How to dispute a credit card charge


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You’ve just opened your credit card statement to find there’s a charge that you didn’t make. You may be able to resolve this issue with a simple phone call to your issuer.

However, sometimes disputing a credit card charge is a longer process that will require some extra work on your part. But it doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what steps to follow.

What types of charges can you dispute on a credit card?

Changing your mind about a purchase is not a reason to file a dispute, and you probably won’t have success disputing a charge simply because the purchase is outside of a merchant’s return policy. However, there are three kinds of credit card charges that would call for you to file a dispute.

The first, and probably the most unpleasant, is the fraudulent charge. A fraudulent charge is one that you didn’t make. It often means that your credit card information has been compromised by an identity thief. This could happen for a variety of reasons, like an online purchase on an unsecured site or from a card skimmer at a gas station.

Another disputable charge is when you’ve been overcharged on a purchase. This can occur when a merchant has to swipe your card multiple times or accidentally enters the incorrect amount for a purchase. These kinds of charges are usually simply down to user or mechanical error.

The third occasion to dispute a charge is when you’ve been charged for a service or a product that the merchant didn’t actually provide. In the era of online shopping, this can be a common issue. If you’ve ordered something and it never arrives, or it arrives in an unusable state, it is within reason for you to dispute being charged. This is also true if you pay for a service that isn’t fulfilled.

How do you dispute a credit card charge?

How you dispute a charge will depend on what kind of charge you are dealing with. Here are some tips to help you move forward.

Check to see if the charges are due to fraud

If you check your credit card statement and see a fraudulent charge, you should report it immediately. A fraudulent charge is any charge that wasn’t made by you or an authorized user on your account. It is a signal that your credit card information has been compromised. You should call your issuer as soon as possible to dispute the charge, cancel your card and request a new card be issued.

Call the merchant first

If you have been overcharged or have an issue with a purchase or service, start by calling the merchant. Often, a merchant can resolve an issue with a charge more quickly. You may simply have to present your receipt or the item in question to get the situation resolved. If the merchant is unwilling or unable to resolve your issue, the next step would be to call your credit card issuer.

Then call your credit card issuer

When calling your credit card issuer to dispute a charge, be prepared to present important information about the transaction. Your issuer will want to know what you’ve already done to try to resolve the issue. They will also want to know where and when the charge was made, for how much, and any evidence you have that the charge is an error.

Follow up in writing

If you’ve tried to resolve your issue by phone, but have still not seen results, the next step is to write to your credit card issuer. Summarize what you have done so far to try to resolve the charge and any important information they need to know about the charge. Also, let your credit card issuer know what you would like them to do to resolve the issue.

Mail this letter to the address your issuer lists for billing disputes. Be sure to send the letter certified with a return receipt so that you can keep track of when it was received. Keep a copy of the letter for your own records. Your issuer is obliged to send written acknowledgement of your dispute letter within 30 days of receiving it.

Understand your rights and responsibilities

By law you have 60 days to dispute a charge. Your credit card company must investigate and respond to your dispute within 90 days. In the case of an unauthorized charge on your credit card, by law you’re liable only for the first $50 in unauthorized charges. However, many credit card issuers have zero dollar fraud liability, which means you may not have to pay anything if you report the charge in a timely fashion.

While you are not obligated to pay unauthorized charges, you are responsible for paying on the undisputed charges on your bill. According to Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, “The card company can’t report you to the credit bureaus as paying late and they can’t charge interest on the disputed amount.” However, according to the Federal Trade Commision, the card issuer can apply the disputed amount against your credit limit. So, if you have a $5,000 credit limit and are disputing a $1,000 charge, your available credit would be $4,000 until the dispute is resolved.

The hope with a dispute is that it will go in your favor, but it is important to know your responsibilities if it doesn’t. According to Ruth Susswein, deputy director of national priorities for Consumer Action, in the event that a dispute does not get resolved in your favor, you will be responsible for paying the charge plus any interest accumulated during the time period of the investigation.

Cite ‘claims and defenses’

While 60 days may seem like enough time to catch a fraudulent charge, sometimes billing errors can be missed. If that’s the case, you can file ‘claims and defenses’ to dispute your charge. ‘Claims and defenses’ can be filed for up to a year from the time of the disputed charge. However, there are four criteria that have to be met to make this type of complaint:

1) The charge must be for more than $50;

2) The charge must be unpaid;

3) You must have made an effort to resolve the charge with the merchant; and

4) The merchant must be within 100 miles of your residence and within your state (except for online purchases).

Be persistent

When disputing a charge, you may have to go back and forth with your card issuer and the merchant a number of times. During this process, it is important that you stay organized and keep notes of each interaction you have and its result. When dealing with the credit card issuer or the merchant, keep a level head, be polite, and be persistent about presenting your case. You may face rejection, but it’s important to continue to fight the charges. If you have a legitimate claim, you deserve to have it resolved fairly.

What happens when you dispute a charge?

When you file a dispute, a variety of things happen. The timeline begins when the charge occurs. At this point, you have 60 days to report the charge. After which, your credit card issuer will have 90 days to respond to your dispute. At this time your credit card issuer will investigate the issue and contact the merchant. Within two billing cycles or 90 days (whichever is sooner), you should have a response from your credit card issuer about the charge.

If you have won the dispute, your card issuer will inform you in writing that the charges and any associated interest will be taken off your bill. If you lose your dispute, you have ten days to challenge the results. At this point you can explain why you feel you should win the dispute. You can also involve an attorney or a consumer advocacy organization if you feel you are being treated unfairly.

How long do I have to dispute a credit charge?

Doing regular checks on your credit card account can help you catch suspicious behavior quickly. These checks can be done fairly easily by logging into your account online. You can also set up notifications for credit card purchases through your card issuer’s mobile app. This way, any time there is a transaction on your card, you’ll be notified.

If you notice a fraudulent charge, report the charge immediately. By law, you have a 60 day window to detect and report. However, the sooner you report a charge, the quicker the issue can be resolved. If you miss the 60 day window, you can dispute the charge through ‘claims and defenses’. The timeframe for that is up to a year, however you will need to make sure your dispute meets the criteria above.