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How to Dispute a Credit Card Charge

Last Updated: September 24, 2023
4 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 many reasons for disputing credit card charges, including unauthorized charges, billing errors, non-receipt of goods, and more.

  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 on your account, such as improper charges, billing errors, fraudulent transactions, and goods and services that weren’t delivered. If any of these things happen to you, it will be helpful to know how to dispute a credit card charge on your account, and what protections credit card customers have from unauthorized charges.

What is that charge on my credit card?

You may open your credit card statement or review your online banking account and see a charge 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.

Even if you recognize the charges, 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 provided goods or services that weren’t up to par, or charged you for merchandise you never actually received. If any of these scenarios apply, you can reach out to your credit card company and dispute the unauthorized charge.

Reasons to dispute a charge on your credit card

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

Unauthorized or fraudulent charges

It’s fraud if someone is using your credit card without your permission. According to the FTC, federal law prohibits you from being responsible for any unauthorized charges over $50. Additionally, Discover cardholders are protected with a $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee, which means you’re never held responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover Card.1

Billing errors

Billing errors are when merchants charge you for something by mistake, or when there’s an error on your billing statement. According to the FTC, examples of such errors you can dispute are:

  • Charges that list the wrong date or amount
  • Failure to post return credits
  • Failure to send bills to your current address—assuming the creditor has your change of address, in writing, at least 20 days before the billing period ends

Qualifying service issues

Did you pay for something that was never delivered? Was there a quality issue with a purchase, where what you paid for wasn’t fulfilled as agreed? While you’ll need to make a good-faith effort to solve the problem with the merchant first, you can also dispute credit card charges when there are these types of service issues.

Steps for disputing a credit card charge

Disputing charges 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 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.

When you’re reviewing your credit card statement, watch out for any unusual activity. This could include double charges or transactions you don’t recognize, perhaps from strange locations or an unfamiliar company name. An unusual item or a strange merchant name can be signs that something isn’t right.

Did you know?

If you’re concerned about the security of your information online, you may want to consider Discover Identity Theft Protection, which provides bank account alerts–if a bank account in your name opens or updates at any one of thousands of financial institutions we monitor every day; dark web alerts–when we find your SSN or any other info you provide on any one of thousands of dark websites we monitor for illegally sharing personal data; monthly 3 bureau credit activity summary, and much more.

Contact the retailer to dispute the charge

Some unauthorized credit card charges can be resolved with a simple phone call to the company where the charge originated. For example, if a store accidentally billed you twice for an item, they may offer you a refund.

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’re unsatisfied with a purchase, the store may agree to offer you a replacement or a refund without the need to dispute a charge. The most important lesson here is that you should reach out to the company first and try to figure out what’s going on.

Contact your card issuer to dispute a charge

If you can’t resolve the unauthorized charge directly with the merchant, usually you can contact your credit card issuer and ask to dispute a charge. You will likely need to specify the name of the business as it appears on your statement, the date of the charge, the amount, and the reason for the dispute.

Per the FTC, credit card companies cannot charge you for the disputed amount and related charges while the investigation is ongoing. However, you still have to pay any part of your bill not in question.

Be patient while your disputed charge is under review

It may take a while to find out the results of the investigation. Look out for messages 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 charge will be reapplied to your account, and you will be once again responsible for payment. Most disputes may be settled one way or another in approximately 60 days, but check with your credit card company for specific timeframes.

Dealing with financial issues can sometimes be intimidating—especially when facing the idea of late fees or interest charges that could possibly affect your credit score. Checking your statement diligently and understanding your credit card issuers’ protection policies can help you when you have an unauthorized charge.

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  1. $0 Fraud Liability: An “unauthorized purchase” is a purchase where you have not given access to your card information to another person or a merchant for one-time or repeated charges. Please use reasonable care to protect your card and do not share it with employees, relatives, or friends. Learn more at Discover.com/fraudFAQ.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.