It goes without saying that your first and best defense against paying fraudulent or unfair charges on your credit card is knowing what your bill says! When you receive your credit card statement each month, sit down with it and check each item to make sure that you actually DID purchase it. If you do run into inaccuracies or problems, there are procedures to follow to report and deal with the charges. If you don’t follow the procedure and the card company decides to notify a credit reporting agency, it could affect far more than just your balance on that one credit card.
What are the most common billing problems and how should you deal with them?
1. Hey, I didn’t buy that!
If you notice a charge on your credit card statement that you didn’t make, take steps to deal with it IMMEDIATELY. It could be a store error – but it could be the first sign that someone else is using your identity. Heading off problems before they start is vital. Call your credit card company and report the charge that’s in error – but don’t leave it at that. Follow up with a written letter stating that you dispute the charge, and requesting that they investigate the situation. The credit card company has 45-60 days to complete their investigation and notify you of the result. During that time, they can not make any attempts to collect that amount from you, nor report you to a credit reporting agency because of it.
2. Wait – I canceled that subscription!
If you cancel a subscription for which you pay via credit card – to a magazine, a club or internet service provider for instance – it may take a month or two for the cancellation and ‘chargeback’ to show up on your credit card statement. Again, notify the credit card company that that account has been canceled and request that the charge be removed from the bill.
3. My bill just doesn’t add up right!
They’re rare, but mathematical and reporting mistakes do happen. If you notice a discrepancy on your bill between their reports and your receipts, write a letter to the credit card company – being sure to use the address for reporting credit card disputes. Include copies of both the bill and your receipts for the disputed charges.
4. I returned that dress!
Like a canceled subscription, it sometimes takes a billing cycle or two for charge-backs on returned items to appear on your credit card bill. Write to the credit card company and enclose copies of your return receipt, asking that the charge be removed from your bill.
5. What do you mean, there’s a late fee?
Your best defense against late fees is to make sure you send your payment in plenty of time to reach the credit card company by posting date. Keep in mind that credit card companies date payments by date received and/or posted, not by date mailed. Because of the effect a late payment can have on your credit card billing and your credit history, though, it’s sometimes worth a try to get them to ‘take it back’. If you have evidence along the lines of a check cleared to your bank account before the payment was posted to your account – and it’s before the late payment date, you can write to the credit card company and ask for a review of the charges.