Chargebacks 101: The Difference Between a Refund, Chargeback, and Retrieval Request

While the term chargeback has become a sort of a generic blanket term for any time a customer demands a refund from a merchant, there’s actually a difference between refunds, chargebacks, retrieval requests.

And it all starts with the dispute.

To start with, credit card disputes are not two of your credit cards fighting over who’s got the best perks. According to Credit Karma:

Credit card disputes may occur when you disagree with the accuracy of a charge that appears on your statement. They typically fall into one of three categories: fraudulent charges, billing errors, or a complaint about the quality of goods or services purchased with your card.

A credit card reader. Merchants need to understand the difference between chargebacks, refunds, and retrieval requests.

In other words, there’s an erroneous charge on a cardholder’s credit card statement, so they dispute it with the bank that issued the card to them. (Also called the issuing bank.) The bank can then investigate to see if the charge is something the cardholder forgot about, a family member might have made it, or if it’s an error, quality problem, or fraud.

A refund is just what you think it is: A cardholder says, “I want my money back,” and the merchant says, “Okay, here’s your money back.” Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

In a refund, the merchant returns the money, the cardholder (sometimes) returns the merchandise, the merchant can often recover the interchange fees, and the issuing bank (usually) doesn’t get involved. And best of all, a refund doesn’t damage the merchant’s standing with their acquiring bank or payment processor. (The bank that is handling their credit card payments.)

A chargeback happens when the dispute gets elevated. The issuing bank thinks the cardholder has made their case and that they deserve to get their money back. The bank then withdraws the money from the merchant’s account and returns it to the cardholder. They also charge some additional fees. Depending on how many chargebacks the merchant has had against them, those fees could be more than 300% of the original charge. That is, a $1,000 refund ends up costing $3,000.

In a chargeback, the cardholder goes straight to their issuing bank and demands a refund. They don’t need to ship any merchandise back to the merchant, the merchant doesn’t get the interchange fee back, and they may have to pay additional chargeback fees. Plus, this hurts their chargeback ratio, which can cause more problems.

Too many chargebacks could get you placed in a credit card’s dispute monitoring program. It’s like being on credit card probation, and it can be costly. For example, in the Visa Dispute Monitoring Program, each dispute costs you $50 from the start, in addition to any other fees later on. And when the eight-month probation is up, you may be subject to a $25,000 reinstatement fee.

Having the right payment processor can help immensely when it comes to chargebacks. Reach out to your payment provider to find out what they can do when it comes to helping with chargebacks. While we are slightly bias, we believe our partner venture, Corepay offers the best payment processing available.

Bottom line: If you have to choose between a refund and a chargeback, give the refund. But if you think you’re in the right, fight the chargeback.

A retrieval request is becoming a little rarer. It happens when a customer or issuing bank requests a copy of the documentation to validate a transaction. So, it could be a receipt, signed receipt, sales draft, quote, or email correspondence.

A retrieval request is also called a “soft chargeback,” although it’s not a real chargeback. It can precede a chargeback, help with a fraud investigation, or validate a chargeback. And sometimes, the customer may just need the information for their own records.

As a merchant, you shouldn’t rely on a retrieval request as a chargeback early warning system though, because they’re not used that much anymore. Visa no longer requires them, Mastercard has stopped using them, and only Discover and American Express still require them.

Information merchants need to provide for chargebacks or retrieval requests

Whatever request the bank makes, if they ask for proof that a transaction has been made, you need to provide it. You shouldn’t ignore these, even if you think you’re too busy.

Your goal should be to knock down as many chargebacks as you can: the more you can win, the lower your chargeback ratio. The lower your chargeback ratio, the less likely you are to get placed in their dispute monitoring programs or be hit with extra chargeback processing fees.

If you receive a dispute, chargeback, or retrieval request, you need to respond to it, usually within five days. If you don’t, disputes could be elevated to chargebacks and you would automatically lose. Missing chargeback response windows also means you forfeit the chance to challenge.

Some of the information you should provide includes:

  • The cardholder’s name and account number.
  • The IP address from where the order was made. (This can prove that someone on their computer network made the purchase, as in the case of “family fraud.”)
  • Your own details, including the store name and the web address.
  • An order confirmation number, authorization code, or any other confirmation info.
  • The description of the products you shipped, including the original web page.
  • Copies of any email communication, especially any digital receipts. (If you have a read receipt showing they opened that email, that’s all the better.)
  • The date the transaction was made, and the date the product was shipped.
  • Any follow-up communication between you and the customer.

Of course, it also helps if you participate in programs like Mastercard’s Ethoca or Credit Dispute Resolution Network (CDRN) from Verifi, a Visa-owned company. It also helps if you use a third-party chargeback solution like CB-ALERT, which provides you with a suite of tools to fight fraud and reduce your chargeback exposure.

To learn more about how CB-ALERT can help you reduce the headaches of chargebacks, disputes, and fraud, please visit the CB-ALERT website.

Photo credit: Gadini (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

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