credit card disputeYou have the legal right to dispute a credit card charge. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA)  of 1974, we as consumers are protected against creditors in certain situations regarding unauthorized charges and certain billing errors. This act gives you the right to take action against a credit card issuer for these types of charges:

  • Unauthorized charges
  • Charges with an incorrect amount or incorrect date
  • Charges for undelivered goods and services
  • Calculation errors
  • Failure to post payments or credits for returns
  • Failure to send bills to your current address
  • Charges for which you request clarification or written proof of purchase

You can even challenge a charge that you willingly approved, reports Time magazine. “You can dispute a credit card transaction…when a vendor doesn’t deliver the goods or services as promised. Additionally, you can (and should) dispute a transaction if the item doesn’t perform as expected or breaks unexpectedly, and the vendor won’t correct the problem or offer a refund.”

“Check your credit card agreement to review your rights regarding unauthorized charges,” the Consumer Fraud Protection Bureau advises. “You can find or request your agreement by visiting your credit card company’s website or by visiting the CFPB’s Credit Card Agreement Database.”

To give yourself your best shot at favorably resolving a dispute here are five steps you should follow:

1. Keep an eye on the calendar.

Banking giant Chase points out that “you typically have 60 days from the statement date that reflects the unauthorized charge to dispute it. The time limit may also depend on your card issuer, so check your cardmember agreement to confirm how much time you have. If you don't dispute the charge within the time frame, you may be responsible for paying the charge.”

2. Make it a habit to review your credit card statements.

Since the clock is ticking on when you can file a dispute, you should review your transaction history on your credit card statement every month line by line, charge by charge. Your transaction history can be accessed online at your card’s website, through your card’s mobile app, or on paper statements received in the mail. Compare the amounts posted to your account against your receipts to ensure that they match. (You do save your receipts, don’t you?)  Look for amount discrepancies, duplicate charges, or transactions you don’t recognize. Because unauthorized charges could be posted to your account without your knowledge, you should check your account even for months when haven’t used your card.

3. Gather your evidence

“When disputing a credit card charge, you'll want to have your receipts, photos and any communication you've made with the merchant to resolve the issue at hand,” Chase Bank says. “This is to ensure that you made a good-faith effort to resolve the issue with the merchant before putting it into the hands of the credit card issuer.”

“If you’re disputing a transaction you recognize, gather supporting documentation justifying why you shouldn’t owe the money,” suggests Time magazine. “The types of documentation needed varies depending on why you’re disputing the charges. Here are a few examples of the documentation you should compile depending on the reason for the dispute:

  • Duplicate transaction - A copy of your receipt showing that a single payment covered all of the money owed.
  • Extra charges - Compile a history of the vendor’s charges versus the amount you should have paid. Sometimes a vendor may post extra charges to your credit card beyond what you owe.
  • Free trials - Many websites and services offer a free trial that automatically converts if you don’t cancel. Gather proof of cancellation—such as email confirmations, notes from phone calls, or a screenshot of the cancellation.
  • Canceled subscription - Provide notes from a phone call, email, or letter confirmations and other documents that show your subscription was canceled before the charges were posted.”

4. Contact the merchant

If you find unauthorized charges, double charges or charges for the incorrect amount on your credit card, contact the merchant first to try to resolve any discrepancies. The merchant may be able to quickly fix the problem. The merchant may also reverse the charge if you tell them it was unauthorized. Merchants often can correct charge errors within a day or two, where it can sometimes take credit card companies weeks to resolve an issue.

5. Contact your credit card issuer

“Most credit card issuers offer a quick and convenient way to [file a dispute] online,” Chase Bank advises. “Remember, you should wait one to three days until your charges post. You can only dispute charges that have already been posted. If you prefer not to submit a dispute online, you may do so in writing, or by calling customer service and disputing the charge over the phone.”

Keep your dispute as factual as possible. Your online message, letter, or phone call should be short and focused on the disputed charges and why you are disputing them. Don’t include unnecessary information.  Even though you may be justifiably upset, avoid getting angry or overly emotional. You can withhold payment of the disputed charge while an investigation is being conducted, but you must still pay the rest of the bill.

Chase Bank offers this final piece of advice: “While there may be more steps than you expect sometimes, the credit card dispute process can go smoothly and give you peace of mind. As long as you have patience and dispute the charge in a timely manner, you can dispute a credit card charge without it negatively affecting your personal finances.”


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska