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How do credit card refunds work?

We'll walk you through the steps you need to take to request a successful credit card refund.

If you’re overcharged for a transaction or you didn’t get what you paid for, you can request a refund. But not all situations warrant a refund, so keep this in mind when assessing your own specific situation. While some merchants will give you a refund directly, in some cases you may also need to contact your credit card provider to get your money back.

Types of credit card refunds

  1. Point of sale or merchant refunds. If you want to return a purchase, find you have been incorrectly charged or want a refund for non-delivery of items you’ve paid for, your first step should be to contact the merchant. The representative you speak to will refer to the credit card refund policy to make sure the claim is eligible and then guide you through the refund process. Merchants can also remove pre-authorizations that “hold” funds in your account before or after a full payment is made, such as hotel reservations.
  2. Disputed transactions. If the merchant does not agree to reverse the credit card transaction, you can dispute it by requesting a refund through your credit card provider. This type of credit card refund involves the bank reversing all or part of the amount of the disputed transaction. Disputed transactions are done in accordance with the applicable card terms and conditions set by Visa, Mastercard or American Express and often take longer to process than merchant credit card refunds.

How do I get a refund?

Depending on the merchant, the credit card refund process can vary, but generally follows the steps below.

  1. Contact the merchant. Get in touch with the merchant involved in the transaction and let them know you want a refund. Make sure you explain the reason for the refund and ask if there are any specific details they require.
  2. Organize your required documents or items. If you’re returning an item for a refund, follow the requirements outlined for mailing or in-store return. If you’re requesting a refund for some other reason, provide the merchant with supporting documents. For example, you may need the original receipt or credit card statement details that show you have been incorrectly charged.
  3. Provide your credit card details. Present the credit card that you have used for the transaction, or securely give the merchant details of the card if over the phone or online so they can process the refund.
  4. Sign any required documents. Carefully read and fill out any return or refund documents as requested by the merchant. This is for their records and helps them verify the refund.

How can I dispute a transaction?

Getting a credit card refund from a merchant is relatively straightforward, which is why it’s usually the first port of call. The disputed transaction process, however, may involve a little more effort than contacting a merchant directly for a refund.

  1. Contact your credit card provider. Explain the situation to your credit card provider in detail. They may advise you to contact the merchant again before proceeding with the disputed transaction.
  2. Provide evidence of the issue. Your provider may ask you for verbal or written details of the incorrect charges and you could have to fill out a credit card dispute form. Provide as much information as possible, including statements, receipts and any other details about your contact with the merchant.
  3. Wait for a response. The merchant will need to respond to the disputed transaction in a specified time frame. If the merchant does not respond in that time, your dispute will be approved and you’ll get your money back. If they do respond, further steps will be taken to resolve the situation. You can request updates from your provider during this time, but will have to wait it out before you can get a refund.
  4. Provide any further details. If the merchant accepts the dispute, your refund will be processed as usual. If they reject it, your provider may ask for further details until the situation is resolved. Most credit card providers aim to provide an outcome within one to two months, but in some cases it could take up to six months for the provider and merchant to resolve the dispute.

Contacting your bank to request a refund or dispute a transaction

If you need to request a refund or dispute a transaction on your credit card, you should contact your credit card provider as quickly as possible. You can find the contact details for some of the major banks and card providers in the table below.

LenderTelephone number
American Express1-800-668-2639
ATB1-800-332-8383 or 1-844-392-9359
BMO1-888-340-2265
Capital One1-877-383-4802
CIBC1-877-448-6500
HSBC1-888-310-4722
MBNA1-888-876-6262
PC Financial1-866-246-7262
RBC1-800-769-2553
Scotiabank1-800-472-6842
Tangerine1-888-826-4374
TD1-800-983-8472

Compare credit cards that can help to protect you

While it varies between credit cards, purchase protection usually offers insurance for up to 90 days when products bought with your card are lost, stolen or accidentally damaged.

Name Product Purchase Protection Cover Maximum Limit per Claim Annual Fee Reward
HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®
90 days
The lesser of the repair cost or the purchase price of the insured item
$0 annual fee for the first year ($25 thereafter)
Earn 2 Points for every $1 spent on eligible dining or entertainment purchases.
Get 30,000 Points (up to $150 in value) when you spend $2,000 in the first 6 months. Plus, get the 1st year annual fee waived for the primary cardholder ($25 value). Apply by January 31, 2022.
Tangerine World Mastercard
90 days
The lesser of the repair cost or the purchase price of the insured item
$0
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Earn an extra 15% cash back (up to $150) on up to $1,000 of everyday purchases in the first 2 months Until January 31, 2022. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening, 1% transfer fee applies).
Neo Financial Credit Card
The lesser of the repair cost or the purchase price of the insured item
$0
Earn an average 5% cashback at thousands of partners and at least 1% cashback guaranteed. Neo partners with major gas and grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, coffee shops and more.
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
90 days
The lesser of the repair cost or the purchase price of the insured item
$20
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
American Express Cobalt Card
90 days
$1,000
$155.88
Earn 5x the points on eligible eats and drinks in Canada, including groceries and food delivery, 3x the points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada, 2x points for every $1 spent on eligible transit & gas purchases in Canada and eligible travel purchases, and earn 1 point for every $1 in Card purchases everywhere else.
Earn up to 50,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn 2,500 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in net purchases on your card (up to 30,000 points). Plus, earn a Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership.
Brim Mastercard
90 days
$1,000
$0
Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on everyday purchases, and up to 30 points per $1 spent when you shop with Brim partners.
Earn up to $200 worth of bonus points when you shop with Brim retailers for the first time through the Brim mobile app.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
90 days
The lesser of the repair cost or the purchase price of the insured item
$0
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Earn an extra 15% cash back (up to $150) on up to $1,000 of everyday purchases in the first 2 months Until January 31, 2022. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening, 1% transfer fee applies).
SimplyCash Card from American Express
90 days
$1,000
$0
Earn 1.25% cash back on all eligible purchases.
Earn 4% cash back on purchases (up to $200 cash back) for the first 6 months of Cardmembership.
American Express Green Card
The lesser of the repair cost or the purchase price of the insured item
$0
Earn 1 American Express Membership Point for every $1 you spend on purchases. Charge an eligible purchase to your card and redeem your Membership Rewards points for a statement credit (All eligible purchases: 1,000 points = $10 statement credit).
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,000 in purchases to your card in the first 3 months as a new Cardmember.
BMO Rewards Mastercard
90 days
The lesser of the repair cost or the purchase price of the insured item
$0
Get 1 BMO Reward point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases, and get 2 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car locations.
Get a bonus of 10,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
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Fraud protection guards against unauthorized purchases on your account. By law, you can be responsible for no more than $50 if your credit card is stolen and used without your consent – however, you often won’t be liable for any fraud activity thanks to the security features and policies adopted by most major credit card issuers.
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
Finder Award
OFFER
HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®
30,000 Points
2x points per $1 spent
11.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($25 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 630
Get 30,000 Points (up to $150 in value) when you spend $2,000 in the first 6 months. Plus, get the 1st year annual fee waived for the primary cardholder ($25 value). Apply by January 31, 2022.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,000). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.
Tangerine World Mastercard
15% cash back
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn an extra 15% cash back (up to $150) on up to $1,000 of everyday purchases in the first 2 months Until January 31, 2022. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening, 1% transfer fee applies).
Neo Financial Credit Card
N/A
Average 5% cash back
19.99% - 24.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn an average 5% cashback at thousands of partners and at least 1% cashback guaranteed. Neo partners with major gas and grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, coffee shops and more.
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
3.99% rate on balance transfers for 9 months
N/A
12.99%
$20
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
American Express Cobalt Card
50,000 points
Up to 5x points per $1 spent
20.99%
$155.88
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 50,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn 2,500 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in net purchases on your card (up to 30,000 points). Plus, earn a Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
15% cash back
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn an extra 15% cash back (up to $150) on up to $1,000 of everyday purchases in the first 2 months Until January 31, 2022. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening, 1% transfer fee applies).
SimplyCash Card from American Express
4% cash back
Up to 1.25% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn 4% cash back on purchases (up to $200 cash back) for the first 6 months of Cardmembership.
American Express Green Card
10,000 points
1 point per $1 spent
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,000 in purchases to your card in the first 3 months as a new Cardmember.
BMO Rewards Mastercard
10,000 points
Up to 2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 725
Get a bonus of 10,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
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When you can get a credit card refund

There are many instances when you can get a credit card refund either directly from the merchant or your credit card provider, depending on the circumstances. Some of the most common scenarios include:

  • Multiple transactions. When the same transaction is charged to your account more than once.
  • Returned items. If you return an item to the merchant and meet the return policy requirements.
  • Incorrect transaction. If it is clear that you did not carry out the transaction.
  • Lost or stolen. If the card was used fraudulently after it was reported as lost or stolen.
  • Faulty products. When the equipment used to process the transaction is found to be faulty.

When you can’t get a credit card refund

There are some situations where you won’t be eligible for a credit card refund. These include:

  • Not meeting return policy requirements. If you return an item to a merchant but don’t meet the return policy requirements (e.g. item has been used and is now worn).
  • Sharing credit card details. If you have shared your credit card or credit card details with other people.
  • Failing to report a lost or stolen card. If you don’t report a lost or stolen credit card straight away.

You might also be unable to get a credit card refund if the charges are “pre-authorized” and meet the standard practices of a merchant (i.e. a hotel or airline that “holds” funds for a set period of time in case of incidental charges). In this instance, you could contact the merchant to request a release of the funds, rather than an actual refund.

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How long does a credit card refund take?

  • Credit card refunds from merchants. Refunds from a merchant can take from 2 to 90 days to be processed, although the average is usually around 5 business days. It’s important to note that during this time, the original purchase could still be listed on your account and accrue interest if you carry a balance on your credit card. You can contact individual merchants to find out how long they will take to process the refund or to request a faster refund.
  • Disputed transaction refunds. The transaction dispute process requires credit card providers wait for a response from the merchant before processing any eligible credit card refunds. This means that the time it takes for a credit card refund to show up on your account varies and could be anywhere from a week to several months. During this time, your credit card provider may freeze interest charges on the disputed amount, or increase the funds available on your account. Check with your specific provider to find out more information.

Is your refund taking a while? Pay your credit card bill anyway

Credit card refunds usually take about 5 business days to process, so don’t worry if you don’t see it on your account statement immediately. If you receive a bill during this period, pay the balance anyway. Doing this prevents you from accruing interest and will result in a credit to your account. If you’re worried that the refund isn’t being processed, you can call your bank to find out more information.

Other considerations when requesting a refund

  • Time limits. Merchants outline the amount of time you have to legitimately request a refund, so check individual policies before making any transactions. For disputed transactions, you usually have to dispute the credit card transaction within 30 days of when it first appears on your credit card statement.
  • Interest charges. Depending on the circumstances of your credit card refund, you may be charged interest during the refund process. However, if you’ve lodged a disputed transaction claim with your credit card provider and it is approved, you should be refunded the full amount as well as any interest that was charged on it during the investigation.
  • Refund payments. If money is returned to your account, the funds are considered a credit to your account. This means a refund will not count as a payment towards your balance if you need to pay the minimum amount due for the statement cycle.
  • Credit card refund fees. While there shouldn’t be a fee for refunds processed by a merchant, some banks do apply a fee for disputed transactions. Third-party payment processors, such as PayPal, may also charge additional fees for credit card refunds.

Bottom line

Whether you need a credit card refund for non-delivery, incorrect charges or you’ve simply changed your mind on one of your purchases, the quickest and easiest option is to contact the merchant directly. If that doesn’t work, you can dispute the transaction through your credit card provider to get a refund.

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