When you send your credit card payment each month, you want to only pay for purchases you actually made, not fraudulent charges from credit card hackers or recurring fees for subscriptions you never agreed to. If you find a credit card billing error on your statement, there are specific steps you should take to clear it up. Timing matters, so act quickly.

Check Your Billing Statement For Errors

Each month, your credit card company will mail a billing statement to you. Or, if you’ve signed up for online billing, you’ll receive an email letting you know when your statement is ready for viewing. Before you write a check or setup an online payment, read through your statement to check for errors.

Credit card billing errors include things like:

  • unauthorized charges
  • charges for products you didn’t receive or that weren’t received as agreed
  • payments that weren’t applied at all or were not applied correctly
  • math or calculation errors
  • charges for the wrong about
  • failure to deliver your billing statement to the address you have on file

You have a right to dispute any of these types of billing errors with your credit card issuer.

Don’t Just Call, Write

You can easily call your credit card issuer to let them know about the error, but that’s not enough. The Fair Credit Billing Act is a law that protects your right to dispute credit card billing errors. You must dispute the credit card billing error in writing to ensure your rights are fully protected.

You can call your credit card issuer to initiate the process, but follow up with a letter. Without a written dispute, the credit card issuer isn’t legally required to investigate your error and you may be responsible for the amount you’ve disputed.

Act Quickly, or You May Lose Your Right to Dispute

You must make your dispute within 60 days of the date the billing statement was mailed to you. Except in some cases of fraud, the credit card issuer is not required to remove charges from billing statements mailed to you more than 60 days ago. This is why it’s important to read your billing statement when you receive it.

Say a company has been billing you each month for a subscription you never agreed to or that you cancelled months ago. If you notice it 10 months later, your credit card issuer may only be legally required to refund you for 2 of those 10 months (those on statements mailed to you within the past 60 days). You might still contact your credit card issuer to dispute the charges. Just know the decision to remove charges from an old billing statement is made at the credit card issuer’s discretion.

Include the Important Details In Your Letter

When you write a dispute letter, make sure you give as much detail as possible about the charge you’re disputing. Include your account number and the date, amount, the transaction description, and an explanation of the error. These details help the credit card issuer identify the item you’re disputing and what should be investigated.

If you have already called your creditor about the error, reference the date of the phone call and the name of the representative you spoke with. Include copies (not the originals) of any proof you have that supports your dispute. For example, you can include a copy of a receipt showing you made a return that wasn’t credited to your account.

The body of your letter might read:

This letter is a dispute to an error on the billing statement mailed to me on March 18, 2017. I did not authorize the transaction made on March 12, 2017 at ABC Gas Station in Lexington, Kentucky for $15.75. I currently reside in Reno, Nevada did not travel to Kentucky on or around that date.

Please investigate this transaction and correct the billing error as soon as possible.

Send your letter via certified mail so you have postmark proof of the date your letter was mailed. The certified mail receipt also includes a tracking number that you can use to track when the letter is received. This tracking information will help you ensure the credit card issuer responds within the necessary timeframe.

Most credit card issuers receive correspondence at a different address from payments. Check your billing statement or your online account for the correct address for sending billing disputes. Mailing your letter to the wrong address could delay response to your dispute.

The credit card issuer has to acknowledge receipt of your dispute letter within 30 days, unless your dispute has already been resolved.

Then, the credit card issuer has up to 90 days to investigate your dispute and notify you that the error has been corrected or that they do not think there was an error.

Pay The Rest of Your Bill

Your regular credit card payment may still be due depending on your balance and the transaction(s) you’ve disputed.

During the investigation, you’re only allowed to withhold payment on the amount you’ve disputed. You must make at least the minimum payment on any other balance you have on your credit card. Failing to make your minimum payment could lead to late payment penalties.

Note that you won’t be charged late fees or other penalties for withholding payment on disputed amounts as long as you’ve made your dispute in writing.

Wait for the Investigation Results

Once the investigation is over, the credit card issuer will write to let you know the results. If the credit card issuer confirms the billing error, they’re required to let you know how they plan to correct your account. Your card issuer must remove any fees or interest related to the billing error.

Otherwise, the credit card issuer will explain in writing if they determine that you owe all or some of the amount you’ve disputed. If this happens, you’re  required to pay the disputed amount and any interest that accrued during the investigation.

You Can Still Use Your Card

Your credit card issuer isn’t allowed to close or restrict your account because you’ve disputed a billing error, as long as you’ve made the dispute in writing. You can use your card for purchases as you normally would, provided you have enough available credit. Remember you still owe the regular monthly payment on any part of your balance that you haven’t disputed.

Make Sure Your Dispute Isn’t Really With the Merchant

Your credit card issuer is only required to handle credit card billing errors. They’re not required to investigate or adjust your account for disputes you have about the quality of goods or services. They also do not have to remove charges because a merchant refused to refund you after the refund period. You’ll have to fight these types of battles directly with the retailer. Check your receipt or the merchant’s website for the merchant’s refund policy.

Your credit card may come with other benefits like purchase or return protection that can help you with lost or damaged items or returns the merchant refuses. Read your credit card terms or call your credit card’s customer service to find out which benefits apply to your account.

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