How to dispute a credit card charge
Whether you were double-billed, overbilled or charged for something you didn’t buy, it’s important to know what actions to take
Read, 4 minutes
If you see an error on your credit card bill, chances are it’s just a mistake. Cases of fraud—when someone steals your card number and makes unauthorized charges—are far less common than simple human error. Still, if you wait too long to file a dispute, you could be on the hook for charges you never made. Follow these steps to dispute a charge:
Step 1: Determine if it’s error or fraud
Check your statements regularly to catch unusual or improper activity. You should notify your credit card company when you detect either an error or a fraudulent charge. Note, however, the resolution processes are different.
If you suspect fraud
Under federal law, you’re only responsible for paying up to $50 of an unauthorized charge, but you’ll often pay nothing. Remember: credit card issuers work hard to spot and to prevent fraud. Many use artificial intelligence to flag charges that don’t match your spending patterns and will promptly alert you to any unusual activity.
If you suspect an error
Errors include being charged twice for a purchase and being charged the wrong amount. You also might be charged for merchandise that was never delivered or for a service you canceled. Or you might not be credited for an item you returned.
Step 2: Notify the merchant
The simplest way to resolve a billing error may be to bring it to the attention of the merchant that made the charge. If you notice your card was accidentally swiped twice, for example, show the retailer or service provider the receipt, as well as your credit card statement. For online purchases, call or email the vendor and send copies of the relevant documents. In many cases, the merchant can cancel or reverse the charge. But you aren’t required to notify the merchant if you don’t want to. You could go directly to your credit card company instead to dispute the charge.
Step 3: Contact the credit card company
To preserve your right to dispute a billing error, you need to reach out to your credit card company in writing within 60 days of the statement in which the error appeared. Most financial institutions, including Bank of America, allow you to initiate billing disputes through their websites or by telephone. Make sure you have the following information and materials on hand when you contact your credit card company:
Your name and credit card number
The dollar amount and date of the suspected error
The name of the merchant or vendor as it appears on your receipt or billing statement
A description of the error and an explanation of why you believe there is an error
Details of any attempts to resolve the problem with the merchant
Copies of any receipts, statements or other proof of the transaction
The Fair Credit Billing Act is a federal law that allows consumers to dispute suspicious credit card charges without hurting their credit score. Under the law, you don’t have to pay disputed amounts or any finance charges stemming from them while the disputes are being investigated. The credit card company cannot report the contested amount as delinquent or close or restrict your account. However, the disputed amount can count against your credit limit, and you must continue making payments on other charges on your account.
Step 4: Make sure you receive a reply
The credit card company must send you a letter within 30 days of receiving your complaint. Once your claim is received, the company has two complete billing cycles, not to exceed 90 days, to determine whether the charges were in error. If your dispute is upheld, you will be notified by mail or via your online account that the charge is being refunded. If not, the credit card company must explain in writing why it denied the claim. If your dispute is denied, you’ll be responsible for paying the charge, including any finance charges that may have accrued—refusing to do so can negatively impact your credit score.
5 common credit card errors
It’s important to check your credit card statement every month for unfamiliar charges and fees. Here are a few errors to look for:
Charges for items or services you did not purchase
Charges that list the wrong date or amount
More than one charge for an item or service
Charges for purchases you never received or didn’t accept at delivery
Payments, returns and other credits that weren’t posted to your account
Check with your bank or credit card provider to see if you can set up alerts for unusual activity or receive notifications for charges over a certain dollar amount.