How Long Does A Debit Card Refund Take?

Article Summary

The time it takes a debit card refund to get paid back into your account depends on several factors, such as how quickly the merchant responds to the request and how long it takes your bank to process refunds. Typically, a debit card refund will take three to 10 days to process. That is a wide timeframe, especially if you are waiting for a large refund and you’re on a tight budget. Find out how debit card refunds work and what you can do to speed up the process.

You’ve issued a refund request for a debit card purchase, but you’re still waiting to see the credit to your bank account. Alternatively, you see a charge that you did not authorize, and you’ve reported it to your bank. In either case, you will have to wait for a refund. It usually takes as few as three days and as long as ten business days before you’ll see the money returned from the issuing bank. However, there are things you can do to get your refund faster.

How do debit card transactions work?

Debit cards act as an electronic check, which allows a merchant account to withdraw funds from your checking or savings account. The transfer of cash from your bank account to theirs happens fast. You’ll usually see the deduction within 24 hours of your purchase, but the actual debit of funds is instant. Once the merchant swipes your debit card, those funds transfer to the merchant’s account. However, processing a refund instantly is rarely possible.

How debit card refunds work

To get a refund on a transaction, the return first needs to be authorized by the seller. Some merchants choose to offer store credit or a gift card of the same amount instead of a debit or credit card refund. You’ll want to take note of this before paying with your card. If those options don’t appeal to you, request a cash refund.

If the merchant approves the refund, they will give their own financial institution permission to pay your money back. The processing time for payment can take several days. When requesting money back from an online retailer, the process sometimes takes even longer.

Every bank and every retailer is different. Refunds take time, but in the best-case scenario, the issuing bank will credit your account within three to five days. Good communication with your bank and with the business where you made your purchase is key. This often lessens the time frame and makes the refund process less frustrating.

Requesting a refund for fraudulent charges

If you see a charge that you do not recognize on your account, you need to ask for a fraud investigation immediately. Waiting too long to file a claim will affect your outcome.

It’s important to note that your bank may not cover the full amount of your loss. Even if you report the unauthorized debit within 2 days, your bank can still hold you liable for up to $50. If you take longer to report the loss, the bank has the option to hold you accountable for up to $500. If you try reporting the problem after 2 months, prepare for the possibility of not getting paid back. Often though, if you report the fraud right away, your bank will credit the money while investigating.

If you report:Your maximum liability is:
Before any unauthorized charges$0
Within 2 business days of learning your card is missing$50
More than 2 business days after learning your card is missing, but fewer than 60 calendar days after the applicable bank statement$500
More than 60 calendar days after the applicable bank statementAll money in the linked account and, possibly, money in accounts linked to that account

(Data source: Federal Trade Commission)

Fraud claims vs. financial disputes

Sometimes it can be difficult to know if you need to file a dispute or report fraudulent charges. For example, what happens when you see that a company overcharged you? Or what if you see payments continuing after you cancel a subscription? These scenarios qualify as financial disputes, not fraud. If you know the person who used your card without your permission, your teenage child, for example, this also qualifies as a dispute.

Receiving a refund will require an investigation from your bank. To assist with the timely deposit of your cash, be cooperative about providing any documentation that the bank asks for. For example, prepare to back up your claim with any emails, letters, or cancellation numbers that prove your case.

When not to use a debit card

As you can see, filing for a debit card refund is not as straightforward as we would like. The reason is the money is instantly transferred from your account when you make a payment. The process is different when you purchase with a credit card. For this reason, using your card is not always the best option. Consider using a credit card in situations where there is a greater risk of financial disputes or fraud. Online merchants, for example, carry a greater risk of financial disputes and fraud because you can’t see the product before you buy it. Payment at gas stations or in restaurants also carries a higher risk of theft.

With that in mind, if you must use your debit card instead of a credit card at gas stations, for example, stay alert. When entering your PIN, double-check to make sure that no one is close enough to watch. Also, when making purchases, be aware of suspicious-looking scanners that could “skim” your card’s information.

Debit cards generally come with less protection than credit cards. However, many banks now offer Mastercard or Visa debit cards which are more advantageous to customers.

Make the process easier

If you do need to request a refund for any reason, you can help speed the process. Stay calm and have the proper paperwork on hand. This includes any receipts, order numbers, or written communication that’s requested. The more aware and prepared you are as a consumer, the better your chances of a quick resolution.

Key takeaways

  • A debit card refund will usually take 3 to 10 days to process.
  • Good communication with your bank and with the business where you made your purchase is key.
  • Some merchants choose to offer store credit or a gift card of the same amount instead of a debit or credit card refund.
  • In cases of fraudulent charges, it’s important to report the unauthorized transactions as soon as possible. If you take too long to report them, you may not get paid back the full (or any) amount.
  • Consider using credit cards when making higher-risk payments, such as online purchases or paying at a gas station.
  • You can speed up the refund process by having all the information you need ready before you call your bank.