Dispute Management Guidelines for Visa Merchants is a comprehensive manual for all businesses that accept Visa transactions. The purpose of this guide is to provide merchants and their backoffice sales staff with accurate, up-to-date information to help merchants minimizing the risk of loss from fraud and disputes. This document covers dispute requirements and best practices for processing transactions that are charged back to the merchant by their acquirer.


This book is targeted at both card-present and card-absent merchants and their employees.


The Dispute Management Guidelines for Visa Merchants contains detailed information on disputes merchants receive and what can be done to respond to them or prevent them. It is organized to help users find the information they need quickly and easily. The table of contents serves as an index of the topics and material covered.

Topics covered include:

  • Section 1: Getting Down to Basics – Provides an overview of how Visa transactions are processed, from point of transaction to clearing and settlement. A list of key Visa policies for merchants is also included to help ensure the security of confidential cardholder information.
  • Section 2: Disputes – Highlights strategies for dispute prevention, as well as information on how and when to resubmit a disputed transaction back to your acquirer. A brief compliance process overview is also included.
  • Section 3: Dispute Conditions – Contains detailed information on the conditions for disputes that merchants receive. For each condition, a definition is provided along with the merchant’s actions—or failure to act—that may have caused the dispute, and recommendations are given for resubmitting the transaction and preventing similar disputes in the future.
  • Section 4: Providing Compelling Evidence – Discusses dispute response processing requirements related to merchant compelling evidence.
  • Glossary – A list of terms used in the guide.
  • Appendix: Training Your Staff – A reference to which offers resources that merchants can use for training their employees on card acceptance and fraud prevention procedures.

Important Note About Country Differences

Most of the information and best practices contained in this document pertain to all regions; however, in some countries, there are specific products, services, and regulatory differences that must be noted. In these instances, country or region-specific details have been identified with an icon for the country under discussion.

The country icons are as follows:

  • US – United States (US)
  • CAN – Canada
  • EUR – Europe
  • LAC – Latin America and Caribbean (LAC)
  • AP – Asia Pacific (AP)
  • CEMEA – Central Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA)

Guide Navigation

Dispute Management Guidelines for Visa Merchants provides icons that highlight additional resources or information:

Additional insights related to the topic that is being covered.

A brief explanation of the Visa service or program pertinent to the topic at hand.


This guide contains information based on the current Visa Core Rules and Visa Product and Service Rules. If there are any differences between the Visa Core Rules and Visa Product and Service Rules and this guide, the Visa Core Rules and Visa Product and Service Rules will prevail in every instance. Your merchant agreement and the Visa Core Rules and Visa Product and Service Rules take precedence over this guide or any updates to its information. To access a copy of the Visa Core Rules and Visa Product and Service Rules, visit and click on Operations and Procedures.

All rules discussed in this guide may not apply to all countries. Local laws and rules may exist and it is your responsibility to ensure your business complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

The information, recommendations or “best practices” contained in this guide are provided “AS IS” and intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for operational, marketing, legal, technical, tax, financial or other advice. This guide does not provide legal advice, analysis or opinion. Your institution should consult its own legal counsel to ensure that any action taken based on the information in this guide is in full compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and other legal requirements.

Visa is not responsible for your use of the information contained in this guide (including errors, omissions, inaccuracy or non-timeliness of any kind) or any assumptions or conclusions you might draw from its use. Visa makes no warranty, express or implied, and explicitly disclaims the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, any warranty of noninfringement of any third party’s intellectual property rights, any warranty that the information will meet your requirements, or any warranty that the information is updated and will be error free.

For further information about the rules or practices covered in this guide, please contact your acquirer.

1. Getting Down to Basics

What’s Covered

  • Dispute Overview
  • The Dispute Life Cycle

By accepting Visa cards at your point-of-sale, you become an integral part of the Visa payment system. That’s why it’s important that you start with a clear picture of the Visa card transaction process; what it is, how it works, and who’s involved. The basic knowledge in this section provides you with a conceptual framework for the policies and procedures that you must follow as a Visa merchant. It will also help you to understand the major components of payment processing and how they affect the way you do business.

Disputes Overview

What is a Dispute?

A dispute provides an issuer with a way to return a contested transaction. When a cardholder disputes a transaction, the issuer may request a detailed explanation of the problem from the cardholder. Once the issuer receives this information, the first step is to determine whether a dispute situation exists. There are many reasons for disputes—those reasons that may be of assistance in an investigation include the following:

  • Merchant failed to get an authorization.
  • Merchant failed to obtain card imprint (electronic or manual).
  • Merchant processed the transaction incorrectly.

When a dispute right applies, the issuer sends the transaction back to the acquirer and disputes the dollar amount of the disputed sale. The acquirer then researches the transaction. If the dispute is valid, the acquirer deducts the amount of the dispute from the merchant account and informs the merchant.

Under certain circumstances, a merchant may respond to a dispute to its acquirer. If the merchant cannot remedy the dispute, it is the merchant’s loss. If there are no funds in the merchant’s account to cover the disputed amount, the acquirer must cover the loss.

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