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 How to deal with disputed credit card charges

From USA Today:

Consumers’ maximum liability for unauthorized credit card charges: $50
Number of days consumers have to report unauthorized credit card use: No limit1
Number of days consumers have to file a billing dispute: 602
Number of days the card issuer has to respond: 903
Maximum number of days a dispute drags on: 2701 = Consumers should notify issuer as soon as possible to avoid complications;

2 = Must be in writing; time starts when the bill with the improper charge is sent;

3 = Within two billing cycles or 90 days, whichever comes first

Sources: USA TODAY research, MasterCard, Visa, National Consumer Law Center

With the slumping economy consumers are paying closer attention to just what it is they’re paying for - from groceries and personal items to electronics and furniture – shoppers are weighing the value of their purchases before making a decision. But what about after that purchase has been made? Consumers are turning to their credit card and banking companies for assistance in resolving fraudulent charges, overcharges, and viable charges made against unreceived goods and services.

So what can consumers do when they find a charge on their credit card statement for something they didn’t buy, didn’t intend to buy, or did buy and didn’t receive? More on this from USA Today:

While it’s not always possible to avoid credit card disputes, here are some tips for dealing with them:

Get promises in writing. Save receipts. For big-ticket items, also ask for written confirmation of when the item will be delivered and what services are provided as part of the purchase.

Know the rules. The Fair Credit Billing Act gives consumers the right to dispute a credit card purchase or withhold payment for a card purchase — but only under certain conditions.

Disputes must generally be filed in writing within 60 days after the bill is sent. In certain disputes, the goods or services must cost more than $50, and the transaction must have occurred in the purchaser’s home state or within 100 miles of his or her mailing address. Although state laws vary, items bought online or by phone are generally considered purchases made where you are, Feddis says.

While disputing a charge, the card holder will not have to pay the contested amount and won’t incur interest on it. If the dispute is lost, the card company is allowed to charge interest back to the date you filed the dispute, after a standard grace period.

File the dispute carefully. Banks classify card holders’ disputes into nearly two dozen categories, such as “merchandise not received” or “canceled recurring transaction.” But generally, if filed as an “unauthorized transaction” — as long as it is unauthorized — you’ll have more protection.

By law, liability for unauthorized credit card use is limited to $50, but most banks don’t hold the card holder responsible for even that amount. Unlike billing-error disputes, which generally must be filed in writing, unauthorized transactions can be reported over the phone. And, there’s no requirement to do so within 60 days

Read the full article, including individual cases of consumers who fought back against unfair, fraudulent, or exhorbitant charges on their credit cards, and find out how their situations have played out, here.

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