smart spending

Consumer protection laws: Know your rights

Primer on consumer protection laws
  Electronic fund transfers

Law: Electronic Transfer Fund Act of 1978

What it covers: ATM, debit and credit card transactions, electronic payments

What it does for consumers: This law caps out-of-pocket expenses for consumers in cases where a thief charges up their debit, ATM or credit card, provided consumers meet time constraints. Consumers also have the right to dispute charges on their bank statement.

  • Limits your liability to $50 if you report your credit card lost or stolen.
  • Limits your liability to $50 if you report your debit card lost or stolen within two business days.
  • After two days but within 60 days after you receive your statement, limits liability to $500. After 60 days, you could owe all fraudulent charges.
  • Fraudulent signature-based purchases will only run you up to $50. If you report the missing or stolen card before someone uses it fraudulently, you shouldn't be liable for the charges.
  • Liability periods should stretch if consumer had extreme circumstances that prevented prompt notification.
  • If state law or issuer's terms and conditions provide lower liability limits, then the lower limits apply.
  • Provides for a record of all electronic transfers in the form of receipts at ATMs or point-of-sale terminals and periodic bank statements showing all electronic transfers.
  • If you find an error in a bank statement you can contact your bank and dispute charges. The bank generally has 10 business days to investigate your claim and report back to you, but may request more time. The consumer has 60 days from the date the statement was sent to report errors to the bank.
  • ATMs that charge fees to process transactions must disclose the fee amount before the transaction completes.

If a bank is in violation of the ETF Act, try complaining to the bank first. Beyond that, you can file a complaint with the federal agency that regulates that bank.

Cards with predetermined values such as gift cards may not apply to the ETF Act.

Access the full text of the law here.




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