Disputing a credit card charge: Do you know your rights?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As we all recover from holiday spending, you may encounter a mistake or a charge you do not recognize on your credit card bill as you review it this month.

You should know, there are several transactions, other than just a mistake, you can dispute under the Fair Credit Billing Act:

  • Unauthorized use: someone obtains your credit card information and makes a purchase with it
  • Charges for the wrong amount or on the wrong date
  • Charges where a vendor fails to deliver goods or services at all, or as described. For example, you order a red chair, you never get it, or you instead receive a blue table.
  • Transactions for which you need more clarification
  • Payments on credit card account that are not applied properly, or at all
  • Computational errors by the creditor

“This applies to consumer transactions only, not business transactions,” said Annie Rodriguez, a Jax Area Legal Aid attorney who specializes in consumer rights.

She said as soon as you notice a mistake or a charge you do not recognize, take action promptly.

“Don’t delay,” said Rodriguez, who suggests you first try to resolve the issue with the vendor, but if that process is taking too long or going nowhere, don’t let it drag on. Take action with your credit card company.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you have 60 days to get the written dispute to your creditor.

“The 60 days starts from the time the periodic statement should have been sent and the statement reflects the error,” said Rodriguez.

Also when disputing a charge, pay close attend to the Billing Rights, which is required to be included in the fine print when you sign up for a credit card.

“Follow this carefully,” she said, “unless a card issuer specifically accepts written disputes by email, assume you need to send it by certified mail to customer service or another designated address listed in the fine print.”

Your written dispute should contain:

  • Your name, account number and billing address
  • The date of the disputed transaction, the amount, and the vendor of the disputed charge(s)
  • Explain why it is incorrect

For example, “I did not order anything from this company. I have no idea who this vendor is. I did not authorize this charge, please correct the error and investigate. I ordered item 5 from this vendor, they did not send me item 5, they sent me item 12. I have attempted to obtain the correct items from the vendor, they refuse or won’t respond. Please investigate and correct the error.”

Documenting the dispute:

Jax Area Legal Aid recommends you take certain steps to document your credit card dispute.

  • Certified mail, return receipt requested is the recommended method, but if you cannot afford that, regular mail is acceptable.
  • Keep a journal of dates, times, and persons that you spoke with from the credit card company and/or vendors. Note what was said.
  • Gather documents to support your claim of error, if the issue is quantity or amount related. Screen shots of text messages, or product details. Emails, receipts, etc.

Credit card companies are required to respond to your dispute within 30 days.

“They then have 90 days to investigate and correct the error or explain why they decided to uphold the transaction,” said Rodriguez.

If you disagree with their conclusion, you have 10 days to send a written dispute of their findings. You can include additional information to help support your position.

“Keep an eye on your credit reports to ensure that the dispute is documented appropriately in your credit report,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez also suggests you set alerts on your credit card accounts so you can catch mistakes as soon as they occur.

“You can set dollar amount alerts and suspected fraud alerts,” she said.

You can ask that your credit card email or text you these notifications.

“Always review your monthly credit card statements,” she said.

Jax Area Legal Aid offers free legal counsel, if you need help, call: 904-356-8371 or click: jaxlegalaid.org to set up an appointment to meet with an attorney. JALA currently has three offices: Downtown Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Green Cove Springs.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.