impact of credit card refund on fees

How Can Refunds Impact Credit Card Processing Fees?

The refund process between merchants and customers can be difficult and can potentially harm the merchant’s reputation. What’s often overlooked is the hidden costs associated with refunds – the credit card processing fees that can chip away at merchant’s profits. So what is the impact of credit card refund on fees? Or is there no impact? This article will explain everything you need to know about refunds and their associated fees.

Though small refunds might not leave a significant dent, larger transactions can significantly impact profitability. However, there are strategies and insights that can help make the refund process smoother for both parties involved while keeping your profits intact. Join us as we crack the secrets behind refunds and credit card processing fees and arm you with the knowledge to make refunds a breeze.

The Basics of Credit Card Processing Fees

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Before delving into the impact of refunds on processing fees, it’s essential to understand the different types of fees involved in credit card transactions.

Interchange Fees

When a customer uses a debit or credit card for a purchase, their bank charges a fee to the merchant’s bank for processing the transaction, which is known as an interchange fee. The amount of this fee is determined by card networks like Visa and Mastercard, and varies according to the nature of the card used, transaction amount, and the type of business where the transaction took place.

Assessment Fees

The acquiring bank is charged assessment fees by the card networks, which they later on pass to the merchant as additional costs. These fees are meant to cover the expenses incurred by the card networks and are usually charged as a percentage of the transaction volume. Although the assessment fees are lower than the interchange fees, they are still an additional expense for the merchant to bear.

Merchant Service Provider (MSP) Markup

The fee charged by a merchant service provider (MSP) for their services, which includes supporting transactions, providing customer service, and offering fraud protection, is known as the MSP markup. The MSP markup, which varies greatly depending on the MSP, may include both fixed and variable costs.

How is a credit card refund processed?

A credit card refund works by reversing a charge previously made on a credit card. When a customer requests a refund for a purchase made with a credit card, the merchant will typically issue a credit back to the card.

The process for issuing a credit card refund can vary depending on the merchant’s payment processor but typically involves the following steps:

The customer requests a refund: The customer contacts the merchant and requests a refund for a transaction made with a credit card.

The merchant initiates the refund: The merchant enters the amount into their payment processing system and submits the refund request to the card issuer.

The card issuer approves the refund: The card issuer reviews the refund request and approves or denies it based on the terms of the cardholder agreement. If the refund is approved, the card issuer returns the credit to the merchant’s payment processor.

The payment processor credits the merchant’s account: The payment processor receives the credit from the card issuer and credits the merchant’s account for the refunded amount, minus any processing fees charged for the original transaction. The customer will see a credit for the refunded amount on their credit card statement, typically within a few business days.

It’s important to note that credit card refunds can take time to process, and the exact timeframe can depend on various factors, including the merchant’s payment processor, the card issuer, and the specific card used for the transaction. Customers should also remember that while the refund may appear on their credit card statement relatively quickly, it can take several business days to reflect the credit in their available credit balance.

Impact of Credit Card Refund on Fees

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When a customer requests a refund for a purchase made with a credit card, the merchant is often faced with navigating the complex world of credit card processing fees. The merchant will typically issue a credit back to the card.

However, the credit card processing company may still charge a fee for the original transaction, which the merchant may or may not be able to recover. The fee amount can differ depending on the card issuer and the type of card used (e.g., rewards cards may have higher fees).

Chargebacks vs Refunds

Chargebacks and refunds are ways for customers to get their money back from a merchant, but they differ in some important ways.


A chargeback is an involuntary transaction initiated by the customer’s bank or credit card issuer.

A chargeback happens when a customer disputes a transaction with their financial institution, typically because they believe the transaction was unauthorized or fraudulent or did not receive the goods or services they paid for.

When a chargeback is initiated, the bank or credit card issuer will investigate the transaction and may reverse the charge if they find it in favour of the customer. Chargebacks can be more complicated and time-consuming than refunds, and they can be costly for merchants because they often involve fees and penalties and an increased risk of losing their merchant accounts.


On the other hand, the merchant initiates a refund in response to a customer request and typically involves less risk and lower fees. Customers dissatisfied with a purchase contact the merchant and request a refund. If the merchant settles for the refund, they will typically issue a credit back to the customer’s payment method, such as a refund to their credit card.

Refunds are generally straightforward and can be processed quickly, though the timeframe for the refund to appear on the customer’s account can depend on the payment method and the processing time of the merchant. However, refunds can still have a significant impact on processing fees.

Refund Fees

When a merchant processes a refund, they may be charged a refund fee by their MSP. This fee is separate from the transaction processing fees and can vary depending on the MSP’s fee structure.

The Impact of Refunds on Processing Fees

When a refund is issued, the merchant typically does not receive a refund for the interchange and assessment fees paid during the initial transaction. This means the merchant pays twice for processing a single transaction – once for the original sale and again for the refund.

Strategies for Reducing the Impact of Refunds on Fees

While refunds are often unavoidable, there are strategies that merchants can implement to minimize their impact on credit card processing fees.

Voiding Transactions

Voiding a transaction can help merchants avoid processing fees altogether. If a customer requests a refund before the transaction has been settled, the merchant can void the transaction, which essentially cancels it before it has been finalized. By voiding a transaction, the merchant avoids incurring any processing fees associated with the sale.

Efficient Refund Policies

A clear and efficient refund policy can help merchants reduce the refunds they must process. By setting expectations upfront and providing customers with a straightforward process for resolving issues, merchants can minimize the likelihood of disputes and refund requests.

Monitoring and Managing Refund Rates

Monitoring refund rates and identifying trends can help merchants identify potential issues and take corrective action. High refund rates can indicate problems with product quality, customer service, or other aspects of the business. By addressing these issues, merchants can reduce their refund rates and, in turn, the impact of refunds on their processing fees.

Choosing the Right MSP for Your Business

Selecting the right MSP is crucial to managing the impact of refunds on credit card processing fees. Some factors to consider when choosing an MSP include the following:

Transparent Pricing Models

Choose an MSP with a transparent pricing model that clearly outlines all fees, including refund fees. Understanding the fee structure can help merchants make informed decisions about handling refunds and minimizing costs.

Customer Support and Resources

A supportive MSP can provide valuable resources and guidance to help merchants navigate the complexities of refunds and processing fees. Look for an MSP that offers dedicated customer support and educational materials to help you manage your business more effectively.

Analyzing Fee Structures

Before committing to an MSP, analyze its fee structure to determine how refunds impact your processing fees. Some MSPs may offer more favorable refund terms or charge lower fees overall, making them a better choice for businesses with higher refund rates.

Final Words

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Refunds are an inevitable part of business for maintaining customer satisfaction and trust, but they can also significantly impact a merchant’s credit card processing fees. By understanding the fee structures and processes involved in refunds, merchants can make informed decisions to minimize costs and protect their profits.

Implementing strategies such as voiding transactions, maintaining efficient refund policies, and monitoring refund rates can help reduce the financial burden of refunds. Additionally, selecting the right MSP with transparent pricing and robust customer support can make managing refunds and processing fees more manageable. By staying informed and proactive, merchants can effectively navigate credit card processing challenges while maintaining a thriving business.

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