How to Dispute Credit Card transactions and fees
Take these steps if you think you’ve been charged unjustified credit card fees.
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While you’ll usually be charged correctly when using your credit card, financial institutions sometimes make mistakes. For example, Westpac Banking Corporation refunded tens of millions of dollars to customers in 2016 after wrongly charging them annual fees and foreign transaction fees.
So if you think you’ve been wrongly charged, it’s important that you let your credit card provider know as soon as possible. Here, we look at all the steps you need to take and the information you should provide when you want to dispute a credit card fee that doesn’t seem right.
What is a dispute charge?
A dispute charge is when a record on your credit card statement does not match your activity. Dispute charges can be resolved by contacting your bank via phone or local branch.
How to dispute a credit card fee
Follow these steps to dispute a credit card fee.
- Double-check the Product Disclosure Statement. First, check to see that the financial service provider (FSP – your credit card provider) has properly disclosed the fee. If it appears in the fine print and has been applied correctly, there’s no recourse to dispute the fee. Unfortunately, failing to read the Product Disclosure Statement isn’t enough to dispute the fee on your part.If the charge is listed in the product disclosure statement but there’s been a mistake, like the Westpac customers who were incorrectly charged account annual fees, your next steps are to collect evidence of the error and approach the credit card issuer.
- Collect all of the relevant details. Make sure you have copies of your credit card statement(s) displaying the charge(s) you want to dispute. Find all the details, evidence and related information you can about your dispute. Compile a short summary of the situation, with all the relevant account details and transaction amounts. You’ll need to provide this information to the FSP in addition to how you want to resolve the problem.Once you have evidence of the disputed fee, you can approach the credit card issuer in person at a branch, online or over the phone.
- Branch. You may visit your local bank branch in person and speak to a manager. This approach generally takes the most effort, but it could be easier to go through details and the nuances of your dispute scenario face-to-face. Anecdotal evidence suggests there’s a better chance of success this way.
- Phone. You may choose to call your bank’s customer service line. If you choose this option, make sure you keep a record of the time and date you called, who you spoke to and the outcome.
- E-mail. You may contact your bank about your issue via email. This method gives you an opportunity to lay out all the necessary details in writing. While it’s the quickest way to file a dispute, it may take up to three working days to receive a reply.
- Sending a formal complaint. In some instances, you’ll be required to formalise the dispute by sending a written complaint. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) MoneySmart website has complaint letter templates you can use to send to your financial institution if required.
The Financial Ombudsman Service Australia
If you haven’t received the outcome you’d expected and want to take the issue further, the next step is to contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) Australia. The FSP must be a member of the FOS if you want to lodge a dispute with the Financial Services Ombudsman. If the FSP is not, you can lodge your complaint with the Credit Investments Ombudsman (CIO) instead.
The FOS can help you if:
- The credit card fee was not included in the credit contract provided by the FSP
- The FSP did not properly inform you of the fee
- The FSP provided poor quality service and you’re claiming a refund
The FOS is a last resort. Your financial institution must be given up to 45 days to respond to your dispute before you can take it to the Ombudsman. The waiting time is 21 days if you’re experiencing difficulty paying a debt as a result of the compliant.
Jennifer's extra charges
Jennifer used her credit card to pick up takeaway at a local restaurant on her way home from work. The total cost was $25, which was displayed on the EFTPOS machine when she paid and also on her receipt. This was the only transaction she used her credit card for on that day.
A few days later, she logged into her Internet banking account to check her credit card transactions. She saw that the charge for her takeaway showed up as $87.50. She double-checked the date and the merchant details to confirm this, and then contacted her bank.
Jennifer calmly explained the situation over the phone, and the bank’s customer representative officer said they would investigate the transaction and provide a response within 6-8 weeks. Her case was reviewed, and the bank refunded the full $87.50, plus interest that had accrued on this charge while the transaction was investigated.
Mistakes to avoid when disputing credit card fees
- Coming unprepared. Make sure you’ve collected the necessary evidence of your dispute as well as records of conversations with FSP employees if applicable.
- Getting angry. Try to keep your cool. A temper rarely gets a positive response.
- Postponing the issue. If you spot an error on your credit card account, be proactive and make contact as soon as possible rather than waiting for the financial institution to pick up on it and resolve the disputed fee.
Credit card fees can sometimes be charged for the wrong reasons, or even by mistake, so make sure you regularly review your account details. That way, if you spot anything that doesn’t seem right, you can take steps to resolve the issue in a fast and efficient way.
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