The main law for disputing credit card charges is the federal Fair Credit Billing Act. This sets minimum rights that apply nationwide, though individual state laws may give additional rights and protection. The time limit for disputing a credit card charge depends on which of two categories pertain to the dispute.
This category covers four types of situations: the cardholder did not authorize the charge; the goods or services were not delivered or supplied; the goods were not delivered in a timely manner and the buyer wants to reject them as a result; and the goods delivered were either not what was ordered, or were in the wrong quantity.
Claims and Defenses
This category only covers situations where the quality of the goods or services was not as advertised: for example, they were faulty or not suitable for the advertised purpose. In this situation, a cardholder has the same legal rights against the card issuer as he does against the retailer.
For disputes under the billing errors category, the cardholder must file a dispute with the card issuer within 60 days of the first credit card statement listing the purchase -- not 60 days of the purchase itself.
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For disputes under the claims and defenses category, the cardholder can file a dispute with the card issuer at any point up to one year from the statement listing the purchase.
Restrictions and Exceptions
The claims and defenses category is subject to several restrictions. It does not apply to any portion (or the entirety) of the charge that the cardholder has paid before filing a dispute. It can only be used on purchases of more than $50 and only where the purchase took place either in the cardholder's state of residence or within 100 miles of her home. It is only allowed in cases where the cardholder has already made a "good faith" attempt to get a refund from the retailer but been unsuccessful.
Some banks will make exceptions to the time limit on billing errors cases, or the geographic restrictions on claims and defenses cases. However, this is discretionary and cardholders should not rely on receiving such an exception.