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A dispute is when a Cardmember notifies American Express about a charge on their Statement that they do not recognise and requests further information.

A Chargeback occurs when, after investigation of the dispute, we debit your Account by the amount of the disputed transaction and credit the Cardmember with the same amount.

Many disputed transactions are the result of fraudulent activity related to lost, stolen or counterfeit Cards. By being alert for fraudulent transactions, you can help to reduce subsequent disputes and Chargebacks.

Here are some measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of a dispute happening, and steps to follow should a Cardmember initiate one.

  • Help the Cardmember recognise the transaction. Provide as much detail as possible (like the hotel room number, for example).
  • Advise Cardmembers of your returns and refunds policy. So they know what to expect if the goods are damaged, or if an order is subsequently cancelled.
  • Ensure you request an authorisation code. Never split a charge to avoid your floor limit, or to avoid authorisation.
  • Be especially vigilant with signatures on Cards. Ensure you check the signature on the receipt against the one on the Card.
  • Check all Cards carefully. Be sure that the Card has not been altered or damaged, and has not expired. Click here to find out how to check Card faces.
  • Ensure your trading name appears correctly on Cardmember Statements. This will help Cardmembers recognise your business and their transactions with you. To check we have your correct trading name, call our Merchant Services Hotline on 1800-235-6755 (Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm) (Saturday, 9am to 1pm).
  • Keep all records of sales and charges. This will help us to explain charges made on Cardmember Statements.
  • Be suspicious. Especially of purchases with different delivery and billing addresses, orders for large numbers of identical items, and requests for immediate delivery of expensive items.
  • Register for SafeKeySM. If you handle internet transactions, please ensure that your internet checkout is secure, with industry-standard encryption, by registering your business into the American Express SafeKeySM (AESK) Program. This provides greater security for charges made by internet orders through the use of an authentication method. To register for SafeKeySM, please call our Merchant Services Hotline on 1800-235-6755 (Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm) (Saturday, 9am to 1pm).
  • Process magnetic strip Cards – without a chip
          •  Swipe the Card.
          •  If the magnetic strip is unreadable, you can key in the transaction manually and/or take an
             imprint of the Card to validate its presence.
          •  Your POS terminal will automatically call American Express and respond with an
            authorisation code, a 'decline' or a 'referral' message.
          •  If the transaction is declined, refuse the transaction.
          •  If you receive a 'referral' message, please call our 24-Hour Authorisation Hotline on
          •  Always ensure you compare the signature on the receipt to the one on the back of the Card.
             If they do not match, refuse the transaction.
  • Process Cards with a chip.
          •  Place the Card in the chip reader of your POS terminal.
          •  Follow the prompts on the terminal display to process the transaction.
          •  If the transaction is approved, return the Card and provide the customer with a copy of
             their transaction receipt.
          •  If the chip transaction fails, follow the magnetic strip Cards procedure detailed above.
          •  If the chip transaction is declined, refuse the transaction.
          •  If you receive a 'referral' message please call our 24-Hour Authorisation Hotline on

If in doubt, call our Merchant Services Hotline on 1800-235-6755 (Monday – Friday, 9am to 6pm).

If, despite your best efforts to prevent one, a dispute arises, we will attempt to resolve the matter directly with our Cardmember. However, if we are unable to do so, we may send you a Referral Request letter.


It outlines the reason for the dispute, and lists the documents we require from you regarding the disputed transaction. Please be sure to respond by the date we ask you to, either by post or fax. If we do not hear from you by that date, we will regretfully have to deduct the amount of the transaction from your Merchant Account and then close the dispute.


Once we receive your response, we will investigate the dispute, after which we will make a final decision. We will then do one of the following:

  • Ask the Cardmember to pay the charge, because we consider the information you have supplied to us validates the charge.

  • Debit your Account (Chargeback) by the amount of the disputed transaction, and credit your customer's Account with the same amount.


In certain circumstances, we will make a Chargeback without sending a Referral Request letter. For example, Merchants who receive a lot of disputes, or conduct transactions in what we consider to be risky business environments, will not always receive one.


Provided we have certified all of your terminals and you have followed our American Express Service Establishment Terms & Conditions, you will not be liable for fraudulent Card transactions made with lost, stolen, or counterfeit American Express Cards.


  • Call our 24-Hour Authorisation Hotline on 1800-737-8188.

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