Can I Dispute a Credit Card Charge I Willingly Paid For?

What to do if you paid for something but it isn’t what you expected

Person on couch using laptop and credit card
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Consumers have the right to dispute credit card charges under certain circumstances, even including items they willingly purchased. But abusing this privilege by disputing when it isn’t warranted isn’t fair to retailers who could be left on the hook for the merchandise cost, plus a chargeback fee.

Learn more about what the Fair Credit Billing Act says about your right to dispute credit card charges, along with when you should and shouldn’t do it.

Key Takeaways

  • According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, consumers are allowed to dispute a credit card charge within 60 days of it posting to their account.
  • In some cases, even if you willingly paid for something, you can file a dispute. This includes when there is a billing error, you did not get the item in acceptable condition, or you did not receive the full services promised.
  • You should always try to resolve an issue with your merchant/service provider first, before you file a credit card charge dispute.
  • It’s not OK to dispute credit card charges simply because you have buyer’s remorse, a family member used your card without permission, or you want to try to get something for free. That’s considered financial fraud.

Can I Dispute a Credit Card Charge I Willingly Paid For?

The short answer is yes, in some circumstances, you can dispute credit card charges you willingly made and paid for. This is in accordance with the Fair Credit Billing Act, which affords consumers some protections regarding their credit purchases. Whether it’s a billing error or you weren’t given your goods or services as promised, credit card disputes give people an avenue for recovering their money from purchases.

What You Can Dispute

There are some specific instances for which disputing credit card charges is acceptable. These include:

  • Fraudulent charges: If you notice a charge on your account that was not made by you or an authorized user of your account, report it immediately. Creditors typically investigate such matters quickly, issue a refund, and possibly change your account number.
  • Billing error: Unlike a fraudulent charge, this is an example of a time when you can dispute a charge for a purchase you actually made. It could be that a vendor entered an incorrect amount, or you were charged for items you didn’t receive.
  • If you’re not satisfied with the quality of the goods or services: Whether an item was delivered broken or defective, or you paid a service provider that didn’t follow through, you are entitled to get your money back. But first, a reasonable effort must be made to get the merchant to offer you the refund. If they refuse, then you can dispute the charge.

Per the Fair Credit Billing Act, in addition to making a good-faith effort to resolve an issue with the merchant first, disputes can only be won if purchases are more than $50 and were made in your home state or within 100 miles of your billing address.

What You Shouldn’t Dispute

Disputing a credit card charge must be done responsibly. When you file a dispute, if it is approved, the retailer not only loses the sale but incurs an additional cost called a chargeback fee, which can range from $20 to $100. Doing this on purpose to try to score a freebie or because you regret a purchase is considered “friendly fraud.”

With that in mind, here are some of examples of when you should not dispute a charge:

If a friend or family member made the purchase. Say your kid decides to make purchases on their tablet or places a one-click order on your Amazon account without your permission. Although you can work with the merchant directly to try to cancel the order or issue a return or refund (then set parental controls on the device and account so it doesn’t happen again), you can’t dispute the charge because it was technically your fault for not protecting your account.

If you didn’t contact the merchant about the issue first. You place a catering order and pay with your credit card, but when the food arrives, there’s an item missing and the sandwiches are all wrong. Your first recourse always should be to call the caterer and let them know about the error. If they fail to take action, you can go ahead and file a dispute—but you need to give the vendor a chance to make it right first.

If you are disputing a fraudulent charge, call your creditor to report it right away. That way, they can open an investigation, but also freeze your account as soon as possible to prevent further such charges.

How To Dispute a Credit Card Charge


Follow these steps to improve the odds of getting your dispute approved:

  • Make sure you have a good case: Was the charge fraudulent or was your card stolen? Was there a pricing error the merchant will not fix? Were you dissatisfied with the goods or service, but the vendor would not issue a refund? Did you send back an item for return but didn’t get a credit to your account? In any of those scenarios, you should have a good case.
  • Gather any evidence that can help prove why you should get your money back: This can include things such as a copy of your bill that includes the pricing error; a service listed in your contract that was not provided; proof you returned an item; or a screenshot of your correspondence with a vendor in which they refused to refund you. 
  • File your dispute in a timely manner: You can do this online with some credit card issuers, or you can send a letter by mail. Be sure to put your story in writing and upload/provide copies of any supporting documentation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do you have to dispute credit card charges?

You have two billing cycles, or 60 days, to dispute a credit card charge. If you choose to send a letter by mail, it must reach the creditor within 60 days of the bill in which the charge first appeared. Use certified mail and request a return receipt. If filing online, it will also have to be done within 60 days.

What Is the Fair Credit Billing Act?

The Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 lists various consumer rights when it comes to credit card bills. One of the major items is that creditors must allow consumers to dispute charges within 60 days if there is a billing error, undelivered/unacceptable goods or services, or fraudulent charges by an unauthorized user.

What happens if you dispute a charge on your credit card?

Once you file a dispute, the credit card company has to let you know it received the dispute request (you’ll get a letter in the mail within 30 days and likely an email or account alert before that). From there, the creditor has two billing cycles to investigate the matter and make a decision, and you aren’t responsible to pay for that specific charge during that time.

If your dispute is approved, your account will be credited, along with any finance charges or fees related to the original charge. If it is not approved, you must be given a written explanation as to why, and you will be responsible for paying the charge.

What can I dispute on my credit card?

You can dispute charges on your credit card that meet one of the following criteria:

  • Billing errors
  • Fraudulent charges
  • The quality of goods and services did not meet expectations (and you weren't able to get resolution from the merchant)