Credit cards provide unprecedented convenience. However, inaccurate billing, unauthorized charges, and unsatisfactory services or goods bought with credit cards can become a headache. Thus, the ability to dispute a charge becomes essential. A frequently asked question on this topic is: Can you dispute a credit card charge after 90 days? This article delves into the intricate details of credit card charge disputes in order to answer this question.
Whats Credit Card Disputes
A credit card charge dispute is a process initiated by a cardholder with their card issuer to contest a charge on their account. Disputes could stem from fraudulent charges, billing errors, non-receipt of goods or services, or dissatisfaction with a purchase.
The 90 Day Limit: Truth or Myth?
A widely accepted belief is that you have 90 days to dispute a credit card charge. In reality, this period might differ.
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is an US federal law that protects consumers from unfair billing practices. It stipulates that cardholders must notify their card issuer in writing within 60 days of receiving the statement that contains the disputed charge. Although a 60-day window might seem short, it emphasizes the importance of regularly reviewing credit card statements.
Steps to Dispute a Credit Card Charge
If you do identify a charge to dispute within this timeframe, follow these steps:
- Notify the merchant: Ideally, your first action should be to contact the merchant to rectify the issue. Misunderstandings can sometimes be quickly resolved without involving your card issuer.
- Prepare a written letter: If the issue persists, draft a letter to your credit card issuer detailing the disputed charge.
- Send your letter: Ensure your written complaint is sent to the correct address for billing inquiries—not typically the address to which you send your payments.
- Follow up: If necessary, provide further information to support your dispute.
While the written letter is vital, you may also call your card issuer to start the dispute process quickly.
Exceptions to the 90 Day Rule
While a 60-day window is generally expected for disputing billing errors, there are exceptions. Some card issuers extend this timeframe, and it could reach the commonly-cited 90 days, or even longer.
Card issuers often have separate timelines for disputing unauthorized charges and quality disputes of goods or services. For instance, unauthorized transactions may not have a strict reporting timeframe. Poor-quality products or services dispute windows can differ dramatically from one credit card issuer to another—ranging from 60 days to as long as 540 days after the purchase.
Alright, let’s dig deeper into the topic. We could add further sections elaborating on the dispute process, the consequences of a dispute’s outcome, and more practical examples.
Prolonging the Dispute Process
In some cases, the dispute process might take a longer time than you expect. For instance, credit card issuers typically have a maximum of two billing cycles (but no longer than 90 days) after receiving your letter to resolve the dispute. During this period, they must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days.
While the issuer investigates your claim, you are not required to pay the disputed amount. However, once the investigation is complete, the issuer will notify you of its decision. If the issuer determines that the disputed charge is in fact valid, you will typically need to pay the charge and any associated interest fees.
What Happens After a Dispute is Filed
Once you file a dispute, the following steps generally occur:
- Receipt of Dispute: Your credit card issuer acknowledges the dispute, often in writing, and may ask for additional information.
- Investigation Phase: The credit card issuer contacts the merchant and investigates the disputed charge. Most credit card issues are legally required to provide a resolution in a stipulated time frame. For instance, in the US, the resolution usually must be provided within two complete billing cycles, but no more than 90 days after getting your letter.
- Charge Reversal: If your dispute is found to be valid, the card issuer will reverse the charge. This charge-off will appear on your credit card statement.
- Appeal: If the investigation determines the charge as valid, you might have the right to further dispute the outcome. In such a case, check with your card issuer for their specific process.
The Aftermath of Disputed Charges
Successful charge disputes can provide immediate financial relief. However, you should be aware of the potential long-term impacts. For example, merchants might choose to stop doing business with customers who frequently dispute charges. On the other hand, if your dispute is denied, you might have to pay not just the original charge, but also possible interest and late fees.
Additionally, continuous disputes might raise red flags for your card issuer, potentially impacting your credit limit or even leading to account closure.
Let’s put these principles into context through illustrative scenarios:
- Example 1: Unrecognized Charge – You notice an unfamiliar $300 charge on your credit card statement. You dispute it on day 40 after your statement arrived. Your issuer confirms it was a fraudulent charge and reverses the transaction. You are not liable for the charge.
- Example 2: Unsatisfactory Service – You hired a contractor for home repairs. The work, however, is unsatisfactory. Even after 80 days from the transaction date, you decide to dispute the charge. The issuer might be willing to mediate, given the nature of your dispute. If found valid, you might get a refund.
Q: Does the 60-day window for disputes apply for international transactions?
A: The FCBA protections apply “if the purchase was made in your home state or within 100 miles of your current billing address.” But many major card issuers extend the same protections to international purchases.
Q: What if the product or service has a warranty that extends beyond 90 days?
A: A dispute about a product or service failing to meet a warranty is not necessarily a billing error dispute and could be handled differently. Always check with your card issuer about their policies in such a case.
Q: What will happen if I don’t pay the disputed charge?
A: While the dispute is being investigated, FCBA allows you not to pay the disputed amount, without any risk to your credit.
Though it’s widely believed that you can dispute a credit card charge within a window of 90 days, the reality can hinge on an array of factors including the type of dispute, the card issuer’s policies, and specific laws in place. Therefore, passivity is your enemy when spotting a potentially illegitimate charge. Remember to always keep good communication with your card issuer and know their specific dispute policies.
[Disclaimer: The information contained herein is up-to-date as of the time of writing and seeks to offer general guidance. Always conduct personal research or seek professional advice before making financial or legal decisions.]