According to Chargebacks911.com, chargebacks cost merchants roughly $31 billion in direct fees, liabilities, and lost revenue last year.
What is a chargeback? A chargeback is a transaction reversal meant to serve as a form of consumer protection from fraudulent activity committed by both merchants and individuals.
Chargebacks are dangerous because they often incur us heavy fees. And if our “chargeback ratio” is too high, we could risk losing the ability to accept credit and debit cards.
Chargebacks are different than refunds in that a retailer voluntarily returns the cost of a sales’ transaction. On the other hand, a chargeback is initiated by a retailer’s customer’s bank – usually because of a perceived fraudulent transaction.
Noticed I said, “perceived”. Because more than 7 out of every 10 chargebacks are known as “friendly fraud”. It is not true fraud, but rather many non-fraud reasons. As we see here, there are over 150 classifications of chargebacks.
The VAST majority of chargeback cases are preventable. I find there are 3 triggers of chargebacks that can be easily fixed:
1) Recurring billing
If we get paid every so many days, weeks or months, this is known as recurring- or ’til-forbid billing. The problem is most people either forget that they signed up for this or canceling is too hard.
The fix is to remove the friction from canceling. For example, I have a clickable button in my membership software that instantly cancels my client’s membership. There are no games played. I do not ask, “Are you sure you want to cancel?” My [Cancel Membership] button does exactly what anyone expects and cancels the membership instantly.
Incorporating email reminders are another tactic to slash the number of chargebacks we incur.
And adding a phone number or email address to my merchant descriptor reduces friction, too.
Bottom line: making it easy to cancel a recurring-billing option is a surefire way to slash chargebacks.
2) Confusing merchant descriptor
When customers are not clear on who the vendor is, their immediate reaction is to think their card was stolen. And a percentage will contact their bank and request a chargeback reversal.
For example, I just bought some groceries at Whole Foods. But I see on my bank’s Quick View page that the vendor was WHOLEFDS LAN#1. If I did not know any better, I would be confused by the merchant descriptor and might contact my bank for a chargeback reversal.
The simple fix is to edit the merchant descriptor to match the name of our business.
3) Ban countries
Internet Retailer revealed the top 5 riskiest nations for ecommerce fraud:
- South Africa
Since I do not have any customers from these countries, I block payments from that originate from these countries.
Is a chargeback the same as a refund?
A refund is when a merchant voluntarily agrees to return a number of funds back to the customer’s credit card. But, a chargeback dispute occurs when the cardholder contacts their card-issuing bank directly to dispute a charge on their credit card statement.
What is the process for a chargeback?
Once the cardholder files a dispute, the issuing bank makes an investigation into the complaint. The merchant’s payment processor immediately withdraws the chargeback amount and puts it on hold until the case is resolved. By the way: it is virtually impossible to reverse a chargeback. Banks almost always rule in favor of their cardholder.
What is a high-risk merchant account?
Merchants are usually considered high risk for one of the following reasons:
The owner of the business has poor credit…
The merchant/business is on the TMF or MATCH list (those who have been terminated by payment processors in the past).
The service or product we provide has a longer chargeback liability period. For example, annual memberships allow customers to have 18 months to issue a chargeback (6 months from the end of the service date)…
We are in an industry that has a history of high-chargebacks and has a “reputational” risk. Some examples of high-risk industries include:
- Annual memberships
- Adult products
- Bail bonds
- Business opportunities
- Electronics sold online
- Debt service
- Horoscope/Fortune telling
- Firearm dealers
- Mail order or telephone order
- Multi-level marketing (MLM)
- Online auctions
- Online dating sites
- Software downloads
- Telecommunications (VOIP or Calling Cards)
- Timeshare Advertising
- Travel services
Also: a business whose chargebacks average more than 1% of its total sales volume (the dollar amount, not the number of transactions) becomes subject to a chargeback monitoring program. It might also be accompanied by a $5,000 fine and risk of termination by the bank or credit card processor.
How long do you have to do a chargeback?
The chargeback process is contingent on deadlines. Both consumers and merchants must adhere to the debit- and credit-card chargeback time limit set forth by the card networks. The time limits vary depending on the chargeback reason code, but generally… a consumer’s chargeback filing deadline is within 120 days.
Can you get a chargeback on a debit card?
Absolutely, but debit cards offer fewer protections than credit cards.
If a chargeback is reported within two days of a sales’ transaction, the bank’s liability is capped at $50. If reported after two days, liability is capped at $500. After 60 days and the cardholder is liable for the entire transaction amount.
The liability of prepaid cards is determined at the discretion of the issuer. At best, protection will mimic a debit card.
How does a chargeback work with Paypal?
A chargeback isn’t the same as a PayPal claim. PayPal charges a fee (based on the currency received) to the seller when the buyer files a chargeback with his/her credit card issuer. If the transaction is protected by Seller Protection Policy, PayPal will cover the amount of the chargeback and waive the chargeback fee.