How do I stop a chargeback for a legitimate purchase?

To Her Credit with Sally Herigstad

Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of “Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis.” She writes “To Her Credit,” a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women and credit, for CreditCards.com. She also has written for MSN Money and Bankrate.com, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs.

Ask Sally a question, or see if your question has already been answered in the To Her Credit answer archive.

I made a $1,600 purchase with my husband's credit card with his permission, and he decided to dispute the charge. How do I stop the issuer from taking funds due the merchant?

Disputing a purchase where a customer keeps the merchandise is called chargeback fraud. However, once the wheels are set in motion, it will require the cardholder to contact the issuer to rescind the chargeback.

If the cardholder refuses to be forthcoming, the merchant can dispute the chargeback and, if unsuccessful, escalate the case to arbitration, or even initiate a lawsuit for repayment.

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Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Dear To Her Credit,
This question is pertaining to someone using someone else’s credit card to make a purchase. When a husband allows his wife to make a credit card purchase on his card (without making her an authorized user) and then months later regrets the purchase he allowed his wife to make, and then disputes the charge with his credit card company, is the credit card company allowed to do a chargeback from the merchant?

My husband allowed me to purchase a vendor booth at a trade show using his card. He then got upset with me months later and decided to call in and dispute the charge. Mastercard charged back the merchant, even though the merchant had fulfilled its end of the purchase.

Then, after disputing the chargeback, the merchant got the money back. Now, months later, the credit card company once again took the funds from the merchant, saying they don’t have enough significant proof.

What can I do about getting the merchant the money they deserve back from the credit card company? If the purchase was for a family member, it seems like the bank should not be allowed to take the money from the merchant, and the cardholder should be forced to resolve the issue with the family member instead. How is the credit card company allowed to take money back from the merchant, not once but twice now? What are the rights of the merchant at this point? The purchase was for $1,600. – Brenda

Dear Brenda,
Nothing stops the credit company from back-charging a merchant just because a charge was made by a family member. An allegedly unauthorized purchase is still unauthorized, regardless of the relationship between the cardholder and the person who made the charge.

Of course, your purchase was not actually unauthorized because your husband let you use his card. Unfortunately, he didn’t make you an authorized user on his card, so you have no way to prove you had permission to use it. It’s your word against his. However, what your husband is doing in unethical and is committing chargeback fraud, as I assume you still have your purchase and haven't returned it.

You have a few choices. First, you can contact the credit card company and see if you can withdraw the dispute, which may infuriate your husband even if it’s the right thing to do. The issuer may refuse to speak with you, however, since you are not the primary cardholder.

You could also repay your husband the money and ask him to withdraw the dispute. Or, finally, you could return the merchandise you purchased from the vendor or send the vendor a check if the merchant loses the dispute or arbitration case.

The merchant can escalate to arbitation, or even sue for payment

It’s up to the merchant to decide if it wants to pursue the charge further. According to Mastercard rules for merchants, they can present the charge twice for payment. (Chargeback rules may be slightly different for other types of cards.) After that, they can escalate the dispute to an arbitration case if unsuccessful in getting paid. Your husband could eventually be sued by the merchant for payment as well.

You are in a tough spot, because you don’t really have control over whether the trade show merchant continues to pursue this charge. They may decide it’s not worth the trouble to go through arbitration over a $1,600 charge. Of course, you can provide the merchant with any information they need. But in the end, you don’t have much control over the outcome.

If the trade show merchant wins the dispute with the credit card company, they will expect payment for your vendor booth.

Next time, ask to be added as an authorized user before you use a card, especially for major purchases such as this one. If someone doesn’t want to add you as an authorized user, you probably shouldn’t be using his card or you can get a card of your own. That way, there would be no question in the future about whether a charge is authorized.

See related: Even if you win a chargeback dispute, the merchant can still sue, New Visa chargeback system aims to speed dispute resolution


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Updated: 08-17-2018