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How to resolve a credit card dispute

Your step-by-step guide to successfully working out a dispute with your credit card issuer.

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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: info@afca.org.au
  • 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.

3. Decision

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.

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24 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    BjNovember 1, 2016

    Hi,
    citibank is charging on my credit card over $15 as saying of netflix.com… as i never join netflix in my entire life.
    also, there was problem on seeing my statement on credit card.
    when i called citibank and tell this story than they refuse to take action on this fraud.
    now, i close my account with citibank australia. also, they said the cant do anything though i loose 100s of dollar…..every months $15 for over a year…
    this is totally fraud for consumer to do so….

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MayNovember 2, 2016Staff

      Hi Bj,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m sorry to hear about this fraudulent activity in your account. It would still be best to get in touch with Citibank to raise this issue and be resolved. In case you need more guidelines on how you could file a dispute, please feel free to visit this page.

      Hope that could help.

      Cheers,
      May

  2. Default Gravatar
    AndreaJune 28, 2016

    I’m just wondering how much longer does it take to resolve the credit card dispute? What was the bank says 45 days. I lodged the dispute last 7 March 2016 but until now I haven’t heard anything from the bank. Went to the bank a few times & just been told to wait. I made called as well but same story. I’m becoming so frustrated…..I don’t know what should I do as the amount I have been paying is about $10K. Does anyone know what is the bank policy? Any advice would be very much appreciated.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MayJune 28, 2016Staff

      Hi Andrea,

      Thanks for reaching out and I’m sorry to hear that you’re having a difficult time resolving a credit card dispute.

      I understand how you feel. Indeed, resolving a dispute with your credit card issuer can be a somewhat lengthy process (depending on the bank) and costly as you’re not allowed to stop making payments, otherwise penalties will be imposed and the interest will just continue to add on to your balance.

      So, if you deem that the branch has not resolved your dispute, you can actually raise that to the head office – make sure that you have taken down the names of those you have contacted in the branch and discuss to them your situation so they can provide a prompt solution to the problem. But if and when all else fails, then you can contact and speak to the financial ombudsman. The details on how to seek for a dispute resolution with the ombudsman were outlined above.

      But of course, I hope that your dispute will not reach to the office of the ombudsman. Just stay calm and never stop contacting your bank until they make an appropriate solution to your dispute.

      I hope you will get the solution to this matter soon.

      Cheers,
      May

  3. Default Gravatar
    joeMarch 8, 2016

    Hi,
    My credit card was skimmed whilst overseas and the crooks got up to $6000 dollars from my card before I noticed and called to cancel my card. Obviously it wasn’t me as whilst I was making transactions in Australia on the same day they were taking American dollars out in Panama.
    Why cant Citibank just credit back the funds instead of me having to go through a dispute resolution which can take months and in the mean time i have to pay the interest on the thousands someone else has illegally put on my card.
    Don’t they have systems in place to pick up on fraudulent activities such as these?
    I just want to cancel my card now as Im sick of the whole ordeal but am waiting in hope that these charges go away first.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      DebbieMarch 10, 2016Staff

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      We are sorry to hear that. However, please note that you’ve come through finder.com.au, an online comparison service and we can only provide general information.

      Card issuers may have respective processes that they follow in regarding credit card skim reports. Unfortunately, you can’t cancel the credit card as there’s a remaining balance in it. You can pay at least the minimum amount or fees that apply to avoid any other interest charges that can add to your account while in dispute.

      It may be a lengthy process, but if you follow the steps as mentioned in the article above, it will help you resolve the problem with your credit card issuer easier.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Debbie

  4. Default Gravatar
    PhilOctober 15, 2015

    I have had an unauthorised transaction (overseas website purchase) on my Credit card, my bank has after 3 weeks sent me a dispute form. The last section is asking for more details. what would be a suitable response to assist my dispute?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanOctober 19, 2015Staff

      Hi Phil, thanks for your inquiry!

      More details could include the time/date you discovered the unauthorised transaction and the actions you have taken to resolve the issue since. You could also include points of contact you have had with your bank which may help them resolving your issue.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  5. Default Gravatar
    margeAugust 9, 2015

    I hired a contractor to strip and reseal my stampcrete around my in ground pool. I gave a deposit on my credit card. Job was supposed to be completed by June 1st, 2015. Sloppy workmanship – dried on residue on 6 sliding screen doors, pool coping, white fence, house and inside swimming pool. I want my deposit back – credit company rejected my request.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanAugust 10, 2015Staff

      Hi Marge, thanks for your inquiry!

      The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) allows Australian consumers to make a complaint and seek assistance/ take legal action. Please refer to the link I have sent to your email for the ACCC contact details.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  6. Default Gravatar
    AprilJune 2, 2015

    Why does my MasterCard show reverse credit?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanJune 3, 2015Staff

      Hi April, thanks for your inquiry!

      Reverse credit can be the result of a refunded transaction, potentially from a disputed transaction. To find out more about your reverse credit transaction the details of the merchant can usually be found on the transaction record through your online account or monthly statement. Alternatively contacting the bank will reveal more details on the transaction. You may also like to refer to the following link for more information on reverse credit card transactions.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  7. Default Gravatar
    RayJune 28, 2013

    I had my bank pay off my credit card to a zero amount and the account was supposed to be closed, I rang the company a week later to make sure they closed the account and I was told it was. That was two months ago and today I have a bill for $150.00 because they allowed a direct debit to go through 18 days after they were told to close the account.
    It seems that GO Mastercard can make their own rules to suit themselves.
    where do I stand with respect to liability to the amount they claim I owe.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobJune 29, 2013Staff

      Hi Ray. Thanks for writing in to us about this. This will have to go through GE Money’s compliant resolution process, please contact the GE Money Complaints Resolutions Team if you have not done so already. If they are unable to resolve the matter for you, GE Money is a member of the Financial Ombudsman Service. This is a service that resolves disputes between customers and providers. I can’t comment on who is liable. I hope this helps. Jacob.

  8. Default Gravatar
    KatJune 21, 2013

    I rang the bank whom my credit card is through, to ask the details of my card and about the repayments. It would seem the situation is a lot worst then first though I told my fiancée and some other people and they agreed with me that what they are saying seems wrong. I rang to ask if I paid say 50% of the balance of my credit card in one month and put card out my wallet and don’t put any thing on it until my next bill how come second bill is higher then the last closing balance minus the repayments plus the interest on any amounts over 55days that weren’t paid in the previous month.
    The lady then said to me that because my assumption on the way interest and repayment work was wrong. She went on to tell me that when I received my bill for the month I need to repay the entire of the closing balance in full. If, I did not pay the entire balance say I paid 50% of the closing this was no good the reason being that interest was calculated on the closing balance on the statement without paying this in full I would ware the interest of the entire closing balance. Therefore the next bill would the prior closing balance plus the interest from that less my repayment that I made prior to the last due date. Hence I am paying interest on dept that I have already paid off! I realize this isn’t right but it is correct do other bank or credit cards have the same policy it seems odd the no other loan system works this way ie If the entire balance is not paid all at once?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobJune 24, 2013Staff

      Hi Kat. Thanks for your question. Can you please check with your card issuer to make sure your payment went through. If so, you may want to request that they reverse the interest charges if it was calculated incorrectly. Jacob.

  9. Default Gravatar
    BenJune 7, 2013

    Credit card limit. Is it ok for a financial institution to allow for you to exceed your approved credit card limit. Over 7 months ago my approved limit of 6500 was exceeded up to nearly 8000 without declining transactions once the limit was exceeded. I was not aware that the limit had been exceeded as their Internet site was also delayed. At one point the Internet site showed that I had 2000 available, however the bank phoned me to advise me that the limit was exceeded.
    I would have thought that once the limit is exceeded, transactions would and should be declined.
    Do I now have a case to seek that the bank refund me fee’s for the past 7 months and additional interest charged as a result of the limit being exceeded. I am now in a position to pay out the card completely but would like some advise before discussing it with them. I am also considering leaving this bank due to this indiscretion. I think they were completely out of line allowing my limit to be exceeded by 1500 which is almost 20% more than the approved limit of the card.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobJune 7, 2013Staff

      Hi Ben. Thanks for your question. The issue you’ve raised is a contentious point for many Australians. Over-limit fees were banned as part of the government’s 2012 credit and banking reforms. You can opt-out of going over your credit, which means you can opt-out of receiving any over-limit fees. This applies to all credit card accounts opened after the 1st of June 2012. Prior to this, lender did allow you to exceed your credit limit. If you unhappy with the service your lender has provided to you, you can vote with your feet and use a competitor’s services. I don’t believe you will be able to recoup the cost of the fees, but it can’t hurt to ask. Jacob.

  10. Default Gravatar
    LeonMay 16, 2013

    I was recently charged a late payment fee on my credit card. I had inadvertently paid one Mastercard twice and hence accidentally missed the payment. It is a one off mistake. I heard that there was a class action in recent times and that late payment fees were no longer acceptable. Please can you advise what the status is before I talk to the credit card provider. Thanks.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobMay 16, 2013Staff

      Hi Leon. Thanks for your question. It wasn’t a class action, but government reforms. Please check this page for more information about the reforms that took effect in July 2012. One of the reforms was banning of over-limit fees, but this only applies to cards approved after the 1st of July 2012. Jacob.

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