How to Dispute That Pesky Charge on Your Credit Card

credit card chargeback

Last year, I spent $300 on a set of online courses to learn how to analyze Excel data. The problem? Despite the name and description, the courses didn’t have much to do with learning how to analyze Excel data.

Without the option of a credit card chargeback, I would have lost that money. With it, I got my money back and spent it on a better course.

Here’s how this secret weapon can help you dispute a purchase you’ve made with the merchant that sold it to you.

What is a credit card chargeback?

As a consumer, there might be times when you have a dispute with a merchant. If it has your money, though, you could feel like you have no leverage.

But if you used a credit card to make the purchase, you’re in luck. If the merchant won’t give you your money back, you can request that your credit card issuer forcibly reverse the transaction on your behalf.

Common reasons for filing a credit card chargeback complaint include the following:

  • You canceled an order or a subscription, and it wasn’t refunded.
  • You were misled by a trial offer.
  • You don’t recognize the charge.
  • You were charged more than once for the same purchase.
  • You never received the item or service.
  • The item or service was not as advertised or expected.
  • The item was damaged.
  • The item was returned and not refunded.
  • You were charged an incorrect amount.
  • The merchant charged the wrong card.

Just because you have the power to dispute a charge at any time, though, doesn’t mean you should. Investigating a chargeback request takes time and money for the credit card issuer and merchant. So, you should use it as a last resort.

How to request a credit card chargeback in 5 steps

If you have a dispute about an item or service you paid for, follow these steps to get your money back.

1. Establish that your dispute is legitimate

Before you do anything else, make a case for yourself. Read up on the terms and conditions of the sale and the merchant’s refund policy. If your situation falls outside the merchant’s policies, assess it and determine if it merits an exception.

Also, if you don’t recognize the transaction at all, ask authorized users of the card if they made the purchase. That way, if an authorized user did make the purchase and didn’t notify you, you’ll be able to get to the bottom of it quickly.

2. Contact the merchant

Most legitimate disputes can be resolved with the merchant directly. If the merchant offers a refund, wait a reasonable amount of time to receive the money before you take the next step.

If the merchant is difficult, say you’re considering a chargeback request; it might reconsider.

In my case, I contacted the course administrator and asked for a refund. The person I spoke with told me the refund deadline was two weeks after I had made the payment.

Unfortunately, that was before the course had started. I escalated the issue, and the administrator wouldn’t budge.

Since there was no way for me to know the course wasn’t as advertised before it started, I felt justified in contacting my credit card issuer.

3. File a dispute

Many credit card issuers allow you to file a credit card chargeback request through your online account. Alternatively, you can call the number on the back of your credit card.

You typically have 120 days from the purchase date to file your chargeback request with your credit card issuer, and the process usually takes just a few minutes. Here’s how it works.

The credit card issuer will gather as much information as possible to investigate the dispute with the merchant. You’ll generally need the following information:

  • The reason for the dispute
  • The amount you’re disputing
  • Whether the purchase was for an item or service
  • Details about what you purchased

Depending on the reason for your dispute, the credit card issuer could also ask other questions. For example, if you never received the item or service, the issuer might ask when you expected to receive it.

If you were charged the wrong amount, the issuer might ask if you have proof, such as a receipt or invoice. Once you finish all the questions, confirm your answers and submit the dispute.

4. Wait

After I submitted my dispute last year, the credit card issuer gave me a temporary refund of the charge and then investigated it with the merchant. A month and a half later, I received a letter in the mail confirming the chargeback had been processed.

The investigation time differs by issuer, but it can take up to two billing cycles to reach a final decision. Once the issuer finishes its investigation, you’ll receive a letter in the mail or a secure message in your account.

If the issuer decides in your favor, you’ll keep the temporary credit and the issuer will reverse the transaction with the merchant. If the issuer’s investigation doesn’t support your claim, your temporary credit will be reversed. The transaction with the merchant will remain as is.

Use this tool wisely

Credit card chargebacks give consumers leverage when they work with unreasonable merchants. If you abuse the right, though, you could get into trouble. Chargeback fraud can get you blacklisted by the merchant or credit card issuer.

Remember: Chargebacks are meant to protect you from merchants, not your own mistakes. Be honest with yourself about whether your claim warrants a chargeback.

Do your due diligence and work with the merchant first. If your dispute is the result of fraud, take steps to protect your personal information from being compromised further.

If you use the credit card chargeback tool wisely, you’ll be able to protect yourself and your money without jeopardizing your relationship with the merchant and credit card issuer.

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