How credit card chargebacks work

By   |   Verified by Andrew Boyd   |   Updated 6 Oct 2023

Buying something and not getting what you paid for can be a frustrating experience. Or perhaps you’ve made a purchase on your credit card and some ‘mystery’ charges have appeared on your statement. One way to seek to get your money back is through a credit card chargeback.

In this guide we explain the credit card chargeback process, what you need to qualify for a chargeback, and how long it might take.

Key takeaways

  • Chargebacks offer a safety net, allowing cardholders to dispute unauthorised or problematic transactions.
  • Not all disputes qualify for a chargeback. Each card network has its own criteria and timeframes within which a dispute must be lodged.
  • Successful chargeback claims often hinge on providing thorough evidence and clear communication with the card issuer.

What is a chargeback?

The result of a successful chargeback is the same as a refund, but the process is different.

A chargeback happens when a transaction on your credit card is reversed after you dispute the transaction through your bank, rather than approaching the retailer directly.

If your dispute falls within the chargeback parameters as defined by Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, your bank will take up your dispute with the retailer’s bank.

Valid reasons to chargeback

You can only claim a chargeback under certain conditions, which are specified by the credit card processors.

Reasons to claim a chargeback can include:

  • Unauthorised transaction(s) on your card. For example, you may have bought something for a certain amount from a retailer, but when you check your credit card statement, as well as charging the purchase price of your item, the retailer has made an extra, unexplained charge against your card.
  • Duplicate or fraudulent charges. You buy something, and the retailer charges you twice for the goods or service, or there appears to be fraudulent charges on your card.
  • Goods or services are not as described. You may, for example, have ordered a long black jacket but when you open the box the jacket is short and blue.
  • You don’t receive what you have paid for. Either the goods just don’t arrive, or as has been the case for thousands of Australians during Covid, you book a holiday and it’s impossible to go.
  • Faulty items. The goods you receive just don't work.

Chargebacks vs refunds

As explained above, the result of the chargeback is the same as a refund.

However when you seek a refund on your credit card, you deal with the retailer directly.

If your dispute with the retailer falls within the credit card processor’s parameters, the retailer should then credit your card directly.

Did you know some credit cards have purchase protection and price protection insurance?

How it works

  1. Dispute the transaction with the retailer first. Visa requires you to do this before requesting a chargeback through your bank and Mastercard recommends it.
  2. If you are not successful in obtaining a refund through the retailer, contact your bank to request a chargeback.
  3. Your bank will check that your request qualifies for a chargeback.
  4. If it does, your bank will contact the retailer’s bank to request a chargeback.
  5. The retailer’s bank contacts the retailer to tell them about the chargeback request.
  6. If the retailer does not dispute the chargeback request, your card will be credited by the purchase amount.

What you need

To request a chargeback, you will need to have made a purchase on your credit card.

You will then need to supply your bank with details of the transaction, why you are seeking a chargeback, and evidence of the transaction, including things such as receipts, contracts, invoices and any correspondence you have had with the retailer.


It doesn’t cost you anything to request a chargeback, but banks will usually charge the retailer a chargeback fee.

Time limits

Cut-off time limits by which disputes must be submitted differ between banks. The general rule of thumb is to contact the bank and file a dispute as soon as possible.

BankTime limit for disputing a transaction
American ExpressWithin 120 days of transaction date
ANZWithin 120 days of transaction date
Bank of MelbourneWithin 30 days of the date of the account statement itemising the transaction
BankSAWithin 30 days of the date of the account statement itemising the transaction
BankwestWithin 14 days of the date of the account statement itemising the transaction
CitiWithin 60 days of transaction date
Commonwealth BankWithin 120 days of transaction date
NABWithin 120 days of transaction date
St.GeorgeWithin 30 days of the date of the account statement itemising the transaction
WestpacWithin 30 days of the date of the account statement itemising the transaction

How long it takes

Firstly, you should remember there are time limits on making a chargeback claim. This usually ranges from 30 days to 120 days and you won’t be able to claim outside the time limit.

Once you have submitted your chargeback claim, your dispute could be settled quickly, or you could be in for a long wait.

For example, NAB says on its website that depending on the type of issue relating to the chargeback, the bank will debit the retailer (and credit the customer) from anywhere between 7 days and 22 days.

ANZ says the chargeback process can take up to six months and in some cases up to 12 months.


You recently bought an expensive product from an online store and paid for it with your credit card.

When your order arrived, you found the product to be defective. It wouldn't even turn on. Disappointed, you contact the store, expecting the returns process to be simple and straightforward. It turned out to be anything but. To your dismay, the store refuses to accept the return, claiming the product was fine when shipped.

Fed up with the store's customer service department, you decide to contact your credit card issuer and explain the situation. They say you have grounds to dispute the transaction and ask for supporting documentation: the purchase receipt, email correspondence with the store, and photos of the defective product.

Your card issuer initiates a chargeback on your behalf, disputing the charge with the merchant's bank. After a review period, you are notified that the chargeback was successful, and the purchase amount has been credited back to your account.

Alternatives to chargebacks

You may be able to reach a resolution with the retailer without going down the chargeback route.

Some alternatives include:

  • Refund. The retailer can simply re-credit the amount spent to your card. However, if you are considering a chargeback, it’s likely that you’ve already tried and failed to get a refund.
  • Credit voucher. You don’t get a refund, but you get credit to the same value of your purchase. Credit vouchers will only be valid at the retailer’s goods and services, which may not be desirable if you’ve lost trust.
  • Rescheduled booking. If you buy something like a show or a holiday, you may be able to reschedule the booking to an alternative date.