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:
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 include:
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 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.
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:
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:
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.
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.