Difference Between Chargebacks & Retrieval Requests

Chargebacks vs. Retrieval Requests

It’s easy to confuse chargebacks with retrieval requests, since news of both comes directly from a merchant’s bank.

But in terms of impact, the two occurrences are very different.  While one can have a serious impact on your bottom line and financial health as a merchant, the other might simply be a request for further information.  In some cases, it may even be an opportunity to prevent a chargeback from occurring altogether, thus saving your business time, energy, and most importantly, resources.

Download the eGuide, 4 Reasons to Hire a Chargeback Management CompanyKnowing the difference between the two terms – as well as what causes both of them to happen – can help you address your growing chargeback problems from the ground up.


A chargeback is the result of a consumer disputing a charge with their bank or card issuer.  

They may have seen a transaction on their account statement that they didn’t recognize, or they may be unhappy with their purchase or service.  In some cases, chargebacks occur because the consumer is trying to get something for free.

How Chargebacks Work

The chargeback process is a four-step one, involving the consumer, the card issuer, the merchant and the merchant’s bank.  In the event the merchant has a chargeback representment firm on their side, the firm will take part in this process as well.

how does a chargeback work

Here’s what the chargeback process looks like:

  1. The cardholder disputes a transaction with their bank or card issuer
  2. The issuer sends the transaction back to the merchant’s bank, also called the acquiring bank
  3. The acquiring bank receives the chargeback, then either resolves it or sends it on to the merchant for review
  4. The merchant receives notification of the chargeback.  They can either accept the chargeback as-is or address it by offering evidence to the acquiring bank that proves the transaction is valid

Retrieval Requests

Merchants can also receive notification of retrieval requests from their bank, though the two happenings don’t have the same repercussions.  

Often called “soft chargebacks,” retrieval requests simply indicate that a consumer wants more information about a transaction or purchase.

They might have spotted an unknown charge on their account but can’t remember what they bought.  In this case, they would submit a retrieval request to get more information on that transaction before filing a full-on chargeback dispute.

New call-to-actionThe important thing to note is that a retrieval request is an opportunity to issue a proactive refund ahead of a potential chargeback.  But even if a merchant doesn’t issue a refund, responding to a retrieval request in some fashion is vital.  Failing to respond to a retrieval request disqualifies a merchant from disputing a chargeback.  In the event a chargeback is filed, they have no choice but to accept the financial losses associated with it

How Retrieval Requests Work

The retrieval request process starts just like a chargeback.  The customer calls their issuing bank about an unknown transaction and asks for additional information on the charge.

Retrieval Request Process
The rest of the process looks like this:

  • The issuing bank notifies the merchant’s bank that a retrieval request has been made
  • The acquiring bank reaches out to the merchant to get more information on the transaction in question
  • The merchant sends all transaction data back to their bank. This can include receipts, invoices, tracking numbers, shipment information and any other data they might have on the transaction
  • The acquiring bank then passes that data onto the issuer, who sends it on to the cardholder

Merchants should be thorough when responding to retrieval requests, as these are often the first step toward a true chargeback dispute.  

Offering thorough, comprehensive information on a transaction can help prevent consumers from filing those disputes and hurting a merchant’s bottom line.

If a merchant opts to offer a proactive refund on a retrieval request in an attempt to prevent future chargebacks, they should notify their issuing bank and include the ARN, as well as both the original transaction receipt and the refund receipt, in their response.

Respond to Retrieval Requests, Prevent Chargebacks

Providing an adequate, comprehensive response to a retrieval request is just one way to prevent chargebacks.  Understanding the reasons behind your chargebacks, as well as monitoring your chargeback and transaction data in real time, can also help you prevent these costly issues from occurring. 

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