Chargeback: how to get a refund using your debit card

Getting a refund using chargeback can save you a lot of hassle if a business refuses to put right what’s gone wrong

Woman holding a credit card in front of a laptop for online shopping
(Image credit: Getty images)

Chargeback gives you the right to ask your bank or card provider to step in and get your money back when you pay by card for goods or services and something goes wrong.

Under the chargeback scheme you can ask your bank to ‘charge back’ or reverse a card payment you’ve made if there’s a problem,

Chargeback is an industry arrangement across card providers including Visa, Mastercard and American Express and applies when paying with debit and prepaid cards.  

You can also use it when making payment by credit card, however with credit cards, if the item costs over £100, you’re better off making a claim through a bit of consumer law known as section 75.  Unlike section 75 protection, chargeback is not enshrined in law.

There’s no upper limit to how much you can claim through the chargeback system, but with Mastercard payments, there’s a minimum claim level of £10.

But there is no automatic guarantee you will get your money back using chargeback.

When can you use chargeback?

You can use chargeback in several situations which includes buying goods from a company that goes bust, or if you pay for goods that don’t turn up.    

Consumer rights expert Martyn James says: “If the word on the streets is that a business that has your money is about to go bust, you have a tight window of opportunity to get your money back. Just ask your card provider to charge back the money and explain you are worried you'll lose your cash if the firm goes bust so they know it is urgent”.

But if the company you’ve got a gripe with is still trading, you should try and tackle them first with any issue, say with a missing delivery, rather than dashing off to mount a chargeback, as your bank may expect you to try and contact the retailer first. 

“Remember chargeback isn't there to sort out an argument over the quality of goods or services, it's for errors, when businesses go bust or when the goods and services aren't provided or you can't get a refund for that reason”, warns James.

UK Finance say you can also use chargeback if, “you are charged the wrong amount, or charged twice by mistake or charged for a repeat payment after cancelling a subscription”.

What are the chargeback claim time limits?

If you want to make a claim contact your bank or card provider as soon as possible as there’s a strict time limit on claims so you can’t wait indefinitely.   

Typically you need to start a chargeback claim within 120 days from the original date of the transaction, and it’s your bank or card company that will tackle the retailer’s bank on your behalf. 

There is an exception. For some purchases you can request a chargeback within 120 days of you becoming aware there is a problem, up to a maximum 540 calendar days of the original transaction.

This is typically for things like flights or concert tickets where problems can arise at a later date. 

It’s also important to know you can’t use the chargeback scheme to double your money. For example, if you’ve gotten a refund from the retailer after a delivery went missing, you can’t expect to make a chargeback claim also.

How to start a chargeback claim

First you should try to settle the dispute with the retailer, only when that has failed should you try a chargeback claim. 

When you contact your bank, you’ll usually be asked to fill in a form with details of what you’ve paid for, how much it cost, along with where and when and the retailer involved. 

Then it’s over to your bank or card company.  Most will initially review your claim within a few days to check you have a case that they can pursue for a chargeback claim.  If they need more details or not convinced you have a chargeback claim, they should let you know.

“Chargeback is incredibly useful, but you do sometimes need to be a bit pushy if the person you speak to at the bank or credit card firm doesn't understand the problem”, warns James.

If you’re unhappy with the result of a chargeback claim or feel you’re being fobbed off by your bank – you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. It’s a free impartial service that can investigate complaints against banks and may decide in your favour.

Sue Hayward

Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound.  Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!