Push back on chargebacks
By Peg Monahan, BuyerZone.com Content Manager
March 27, 2001
If you are a small business owner who accepts credit card payments for
merchandise, chargebacks - reversals against sales credited to your merchant
account - can be very costly. You lose the revenue from the transaction, and often
the merchandise itself. In addition, you're forced to pay a chargeback fee to the bank
that issued the credit card used in the transaction.
The following tips will save you money by reducing unnecessary chargebacks:
Learn the ropes. Knowing the rules is essential to a successful chargeback
prevention campaign. Make sure you and any employees involved in credit card
processing are familiar with the rules and regulations of your processor. Visa,
MasterCard, American Express, and Discover supply detailed information on both
minimizing the chance of chargebacks and managing the process when they do
Post your return/exchange policy. Customers having ready access to a clear
return/exchange policy are less liable to challenge it, according to Carter Cullen,
president of YourRights, a small business advocacy service located in Matamoras, PA.
Prominently display your return policy - either in your store or on your Web site if
you sell merchandise over the Internet - and make sure it is easy to understand. In
addition, print the policy on your sales drafts and billing statements. These actions
will discourage customers from contesting your policy later on.
Finesse the transaction process: in-store sales.
• Create proof that the credit card was present during the transaction (swipe the
card or imprint it on the transaction receipt).
• Obtain a signature from the cardholder and compare it to the one on the back of
• Request additional identification if the card is unsigned. Ask to see a photo ID that
includes a signature, and require the cardholder to sign the card in your presence.
• Check the expiration date on the card.
Finesse the transaction process: phone sales.
• Indicate that the transaction was a phone sale on the billing statement - this will
serve as proof of the customer's call.
Finesse the transaction process: Internet-based sales.
• Provide your merchant bank with an 800 number to include on credit card
statements sent to customers, and make certain that the name of your Web site,
rather than the name of your company, appears on the statements. This helps
customers easily identify charges and keeps them from reporting an unfamiliar
vendor as fraudulent. It also increases the chances that dissatisfied customers will
contact you before they attempt a chargeback.
• Confirm large transactions by sending customers a fax-back or mail-back form
requiring name, address, credit card number, expiration date, and signature.
Maintain complete and legible records. As the merchant, you are responsible for
presenting a copy of the original sales draft or billing statement should a customer
dispute a transaction listed on his or her credit card statement. In most cases, the
customer will remember the transaction after seeing the sales draft or billing
statement, immediately resolving the chargeback issue. If your original copy cannot
be read, however, the transaction could be returned to you as a chargeback because
the copy was illegible.
Actively seek retrieval requests. A customer who suspects an error or fraud
requests the credit card company to nullify the charge. Tarek Kirschem, CEO and
president of MerchantOnline, a turnkey e-commerce solution for small merchants,
recommends asking your credit card service to send you each "retrieval request" as
it comes in, so you can verify it with the customer if possible - before any money is
returned to the customer and before you are assessed a chargeback fee.