Chargeback Reason Codes by Network - 2021 Guide

Definitive Guide to Reason Codes_Blog Image

Table of Contents

  1. What are Chargeback Reason Codes?
  2. 2021 Visa Chargeback Reason Codes
  3. 2021 MasterCard Chargeback Reason Codes
  4. 2021 American Express Chargeback Reason Codes
  5. 2021 Discover Chargeback Reason Codes
  6. Conclusion
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

A reason code is a numeric code that describes the motivation behind a chargeback dispute.  These reason codes are an important part of the chargeback prevention process.

Not only do they give you insight into what is causing your chargebacks (often time and time again), but they also help steer you toward solutions that prevent additional chargebacks in the future.

Every card network – Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express – has their own unique reason codes.  Use the guide below to help understand your chargebacks as they come in.

What are Chargeback Reason Codes?

New call-to-actionEvery major card network manages chargebacks differently from the other. While the chargeback process is roughly the same across the networks, how they handle the specific can differ. This includes how they use reason codes.

A "reason code" is a representation for why the dispute is taking place. When a cardholder initiates a dispute, their issuing bank investigates and, if they find it to be legitimate, provides a provisional credit while pushing a chargeback to the acquiring bank via the credit card network.

The network, as an intermediary, assigned a reason code to the chargeback so that the acquiring bank, and the merchant, know what the reasoning is.

This is important for the merchant for two reasons:

  1. If the reason is true fraud, and it's clear that the problem is either related to fraud or merchant error, the merchant can see that and decide to allow the reversal to continue. 
  2. If the reason is fraud and the merchant can identify evidence that disagrees with that claim, they can build a dispute package and argue their case that the transaction was legitimate. This process, known as representment, is a dispute of the dispute that can overturn the chargeback.

Reason codes also signal to the network different aspects of the chargeback that might place the merchant as the liable party, particularly for incidents related to EMV technology or authorization errors. 

2021 Visa Chargeback Reason Codes

As of April 15, 2018, the card network, as part of the Visa Claims Resolution (VCR) Initiative, consolidated 22 legacy reason codes into four dispute categories – Fraud, Authorization, Processing Errors and Consumer Disputes.

Both old and new codes are as follows:Visa Chargeback Reason Codes

2021 MasterCard Chargeback Reason Codes

MasterCard only has 22 reason codes, though they are spread between 2 and 63.  Here’s what MasterCard’s reason codes currently look like:    

Mastercard Reason Codes

2021 American Express Chargeback Reason Codes

American Express reason codes use a mixture of both letters and numbers.  Below is what AmEx’s current slate of reason codes looks like:

American Express Chargeback Reason Codes

2021 Discover Chargeback Reason Codes

Discover has a more extensive reason code list than any other network, with 56 total.  See Discover’s reason codes below:         

Discover Chargeback Reason Codes


Identifying your chargeback reason codes, understanding Download the eGuide, 4 Reasons to Hire a Chargeback Management Companythem, and taking steps to remedy the root causes of your chargebacks is key to keeping your merchant accounts intact. 

Getting down to the root cause of your chargebacks is also the first step to fixing internal issues and preventing future chargeback disputes.


What are the reasons for chargebacks?

Reasons for chargebacks include true fraud, friendly fraud, and merchant error, and reason codes typically fall into one of these three categories.


Can you always win chargebacks?

No. In cases of true fraud, you should not win, and in cases of friendly fraud, you still need to provide your case with compelling evidence during representment.


Is there a time limit for chargebacks?

Cardholders have 75-120 days to dispute a charge. Note that merchants may not find out about chargebacks until well into the chargeback process, so when it happens you may not learn about it until much later.

Download the free Chargebacks 101 Guide to learn more about the causes of chargebacks, and how the overall process works, so you can fight customer chargebacks and prevent them in the first place.

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Get the guide, Chargebacks 101: Understanding Chargebacks & Their Root Causes