In today’s Scambook Weekly Update, Kevan tells us how to dispute an unauthorized credit card charge with your bank or credit card company. He explains how a mysterious charge might show up on your monthly credit card bill as a result of identity theft, fraud or poor business practices and how your consumer rights allow you to dispute the charge. Thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act, your credit card company can’t hold you accountable for more than $50 for an unauthorized charge or any charges made when your Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Capital One credit card has been lost or stolen. In addition to unauthorized mystery charges, Kevan reviews some of the circumstances when you can legally dispute a credit card charge: if you didn’t receive an item, if you received the wrong item, if you were charged multiple times for one item, if you were charged the wrong amount or if you returned an item but never received a refund from the merchant. Kevan also gives us important tips about how to contact your bank or financial lending institution, including why it’s important to check your bank account and your bills every day, how long you have to report the charge and how to write a letter to your credit card company to properly resolve the issue.
In addition to the reasons mentioned by Kevan, there may be other circumstances when you can dispute a credit card charge. These reasons will vary depending on your state and the terms of service of your credit card. In accordance with the Fair Credit Billing Act, all monthly credit card statements are required to include a section called the billing rights summary. This is usually in the fine print on the back of your statement. The billing rights summary will explain when, why and how to dispute an unauthorized charge. It will include a mailing address for the credit card company as well as a customer service phone hotline. If you don’t have your bill on hand, you can also find this information on the website you use to manage your account and the hotline number will be printed on the back of your card. It’s the same number you need to call when your credit card becomes lost or stolen.
As Kevan states in the video, here are 3 Important Tips about how to dispute an unauthorized credit card charge:
Tip #1: Check your credit card account every day or as often as possible.
If you do online banking, make this a daily habit. Many of us have a morning or evening internet routine – check your email, check Facebook, check Scambook, read CNN, log into eBay to watch your online auctions, etc. Include your financial accounts in this routine. If you need help organizing your online credit card accounts, checking accounts and online bills, try the free site Mint.com.
If you don’t want to pay unauthorized credit card charges, it’s VERY important that you keep your eye on your online accounts and read the fine print on your monthly bill very closely. You only have 60 days to dispute an unauthorized credit card charge or your credit card company isn’t legally required to cover the damages. This 60 day window begins from the first day that the charge appears, NOT from the first day you notice it. Some credit card companies may have a longer deadline, but the sooner you notice an unauthorized charge, the sooner you can dispute it and preserve your credit.
Tip #2: Write a letter to your credit card company describing the charge.
If you use online banking to manage your credit card account, you may be able to dispute the charge by clicking a link on the bank’s website, but the traditional way to dispute a charge is by writing a letter. The billing rights summary on the back of your monthly credit card bill will include a mailing address to write to. In your letter, include the precise amount of the charge that you’re disputing and why you’re disputing it. Be very detailed. If you have any documents to support your case, such as receipts or invoices, make copies and attach them to your letter as enclosures.
You can write your own letter or use this free sample letter from the FTC as a guide:
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Account Number
Name of Creditor
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 enclosed information, such as sales slips, payment records) supporting my position. Please investigate this matter and correct the billing error as soon as possible.
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
Before you send this letter, remember to review your bill very carefully, read the full terms of service on your credit card bill and make sure that the charge in question does qualify for a dispute. If it doesn’t — if you’re just trying to get your credit card company to cancel a charge because you don’t want to pay up — you’ll be held liable for the amount plus any late fees and other penalties that accrued while you were waiting for the dispute to close.
Tip #3: Submit a complaint on Scambook.
We may be able to contact the company or individual that’s charging you and get the issue resolved faster than your credit card company. Either way, once you open a dispute with your credit card company, you don’t have to pay the amount you’re disputing or any fees specifically associated with that amount until your dispute is resolved. But you are responsible for all other, legitimate charges, so make sure you pay the rest of your bill.