Why Do Credit Cards Take So Long to Refund?

Two people are exchanging credit cards.
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When you buy something with a credit card, the transaction appears almost instantly on your account. Refunds, by contrast, often take days or weeks because of the many steps and parties involved in issuing the refund.


Refund Process

When a merchant issues you a refund, he tells his credit card processing company to reverse the charge. The processing company then informs the credit card company. The credit card company must inform the bank, which issues the funds to the credit card company. Only then will the money reappear on your credit card account.


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Reasons for Delay

Every organization or business involved in the process has its own policy about when it will issue refunds. The merchant policy might issue a refund within 24 hours, or it could wait weeks. Nike, for example, gives itself 30 days to issue refunds. So, if you were waiting for a Nike refund, you'd wait 30 days plus the time it takes for the bank to apply it to your account. In some cases, according to Mint.com, merchants take their time or fail to issue prompt refunds to force you to file a dispute with your credit card company. That process can add months to the refund time.