When you notice that a merchant has charged you an incorrect amount or that someone may have made a fraudulent transaction on your credit card, you need to follow the proper timeline and procedures for disputing the charge so that you're not held liable. Under the terms of the Fair Credit Billing Act, the credit card dispute time limit is usually 60 days after you get the official card statement showing that problematic charge. However, some card issuers may give you more time, so it's important to check your cardmember's agreement.
Understanding Types of Disputed Charges
Disputed charges fall into one of two categories: billing errors and fraud. Examples of billing errors include problems with products and services received, late deliveries, incorrect charge amounts and the continued billing of a canceled subscription. On the other hand, fraudulent charges include those nobody authorized to use the card has made, and they can happen if someone stole your card or otherwise obtained its number and other information illegally.
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Credit Card Dispute Time Limit
While card issuers have different ways of handling types of disputed charges, you usually get either the FCBA's 60-day period after your statement comes or the length of time your cardmember's agreement states, whichever is longer.
When you do notice something to dispute, you can typically proceed with the card issuer as soon as you see the charge posted on your account. However, you should reach out to your card issuer immediately if you see a fraudulent pending charge so they can lock your card from future charges and begin a fraud investigation. Similarly, you could contact the merchant as soon as you see an incorrect charge pending.
Note that card issuers may not always require a deadline in the case of a fraudulent charge, or they may still let you dispute them outside the 60-day period. In that case, you may not get all the money back, but you could if your card comes with zero liability for such charges. Your card issuer may also offer similar flexibility for unresolved billing errors.
Notifying the Merchant About Errors
Unless your disputed charge falls into the category of fraud, your card issuer will likely require proof that you've asked the merchant for help first.
If you're dealing with a local store, calling or stopping by with your receipt and proof of billing – and possibly your items if it's a double charge – can usually get the issue resolved more quickly than going through a dispute with the card issuer. Otherwise, online retailers may have you contact them through online chat, phone or email with information about the order along with your proof of billing.
When corresponding with the merchant, keep all documentation you're given and record important details in case you need to proceed with filing a dispute through your card company. Make note of the customer service representative or manager who spoke with you, the date you corresponded and any confirmation or request number.
Disputing With the Card Issuer
Whether you need to dispute a credit card charge for services not rendered or someone has stolen your card to make charges, such situations usually warrant going through the official dispute process with your card issuer. The safest method to dispute fraud is to call your card issuer's customer service line shown on the back of the card. Otherwise, you usually have options to dispute online or by phone for other types of charges.
To file a dispute that couldn't get handled with the merchant, you can log in to your card issuer's website, select the transaction in the list and look for a dispute option. Your card issuer may also have a link to dispute charges in general that will let you select the affected charge. If you prefer, you can call the card issuer to start the dispute. In any case, expect to provide the transaction amount and date, retailer, items purchased and information about communications with the merchant.
Completing the Investigation
It can take between 60 and 90 days for the dispute process for billing errors or fraud to finalize. In the meantime, you should receive updates by mail or email. You may also get requested to send in more documentation that helps with the request. Problematic charges may get credited during the investigation process, and you should receive a partial or full refund if the investigation is ruled in your favor.