Disputing Credit Card Purchases: Everything You Should Know

Consumers have the right to dispute a credit card purchase, whether it was posted in error,fraudulent in nature, or if the merchant didn't provide satisfactory goods or services. Challenge fraud charges immediately, but only file other types of disputes as soon as you made an effort to resolve the issue with the merchant.You typically need to file a dispute within 60 days of the transaction; however, the specific timeframe will highly depend on the type of dispute you're submitting.

How to Dispute a Credit Card Charge

Consumers can dispute fraudulent charges on their bill by calling up their issuer. The credit card company might be willing to immediately remove the transaction from your bill. You also have the right to dispute a credit card charge for a purchase you willingly made. This applies to cases where you were dissatisfied with the item or service you received, such as receiving a broken television. However, there is a more formal process you must follow with non-fraud related disputes, and you typically have only 60 days from the time you receive your statement to act. If you're looking to file this type of dispute, we recommend you read the section below.

Type of Dispute

Time LimitNote
FraudUnlimited (Two Billing Cycles to get $0 Liability)Call your issuer directly.
Billing Error60 daysRequires specific protocol. See below.
Bad Service or Services not rendered60 daysRequires specific protocol. See below.

Fraud or Unauthorized Purchase

You can dispute a fraudulent credit card purchase by contacting your credit card issuer directly and informing them of the problem. By law, you cannot be held liable for more than $50 in fraudulent charges. However, a charge of even this amount is unlikely. Today, most of the major banks offer a 'no liability' feature on most of their credit cards. They waive the $50 charge, as long as you report the fraud within two billing cycles.

Once you dispute a fraudulent purchase on your credit card bill, you will need to have a new credit card and number issued in your name. This is to prevent someone from continuing to use your old card number without proper authorization.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recommends you also file a police report. This is not required, but it can help the police and other government bodies to track these crimes. A single fraudulent purchase on your account may be a piece of a larger problem that could be potentially uncovered.

Take some time to investigate a purchase was truly fraudulent. Make sure it wasn't done by a family member or close friend without your authorization, or perhaps due to a miscommunication. Generally, you should dispute charges only if you would be willing to also file a police report. If the unauthorized charge came about because of a miscommunication, you should work it out with the party involved before calling your bank and claiming it was fraud.

Billing Errors

The Federal Trade Commission states that you have the right to dispute the following on their website:

  • Charges that list the wrong date or amount.
  • Charges for goods and services you didn't accept or that 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.

You can dispute errors on your credit card bill by writing a letter to your creditor. You can use a sample letter at the bottom of this guide. During the course of the investigation, you are not obligated to pay the charge in question, but you will have to pay the rest of your bill. You must send the letter to your creditor within 60 days, and the law requires them to respond to you—in writing—within 30 days. The card issuer is also required to resolve the dispute within two billing cycles. If you disagree with the final decision, you have 10 days to indicate this. However, at this point the creditor is allowed to begin a collections procedure. If they also choose to report the incident to the credit bureaus, they must include a note that you don't agree you owe the money.

Dispute Credit Card Charge for Bad Service or Services not Rendered

The Fair Credit Billing Act—a federal law passed in 1975—gives you the right to dispute charges in case you are dissatisfied with the transaction through a process called Claims and Defenses. You must file report on a disputed purchase within 60 days of the statement date on which the charge appeared. Before you officially report your issue, the law requires you to try and work out the disagreement directly with the merchant. See if they are willing to provide you with a refund or some sort of store credit. Try to save some sort of proof that you tried to resolve the issue. This can be an email exchange, or a witness to you speaking with the merchant. If this route fails, you can turn to Claims and Defenses.

It is important that you do not pay for the disputed charge. Contact your issuer immediately and inform them that you are working on resolving the issue. During the course of the investigation, your creditor may lower your credit limit proportionally to the amount being disputed. For example, if you are challenging a $500 credit card purchase and your credit limit is $2,000, the creditor may set your credit limit to $1,500 while that purchase is investigated. Additionally, complaints about the quality of goods and services can only be made if the following are satisfied:

  • The transaction must exceed $50
  • The purchase has to have been made in the same state as the consumer's address, or within 100 miles of the address. This does not apply to online transactions
  • The consumer is required to make a "good faith attempt to obtain satisfactory resolution of a disagreement or problem relative to the transaction"

Assuming you meet all of the above qualifications, you should send a letter to your creditor's billing inquiries department. This address will be different than the one you use to send payments.It's best to use certified mail and ask for a return receipt so that you have proof your bank received it. The letter should include any and all supporting documentation, including a copy of any sales slips, pictures of damaged goods, and any correspondences between you and the merchant. Below you can find a sample letter provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Credit Card Purchase Dispute Sample Letter

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[Your City, State, Zip Code]
[Your Account Number]

[Name of Creditor]
[Billing Inquiries]
[Address]
[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.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Enclosures: [List the enclosures]


Here are the mailing addresses for some of the largest credit card issuers in the United States.

Chase Bank

Card Services
Attn: Billing Inquiries
P.O. Box 15298
Wilmington, DE 19850

American Express

American Express
Attn: Billing Inquiries
P.O.Box 981535
El Paso, TX 79998-1535

Capital One

Capital One
Attn: Disputes
PO Box 30279
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0279

Bank of America

Bank of America
Attn: Billing Inquiries
PO Box 982234
El Paso, TX 79998-2234

Discover

Discover Bank
Attn: Billing Inquiries
PO Box 30416
Salt Lake City, UT 84130

Citibank

Citibank Customer Service
Attn: Billing Inquiries
P.O. Box 65006
Sioux Falls, SD 57117

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