How Do You Dispute a Credit Card Charge? All You Need to Know

By Jacqueline DeMarco · May 10, 2022 · 8 minute read

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How Do You Dispute a Credit Card Charge? All You Need to Know

If you’re unhappy with a recent purchase or believe an unauthorized charge occurred, you may be wondering, can I dispute a charge on my credit card? You can dispute credit card charges — even a credit card charge that you willingly paid for.

Read on for more details on instances on when you may and may not consider disputing a credit card charge, as well as instructions for how to draft a letter to do so.

Disputing Credit Card Charges

Disputing a credit card charge involves filing a claim with a credit card issuer that argues that the cardholder shouldn’t be responsible for paying for a specific purchase made with their credit card.

A cardholder can’t make a dispute if they simply don’t like the item or service they received. However, they can dispute a credit card charge if the merchant is acting maliciously, such as if they don’t deliver an item the consumer ordered or don’t properly reimburse a return. A cardholder also can dispute credit card charges when certain billing issues are made or if they believe there was a fraudulent charge.

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) gives consumers the right to dispute a charge and to request an investigation into the issue. Thanks to the FCBA, consumers are also entitled to a quick response from their credit card issuer and to have their credit score protected during the course of the dispute investigation, which is critical given how credit cards work.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

When To Dispute a Credit Card Charge

There are a few different times when disputing a credit card charge makes sense. Let’s examine when someone can consider a dispute.

Fraudulent Charges

You can dispute a credit card charge that was the result of theft, such as if you fell victim to a credit card skimmer, or due to unauthorized use. Before you report a fraudulent charge, make sure it was not just another authorized user on the card who made the charge or that you didn’t let someone else use your card. Also keep in mind that merchants may use another name or address for billing.

If it does appear to be a fraudulent charge after review, report it immediately. By law, you can’t be held liable for more than $50 in fraudulent charges, and many credit card issuers have a $0 liability policy. This would mean you wouldn’t have to worry about the charge at all, let alone any interest that may have accrued based on the APR on a credit card.

Billing Errors

Billing errors can also occur and are a good reason to dispute a charge on your credit card. For example, if the credit card issuer sends a bill to the wrong address, which gets in the way of the cardholder paying their bill on time, they can dispute any credit card interest or late fees that have accrued.

A credit card bill can also have numerical errors if the charges were incorrectly totaled. Any bill with the wrong date or amount included on it can also count as a billing error, such as if you pay taxes with a credit card but the total reflected in your statement is different than what you actually paid.

Bad or Unrendered Services

It’s easy to see how an error can lead to a dispute, but you may also wonder: Can I dispute a credit card charge that I willingly paid for? Even if someone agreed to pay for a purchase, it is possible to dispute a credit card charge for goods or services that were not delivered or that were unsatisfactory. This can include if someone doesn’t receive an item they purchased through a merchant that accepts credit card payments, or if they didn’t receive a refund after making a return.

Per the FCBA, to take advantage of this protection, you must first make a good faith effort to resolve the issue with the merchant. Additionally, the purchase must be for more than $50, and it must be made either within your home state or within 100 miles of your billing address.

When You Should Not Dispute a Credit Card Charge

There will be times when making a dispute isn’t doable. To save time and stress in the future, let’s look at when disputing a credit card charge may not be the right step.

If a Friend or Relative Made a Purchase

For a credit charge to be considered “unauthorized use,” the purchase must be made by someone who doesn’t have a right to use the credit card.

Unauthorized use can happen if someone steals a credit card (whether the physical card or credit card information, like the CVV number on a credit card), or if they find one that doesn’t belong to them and then uses it. On the other hand, if someone gives a friend or family member official permission to use their credit card, but they use it for a purchase the cardholder didn’t approve, this is still considered authorized use.

This is why it’s important to only authorize trusted users. If a friend or family member abuses their access to a credit card, the cardholder would need to contact their credit card company and remove them as an authorized user. In the meantime, the cardholder would remain responsible for any charges the individual made when they were an authorized user — even if they push them up to their credit card limit.

You Did Not Inform the Merchant Concerning the Issue First

If it’s a complaint regarding the quality of goods and services, you must first contact the merchant about the issue before making a dispute. Credit card companies may want to see proof that you’ve tried to work with the merchant before you turned to them, though this will vary by issuer.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

How to Dispute a Credit Card Charge

The process for how to dispute a credit card charge depends on the credit card issuer as well as the reason for the dispute.Just like all issuers have their own process for how to apply for a credit card, they also have their own process for filing a dispute. That being said, here is the general process for each type of credit card dispute:

•   Billing error disputes: The billing error dispute process is regulated by the FCBA. To dispute a credit card charge related to a billing error, send a letter to the credit card issuer’s billing inquiries department (and make sure to keep a copy for your own records). You should use the sample letter for disputing charges provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to do this. In your letter, detail the reason for the dispute and include any supporting documentation.

•   Fraudulent charge disputes: If a dispute is related to fraudulent charges, the cardholder can contact the credit card company. The company may request proof of a police report or other documentation that proves their credit card was either lost or stolen.

•   Bad service or unrendered services disputes: When it comes to service issues, it’s best to start with the merchant. If the merchant won’t refund the purchase, the cardholder can request a credit card chargeback online, over the phone, or by mail. They should include any supporting documentation that backs up their claim and shows their attempts to work with the merchant directly first. It’s important that you do not pay for the disputed charge while the issue is still being resolved, though you’ll still want to make the credit card minimum payment to avoid late fees or other penalties.

Generally, consumers have 60 days to file a request to dispute a credit card charge. After filing a dispute with the credit card issuer, the issuer has 30 days to send a letter acknowledging the dispute, and they must settle the issue within 90 days of receiving the letter.

The Takeaway

If a consumer believes that a billing error occurred, their card was used fraudulently, or they received bad service or unrendered services, then they have a right to dispute the charge with their credit card issuer. Not all issues can be resolved with a dispute. However, it’s worth confirming what options the credit card issuer has for moving forward when you’re unhappy with a charge.

Alongside factors like a good APR for a credit card and rewards offerings, protections are important to consider when choosing a credit card. The SoFi Credit Card, for instance, offers Mastercard ID theft protection, which can help to detect potential fraud. Plus, you can get complimentary cell phone insurance coverage up to $1,000.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1

Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.


How long do you have to dispute credit card charges?

In the case of a billing error or unsatisfactory charges, you must make a dispute within 60 days of receiving your statement. There are no limits on how soon you must dispute a charge related to fraud.

What happens if you dispute a charge on your credit card?

There’s no guarantees that a dispute will work out in the cardholder’s favor. The credit card issuer must resolve the investigation surrounding the dispute within 90 days of receiving it.

Does a dispute affect credit score?

Filing a dispute doesn’t necessarily impact a credit score. However, if the dispute is surrounding an inaccurate late payment or other negative event, having the issue resolved after a dispute can help to improve the account holder’s credit score.

What happens if a credit card dispute is denied?

The credit card issuer can choose to approve or deny a dispute. If the filer disagrees with the result of their investigation, they can appeal the decision by writing to the creditor within 10 days of receiving the explanation for why the dispute was denied.

Can you dispute a charge after 90 days?

Generally, consumers only have 60 days to dispute a credit card charge after receiving their bill. The only exception to this timeline is fraud, which has an unlimited window for reporting. That being said, if someone realizes a charge is inaccurate after 60 days, it’s worth consulting their credit card issuer about their options.

Photo credit: iStock/Just_Super

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