Credit Cards – Disputing A Charge

Using credit cards can make our lives easier. But what can you do if unauthorized or incorrect charges show up on your bill or if there’s something wrong with what you bought? You can contact the seller directly to try to fix the issue, or you can “dispute the charge” with the company that issued your credit card. For example, you can dispute a charge that you did not authorize, that is for the wrong amount, or that is for something that the seller didn’t provide as agreed upon.

There are two ways to dispute a charge with your credit card company:

    Billing Errors: You can dispute a billing error up to 60 days after the date your bill was issued. Some credit cards give you more time, but make sure you dispute the error as soon as possible.

    Claims and Defenses: You can assert claims and defenses up to one year after the date your bill was issued. You can assert claims and defenses only if all the following are true:

    1. The disputed amount is over $50;
    2. The seller is in the same state as you or within 100 miles of your billing address (this requirement may not apply if you bought the item online or by phone);
    3. You already made a good-faith effort to fix the issue with the seller; and
    4. You have not already paid the full amount of the disputed charge—if you already paid the credit card company, you cannot get a refund.

To dispute a charge, send a letter to your credit card company’s address for billing inquiries or errors. Your credit card company will investigate the dispute. If it resolves it in your favor, it will remove or fix the charge. Read below for more on how to dispute a billing error or assert claims and defenses.



Billing Errors

Billing errors include:

  • Unauthorized charges;
  • Charges for the wrong amount or date;
  • Charges for goods and services that you ordered but did not receive or accept;
  • Charges that you don’t recognize and want more information about; and
  • Bills that have calculation errors or that didn’t credit a payment or return that you made.

Send your dispute to your credit card company in writing. You can also call to dispute a charge, but to get your legal protections, you must send a letter within 60 days of the issuance date of the first bill that shows the disputed charge.

Send the letter to your credit card company’s address for billing inquiries or errors, not the regular address for payments. You can find this address on your bill or by calling the credit card company. Send the letter by certified mail or priority with tracking, and keep a copy of the letter and receipt. Include all of the following:

  • Your name and credit card number;
  • The amount and date of the disputed charge, the name of the seller, and a description of what the charge is for;
  • The date of the first bill that shows the charge;
  • Why you are disputing the charge—for example, you did not authorize the charge, you did not receive the item, the item was different than what the seller advertised, or you do not know what the charge is for and want more information;
  • Copies (not originals) of any evidence, like your receipt, emails or letters to and from the seller, and photos of the item you received compared to ads for it;
  • Ask the credit card company to fix your bill; and
  • If you are withholding payment for the disputed charge, tell your credit card company that.

Your credit card company has 30 days to confirm it got your letter and 90 days to investigate your dispute. During this time, you may choose whether or not to pay the disputed amount. As long as you pay the rest of your bill on time, your credit card company can’t treat your payment as late and can’t report you as “delinquent” to credit reporting agencies until its investigation is done. However, it can report that you have “disputed” a payment if you do not pay the disputed amount.

If your credit card company resolves the dispute in your favor, it will remove or fix the charge and any fees and interest charged on that amount. If you already paid the disputed amount, the credit card company will refund you. If your credit card company finds that the charge was not an error, it must explain why in writing. You must then pay the disputed amount, if you haven’t yet, and any finance charges that accrued. If you disagree with the determination, you have 10 days to write to your credit card company and to include any other evidence you have. You may also ask for copies of documents it used to make its determination.

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Claims and Defenses

You can assert “claims and defenses” with your credit card company if something you bought for your personal, family, or household use is not how it was represented as being and the seller refuses to fix the issue. Fr example, if the seller charged you more than advertised, the item is defective or was never delivered, or the quality of the item is worse than represented, and the seller will not fix the issue, you can assert “claims and defenses.” You can only assert “claims and defenses” if all the following are true:

  1. The disputed amount is over $50;
  2. The seller is in the same state as you or within 100 miles of your billing address (this requirement may not apply if you bought the item online or by phone);
  3. You already made a good-faith effort to fix the issue with the seller; and
  4. You have not fully paid for the item you are disputing—if you already paid the credit card company, you cannot get a refund.

You must send your credit card company a letter disputing the charge within one year of the issuance date of the first bill that shows the disputed charge. Send the letter to your credit card company’s address for billing inquiries or errors, not the regular address for payments. You can find this address on your bill or by calling the credit card company. Send the letter by certified mail or priority with tracking, and keep a copy of the letter and receipt. Include all of the following:

  • Your name and credit card number;
  • State that you are asserting claims and defenses and are within your one-year deadline to do so;
  • The amount and date of the disputed charge, the name of the seller, and a description of what the charge is for;
  • The date of the first bill that shows the charge;
  • Why you are disputing the charge—for example, how the item was different than what the seller advertised;
  • How you bought the item and information showing that the seller is in the same state as you or within 100 miles of your billing address (this requirement may not apply if you bought the item online or by phone);
  • Information showing that you tried to get a refund or credit with the seller and the seller refused to fix the issue;
  • Copies of any evidence, like your receipt, emails or letters to and from the seller, and photos of the item you received compared to ads for it; and
  • Ask the credit card company to fix your bill.

Make sure you tell your credit card company that you are asserting “claims and defenses,” especially if you are disputing the charge more than 60 days after it first shows up on your bill. Some customer service representatives don’t know “claims and defenses” and may wrongly deny a claim because they didn’t get the dispute within 60 days, the seller has filed for bankruptcy, or the seller’s bank refuses to pay back the credit card company because of certain time limits. None of these are grounds for denying “claims and defenses.”

You cannot dispute a charge under “claims and defenses” if you have already paid the full amount of the disputed charge to your credit card company. Unlike for billing errors, you cannot get a refund for amounts that you already paid. If you paid less than the full amount, you can dispute the remaining amount of a charge. For example, if the disputed charge is for $100 and that is the only balance on your credit card, and you made a $25 payment to your credit card company, you can dispute the remaining $75 of the disputed charge. On the other hand, if you paid off your credit card balance in full, you cannot file a “claims and defenses” dispute.

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For more information on disputing a credit card charge, see the FTC’s Disputing Credit Card Charges.

For information on how to protect against unauthorized charges and how to report lost or stolen credit cards, see the FTC’s Protecting Against Credit Card Fraud and Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards.