Bypassing billing disputes in the COVID-19 era


How to navigate – or shortcut – the process

These are difficult times for everyone. We’ve been forced to cancel upcoming vacations, concerts, sporting events, business trips and conferences – or had them canceled for us. And that means millions of people are embarking on the process of getting their money back, creating additional stress for consumers and pressure on businesses.  

The good news: Many businesses are supporting their customers and offering refunds or instituting flexible policies such as fee waivers, store credit or vouchers. Ultimately, it’s best if you can come to an amicable resolution with the business before involving the bank that issued your card. Once the bank disputes a charge – whether for suspected fraud, damaged product or, as is increasingly the case, a trip or event has been cancelled – the process can take longer than most people would like.    

Here are some tips to help you streamline the process as much as possible:   

  • Do your research: Check the business website to understand your options, whether it be a refund, credit or voucher. Many businesses are posting updated policies, helpful tips and alternative contact options on their websites to make the process as easy as possible.
  • Start with the business: With any purchase inquiry as well as to request a refund, be sure to contact the business first. They can usually handle this directly.
  • Be patient: While waiting on hold is never fun, just like you, there are lots of people whose plans have changed. Remember, these businesses are doing their best under extremely difficult circumstances. These are unprecedented times, so what was immediate previously may now take longer.
  • Ask questions: When you contact a business, ask what their expected timeline is for reimbursement so you can plan accordingly, and add a few extra days just to be safe. And, it’s ok to ask for updates through the process

Additional options: If things are not resolved with the business, check to see if you have trip insurance or purchase protection plans, for example. The final fallback is to call your bank or credit union that issued your card. If you do, have all the key details ready to help the process – starting with the transaction amount and date. Be ready to share any prior communication you’ve had with the business.

At Mastercard, we’re also using our technology to cut down on this process – or to bypass it entirely – by giving banks and credit unions the ability to share near-real time alerts with businesses about disputed transactions. This allows everyone to be on the same page early and potentially resolve the situation within 24 hours, instead weeks or months.

There’s no escaping the tumult caused by COVID-19. But we are working hard with our customers and partners to bring new ideas and solutions that create less churn and heartburn, while allowing you to think about your next celebration or adventure.

Johan Gerber, Executive Vice President, Cyber and Security Products

Marie Russo, Senior Vice President, Dispute Resolution