When something goes wrong with a credit card charge, you have the right to dispute it. Disputes can be launched for a variety of reasons. In some cases, you might have a fraudulent charge on your credit card because your card number got compromised or stolen. A merchant might have double-billed you or entered the wrong amount. In other cases, you'll dispute a charge because you never got the item or because the item didn't meet your quality expectations.Whatever the reason, the dispute process requires a few steps and can stretch out over several months.
The Initial Dispute
Initially disputing a charge is a relative simple process that just takes a couple of minutes. Depending on your credit card issuer's system, you can let it know about a dispute online, by telephone or by mail. Online disputes typically require you to click a button and submit an explanation, while telephone disputes can usually be logged after a brief conversation. For some disputes and with some credit cards, you may also need to write a formal letter and send it to your credit card issuer.
Dispute Time Frames
The time that you have to lodge a dispute varies by credit card issuer. By law, if you find a mistaken charge on your credit card or if you are disputing a charge because of the quality of the goods you received, you have 60 days to let your issuer know in writing of the error. With a fraudulent charge, it's your responsibility to let your issuer know as soon as you see the charge. Given the time that you have to make a dispute with non-fraud related charges, you might find it easier and quicker to try to work the issue out with the merchant that charged your card first.
Responses to Fraud
Once your credit card issuer gets a report of fraudulent charges, it will spring into immediate action. Usually, your card gets cancelled on the spot and a new card with a new number gets sent out to you. If you need your card quickly, consider asking your issuer if it will send it to you via overnight mail for free; some will. The charges generally get reversed while the card issuer either works with law enforcement or works with the merchants to absorb the cost of the fraud.
Responses to Other Disputes
Once you submit a dispute for a reason other than fraud, your credit card issuer has up to 30 days to respond to you. It may respond by asking for additional documentation to support its investigation or it may simply let you know what its findings were. The disputed charge will be put in limbo -- you won't be responsible to pay for it, but it may be subtracted from your credit limit. Within a total of 90 days and two billing cycles, your issuer must finish investigating your dispute and either remove the charge from your account or reinstate it for you to pay.
- Chargebacks911: The Chargeback Process: Necessary Steps, Reason Codes, and Outcomes
- Bankrate: Seven Tips for Winning a Credit Card Dispute
- Indiana Department of Financial Institutions: Credit Card Disputes
- Discover Card: Dispute a Charge
- The Consumerist: Make Sure Your Replacement AmEx Gets Overnighted
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.