Dummies Guide to Disputing Credit Card Charges

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Fortunately, our consumer credit system functions reasonably well. You’ll meet more people who have never had an issue than those who have. Disputing a credit card charge isn’t rocket science, but if you’ve never done it before you might not know where to begin. We hope you never have to use this guide, but in the event you do – we’ve got you covered.

Reasons You Can Dispute A Charge

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) identifies seven things that count as “billing errors.”

  • Mathematical errors.
  • Unauthorized charges over $50. While not covered by the law, most credit card companies will refund unauthorized charges less than $50 as a courtesy.
  • Charges related to your statement being mailed to the wrong address after you have put in a change of address form with the company.
  • Charges for things you did not accept on delivery or were not delivered as promised.
  • Charges without the correct date or price.
  • Charges where you did not receive a proper refund even though a refund was agreed upon.
  • Any charge where you demand an explanation or proof of purchase, as well as believe there is an error or need the charge clarified.

No part of the act refers to charges related to shoddy or defective merchandise. This article refers only to provisions outlined in the FCBA. If you are disputing a charge related to the quality of goods, contact your local consumer protection agency or attorney general to see what legal remedies are at your disposal. You may also contact your credit card issuer directly as many cover extended warranties or defective merchandise coverage as part of your card member benefits.

Do Some Detective Work

Before you start disputing a charge, do your due diligence. It’s not uncommon for charges to appear on your credit card that you don’t recognize. This is because some merchants appear on your statement under names that aren’t familiar to you. Think about what charges you made on the given day that are about the same as things you purchased. Investigate to see if the name being used on the charge is different than the business name you are familiar with, but the correct business nonetheless. Only when you have determined that the business in question is not one that you patronize should you proceed to other steps.

Contact the Merchant

There are a few reasons for contacting the merchant before you contact the credit card company. You might just be wrong. For example, a charge might appear different at a restaurant than what you remember because you failed to include gratuity in your own calculations. If the charge is incorrect (such as being charged twice for the same transaction) the merchant will often be happy to work with you in getting the issue resolved. If the charge is completely fraudulent, the merchant can help you and your credit card company investigate how the charge got there.

Contact the Credit Card Company

If the merchant fails to resolve the situation, it’s time to contact your credit card company. You’ll need all the details of the transaction: date, time, store, location and a receipt if you can find one. Some credit card companies might require you to fill out a police report in the case of a fraudulent charge, which is always a good idea even when it’s not required. Your credit card company will probably also require you to fill out forms describing why you are disputing the charge but each issuer may vary.

Resolution

Eventually, you’ll come to some resolution with your credit card company. They’ll either refund the charge or they won’t. They’ll notify you of this via postal mail or email. The complaint must be resolved within two billing cycles, which can be as long as 90 days.

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Published July 3, 2012
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