How to Dispute Credit Card Charges: An Ultimate Guide

Credit cards have become an indispensable part of modern life, offering convenience and flexibility for financial transactions. But that doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own risks. 

For instance, there may be times when you encounter unauthorized or erroneous charges on your credit card statement. 

When such situations arise, knowing how to dispute credit card charges is crucial. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to dispute a charge on your credit card and safeguard your financial interests.

How to Dispute Credit Card Charges

Monitor Your Transactions Regularly

How to Dispute Credit Card Charges: Monitor your credit card statements!
Image Courtesy of Viktoriia Hnatiuk & Shutterstock.

The first step in disputing a charge is regularly monitoring your credit card transactions. Otherwise, you’ll never know when a fraudulent charge is made.

Routinely reviewing your monthly statements, online accounts, or mobile apps allows you to identify suspicious or unauthorized charges promptly. 

The sooner you spot an issue, the easier it is to resolve it with your credit card issuer.

Contact The Merchant

If you encounter an unfamiliar charge, your first action should be to contact the merchant responsible for the transaction as soon as possible. 

Sometimes, the charge may result from a mistake or an unrecognized business name. 

Reach out to the merchant's customer service and provide them with relevant details about the charge. Many issues can be resolved at this stage, and the merchant may issue a refund or provide clarification.

Gather Documentation

Before contacting your credit card issuer, gather all documentation of the disputed charge. 

This may include receipts, emails, order confirmations, and any communication with the merchant. Having these documents ready will strengthen your case when discussing the issue with your credit card company.

As part of this step, consider if you simply forgot that you made the charge. This happens more times than you think, and recognizing this before disputing the charge will save you and your credit card company a lot of time and resources.

Contact Your Credit Card Issuer

If you cannot resolve the matter with the merchant, it's time to contact your credit card issuer. 

Most issuers have a dedicated customer service helpline for dispute resolution. Call the number on the back of your card or visit their website to initiate the dispute process.

When you speak with a representative, clearly explain the disputed charge, providing specific details such as the transaction date, amount, and the merchant's information. Attach any supporting documentation to your case, and keep a record of your correspondence for future reference.

File a Formal Dispute

If the initial contact with the customer service representative does not resolve the issue, you may need to file a formal dispute in writing. 

Your credit card issuer should have a specific address or online portal where you can submit your dispute. Include a detailed explanation of the charge and reasons for disputing it, and attach copies of all relevant documents.

Understand Your Rights

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), you have certain rights when disputing credit card charges

For instance, you have the right to a written acknowledgment of your dispute within 30 days of receiving it. The issuer must thoroughly investigate and resolve the dispute within two billing cycles, not exceeding 90 days.

Key provisions of the FCBA include:

Billing Error Resolution: The act allows consumers to dispute billing errors, such as unauthorized charges, charges for goods or services not received, incorrect amounts, and mathematical errors.

Notification: If a billing error occurs, consumers must notify their credit card issuer in writing within a specific timeframe (usually 60 days from the statement's issuance date) to be eligible for protection under the FCBA.

Investigation Process: Upon receiving written notice of a billing error, the credit card issuer must investigate the matter and respond within a specified period (usually 30 days). During the investigation, the issuer must temporarily remove the disputed amount from the consumer's account.

Corrective Action: If the investigation confirms the billing error, the credit card issuer must correct the account. The consumer may dispute the findings and seek further recourse if the error is unresolved.

Protection Against Retaliation: The FCBA prohibits credit card issuers from taking adverse actions against consumers (such as reporting negative information to credit bureaus) in retaliation for disputing a billing error.

Temporary Credit Provision

During the investigation process, your credit card issuer may offer a temporary credit known as a “provisional credit.” 

This credit ensures you are not responsible for paying the disputed amount while the investigation is underway. 

However, you must continue making timely payments on your other outstanding balances to maintain a positive credit history.

Escalate The Dispute if Necessary

If your dispute is not resolved satisfactorily, you can escalate the matter. Contact the credit card issuer's customer service supervisor or dispute resolution department to review your case again. Additionally, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or your state's Attorney General's office if needed.

Disputing a charge on your credit card may seem daunting, but armed with knowledge and proper documentation, you can confidently navigate the process. 

Regularly monitoring your transactions, contacting the merchant, and understanding your rights under the FCBA are essential steps to protect yourself from unauthorized or erroneous charges. If necessary, remember to be persistent and escalate the matter until you achieve a satisfactory resolution. 

Following these steps, you can safeguard your financial interests and maintain a healthy credit history.

Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at