How To Handle a Bank Dispute

Get organized and act quickly

A customer talks to the bank on a phone
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It can be frustrating and stressful when you find errors or unexpected charges in your bank or credit union account. In an ideal world, you don’t need to pay attention to every transaction, and you can focus on more important things. But mistakes and fraud happen, and you may need to dispute transactions in your bank account.

It is possible to handle a bank dispute efficiently. Here’s why you might need to dispute charges and what to expect when you do, so you can complete the process as smoothly as you can.

Key Takeaways

  • If you see an error in your bank account, it’s often your responsibility to notify your bank.
  • It’s critical to act quickly to protect your rights and finances. If you don't, you could be responsible for the charge.
  • Gather details about the transaction you’d like to dispute, and report that information to your bank via phone or online chat system.
  • You may need to submit your request in writing, such as via email, or visit a branch in person.
  • While this can be a tense situation, you’ll likely get the best results when you communicate clearly and directly.

How To Dispute a Transaction With Your Bank

You might find unwanted or unexpected transactions in your bank or credit union account for several reasons. For example, when your bank makes an error, you could see charges you’re not responsible for. You could also find that a deposit never cleared in your checking account. Fraud is another cause of transactions you need to dispute. If somebody steals your bank information, you’ll need to contact your bank to avoid paying unnecessary charges.

It may be possible to fix problems without disputing charges with your bank. For example, if a store or business charged you the wrong amount for a product or service, consider contacting the merchant to resolve the issue.

Be Prepared With Specific Information

You need to provide specific information when you dispute activity in your bank account. Organize your thoughts and prepare the following information:

  • Your name and account number
  • The date and amount of the transaction
  • The rationale for why the transaction is not valid
  • What you’d like the bank to do to fix the problem (cancel the charges or issue a new debit card, for example)

Any additional supporting documentation may be helpful. For example, if you have a receipt that shows an amount different from the amount reflected in your account, you can give the bank a copy to prove your claims.

Act Quickly

Under federal law, you have 60 days to notify your bank of any problems—and sooner is better. After that, you’re responsible for all charges in your account. The clock starts ticking when your bank provides the statement that includes the error or fraud.

It’s crucial to file a claim as soon as you’re aware of a problem. Doing so can help protect your rights and reduce financial losses. If you lose your debit card, you can limit your loss to up to $50 if you report the problem within two days. However, your liability increases up to $500 after two days. And if more than 60 days pass after your bank provides a statement with the transactions in question, you’re responsible for all the charges.

Contact the Bank

If you suspect fraud in your account, contact your bank immediately. Acting quickly can prevent additional charges and protect your rights, so it’s best to call your bank or chat with a customer service agent online to report the problem. You may be able to report problems online through automated systems, but speaking with a banker may help you identify critical next steps.

When erroneous charges are not a result of fraud, you still need to report the problem, and you can often do so by phone or via online forms. Depending on the type of dispute you’re filing, you might not be allowed to use an automated form, and you’ll need to speak with a bank employee.

If you notify your bank or credit union of a problem by phone, you may need to follow up with a written report. Ask a bank representative what steps are required.

Be Direct and Clear

It’s frustrating to see money leave your account, and the domino effect can lead to additional headaches. That said, the top priority is to fix the problem so you can prevent further damage to your finances and move on with your life.

You’ll likely be working with customer service representatives to resolve the issue. You may get the best service by being polite and acknowledging that the person you’re speaking with didn’t cause the problem. That doesn’t mean you need to be happy about the situation, but if you want the issue resolved, try to address the problem directly.

Be prepared to explain your situation several times, and expect to have your issue escalated through several departments (such as a fraud department or another problem-fixing area); the first person you speak to may not be the right person to help resolve the issue. Whomever you speak to, be clear and direct in the way you communicate to help expedite the solution.

Take Notes

Document every conversation you have about your dispute. Ask for the name and title of every person you talk to, and note the dates and times of each discussion. If you submit your claim online or chat with customer service representatives, take screenshots or pictures of your computer or phone screen so you can review everything later and use it as proof.

What Happens After the Bank Dispute Is Resolved?

Once the issue is resolved, your bank may keep a record of the claim you filed for a certain period of time. For example, Bank of America allows customers to see their claims history on the website for up to 120 days after the claim is closed. Keep a close eye on your bank account moving forward to ensure the same error doesn’t happen again.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do banks investigate disputes?

Banks typically have 10 days to investigate your claim and notify you of the findings in writing. If the bank cannot complete the investigation during that time, you may receive a temporary credit while the review continues (although the bank is not required to issue one). Then, banks have 45 to 90 days to conduct an investigation and issue a final determination.

How do you write a dispute letter to a bank?

Ask your bank where to send the letter and what the requirements are in your situation. Include your name, account number, contact information, and details about the transaction, such as the date, amount, and source (the merchant or biller name, for example). Finally, explain why the transaction is not accurate. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.