How to Challenge Credit Card Charges

by Cynthia Measom, Demand Media
    Always check your credit card statements for billing errors.

    Always check your credit card statements for billing errors.

    When you have an issue with a charge on your credit card billing statement, the federal government has your back. You are protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act for inaccurate, unrecorded or unauthorized charges, otherwise known as "billing errors." You can dispute the charges by following a specific procedure.

    Step 1

    Contact the merchant by phone or in person to resolve the problem. Make notes that include the dates, times and names of the people you speak with who represent the merchant. Be polite and respectful -- you'll have a better chance of getting the problem resolved.

    Step 2

    Write a letter of complaint to the merchant if your call or in-person visit doesn't resolve the issue. Include the details of the dispute in the letter. Make two copies of the letter. Keep one for your files. Send the letter to the merchant via certified mail, return receipt requested.

    Step 3

    Find your credit card issuer's billing inquiries address. Write a letter to your credit card issuer that details the dispute you have regarding the charges. Include your name, address and account number. Make a copy of the letter for your files. Make a copy of your credit card statement and circle or highlight the disputed charges. Include a copy of the letter you mailed to the merchant. Mail the two letters and the copy of your credit card statement to your credit card issuer via certified mail, return receipt requested.

    Step 4

    Wait for your credit card issuer's reply. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, a creditor must acknowledge your dispute within 30 days of receiving notice, unless the issue is resolved first. The creditor must resolve the dispute -- either in your favor or the merchant's -- within two billing cycles or 90 days, whichever comes first.

    Step 5

    Request documentation supporting how your creditor arrived at its decision to side with you or against you in the dispute. You have a right to know the deciding factors in your case.

    Tips

    • Sometimes the billing name on your credit card statement is different from the merchant name, leading you to believe you have a disputable charge. Research unfamiliar company names on the Better Business Bureau's website.
    • While disputing a charge, you don't have to pay the charge and you won't be charged finance charges for the disputed amount by your credit card issuer. However, you do need to pay other charges on your credit card account. If the creditor decides you owe the disputed amount, you will be asked to pay the minimum required payment for the disputed amount plus any finance charges that accrued during the dispute.
    • You have the option of refusing to pay the disputed amount if your credit card issuer decides that you owe it after investigating. Send a letter to your creditor within 10 days stating that you refuse to pay. Be aware that the creditor can send your account for collection and report your non-payment to the credit bureaus. One option is to sue your creditor in small claims court.

    Warnings

    • You must contact your creditor within 60 days of the disputed charge to be protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
    • The amount of credit in dispute may be held against your total credit limit. Or the credit card issuer may give you the benefit of the doubt and grant you a temporary credit while it works to resolve the issue.
    • Disputes about the quality of goods and services aren't considered dispute issues and do not fall under the Fair Credit Billing Act.

    About the Author

    Cynthia Measom wears many hats. She's a writer and the owner and accountant of a nanny placement agency she founded in 2007. Measom received her B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997. She is currently pursuing a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in human resources.

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