What Are the American Express Chargeback Time Limits for Merchants & Cardmembers?
Are you a merchant fighting an unfair chargeback claim? Or, are you a cardholder dealing with a case of criminal fraud? In either case, Amex chargebacks come with built-in time limits you need to know about.
While Amex was one of the first companies to issue payment cards, many aspects of the brand differ from other credit card networks. For instance, while Visa and Mastercard are both card networks who work with member banks, Amex is a bank with its own proprietary card network. This, in turn, influences the American Express chargeback time limits set by the company.
For a long time, American Express placed no time restraints on cardmember’s ability to dispute a transaction. In recent years, however, the company has imposed a 120-day limit for filing chargebacks. Merchants are bound by 20-day response times for most phases. There's more to the story, though.
In this post, we’ll explain why Amex is different from other card brands. We’ll see what the basic Amex dispute time limits are, and how the dispute deadlines work for both merchants and cardmembers.
Why are American Express Chargebacks Different?
American Express is currently the fourth-largest general-purpose card network in the world based on both purchase volume and number of cards in circulation. Unlike Visa or Mastercard, however, Amex has never been dependent on mainstream banking.Learn More About General Chargeback Time Limits
This is because, as we mentioned earlier, the company serves as both a payment processor and a card issuer for their own products. In other words, cardmembers filing an American Express chargeback are also customers of the American Express issuing bank. This can make the overall process less complicated and more efficient, but it can also constrict a merchant's ability to contest invalid chargebacks.
With all this in mind, let’s take a closer look at American Express chargeback time limits for merchants and cardholders.
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Amex Chargeback Time Limits: Merchants
When a cardmember disputes a charge, American Express reviews the claim and makes an initial decision. If there is sufficient evidence to support the claim, the chargeback is filed and the transaction amount is immediately removed from the merchant’s account.
Things work differently if the company is unsure about the claim. They may send an inquiry—also called a request for information—looking for additional details. The merchant has 20 days to respond to the inquiry, either accepting the dispute or offering evidence that the claim is invalid. If theyneglect to answer within the time frame, or if American Express views their evidence as insufficient, the dispute becomes a chargeback.
This is less common, of course. Remember: Amex serves as both an issuer and a card network in the same transaction. Thus, there are very few situations where they won’t have enough documentation to make a call.
Still, if a merchant believes that a customer’s dispute is invalid or was issued incorrectly, they are allowed to contest it. The process, however, comes with strict deadlines:
- After an inquiry (request of information) is issued, you have 20 days from the inquiry date to respond.
- If the inquiry response results in a chargeback issuance, you have 20 days from the chargeback date to contest the chargeback.
- After a chargeback is issued directly from the customer dispute, you have 20 days from the chargeback date to contest the chargeback.
In the case of an inquiry, Amex is simply asking the merchant to explain the customer’s complaint from their perspective. Sellers must provide the details Amex needs to confirm or deny the cardholder’s story. If they receive an actual chargeback, though, it’s their responsibility to mount a defense. The merchant has to provide evidence to demonstrate the transaction was valid and that the chargeback was inappropriate.
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Second chargeback and pre-arbitration phases are not a standard practice with American Express. They may be allowed in some cases, but guidelines for the process are flexible.
Also, merchants should keep in mind that if their inquiry rate (number of inquiries as a share of total transactions) is too high, receiving inquiries will likely no longer be an option. American Express will escalate all disputes directly to the chargeback stage, with no input from the merchant.
Amex Chargeback Time Limits: Cardholders
Still, this gives consumers a considerable window for instigating a dispute. To offset this, cardmembers are restricted to just two disputes per transaction, in most cases. That means merchants will not have to repeatedly reply to the same dispute.
Working With American Express Dispute Deadlines
Remember: the point which qualifies as "Day One" will reset at each stage of the chargeback process. So, while the time limit on chargebacks is predetermined, it will still move around as one progresses to a different stage of the dispute:
American Express chargeback time limits are confusing…much like many other parts of the Amex dispute process. Without knowing how different factors affect the timeframe, however, merchants are much more likely to miss a deadline and automatically lose a case.
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Does American Express allow chargebacks?
Yes. As per the Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974, card networks are required to have a process in place to reverse charges for consumers in cases of fraud. Like other card networks, Amex uses the chargeback process to do this.
What are American Express chargeback time limits? How long can you chargeback Amex transactions?
The American Express dispute time limits can vary. In most cases, cardholders have 120 days from the original purchase date to dispute a charge. For merchants, evidence and documentation to support your case must be submitted within 20 days of the date the chargeback (or inquiry) issued.
How long do AMEX chargebacks take?
This depends on the situation. Some Amex chargebacks can be resolved in a matter of days. If the merchant wants to dispute the charge, though, it could take weeks, or even months, for a dispute to be resolved.
What happens if I have too many Amex disputes?
If your American Express inquiry rate is too high, any customer disputes will escalate to the chargeback stage. If the inquiry rate remains high, you may face additional restrictions.