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The Process for Disputing a Credit Card Charge

Guide to Disputing a Credit Card Charge
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated April 25, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
As a consumer, you have the right to dispute a credit card charge, whether it was posted in error, is fraudulent, or the merchant didn’t provide satisfactory goods or services. If possible, it’s best to try to work out the issue first with the seller or merchant directly. But if that isn’t successful, you can move forward with disputing a credit card charge. Read on to learn how to dispute a credit card charge, as well as when you may be able to do so.

What Does It Mean to Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

A credit card dispute is when a consumer requests that their credit card company remove an incorrect or fraudulent charge from their bill. For instance, you may dispute a charge on a credit card if you were billed by a merchant for an incorrect amount, or if your credit card company incorrectly posted a payment you made. It isn’t a way to negotiate credit card debt or express dissatisfaction.When you dispute a credit card charge, the credit card company will launch an investigation into the matter. From there, you will either receive a refund for the disputed amount or an explanation of why the request was denied.

When Can You Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

According to the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), you have the right to dispute charges in the case of any of the following:
  • Unauthorized credit charges
  • Charges listing the wrong date or amount
  • Charges for goods or services you didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered as agreed
  • Math errors
  • Failure to post payments or other credits, such as returns
  • Failure to send bills to your current address
  • Charges for which you ask for an explanation or written proof of purchase, along with a claimed error or request for clarification
You typically need to file a dispute within 60 days of the transaction. However, the time frame may vary depending on the type of dispute. For example, billing errors and unsatisfactory or incomplete services must be reported within 60 days from the statement date, while fraudulent charges have a longer time frame for reporting.

Unauthorized Credit Card Charges

If an unauthorized charge is made with your credit card, you can dispute the credit card charge. Contact your credit card company immediately and also investigate whether your credit card information was compromised. Most major credit card payment networks offer a $0 liability feature on their credit cards. This means that they will waive a fraudulent or unauthorized credit card charge, as long as you report the fraud within two billing cycles. Additionally, federal law limits your liability for unauthorized charges to $50.

Billing Errors

The FCBA settlement procedures only apply to disputes about “billing errors.” However, the FCBA settlement considers billing errors to include many things, such as:
  • Unauthorized charges
  • Charges that list the wrong date or amount
  • Charges for goods and services you didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered as agreed
  • Math errors
  • Failure to post payments and other credits
  • Failure to send bills to your current address
  • Charges for which you ask for an explanation or written proof of purchase along with a claimed error or request for clarification
In any of these instances, you can dispute charges by writing a letter to your credit card issuer. Make sure to include supporting evidence, and hang on to a copy of the letter for your own records.

Wrong Date

If a charge on your credit card lists the wrong date, you have the right to dispute the charge.

Wrong Amount

If a charge on your credit card is in the wrong amount, you can file a dispute to correct this.

Issue With Goods and Services

Disputes about the quality of goods and services aren’t considered “billing errors,” which means that the dispute procedure doesn’t apply. However, if you have an issue with goods or services that you paid for with a credit card, you can still dispute the charge under state law. Before you do so, you must make a good faith effort to resolve the dispute with the seller first. Additionally, the charge must be for more than $50 and it must have been made within 100 miles of your billing address.

Math Error

If there are math errors with any of the charges on your credit card, you can file a dispute. For instance, this could include an incorrect totaling of your charges owed in a month. This is why understanding a credit card statement is important.

Improperly Posted Payment

If your credit card doesn't properly post payments or other credits, like a return, you can file a dispute for this missing payment or credit. 

Incorrect Mailing Address Used

If your credit issuer doesn’t send your bill to your current address, you can file a dispute, as long as the creditor received your change of address in writing at least 20 days before the billing period ended. Be sure to send notification of your change of address to your credit issuer with enough time for them to mail your bill to your new address.

Written Proof of Purchase

You can also file a dispute for charges for which you’ve asked for an explanation or written proof of purchase, along with a claimed error or request for clarification.

Can I Dispute a Credit Card Charge That I Willingly Paid For?

You can dispute a credit card charge for a purchase that you willingly paid for. You could do this for a variety of reasons, including if services were not rendered or if you were dissatisfied with the services rendered.

When Should You Dispute a Charge on a Credit Card?

To have your dispute protected by federal law, you generally must file the request within 60 days of the date that you received the bill with the charge in question. The only exception to this is fraud-related disputes, which have an unlimited time frame for disputes.

Disputing a Credit Card Charge

The specifics of disputing a credit card charge depends on the type of issue, such as whether it was a billing error, a fraudulent charge, or an issue with a good or service. In general, however, you can expect to go through the following process to dispute a credit card charge.

1. Contact the Creditor

For any type of credit card dispute, the first step is to contact the creditor. The only exception is if you have an issue with a good or service, in which case you should first try to resolve the issue directly with the seller or merchant first. If you’re unsuccessful, you can initiate a chargeback directly with the credit card company.You can file the dispute with the creditor by mail, email, phone, or online, depending on the type of issue it is. Because disputes for billing errors are regulated by the FCBA, for instance, you’ll have to use the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) sample letter. You’ll need to mail it to the credit card issuer’s billing inquiries department within 60 days of the error posting to your credit card statement.When disputing a charge, whether it’s a billing error or fraud, make sure to include any supporting documentation that the creditor may find helpful.

2. Wait for the Charges To Be Investigated

After you file a dispute, the creditor must send you a letter acknowledging the dispute within 30 days. The dispute must be settled within 90 days after the creditor receives your dispute notification. While the charges are being investigated, you don’t have to pay the disputed charges. However, you are responsible for paying the rest of your bill. 

3. Receive a Refund or a Written Letter of Explanation

If the creditor determines the charge is an error, you will get a refund for the charge, including any related interest charges or late fees. On the other hand, if the creditor rules that you owe the money, you will receive a written letter explaining why. You will have to pay the full amount in dispute, plus any interest.

4. Continue to Monitor Your Credit

After any credit card dispute is resolved, you should continue to monitor your credit. This is especially true if the charge was fraudulent or unauthorized. Credit monitoring services can help to quickly alert you to any potential issues on your credit cards. Also take the time to make sure that only authorized credit users have access to your credit card information. If you do notice any further issues, make sure to contact your credit card issuer immediately.

Dispute a Credit Card Charge Sample Letter

The FTC has a sample letter that you can use when disputing a credit card charge. This letter includes basic information such as your name and address, as well as the amount of the charge you are disputing and your explanation for why you’re disputing a credit card charge. You’re also asked to detail any supporting documentation that you’re sending alongside the letter, such as sales slips or payment records. Make sure to only send copies of these documents and to keep the originals.Before you send the letter, make a copy that you can keep for your own records.

How Much Does It Cost to Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

Disputing a credit card charge shouldn’t cost you any money. However, if the charge is deemed your responsibility after the investigation, you will need to pay for the charge, plus any interest on it. 

Will I Get My Money Back If I Dispute a Charge?

During the investigation of the disputed charge, you will not receive any money, but you also will not owe money for the charge. If the charge is determined to be an error, you’ll get your money back, plus any interest charges or late fees related to the charge. If the charge is determined to be your responsibility, on the other hand, you will not receive any money back and will have to pay the full amount, plus any interest. 

Does Disputing a Charge Impact Credit Score?

The act of disputing a credit card charge itself doesn’t have an impact on your credit score. A record of a credit card dispute may appear on your credit report, but it is illegal for lenders to deny you credit based on the fact that you’ve disputed a charge. What could affect your credit score, however, is any unpaid credit card bill during the dispute process. While you are not required to pay for the charges that are in dispute while they’re under investigation, you do have to pay the rest of your credit card bill. Not paying the rest of your credit card bill can negatively affect your credit. And if the investigation determines that you are responsible for the disputed charge, you have to pay that charge on your bill as well.If the disputed charge or charges are large and constitute a significant portion of your credit limit, this could also negatively affect your credit as well. This is because your credit utilization ratio will be high. Even though this will be resolved, it can still affect your credit temporarily.Once it is resolved — either through a refund or by you paying the charge — it should improve your credit score

Contacting Major Card Issuers

If you're attempting to contact the major card issuers, here are their mailing addresses:Additionally, you can generally send information to your credit card issuer regarding your dispute by fax or online through their website.

Should You Get Another Credit Card If Disputing the Charge Fails?

If your dispute fails, you don’t need to get another credit card. You will simply have to pay the charge you’d disputed, plus any interest. If you disagree with your credit card issuer’s explanation for denying the dispute, you can appeal the decision.

The Takeaway

From a billing error to a fraudulent charge, there are a number of reasons why you might dispute a credit card charge. The process of disputing a credit card charge generally involves reaching out to your credit card issuer and providing an explanation and any supporting documentation. From there, an investigation will take place and you’ll either get a refund or a letter explaining why the request was denied.While there’s no need to get a new credit card in the case of a dispute (unless, of course, your information was compromised), your experience may have prompted you to consider your options. If that’s the case, Lantern can help you compare credit card rates to find a card that’s right for you.
Photo credit: iStock/VioletaStoimenova
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website on credit (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans)SOLC1221094

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you dispute a credit card charge?
Can I dispute a credit card charge that I willingly paid for?
Will I get my money back if I dispute a charge?
How do I dispute a credit card charge and win?
How much does it cost to dispute a credit card charge?

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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