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15 Little Life Hacks

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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47 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.

    • I had the same experience with AMEX AND I was shocked. I thought they were the TOP OF THE credit cards when it comes to disputes. Well today there is a $220 charge from Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia. Oh man when I saw this I thought I am sick, I don’t have the energy. In the past you could just notify AMEX and they would deal with it. Now you have to MAIL in documents and it is a long process. Yea from AMEX!!!

  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

    • Please tell me how I can get this stupid website to stop taking my money out of my bank account. I checked them out ONE TIME and they made me check my credit on their website, charged me $1 and hasn’t stopped since. I am now overdrawn by over $100! And I fear my bank is also taking money for an “overdrafted fee”. I have no money in my account right now. I’ve called the credit website I checked my score on and they won’t let me stop using their website nor will they pay back what they’ve taken.

  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”.

    • False. Debit cards do not offer the same level of advantages. Even if they protect you, they do not reverse the charge until you have won your dispute. If you do not have any self control then cut up your credit cards and do not use them otherwise they are far superior to debit cards.

  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.

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