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Credit card dispute? Tips for getting results

by Mary Ann Campbell

Get Rich Slowly blogger J.D. Roth shares a story about the dilemma his wife encountered when disputing a modest charge on her account. Erroneously charged twice at a British Columbia café, she spent months trying to receive a refund to no avail. Finally she canceled her card and refused to do business with the issuer. She learned that some disputes aren't worth the hassle, but she still made a statement.

It's bound to happen to many of us who use credit cards at one time or another, and oftentimes we don't have the option to just let go. We find an out-and-out error, charges for merchandise returned or never received, or unauthorized charges that have no explanation. Patience, knowledge and a respectful attitude improve success rates in the dispute procedures that follow. Keeping a paper trail or an electronic trail will also help. At every stage of a credit card dispute, here are secrets for getting positive results:

Go back to the source

This is the easiest path to resolution. Resolving your dispute at the point of purchase eliminates involving the credit card company. Reach out to the merchant and try to negotiate a satisfactory solution.

Know the merchant's refund policy

Sometimes the merchant's refund and exchange policy is posted in plain sight. More often, it's buried in fine print and written in legalese. These policies are designed to protect the creditor, but give you certain legal rights as well. If you take the time to acknowledge the merchant's refund and exchange policy, and approach the merchant with a positive attitude, the merchant may make an exception out of graciousness, if not out of legal responsibility.

Know credit card law

As consumers, we are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. We have the right to dispute a purchase or withhold payment under certain conditions, including these seven:

  1. Unauthorized charges
  2. Charges with incorrect date or amount
  3. Math errors
  4. Charges for goods not received
  5. Failure to post returns or payments
  6. Failure to receive bills at your current address
  7. Charges for which you requested clarification

The Fair Credit Billing Act applies to open-end credit card accounts and revolving charge accounts such as department store accounts. It does not cover installment contracts on a fixed payment schedule.

Dispute the charge with your credit card company

Call your credit card company's toll-free number and request the purchase-dispute department, or go to your credit card company's website and work through its online dispute system. Be accurate when filing your claim. Gather and provide as much documentation as possible.

Have you had personal experience, good or bad, involving a credit card dispute?

 

 

Published 03/29/11 (Modified 11/20/13)


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