How to Dispute a Credit Card Charge

by Sarah Stasik
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Simply because a charge shows up on your credit card statement doesn't mean you have to pay for it. Your statement is a record of all charges on your account, but it's not the be-all, end-all authority on what charges you actually made.

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Understanding how to dispute a credit card charge — and when to do it — can help you better manage your account and debt.

What Does It Mean to Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

Disputing a credit card charge means filing a formal request with the credit card company. In short, a dispute says that you don't believe you should pay the charge in question and would like it removed from your bill.

A dispute doesn't automatically result in a credit or the removal of a charge from your bill. Typically, there's a review process before any such actions take place.

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What Are Some Reasons to Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

There are three common legitimate reasons you might dispute a charge with your credit card company.

The first is that you believe a charge is fraudulent. In this case, you may have checked your statement online or carefully reviewed your paper statement, discovering charges you didn't make or authorize in the process. You should report such charges to your credit card company immediately and dispute them. Most credit card companies offer $0 fraud liability, which means you won't be held liable for those charges if you report them in a timely manner.

Another reason you might dispute a charge on your card is that you believe it's a billing error. For example, say you notice your Netflix subscription was charged twice in one month, or your doctor charged you for $145.00 instead of $14.50, which is what your bill reflects. These are cases of administrative errors. Disputing the charges can help you resolve the issue, especially if you haven't had luck getting the original vendor to correct it.

A final common reason for disputing a credit card charge is that you were charged for goods you didn't receive or didn't receive as described. For example, if you ordered a pair of gold earrings and received faux gold earrings, you might force a refund via a credit card dispute.

Can You Dispute a Nonrefundable Charge?

You can file a dispute and ask for a chargeback for any type of charge you find on your statement. A fraudulent nonrefundable charge, for example, is still a fraudulent charge. However, you may not be successful in getting a refund this way if you're only filing the dispute to try to get around the nonrefundable policy.

What Happens If You Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

When you file a dispute, you're effectively asking your credit card company to look into the charge and reverse it if it agrees with you. You should provide all the information you have to help it make this decision.

Your card company will look into the charge and may reverse it. If the charge is reversed, you'll see a credit on your statement and you'll no longer owe that amount.

What Happens to the Merchant When You Dispute a Charge?

A credit card dispute goes through a few levels before it hits the merchant. If it does get to the merchant, it has a chance to dispute it. It may present evidence as to why the charge shouldn't be reversed. If the charge is ultimately reversed, the money for it is taken out of the merchant's account.

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Is It Worth It to Dispute a Charge?

You should definitely dispute a charge if you believe it to be fraudulent. Doing so ensures that the fraud protections on your credit card account go into effect.

However, if you believe there's been a mistake in billing or you have a problem with the quality of your purchase, it's often easier and better to go directly to the merchant first. Many businesses are more than willing to correct billing errors or make good on sales issues. Often, they do so much faster than a credit card dispute process takes. You can reserve the credit card dispute for times when the original merchant isn't helpful.

How Long Do You Have to Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

The deadline for filing a dispute for a credit card charge is 60 days. That clock starts when the item appears on your statement — so typically from the date of that statement. Fraud charges are an exception, and some card companies also allow a longer dispute timeframe for billing errors.

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