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- Fraudulent charges: Call your credit card issuer, ask it to remove the charges and request a new card.
- Billing errors: Contact the merchant first to try to resolve the issue, then reach out to your credit card issuer to dispute the charge if you're unable to resolve it directly.
- Bad service/service not rendered: Reach out to the merchant to request a refund or replacement first. Then contact your credit card issuer to dispute the charge if still necessary.
Consumers have the right to dispute a credit card charge, whether it was posted in error, fraudulent in nature or the merchant didn't provide satisfactory goods or services. You can generally dispute a credit card charge through your account online or by calling your issuer directly, though it depends on your issuer and the nature of the dispute (more on this below).
It is best practice to challenge fraudulent charges immediately, but only file other types of disputes after an effort is made to resolve the issue with the merchant.
You typically need to file a dispute within 60 days of the transaction; however, the specific time frame will highly depend on the type of dispute you're submitting.
Regardless of what type of dispute you need to file, we will walk you through everything you need to know about how to dispute a credit card charge.
Disputing a credit card charge
There are several reasons you may want to dispute a credit card charge, including fraudulent purchases, billing errors or bad service/service not rendered.
- Fraudulent charges on your bill can be disputed by calling your credit card issuer or filing a dispute online. This is typically a quick process where the issuer will cancel the credit card in question and issue a new one.
- Bad service and service not rendered are also eligible reasons to dispute a charge, even if you willingly made the purchase. For example, if you purchase something online that shows up broken, your credit card issuer can assist with getting your money back.
- Billing errors can also be disputed through your credit card issuer, either over the phone or online. Just make sure you reach out to the merchant first to see if you can resolve the error before getting your credit card company involved.
There is a more formal process you must follow with credit card disputes not related to fraud. In this case, you typically have 60 days from the time you receive your statement to act.
Type of dispute
|Fraudulent charges||Unlimited||Call your issuer directly.|
|Billing error||60 days||Requires specific protocol. See below.|
|Bad service or service not rendered||60 days||Requires specific protocol. See below.|
Fraudulent or unauthorized credit card charges
Follow these steps to dispute a fraudulent or unauthorized credit card charge:
- Contact your credit card issuer directly, and inform it 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.
- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (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 part of a larger problem that could be potentially uncovered.
- Investigate whether a purchase was truly fraudulent or not. Make sure it wasn't done by a family member or close friend without your authorization or due to a miscommunication. Generally, you should dispute a credit card charge 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.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that you have the right to dispute charges based on the following:
- 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
How to dispute a billing error
Write a letter to your creditor. You can use the 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 it 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 it also chooses to report the incident to the credit bureaus, it must include a note that you don't agree you owe the money.
Bad service or services not rendered
The Fair Credit Billing Act — a federal law passed in 1974 — gives you the right to dispute charges in case you are dissatisfied with the transaction through a process called Claims and Defenses.
Key details for filing your claim:
- File a 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 to work out the disagreement directly with the merchant. See if the merchant is willing to provide you with a refund or some sort of store credit.
- Save all documentation that proves you attempted 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 credit card charge. Contact your issuer immediately, and inform it 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 $50.
- The purchase must have been made in the same state as the consumer's address or within 100 miles of the address.
- The consumer is required to make a "good faith attempt to obtain satisfactory resolution of a disagreement or problem relative to the transaction."
Send a dispute letter
Assuming you meet all of the above qualifications, you should send a letter to your creditor's billing inquiries department. This address will be different from the one you use to send payments. It's best to use certified mail and ask for a return receipt so that you have proof your bank received it. The letter should include any and all supporting documentation, including a copy of any sales slips, pictures of damaged goods and any correspondence between you and the merchant. Below you can find a sample letter provided by the FTC.
Dispute credit card charge sample letter:
[Date] [Your Name] [Your Address, City, State, ZIP Code] [Name of Credit or Debit Card Company] Attn: Billing Inquiries [Address, City, State, ZIP Code] Re: Notice of disputed charge to Account No. [Your account number] Dear [Contact Person or Billing Inquiries Division]: I am writing to dispute a charge of [$______] to my [credit or debit card] account on [date of the charge]. The charge is in error because [explain the problem briefly. For example, the items weren’t delivered, I was overcharged, I returned the items, I did not buy the items, etc.]. [Add any additional explanation that may be helpful. For example, "I ordered the items on [date]. The seller promised to deliver the items to me on [date], but I never received my order."] I am requesting that the error be corrected, that any finance or other charges related to the disputed amount be credited to my account, and that I get an accurate statement. Enclosed are copies of [describe any enclosed information, like sales slips, payment records, or documentation of shipment or delivery dates] supporting my position and experience. Please correct the error on my account promptly. Sincerely, [Your name] Enclosures: [List the documents you are enclosing. Send copies, not the originals.]
How to contact major card issuers
Here are the billing inquiry mailing addresses and contact information for some of the largest credit card issuers in the United States.
|American Express||American Express Attn: Billing Inquiries P.O. Box 981535 El Paso, TX 79998-1535|
|Bank of America||Bank of America Attn: Billing Inquiries P.O. Box 982234 El Paso, TX 79998-2234|
|Capital One||Capital One Attn: Disputes P.O. Box 30279 Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0279|
|Chase Bank||Sign in to your online account and file a dispute, or call 1-866-564-2262 for debit card customers, 1-800-955-9060 for credit card customers, and 1-888-269-8690 for business credit card customers.|
|Citibank||For credit cards, log in to your online account and visit the Dispute Center, or call the number on the back of your card. For debit cards, contact an agent through the online chat, or call 1-888-248-4226; Text Telephone (TTY): 1-800-945-0258.|
|Discover||Call 1-800-DISCOVER, or message an agent from your online account.|
What to do next
There are two important things you can do after you've disputed your charge:
- Follow up with the company to make sure it has received your complaint and ask what it is doing about it.
- Keep detailed records of all your contact with the company, including a copy of the letter sent and any written communications you've had so you'll be able to prove you did your due diligence if it comes to that.
Most credit card issuers will allow you to check the status of your claim online, but you can always call your issuer for an update, too.
Frequently asked questions
How do you effectively dispute a charge?
Depending on the type of charge you're disputing, you should first try to get in touch with the merchant directly to see if you can resolve it that way. If that's not possible, call your credit card issuer to dispute the charge and wait for the next steps.
What is a good excuse to dispute a charge?
You can dispute a charge for several reasons, including fraudulent charges made on your account, billing errors and in the case of bad service or services not rendered.
Can a bank deny a dispute?
Yes, a bank can deny a dispute if there isn't a valid reason for filing a claim or if your case isn't strong enough to warrant a dispute.
Is disputing a charge bad?
While not always the case, disputing a charge can have a negative effect on your credit score. This will only happen if the incident is reported to the credit bureaus, and the report must include a note that you don't agree you owe the money.