Disputing a credit card bill

Myth or fact?

When you dispute a charge on your credit card bill, you don't have to pay interest on the charge until the matter is resolved.
  • Myth
  • Fact

You’re looking over your monthly credit card statement. Something seems a bit off. You pull out your recent receipts. Aha! Just as you thought. You were overcharged for a piece of furniture you bought last month. Learn how to go about disputing a credit card bill. 

What you should know

You will receive a credit card bill every month

“I make it a habit to check my credit card statement every month. On a recent bill, I noticed I was charged twice for a blender I bought online. I found my receipt and called the retailer’s customer service line. They refunded me for the second charge, and gave me a small credit to make up for their mistake.”

– Shenda, Burnaby

Under the law in BC, a credit card issuer must send you a monthly statement of account (commonly called a bill). You can choose to receive the statement electronically or by mail.

The statement must contain certain information, including:

  • the period covered by the statement

  • the outstanding balance at the beginning of the period

  • a description of each charge and transaction during the period

  • the outstanding balance at the end of the period

  • the due date for payment

  • the amount that must be paid to take advantage of the grace period

Access your credit card bills online

Most banks and credit unions let you get your credit card statements online. That way you don’t have to wait for your monthly statement to check your transactions. This can be especially useful if you have multiple cards or other authorized users on your account.  

Each transaction on your bill must be described

Under the law in BC, your monthly credit card bill must include the following information for each transaction:

  • the posting date

  • the amount of the charge

  • a description of the charge

The description of the charge must be detailed enough to allow you to identify the transaction. You may also receive a separate record of the transaction — like a receipt — with your bill.

Your bill must explain how to correct errors

BC law says your monthly credit card bill must tell you how you can correct billing errors. It must spell out your rights and obligations. Most major banks and credit unions provide a number to call to speak with someone who can walk you through it.

Check if there’s a time window when you can dispute a charge. Many banks require you to deal with a problem within 30 days of the billing date. 

Check for time limits

Take note of whether your bill says there’s a time limit for the credit card issuer to respond to your challenge. It may tell you, for example, that the issuer has 60 days to get back to you or it automatically loses the dispute. If this is the case, mark the date on the calendar when that 60 days is up. 

You can dispute different types of transactions

A variety of errors may show up in your credit card bill. These include:

  • An overcharge: When you’re charged too much for something you bought or paid for with a credit card.

  • An incorrect charge: When the amount charged to your credit card doesn’t match the amount you paid.

  • A double charge: When you’re charged twice for something you bought once.

  • A missing or inaccurate refund: When you don’t receive a refund, or receive one for the wrong amount.

  • An unauthorized transaction: When someone who isn’t supposed to have access to your credit card makes a charge to your account.

Watch for identity theft

If you notice an unauthorized transaction on your account, you may be a victim of identity theft. See our guidance on scams and identity theft.

Work out the problem

Step 1. Confirm the charge isn’t valid

Make sure the charge you’re disputing isn’t a legitimate charge. Some reasons you may not recognize a transaction on your credit card bill include:

  • the transaction was posted late

  • the business uses more than one name

  • the business has a processing centre in a different city

  • the charge was made by another authorized user on the account

  • you unknowingly signed up for a trial offer of a product or service

If the amount of the disputed transaction looks familiar, check it against your credit card receipts. Have you given others access to your account? If so, ask them if they recognize the charge.

Step 2. Contact the business

The quickest way to get a charge off your credit card bill is to speak to someone in the business directly. Explain to a sales clerk or store manager what has happened. Give them any receipts or other documentation you have. Often, they’ll be able to correct any mistake and give you a refund. 

Create a paper or electronic trail of the dispute. Keep records of all your communication with the business. Save copies of any emails or letters that you sent. In particular, make note of:

  • who you spoke to (the name of the person and their job title)

  • when you spoke to them (the date and time)

  • the nature of your conversation

  • any agreed follow-up actions with applicable dates

Step 3. Contact the credit card issuer

If your beef can’t be resolved with the business directly, or you suspect fraud or identity theft, contact the credit card issuer. Move quickly on this: there’s often a time limit for you to bring your dispute. (Your monthly statement will tell you if that’s the case.) 

Most major banks or credit unions have a dedicated customer service phone line just for credit card services. Be prepared before you make this call. Have the transaction details — including the date and description of the charge — at hand. 

You may be asked to send the issuer a record of your correspondence with the business. If so, don’t send the originals of receipts or notes. Instead, keep your originals and make copies to send to the credit card issuer.

In some cases, the credit card issuer may ask for a copy of the transaction receipt from the business. They’ll likely send you a copy and ask you to confirm that the charge isn’t valid.

Step 4. Pay your bill

It may take the credit card issuer a few weeks to investigate your dispute. In the meantime, keep paying your credit card bill. Otherwise, you may be charged interest on the balance. If your dispute is successful, you will get a refund including any interest that has been charged relating to the disputed amount. 

Step 5. Contact an ombudsman

If neither the business nor the credit card issuer is able to resolve your dispute, consider contacting an ombudsman. An ombudsman is a bank employee who helps customers resolve their disputes with the bank. 

Check your credit card issuer’s ombudsman policy. The Ombudsman of Banking Services and Investments represents many banks, and can act as referee for disputes of up to $350,000. The Canadian Bankers Association provides a contact list for the bank ombudsman’s offices for most Canadian banks.

Common questions

What happens if I refuse to pay a charge while my dispute is pending?

Your credit card issuer may not be able to resolve your dispute right away. This means your bills and interest charges go on as usual. If you refuse to pay your credit card bill, you’ll be charged interest on the outstanding balance

How do I dispute a charge for a product or service that I have a problem with?

First, contact the business and let them know about the problem. (See our guidance on if there is a problem with a purchase.) Most stores and e-commerce websites have a return policy. Many include a money-back guarantee if a product or service is of poor quality. Try to bring your dispute as quickly as possible to avoid missing any deadlines. 

If you aren’t able to solve the problem directly with the business, your credit card issuer may be able to help. Take a look at your cardholder agreement. Often, these agreements say that cardholders must pay charges on the card regardless of product or service quality. However, some credit card issuers offer a warranty for products or services purchased with the card.

Who can help

Helpful agencies

Better Business Bureau
Receives complaints about local businesses that are members.
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
Deals with complaints against federally-regulated banks and trust companies.

  • Reviewed in November 2019
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Time to read: 7 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Anna Fung, QC, BC Utilities Commission

Anna Fung, QC

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