Sometimes, those frustrating problems with our credit card issuers aren’t due to anyone hacking a network, but are simply nothing more than human error. Sure, computers make our lives much easier, but it’s important to keep in mind those computers can only do what they’re programmed to do – by humans. Mistakes will happen. Chicago’s Metra Rail Network is proof of how quickly a simple mistake can affect thousands of people.
Late last week, it announced to its customers that a double charge had been made on many of its debit and credit card charges in late June, 2011. The company quickly identified the problem and notified passengers who might have been affected. It promptly released a presser that acknowledged the problem and was quick to reiterate that no personal information was compromised, that it’s not the work of a hacker and that it’s working to resolve the problem. That’s clearly a good example of what to do.
But what happens from the consumer’s end? Double charges happen, as do other errors, when using our credit cards. Do you know who to call first? Who’s going to be of better assistance – the merchant who charged your card or your credit card company? Here are a few guidelines than can keep your frustration levels down as you seek to right the wrong when it comes to inaccuracies on your credit card statements.
Fortunately, most double charges simply “fall off” your account if the merchant doesn’t complete the transaction. Often, there will be two pending charges and when a merchant reconciles his pending charges each day, one charge is completed and the pending charge remains on hold until it expires. You may not even be aware of it. That said, if you are charged twice, you should contact the company responsible for the double charge. Often, it can be resolved quickly and easily. It still might take several days to “cycle” through, but knowing it’s not been addressed should give you peace of mind until it’s resolved.
If you can’t get a merchant or other business to handle it from their end, you’ll want to contact your credit card company. They have procedures that will not only help you remedy the situation, but will also protect you and your credit rating in the process.
Charges You Didn’t Make
When reviewing your credit card statement, you discover a charge you didn’t make; or worse, you charge an item and wait patiently for its delivery, only to realize it’s simply not coming. For unauthorized charges, by law, the most you can be charged is $50 (though most credit card companies offer zero liability for their customers these days). You only have sixty days to file a dispute, though, so any discrepancies should be reported immediately. Keep in mind that the credit card issuer can take up to ninety days to respond to your filing. While that doesn’t often happen, the more you know as you begin that journey, the better prepared you are to handle the problem.
Also, keep your receipts. Naturally, there won’t be a receipt if someone else used your credit card, it still is sage advice for handling your finances. The more organized you are, the sooner you’ll be able to present your strong argument.
Fair Credit Billing Act
If your credit card company isn’t addressing your problems, you are protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act. This federal law applies to any open end credit accounts, such as credit cards and charge cards. It steps in to settle a varied number of disputes, including unauthorized charges and those you might have charged, but refused to accept because of a too-lengthy delivery process.
This, however, should be your last resort since you won’t be able to move forward until and unless you have your receipts and other documentation showing you have made good faith efforts to resolve the discrepancies with the credit card company. You’ll be required to show efforts were made to work it out and those requirements will usually include proof via registered letter receipts.
This shows you mailed correspondence and will also show who signed for it and when. Rest assured, under the law, your credit rating is not in jeopardy as long as the dispute is open. Your credit card company cannot report you as delinquent. That said, once it’s been resolved, you must bring your account current if applicable. You can learn more about this law at FTC.gov.
Your goal is to move through life with no problems at all when it comes to your credit history. Unfortunately, our level of commitment often doesn’t play a factor in when an error will occur or how quickly it’s resolved. It’s just one more reason why it’s so important to review your terms and conditions and also to carefully examine your credit statements each month.