What Is the Time Limit on Chargebacks?

For merchants trying to win a chargeback dispute, efficiency and accuracy are the name of the game.

But with an expanding landscape of new payment options, chargeback time limits and response expectations can vary among card issuers – which makes it challenging for merchants to be prepared.

How can you be sure you’re filing fast enough?

To be sure, there are tight deadlines and specific documentation requirements to file, so when the chargeback time limit clock starts ticking, there’s little time to spare. And even the slightest delayed response can result in the extra penalties, expensive fees and lost claims that can be devastating to a growing business.

When online retailers try to defend their businesses against fraudulent chargeback claims, they need to fully understand the time constraints they face. Here’s how quickly merchants need to respond for each of these five major payment solutions.


In general, Visa cardholders have up to 120 days from the transaction date to file a chargeback.

However, certain reason codes have exceptions.

Some codes have shorter timeframes. For the codes Card Recover Bulletin or Exception File, Declined Authorization, and No Authorization, cardholders have only 75 days to file disputes.

Other codes may have longer timeframes. For the Services Not Provided or Goods Not Received code and the Not as Described or Defective Merchandise code, disputes must be processed either within 120 days of the date the customer expected to receive the goods/services, or within 120 days of the date the customer was notified the goods/services wouldn’t be provided. In either case, the dispute must be processed within 540 days of the original transaction.

Some codes place limitations on the issuing banks. For example, for the codes Credit Not Processed, Services Not Provided or Goods Not Received, and Not as Described or Defective Merchandise, issuing banks must wait 15 calendar days from the transaction date or the date the customer returned the late-delivered merchandise before accepting or initiating a dispute.

The 2018 Visa Claims Resolution Initiative also reduced the window for merchants to respond to Visa chargebacks and challenge disputes from 45 to 30 days. Issuers and cardholders now have only 30 days to respond to rebuttals.

As a result of these changes, many chargebacks are resolved in just 31 days, down from more than 100 days prior to the VCRI. The VCRI initiative, combined with the Visa Resolve Online platform, aims to completely eliminate the chargeback lag and the accounting challenges associated with it.


Like Visa, Mastercard generally requires issuers and cardholders to file chargebacks within 120 days of the date the original transaction was processed. And also like Visa, several Mastercard chargeback codes have shorter timeframes, such as:

  • Authorization-related chargebacks have a chargeback time limit of 90 days.
  • Installment billing disputes have a chargeback time limit of 60 or 120 days.
  • Cardholder disputes in the United States that aren’t classified elsewhere must be filed within 60 or 120 days.

Banks and merchants generally have up to 45 days to respond to each phase of the chargeback process.

Mastercard began rolling out its Mastercard Dispute Resolution Initiative in October 2018, an overhaul to the chargeback process that will eventually affect some chargeback timeframes. For example, starting in April 2019, filing times for chargebacks filed with code 4834 (Point of Interaction Error) will be reduced from 120 days to 90 days.


PayPal chargeback time limits and rules are slightly different than Visa or Mastercard: Customers have 180 days from the transaction date to initiate a transaction dispute in the PayPal Resolution Center.

Also, whether the dispute is over an item that wasn’t received or an item that was received not as described, the initial chargeback process is the same:

  1. The buyer initiates a dispute in the PayPal Resolution Center.
  2. The buyer and the seller have 20 days to work together for a solution (e.g., initiate a refund, reship item), but the buyer can escalate the dispute to a claim at any time during this period.
  3. Note: If the dispute isn't escalated or resolved after 20 days, PayPal automatically closes the dispute.
  4. If the buyer escalates the dispute to a claim, the seller generally has 10 days to respond to the claim. If PayPal doesn’t receive a response to the claim in 10 days, PayPal decides in favor of the buyer.

The next steps of the PayPal chargeback process differ slightly, depending on the type of dispute:

If disputes are due to items not received:

If the seller responds to the escalated claim, buyers should respond to the seller within three days.

  1. If the exchange of responses doesn’t resolve the claim, PayPal will decide the outcome of the dispute, usually within five to 10 days.

If disputes are due to items significantly not as described:

If the seller’s responses don’t resolve the claim, PayPal will review the case, obtain additional information from the buyer and seller as needed, and decide the outcome, usually within five days.

  1. To receive a refund, buyers are generally asked to return the item within 10 days.
  2. PayPal verifies the return within five days and enforces the claims outcome.

PayPal reports that while most claims are investigated in less than 14 days, it can take 30 days or more to decide the outcome of a claim.

American Express and Discover

There’s currently no time limit for American Express and Discover cardholders to dispute a transaction. However, both card issuers give merchants just 20 days to respond to a dispute, after which time the dispute may turn into a chargeback.

Fraud Managed Services Reduce Chargeback Risks

With chargeback rules changing constantly, it can be hard for e-commerce merchants to keep up. Wouldn’t it be great to not have to worry about changing rules, expensive chargeback fees and penalties, and the uncertainty of how chargebacks may affect your business?

A multilayered approach to fraud might be just what your business needs to protect your business against the direct and indirect costs of fraud. Download our free ebook, “Is a Fraud Managed Services Solution Right for Your Business,” to learn how this solution can help you succeed in 2019 and beyond.


Is a Fraud Managed Services Solution Right for Your Business?