If you're not reading over your credit card statements carefully each month, you could easily overlook a costly billing error. Federal law gives you the right to dispute incorrect or unauthorized charges with your credit card company. There's a specific time limit on how long you have to dispute a charge, so it's important to act quickly if you find an error.
Billing Error Disputes
If you think your credit card company has made a billing error, you have 60 days from the time you received the bill to initiate a dispute. You'll need to send the credit card company a letter that includes your name and contact information, account number and a description of the charge you're disputing. According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, billing errors include charges that list the wrong date or amount; charges for goods and services you never received; mathematical errors; failure to credit a payment to your account; and any charges for which you request written proof of purchase.
Disputing Unauthorized Charges
Federal law also allows you to dispute unauthorized charges if your credit card is lost or stolen. The Truth in Lending Act limits your personal liability for unauthorized charges to $50, but only after you've notified the credit card company. There's no time requirement for reporting your card lost or stolen, but it's best to call your credit card company as soon as you realize it's missing. If you wait, you could be on the hook for any unauthorized purchases that were made before you filed the report.
Once you send a dispute letter to your credit card company, it has 30 days to acknowledge your complaint in writing. The credit card company is legally required to investigate the dispute and resolve it within 90 days after receiving your letter. If it turns out that there is a billing error, the credit card company must send you a written notice explaining what changes will be made to the account. The disputed amount must be credited back to you, along with any finance charges, interest and/or late fees. If the bill is correct, the creditor will send you a letter detailing how much you owe and why. You have 10 days from the time you receive the letter to appeal the outcome of the dispute with the card issuer.
You have the right to withhold payment for the disputed charges while the credit card company is conducting its investigation. The creditor can't take any collection actions against you or report any negative information to the credit bureaus while the charge is being disputed. If the credit card company doesn't follow the dispute procedures correctly, federal law prevents it from collecting the disputed amount even if the charges are accurate. You also have the right to sue any creditor that violates your rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Rebecca Lake is a freelance writer and virtual assistant living in the southeast. She has been writing professionally since 2009 for various websites. Lake received her master's degree in criminal justice from Charleston Southern University.