Error Handling

    Learn how to handle and recover from errors received from Stripe’s API.

    Over its lifetime, your Stripe integration may have to deal with errors that occur when making API requests to Stripe. There are a few major categories of errors that your API integration could face:

    • Content errors: Errors that occur because the API request’s content was invalid in some way, and which manifest as an HTTP response with a 4xx status code. For example, the API servers may return a 401 if an invalid API key was provided, or a 400 if a required parameter was missing.

    • Network errors: Errors that occur due to intermittent communication problems between client and server, and which manifest as low-level errors like socket or timeout exceptions. For example, a client may time out while trying to read from Stripe’s servers, or an API response never received as a connection is terminated prematurely. Note that a network error wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise been a successful request — it can also be another type of error that’s been cloaked by an intermittent problem.

    • Server errors: Errors that occur because there was a problem on Stripe’s side, and which manifest as an HTTP response with a 5xx status code. Stripe endeavors to make these errors as rare as possible, but integrations should be able to handle them gracefully when they do appear.

    The right approach and idempotency semantics to use for handling errors depend on the type of error being handled.

    Safely retrying requests with idempotency

    An important idea in the design of web APIs is idempotency, defined as being able to apply the same operation multiple times without changing the result beyond the first try. Because a certain amount of intermittent failure is to be expected, clients need a way of reconciling failed requests with a server, and idempotency provides a mechanism for that.

    GET requests and DELETE requests are guaranteed to be idempotent by Stripe’s API, so it’s always safe to retry them. POST requests can be made idempotent through the inclusion of an idempotency key, which will prompt Stripe’s API to do the bookkeeping required to prevent duplicate operations. Requests that include an idempotency key can be safely retried as long as the second request occurs within 24 hours from when the key was first received (keys are eligible to be removed from the system after they’re at least 24 hours old).

    For example, if a request to create a charge does not respond due to a network connection error, you can retry the request with the same idempotency key to guarantee that no more than one charge is created.

    Sending idempotency keys

    Idempotency keys are sent in the Idempotency-Key header, and we recommend their use for all POST requests to Stripe’s API. Most official client libraries can send them automatically as long as they’re configured to send retries. See network errors below.

    If you decide to send them manually, make sure that the tokens being used are sufficiently unique to unambiguously identify a single operation within your account over at least the last 24 hours. A few common strategies for generating idempotency keys are:

    • Use an algorithm that generates a token with good randomness, like UUID v4.

    • Derive the key from a user-attached object like the ID of a shopping cart. This provides a relatively easy way to protect against double submissions.

    A response that’s being replayed from the server because it had already executed previously can be identified by the header Idempotent-Replayed: true.

    Content errors

    Content errors are the result of the contents of an API request being invalid and manifest as a 4xx status code. Integrations should correct the original request, and try again. Depending on the type of user error (e.g. a card is declined), it may be possible to handle the problem programmatically, and those that can be include a code field to help an integration react appropriately. See error codes for more details.

    For a POST operation using an idempotency key, as long as an API method began execution, Stripe’s API servers will cache the results of the request regardless of what they were. A request that produces a 400 will send back the same 400 if followed by a new request with the same idempotency key. A fresh idempotency key should be generated when modifying the original request to get a successful result.

    There are some caveats to the above — for example, a request that’s rate limited with a 429 can produce a different result with the same idempotency key because rate limiters run before the API’s idempotency layer. The same goes for a 401 that omitted an API key, or most 400s that sent invalid parameters. Even so, the simplest strategy where 4xx errors are concerned is to always generate a new idempotency key.

    Network errors

    Network errors are the result of connectivity problems between client and server and tend to manifest as low-level errors like socket or timeout exceptions.

    This class of errors is where the value of idempotency keys and request retries is most obvious. When intermittent problems occur, clients are usually left in a state where they don’t know whether the server received the request or not. To get a definitive answer, they should retry such requests with the same idempotency keys and the same parameters until they’re able to receive a result from the server. Sending the same idempotency with different parameters will produce an error indicating that the new request didn’t match the original.

    Most client libraries can generate idempotency keys and retry requests automatically, but need to be configured to do so. They perform their first retry quickly after the first failure, and subsequent ones on an exponential backoff schedule, with the premise that a single failure is often a random occurrence, but a pattern of repeated failures is likely representative of a chronic problem.

    Stripe.max_retries = 2
    stripe.max_network_retries = 2
    config := &stripe.BackendConfig{
        MaxNetworkRetries: 2,
    sc := &client.API{}
    sc.Init("sk_test_...", &stripe.Backends{
        API:     stripe.GetBackendWithConfig(stripe.APIBackend, config),
        Uploads: stripe.GetBackendWithConfig(stripe.UploadsBackend, config),
    StripeConfiguration.MaxNetworkRetries = 2;

    Server errors

    Server errors are the result of a server-side problem and manifest as a 5xx status code. These errors are the most difficult to handle, so we try to ensure that they happen as infrequently as possible.

    Like with user errors, the API’s idempotency layer caches the result of POST mutations that result in server errors (specifically 500s, which are internal server errors), so retrying them with the same idempotency key will usually produce the same result. The request can be retried with a new idempotency key, but we’d advise against it because it’s possible for the original one to have produced side effects.

    The result of a 500 request should be treated as indeterminate. The most likely time to observe one is during a production incident, and generally during such an incident’s remediation, Stripe engineers will examine failed requests and try to appropriately reconcile the results of any mutations that resulted in 500s.

    While the idempotency-cached response to those requests won’t change, we will try to fire webhooks for any new objects created as part of Stripe’s reconciliation. The exact nature of any retroactive changes in the system depend heavily on the type of request. For example, if creating a charge 500s but we detect that the information has gone out a payment network, we’ll try to roll it forward. If not, we’ll try to roll it back. However, ideal results under these circumstances are not guaranteed, and requests resulting in a 500 may produce user-visible side effects.

    Integrations that endeavor to maximize robustness should configure webhook handlers that are capable of receiving event objects that have never been seen in an API response. One technique for cross-referencing these new objects with the data that’s part of an integration’s local state is to send a local identifier in with the metadata when creating new resources with the API. That identifier will appear in the metadata field of an object going out through a webhook even if the webhook is generated later as part of reconciliation.

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