If you made a purchase using your credit card and you're unhappy with it, first try to contact the merchant you paid with your credit card. If that doesn't work to your satisfaction, you may be able to dispute the charge and cancel the credit card payment under the terms of your credit card agreement. Call the bank that issued your card to inquire about the details. If you find fraud on your account, call your bank immediately.
Credit Card Purchase Cancellation Policy
If you pay for something with your credit card and aren't satisfied with your purchase, you can first contact the seller to find out the business's credit card purchase cancellation policy. Depending on what goods or services you paid for, you may be able to return an item for a refund or get a redo of unsatisfactory service.
Bring your receipt if you have it or include any transaction numbers and details if you make a phone call or send an electronic message. Many businesses will only issue refunds to the credit card used for the purchase, but you can inquire if a store has a different, more lenient policy. Some merchants will also issue store credit or a gift card for the disputed amount.
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If you think the situation can be resolved easily, it might make more sense to simply make a phone call or drop by the store. If you are having a hard time getting a good response, you can try sending a formal letter or email so you have record of your correspondence.
Contact Your Credit Card Company
If you don't get a satisfactory response from the merchant, all is not necessarily lost. You can contact the bank that issued your credit card and explain that you are unsatisfied with a purchase. The bank will then often attempt to mediate with you and the merchant to make things right, and if you are unable to come to an agreement, the bank may collect a refund from the merchant on your behalf. This is known as a chargeback in credit card terminology. It's one of the advantages of using a credit card as opposed to paying in cash or even paying by a traditional check.
If you do go this route, make sure to keep organized copies of any documentation of your purchase, your correspondence with the merchant and anything you file with the credit card company. Make sure to tell the truth to the best of your ability, since deliberately lying to the bank may be considered fraud. It's usually a good idea to attempt to resolve things with the merchant before going through the bank.
Keep in mind that merchants are charged a fee for successful chargebacks as well as required to issue you a refund. Once you initiate a chargeback with a merchant, don't be surprised if that merchant is less willing to do business with you in the future. Note that if you are closing a credit card account with an outstanding balance from a purchase you haven't successfully disputed, you will still be liable for that charge.
Handling Debit Card Disputes
A debit card takes money for purchases directly from a bank account, while a credit card enables you to run up a debt to the bank that you can pay back at the end of your billing cycle or later on if you are willing to pay interest. If you used a debit card rather than a credit card, you may have fewer consumer protections. There may still be some options available to you if you are unhappy with your purchase, however. Check your card agreement and contact your bank to see the options that are available to you.
Paying with Online Payment Providers
If you bought something through a digital payment provider such as PayPal or through an online marketplace site like eBay or Etsy instead of using your credit card to pay a vendor directly, you may have additional protections beyond what your bank provides. Check the terms of service for the payment provider or the marketplace site to see what options you have to open a dispute there.
You may still wish to contact the organization that sold you the unsatisfactory item directly, depending on the circumstances. Make sure to keep track of any deadlines to file disputes with payment providers, sale sites and banks so that you don't unwittingly miss an avenue to dispute the charge. Also keep careful track of all your correspondence with any of these organizations and with the actual merchant who sold you the item.
Dealing with Fraudulent Charges
Whether you're using a credit card or a debit card, if you see a fraudulent charge on your statement, then you should contact your bank immediately. In many circumstances, the bank will cancel the charge or refund your money on a debit card if the charge is confirmed to be unauthorized by you. With a credit card, you can be responsible for up to $50 in fraudulent charges if your card is physically stolen and used before you report it missing, but many banks will waive the $50 so you will owe nothing if you report the card stolen.
The law around debit cards is more complicated. Generally, if you report a card physically stolen before charges appear, you will legally have no liability. If you report a card stolen within two business days of learning about it but after charges are made, you may owe up to $50, and you could owe up to $500 if you report within 60 days of receiving the first statement listing the fraud from a stolen card. If you take longer, you could be responsible for all the charges, but some banks will be more lenient if there are extenuating circumstances.
Particularly with debit cards, your liability for the fraudulent charge is more likely to be limited or nonexistent under the law and the terms of your agreement the sooner you notify your financial institution. Keep careful notes and copies of correspondence when reporting fraud so you can verify what you reported and when.
The Aftermath of Fraud
Usually when you report fraud on your account, your bank will cancel your card and issue you a new one, in case the number is still in the hands of the fraudster. That means you won't be able to use your card until the new one arrives, and you will usually have to re-enter your card information for any recurring charges, such as monthly bill payments.
When the new card arrives, follow the instructions that come with it to activate it and set a new personal identification number if necessary. You may want to test the card with a small purchase to verify that it works. Then, update your online settings in places where the old card information is stored. Destroy your old card if it is still in your possession.