In our digital world we like things to happen immediately. Unfortunately, it can take days, if not weeks, for a credit card refund to appear on a cardholder’s account.
How long does it take for a refund to appear on a credit card? Keep reading for insight into how credit card refunds work, types of refunds, and tips for getting your refund faster.
What Is a Credit Card Refund?
Before we can properly explain what a credit card refund is, it’s helpful to understand how credit card purchases work and who the main players are.
For every credit card transaction, there are two companies that help facilitate the purchase: credit card issuers and credit card networks. The credit card issuer is the company that creates and manages the credit card. The company essentially lends money to the cardholder to make a purchase. The credit card network is the business that processes the transaction electronically. It does this by transferring the money from the credit card issuer to the merchant.
Whenever someone makes a purchase with a credit card, the credit card issuer is the one to pay the merchant. Later, the cardholder pays the credit card issuer back.
With credit card refunds, this entire process works the same way but in reverse. When a merchant refunds a purchase, the money goes to the credit card issuer. Then the credit card issuer returns that amount to the cardholder’s account.
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How Does a Credit Card Refund Work?
As briefly noted above, when a consumer requests a credit card refund through a merchant, the merchant issues the refund directly to the credit card issuer, and then the issuer pays the account holder back. This is why merchants don’t typically refund credit card purchases in cash.
If the cardholder pays off their balance in full before a refund hits their account, they may end up with a negative balance. In this case, a negative is a good thing: It just means you have a credit on your account instead of the usual charges. You don’t need to do anything about a negative balance.
Types of Credit Card Refunds
There is only one type of credit card refund that consumers are involved in. The merchant and the credit card issuer (with the use of a credit card network) will work together to complete the refund and to get the money to the consumer.
Potential Delays for Credit Card Refunds to Appear
Exactly how long does it take for a refund to appear on a credit card? The timeline can vary based on a few variables. It can take time to process a refund, and all the consumer can do is wait.
In general, the retailer’s return policy dictates how long a consumer will wait to get their refund. Most retailers have a policy of refunding a purchase within three to five business days. The return policy can usually be found on the retailer’s website.
Online returns can be particularly lengthy and usually take longer to process than in-store returns because shipping is involved. It can take over a week just for the returned package to arrive and be processed before the refund process is initiated. Then the cardholder has to wait for the refund to appear on their monthly statement. Let’s look at an example of how this can work.
Let’s say a consumer makes a return on the 16th of the month and requests a refund. But their credit card closing date is the 15th. The consumer won’t see a refund appear until the next month’s statement. To discover exactly when a refund appears on the credit card statement balance, the consumer can review their account online for more up-to-date information.
Of course, this timeline can extend further if delays occur. Here’s a few examples of common issues that cause refund delays.
Getting a billing dispute taken care of can take longer than a standard refund. In that case, the customer must file a dispute with the credit card company to receive a credit. Some examples of issues that may require a dispute are:
• Being billed for a product you didn’t receive
• Getting charged twice for the same purchase
• Failing to receive credit for a payment
Mistakes happen and billing disputes can take a while to resolve. In some cases, a credit card chargeback may be necessary.
All merchants have their own timeline for processing credit card returns. It can take a week or two depending on how slowly the merchant tends to process their refunds.
Cases of Identity Theft
If someone needs a refund for a purchase on their account that is a result of identity theft, it can take quite a while to fully resolve that issue.
How Does a Credit Card Refund Affect Your Credit?
If someone doesn’t pay off their credit card balance while waiting for a return to process, they will carry the balance on their credit card. In addition to expensive interest charges, carrying a balance affects the consumer’s credit utilization ratio, which can harm their credit score.
A credit utilization ratio compares how much available credit someone has to how much of it they’re using. Ideally, it’s best to keep the utilization ratio below 30%. Financial software like SoFi Insights offer free credit monitoring, a debt payoff planner, and other handy tools to make sure you aren’t taken by surprise.
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Tips To Get a Faster Credit Card Refund
The best chance someone has at getting a quick refund is simply to make the return as soon as possible. If a consumer is in a rush to get their money back, they can request a store-credit refund from the merchant, which will be issued immediately.
That means the customer will have to spend that money in-store, leaving the purchase amount on the credit card bill to be paid off. On the bright side, this method results in the cardholder getting to keep any cash back or rewards points that the purchase earned.
It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for a refund to appear on a credit card. The exact timeline varies based on the merchant and credit card issuer involved, as well as other factors that can cause delays (such as slow shipping times). Patience is key, but it helps to be aware of what the merchant’s and credit card issuer’s return policies and expected timelines are.
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How long do refunds take to show up on credit cards?
It can take as little as three days for a refund to show up on a credit card. That said, it can take longer depending on the merchant and credit card issuer involved. Returns that require shipping back merchandise can take the longest, because the consumer has to wait for the merchandise to arrive and be processed before a refund can be initiated.
Why is my refund not showing up on my credit card?
A refund can take days, if not weeks, to show up on a credit card. Don’t be afraid to check in with the credit card issuer on the status of a refund. Instead of waiting for a new statement to come in the mail at the end of the month, it can be more expedient to review an online account statement.
Why do card refunds take so long?
Credit card refunds can take a while for a few reasons. To start, all merchants and credit card issuers have different refund timelines. Other things like slow shipping times (for online purchases) or issues with identity theft can cause additional delays.
Photo credit: iStock/Passakorn Prothien
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