How to Strike Back at Companies With a Credit Card Purchase Dispute

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David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance where he talks about smart money management and shopping tips.

Let’s say you just received a product or service from a vendor that you’re less than satisfied with. You attempt to return the purchase or get a refund on the service, but the vendor is unwilling to work with you. Are you out of options? Absolutely not. And the best weapon you may have in your arsenal is a credit card dispute or chargeback.

 All credit and debit cards offer dispute resolution as an option, and as long as you understand the rules and your claim is legit, most often you’re going to get a favorable ruling. The process can be complex, but if you’re talking about a major purchase such as an airline flight or a suite of home furniture, it’s almost always in your best interest to pursue it. If you’ve never been through a credit card dispute before, here’s an inside look as to how they work:
 
1. Call Customer Service
Your first step is to use your credit card wisely and avoid falling into the many pitfalls card ownership presents. Assuming you do that, there are many credit card perks and benefits you can take advantage of.  If you have a valid dispute to make, call your card company’s customer service department immediately. Find out exactly what the process is and what paperwork you’re going need. Generally, you’re going to be assigned a specific agent to handle your claim, so be sure to write down all contact information along with instructions on how to proceed.
 
2. Assemble Your Documents
Next, you want bullet-proof documentation of the company’s misstep. Did they not provide the exact product you purchased? Did it arrive damaged? Did you never receive it at all? Did it not work as advertised, or was the service not adequately provided? No matter the exact details of your situation, it’s essential that you have all documentation and photographs at your disposal to back up any claims you’re making.
 
3. Keep Track of the Process
The process can be lengthy, so stay in constant contact with the representative handling your case. You don’t want to be rude and overly pushy, but you do want to make sure your situation is still on their radar and being addressed and expedited. Be sure to take note of the dates and times of all conversations you have with your agent, along with a brief summary of what was discussed.
 
4. Follow-Up to Ensure You Received Your Refund
Once your refund is approved, be sure to follow through to ensure that it’s actually credited to your account. It may take some time, so always ask the rep handling your case when you can expect to see it applied to your credit card statement. If it still hasn’t shown up when you were told it would, follow-up immediately. In a big company, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
 
5. Appeal a Denied Dispute
If your original dispute is denied, it may not be the end of the road for you. Ask to speak to a supervisor to see if there are any other options you may have. Is there an appeals process? Can a higher-up at the credit card company help re-open the investigation? If these don’t work, you can try contacting your state Attorney General’s office or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Explain your situation to them and see if there are any other options at your disposal.

Final Thoughts
Before you begin a credit card dispute process, make sure you’ve done all you can to work things out amicably with the business in question. It’s much faster and cleaner than going through a dispute process, and if you warn that you’re considering one, the business may elect to avoid the dispute and settle. In addition, most credit card companies require that you attempt to do this before it accepts your dispute. Credit card disputes are a great way to recoup your money for an efective product or unsatisfactory service, just understand that they’re meant only as a last resort.

Have you ever disputed a credit card purchase?