Understanding Payment Chargebacks and Strategies to Mitigate Risks

Understanding Payment Chargebacks and Strategies to Mitigate Risks

A chargeback serves as a valuable tool for consumers to safeguard themselves against fraudulent activities by allowing them to dispute debit or credit card transactions. It empowers customers to reclaim funds they believe have been erroneously deducted from their accounts due to unauthorized or fraudulent use of their card information. These disputes or chargebacks typically fall into three distinct categories:

Types of Chargebacks:

Chargebacks typically fall into three primary categories:
Merchant Error:

Merchant error disputes arise when a merchant mistakenly charges a customer’s card for a product that the customer either canceled or did not order. To combat this, integrating secure transaction tools or systems capable of detecting fraudulent or suspicious activities is crucial. Identifying suspicious transaction patterns and temporarily halting transactions until they can be validated may prove beneficial. Employing dispute management tools can also be advantageous.

Friendly Fraud:

Friendly fraud transpires when customers file a dispute without initially requesting a refund from the merchant. Frequently, cardholders dispute entirely legitimate transactions on their cards to secure a refund from their issuing bank, thereby avoiding payment for a product or service.

Criminal Fraud:

This category constitutes one of the primary reasons chargebacks were established. Criminal or fraudulent transactions occur when a malicious individual uses a customer’s card for unauthorized transactions.

Having grasped the concept of chargebacks, let’s delve into how they function, why they are typically undesirable for merchants, and the various strategies to minimize their occurrence.

How Do Chargebacks Work?

The chargeback process unfolds as follows:

Transaction Processing: A customer makes a purchase from your business using a debit or credit card. The transaction is executed, and you receive payment in your merchant or business account.

Customer Disputes: Upon notification of the transaction, the customer files a dispute with their issuing bank, citing various reasons that warrant the dispute.

Chargeback Initiation: The customer’s issuing bank temporarily credits them and contacts your payment processor to commence the chargeback process.

Temporary Debit: Once the payment processor is apprised of the chargeback, the disputed funds are temporarily debited from your account. You are duly informed of this transaction.

Merchant’s Rebuttal Opportunity: Merchants retain the capacity to supply the requisite documentation and dispute the chargeback. However, failing to submit these documents after notification allows the issuing bank to rule in favor of the customer.

Issuing Bank Decision: Upon receiving the documentation required for rebuttal, the issuing bank reviews the evidence and renders a decision. If the ruling favors the merchant, the funds are credited back to their account, and the customer is liable to pay.

Arbitration Possibility: In cases where neither the merchant nor the customer is satisfied with the issuing bank’s decision, an arbitration process may be initiated. In such instances, the chargeback or dispute is elevated to the card network (e.g., American Express, Visa) for a final resolution.

Why Do Merchants Disfavor Chargebacks?

Merchants often harbor a strong aversion to chargebacks due to various reasons:

Loss of Sale: Legitimate chargebacks result in merchants losing the entire transaction amount, thereby negatively impacting their business’s revenue.

Chargeback Fee: Payment processors impose a fee for chargeback resolution, which merchants are obligated to cover. These fees typically range from $15 to $50 per transaction, with the potential to exceed $100, posing a substantial financial burden on merchants.

Additional Costs: Credit card networks impose a set limit on the number of permissible chargebacks for merchants. Exceeding this limit may result in the merchant’s business being enrolled in a monitoring program, leading to additional fees and monthly fines.

High-Risk Classification: Merchants with a high incidence of chargebacks may be categorized as high-risk by payment gateways, consequently incurring higher fees.

Understanding the Root Causes of Chargebacks:

While each chargeback has its unique reasons, they can be categorized into distinct classes. Identifying the category can assist in pinpointing the underlying cause:


Chargebacks stemming from cardholders asserting that they did not initiate or authorize the transaction are typically attributed to fraudulent activities.

Customer Disputes:

Customer disputes encompass a variety of reasons, including dissatisfaction with the received product or service. Common reasons for disputes include issues related to product descriptions, late deliveries, or payment processing errors.


Chargebacks in this category arise when the cardholder failed to authorize the payment or if the authorization was declined.

Processing Errors:

Processing errors result from incorrect payment information, such as an inaccurate account number or currency details.

Reducing Chargebacks:

To minimize the risk of payment chargebacks, merchants can employ the following strategies:

Clearly Define Return, Refund, and Cancellation Policies:

Establish transparent return, refund, and cancellation policies. Customers should be aware of the option to return a product, request a refund, or cancel an order. This helps reduce chargebacks for transactions with discrepancies in transaction amounts or cancellations.

Provide Order Confirmations:

Online merchants should offer order confirmations immediately after a customer places an order. Enable customers to track their orders and notify them of potential delays. Customers should also have the option to purchase alternative products or cancel orders, reducing common disputes related to merchandise non-receipt or service non-provision.

Enhance Accessibility:

Merchants should be easily reachable, and customers should find it straightforward to contact them. Streamlining customer support processes can prevent matters from escalating to chargebacks.

Utilize Clear Billing Descriptors:

Clear billing descriptors help customers recognize transactions on their statements. When customers can identify transactions, they are less likely to dispute payments.

Delay Billing:

Delay billing until products are shipped, preventing disputes associated with non-receipt of merchandise.

Maintain Proof of Customer Participation:

Collect transaction information such as order history, customer IP addresses, and delivery receipt signatures to defend against illegitimate chargebacks.

Implement Strong Customer Authentication:

Utilize protocols like 3DS2 to identify and verify customer identities, providing protection against criminal fraud.

Promptly Cancel Recurring Transactions:

Cancel recurring transactions promptly and inform customers, reducing disputes related to unused services.

Update Expired Cards:

Ensure up-to-date card information and remove expired cards to prevent payment declines and potential chargebacks.

Consult with Your Payment Service Provider (PSP):

Payment Service Providers often offer chargeback prevention and management solutions, monitoring transactions for potential fraud. These solutions provide the evidence needed to contest chargebacks and identify fraudulent transactions.

Resolution Time:

The duration for resolving a chargeback request is not fixed and can vary based on factors such as reason codes, chargeback type, card network, and others. On average, it takes approximately 1 to 3 months for a chargeback request to be resolved.

In Conclusion:

As e-commerce technology evolves, new chargeback threats continue to emerge. Staying informed, utilizing the latest tools, and understanding the root causes of chargebacks can mitigate their impact on your business. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can significantly reduce the risk of chargebacks and enhance the overall security of your online transactions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get 1st Exam For Free

Find Your Job Here!

Get A Free Consultation And Estimate