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April 19, 2022
by David Goodale

What is a chargeback?

(Slightly edited from video transcript for greater readability)

Key Takeaways

What is a Chargeback?
A chargeback is a dispute between a cardholder and a merchant. The cardholder has called their card issuing bank and asked them to forcibly reverse the transaction.
Reasons for a Chargeback
Chargebacks can occur due to reasons such as fraud, the item received not being as described, or non-delivery of services.
Impact of Chargebacks
Visa and Mastercard have strict thresholds and rules about how many chargebacks a merchant is allowed to receive. If you get too many chargebacks you can receive fines from Visa/Mastercard, or your account could be cancelled.
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Hello, David here at Today, I'm going to tackle a another simple question: "What is a chargeback?". Stay tuned, I'm going to answer it in a second.

What is a chargeback?

It is a pure bloody frustration. If you're a business owner, what it means is you've lost money because as soon as a chargeback happens, you pay a chargeback fee to your payment processor. Now I know I haven't explained what it is as yet. It's a dispute. It's where your customer, took their credit card in the hand, turned it over and they read the number to their bank, then called their bank and said, : "Hey, I have a dispute about this transaction". Then they tell the bank to forcibly reverse the transaction. Now that can happen for a bunch of different reasons. It can happen for fraud. I never bought this flat screen TV or whatever it might have been. That wasn't me. I've never heard of this merchant before. That's where the cardholder is claiming fraud. There are other reasons as well.

Other reasons for chargebacks

It could be the item, not as described. Hey, I bought this, you know, hat and it was supposed to like fit my head, but it's this big, it's a toddler's hat and I'm not a toddler. And that didn't say that on the website, they, they did not give me what they promised. So that's another example of a reason code for a chargeback there several different reason codes, but they basically follow the type of disputes that you could anticipate could happen between a card holder and a merchant. Now, when that happens, you get issued a chargeback. There's a fee that comes with it. The fee's not the worst part. The worst part is if you lose the chargeback, you lose the money. So let's say that you sell very exotic, very expensive, rare blue diamonds, and you get a big order and you ship off without validating the order in any way, which by the way is a terrible idea, but it happens for some reason because I'm making a silly example.

The point is you lose the diamond. The Diamond's gone. Somebody got the diamond. They have it, they're now in possession of some super valuable diamond. Unfortunately, the chargeback comes in and the persons whose card got charged wasn't really them. You can lose your product and lose the money from the sale at the same time.


It's best to generally prevent chargebacks from happening before they occur. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and more. We have other content and other videos about spotting fraud and validating orders. We have a video about using Google meet or for example zoom to validate suspicious orders. We have some content about 3d secure, which is an extra security step in an eCommerce checkout process that protects you as a merchant. The cardholder can't claim fraud if you have a 3d secure transaction. Now I'm off on a tangent. I didn't mean to get all into this. A charge back is a dispute between a cardholder and a merchant. As a merchant, you want to stop that from happening, do not immediately ship suspect orders, validate your orders, give good customer service. You shouldn't have any charge back problems. If you do you want to talk to us at, we're here to help. I hope you enjoyed this video. Thanks for watching. Have a good day.

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If you get too many chargebacks your merchant account can be shut down. In this video we explore what you should do to keep your account in good standing if you've been targeted by fraudsters and suddenly start receiving a lot of chargebacks.
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Hello, David here at Today I'm going to tackle a very frustrating topic. Sometimes it's infuriating. What do you do when you get a chargeback and you lose it and it's completely unfair? What's left? Stay tuned, I'm going to do my best to help in one second.
May 14, 2021
In the past the best way to manually screen suspicious orders was to call the customer on the phone and ask them questions. Now, with modern web based video technologies it's possible to validate customers in a way that was never previously possible.
March 16, 2018
Visa is addressing some of the most common chargeback related complaints from merchants. Going forward, chargebacks are a thing of the past and will now be known as disputes.
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A positive AVS result is an indicator of a legitimate transaction. In this short explainer video David explains what AVS is, how it works, and things to be aware of when relying on an AVS security result for any particular order.
March 25, 2023
It can be difficult to win a chargeback dispute. David explores different ways to shift the odds into your favour.
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David explains what two factor authentication is, how it works, and how it shifts chargeback risk for fraud onto the card issuer and away from the merchant.
July 21, 2023
How does Visa and MasterCard chargeback arbitration work? When a merchant has fought a chargeback and lost there is still one more chance to turn it around by taking it to the card brands for arbitration.
July 28, 2023
Merchants with businesses that are prone to disputes need to be careful to stay below the Visa and MasterCard thresholds.
January 10, 2024
There is a strong argument that 3DSecure (version 2) is the single best anti-fraud tool available to any online merchant. In this video David explains what 3DSecure is, how it works, how you set it up on your website, and different ways that it can be configured.
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Pre-authorizations are one of the best tools available to prevent fraud. A pre-auth will enable you to return security results for the order, such as AVS and CVV security checks. More importantly, it gives you a chance to evaluate the order and determine if you want to accept the sale. You are fully protected because you can't get a chargeback until you capture the funds from the pre-authorization.

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David Goodale About the Author

My name is David Goodale, CEO at Merchant I launched our business in 2001 and have over 20 years of expertise in the field of online payments. If you have a payments related question or project, and especially if it relates to multi-currency or international e-commerce don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always happy to help with an honest opinion, and enjoy chatting with folks from interesting businesses.

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