American Express Chargeback Time LimitGuidelines & Timetables for Merchants & Cardholders

February 5, 2024 | 12 min read

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American Express Chargeback Time Limit

In a Nutshell

American Express (or “Amex”) is different from other card brands, in that they’re both an issuer AND a card network. This impacts how they approach chargeback time limits. In this post, we’ll see what the basic Amex dispute time limits are and how the dispute deadlines work for both merchants and cardholders.

What Are the American Express Chargeback Time Limits for Merchants & Cardmembers?

Are you a cardholder dealing with a case of criminal fraud on your American Express card? Or, maybe you’re a merchant fighting an unfair Amex dispute claim? In either case, Amex chargebacks come with built-in time limits you need to know about.

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 limit for filing chargebacks in their merchant dispute reference guide. Merchants who want to submit responses to Amex claims have strict time limits as well.

With all this in mind, let’s take a closer look at Amex chargeback rules and American Express chargeback time limits for merchants and cardholders.

Learn More About Chargeback Time Limits

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.

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 that work with member banks, Amex is an issuing bank with its own proprietary card network.

In other words, most cardmembers filing an American Express chargeback will also be customers of American Express in its capacity as a bank.

This, in turn, influences the American Express chargeback time limits set by the company. Namely, while it can make the overall process less complicated and more efficient, it can also constrict a merchant's ability to contest invalid chargebacks.

Learn more about Amex chargeback rules

American Express Chargeback Time Limits for Cardholders

American Express Chargeback Time Limit

The American Express dispute time limit for cardholders is 120 days from the date of the original transaction for most Amex chargeback reason codes.

Exceptions to the 120-day time limit are made in the case of three specific reason codes outlined below:

  • C04: Goods/Services Returned or Refused
  • C05: Goods/Services Canceled
  • CO8: Goods/Services Not Received or Only Partially Received

The time frame can be extended in these cases, as we will outline in more detail below. You should also note that the original 120-day time limit does not apply to redisputes, meaning a second dispute filed in response to a chargeback reversal.

This 120-day restriction has only been in place for the last few years. Before that, cardholders could initiate a chargeback regardless of the transaction date; the cutoff was entirely at Amex’s discretion.

Still, this gives consumers a considerable window for instigating a dispute. To offset this, cardholders are restricted to just two disputes per transaction in most cases. That means merchants will not have to repeatedly reply to the same dispute.

What Cardholders Need to Do Before the American Express Chargeback Time Limit Expires

Before making the call, there are a few steps you should take before picking up the phone to initiate a dispute. Here’s a brief overview of the process:

Step #1 | Identify a Valid Reason for the Dispute

Customers can initiate chargebacks for various reasons, including unauthorized transactions, billing errors, goods or services not received, or goods or services not as described. The specific reason for the dispute will determine the process and documentation required.

Step #2 | Attempt to Contact the Merchant

You should try to resolve the situation with the merchant directly before initiating a chargeback. This is especially true for disputes related to “goods or services not received” or “not as described” claims. A merchant refund will generally be faster and easier than a chargeback.

Step #3 | Be Ready With Documentation

Cardmembers should be prepared to provide supporting documentation when initiating a chargeback. This may include sales receipts, invoices, correspondence with the merchant, proof of return shipping, and any other relevant information that can help substantiate the dispute.

Step #4 | Contact Amex

If merchant resolution doesn’t work, cardmembers should contact American Express to dispute the charge. You can often find the contact information on the back of your Amex card or on the official Amex website. Reporting the issue promptly is essential, especially for unauthorized transactions.

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Lastly, customers should be aware that the chargeback may not always work out in their favor. If the merchant is able to provide more compelling evidence of the legitimacy of the transaction in question, the card network may side with the merchant. Be sure to review your card's terms and conditions for details if you’re unsure whether you have a valid reason for a dispute.

Amex Chargeback Time Limits for Merchants

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.

What Merchants Need to Do Before the Chargeback Response Time Limit Expires

When a cardholder 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 they neglect 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.

To illustrate how this works, here’s an overview of the Amex chargeback process from the merchant’s side of things:

Step #1 | Review the Chargeback Notification

When receiving a chargeback notification from Amex, carefully review the documentation provided. This notification will typically include details about the disputed transaction, the reason for the chargeback, and the deadline for responding.

Step #2 | Gather Supporting Documentation

Collect all relevant documentation related to the disputed transaction. This may include sales receipts, invoices, shipping records, communication with the cardholder, and any other evidence that supports your case. Make sure the documentation is organized and readily accessible.

Step #3 | Prepare a Clear and Detailed Response

Write a concise but comprehensive response letter that addresses the cardholder's concerns and presents the most detailed case.

Be sure to include the following in each response:

  • A brief summary of the transaction and its details.
  • An explanation of why the chargeback is not valid, backed by evidence.
  • Reference to any applicable policies, terms and conditions, or agreements.
  • Any relevant communication or correspondence with the cardholder.
  • A request for the chargeback to be reversed, along with a clear statement of the desired resolution.

Step #4 | Submit the Response

Submit the response to Amex within the specified timeframe (more on this below). Failure to respond on time could result in an automatic loss of the dispute.

Remember that chargeback rules and procedures can change, so it's extremely important to consult Amex's most recent guidelines and documentation for the most up-to-date information. Additionally, it's important to proactively address issues that lead to chargebacks and implement best practices to prevent future disputes.

Phases of the Amex Chargeback Process

The American Express chargeback process typically consists of three main phases:

Phase One: Initiation & Notification 

The chargeback process begins when an Amex cardholder disputes a transaction on their statement. This could be due to various reasons, such as unauthorized transactions, goods or services not received, or billing errors.

Upon receiving the cardholder's dispute, Amex initiates an investigation into the matter. They inform the merchant by sending a chargeback notification, which includes details of the disputed transaction and the reason for the chargeback.

Merchants are required to respond to the chargeback notification within the specified timeframe, typically within 20 days. This is a crucial phase at which merchants must gather evidence and present a compelling case to challenge the chargeback.

Phase Two: Resolution 

During this phase, Amex reviews the documentation and evidence provided by both the cardholder and the merchant. They assess the validity of the chargeback and determine whether the disputed transaction should be reversed or upheld. Amex may request additional information or clarification from either party to make an informed decision.

If the chargeback is found in favor of the merchant, Amex will reverse the transaction, and the cardholder's account will be debited for the previously refunded amount. However, if the chargeback is upheld, the cardholder will retain the refund.

Phase Three: Appeal Phase (Limited Availability)

Unlike some other card networks, American Express does not have a formal arbitration process for chargebacks. This means that once Amex makes a ruling on a chargeback, it is generally considered final.

Merchants can sometimes submit additional information or documents during the representment process (the response to the chargeback). However, there is limited opportunity for further appeals. Merchants must make their strongest case during the initial response to the chargeback.

Therefore, merchants need to thoroughly review the chargeback documentation and provide all necessary evidence to support their case during the initial response because opportunities for further appeals or arbitration are typically limited.

Remember also that the point that 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, as illustrated below:

Exceptions & Special Circumstances

As we mentioned, Amex dispute time limits for merchants are straightforward. They must respond within 20 days. Like we mentioned at the top of the article, though, there are some exceptions on the cardholder’s side. Three reason codes have modified time frames:

Amex Reason Code

Reason Code CO4
Goods/Services Returned or Refused

For chargebacks filed using American Express reason code C04, the cardholder refused delivery of goods or services. However, the merchant failed to process a credit for the cardholder. Amex has not specified a deadline for the filing of chargebacks using this reason code, because the timeline may be impacted by shipping times for refused goods, merchant response times, and other factors.

Amex Reason Code

Reason Code CO5
Goods/Services Canceled

Here, the cardholder claims that the order for goods or services was canceled, but the merchant failed to process the cancellation. These disputes can be impacted by factors like a merchant’s billing process, automatic renewal terms, subscription practices, etc. Because a dispute ay arise months — or even years — after an initial charge, the 120-day time limit does not apply.

Amex Reason Code

Reason Code CO8
Goods/Services Not Received or Only Partially Received

The cardholder claims to have not received (or only partially received) the goods or services ordered. This may be impacted by the specifics of the items in question; they may have been shipped in multiple shipments due to the nature of the items ordered. Because this reason code is affected by the merchant’s shipping practices and timeframes, Amex allows more than 120 days in which to file a dispute.

Working With American Express Dispute Deadlines

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. If you're a merchant, outsourcing chargeback management to the right professionals can free up time and ensure a much higher win rate.

Chargebacks911® offers a guaranteed ROI for all chargeback disputes we compile on your behalf. Contact us today to learn more about recovering revenue amid restrictive Amex chargeback time limits.


How long do you have to chargeback on American Express?

Amex has just one, single time limit for cardholders to file disputes (120 days) and one single time limit for merchant responses (20 days).

Can I do a chargeback from 2 years ago?

No. Amex cardholders have 120 days to file a chargeback, and merchants have 20 days to respond. Such an old transaction is not eligible for either a dispute or a chargeback.

Do customers usually win chargebacks?

Cardholders tend to win chargebacks more often than not. If the customer can prove that the merchant made a mistake with copious evidence of mishandling or fulfillment error, they may win their dispute. However, if the merchant decides to fight back and can prove the transaction was legitimate, the customer may lose their dispute, and the funds will be returned to the merchant.

Do merchants ever win chargebacks?

Yes. If the merchant decides to fight back and can prove the transaction was legitimate, the customer may lose their dispute, and the funds will be returned to the merchant.

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