Understanding Retrieval Requests & Chargebacks

Retrieval requests

Table of Contents

  1. What is a retrieval request?
  2. Retrieval requests vs. chargebacks
  3. Do retrieval requests have fees?
  4. How to manage retrieval requests
  5. How often should I expect to get retrieval requests?
  6. Information needed for retrieval request responses
  7. Do I need to worry about my retrieval request rate?
  8. What is a bank retrieval request?
  9. What is a retrieval fee?
  10. What is a draft request?
  11. How long do you have to respond to a retrieval request?

Many eCommerce merchants have had to deal with a retrieval request at one time or another. While these requests can be irritating at times, responding to them often prevents a confused customer from filing a friendly fraud chargeback, saving you time and money in the long run. What do merchants need to know about retrieval requests, how best to respond to them, and how they affect chargebacks?

What is a retrieval request?

A retrieval request is a process through which a cardholder can request more information about a charge on their account, often in the form of a receipt for the purchase.

New call-to-actionIt starts when a cardholder contacts their issuing bank to ask about a charge they don't recognize on their account. What happens after that depends on the card network, the bank, and the cardholder. Sometimes a cardholder not recognizing a charge on their account can result in an immediate chargeback, especially if the customer is overconfident that the charge is fraudulent. However, it can also lead to the bank sending a retrieval request to the merchant's acquirer.

In some cases, the acquirer may be able to respond to the retrieval request themselves with transaction records they have access to. If they can't, the request is passed on to the merchant. The merchant then sends their records of the transaction to the acquirer, and the acquirer fulfills the request.

Retrieval requests vs. chargebacks

It is important to note that while a retrieval request doesn't reverse a transaction itself, it is often a precursor to a chargeback, which will reverse the transaction and result in additional fees. Responding to retrieval requests promptly can often prevent chargebacks in cases where the cardholder is confused or forgetful.

Do retrieval requests have fees?

Yes. Payment processors will typically charge a small fee to process a retrieval request. If a merchant has a payment processor and merchant bank that are separate entities, the bank may or may not charge a fee for these requests.

Merchants should always be vigilant when signing up with a new payment processor.

They should read the contract carefully so they understand the fees they might be charged. The larger the merchant is, the more negotiating power they will have when determining the terms of the contract.

How to manage retrieval requests

A retrieval request is in some ways more important than a chargeback. If a retrieval request is ignored, it will often result in a chargeback, and the merchant will have given up their right to fight that chargeback by ignoring the request. Merchants must have a process in place to respond to these requests in a timely fashion.

Retrieval requests will help you prevent chargebacks if handled right. They present an opportunity for merchants to resolve customer confusion, issue a proactive refund, or reach out to the customer and resolve any issues they might have.

If retrieval requests are overlooked or ignored, they can and will lead to chargebacks, resulting in a loss of revenue and potentially even more serious consequences for the merchant.

How often should I expect to get retrieval requests?

Years ago, issuing banks filed retrieval requests prior to filing a chargeback about half the time. Today, merchants can expect to receive retrieval requests for only about 5%-10% of chargebacks, and that number is falling.

Manage Chargeback In-House Or OutshoreThat might not sound like a lot, but by responding to requests effectively, including reaching out to customers and giving refunds where appropriate, merchants can often reduce their chargeback rate by 3%-8%. Especially for high-risk merchants or those at risk of exceeding chargeback thresholds, that can make a big difference.

However, recent changes made by the card networks may mean it won't be long before retrieval requests are a thing of the past. These requests are being replaced by more modern tools that fulfill the same function, such as Order Insight. In October 2020, Visa officially ended retrieval requests on their network.

Information needed for retrieval request responses

It's important to keep in mind when responding to a retrieval request that, unlike when responding to a chargeback, you don't need to provide a pile of evidence proving the transaction was valid. Requests are not won or lost. Either the cardholder is satisfied with the response or the dispute moves to the next phase: a chargeback.

The following information should be provided when responding to a retrieval request:

  1. Legible invoice/receipt
  2. Company and product information
  3. Service/product delivery information
  4. Transaction Information – Date, amount and Acquirer reference number (ARN)
  5. Authentication of the transaction (phone, email, fraud screen, etc.)
  6. Refund info, such as whether a refund has already been issued or is being issued in response to the request.

When contacting your customer, make an effort to understand your customer’s needs and issue a refund if necessary to resolve issues. Merchants can send an email prior to calling their customer and send a follow-up email once the issue is resolved.

Do I need to worry about my retrieval request rate?

No. There are no specific consequences for merchants who have a high rate of retrieval requests, and these requests don't count against a merchant's chargeback ratio.

That said, a high number of retrieval requests could indicate that there is some problem with your business operations you're not addressing, and that problem could be leading to chargebacks as well.

For example, an unclear merchant descriptor can result in retrieval requests as well as chargebacks from customers who don't recognize the charge on their account.


What is a bank retrieval request?

A bank retrieval request is a request for information about a transaction sent to a merchant by a bank, usually at the request of a cardholder.

What is a retrieval fee?

A retrieval fee is charged to the merchant by their acquirer when an issuing bank makes a retrieval request on behalf of a cardholder.

What is a draft request?

A draft request is an alternative, less common term for a retrieval request.

How long do you have to respond to a retrieval request?

The deadline for responding to a retrieval request is set by the cardholder's issuing bank, and therefore varies from one bank to another. However, these deadlines are typically 10-20 days after the request is sent.

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