Tom-Chris Emewulu
Chargeflow's Digital Evangelist
Table of contents

TL;DR: A chargeback is a payment reversal by the cardholder’s bank, while disputes are customer complaints on specific transactions. Merchants remediate disputes directly with the customer through a refund or other arrangements, but chargeback remediation involves transaction re-presentment. That means providing compelling evidence that counters the customer’s claim. Understanding these concepts is crucial in the current economic landscape.

Now, diving into today's complex eCommerce landscape, being able to understand the intricacies of financial transactions is bottom line crucial. As global economies continue to navigate through geopolitical uncertainties, inflation, and tightening financial conditions, as noted by analysts at Euromonitor, eCommerce merchants face an increasing challenge in managing financial transactions. With tightened financial conditions, you're going to see increased online scams, and especially increased chargebacks. Therefore, it is crucial to be educated in how to manage these issues.

Tracking the learning curves from 2020, it's evident as an eCommerce merchant that online scams have become one of the most common culprits. Research indicates that the cost per chargeback could reach $200 this year, with an average net recovery rate of just 12%.

This article will address the chargeback dispute FAQs raised by our readers, offering insights into the current trends and effective strategies you need to manage these challenges.

But, before we get started here are some statistics you need to consider:

  • Friendly fraud increased by 20% - 30% in 2022 and accounts for up to 70% of all credit card fraud.
  • 25% of transactions U.S consumers made with cryptocurrencies resulted in a chargeback, according to Merchant Fraud Journal.
  • False chargeback disputes now contribute to $125 billion in annual chargeback losses for merchants globally.

Are you completely familiar the ins and outs of chargebacks, disputes, refunds, and representments? You might be new to the industry, or like most find the industry and its challenges quite overwhelming. Either way, this article will help demystify these concepts, providing you with clear definitions and actionable insights.

So let's get started. We'll guide your through these terms, show you how you can safeguard you business despite these challenges. We'll also show you how solutions like Chargeflow can play a crucial role in managing these financial hurdles effectively.

Chargeback vs Disputes vs Refund vs Representment. What does it all mean?

If you’re new in the industry, the terms are literally overwhelming.

What is a dispute?

What is a chargeback?

What is chargeback representment?

Is a chargeback the same as a refund?

What is the difference between a chargeback and dispute?

Deep breath…

…we’re here to answer all the questions and clarify things for you quite nicely.

What is a Chargeback?

A chargeback is when a cardholder disputes a credit card transaction and requests payment reversal from their bank. They seek this remediation through the chargeback-dispute process, where the issuer reverses a payment because of the cardholder's complaint after some due diligence.

For the most part, cardholders initiate such complaints when they don't recognize a bill on their account, if the seller billed the buyer excessively when someone made a transaction without their authorization, or if they did not receive their goods or services.

So, what is a dispute?

A dispute is a customer grievance about a specific transaction. Customer disputes precede chargebacks. A dispute is essentially the customer's complaint to their bank or credit card issuer that leads to a payment reversal by the institution.

Even though “chargeback” and “dispute” are often used interchangeably, they don’t quite mean the same time. Think of a dispute as the preliminary stage of the case. And a chargeback as the maturity stage of ultimate transaction cancellation.

Some people also use "chargeback dispute" to refer to the entire process, while others call it chargeback. Let’s draw further differentiation between the terms.

chargeback fraud is a vicious cycle that will hurt your business

Chargebacks vs. Disputes: What is the difference between a chargeback and dispute?

Recall that a chargeback occurs when a bank reverses a transaction payment.

As we noted earlier, the chargeback mechanism is a consumer protection instrument through which cardholders reverse unjust, fraudulent, or incorrect billings on their payment card.

A customer dispute, in contrast, is a disagreement or complaint that a buyer has with a business.

Ideally, the customer sends an email or other communication to the business to raise the dispute. And the company works with the buyer to resolve such a dispute.

Thus, the sharp distinction between chargebacks and customer disputes is that while businesses can remediate customer disputes directly with the cardholder, chargeback remediation involves third parties, such as banks, the card network, etc. Also, chargebacks attract fees and can lead to complex issues like loss of payment processing rights.

Banks place chargeback fees to cover their administrative cost of processing the dispute. And chargeback fees can vary depending on the cardholder's bank or the card network (more on this in a subsequent passage).

Chargeback vs Refund vs Reversal

The main difference among chargeback, refund, and reversal lies in who initiates the transaction and how it is processed. A chargeback is initiated by the customer and involves the bank reversing the transaction after the customer disputes the charge on their credit card. A refund, on the other hand, is initiated by the merchant and involves them returning the customer's money directly, often as a result of a return or exchange.

Chargeflow helps you recover chargebacks without lifting a finger

Understanding the Chargeback Representment Cycle

Chargebacks have a significant financial impact on merchants. Not only do merchants lose money from the transaction, they often incur fees from the card processor or bank. A $1 chargeback can cost the business at least $3.

Again, if a merchant receives too many chargebacks, their processor or bank may terminate their merchant account. If you can’t process payments, how in the world will you make any money?

Chargeback representment is a strict, systematized procedure for fighting invalid chargebacks. Chargeback representment involves submitting evidence, such as proof of delivery or a copy of the sales receipt, to the customer's bank to demonstrate the transaction’s legitimacy.

Understanding the crucial steps you need to take for each stage of the representment cycle is essential as it helps recover transaction revenue and optimize your systems effectively.

How the long-winding chargeback representment process works.

  1. Dispute Filing

The cardholder initiates the chargeback process by filing a dispute with the card issuer. Generally, the card issuer will send an email or a letter to the cardholder, asking them to provide additional information.

  1. Due Diligence Time

The credit card provider or bank will investigate the dispute and determine whether or not the chargeback is valid or invalid.

  1. Notifying the Merchant

The credit card provider or bank will inform the merchant of the chargeback dispute. At this point of receiving the notification, you have one of two choices:

  • Accept the chargeback, which closes the loop.
  • Respond by disputing the customer’s claim. You will need to provide additional documentation to counter the cardholder’s claim.
  1. Responding to the Dispute

Effective chargeback response requires that you provide compelling evidence that the charge was valid. It is important to remember that any documentation provided by the merchant must have the cardholder's name and address listed, such as an itemized receipt, proof of delivery, and credit or refund amount.

  1. Reaching a Chargeback Decision

Based on your compelling evidence, the credit card provider or bank will make a final decision on the dispute, and either award a permanent refund to the customer or keep the charge intact.

At this point there are three possible outcomes:

  • You won. The bank will reverse the chargeback and mark the case closed.
  • The cardholder won. They will retain the transaction fund.
  • You won but the cardholder or their bank presented new evidence that counters your claim.

Available records show that banks reject over two-thirds of chargeback cases, resulting in a second chargeback, called “pre-arbitration” or “pre-arb” chargeback.

Merchants rarely win arbitration chargebacks. In most cases, the bank makes a judgment call to close the matter. Hence, merchants resort to the legal system for debt collection. But that’s for high-value transactions.

A breakdown of chargeback process

How Can Merchants Prevent Disputes From Becoming Chargebacks?

To prevent a dispute from escalating into a chargeback, start by optimizing your customer service tools. If a customer reaches out with complaints, address their issues promptly. And follow through to ensure they’re satisfied with the solution provided.

Tools like Zoho Social and NapoleonCat can help you track reviews and social mentions.

Other vital industry best practices come in handy too. Provide clear terms and conditions on all sales and delivery documents, and communicate all return and refund policies upfront.

Use automated systems to confirm order details with customers, monitor customer accounts for irregularities, and track down and resolve any fraud issues quickly.

Monitor chargeback activity and implement strategies to prevent them by using Chargeflow to automate your disputes. With that, you can leverage chargeback analytics to identify trends and take action.

Finally, educate your customers and staff on proper dispute procedures to reduce friction.

Is a chargeback the same as a refund?

The main difference between chargeback and refund is that a chargeback is initiated by the customer and involves the bank reversing the transaction, whereas a refund is initiated by the merchant and involves them returning the customer's money directly.

Chargeback is NOT the same as a refund.

A refund is a customer-initiated process in which a merchant agrees to reverse a transaction and return funds to the customer. That can happen for many reasons, such as a customer returning an item or the merchant canceling a service.

Instead of going over the merchant’s head to seek remediation, customers deal directly with merchants in instances of refunds. The process does not involve the customer's bank or credit card issuer.

While the two concepts ultimately result in transaction reversal and payment cancelation, there are significant differences between them, as noted below:


  • Involves multiple parties including cardholder, merchant, issuer, Acquirer, Card Network;
  • Card networks set specific limits, after which additional fees/conditions apply;
  • The merchant pays a non-negotiable chargeback fee;
  • Could result in loss of processing rights;
  • Takes at least 45 days to resolve.


  • Involves only the cardholder and merchant;
  • There are no conditional limits applied;
  • The merchant pays no additional fees;
  • Merchant account privileges intact;
  • Can be resolved immediately.
Handling chargeback manually is way too hectic, even for us.

How to Improve Your Odds of Winning a Chargeback Dispute

If you’ve read any good material on chargeback mitigation, my guess is that you’re already acquainted with this laundry list of chargeback best practices:

  1. Gather all of the evidence you have that supports your case.
  2. Don’t run out of the clock before you send your response and rebuttal.
  3. Provide clear and concise facts to the issuer for better understanding of the situation.
  4. Be prepared to provide additional evidence or documentation if requested.
  5. Keep track of all chargeback disputes and their outcomes.
  6. Stay updated on the latest chargeback policies and regulations, as they may change from time to time.

While those are genuine and useful advice, assuming you have the time, specialized knowledge, and resources to fight each customer dispute and recover lost revenue, they’re not enough. Not even close.


Look at the numbers: six out of ten chargeback cases are friendly fraud cases. So how do you use the guides above to fight such chargebacks knowing (1) the reason code provided is false, and (2) you are already seen as guilty of the crime before you send in your rebuttal letter? Friendly fraud takes away an estimated 28% of all eCommerce revenue today, and 40% of customers who commit friendly fraud repeat the act in 60 days.

Chargeflow: Revolutionizing Chargeback Management

Here's where Chargeflow comes in. Chargeflow utilizes Big Data and seamless integration with your business to provide a groundbreaking approach to chrageback and dispute management. Specializing in creating custom-tailored evidence, Chargeflow efficiently handles submissions for you. With our extensive experience in resolving  thousands of chargebacks and disputes, we've refined our process to significantly enhance your success rate. Transitioning the industry standard of 12% to an impressive 75% or higher in dispute recovery, Chargeflow not only elevates your financial resilience but also allows you to focus on growing your business.

Summed Up

Meeting the demands and truly understanding chargeback and disputes is crucial for safeguarding your business interests. We've explored these concepts througouly, providing essential insights and strategies for effective management. For merchants seeking to enhance their approach to these issues, exploring solutions like Chargeflow could be a game-changer. Interested in elevating your chargeback management and safeguarding your business's financial health? Discover more about how Chargeflow can empower your operations.


Why Did I Get a Chargeback?

Chargebacks occur when a customer disputes a charge on their credit card statement. This can happen for many reasons, such as fraud, incorrect billing, unsatisfactory services, or goods that weren't delivered. It is important to review chargeback reasons and address them quickly to protect your business reputation and minimize losses.

Does a Chargeback Count Against My Ratio if I Win the Dispute?

Unfortunately, your chargeback will not count against your ratio if you win the dispute. The chargeback process is a form of consumer protection that allows cardholders to dispute a charge if they are not satisfied with the merchant’s response to their complaint. If a cardholder successfully disputes a charge and the merchant loses the dispute, then the chargeback will be reversed and the merchant will not be held liable for the charge. Therefore, the chargeback will not count against your ratio if you win the dispute.

Can You Win a Chargeback Dispute?

YES. You can win a chargeback dispute if you can provide compelling evidence that the transaction was valid and that you followed all the proper transaction procedures. This may include providing proof of delivery, a copy of the sales receipt, or other documentation. Additionally, you must respond to the dispute within the specified time frame and provide all the required information. If you’re unable to provide sufficient evidence, the chargeback may be upheld. Using Chargeflow’s automated chargeback solution makes the process seamless without any involvement from you team.

Average Dispute Amount
Average Dispute Amount
# Disputes Per Month
# Disputes Per Month
Time Spent Per Dispute
Time Spent Per Dispute
You could recover
$500,000 and save
1,000 hours every month with Chargeflow!
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