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Credit Card Dispute: What Happens After You Dispute a Charge?

credit card dispute

A credit card dispute over billing errors has a good chance of being resolved in your favor thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act, which regulates how credit card companies handle these disputes. Billing errors may include charges for products you ordered but never received, charges for items you returned and charges you didn’t authorize. Incorrect duplicate charges and arithmetic mistakes in the charges are also billing errors. Complaints about the quality of a product or service don’t qualify as billing error disputes and they don’t get the same protections under the law. To open a credit card dispute, you send a letter explaining the situation along with copies of receipts or other evidence you have to your credit card company.

Here’s what happens next:

The Credit Card Company Responds

review your statement for errors

If the error is something minor like an arithmetic mistake, the company will probably correct it immediately. If a disputed charge is less than $25, there’s a chance the company will just remove the charge; as the New York Times reports, looking into disputed charges of $25 or less usually isn’t worth the company’s time. But disputes over charges of larger amounts that you authorized generally prompt the credit card issuer to investigate. In that case, the law requires the company to respond to you in writing within 30 days, as stated by the Federal Trade Commission. The company must complete its investigation and resolve the issue within two billing cycles or 90 days, whichever is sooner.

The Credit Card Company Investigates

At this point, the company contacts the seller and investigates the transaction. If it decides that there was a billing error, it’s required to give you a written explanation of the corrections it’s making and to delete both the charge and any interest and fees that went with it. It’s also required to send you a written statement if it decides the bill was correct.

What the Company Can’t Do During the Investigation

disputing a credit card charge

The Fair Credit Billing Act regulates what the company can do while it’s investigating:

  • It can’t try to collect the amount that’s in dispute or the interest on that charge, although you still have to pay the part of your bill that’s not under investigation.
  • It’s not allowed to close your account.
  • It can’t report you to the credit bureaus for failing to pay the disputed charge.

Unauthorized or Fraudulent Charges

The credit card company can decide you owe the disputed amount when there’s a disagreement between you and a merchant over a charge you agreed to. But in a case where you didn’t authorize the charge, there is more protection available for you. If your credit card was stolen and then used to make purchases, the company can’t make you pay more than $50 of the unauthorized amount, as the Federal Trade Commission explains. And if only the card number was stolen, so that you are still holding on to the physical card, you’re not obligated to pay any unauthorized charges.

Finally, the law limits what you owe if your credit card company doesn’t follow the procedures mandated by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Thus, if your credit card issuer tries to collect a charge while it’s investigating or violates the act in any other way, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission.

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44 Responses to Credit Card Dispute: What Happens After You Dispute a Charge?

  1. Joshua Kammerzell says:

    Discover sent me an email that they were reporting me to the credit bureau for appealing a denial of their investigation of a charge on my credit card.

  2. Sarah says:

    I had a contract with an SEO company and canceled the contract. They billed me for the last month and charged my credit card, but only did 2 hours out of 29 hours of work and admitted that in email. The previous month I had told them I did not want to pay by credit card anymore and moving forward I would be paying with check (this was before I knew I was canceling). When I disputed the invoice they sent me for the last month since they did only 2 hours of work and they were supposed to do 29 hours of work per month. They just charged my credit card. I see there are two problems here – charging my CC without authorization and charging me for a service they did not perform per the contract. Is this legal?

  3. Celena says:

    I was a victim in fraud, whereas someone I knew told me they were adding money to my card and that they would get half of that amount by me making purchases, however it was not so because I made the purchases and they took the items and now I’m left with that bill. What should I do ?

    • Tracy East says:

      Hi Celena – I’m so sorry we missed your comment! If you feel that you have been a victim of fraud, you should certainly report it. A great place to start is this government website with many resources and links to help you get started https://www.stopfraud.gov/report.html

      Let us know how it turns out!

  4. Jessica says:

    I had a heating cooling company charge my card on a agreed amount for a furnace install, the furnace install did not happen as I canceled the install due to company lies and run around about what I was truly getting. I received a email from company owner stating full refund would be given which was 13 business days ago.
    I just disputed with my credit card what should I expect to happen after this?

  5. ali says:

    hi, i filed a dispute with american express for $9000, what happens if the fraud investiagtion completed and i never reponded to the mails and calls.

    • Tracy East says:

      Hi Ali – We can’t give a specific answer to what would happen in that situation, but I’m certain your creditor could give you an idea. Let us know how it turns out!

  6. JayA says:

    Once an investigation is completed and a charge is confirmed to be unauthorized, does the credit card company typically tell the vendor that? Or do they just go ahead and credit my account without further communication with the vendor. Does the vendor find out that the charge was deemed unauthorized? If so, does that vendor still get paid for that transaction, even if I get credited the amount? I had a situation where I had already paid my credit card bill, but weeks later saw that a charge was unauthorized and I was eventually credited. But was wondering if that company still got paid or if they had to return the cost of them at unauthorized purchase. Thank you!

    • Tracy East says:

      The best way to know for sure, is to contact your particular creditor and ask what their policy is. It’s hard to say for certain if every creditor follows the policy of notifying the vendor. I’d simply give your creditor a call and ask them to answer how the situation was resolved with the vendor.

      Let us know how it turns out!

  7. SB says:

    I reported thousands of dollars of unauthorized charges that were made online (iTunes)- they were not made to my iTunes account and the charges maxed out my card and Chase never notified me or alerted me to potential fraud. I reported the fraud on October 1, 2016, and all the charges were reimbursed into my account. I got the initial letter from the fraud department shortly afterwards. No affidavit was provided and they have not asked for any other information.

    It has been over two billing cycles and I’ve heard nothing about the investigation- the charges are still removed. I don’t want to call them bc I’ve dealt with chase before in a fraud investigation, when someone who lived in Atlanta, and I was in Philadelphia, opened a card in my name (but answered the security questions all wrong) and charged over $20k. They tried to tell me they didn’t find fraud- I eventually got it resolved, but it took a lot of time and was very frustrating. My question is since two billing cycles have gone (and over 60 days) what should I do? I don’t want to use that card until I know what’s going on with it. Is chase’s investigation window closed? Thank you!

    • Tracy East says:

      Wow – that’s a tricky situation! I’d tell you to contact the creditor directly since you have not heard anything about resolution, but you indicated that you do not want to call them because of a previous investigation.

      Contacting the creditor directly is always the best way to get your questions answered. If you don’t want to do that, I would inquire at the Federal Trade Commission to learn more about your rights.

      Let us know how it is resolved!

      • SB says:

        Thanks! I may wait another month before contacting them b/c based on what I’ve read it’s the creditors responsibility to investigate within 2 billing cycles. Chase was very rude to me 10 years ago and their “investigation” into my prior fraud claim was a joke- in fact the fraudster had stated in her credit application that my dad was her husband and all kinds of wrong things. I even had proof I was in Philadelphia filiming a reality show where I was videotaped 24 hours a day seven days a week proving I was not in Atlanta at the time of the purchase, and they still tried to get out of it. Plain and simple I don’t trust them and would not like to tip them off that they may be in violation of the FCBA so they can try to pull something. I feel that once 90 days has passed they are basically on the hook & based on how irrational and deceptive they were the first time I want the law to be in my favor . I’ll let you know what happens!

    • Elizabeth says:

      SB – let me know what happens. I am going through the EXACT same situation. Chase is awful to work with and have not tried at all to resolve the situation. They keep “losing” documents and not following up when they say they will, etc. It had been 4 billing cycles and over 120 days for them to come back and say that they were going to validate the fraudulent charge. They called 12/24 asked for more documents (it was Christmas Eve and i was out of town) told them I would get them the documents asap but would take some time and then on 12/26 received a phone call saying that they were closing the claim and the charge was valid. I appealed and the case was reopened and now it is the exact same thing. Saying they dont have documents they do, etc. Since the credit card is through a major bank you need to contact the Comptoller of the Currency. The website is helpwithmybank.gov

      Keep me updated on what happens!

      • Vy says:

        I’m having an awful case with chase as well losing my documents and dragging the process along, it’s been almost a year, please help with any advice!! I was a victim of a bait and switch scam and the merchant has many bad reviews.

        • Tracy East says:

          Vy – Have you spoken to management at Chase about your dispute? Sometimes escalation can get the results you are looking for. Write down the name, phone number, title, time and date of every person you speak to so you have a paper trail of your interactions. This can help tremendously. Best of luck on a resolution with your dispute!

  8. Dawn says:

    Chase gave my new card number to a fraudulent business I had canceled my card because of. They created the continuation of fraud and were very rude when I reported it. If I close that card before the dispute is settled is that a bad thing? I’m extremely irritated.

    • Tracy East says:

      I’m sure that’s been very frustrating Dawn! The best thing to do is to contact your creditor directly and ask to speak to a supervisor in the fraud department. If your case is in dispute, there is likely a case number assigned that you will need to provide to the creditor to identify your case. Once you have a supervisor on the line, you can kindly ask for your options to resolve the situation, and inform them that you wish to close your account. They will be able to give you specific instructions about how that would be handled during an active dispute. Best of luck in resolving this quickly – let us know how it turns out!

  9. Kristina says:

    I opened a dispute with two credit cards for a timeshare that I never received or bought, I just received a membership. I tried to cancel everything 4 days after the purchase. Discover resolved my dispute on my favor but RCI Barclaycard won’t they closed my first dispute and I opened a second dispute and they just closed, too. I was scam and I’m sure that I didn’t win the dispute on my favor because RCI is partner with the merchant. What else I can do, my payment due date is on March 12.

    • Tracy East says:

      Kristina – what an unfortunate situation! If you feel that you have been a victim of fraud, you can always initiate a complaint through the Federal Trade Commission. https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov – let us know how your situation is resolved!

      • Cindy says:

        I reported Cohen’s Fashion Optical last month to the FTC along with a couple of other agencies, and they didn’t do anything about it. What do you think is the next avenue? I am currently disputing a charge with them as well.

        • Tracy East says:

          It might take a little bit of time for you to see some results – I’d give it a bit more time before you explore other options since you just spoke to the FTC last month. Hang in there and let us know how it turns out!

  10. aerin says:

    I was going through my bank transactions from the last year and I may have made a mistake in filing a disputed on a gas charge to my debit card. It wasn’t much and it was approved, and I did get my money back. But I only just realized it was a mistake. Should I just let it be? It has been close to a year.

    • Tracy East says:

      That’s an excellent question – I’ve not run across this one before! In your situation, I would likely contact the creditor to explain my mistake and ask them how they would like me to handle it.

  11. Julie Dohan says:

    Chase Credit Card will not honor my credit card dispute of $5900 paid to an incompetent Oral Surgeon whose work cased gum disease and non-use of the implants. I sent Chase Dispute 5 letters from Dentists and an oral surgeon who put in writing “dental work I was charged for is unusable and caused gum disease” This was written on their in e-mail and on their own files Chase keeps charging me Interest and my Credit score has gone down from 823 to 715. Chase says says All my ‘Dental” opinions must be on the Dentist Letterhead ad say this Oral Surgeon committed malpractice and his work is substandard.. This is an unconscionable demand as this is not a Malpractice Case in a Courtroom, and No dentist will attest to “legal malpractice accusations” in writing, On their Letterhead” against one of their own profession. They gave their Medical opinion that the work was unstable and unusable and caused Gum Disease,. This was Not enough for Chase to Stop charging me the $5900 and continued interest – which now is about $400 more!. I gave Chase info that this Oral Surgeon is under investigation by the Florida Health Dept. What do I do?

    • Tracy East says:

      Julie – how frustrating that must be! It appears that your best options to know for sure what the correct course of action is would be consulting an attorney. An attorney would be able to tell you if you have any recourse aside from following the dispute procedures set forth by your creditor. I wish you the best of luck getting your dispute handled to your satisfaction – let us know how it is resolved!

  12. Toneesha says:

    Can anyone give me some advice here?
    I ordered an item from Italy to be shipped to US. $950 usd plus $120 in custom fees. I made the purchase using 250 from my paypal balance which was cash and 700 from my Discover Credit card. The package was shipped via DHL. Well on the day the package was “delivered” at 11 am and left on my doorstep to the time I came home at 6 pm to no package there. Contacted DHL who states GPS had the driver at my home for 6 minutes delivering the package. Opened a claim with DHL, they finally said nothing we can do we delivered the package. Called the shipper to have them file a complaint with DHL and they are saying DHL states they delivered the package. Mind you I still don’t have the item I ordered. So I filled a dispute with Paypal who is saying the same DHL has a delivery confirmation stating the package was delivered. I just today filed a complaint with Discover. I’m upset about the losing of $1100. I’m a hard-worker and don’t have money to throw down the drain. My question is is it likely that Discover too will side with DHL? Is there anything further I can do with Paypal?

    • Tracy East says:

      So sorry you have had that experience Toneesha! It sounds like you did the right things by filing complaints with DHL, Paypal and Discover. It’s really hard to say how they will respond, but you’ve taken excellent first steps. Keep us updated about how it turns out!

    • KD says:

      File a police report.

  13. Felicia says:

    I checked my bank account and it said I was -$75 in my account. When I called my bank they said that there charges on my account from California. I wasn’t even in California til Wednesday. They said that they were gonna do a full investigation and all the other stuff. They credited me back some of the minus charges. But what happens when they do the investigation and the deem the unauthorized charges authorized? Do I pay that money back that they credited to my account or do they just tell me that the purchases were authorized? this my first time doing a claims so I don’t know what happens?

    • Tracy East says:

      Those are great questions, Felicia – so sorry to hear that you’ve had to deal with unauthorized charges! Take it one step at a time and let the credit card company investigate the fraudulent charges. Chances are there will be no need to take further steps. I’m glad to hear that they have already credited you back some of the charges – hopefully, the rest will be handled quickly. They should have given you a case number when you reported the incident to them, so you should be able to contact them again to check on the status of the investigation. Let us know how it turns out!

  14. Heidi H Ferguson says:

    Life Insurance from Sun coast credit union usesually takes payments out on the 2nd of every month & I transfered my SSI checks from Wellsfargo Bank to Suncoast Credit Union to straighten out my bills and what did this bank do to me they took out $55.55 for my life Ins which I had only $40.00 or less my SSI would have been put in on the third of every month so I thought that I’d be safe well guess what the joke was on me this time they took the payment out three days earlier.What should I do

    • Tracy East says:

      Heidi – Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes happen, so sorry to hear that it happened to you! I’ve found that most often if you contact a company and kindly ask them to investigate the mistake and fix it, they will be more than willing to work with you to make sure it is resolved. Hopefully, the issue can be quickly corrected!

  15. Brandon B. says:

    I, stupidly, made a purchase through a less than reputable site a month ago. I was alright with the $20 charge the site placed on me but what got me by surprise was a $44 charge to another company the same day. I contacted my bank, CITI, and told them that I didn’t authorize the $44 charge. I am currently in the process of disputing the $44 charge but am worried that I may be in the wrong for disputing the charge despite never agreeing to it or putting my information on their site. I know that I paid the $20 out of stupidity but know that I never authorized the $44 purchase. Also, I canceled my card and have since been given a new card.

    • Tracy East says:

      It sounds like you handled that well Brandon – good for you for being so on top of your statements so you recognized the charge right away! Let us know how it turns out.

  16. Bob Kahn says:

    If I dispute a charge on my Chase bill and Chase issues a permanent credit in response, does the merchant have the right to come after me for payment?

    • Tracy East says:

      Hi Bob

      If you think you don’t owe the creditor money, you must send the collector a letter stating that you believe you do not owe the money to the creditor. You must send this letter to the collector within 30 days of the date you receive the written notification of the debt.

      You may tell the collector not to contact you until you receive proof of the debt. If you decide to do this, you must do it in writing.

      Once you dispute the debt in writing, the collector must stop trying to collect money from you until you receive written proof that you really owe the debt from the collector. Proof should include a written document with your name, the name of the creditor and the amount you owe.

      Note: Disputing the debt will not make it go away. The 30-day period is not a grace period — it is just an investigation period for the creditor to find proof that you do or don’t owe the debt.

  17. Mary says:

    I have been scammed by online website and they have charged me twice for the subscription that I cancelled. I asked them for a refund and they refused to do so.
    I went to Bank of America and told them about what happened, they said I should wait until it’ll be posted to my account so they can start a dispute.
    My first question would be why didn’t bank of America just cancel the transaction before it can be finalized to the merchant?
    And if I did the dispute will I get my money back?

    • Tracy East says:

      Those are great questions, Mary! It is my understanding that a bank cannot cancel a transaction that is in dispute between a vendor and a consumer without an investigation. They are required to do their due diligence and make sure that all parties involved are given equal consideration. If the matter in dispute is found to be fraudulent, your charges should be reversed. Best of luck!

  18. hubert says:

    Can any one give me a suggestion here? I booked a hotel a few weeks ago for a fishing trip. At that time I was told I will be charged immediately, and it happened. The trip is planned for next weekend, and today my buddy canceled his plan. I don’t want to drive a long way alone and it is too expensive for me to pay full by myself. So I tried to cancel the booked room. I called the hotel and was told that I can not cancel my booking. However I don’t remember I was told at the booking moment that it can not be canceled. Do you think I can called my credit card company to dispute it? Many thanks.

    • Tracy East says:

      Hubert – it’s hard to tell without having seen the fine print on what you booked. Some sites allow cancellation, and others do not. If you were charged the full amount instead of using a credit card to hold the reservation without being charged, it may be part of the policy to not allow reservation changes. Did the merchant send you reservation details? I would suggest reading through the fine print to see what is spelled out before trying a dispute.

  19. Kim says:

    Please help me with this case, so I ordered an item online ($70) for my friend’s birthday. My friend lives in California and I live in NYC. I accidentally put it the incorrect delivering address. I contacted the seller right after the purchase, but they did not respond until three hours later and told me my purchase was already processed. They couldn’t modify it and told me to wait for the shipping confirmation so then I could make changes through UPS my choice website. Since the delivering address was wrong to begin with, UPS could not sync the shipment under my account. I couldn’t modify the change in the delivering address. Should I dispute the charge in my bank if they do not refund me?

    • Tracy East says:

      Hi Kim – that’s a frustrating situation for sure! I’m glad you contacted the seller right away. Before disputing with your bank, I would make sure to exhaust all communication attempts with the seller to see if they will work out a resolution for you. Make sure to keep good records of everyone you talk to as well as the time and date of your conversations. If they do not assist you with resolving the matter, consider disputing the charge with your bank. I’m honestly not sure how they will handle an issue of user error versus fraud. Let us know how it turns out!

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