Credit cards may offer an opportunity for disputing a charge such as improper charges, billing errors, fraudulent transactions, goods and services that weren’t delivered, and more. First, try reaching the agency or business that submitted the charge. If that doesn’t work, call your credit card issuer and request to dispute a charge. You will need 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. In general, the issuer won’t make you pay for the charge while it is in dispute, and you likely won’t be responsible for interest charges on the disputed amount during the investigation.

It can be a major bummer to open your credit card statement and see a charge you don’t recognize or didn’t authorize. Fortunately, the Fair Credit Billing Act protects credit card customers from being held responsible for unauthorized charges.

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 as painlessly as possible.

  1. Review Your Statement
  2. Contact the Retailer
  3. Contact Your Card Issuer
  4. Be Patient

1. Review Your Statement

You can’t stop fraud if you don’t know it’s happening in the first place.

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. For example, some $5,000 in charges to a men’s urban fashion line on a woman’s card might raise a red flag.

2. Contact the Retailer

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 are 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 can be: Reach out to the company and try to figure out what’s going on.

3. Contact Your Card Issuer

If you can’t resolve the unauthorized charge directly with the merchant, you might have to level up and dispute the charge through your credit card issuer. Usually, you can call your credit card issuer and ask to dispute a charge. You will 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.

In general, the issuer will ensure you are not paying for the charge while it is in dispute. You may not be responsible for interest charges on the disputed amount during the investigation.

4. Be Patient

It may take a little while to find out the results of the investigation. Within a few weeks of initiating the dispute, you may get a letter or email indicating the results of the completed investigation. You might also get a letter or email asking for additional information, such as a sales receipt or proof you were promised a refund, like an email.

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 are settled one way or another in 60 days, but check with your credit card 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.

Published October 12, 2018.

Updated April 9, 2020.

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.