Author: Tom-Chris Emewulu
Digital Evangelist

Chargeback time limit is the fixed period within which various parties can respond to any phase of a chargeback dispute.

Both cardholders, banks, and vendors must adhere to the card network's stipulated dispute deadline if they wish to initiate a chargeback or contest a claim.

Hence, understanding the given time limits of the cards your store accepts is crucial. That knowledge gives you a clear runway to exercise your dispute mediation rights and contest any meritless chargeback to ensure you don’t lose cases by default.

Before we dig into the best insights for an unfair advantage over fraudulent chargebacks in these times of elevated cases, it’s crucial to explain the various types of chargeback time limits.

  1. The time limit for cardholders. This is the time limit given to any cardholder who wishes to dispute a charge, which is 60 to 120 days.
  2. The time limit for merchants. As we noted earlier, this imposed chargeback time limit is the period merchants have to respond to a claim.

The rest of this article will highlight chargeback time limit best practices that ensure you (as a merchant) never run out of time.

How Long Do Merchants Have to Respond to a Chargeback?

By and large, merchants have 30 days to respond to each chargeback phase when a Visa or Discover card is involved. Mastercard gives merchants a chargeback time limit of 45 days for each stage of the dispute. While over at American Express, a merchant’s dispute response time limit is 20 days for any phase of the case lifecycle.

It’s essential to note that chargeback time limits for acquirers differ significantly from those for merchants.

Within the 20 or 45 days schedule, depending on the card involved, are periods for the acquirer to complete administrative tasks. That administrative task period might eat up huge chunks of time at any stage of the process, leaving you with a tiny window to:

Knowing that chargeback time limits are a crucial first step in the win/loss probability of a dispute lifecycle is one thing. Understanding the relevant parameters that helps you to know when the clock starts ticking is another.

What Goes Into Deciding a Chargeback Time Limit?

There are several indices that determine chargeback time limits. And first on the list is the chargeback reason code.

On the cardholder’s flank, most chargeback reason codes allow cardholders to file a dispute between 90-120 days from the transaction date.

Chargebacks caused by internal merchant errors have a shorter time frame as the issuer or processor can easily catch merchant errors before they reach the consumer.

Vendors have a 20-45 days window to respond to any dispute phase. Although that might seem generous, it’s not. There are specific factors that might impact your time limit.

Aside from issuers, payment processors play a role in controlling chargeback time limits, and their policy determines how much time you have.

For instance, suppose that your payment processor is PayPal. In that case, customers have 180 days to file a claim, which is 2X what the major card brands give. Yet, you, the merchant, have only seven days to respond.

That’s not all.

While chargeback time limits begin on "Day One" of each dispute phase, you may get the chargeback notice much later. In some cases, that might be 2-3 days to the response time limit due to administrative delays from your acquirer.

Additionally, the stage of the dispute also comes into play. The Day One qualifier resets at every chargeback phase. Consequently, even though chargeback time limits are predefined, they are still subject to your progress in the various dispute stages. Arbitration gives the merchant ten days to refute claims.

It'll be impossible to win a dispute if you don’t understand how different banks, card networks, and reason codes impact the time you have to respond.

Insight Into Card Network Time Limits

Card schemes have the most significant control over chargeback time limits. Unfortunately, there are no uniform rules or wording regarding these processes. Yet, the underlying principles are the same: to expedite the chargeback process and ensure a clear consensus.

Below we review the various card network time limits further.

Visa Chargeback Time Limits

Visa gives cardholders up to 120 days from the original transaction or order delivery date to file a chargeback. Unauthorized/fraudulent transaction disputes may attract some exceptions where Visa allows cardholders to file chargebacks within 75 days of the transaction.

But for acquirers and merchants, Visa demands a chargeback response by 30 days of Day One for each dispute phase. Arbitration chargebacks attract an exception of 10 days.

Mastercard Chargeback Time Limits

All things being equal, cardholders in the Mastercard network have 120 days from the Central Site Business Date (CSBD) to file a chargeback. Mastercard interprets CSBD as the day a merchant processed the disputed transaction or delivered the order.

Mastercard gives acquirers and merchants 45 days as the standard response time limit. A crucial exception to that policy is when they issue a request for more information on a dispute. And a merchant must respond within 18 days.

Discover Chargeback Time Limits

Discover acts as a bank and card network, but it still works with some select issuers. Similar to Visa and Mastercard, Discover gives cardholders a maximum of 120 days after a transaction to file a dispute.

Over at the acquirers and merchants' side of the aisle, the time limit is shorter. Discover sets the initial response time limit at 20 days. Also, if any party wishes to appeal a representment outcome, they must do that within 30 days. And merchants have 15 days to request arbitration.

Amex Chargeback Time Limits

Amex cardholders previously had no time limits for filing a dispute. But now, any customer that wishes to dispute a charge must do that within 120 days of the original transaction. Day One could defer, though. And cardmembers can only file two disputes on one order.

For acquirers and merchants, Amex says they must respond within 20 days by either accepting the dispute or proving how the chargeback request is meritless. If Amex escalated the dispute to a chargeback without an inquiry, there’s nothing a merchant can do about it.

Beat the Clock and Win More Disputes

Chargeback time limits are crucial because they speed up the chargeback process. They limit the back-and-forth processes of mediating a dispute.

But the short time frame also adds significant pressure on merchants, making it impossible for one to prepare adequately.

How can you outsmart the clock?

Well, for starters, you should know that if you manage chargebacks manually, it’ll be difficult to respond within the allotted time frame. You’ll have numerous tasks and barely enough time to get things done. The outcome is you keep forfeiting hard-earned revenue.

Even if you manage to respond within the time limit, a 12% success chance isn’t much fun. The rush to beat the clock means you could omit touchpoints and components that could help you level up. Or you could work at cross-purposes with the ever-changing rules, meaning more expenses with zero ROI.

With Chargeflow’s automated chargeback solution, you can stay on top of your disputes. You can stop washing your revenue down the dispute meditation pipe.

You can quickly gather compelling evidence and customize your response to optimize your win rate and limit losses.

You remove redundancies, improve ROI, and grow your capacity as your business scales by submitting responses on autopilot.

Here’s one more thing: Chargeflow uses a success-based pricing strategy. So you only pay when you win, which means maximum accountability.

Chargebacks cost merchants lots of money. But you now have the chance to refute every fraudulent chargeback without harming your business relationships.

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