The Credit Card Dispute Process
If you see an unauthorized charge or billing mistake on your credit card statement, or if you didn’t receive satisfactory goods or services from a merchant, you generally have the right to dispute the charge under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA).
While the steps needed to dispute a charge will vary depending on the type of error, know that it’s best to notify the merchant as soon as possible. If the merchant doesn’t rectify the problem, you can file a dispute with the credit card issuer using the steps below.
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What is a credit card dispute?
A credit card dispute is when you file a claim with a credit card issuer over a particular charge or purchase. When you dispute a charge, it triggers an investigation into the matter by your credit card company. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) gives consumers the right to dispute billing errors on their credit card accounts.
When you dispute a charge, you must have reasonable cause for why it is fraudulent. Not liking the item or service received isn’t enough to warrant a claim. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sets guidelines for when consumers can dispute the following credit card charges:
Unauthorized or fraudulent transactions
You can file a dispute if you notice unauthorized or fraudulent charges on your credit card account. Federal law limits your responsibility for unauthorized charges to $50, but most credit card issuers offer $0 fraud liability, meaning you aren’t liable for unauthorized charges if your card is lost or stolen.
Mistakes happen, and sometimes credit card companies make billing errors. According to the FTC, you can dispute the following billing errors with your credit card company:
- Charges that list the wrong date or amount
- Charges for goods and services you didn’t accept or weren’t delivered as agreed
- Math errors
- Failure to post payments and other credits, like returns
- Failure to send bills to your current address — assuming the creditor has your change of address, in writing, at least 20 days before the billing period ends
- Charges for which you ask for an explanation or written proof of purchase, along with a claimed error or request for clarification
Issues with quality of goods and services
You can’t dispute a charge if you don’t like the purchase you made, but you can if the quality of the goods or services received is subpar. For example, if you purchased a couch and it’s delivered to your home with a tear in the cushion, you may be able to file a claim if the manufacturer refuses to either fix the damage or replace the cushion or the entire couch.
Only disputes that meet the following criteria qualify for a dispute under the FCBA:
- The transaction must exceed $5
- You “made a good faith attempt to obtain satisfactory resolution” of the issue
- The transaction was made in the same state you reside, or within 100 miles of your home
- Online purchases made with a credit or charge card are protected
How to dispute a credit card charge
The process of disputing fraudulent charges on your credit card often depends on the type of transaction. Use the guidelines below if you need to dispute a charge with your credit card issuer. With any dispute, the first step is to contact the merchant and try and resolve the matter before involving the credit card company.
Disputing unauthorized or fraudulent transactions
Contact your credit card immediately once you notice your credit card has been lost or stolen. Follow up with a written notice of the reported loss, including your name, account number, the date and time you noticed the card was missing, and the report date. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.
Watch your accounts and report any fraudulent charges immediately to the credit card company. The card company might request information or documentation if your card was lost or stolen, such as the date you reported the card missing or a police report if one was filed.
Disputing billing errors
While you can certainly call the issuer as soon as you discover a billing error, it is highly recommended that you submit a dispute letter to your creditor (sample below). The FTC provides specific guidelines for filing a dispute. You must mail a letter to the creditor’s address for “billing inquiries,” not payments, and include your name, address, account number, a description of the billing error, and copies of receipts or other supporting documents. In addition, the letter will need to reach the creditor within 60 days after the first bill with the error was mailed to you. It can be a good idea to send your letter via certified mail, so you have proof your dispute letter was received.
FTC sample letter for disputing billing errors:
[Your City, State, ZIP Code]
[Your Account Number]
[Name of Creditor]
[City, State, ZIP Code]
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute a billing error in the amount of [ $______] on my account. The amount is inaccurate because [describe the problem]. I am requesting that the error be corrected, that any finance and other charges related to the disputed amount be credited as well, and that I receive an accurate statement.
Enclosed are copies of [use this sentence to describe any information you are enclosing, like sales slips or payment records] supporting my position. Please investigate this matter and correct the billing error as soon as possible.
Enclosures: [List the enclosures]
Disputing issues with quality of goods and services
If you’re unhappy with the quality of goods or services received from a merchant, you have the right to take legal action against the seller under state law. You also have the right to take legal action against your card issuer in the same manner.
To learn the process for disputing charges of this nature or taking legal action, check with your state’s consumer protection office.
How to contact major credit card issuers
|Issuer||Mailing address||Phone number|
|American Express||American Express Customer Service, P.O. Box 981535, El Paso, TX 79998||(800) 528-4800|
|Bank of America||Bank of America, P.O. Box 982234, El Paso, TX 79998-2234||(866) 266-0212|
|Capital One||Capital One Attn: Disputes, P.O. Box 30279, Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0279||(800) 227-4825|
|Chase||Card Services Attn: Billing Inquiries, P.O. Box 15299, Wilmington, DE 19850-5299||(800) 955-9060|
|Citi||Citibank Customer Service Attn: Billing Inquiries, P.O. Box 6500, Sioux Falls, SD 57117||(800) 950-5114|
|Discover||Discover Bank, P.O. Box 30945, Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0945||(866) 240-7938|
|Navy Federal Credit Union||Navy Federal Credit Union Attn: Card Fraud Prevention Recovery, P.O. Box 3503, Merrifield, VA 22119-3503||(888) 842-6328|
|U.S. Bank||U.S. Bank/Bank by Mail, P.O. Box 1950, St. Paul, MN 55101-0950||(800) 285-8585|
|Wells Fargo||Wells Fargo Card Services, P.O. Box 51193, Los Angeles, CA 90051-5493||(800) 390-0533|
What happens if a credit card dispute if denied?
If your dispute is denied, the charge will go back to your credit card. You should receive an explanation from the credit card issuer detailing the reason the dispute was denied. If you refuse to pay, they can put your account in collections or seek legal action.
There are several possible reasons a credit card company may deny a dispute claim:
- You provided inaccurate information.
- There’s insufficient evidence of an error or unauthorized charge.
- The charge was too old.
- The charge occurred outside of the U.S.
- There’s no proof of returned merchandise.
- You didn’t attempt to resolve the issue with the merchant.
If you disagree with the outcome, you can appeal the decision in writing, which gives you another chance to provide evidence to support your claim. You can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Frequently asked questions
What are valid reasons for disputing a credit card charge?
The following are valid reasons to dispute a charge on your credit card: unauthorized or fraudulent charges, billing errors by the card issuer and poor quality of goods or services from a merchant.
What happens if you falsely dispute a credit card charge?
Purposely making a false dispute is punishable by law and could lead to fines or imprisonment. You could face legal action by a credit card issuer or the merchant.
Is there a credit card dispute time limit?
Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), consumers have 60 days from when the billing statement was sent to file a dispute for unauthorized or fraudulent charges. Some card issuers allow up to 120 days for disputes related to billing errors and issues with the quality of goods and services from a merchant.
How long does a credit card dispute take?
Credit card issuers have 90 days to resolve disputes from the time they receive a dispute claim. They have 30 days to provide acknowledgment of the dispute.
What is a credit card chargeback?
A chargeback is an action taken by a bank or financial institution to reverse electronic payments. Chargebacks typically occur when a cardholder successfully disputes a charge.
How do you file a Chase credit card dispute?
You can dispute a credit card charge with Chase by logging into your online account. Navigate to the specific charge in question and follow the on-screen instructions to start a dispute.