Chargeback Time Limit: How Long Does a Merchant Have to Respond to a Chargeback?

Whether you're a customer thinking about disputing a charge from a few months ago or a merchant recently notified of a chargeback, you’re curious about the chargeback time limit. 

So, how long do you have to chargeback a purchase as a customer? On the other hand, how long does a merchant have to respond to a chargeback? We'll break down the different policies for various financial institutions below, from Chase to PayPal, Amex, Visa, and more. 

Typically, cardholders have about 120 days to file a chargeback, while merchants face a tighter deadline of 20 to 45 days to respond. The system is clearly not in favor of merchants, and if you’ve dealt with disputes yourself already, you know this to be the case.

So, give yourself a fighting chance with the best chargeback prevention company - Disputifier. Our solution prevents up to 99% of disputes in the first place and actively fights chargebacks on your behalf, boosting your win rate to as high as 70%. 

It does all this automatically without you lifting a finger, so you’ll never have to worry about the time limit for chargebacks again! Try it out free today.

The Basics of Chargebacks

A chargeback is essentially a transaction reversal initiated by the customer through their credit card processor or bank. 

The feature was put in place to protect consumers from fraudulent activity committed by both merchants and other individuals. However, it is often misused, which puts merchants in a tough position. Here’s an overview of the process from start to finish:

  • Dispute Initiation: A cardholder files a complaint with their issuing bank about a specific transaction. This can be due to fraud (such as identity theft) or dissatisfaction with the service or product received. 
  • Investigation by the Issuing Bank: The bank then investigates the claim by reviewing the transaction details provided by the cardholder who opened the dispute.
  • Merchant Response: If the bank deems the dispute valid, it temporarily reverses the transaction. The merchant is then notified after having the funds of the sale withdrawn from their bank. The merchant can then respond with evidence supporting the legitimacy of the original transaction, such as proof of delivery or service.
  • Resolution: The bank makes a decision based on the evidence provided by both parties. If the bank sides with the cardholder, the transaction is permanently reversed and the merchant is also charged a fine. If it sides with the merchant, the transaction is upheld.

Now - while the customer and the merchant are fighting very different battles, they share a common challenge: handling their side of the dispute within the allotted time limit for chargebacks

The Difference Between Dispute Initiation and Response Time Limits

There is only so long a customer has to dispute a purchase they made (or did not make in the case of fraud). Similarly, the clock starts ticking for a merchant as soon as a customer initiates a dispute. 

So, let’s take a look at the typical time limit for chargeback initiation and response below before getting into some specific financial institutions. First, how long do you have to chargeback a purchase as a consumer?

How Long Do You Have to Chargeback a Purchase as a Consumer?

So, can I dispute a charge from 2 years ago? Definitely not. While consumers have a very wide window of opportunity to initiate a dispute, the average is 120 days. 

That being said, some providers will let you dispute charges as long as 540 days ago in special circumstances. The exact time frame will vary based on factors like the reason for initiating a dispute, the financial institution you made the purchase through, and more. 

We’ll talk about these in a moment and show you the specific chargeback time limit for the most common providers. First, how long does a merchant have to respond to a chargeback on average?  

How Long Does a Merchant Have to Respond to a Chargeback?

As we mentioned earlier, merchants have a much shorter runway to get their response in with a financial institution before resolution. It tends to be somewhere between 20-45 days. 

This is why it’s so important to have a solid, seamless process in place for managing these disputes and crafting a compelling rebuttal fast. You’ll learn how our chargeback company facilitates this in just a few moments.

How Long Does a Chargeback Take to Resolve Entirely?

Chargeback resolution can vary based on the complexity of the dispute, the efficiency of the payment networks and issuing banks, and whether the merchant contests the chargeback. 

A straightforward chargeback, where the merchant does not respond, might be resolved within a few weeks. Conversely, if a merchant contests the initial dispute and continues to press the issue to pre-arbitrage and then arbitration, it’s not uncommon for the process to take months.

Factors Influencing the Chargeback Time Limit

So, why is there such a range in the chargeback time limit? Each dispute is unique with many moving parts, from the type and size of the transaction to payment network policies and merchant processor requirements. We’ll unpack these factors below to show you the role each plays in the time limit for chargebacks.

Transaction Type and Size

High-value transactions typically warrant more scrutiny and a longer review process due to the larger sums involved. The stakes are much higher from a bank’s perspective in analyzing a $30,000 transaction compared to a $20 charge.

Similarly, the type of transaction can affect how chargebacks are handled, with different risks associated with physical goods, digital products, or services. 

Recurring transactions also have different time limits since the billing is ongoing, where chargebacks can be filed for multiple billing cycles if not addressed promptly.

Payment Network Policies

Each payment network has its own set of policies governing chargebacks, from Visa to MasterCard, American Express to Wells Fargo. 

These policies dictate everything from the reasons a chargeback can be filed to the specific time frames for filing and responding to chargebacks. You can search the chargeback time limit for your specific payment network below.

Merchant Processor Requirements

Payment processors may have additional guidelines that merchants need to follow which can include specific documentation requirements and procedural steps for handling disputes. Compliance with these requirements affects the speed and outcome of chargeback resolutions.

Chargeback Time Limit for Visa, PayPal Amex, Mastercard, and More: Initiation and Response Timelines

Now, let’s get into the chargeback time limit for Chase, Wells Fargo, Amex, PayPal, and others below. We’ll cover the types of disputes for each one along with the allotted window to initiate and respond to these disputes.

Chase

Customers: Have 60 days from the statement date to dispute a transaction.

Merchants: Need to respond typically within 30 days with Visa or 45 days with Mastercard.

PayPal 

Customers: Can file a chargeback up to 180 days from the purchase date.

Merchants: Generally have 7 days to respond to the dispute notice.

Amex

Customers: Up to 120 days to dispute a charge - this can be from the day the item was received in some cases rather than the transaction date. 

Merchants: Have 20 days to respond to the dispute notification.

Visa

Customers: Up to 120 days from the transaction or delivery date to file a chargeback.

Merchants: Required to respond within 20 days from the notification of the chargeback. You can apply for arbitration within 10 days after the initial review.

Capital One 

Customers: Typically have up to 60 days from the date of the statement to file a dispute.

Merchants: Time to respond varies based on card (Visa is 30 days whereas Mastercard is 45 days).

Mastercard 

Customers: Typically have 120 days from the date of the transaction to initiate a chargeback.

Merchants: Must respond within 45 days of receiving the chargeback notification.

Discover 

Customers: Allowed up to 120 days after the transaction to file a dispute.

Merchants: Have 20 days to respond to the inquiry, 30 days to provide your rebuttal for the dispute, and then another 10 days for the pre-arbitration process.

Wells Fargo 

Customers: Up to 60 days from the statement date to initiate a chargeback.

Merchants: Response time can vary based on the card network, ranging from 20-45 days. See whether you have a Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or Amex.

CitiBank 

Customers: Have 60 days from the statement date to dispute a transaction.

Merchants: Must respond generally within 30 days, though specific conditions may vary.

Bank of America

Customers: Allowed up to 60 days from the statement date to file a chargeback.

Merchants: Generally have 30 days to provide a response to the dispute.

Tips on Preventing and Fighting Chargebacks as a Merchant 

Now, let’s talk about how to win a chargeback - or better yet, how to prevent chargebacks in the first place! There are a few different ways you can reduce the occurrence of disputes with your customers and set yourself up for success in fighting chargebacks that do slip through the cracks.

Communication is Key

So many chargebacks are simply the result of a miscommunication. Start by ensuring all product descriptions are accurate and detailed. Include high-quality images and specifications to match customer expectations. It’s important to have your return and refund policies laid out clearly on your website as well.

You should also send confirmation and follow-up emails after purchases and shipments. This provides proof of the transaction and communication while enhancing customer satisfaction.

Speaking of customer service, make it easy for customers to get in touch with you in the event they have a problem. Provide multiple channels such as phone, email, and live chat. Respond to inquiries and complaints promptly and without emotion.

If your customer can’t get in touch with you, there only next step is to initiate a chargeback. Do your part as a merchant to catch issues through your own channel before a customer takes it to their bank or credit card company.

Implement Fraud Detection

Beyond miscommunication, chargebacks are often the result of fraud. There is no getting around the fact that bad people exist who will take advantage of compromised cardholder information and place fraudulent orders. Here’s how you can catch these:

  • Use AVS and CVV Checks: Implement Address Verification Service (AVS) and require the card verification value (CVV) for all transactions to reduce fraudulent chargebacks.
  • Secure Payment Gateways: Employ secure payment technologies and protocols like SSL certificates and HTTPS to protect transaction data.
  • Signatures and IDs: For larger transactions or when delivering goods in person, consider requiring a signature upon delivery or even a photo ID.

It’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of regularly reviewing transactions for signs of suspicious activity. Look for patterns like multiple orders from the same IP address but different cards. You can even invest in software that does all this for you to save you time and resources, like Disputifier.

Respond Promptly and Effectively to Disputes

Despite your best prevention efforts, you will eventually come face to face with a dispute. Don’t panic or get emotional. Instead, collect yourself and begin gathering all evidence - emails with the customer, receipts, delivery confirmations, and other relevant details.

Understand the specific reason your customer is initiating a dispute by assessing the chargeback reason code - be it order not delivered, items not as described, or fraudulent use of card.

Your rebuttal should be comprehensive and professional, focused on facts rather than feelings. So many new entrepreneurs get worked up while crafting their response and it comes back to bite them in the end.

Follow Up

Ideally, you’d win your chargeback immediately after sending over your rebuttal. This is rarely the case. 

You may then enter the pre-arbitration process in which you can provide additional insights or reiterate your stance, hoping the reviewing party will more clearly see your side of the story.

If not, you may then need to go through the arbitration process - which can be complex and long-winded, adding more costs and wasted resources to the process. This is why it’s so worth investing in a streamlined chargeback management solution that handles all this for you - like Disputifier.

Using Disputifier to Automate Chargeback Prevention and Management

There are so many moving parts associated with chargebacks. Disputifier takes all of this off your plate so you can focus your attention on resources elsewhere, compelling automating the process of chargeback management.

Our system scans each transaction in real time with Ethoca and Verifi alerts, detecting signs of trouble before they escalate. This means fewer disputes, saved revenue, and more time for you to focus on growing your business. You’re paying for peace of mind knowing you’ll automatically prevent 99% of chargebacks with fewer false positives than the other guys. 

But in the event that you do face a dispute, we’ll take care of it on your behalf without you having to lift a finger. In this sense, you don’t even need to worry about the chargeback time limit. Your dispute management is in good hands! 

Because we fight thousands of chargebacks monthly for our vast database of customers, we see what works and are constantly A/B testing different approaches. This allows us to produce the most impressive win rates possible. 

So, how often do merchants win chargeback disputes with our solution? Up to 70% of the time! This is in stark contrast to the industry average which can be as low as 10%. But you don’t just have to take our word for it. We guarantee an increase in win rate or you won’t pay.

Trust our service to offer the best representment possible and shield your business from unnecessary losses while enhancing operational efficiency. Explore our different solutions to figure out what aligns with your needs and start your free trial today!

Final Thoughts on the Time Limit for Chargeback Initiation and Response

Hopefully, this comprehensive guide on chargeback time limits has left you with a clear understanding of how long you have to address disputes with various card networks.

Remember, consumers generally have up to 120 days to file a chargeback while merchants only have 20-45 days to respond. Getting your rebuttal in rapidly can increase your chances of success, so don’t delay when hit with a dispute.  

Our blog has additional resources on topics like what happens if you lose a chargeback, chargeback insurance, chargeback email response templates, and more. But at this point, there’s only one thing left to do - put the stress of chargebacks in the past for good.

Take action today and fortify your business against disputes with Disputifier’s proven solutions. Peace of mind and profit protection are well within your reach!

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