How To Dispute a Charge on Your Card

Credit card hacking.
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When it comes to the language of credit cards, a dispute is not an argument. Instead, it’s the legal term signifying your disagreement with a charge or fee imposed by your credit card company. Here is what you need to know about how to dispute a charge, either on a credit or debit card.

How Do You Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

Here is the way to dispute a charge:

  1. Contact your credit card company by calling or signing in to your account.
  2. The card provider will ask for details about the transaction to identify it.
  3. Provide the reason for your dispute and any evidence you have to support your case.
  4. The card provider will send you written acknowledgement within 30 days of initiating the dispute.

At this point, it’s time to wait while your card provider contacts the merchant to investigate the dispute.

How Do You Dispute a Charge on a Debit Card?

The steps for disputing a debit card charge are similar to those for credit cards. The main differences relate to the types of errors you can dispute with the bank versus the merchant.

  1. Contact the merchant if necessary: Banks don’t handle all debit card disputes. If your question relates to the product or service, try resolving the issue with the merchant first.
    • For example, assume you ordered a product online, which never arrived. If you paid with a debit card, the law doesn’t require the bank to refund the charges. You’ll need to call the merchant to resolve the issue.
  2. Call the bank: If the error is on the payment processing side or you didn’t authorize the payment, call the bank’s customer service number as soon as possible. The bank will walk you through its procedure.
  3. Send a written notice: Some banks require you to send a written confirmation of your dispute, even if you gave verbal notification. If the bank notifies you of this requirement, you must send the requested documentation within 10 days.
  4. Wait for an answer: Your bank has 10 business days to investigate the issue. That time frame increases to 20 days if your account has been open for 30 days or less.
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Special Considerations for Debit Card Charges

Many people may wonder if they can dispute debit card charges. While it is possible, debit card charges are a bit trickier to navigate for the dispute process.

For debit cards, you can’t dispute an incorrect billing amount or a payment for goods you never received, but you do have protections under the Regulation E of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.

Regulation E allows you to make two types of disputes:

  • Error disputes: In which the bank recorded the wrong charge or made a calculation mistake.
  • Unauthorized or fraudulent transactions: Including transactions ordered by someone pretending to be the account holder.

In most cases, you have up to 60 days to dispute an unauthorized or incorrect charge on your account. If you lose your card or PIN, you have two days from when you discover the issue.

What Types of Credit Card Charges Can You Dispute?

Here’s a list of reasons you might initiate a chargeback or credit card dispute:

  • You’ve been billed for merchandise you never received or returned.
  • You were accidentally charged twice.
  • The company never credited your card account back as agreed.
  • You were charged for goods or services you didn’t accept.
  • You were charged for items that were not delivered as agreed.
  • A charge was for the wrong date or amount.
  • You didn’t authorize the transaction.
  • The goods or services were not as promised.
  • You don’t recognize a certain transaction.
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How Does Disputing a Credit Card Charge Work?

When you initiate a credit card dispute with your credit card company, the company will take action to resolve the situation. As soon as you initiate the chargeback, the card provider will remove or withhold the amount in question from the business that made the charge and send it written notice of why.

The business will then have the opportunity to review your complaint. It might dispute the chargeback by responding to your credit card provider within a certain period. The business must prove the charge is correct by including a signed card slip, store policy or proof of item delivery. If it fails to do so, it will lose the dispute.

After the grace period to respond to the dispute is over, your credit card provider reviews the documents to rule for or against you. If you win, the funds, any associated interest fees and other charges are permanently removed from your account. If you lose, you are once again responsible for the charge.

How Long Do You Have to Dispute a Charge?

If you find a charge you don’t recognize or don’t agree with, a dispute must be initiated within 60 days of the transaction first appearing on your credit card statement.

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If you are in the process of trying to resolve the problem with the merchant directly and the merchant is dragging its feet, it might be doing so as a stall tactic so you won’t be able to dispute the charge. If you don’t feel that there’s any progress made with the merchant, initiate a chargeback with your credit card provider and detail your attempts to resolve the issue yourself.

What Can Happen if You Dispute a Charge?

If you dispute a credit or debit card with a financial institution, one of two things will typically happen:

  • The institution denies your dispute: The disputed amount will remain debited if the merchant has evidence that you authorized the charge and the amount was correct. You will receive written notice of the decision. 
  • The institution approves your dispute and authorizes a chargeback: A chargeback takes the money from the merchant’s account and returns it to the payer.

In some cases, a bank may issue a temporary credit while the investigation is pending. If the institution ultimately rules against your claim, it will withdraw that amount from your account.

Final Take

If you’re ready to file a dispute with a credit card company or bank, start by gathering evidence about the transaction. That includes receipts and statements. Then, follow the basic steps outlined above:

  • Call the customer service number and inform them of the issue.
  • Provide written notice of dispute and any supporting evidence.
  • Ask when you should expect to hear back.
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To make your best case, ensure that your claim is accurate and that you follow the proper dispute process.

FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding disputing charges.
  • What is a good reason to dispute a charge?
    • You have the right to dispute a credit card charge if you:
      • -Paid for something you didn't buy.
      • -Had your credit or debit card stolen, and someone else used it.
      • -Authorized a different amount than you paid.
  • Can you dispute a debit card charge you willingly paid for?
    • Debit card disputes are more restrictive than credit disputes and if you authorized payment, the law holds you responsible for that payment.
    • That said, some debit cards may choose to offer consumer protection. Even if you think your bank can't help you, call and explain your situation. You may have protection in your account terms, even if you weren't aware of it.
  • Do banks really investigate disputes?
    • Banks take customer disputes seriously and investigate thoroughly. They are required by law to send you an acknowledgment in writing within 30 days after you open the investigation and must resolve the dispute within 90 days.

Cynthia Bowman contributed to the reporting for this article.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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About the Author

Ellie Diamond is a freelance writer with a background in arts and mental health. She's written on topics such as personal finance, home buying and selling, digital marketing and wellness.
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