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How to Dispute a Credit Card Charge

Last Updated: August 8, 2022
5 min read

Key Points About: Disputing Credit Card Charges

  1. You should always check your credit card statement to make sure you recognize all the charges

  2. There are three main reasons for disputing credit card charges: unauthorized charges, billing errors, and incomplete service

  3. You should try to resolve a dispute with the seller before involving your credit card issuer

Credit cards may offer an opportunity for disputing a charge such as improper purchases, fraudulent transactions, goods and services that weren’t delivered, and more. First, try contacting the agency or business that submitted the charge. If that doesn’t work, you can contact your credit card issuer and request to dispute a credit card charge. Be ready to specify the name of the business as it appears on your statement, the date and amount of the charge, and the reason for the dispute.

What is that charge on my credit card? 

You may open up your credit card statement and see a purchase you don’t recognize or didn’t authorize. While it could be an honest mistake by a retailer, it could also be the result of someone stealing your card information and using it without your permission.

But even if you recognize the charge, some line items on your credit card statement may not look quite right—like getting accidentally double charged for a salad or billed for a subscription you canceled months ago. Or maybe a merchant charged you for merchandise you never actually received. If either of these scenarios apply, you can reach out to your credit card issuer and dispute the charge.

Reasons to dispute a charge on your credit card 

Fortunately, the Fair Credit Billing Act protects credit card customers from being held responsible for certain purchases. There are three main categories under which you have the right to dispute a charge:

  1. Unauthorized charges

An “unauthorized purchase” is the use of your credit card or card account information by a third party, such as for a charge, purchase or other card transaction where you have not given access to your card information to any other person or business for one time or repeated use, such as a merchant, employee, relative or friend. Please use reasonable care to protect your card, account numbers and personal identification numbers, including in places where your card information may be stored for others to access or use. Transactions made by authorized users, secondary cardmembers and others you have given permission to use or access to your account, and transactions that you benefit from, are not “unauthorized.” It is important that you contact us as soon as you suspect unauthorized use so that we can assist you. We will then open an investigation to determine if the transactions were unauthorized.

While federal law prohibits you from being responsible for any unauthorized charges over $50, Discover cardholders are protected with a $0 fraud liability guarantee, which means cardmembers are not responsible for unauthorized purchases on their Discover card account.1

  1. Billing errors

Billing errors occur in a number of different ways, and disputable billing errors might include:

  • Unauthorized as described above
  • Charges for goods or services you have not received or accepted
  • Missing or misapplied payments or other credits
  • Calculation errors
  • Transactions not clearly described or for which you need clarification
  • Failure to deliver a billing statement to you at your address on file

  1. Incomplete service

Did you pay for something that was never delivered? Was there a quality issue that affected your ability to use your purchase, or the product you received wasn’t as advertised when you charged your card to pay for it? While you’ll need to make a good-faith effort to solve the problem with the merchant first, you can also dispute credit card purchases where there were these types of service issues.

Steps for disputing a credit card charge

Disputing purchases can feel daunting at first, but if you have an issue with a charge on your credit card, consider these options to help you sort it out:

Review your credit card statement for errant charges

To make sure you aren’t missing billing errors or signs of fraudulent activity, get in the habit of reading your credit card statement each month, whether that’s an online statement or the paper-based one that arrives by mail.

Contact the retailer to dispute a purchase

A transaction from an unfamiliar name or location could just mean the business operates under a different name than their storefront, or has an office or warehouse in another town. If you are unsatisfied with a purchase, the store may agree to offer you a replacement or a refund without the need to dispute a purchase. The most important lesson here can be: Reach out to the company first and try to figure out what’s going on.

Contact Discover or your card issuer to dispute a charge

If you can’t resolve the issues resulting from charges on your card directly with the merchant, you might have to dispute the purchase through your credit card issuer. Usually, you can contact your credit card issuer and ask to dispute a purchase. You will likely need to specify the name of the business as it appears on your statement, the date of the purchase, the amount and the reason for the dispute.

Be patient while your disputed charge is under review

It may take a little while to find out the results of the investigation. Be on the lookout for outreach from your credit card issuer either asking for additional information or to inform you that the investigation has been completed.

If the dispute is resolved in your favor, the credit becomes permanent. However, if the investigation concludes that you are not entitled to the credit, the purchase will be reapplied to your account and you will be once again responsible for payment. Most disputes are settled one way or another in 60 days, but check with your credit card for specific timeframes.

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