Who can you go to for help disputing credit card charges? Maybe someone gained access to your credit card illegally and used it to make unauthorized purchases. Or, perhaps you were on the receiving end of billing errors that cost you a good chunk of change. A third scenario, and one that is likely to play out over the course of your credit card, is this: you made a purchase of an item or service that just didn’t live up to its promises.
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) covers these situations, and more, in its attempt to protect consumers from a) unauthorized use of a credit card, b) billing errors on a credit card statement and c) the quality of goods or services being so poor as to require the withholding of payment.
Unauthorized Credit Card Use
There are several aspects of the unauthorized use of a credit card that are addressed in the FCBA. If your card is stolen and charges are made, your maximum liability is $50. If, on the other hand, you report your card stolen before any charges are made, you have no liability whatsoever. You are also exempted from liability if your credit card number, and not the card itself, is stolen and used for unauthorized purchases. Certain credit cards offer zero liability protection so that even if do not realize a card is stolen before the unauthorized charges are made, you will not have to pay anything. It’s a good idea to take a close look at the fraud protection offered by various companies when comparing credit cards.
Credit Card Billing Errors
The FCBA protects consumers from errors on credit card statements that can result from—among other things—incorrect or duplicate charges; services not rendered; and goods not delivered.
Withholding a Credit Card Payment
Using a credit card can give you an extra level of protection against goods or services of poor quality. Thanks to the passage of the FCBA in the mid-1970s, consumers are guaranteed the right to sue or employ other methods of recourse against their credit card companies. While the criteria specified in the FCBA—purchases must exceed $50 and must have been made in the same state where the consumer resides or within 100 miles of that address—seem to limit the effectiveness of the guarantee, the fact of the matter is that most credit card companies will go above and beyond the law’s minimum requirements to keep their customers happy.
The FCBA requires consumers who are dissatisfied with a product or service to first make a “good faith attempt” with the merchant to resolve the problem. This might include bringing the item back to the store for a return, calling a service provider to address a poorly or incompletely performed job, or calling or emailing an on-line retailer to address a damaged order. If such methods do not produce the desired results, it is time to bring in the heavy-hitter: your credit card company.
How to Make Your Credit Card Dispute
In the cases listed above, FCBA dictates that you must alert your credit card company to the details of your dispute in writing within 60 days. Cases related to unauthorized use, however, should be brought to your company’s attention immediately over the phone and then followed up in writing.
In both written and telephone communications, you will need to provide your name and account number; the amount in dispute; and a statement regarding the cause for dispute. You can find the correct contact information for disputes on the back of every credit card statement.
Credit card companies are required to look into the claim and respond in writing within two complete billing cycles or 90 days. Some companies are more timely and diligent than others, so look closely at the each card’s terms and conditions in regard to disputes when comparing credit cards.
Be aware that a credit card company cannot charge you interest on a charge while it is being disputed. You must keep current with all your payments, though, since none of your other charges will be affected. If you win the dispute, you will be informed in writing that you are responsible for the charge or any interest. If you lose the dispute, you will be sent a letter explaining the decision and the amount you owe. This amount will include any finance charges that accrued while the payment was in dispute.
Finding the Right Credit Card
Choosing a credit card with a proven history of actively protecting its consumers from fraudulent activity will go a long way toward ensuring your peace of mind. Compare credit cards using a comprehensive on-line tool that lays out the features and benefits of each one. Find the right card for you, and find it now!
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