Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Process

March 22, 2022 | 7 min read

Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration

Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Process: the Last Step for Mastercard Chargebacks

Submitting a representment case in response to chargeback abuse is important . It may be just the beginning of your ordeal, though.

So, you’ve received notice that a Mastercard chargeback is coming your way for a second time. Your funds are gone, and now you’re being told you have two options: either accept the chargeback, or pay even more money to fight it. What do you do?

This article will explain the Mastercard chargeback arbitration process. We’ll dive into complex arbitration terminology, how Mastercard arbitration works, and what merchants can do to prevent these disputes altogether.

You can also continue below if you’d like to see more information about the chargeback arbitration process in general:

Learn more about chargeback arbitration

What is Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration?

Mastercard chargeback arbitration is the last stage of the dispute process. It means the parties involved—the banks, cardholder, and the merchant—cannot resolve a dispute. So, a representative of the card scheme is asked to intervene. A Mastercard representative will examine the evidence and make an impartial judgment, marking the end of the chargeback process.

If the issuer submits a pre-arbitration case filing, then the merchant and their bank have only two options: either accept the chargeback, or enter arbitration.

Mastercard does not approve pre-arbitration cases unless the cardholder can provide further evidence to prove their claim. Once the new evidence is received and reviewed, the chargeback reason code may reflect information that the merchant left out or falsified. Whatever the case, the merchant may have made a mistake or forgotten to include crucial evidence that the cardholder could provide.

We get that this topic is a bit complex and confusing. To understand this better, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page about the Mastercard arbitration system.

How Does Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Work?

Mastercard’s chargeback process is constantly evolving. You never really know when a second presentment will turn into an arbitration case filing. Your best bet is to carefully review Mastercard’s policies and regularly check for updated regulations. That way, you're always aware of the latest requirements.

Section A | Mastercard Arbitration Time Limits

Specific time limits are associated with every aspect of the chargeback process. For example, most cardholders can only file a chargeback within 120 calendar days of the initial transaction. A few reason codes allow for shorter timeframes.

In the case of an arbitration chargeback, though, the issuer must file within 45 calendar days of the second presentment settlement date. This is somewhat misleading since your acquiring bank will probably have a more stringent timeline.

Each acquirer is different, but your response time is typically 50-65% of the card scheme's limit. They do this because they need time to review everything and get it to Mastercard before the deadline. So, if you have 45 days to respond to an arbitration case, you can count on having 20-22 days to get documentation and evidence to the acquirer.

The issuer, by the way, can respond to any new information you provide at any time. They have the right to do this until the case decision is finalized.

Section B | The Role of Mastercom

Per Mastercard guidelines, all arbitration cases must be submitted and managed through the Case Filing application within Mastercom. Requiring the app helps standardize the process. Whoever submits an arbitration request is responsible for ensuring that legible copies of all relevant documentation are linked to the case in Mastercom.

Chargebacks are complicated. The solution is simple.


This includes the chargeback reference number and all the supporting documentation supplied in the case up to this point. It also includes any additional evidence you find to strengthen your case. Mastercard will also require a written explanation of why any new information was presented, particularly anything you included in response to new data.

What if a chargeback reference number doesn't exist, or isn't linked to the original supporting documentation, though? In that case, you’ll need to manually attach a thorough description of the circumstances of the case (in chronological order) and all the missing documentation. You must submit this through Mastercom.

As the party requesting arbitration, you can withdraw the case for any reason, at any time before a Mastercard decision. If you do this, then you must simply accept the arbitration chargeback.

Section C | Mastercard Review Stipulations

Mastercard won't rule on a case until one of the following occurs:

Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Process

10 calendar days from the case submission date have passed

Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Process

The other party rejects the claim filing through Mastercom

Once all the documentation is delivered and reviewed, Mastercard can decline the arbitration case for various reasons. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • The filing customer didn’t supply enough documentation.
  • The claim was filed beyond the acceptable time limit.
  • The case filing was not submitted in English.

Finally, Mastercard will review the case and render a decision based on multiple factors, including:

Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Process

Technical merits of the case

Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Process

The substance of the case

Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Process

Previous case rulings

Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Process

Implications for Mastercard

Can Merchants Win a Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration Case?

Winning a dispute is never guaranteed. Confusion, mistakes, and missed deadlines are all endemic problems. Plus, even if the merchant did everything required to the best of their ability, they still rarely win disputes that escalate to arbitration.

Card networks usually default to the most expedient solution. And, in the interest of protecting consumers, they might err on the side of cardholders.

Another reason that an issuer may file a Mastercard arbitration case is because merchants usually have no further evidence. The merchant probably used everything they had to overturn the original chargeback.

Ultimately, it’s not financially advantageous to take cases through arbitration. Additional fees apply, and they are steep.

Like we addressed above, Mastercard charges hundreds of dollars in fees for arbitration cases, depending on the outcome. This is in addition to any chargeback fees already assessed.

Let’s face it: unless the transaction amount is very high, it’s probably not worth it for a merchant to let a dispute progress to arbitration. Instead, their best bet against losing a Mastercard chargeback arbitration case is to prevent it whenever possible.

Preventing Mastercard Chargeback Arbitration

The representment process from start to finish is expensive and time-consuming, and the odds of winning a chargeback arbitration case are slim. The goalposts are always shifting: from constantly evolving rules and regulations, alternating policies between card network, to ever-changing terminology—fighting for yourself can be daunting, at best.

It’s wise to avoid the arbitration process altogether. That said, the best option for merchants is to set a strategic plan to prevent chargebacks in the first place.

In addition to helping win chargeback representments, Chargebacks911® has an experience-backed reputation for creating customized chargeback management solutions. We guide merchants through all phases of the chargeback process so they can focus on business growth and sustainability.

Want to learn more about ensuring ROI through representment? Have other questions about avoiding pre-arbitration chargebacks? Click below to speak with one of our chargeback experts.

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