How to resolve a credit card dispute
Your step-by-step guide to successfully working out a dispute with your credit card issuer.
Updated . What changed?
If you’ve been incorrectly charged a fee, you’ve spotted an unrecognisable transaction in your history or you have another problem with your credit card issuer, there are ways to get it sorted out. First and foremost, it’s important to contact your bank or credit card issuer as soon as possible to discuss the matter.
Rest assured that most complaints are solved quickly and efficiently with a simple phone call or email. However, if your issuer does not resolve your problem to your satisfaction, there are other avenues that you can pursue. Below we outline the course of action that you can take with your issuer, what your other options are and the common, valid reasons for credit card disputes.
How to make a complaint to your provider
There is a two-step process involved in lodging a dispute:
1. Contact your provider
You can contact your provider by phone or email, or you can visit them in a branch. Explain the problem as clearly as possible so that your provider understands exactly what's wrong. Also mention how you would prefer the issue to be resolved.
Ensure that you are polite and keep calm when talking to members of staff. While the problem that you're facing may be frustrating, customer service representatives are there to help and resolve your issues, and getting angry may cause new problems on top of the problems that you're already facing.
It's also a good idea to keep notes of the conversation and write down who you are talking to. And have your supporting documentation at hand in case they ask you some questions about it.
Raising a dispute is usually straightforward and most complaints will be resolved at this stage.
2. Make a formal complaint
If your dispute is not satisfactorily resolved in step one, you can escalate it by making a formal complaint. You can do this in writing to the customer relations manager or complaints manager. Simply request this person's contact details from your bank or card issuer.
In your letter or email, you should:
- Include the word "complaint" in the heading or subject line
- State your name, contact details and the date
- Write a clear explanation of the problem
- Attach copies of relevant documents, such as receipts or invoices (keep the originals)
- Keep a copy of the complaint letter and document when you sent it
What if I can't resolve a complaint with my provider?
If your provider still fails to resolve your dispute, then you can take further action by contacting the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). This is an independent ombudsman service that provides free dispute resolution for individuals and small businesses.
You can submit a complaint through the website by filling in a detailed form. This will start the complaints resolution process. Alternatively, you can use one of the following options to contact AFCA directly if you have questions about your particular situation:
- Phone: 1800 931 678 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST/AEDT)
- Interpreter service: 131 450
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Online chat: Available through the AFCA website (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST/AEDT)
Limitations to complaining to AFCA
There are some limitations to what you can complain about to AFCA. For example, you:
- Cannot complain about the level of an overdrawn fee
- Cannot complain about an interest rate increase
- Must make the complaint within six years after you first became aware, or "should reasonably have become aware", of the issue you want to complain about
- Have to complain to AFCA within two years of getting an internal dispute resolution (IDR) response from your financial firm (this is only if you have already complained directly to your financial firm through its IDR process)
If you are unsure as to whether your complaint is valid, AFCA recommends that you still submit your information and it will contact you regarding the matter.
What happens after I've lodged a complaint with AFCA?
After you've lodged a complaint with AFCA, it will start a complaint resolution process. This includes the following steps:
1. Registration and referral
This will consist of AFCA either forwarding your complaint automatically to the credit provider or contacting you directly for further clarification on the issue.
Your provider will then have a timeframe to work directly with you to reach a resolution. If you have not already complained to your credit issuer directly, your issuer will have a timeframe to reach a resolution with you. For financial difficulty cases, this is up to 30 days, and for all other complaints, it's 45 days. If a resolution is not come to, the financial firm provides an IDR (internal dispute resolution) response to AFCA.
If you have already attempted to reach a resolution internally, your provider will be given up to 30 days to reach a resolution with you. If a resolution is not come to, the financial firm will provide an EDR (external dispute resolution) response to AFCA.
2. Case management
If your complaint is within AFCA's guidelines, it will assess the monetary value of the dispute (low or high), whether it is a single issue complaint and whether you are experiencing financial difficulty. The complaint is then filed into one of three categories:
- Fast track. These are low-value, single-issue complaints. Fast-tracked complaints are normally resolved by negotiation only.
- Standard and complex. These are for high-value complaints or multiple issues. Standard and complex complaints are resolved by negotiation or telephone conciliation.
- Financial difficulty. Financial difficulty complaints are normally resolved by telephone conciliation.
Coming to a decision can be quite a lengthy process, depending on the issue type and how either party responds to AFCA's negotiation. Decision time-frames are as follows:
- Fast track. Initial contact can take up to three days and both parties are given up to three weeks to provide sufficient information pertaining to the complaint. The negotiation then takes place over a further four weeks. If no resolution is come to, an adjudicator reviews the complaint, which can take up to two weeks.
- Standard and complex. Initial contact can take up to seven days, information pertaining to the complaint can be provided in up to three weeks, and a preliminary assessment is provided by AFCA over four to eight weeks. If either party rejects the assessment, an ombudsman or panel reviews the complaint and makes a decision over a further four weeks.
- Financial difficulty. Initial contact can take up to three days and both parties are given up to three weeks to provide sufficient information pertaining to the complaint. If the complaint can't be resolved through conciliation, a preliminary assessment will be provided by AFCA over the phone, which can take three to six weeks. If either party rejects this, an ombudsman reviews the complaint, which can take a further four weeks.
Remember that this process is only necessary if you cannot reach a resolution with your bank or credit card provider directly. Normally these matters are settled quickly and without help from AFCA.
However, should your problems continue, you can get closure on the dispute with AFCA's help. Just be aware that it can take some time.
What can I dispute?
There are a number of reasons that people commonly raise disputes with their credit card issuers. Under AFCA's guidelines, the valid reasons to raise a dispute with your bank or credit card issuer include:
- Incorrect fees or charges. This could be a late payment fee that has been misapplied to your account or a fee that you believe was miscalculated.
- Misleading or incorrect information. Your bank or credit card issuer provided you with false information or misled you in some way about a product.
- Financial hardship. You're facing financial hardship and can't make repayments.
- Contesting the responsibility of your provider. You believe that your bank or credit card issuer has made irresponsible decisions. This could be lending irresponsibly or pursuing a debt in a way that you deem unfair.
- You gave instructions that weren't followed. You provided your credit card issuer with specific instructions and they were not followed to your satisfaction.
- Unauthorised transactions. There are transactions on your account that you did not make. This could be a mistake of the issuer or potential identity fraud.
- Confidentiality breaches. You suspect that your customer confidentiality was breached by the issuer or that your private data may have been sold on.
If your problem is not listed, you should still raise your concerns to your bank or credit card issuer. Customer service representatives are there to help you, so even if you're unsure about something, it's best to contact them regardless.Back to top
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