Start with the merchant in question, but don’t be afraid to escalate a dispute to your credit card issuer.
By Lisa Gerstner
As card statements roll in this post-holiday season, keep your eyes peeled for errors, such as a duplicate charge or one for an item you never received. If you suspect that a thief has used your card, call the issuer right away. Otherwise, many card issuers let you initiate a dispute through their websites.
The most efficient way to resolve a billing error may be to ask the merchant to make amends. If you still need to contact the card issuer, be sure to put the dispute in writing within 60 days of the time the bill containing the error was sent to you. Doing so triggers your protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act—although major card networks often honor disputes for at least twice that long, says Sean McQuay, of NerdWallet.
While your case is under investigation, you won’t have to pay the charge or any interest that accumulates on it, and the issuer can’t report you as delinquent to the credit bureaus. If you want to be sure of a paper trail to back up your dispute, send a letter by certified mail and request a return receipt, says Chi Chi Wu, staff lawyer for the National Consumer Law Center. The creditor has to settle your case within two billing cycles (and no longer than 90 days) of receiving the notice.
If the card company decides in your favor, you’re home free. But if the issuer finds no mistake—say, the charge is a legitimate one whose label you didn’t recognize—you’ll have to pay up. Still feel as if you’ve been wronged? File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, at consumerfinance.gov/complaint. It will forward your complaint to the issuer, which must respond within 15 days.
© 2017 The Kiplinger Washington Editors
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