Credit card errors are more common than you might think. If you discover that your credit card was charged the wrong amount, don’t panic. Solving can be pretty simple—as long as you don’t delay.
First, confirm that your credit card was charged incorrectly. Review the transactions on your credit card statement or your online credit card account and compare the amount to your receipt. For restaurant or other services, be sure you’re not forgetting to factor in any tips that you wrote on the merchant’s copy of the receipt.
Work With the Merchant to Resolve the Error
Start by contacting the business where the error occurred. Many merchants are willing to work with you to correct the error to avoid dealing with a chargeback—a process that costs fees and can damage their standing with their bank.
Let the merchant know the error—provide a copy of your receipt if you have it—and ask if they can fix it. Working with the merchant may give you a faster result since they should have all of the transaction information—which the credit card issuer will have to request anyway if you end up disputing the charge through them.
If the merchant agrees that you were charged the wrong amount, they’ll be able to refund the amount back to your card, give you a store credit, or give you back cash. If the charge is correct, the merchant should be able to explain why.
Disputing Charges With Your Credit Card Issuer
If you don’t have luck with the merchant, you can go directly to your credit card issuer. Be aware that you may not be able to dispute some charges depending on how long ago they occurred. Federal law limits billing error disputes to charges that appeared on a credit card statement within the past 60 days, but some credit card issuers may allow you to dispute charges older than that.
Federal law also dictates that you send your dispute in writing, but most credit card issuers will investigate and respond to your dispute if you make it by phone or online. Call the number on the back of your credit card, log in to your online account, or send a dispute letter to your credit card issuer. Sending copies of any receipts or documentation supporting your claim will help you resolve the issue quickly.
Check your credit card statement for or call to request the credit card issuer's address for correspondence. This may be different from the address where you send your payments.
Calling your credit card issuer to make your dispute is more convenient, but sending a letter (via certified mail) will help protect your rights if you need to take legal action against the credit card issuer. For example, you can take legal action if the credit card issuer doesn't respond in time or tries to bill you before returning the results of the investigation.
Once you’ve disputed the error with your credit card issuer, they’ll conduct an investigation to figure out whether you were indeed charged the wrong amount. The investigation can take a few days or several weeks, depending on the complexity of your transaction and the merchant response time.
You’re not required to pay the disputed amount until you’ve received a response from the credit card issuer. However, it only applies to the amount you’ve disputed. You must still make at least the minimum payment on all undisputed charges.
The credit card issuer will contact the merchant for any information they have pertaining to the transaction, such as a signed receipt. Then, they will decide whether the charge is correct and either reverse the transaction or let you know why the charge is correct. If the charge is indeed correct, you’ll have to pay it.
Complaining to the Authorities
If you're still unsuccessful at resolving the transaction after going to the merchant and the credit card issuer, then you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB will launch its own investigation. They won't force the credit card issuer to pay you, but getting a government agency involved can inspire the credit card issuer to resolve the error in your favor.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why did the gas station overcharge my credit card?
When you use your credit card to get gas, you are basically letting the gas station put a hold on your card while you fill up your tank with gas. This is because you may not be sure exactly how much gas you'll need. This hold could be up to $100, just to make sure you have enough on your card to pay for the gas. Once you finish your transaction, the hold will be removed, and the actual cost of the transaction will show as the final charge.
What if I don't recognize the charge on my credit card, and I didn't make it?
You can dispute the charge with your credit card company and let them know you didn't make the charge and that you believe it to be fraudulent. In many cases, the card company will research the matter, and if they find that you didn't make the charge, they will cancel it. Even if the card company won't cancel the charge completely, the Fair Credit Billing Act says that you are only responsible for $50 of unauthorized charges.
Are the rules for credit card overcharges the same as the rules for debit cards?
There are some rules that are the same, but one major difference is your liability. While your liability for fraudulent use is capped at $50 within the first two days, after that, your liability could be up to $500. You would follow the same steps to challenge an overcharge on your debit card as you would with a charge card. While credit cards are subject to the Fair Credit Billing Act, debit card rules fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.