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ICBA Offers Tips to Resolve Credit Card Charge Disputes

First Step: Contacting the Merchant Can Lead to Faster Resolution

Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2007)—The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) reminds credit card users to know their rights if a dispute arises over credit card charges.

"Individuals have rights when using a credit card and they should know what they are, especially when a dispute arises with a merchant," said Linda Echard, president of ICBA Bancard, an ICBA subsidiary. "If cardholders understand their rights, their chances of resolving the problem in their favor are better. It's also important to understand the merchant's return policy."

If you are dissatisfied with a credit card purchase or find a possible error on the billing statement, you have the right to file a dispute. You can initiate a dispute by telephone, but legally, everything must be in writing, and resolving a dispute does take time.

Your first step is to contact the merchant to try to resolve the issue prior to contacting your credit card company or participating community bank. Dealing directly with the merchant generally can save a lot of time and money, and reach a faster resolution. It's also a first step that is required by most credit card issuers.

  • If the dispute cannot be resolved with the merchant, your next step is to contact your card issuer. Quite often they can intercede on your behalf with the merchant and will usually remove, at least temporarily, the transaction from your account while it is being handled in dispute. Your card issuer may require a written statement from you and if so you will need to include your name as it appears on the card, account number, the amount of the disputed charge, an explanation of the problem, a description of why there is an error and a request for relief. Be sure to note the date, time and details of any discussions and keep a copy of the written notification.

  • Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you must report an error to your card issuer in writing within 60 days after receiving the first bill. Your card issuer has 30 days to reply and must correct or explain the error in writing within two billing cycles. During the investigation, you are not required to pay the disputed amount.

  • The credit card issuer cannot collect from you during the investigation. You must pay the remainder of the charges according to the terms of your card. If it turns out that you are responsible for the disputed item, finance charges can be assessed.

Most credit card issuers print a statement of your rights on the back of your statement, so be sure to read the back of your monthly billing statement. For additional information about credit cards and financial literacy please visit: http://www.icba.practicalmoneyskills.com.