strong design language, your dunning emails can (and maybe even should!) mirror your branding.

These beautiful dunning emails from Pura Vida Bracelets are a great example that will certainly stand out in the inbox.

Pura Vida dunning emails. Source: Churnbuster

Hulu’s payment declined email #

When a Hulu customer’s payment fails, they receive this really well-made dunning email: The little illustration of the broken credit card supports the message visually, the copy is brief but still friendly and human, and the CTA provides a clear path to reactivate the subscription.

Source: Really Good Emails

Dunning email template (html, text, or copy-paste!) #

Now that you’ve seen all these examples, it’s time to create your own dunning email. If you need a place to start, you can use our content-ready, mobile-friendly, and beautiful-across-all-major-email-clients template. Simply copy or download it, tweak as you need (or even not at all!), and start using it today.

→ download HTML or TXT or copy-paste the content below:

Subject line: Update your payment information to keep using [Product name]
Pre-header text: We couldn’t process your payment. Let’s get that fixed!

[Product name + logo]

Hi {{name}},
We were unable to process your last payment of {{VALUE]}} for your [Product name] subscription.

Please take a moment to double-check your payment information to make sure your [Product name] account keeps running smoothly.

[Check and update your billing info → ]

Why did the payment fail?
In most cases, a payment might fail because:
• The card expired
• There are insufficient funds
• The payment needs additional authentication before we can process it.

You can see more details on your recent order and why the payment failed on the invoice page.

We’ll try charging your card again in [X] days and let you know if the payment is successful.

If you have any questions or need our help, you can reach our support team at [email address] or just reply to this email.

The [Product name] team

An example of a ready-made dunning email template
Once coded, your dunning template will look like this and be ready to go!

PS: do you need a refresher about dunning emails, and want to see a whole sequence in action? We got you covered here, too. Check this quick & useful intro to the dunning process

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