When you see an unusual charge on your credit card statement, you must act quickly. There’s no need to panic—federal law limits your liability to $50 for unlawful credit card purchases (and you may not even have to pay that)—but in order to get your money back, you’ll need to prove the charge was unauthorized by submitting a formal dispute.
Starting a dispute with your credit card company allows you to fight charges and maybe have them erased from your account.
Successfully disputing a credit card charge in the US involves following a specific process and providing the necessary documentation to support your claim. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:
- Act Quickly: Report the disputed charge as soon as you notice it on your credit card statement. Most credit card companies have a time limit (typically 60 days) from the statement date to dispute a charge.
- Contact the Merchant: Before contacting your credit card issuer, try to resolve the issue directly with the merchant. It could be a simple misunderstanding or an error that they can correct.
- Gather Information: Collect all relevant information related to the disputed charge. This includes receipts, invoices, order confirmation emails, shipping/tracking details, and any communication with the merchant.
- Review Credit Card Terms: Familiarize yourself with your credit card issuer’s terms and conditions, particularly those related to dispute procedures. Different credit card companies may have slightly different processes.
- Contact Your Credit Card Issuer: Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card or visit the issuer’s website to initiate the dispute. Be prepared to provide the following information:
- Your name and account number.
- The date and amount of the disputed charge.
- A description of why you believe the charge is incorrect or unauthorized.
- Any relevant documentation to support your claim (e.g., receipts, emails, etc.).
- Submit a Dispute Letter (Optional): If you prefer a written approach, you can send a letter to your credit card issuer instead of calling. Include the same information as in step 5, along with your contact information.
- Temporary Credit (if applicable): Some credit card issuers may offer a temporary credit for the disputed amount while they investigate. This is not guaranteed, but if provided, it can alleviate any immediate financial burden.
- Investigation Process: The credit card company will investigate the dispute, typically within 30-60 days. During this time, they may reach out to the merchant for additional information.
- Resolution: Once the investigation is complete, the credit card issuer will inform you of the outcome. If the charge is found to be incorrect or unauthorized, it will be removed from your statement permanently. If the charge is legitimate, you’ll be responsible for paying it, along with any applicable interest.
- Appealing the Decision (if necessary): If you disagree with the outcome, you may have the option to appeal the decision with additional evidence to support your claim.
- Keep detailed records of all communications with the credit card issuer and the merchant.
- Send any correspondence via certified mail to ensure it is received and tracked.
- Be persistent but remain calm and polite throughout the process.
Remember that each credit card company may have slightly different procedures, so always check with your specific issuer for their exact dispute process.