How to dispute charges through your credit card

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about my epic ordeal canceling Sprint service and moving to Cingular (because of reception in a new house):

But then they told me my account had a $160.00 charge. For what, I asked? Wait for it…

“An early cancellation fee.”

Yeah, right. I knew I didn’t have a contract, and I had negotiated out of an early cancellation fee a long time ago. Cellphone companies make a lot of money from trying these shady moves, hoping customers will get frustrated, give up, and just pay.

[...]

As soon as I read these notes out loud, I witnessed a miraculous change in her ability to waive the fee. Within 2 minutes, my account was cleared and I was off the phone. Amazing!!!!! Thank you madam!!!

See the full article: Sprint tries to rip Ramit off? Oh my.

But here’s the clincher: Although I thought I was done dealing with them–and they told me they wouldn’t charge me–they did it anyway.

By this point, I was so fed up that I called in the big guns.

Many people don’t know that your credit card offers you excellent consumer protection. This is one of the reasons I encourage everyone to make major purchases on their credit card (not cash or debit).

I called my credit card and told them I wanted to dispute a charge. They said, “Sure, what’s your address and what’s the amount?” When I told them, they instantly gave me a temporary credit for the amount, and told me to mail in a form with my complaint.

I did so, including my notes and everything. 2 weeks later, the complaint was totally resolved–in my favor. In other words, that temporary credit became permanent, and I didn’t have to pay. Sprint had to eat the cost. And rightfully so, those jackasses.

What happens in disputes like this is that the credit card will go fight the merchant for you (it works with all major credit cards). This is the 1st or 2nd time I’ve ever had to do this, so I recommend waiting for something major. But in the case of Sprint, which had consistently lied, I was tired of it and decided to let the credit card company handle it. Keep this in mind for future purchases.

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39 Comments

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  1. Do you think credit card companies will risk merchant’s ire by fighting them all the time?

    Once had to go through the same script with AMEX in a dispute against a lousy long distance provider (merchant). I got the credit back after a lot of hide and seek. The way I won was by investing my time :( (because I wanted to teach lousy merchant a lesson). I repeated the dispute process 3 times and the lousy long distance provider gave up.
    Every time AMEX checked with the merchant, the merchant responded stating that the charge was valid and AMEX believed the merchant!

    AMEX was not helpful to the _extent_ that you seem to think.

  2. You can do this directly on the American Express website. I’ve disputed many charges in the past (over 10) and once I even received additional money back that was labeled “class action” on my statement. I agree, don’t waste your time arguing on the phone when your credit card company will do it for you.

  3. Interestingly enough, this did not work for me on a measly little $9.95 charge fraudulently applied to my Bank Of America CC by scammers. I’m stunned, especially after I spent a half hour(!) on the phone with them filing the complaint. I filed the complaint Dec 9, and as of two days ago, it was still not refunded.

    I blogged about this issue heavily on my website, http://fearlessmoney.com

  4. Ramit, maybe you or your blog readers can help me in my situation.

    I signed up with SBC DSL on Oct 28 when they had this $14.99 promotion going. I was connected only towards the last week of Nov because of the phone number transfer etc. Since Nov 1, their rates had shot upto $16.99.

    SBC now bills me for $16.99 even though I signed up befor e the other deal expired. When I call them they tell me that there are no ‘notes’ in their system that I signed up when I did and they refuse to even hear my case.

    Its not about the extra $2 per month that I am having to pay, its about a major company honoring their commitment.

    Is all lost?

    Thanks in advance.

  5. I’ve protested quite a few charges to both my MasterCard and American Express cards, and in each case I’ve been successful. In one case, I had been overcharged by the Palms in Vegas, and after disputing the charge, having it removed, the Palms re-charging my card (twice), American Express agreed to eat the charge itself rather than risk losing a customer. I guess casinos won’t quit when it comes to money (even where it’s more expensive to keep fighting), but credit card companies know where the economic “line” is in handling customer disputes.

  6. I would suggest you to call back and try another CSR. it’s all in the manner of how you talk to them. eventually you should reach a helpful customer service rep.

    is the DSL plan a 1 yr contract? because if not, you can always do the “okay cancel my service” routine and go from there.

    its a shame that you may have to spend quite a bit of time just to get them to honor their prices.

  7. Regarding your encouragement to use a credit card, debit cards must provide the same protection as credit cards. The advantage with that is that you can now make purchases without going into debt just to be “protected”.

  8. well with a debit card you are usually dealing with your bank, as to credit card.. you may have the support of a national cc issuer.

    they both can be the same, of course. but you should realize that doing a chargeback via a debit card is different than doing it with a credit card.

    I never make large ticket purchase with a debit card..

    with a cc purchase you really do get more protection, not to mention the benefits associated with the card (warranty extension, buyer protection, etc. etc.)

    course I know what youre talking about too, responsible credit usage is still important.

  9. Normally, if you call your credit card company, they will do a chargeback. This automatically freezes the funds so that the merchant has no access to the money. My mom had a dispute once with true.com, where they billed her debit card even after she canceled the service. First, they preyed on her because they thought she was an unknowing consumer. I got on the line and advised them that we’d do a chargeback with the credit card company, and they immediately corrected the issue. Large companies assume that the little guy doesn’t know what they’re talking about. And they didn’t even know that it was a debit card.

  10. Sprint may get that chargeback and add it back to your “account” as money you owe them. So you aren’t necessairily in the clear yet. You still need to resolve the charge with them, lest you wind up with a collections agency knocking on your door.

  11. Catherine Hooper Link to this comment

    As a retailer, I can attest to the fact that credit card companies are absolutely on the consumer’s side in these mattters. In any case of mistake or fraud, the cc companies place a huge burden of proof on the business that puts through the charge. So do dispute anything unfair.

  12. I just went through this same ordeal. Execulogo, an online logo design company we were using for our start-up company, delivered super crappy work. They had a money back gaurantee, but when I tried to get our money back they just ignored me. After a month of trying I contacted my cc company and now I have my money back.

  13. Had a fradulent parking charge added to my hotel bill in NYC ($37/day at Hotel Pennsylvania). After two weeks of stalling tactics by the hotel, I finally wised up and called Discover. The hotel didn’t dispute the reverse charge.

  14. Kit Langstroth Link to this comment

    I purchased an entire package of stock investing classes through a company called Teach Me To Trade. $20,000 worth that included a mentoring program. They had a 3 day cancellation policy that I signed. Long story short, The mentoring program did not include any phone support. I battled with Teach Me To Trade and they said the phone support was $3,500 extra. I was livid to think there wasn’t one person with stock trading knowledge I could call and of course it took almost 1 month to find all of this out after getting the run around. The 3 day policy ended quickly. I have disputed this charge with American Express 3 times and all they tell me is too bad. The only saving grace is my other credit card company in which I put $5,000 of it on did reverse the charges. I documented everything to a tee and American Express failed me. I will never use them again. I will conitnue to fight. KL in Sacramento

  15. My experience with VISA. (Long history sort) A projector bought by Internet. One month later, I was said that they can not bring me. Bought cancelled. Several months later, the VISA is charged with the no-sent projector.

    I call VISA, and they say that it is my problem, not theirs. I press to the company that wrongly charged the projector and to VISA.

    The money is charged on my card, and at the end of the month the money is charged on the associated bank account. The official position of VISA was _always_ that it is not their problem. The bank (Barclays) neither solved anything; there I was said that they have not time to worry with my problem (a 1500US$ bill of a thing that I have not received) I have never used again this card, I take away from the bank all the things that I have here (stocks and mutual funds); the only thing that stays there is the mortgage (the cancelation fees make really expensive move it; and, anyway, the interest rate is bellow inflaction. This is a clean case of “last mile”, they did to a great morgage for me loosing money for me to be on the bank and bought other products, and as soon as I have a problem, the have not the kind of people to be friendly).

  16. I do agree that there are some charges definitely worth fighting for. On the other hand, my cousin owns an online store and tells me terrible stories about people. People will order an item and he ships it out. Then a day later they want to cancel the order even after they have already received the tracking number. He tells them it has already shipped and they can return it for a refund less shippping cost. They don’t want to pay for return shipping so they refute the CC charges. They always favor the consumer and immediately reverse the charges. Even with proper documentation, they give him a big “don’t care – you lose” attitude. So not only are the charges reversed, but the consumer also has the merchandise! The bottom line is – CC in general are getting way out of hand – what happened to the good old days of money orders and checks?

  17. feel good about your refund all you want, but the only real winner in the larger picture is VISA, MC, AMEX, etc and their issuing banks. They add more and more protection over time to the customers at the expense of merchant, convincing customers that buying with CC is the right thing to do.

    Well, now that CCs are obiquitous, merchants must accept them–but merchants must agree to bear all fees etc, and be at a disadvantage to the customers because of CC protection. Everytime a CC user files a charge back, the merchant gets charged $20-$50 no matter who wins.

    For a merchant to stay in business, this extra fee (aong many others) must be embedded into the cost of goods. US consumer debt is at a all time high–people spending more than they can afford, merchants are at the complete mercy of CC comapnies especially regarding online purchases because it’s harder to prove customer fraud.

    so who really wins? it’s the CC companies and Banks, they get customers to spend more than they can afford thereby earning interest, AND they charge the hell out of the merchants. merchants now have no choice but to comply because consumers are convinced that CC is the way to spend. the only thing the CC companies and Banks really care about are your interest payments and merchant’s fees. whatever justified “protection” they can come up with for the consumers is all to that end.

    I am not against the consumer protection as it is definintely necessary, but with the current relationship between CCs, merchants, and consumers,–it’s all in the control of the CCs.

  18. All that talk about banks, and card card companys. Until Americans with credit cards start cutting them up and sending the cut up credit cards back and start using cash or money orders the banks and credit card companies will continue suck your money in interest.

    What happen to good old cash. Too many middle class Americans are trying to keep up with the Joneses by using credit cards. Wake up middle class, wake up. Become savers and stack up on cash money and stop making the banks and credit conpaines richer. It up to you middle class America if you keeping sinking or swim way above water.

    Food to think about. A fool and his/her money will depart.

    IWJ

  19. one more thing about sprint.

    they try to make sure, you dont have a written trail of communication between you and them. they will also make sure the “chat” with sprint representative is never working.

  20. FERN FAULKENSTEIN Link to this comment

    I am in a full scale revoult attack against SPRINT for all out Ganster Style Tactics of Corralling by, surveys to collect, give you a SPRINT plan, billing and the dubious thoughts of credit damage if you donot comply. I want restitution, not just complaining for the eight months and twenty days of hell I’ve been through with them.

  21. how long do you have to dispute a charge & is it different with credit card vs debit cards?

  22. I bough used furniture from Habitat store and never picked it up and it didn’t leave the store. I went back to them to cancel the transaction but they refused as their receipt siad no returns except for store credit. I called the credit card company a week after the event to dispute the amount, they said I should pay all charges on my statement and send them the dispute form. It might take months before they refund me. Is this how it is done, should the disputed charge paid until the dispute is over?

  23. I am in process of disputing an AMX $3800 charge from Fotoconnections. Was told that the TV would be new with a manufacturers warranty when in fact the Fotoconnection TV’s come from overseas, are power converted, and Sony will not honor the warranty.

    Twist is that I have not taken delivery yet and its on the truck.

  24. Hello Everyone!
    I’m a class representative in the Class Action lawsuit against VISA for their deseptive tactics in dispute resolutions. You can join the lawsuit at no cost to you if you had or having any problems with credit card billing dispute. It doesn’t matter what credit card you hold, it can be Visa MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club, etc.,
    Please email me if you’d like more info or contact the plaintifs’ attorney directly at 1-212-732-7707

  25. I just disputed a charge through Bank of America in the amount of $700 from Wal Mart. Wal Mart shipped out the laptop I ordered, 3 weeks past and never got it, and it said “delievered” in the UPS systems, I disputed the charge, and got to keep my credit and never saw that computer; I still wonder what happened to it. My wife says she blames those people at UPS.

  26. I am amidst a disputed charge. My son was supposed to have two teeth extracted and two impacted teeth exposed and 2 brackets attached. The oral surgeon’s office would not bill the dental insurance saying”no company would pay for the brackets”. I had to pay a $500 something deposit and another $500 before the surgery. On the day of the surgery, the two teeth were removed and one bracket was put on. The surgeon said my son woke up during the surgery and was jumping around (gee, who wouldn’t if they were cutting in your mouth). He said I would have to come back and have him finish it. Meanwhile, he wanted me to leave the office with a wire sticking out of my son’s mouth (which was not there prior to the surgery. Apparently the surgeon knocked something witht he braces loose). He was not going to fix the wire which at that time was sticking in my son’s lip. He then had me walk my son out the back door (I ended up having to carry him as he was still woozy from the anestheisa). A few days later, I had to run my son to the emergency room with hemmorgin from the area which was operated on. After several hours and the possibility of needing a blood transfusion due to the loos of blood, the bleeding stop. To make my endless story shorter (if it is not too late), I went to the consulting oral surgeon from the ER who is one of the best in Miami. He said the entire bracket surgery has to be redone. I disputed the second charge on the credit card saying that it was for a second bracket which was not put in…I should therefore, not have to pay for it. I am awaiting the outcome. It is through Barclay’s bank.

  27. I recently paid a $30.00 late charge on a card that payment was made on the due date. Was told by service rep that it takes 48 hrs. to post – therefore it is late. How ridiculous is that? Any recourse on this?

  28. Viva La No Pay! Link to this comment

    Keep Going. Never Stop. Google As Much As You Can. Google Ask a free attorney. Keep Going Anyways. NEVER PAY!!!

  29. I recently made a mistake of ordering a camcorder from a online merchant–later after checking with resellerratings.com–I found out they were the shadies jackals in the biz with a lifetime rating 0.43 out of 10!!! Anyhoo I got the old bait and switch where they included a bunch of extras in a package without telling you the price and when I receivedd the camera the invoice was 1,500 more than I agreed to plus the promised product was anything but. I returned the camera and took it to USPS where they shipped it. I went to track the package and when I saw that it had been received I called to confirm with the merchant. The merchant then told me that my refund was impossible for their was USPS tape on the original box deeming it unuseable and unsellable and I would not recieve a refund and that they were sending the package back! I argued the logic and was sent thru the gambit of onhold and manager here manager there only to have one guy tell me “Go ahead and accept you made a $5,000 mistake and his yourself in the head with the heel of your hand” –I finally gave up on that avenue and called Chase to cancel the transaction. They did so but now I’m in the dispute process where the Merchant has gained the upperhand. They tried sending the package back to my house multiple times under different aliases. Then my roommate signs for it one day when I’m not there ( granted it different say express cameras on the box–which I had warned him about) and now the merchant is using this as the leverage in the case. That I have the product now. I see this as the least of the infractions on my part and keep telling the CC company that I will send it back again if it is really the camera for I haven’t opened the resent package. What can I do to help my case to prove that the shady camera company pulled a bait and switch, corrupt invoice, poor customer service and overall bad people move?

    Any help will be greatly appreciated

    Mike Abb

  30. I filed a charge-back against PayPal on my DISCOVER card since DISCOVER advertises “100% consumer protection against fraud and unauthorized charges.” To make a long story short, I was UNSUCCESSFUL after following DISCOVER cards “dispute procedures” to the tee. I have perfect credit and the highest FICO score; howeverI, when I filed an appeal with DISCOVER they still refused to credit my account the measly $25.23. I ended up closing my DISCOVER card because I was irate that I spent SO MUCH TIME and for NOTHING. The CSR at DISCOVER had the nerve to say “you can come back to DISCOVER for all your credit card needs. We even offer 100% fraud protection, etc, etc ” and even asked if wanted to transfer my other balances to DISCOVER. How outrageous. Earlies, DISCOVER was calling me trying to sell some consumer fraud monitoring service for $19.99 a month. Are they insane? I’m supposed to be ALREADY PROTECTED with the consumer protection act. Keep in mind I’m closing my account because DISCOVER failed me n my dispute with PayPal. DISCOVER wanted me to furnish a tracking number which proves I returned the WRONG ITE Mwhich was sent to me. I’m not going to pay $15 for a tracking number to Germany to return a $25 watch band. I did have delivery confirmation, but that wasnt good enough for DISCOVER. Bottom line is I spent a good 40 hours of my life disputing a $25.23 charge out of principle, and DISCOVER let me down. I dont understand how DISCOVER freely gives people $20 to sign up for their service, however DISCOVER will fail zero-balance customers when it comes to fighting/disputing giant corporations like PayPal/Ebay (www.paypalsucks.com)
    who have a specific department to fight all chargebacks against them. PayPal says you give up your consumer protection rights when you sign up for the PayPal service. NOT! Anyway, I will NEVER use DISCOVER or PayPal again. And my revenge is not only cancelling my DISCOVER card, but being successful in having my brother, mother, and father , along with many friedns all CANCEL their DISCOVER cards as well. All this over a fraudulent $25.23 charge. So it’s DISCOVER that loses in the end, with atleast 10 people cancelling their DISCOVER card service over my $25.23 dispute. Capitolone No Hassle CASH credit card has a much better rewards anyway. On a final note, I filed a charge-back only one other time in my life with my VISA card, and it was settled in my favor with almost n oquestions asked. And that was for $200. DISCOVER card sucks.

  31. i purchased curtains from the internet and it was my mistake i winded up getting 2 different colors of one design. i called the company and asked them to change the color and i wouldnt pay for the S&H because i had thought i purchased the right product. they said i couldnt because they didnt have the color available. so i said i would liike to return them and they should bare the S&H charges. THEY SAID NO and that they would charge me a restocking fee. Called AMEX and got it disputed. they credited me the amount and i got to keep the product. altho its of no use. but anyway overall good experience

  32. how long do you have to dispute a charge and is it different with credit card vs debit cards?

  33. I recently posted an article about erroneous charges from a dating site and what I had to go through to resolve it. As painful as it may sometimes be, it is worth trying to resolve the problem directly with the company imposing the charges. If all else fails, then disputing the charges with the credit card company is definitely the way to go about it.

  34. After repeatedly “winning” $300 gift certificates towards laser hair removal at the American Laser Centers I went there for a free, ”no obligation” consultation.
    (American Laser Center located at 630 W. 34th St., Suite 205
    Austin, Texas 78705, (512) 450-1800).
    I expected to have a “real consultation” with a doctor, where the doctor evaluates skin and hair type, does a “test treatment” to see if there is an allergic reaction etc. I did not see a single doctor there!
    Instead a receptionist who also turned out to be the clinic manager and the tech took me into a little room. Her name is Heidi.
    I told her three times that I did not want to get into anything, that I was going to do my research and consult with my husband. I informed her that the purpose of my visit was to get the quote only.
    I was tricked and pressured into signing a bunch of papers by Heidi. Heidi told me that it was the privacy and medical paperwork regarding the free consultation. She rushed me through the procedure and said we could go over the paper work later. She kept on talking all the time about subjects not related to laser hair removal and the paper work.
    She asked for my credit card to keep on file “to reserve the quote she gave me” after I repeatedly refused to sign up for their “Medi Credit” with 0% interest.
    All of a sudden there is a young technician in the room with us who just “happened to have a cancellation”, so they both pushed me into another room and I ended up getting a laser treatment – I thought that it was a sensitivity test at first.
    To make a long story short – my AMEX was charged by $1,055.07 with no refund policy as I found out later when I came home.
    I “googled” this company and was shocked to see how many complaints were out there!!! The web is flooded with angry, helpless clients like me and the stories are identical.
    I found out that there are numerous lawsuits going on at any given time against American Laser Center, including fraudulent charges.

    This whole experience has been so humiliating and I lie awake at night wondering how I will get myself out of this mess.
    This company operates on manipulation and they continually subscribe to fraudulent and deceptive practices, and should be forced to stop.

    On 01/24/08 I mailed them a certified letter requesting a full refund. I will be calling American Express to dispute the charge. I want my money back and I will do everything I can to let other people know about this scam.

    A week later I called American Express – no results yet. (They say it takes about 8 weeks). I hope I can win this one.
    Any comments will be appreciated.

  35. Learned to Win Link to this comment

    I have had to dispute a few issues, however I find dealing with the merchant can sometimes help if you talk to the right people. I usually go to customer service first, than a first line manager and then, if I can a second line manager. If I don’t get anywhere, I then call the corporate HQ and talk to someone in the executive offices. These are the only people who are actually enabled to make major decisions. Customer service is trained to tell you no. Usually I can get it resolved to my satisfaction at this level. If not, then I go to my credit card company. I have been able to resolve some major issues by talking with the executive offices of the merchant themselves. For smaller companies, try the owner of the store. Hoovers is a great resource for phone numbers and the names of company executives. I have even gone as far as to write the president of BMW when I had problems with my car and was able to get out of the last 6 months of my lease with no penalty. If you can figure out their e-mail, you are set. Try different ways, including nick names..for example – Robert Smith…
    Robert.Smith@nocompany.com; bob_smith@nocompany.com; rsmith@nocompany.com, robert@nocompany.com, bob@nocompany.com, bsmith@nocompany.com, etc. I have been able to contact many executives this way.

  36. Well done. Be warned though that this does not happen all the time. It is probably because you did not have a contract and thus they could not charge you a cancellation fee.
    I was ripped off a few nights ago when I was refueling up at a Gas station. I put $15 of gas in my tank but the store person charged me $50. I used my credit card but to my error I didn’t check (in my defence, you would assume that trivial things like this – ie refueling). I rang them up and (the woman, who was rather annoyed) told me that she’ll have to ring the head office and get back to me…5 days later still no response and my bank has already processed the request.
    So what can I do? Nothing, as there is no way to prove it. :( That’s pretty distressing, especially for a student living on break even.

  37. We are in the midst of a dispute with arthurspools. We ordered and paid for an above-ground therapy swimming pool on April 1, and we are currently into the fifth month of not receiving the product. Discover has placed this in dispute. I should have done research about the company’s reputation before ordering from them.

  38. Mine is alot different Dec 4 2007 I ordered from E bay $241.88 worth of goods from Deal Exstream in China.I payed through pay pal.. In a few days they gave me atracking number from HonKong Post. When I tried to track it it says no information on that number. Bogus #. On Dec 21 I got an e mail that my order was cancelled and I would get a full refund. I have never received the refund nor the goods. My Credit card company claims that they proved I received the goods. Today my credit card company CHASE has told me they investigated three times and they proved that I received the goods. they sent me the documentation. It only proves that they received the order. No one cares about the email about the seller cncelling my order. Another document say theat they shipped the goods on the 21st of Dec that document was dated 18 Dec, CHASE just does not care. Chase has told me that it is over the case is c;losed forever and will not even accept any more evidence . I have never received the goods

  39. bank of america charge my card 41.00us$ that made my acct.overdrawn and then posted charges to my acct.they said I owe $150 in overdraft fees. I am in the process of dispute.B.O.A is you just lost a very loyal customer.