Partial ChargebacksHow Do They Work? What is the Downside of Representing a Partial Dispute?

January 15, 2024 | 12 min read

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Partial Chargebacks

In a Nutshell

Partial chargebacks. They may be a small problem, but they have a big impact. This article will explain how these seemingly minor disputes can pack a financial punch for your business and what you can do to steer clear of trouble.

How to Resolve Partial Chargebacks

Partial chargebacks, or disputes involving only part of a transaction, may feel like less of a big deal than chargebacks filed for the full value of a transaction. Partial chargebacks come with their own set of problems and consequences, though, which you should take seriously.

They’re not necessarily common, but they can happen. So, is there a special way to respond to a partial chargeback? If the customer has a legitimate claim on part of the order, should you offer a decreased refund?

Let’s take a closer look at the circumstances behind the partial chargeback.

What Are Partial Chargebacks?

Partial Chargebacks

[noun]/pär • SH(ə)l • charj • bak/

A partial chargeback refers to a chargeback that returns only a portion of a disputed transaction. This is generally because the cardholder is dissatisfied with only part of an order, and wants a refund just for that amount.

A partial chargeback, also called a chargeback partial refund, occurs when a disputed transaction is refunded for less than its full price. The term “partial” simply means that the refund is for a reduced dollar amount.

To illustrate, imagine you have a customer who made a purchase for several items. They’re unhappy with one item from that purchase, while the rest have no issue. The customer may then contact their bank and initiate a chargeback for only the amount of that one unsatisfactory item. This is what’s called a partial chargeback.

You're refunding only a portion of the customer's payment. However, you're still responsible for paying the full chargeback fees to the bank. While these situations are not very common, it's crucial not to overlook them when they do occur.


It's essential to understand that even though it's a partial refund, you'll still be charged the same chargeback fees by your bank or payment processor.

Why Do Partial Chargebacks Happen?

Cardholders have the right to file a chargeback if they’re dissatisfied with a purchase. Officially, that customer should contact you first to try and resolve the conflict. For numerous reasons, however, an increasing number of consumers are skipping that step and going straight to the issuing bank.

If the customer has a problem with the entire order, they can dispute the full amount of a transaction. But what if they are only dissatisfied with one part of a purchase? The cardholder may tell the issuing bank that, for example, three out of four items purchased were fine. They only wish to dispute the amount paid for that one item. This is a partial chargeback.

Why might a consumer opt to file a partial chargeback, though? Here are some possible scenarios to illustrate:

Partial Chargebacks

The Cardholder Received or Used a Portion of the Services or Merchandise

They paid upfront for a resort stay but were forced to leave early due to a burst water main in the hotel. They dispute the amount they paid for the unused lodging.
Partial Chargebacks

The Cardholder Objects to a Portion of a Purchase

A buyer purchases six items. Five of the six items shipped were satisfactory; the chargeback only applies to the one unsatisfactory item, along with any surcharges pertaining to that item.
Partial Chargebacks

The Merchant Overcharged the Card

The merchant quoted the cardholder a price at the time of checkout, but the amount charged to the buyer's card exceeds that amount. The cardholder then calls the bank to dispute the excess amount

Partial chargebacks happen when a customer tries to limit their dispute to one item or part of their entire order. In other words, the customer is only trying to dispute the thing they didn’t like about the order (rather than the whole thing). Likely, this situation could have been avoided if the customer had come directly to the merchant with their issue or if the merchant had reached out to the customer to gauge satisfaction with their order. 

How Common are Partial Chargebacks?

As mentioned above, partial chargebacks are not very common. There are several reasons for this; first, note that in all the examples above, the customer is generally happy with the order. They’re willing to pay what they owe…they just don’t want to pay for items or services that were unsatisfactory.

Customers who are overall happy are more apt to contact you instead of immediately calling the bank. But if they do call the bank first, it may be because they are not totally familiar with the chargeback process. For example, they may (falsely) believe that a chargeback is the same as a refund. Also, if the cardholder doesn’t understand how chargebacks work, they may not even know that asking for a chargeback partial refund is an option.

Of course, in a growing number of cases, the consumer is attempting to commit friendly fraud by filing a false claim. A fraudster would have no reason to ask for a partial refund. They would want to get as much money back as possible.

Those situations aside, however, a customer is still allowed to file a chargeback on a partial amount. Regardless of the total, this would be treated just like any other dispute: if the cardholder’s claim is legitimate, you must accept the chargeback. If the claim is false, though, you should challenge the claim through representment.

Can Merchants Submit a Partial Chargeback Representment?

Yes. Both Visa and Mastercard have similar approaches to chargeback amounts. Their regulations say that the chargeback amount cannot exceed the amount of the transaction in question. However, just as the cardholder can file a chargeback for a partial amount of the transaction, you are allowed to contest only part of the dispute amount.

Here’s an example. You operate a subscription software company. A new customer signs up and pays for a year in advance. After several weeks, you receive a chargeback where the customer claims that the service never really worked. The customer never used it, and therefore wants a refund for the full amount paid.

Full or partial, we can take ALL chargebacks off your plate and up your ROI. Click to learn more.REQUEST A DEMO

Your records, however, clearly show that the customer accessed the server multiple times during the disputed period, with apparently no problems or support issues. Because of that, you feel the customer only deserves a refund for the time remaining in the contract.

You’re allowed to contest just this lesser amount. You will still need to create a rebuttal letter and provide compelling evidence, of course; you fight the reduced chargeback just as if you were fighting the full amount.

How to Fight a Partial Chargeback

Disputing a partial chargeback closely resembles the process for challenging any chargeback. By engaging in representment, you can boost your chances of successfully defending your case and retaining the disputed funds.

Below, we’ve outlined some tips that should help you with this process:

Maintain Accurate Records

Keep meticulous records of all transactions, including order information, payment details, customer communication, and shipping/tracking information. Organized records are invaluable when disputing chargebacks.

Review Your Policies & Procedures

Make sure that your return and refund policies are clear, easily accessible to customers, and comply with card network rules. Make sure your policies align with what you promised the customer at the time of purchase.

Contact the Customer

Reach out to the customer as soon as you are aware of the partial chargeback. Communication is essential in resolving disputes. Politely inquire about the issue and try to resolve it amicably. Sometimes, customers may not recognize a charge or may have misunderstood it.

Gather Compelling Evidence

Collect all relevant evidence that supports your case. This may include (but is not limited to) order confirmation emails, shipping and tracking information, product descriptions and photographs, and any correspondence with the customer regarding the transaction.

Prepare a Well-Documented Response

Craft a comprehensive response to the chargeback that addresses the specific reason code provided by the card issuer. Be clear, concise, and factual in your response. Explain why you believe the chargeback is unjustified, and provide all relevant evidence to substantiate your claim.

Adhere to Timeframes

Card networks have strict deadlines for responding to chargebacks. Make sure you submit your response within the specified timeframe to avoid automatic chargeback losses. Failure to meet these deadlines can result in a lost dispute.

Monitor & Analyze Chargeback Trends

Regularly review your chargeback and fraud data to identify patterns or recurring issues. This analysis can help you make necessary adjustments to your business operations and reduce future chargebacks.

Prevent Future Chargebacks

Implement measures to prevent chargebacks. For example, using advanced fraud detection tools, improving customer service, and providing detailed product descriptions and images to set realistic expectations for customers.

Remember that while the process for fighting a partial chargeback is similar to disputing any other chargeback, success may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the strength of your evidence. Engaging in representment with a well-documented response is your best chance at winning the dispute and recovering the disputed funds.

The Downside of Offering Less

So, we’ve established that you have the right to submit a partial representment. But, should you?

Submitting a partial representment amount might seem like a viable way to keep a customer happy. After all, you’re meeting the cardholder halfway and offering a mutually beneficial resolution. There are some things to consider before you offer a partial refund, though.

Second Chargebacks

You can fight a chargeback through representment. However, the issuing bank still has the option of filing a second chargeback, also known as a pre-arbitration chargeback. A second chargeback is used when a cardholder has reason to continue disputing their claim. For example, they may produce new evidence that supports their allegations.

The time, money, and energy you put into your rebuttal will have been wasted if this happens. Even worse, the work will have to be done all over in response to any changes or new information.

If you only contest a portion of the original chargeback amount, a second chargeback will drive up the cost for a process that had limited ROI to begin with.

Damaged Reputation

When it comes to customer disputes, merchants are considered “guilty until proven innocent.” Inaction on your part is like pleading “no contest” in a court of law. And every time you don’t challenge illegitimate chargebacks, the perception gets further solidified in the minds of bank officials.

That makes it more reasonable for people to think, “Well, they were guilty last time; there's a good chance they’re guilty again.” Even subconsciously, these thoughts continually chip away at your reputation, paving the way for more chargebacks. These, of course, only serve to damage your reputation even more.

When you respond with a representment amount that is lower than the chargeback amount, you’re more or less telling the bank, “Yes, this was (partially) my fault.”

You May Have Already Won

The best reason for not offering a partial chargeback amount is simple: If you have compelling evidence that at least part of the chargeback is unwarranted, you’ve got a better-than-average chance of winning a reversal.

Card network regulations say a chargeback should only be filed for the disputed amount. If the issuer or cardholder files a claim for the entire transaction amount, offering a partial refund is pointless. Even though only part of the claim was accurate, the cardholder/issuer did not process the chargeback for the correct amount. It’s a technicality that could get the entire case dismissed.

Are Partial Chargebacks Inevitable?

In reality, there are only three true sources of chargebacks: criminal fraud, merchant error, and friendly fraud. Partial chargeback refunds almost always fall into the “merchant error” category.

Say you shipped an order for two shirts; one was the correct color, the other was not. The customer may ask for a partial refund, which would be hard to represent. You could counter with a refund for just the incorrect item. However, one of the changes is the fact that the dispute actually started because you shipped the wrong shirt.

Here’s the good news, though: chargebacks from merchant error are 100% avoidable… if you can identify them. Most merchants, however, are too close to their business to perform the type of unbiased analysis required to find every potential chargeback trigger.

Chargebacks911® offers an unparalleled review process, scrutinizing over 100 separate points of the merchant’s policies and procedures, delivering a comprehensive, actionable report. If you’re interested in learning more about eliminating merchant-error chargebacks for good, contact us today.


Can you do a partial chargeback?

Yes. A partial chargeback is a type of dispute where a customer requests a refund for only a portion of a transaction's amount, rather than the entire purchase. It allows customers to contest specific issues while keeping some of the transaction intact.

How do I dispute part of a charge?

To dispute part of a charge, you can typically contact your bank or credit card issuer and provide them with specific details about the transaction you'd like to dispute. Explain the portion of the charge that you believe is incorrect or unauthorized, and they will guide you through the dispute process for that specific amount.

How often do merchants win chargebacks?

The success rate for merchants in winning chargeback disputes can vary widely depending on several factors, including the strength of their evidence, the reason for the chargeback, and the policies of the card networks. Generally, merchants win chargebacks in around 20-40% of cases, but this can be higher or lower depending on the specific circumstances and the merchant's efforts in presenting a compelling case.

What does “partially refunded” mean?

“Partially refunded” means that only a portion of the original payment or transaction has been returned to the customer, and the remaining amount has not been refunded. It indicates that the customer received a partial reimbursement, typically due to an agreement or a dispute resolution where only part of the funds were returned.

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