What To Know About Disputing a Credit Card Charge

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When your credit card billing statement reflects something that’s not quite right, you have the right to ask for the error to be corrected, according to the Fair Credit Billing Act. The FCBA requires creditors to prompt written acknowledge of consumer billing complaints and investigation of those potential billing errors. Additionally, until the investigation is completed, creditors cannot take actions that affect a consumer’s credit standing.

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The FCBA applies to open-end credit accounts, including major credit cards and store-branded credit cards, and there are dispute procedures that must be followed within the FCBA. However, with a well planned and executed approach, plus some patience, you have a good chance of getting the results you want from your creditor.

Here’s some expert advice to help you sort out whether you should dispute a credit card charge, how long you have to take action, and how the process works. 

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When Should You Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

“One of the main benefits of using a credit card is the option to dispute a charge,” said Chaim Geller, financial advisor and founder of HelpMeBuildCredit. “Disputing a charge can be for any reason that you feel a product or service was not delivered as agreed. When you feel that you were promised X but got Z, this is the basis for a dispute. The same is true regarding the price. If you were promised one price, but later on, you were charged more than agreed, then do a partial dispute and get refunded the amount overpaid.”

Geller added, “It’s also important for you to review your credit card statements every month and look out for charges you do not recognize. If you do find any transactions that you don’t recognize, then dispute them right away.” 

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Geller also pointed out not to be apprehensive or fearful of disputing credit card charges. “Some people are scared to dispute charges because they don’t want the bank to think they are a bad guy and shut their accounts,” he said. “I don’t think a person should ever feel scared to dispute a non-legitimate charge. In my experience, I have never seen anybody get shut down for disputing a charge. It’s against federal law for creditors to discriminate against credit applicants who exercise their rights in good faith under the FCBA. For example, a creditor can’t deny you credit just because you’ve disputed a bill, and neither can they close your account.”

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How Much Time Do You Have To Dispute a Charge?

“The Fair Credit Billing Act gives the right for consumers to dispute a charge for up to 60 days after receiving the statement that includes the billing error,” said Geller. “But most credit card issuers give you way more than 60 days to dispute a charge. Amex gives you 120 days. In some cases I have seen them consider disputes even past 120 days as well.”

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Geller continued, “Visa and Mastercard give you 540 days if the reason for the dispute is ‘service not provided’ or ‘merchandise not received or not received as described.’ For most other reasons, you have 120 days. Although Discover recommends disputing a charge within 120 days, they do not have a strict time limit for when disputes need to be received. They will consider disputes at any time.”

How Does Disputing a Credit Card Charge Work?

“If you find a billing error or feel that an item or service was not provided as agreed then you should contact the bank to initiate a dispute,” said Geller. “The bank will hear the story, collect the details and start an investigation. You will not be required to pay the disputed amount during the time the bank investigates the transaction. The bank will contact the merchant and require it to respond to your dispute.”

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Once the bank gets the response from the merchant, it will review everything and provide you with a letter stating the results of its investigation. Geller said, “Legally, the bank needs to complete the investigation within two billing cycles. If you disagree with the results of the investigation you have up to 10 days to respond back.”

“I highly recommend responding back,” Geller added, “as I have seen multiple times that the dispute was not resolved in the cardmember’s favor the first time around, but with the second dispute, the cardholder won.”

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About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 12 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, AOL, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Network Journal. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
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