I’ve blogged about this topic more than once over the past few months. Why? Because I’m so disappointed at the number of posts I get on my forum about people who have been ripped off in a credit card or dispute credit report… not because their dispute wasn’t valid, but because they didn’t handle it the right way.
I remember the first credit card dispute I ever filed was when I was only 18. I had ordered what was supposed to be a new exercise device online, only to receive something in the mail that wasn’t as advertised. I filed the dispute with my credit card company but almost lost, because of a technicality in what I said when I filed. Fortunately, everything worked out in the end, but it taught me this lesson at a very early age: understand the credit card dispute rules!
Before you ever file a dispute on your credit card, you’re going to need to do a lot of homework first. If it’s your first time, I’ve created this 5 step template of what you will need to research:
Step One: Get your story straight
When we’re angry, it’s easy to blow our lid and act on impulse. This is bad to do in all areas of life, including these disputes. Why? Because you need to calm down and get your story straight. If you call up your credit card company rambling in rage, things may be misinterpreted and hence your dispute may be filed incorrectly, which I’ll talk about next…
Step Two: Categorize your complaint properly
There are two kinds of disputes; (1) billing errors, which cover a number of different things, and (2) disputes about the quality of the goods or services you received from the merchant. For each there are completely different rules and rights, so you need to thoroughly understand both and know where your dispute fits in. If it can be categorized as a type of billing error, all the better because you will be entitled to greater protections set forth by law.
Step Three: Gather your evidence
If a prosecutor goes to court with weak evidence he may lose his case. In the same way, if you go into the dispute without good evidence to support your side of the story, you may lose. Now there are some credit card disputes that are pretty clear cut, like those where your credit card was stolen, but for most others you may be required to produce evidence (receipts, pictures, emails sent to the merchant, etc. depending on the circumstances). This is most important with disputes about the quality of goods or services received, since those have the weakest laws behind them (basically you will be at the mercy of your credit card company, so make a strong case!).
Step Four: File your complaint
By having the above figured out beforehand, filing your complaint will be much more orderly and concise (and therefore, less chance for error). Many people including myself have filed our complaints over the phone without any problems. But I should warn you that the FTC website does say complaints need to be filed in writing. Therefore you should consider doing so if your anticipate this battle possibly turning ugly with the merchant.
Step Five: Stay on top of it
How fast (or slow) your dispute is handled varies, depending on the circumstances. Under most circumstances, 60 days from date of filing is the longest the credit card company can take, but I have had disputes be wrapped up in less than half that time.
Whatever the case, be on the lookout for mailings from your creditor: If they don’t rule in your favor, they will send a letter and typically you have only a matter of days to file a response, otherwise the dispute will automatically be closed.
Again, I want to reiterate that this is just a summary, and you have a lot of research to do, but hopefully these five steps act as sort of road map to get you started.
How about you all? Have you ever had to dispute a credit card charge? Did you win or lose? Could you have used one of these tips to strengthen your argument?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
Jacob’s Thoughts – This is a very complete post in my mind on how to handle disputing credit card charges the right way! The only thing I would add is to remember one thing – the credit card companies are facing extreme competition right now.
If you feel that the credit card company is being unreasonable in handling your dispute, I would threaten to take my business elsewhere because I would want to work with a company that is more understanding.