Billing Errors and Other Disputes

If you spot a mistake on your credit card statement, contact the merchant and your credit card company immediately. The federal Fair Credit Billing Act applies to credit cards and billing errors associated with credit cards. A billing error can be anything that is incorrect or inaccurate about your account. For example, it could be a charge for a purchase you did not make, a charge by a person unauthorized to use your card, errors in the calculation of the finance charge, a charge in an amount you did not authorize, or any number of irregularities related to your purchase or use.

If you think there is an error in your account statement, in addition to contacting your credit card company by phone, you should also send them a written notification within sixty days from the date of the statement. Include your name, account number, the fact that you believe there is a billing error and why it's an error, the date and the disputed amount. The credit card company will then investigate the error. If you are correct and there is an error, you will not pay interest on the amount and your account should be corrected. If there is not an error, the credit card will provide you with a statement explaining why there is no error and will then tell you the amount you must pay.

If you believe you have an error, you must still pay the portion of the balance on your account that is correct. You do not have to pay the disputed amount until the credit card company tells you there is no error and provides the amount you must pay.

Unauthorized Use

If you credit card is lost or stolen and used by someone without your authorization, your liability for the unauthorized charges is limited to $50 under the federal Truth in Lending Act. As soon as you realize that your card is missing or that someone is using your credit card number without your permission, contact your credit card company immediately and tell them about the problem. They may cancel the card and issue you a new one. You still have to pay the charges you made on your old credit card and any related interest and fees for those charges. The credit card company will investigate the charges that you told them were unauthorized. They may ask you for additional information to help them with their investigation.

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Before you take a trip outside of the country or make large unusual purchases with your card, you should contact your credit card company and let them know what you plan to do. Many credit card companies will reject unusual transactions or lock an account if they notice unusual transactions. This is an attempt to protect you from unauthorized use but it can sometimes create problems if you authorized the transactions but aren't expecting the account lock.

Purchasing Damaged Goods

If you paid for an item or service with your credit card and it is damaged or of poor quality, the Fair Credit Billing Act allows you to dispute the charge and you may withhold payment for the item in certain circumstances. However, you must first try to resolve the situation with the merchant who sold you the item or performed the service. After you have made an effort to solve the problem with the merchant, and if it is still unresolved, you should contact your credit card company in writing and explain the issue to them. The credit card company will then investigate your claim. You do not have to pay for the item while the credit card company conducts its investigation. To invoke this right the item must have been for more than $50 and the sale must have taken place in the state in which you live or within 100 miles of your home address. 

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Photocopy the front and back of your credit cards or make a list of all your credit cards, the account numbers, and the credit card company contact numbers. If you lose a card, you can use this to contact the credit card company and fix the problem. Keep the photocopy or list in a safe and secure place so someone can't steal your credit card account number. Don't keep the photocopy or list in the same place where you keep you credit cards, such as a purse. That way if you lose the purse, you won't lose the contact list.