If you ever need to dispute a charge made to your credit card, the reversal is called a chargeback. No matter where in the world you live, American laws and regulations are originally responsible for your having that right, as many of the world’s major credit card companies, including American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and Diners are incorporated in the United States.
How each of those companies implement your rights to a chargeback varies tremendously, however. In this article you will learn the ins and outs of the American Express chargeback guide in the USA and abroad.
American Express (Amex) has its headquarters in New York City, but operates worldwide. For that reason, its payment dispute policies not only need to comply with American laws and regulations, but in many cases are also fine-tuned for compliance with the jurisdiction of a particular cardholder, merchant, acquiring bank, or transaction.
The history of chargebacks dates back to the Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 which, among other things, gave consumer protections including chargeback rights to holders of credit cards. In 1978, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act extended many similar rights to debit card holders.
Although the rights of credit card and debit card holders are not identical, for practical purposes American Express has homogenised its policies for both types of cardmembers in almost all cases.
American Express traces its origins back to the middle of the 19th century, making it one of the oldest financial services companies in the Americas. By the end of the 1950s the company had decided to enter the credit card business, which it successfully grew throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Before long Amex became one of the world’s major credit card networks.
Although at first glance it seems similar to its key competitors, Visa and Mastercard, American Express is quite different in one fundamental way. Visa and Mastercard do not actually issue any credit cards. They are simply networks that handle payments. Your card was issued to you by your bank.
American Express, by contrast, is both the payment network and the card issuer. Except when it is not. Once upon a time, American Express issued all its cards, and it still issues the vast majority of them, but nowadays a significant minority are indeed issued by banks, just like with Visa and Mastercard. So if your card was issued by Wells Fargo, for example, there will be a number of differences for you compared with a typical Amex cardmember. Your points and benefits will likely go through your bank, as will your disputes.
U.S. and international cardmembers who were not issued their cards through a bank (again, this is the vast majority of consumers) can turn directly to Amex to raise a chargeback. To do so, contact Amex using the American Express chargeback phone number provided to you by the company (in the U.S., 1-800-528-4800), or online via their website or mobile app.
Once you have gotten through, you will likely be asked to explain the reason for your dispute, and to provide supporting evidence or documentation. At that point, in line with the American Express chargeback guide and rules, they will take one of three actions.
At one extreme, they may tell you that you do not qualify for a chargeback. If that is the answer you receive, getting them to change their mind is very difficult. For that reason, especially in the event of a complex dispute scenario, you may wish to make use of a professional consultation beforehand.
At the other extreme, they may accept your version of events and issue an immediate chargeback while debiting the merchant or their acquiring bank the value of the transaction.
In between the above two cases, there exists a third possibility, wherein American Express sends the merchant an inquiry in order to determine his version of the story or any possible evidence he may have to support it. Having seen both sides, American Express will render a judgement that is usually final.
Like Visa, Mastercard, and other issuing companies, Amex categorises all payment disputes by type and subtype. American Express chargeback codes are made up of a letter followed by two digits. Unlike Visa and Mastercard, however, which use four different chargeback categories, Amex uses five. Still, there are only two that will apply to most payment disputes you are likely to encounter: fraud and cardmember dispute.
As for timelines, in most cases an American Express chargeback must be requested within 120 days of the transaction, but the chargeback time limit can be extended to as long as 540 days under certain circumstances. The rules for this are rather complicated, and even many experts are unaware of them.