Chargeback Help - What is a Chargeback?
Chargebacks are an important protection that increases public confidence in credit and debit card payments, especially in online transactions. However, they can also be a huge headache for the merchants that have to deal with them. Many customers dispute transactions that don’t fall under the narrow list of problems chargebacks are intended to address or file a dispute without first contacting the merchant.
The overall number of chargebacks is increasing every year, and the coronavirus pandemic caused a huge spike in disputes in 2020 and 2021. Existing evidence on customer behavior suggests that most customers who dispute a charge once will do so again, so there’s reason to believe the number of chargebacks might not simply return to pre-pandemic levels. As chargebacks have increased, more and more businesses are taking action to prevent and fight them.
If you have any questions about how to protect your business from chargebacks, please feel free to reach out to us directly.
Table of Contents
- What is a chargeback?
- How do chargebacks work?
- How many chargebacks occur annually?
- How do you file a chargeback?
- Why do customers file chargebacks?
- When can a cardholder legitimately use a chargeback?
- What are chargeback reason codes?
- American Express Chargeback Reason Codes
- Visa Chargeback Reason Codes
- Mastercard Chargeback Reason Codes
- Discover Chargeback Reason Codes
- What are the three types of chargebacks?
- What is the EMV Liability Shift?
- Who is liable for chargebacks?
- Should merchants fight chargebacks?
- How do you write a chargeback rebuttal letter?
- Can you prevent all chargebacks?
- How much are chargeback fees?
- Know the facts about chargebacks
- What’s the difference between a chargeback and a refund?
- How long do you have to fight a chargeback?
- What is a chargeback threshold?
What is a chargeback?
A Chargeback is a process by which a cardholder can dispute a charge on their debit or credit card and, if successful, receive a return payment for that amount. Customers who want to dispute a charge contact their bank and provide information about the reason for the dispute. Banks typically review the transaction, and if the reason for the dispute is valid, provide a provisional credit to the customer’s account.
Chargebacks for credit cards were first implemented in the 1974 Fair Credit Billing amendment (§ 161. Correction of billing errors) to the Truth in Lending Act, and debit card chargebacks were implemented later by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act in 1978. These acts were intended to outline protective measures for consumers.
Chargebacks were a direct response to widespread abuse by fraudsters who could use and abuse stolen credit information without much the cardholder could do about it.
Think about it this way: A credit card is lost or stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases. Before the Fair Credit Billing Amendment, the cardholder would most likely have little or no recourse to get their money back once the merchant had been paid. The chargeback process allows consumers to get their refunds from their banks, and to let banks (rather than consumers and merchants) make decisions on how to handle the situation. While the process was not yet called a chargeback, it would become the foundation for the dispute system we know today.
How do chargebacks work?
Chargebacks are initiated by consumers, evaluated by banks and paid for by merchants. A single chargeback, from initiation to resolution, can last months or even years.
- The cardholder disputes a transaction with their issuing bank who then extends provisional credit.
- The issuing bank sends a retrieval request to the acquiring bank to obtain additional information.
- The acquiring and issuing banks resolve the dispute if possible, otherwise the acquiring bank transmits a chargeback notification to the merchant.
- The merchant either accepts the chargeback or fights it by resubmitting the charge along with the necessary evidence to disprove the claim through representment. *Note: A rebuttal letter summary must always be included.
- The issuing bank will review the new evidence and make a final decision. If they find in favor of the merchant, the provisional credit will be reversed and returned to the merchant.
- At this point, any party unhappy with the decision can request further review, which puts the chargeback process into the pre-arbitration phase. *Note: The back-and-forth of the pre-arbitration and arbitration phases can last for months, and arbitration fees adding up to hundreds of dollars must be paid to the card networks.
- If banks cannot come to an agreement during pre-arbitration, the process enters arbitration. The card network will examine the evidence and make a final decision.
Time limits for merchants to respond to a dispute vary based on the credit card network and the reason code. Note that the timer begins when the chargeback is initiated, not when the merchant is notified, so the merchant’s deadline may not be the exact time-frame outlined by the card network’s policies.
How many chargebacks occur annually?
Chargebacks are incredibly common. Each year, approximately half of consumers globally will initiate one through their issuing bank.
Even worse, chargebacks continue to grow year after year. The total amount of money lost by merchants due to chargebacks is anticipated to exceed 40 billion dollars before 2025.
How do you file a chargeback?
Filing a chargeback without first consulting the merchant is not advised and, in some cases, unlawful. If you’ve already attempted to reconcile the issue with the merchant with no success, simply call your bank and request to dispute the transaction.
The bank will typically give you a provisional credit for the amount of the charge while they investigate the validity of the claim. Be prepared to describe the problems you’ve had with the merchant and the steps you’ve taken to resolve the matter.
Why do customers file chargebacks?
Customers often dispute a charge when they don’t recognize a transaction or are somehow dissatisfied with their purchase. As Friendly Fraud becomes more prevalent, it is important to note that in some cases the consumer may simply be trying to get their product or service for free.
Every chargeback has a reason code associated with it. The major card networks (Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express) established these codes to clearly identify the reason a chargeback was requested.
When can a cardholder legitimately dispute a transaction?
Chargebacks are not something that cardholders can just use whenever they don't like an item they purchased. There is usually only one situation where a cardholder should reach out to a bank first for chargebacks: True fraud. If a cardholder is a victim of true fraud (card theft, identity theft, etc.) then a chargeback is not only legitimate, but is the ethical route for the issuing bank and the merchant to take.
Customers can also file chargebacks when they didn’t receive the product or service they paid for, whether because of a lost or damaged shipment or an incorrect item being sent. Being double-charged or overcharged the agreed purchase amount is another legitimate reason for a dispute. However, these problems are usually resolved more quickly and easily when the customer contacts the merchant, and a chargeback should only be used when the merchant is uncooperative.
Customers can’t dispute a charge simply because they are dissatisfied with the product or service they received. These issues must always be resolved with the merchant directly.
What are chargeback reason codes?
Reason codes tell merchants the reason the customer is disputing a charge, according to the information they provided to their bank. Each reason code has certain standards of proof and evidence associated with it that determine whether the chargeback is valid or not.
American Express Chargeback Reason Codes
Learn how to fight each of these American Express Chargeback Codes >>>
Visa Chargeback Reason Codes
Learn how to fight each of these Visa Chargeback Codes >>>
Mastercard Chargeback Reason Codes
Learn how to fight each of these Mastercard Chargeback Codes >>>
|4837||No Cardholder Authorization|
|4840||Fraudulent Processing of Transaction|
|4849||Questionable Merchant Activity|
|4863||Cardholder Does Not Recognize — Potential Fraud|
|4870||Chip Liability Shift|
|4871||Chip / PIN Liability Shift|
|4807||Warning Bulletin File|
|4808||Requested / Required Authorization Not Obtained|
|4812||Account Number Not on File|
|4831||Transaction Amount Differs|
|4846||Correct Transaction Currency Code Not Provided|
|4850||Credit Posted as Purchase|
|4999||Domestic Chargeback Dispute (Europe Region Only)|
|4853||Cardholder Dispute – Defective / Not as Described|
|4841||Cancelled Recurring Transaction|
|4854||Cardholder Dispute – Not Elsewhere Classified (U.S. Region Only)|
|4855||Non-receipt of Merchandise|
|4860||Credit Not Processed|
Discover Chargeback Reason Codes
Learn how to fight each of these Discover Chargeback Codes >>>
|UA01||Fraud – Card Present Transaction|
|UA02||Fraud – Card Not Present Transaction|
|UA05||Fraud – Chip Counterfeit Transaction|
|UA06||Fraud – Chip and PIN Transaction|
|UA10||Request Transaction Receipt (swiped card transactions)|
|UA11||Cardholder Claims Fraud (swiped transaction, no signature)|
|IN||Invalid Card Number|
|5||Good Faith Investigation|
|AA||Does Not Recognize|
|CD||Credit/Debit Posted Incorrectly|
|IC||Illegible Sales Data|
|NF||Non-Receipt of Cash from ATM|
|PM||Paid by Other Means|
|RG||Non-Receipt of Goods, Services, or Cash|
|RN2||Credit Not Processed|
What are the three types of chargebacks?
The three types of chargebacks are true fraud, friendly fraud, and merchant error. Each type results from different circumstances and should be handled in a different way. Friendly fraud is by far the most common type of chargeback, making up 60%-80% of all chargebacks depending on the merchant.
True fraud chargebacks are what chargebacks were invented for: unauthorized charges against a credit card by a scammer or identity thief. Merchants are strongly advised not to waste time or resources attempting to dispute these chargebacks.
Friendly fraud chargebacks refer to customers reporting valid charges as fraudulent to get a payment reversal. They might do this deliberately, with malicious or criminal intent, or they might do it out of impatience or confusion about how the chargeback process is supposed to work.
Merchant error chargebacks occur when the cause of the chargeback is an error made by the merchant, such as shipping the wrong item. Disputes like this can sometimes be fought effectively but the flaws in merchant operations these chargebacks reveal must be remedied to prevent similar future chargebacks.
What is the EMV Liability Shift?
October 1st, 2015, the EMV Liability Shift went into effect. This means that merchants using the magnetic strip on a card that has an EMV chip will be automatically held liable for any fraud or chargeback associated with that transaction. The basic idea is that if an EMV card is used fraudulently and the merchant had not upgraded their processing equipment to EMV-compliant standards, the blame for that fraudulent transaction lies with the merchant.
The EMV Liability Shift caused most merchants to upgrade to EMV payment technology, which is much less vulnerable to fraud than traditional magnetic strips. However, it may also have resulted in an increase in fraudulent chargebacks. Savvy fraudsters have learned that if they convince a merchant to swipe a card with an EMV chip and later dispute that charge, the merchant will lose the dispute.
Who is liable for chargebacks?
Merchants are liable for chargebacks in most cases and bear the burden of proof in any dispute. A merchant must make their case for why a chargeback should be struck down and provisional credits reversed. If no action is taken by the merchant, the consumer wins by default.
For retail merchants, if the purchase is made using an EMV chip, and the transaction turns out to be fraudulent, the issuing bank is held liable instead of the merchant. There is a similar exception for card-not-present transactions. If a merchant uses 3D Secure and the transaction is verified, the issuing bank is liable for all chargebacks associated with true fraud. In either case, the merchant is still responsible for chargebacks arising due to merchant errors.
Should merchants fight chargebacks?
In the event a chargeback seems illegitimate, it’s important merchants fight back through representment whenever possible. Though a customer might claim a transaction was fraudulent or demand a refund, merchants very often have the evidence they need to prove otherwise, which could allow them to recover their losses.
Merchants who receive a chargeback that they believe is unfounded have the right to dispute the case. To do so, they’ll first need to submit a rebuttal letter to argue their case, along with a number of supporting documents and pieces of evidence. Exactly what evidence they’ll need will depend on the exact reason code associated with the chargeback.
When a merchant disputes a cardholder chargeback, it then enters representment. During this process, the merchant provides information regarding the transaction and why they believe that transaction was legitimate.
The merchant works with their sales department and/or their chargeback management company to build a dispute package that outlines the evidence and attempts to convince the issuing bank according to that bank’s guidelines.
Following this, the acquiring bank sends the information back through the credit card network to the issuing bank, who makes their decision and informs the involved parties.
If you plan to dispute a chargeback, it’s important to act quickly. Issuers often lag behind when notifying acquirers and merchants of chargebacks, so you may have a very small window in which to respond. Having a chargeback representment team at your disposal can help you act swiftly and efficiently, no matter what the deadline may be.
How do you write a chargeback rebuttal letter?
Depending on the credit or payment provider, you can either write a letter or submit a form containing your dispute information package. A rebuttal letter outlines your case and addresses the customers complaint.
A prompt rebuttal later can help you better address fraudulent chargebacks and win disputes. When done right, a rebuttal letter provides a simple overview of why the customer’s claims are false and what evidence you have to prove it. When disputing friendly fraud chargebacks, a good rebuttal letter combined with sufficient evidence will typically convince the issuing bank to rule in your favor and return your revenue.
Can you prevent all chargebacks?
Not every dispute can be prevented. Some are the result of genuine criminal activity, and some come about because of mistakes or oversights on the merchant’s behalf. When appropriate measures are taken, merchants can reduce their chargebacks by about 70%.
Studying and fighting disputes will help you learn why they’re happening to you, and addressing those root causes is by far the best thing you can do to prevent future chargebacks.
How much are chargeback fees?
Chargeback fees range from $20-$100 depending on your acquiring bank. However, the true cost of a chargeback is often up to 2.5 times the transaction value. So, for a $100 chargeback, a merchant would pay $250 in fees, fines, customer acquisition costs, and more.
|Expense||Physical Goods||Digital Goods & Services|
|Fraud Management Cost||$5||$5|
|Customer Service Cost||$2||$2|
|Total Revenue Loss||$522||$480|
Chargebacks can threaten your cash flow and put your merchant accounts at risk, too. They can increase your merchant account costs or cause your accounts to be shut down, preventing you from accepting payments altogether.
Know the facts about chargebacks
When you understand what chargebacks are, you can fight them more effectively, learn from them, and take steps to prevent them. Even when choosing a chargeback management firm to deal with them for you, having a solid grounding in the facts about chargebacks will help you know whether that firm is providing you with a good return on your investment.
Regardless of your level of experience with chargebacks, Chargeback Gurus can guide you to the best possible outcomes for your company. Download your copy of the Chargebacks 101 Guide to better help you understand the causes of chargebacks, and how the overall chargeback process works so you can fight customer chargebacks and prevent them in the first place.
What’s the difference between a chargeback and a refund?
How long do you have to fight a chargeback?
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