When my dispute was denied, a simple online complaint form helped me get my money back.
- My credit card company denied my dispute, so I filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
- After two months, my card issuer reviewed the case and refunded me the full amount.
One of the benefits of paying with credit cards is that if the merchant doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain, you can dispute the charge. Your card issuer investigates, and if they win the dispute, you get a refund.
While credit card disputes tend to go smoothly if you have a strong case, I recently learned firsthand that things sometimes go wrong. I rented an apartment through Booking.com which turned out to look nothing like the photos. Booking.com did not refund me so I filed a dispute with Chase.
I thought it was a piece of cake, but after months of waiting, Chase closed my dispute in favor of the merchant. That was extremely frustrating, to say the least: I paid $582 for a rental that I left and tried to cancel. Fortunately, I found an agency that could help.
Why did I originally lose my credit card dispute?
I disputed the charge because the house rental I received did not match the pictures or description on Booking.com. He had a lot of evidence, including:
- screenshots of the listing on Booking.com, including photos and description
- photos of the actual apartment
- a video showing the whole apartment
- screenshots of a conversation where the host said he would refund me
While it’s nice to have evidence to support your claim, many card issuers don’t include a way to add that evidence during the dispute process. Instead, you submit your dispute with your side of the story, and then wait for the merchant to respond. This is how it works when you dispute a charge with Chase, at least if you do it online.
So I waited and Booking.com responded to Chase stating that the charge was valid. I called Chase to explain my version and offered to send my mountain of screenshots, photos and videos. To my surprise, the representative told me that they did not use photos or videos, and resubmitted the claim with only my explanation of what happened.
That omission of photos and videos turned out to be crucial: I lost the dispute. When I called to follow up, I learned from another representative that Chase accepts photographic and video evidence. But by then, it was too late to add anything or reopen my case.
Losing a dispute that you should have won is a huge disappointment. I even considered canceling my Chase credit cards out of frustration. But I thought there might be a way to get someone to take a second look, and the CFPB seemed like it could help.
File a complaint with the CFPB
The CFPB is an agency dedicated to ensuring that consumers are treated fairly by financial institutions. If you feel like you’re at a dead end with customer service, the CFPB can help. Here’s how to file a CFPB complaint:
- Go to the CFPB’s “Submit a Complaint” page.
- Click on “Start a new complaint”.
- Sign up for an account.
- Complete the five-step complaint form.
Please provide as much information and supporting evidence as you can. After you file your complaint, the CFPB notifies the company. The financial institution reviews it and sends a response through the CFPB.
In my case, the complaint caused someone further up the Chase ladder to listen to a recording of my call to the dispute team. They confirmed that he had received incorrect information that Chase did not use evidence. As a result, they apologized and credited my account for $582.
You might be wondering if this would work when the card issuer didn’t make a mistake during the dispute process. Although nothing is guaranteed, it is worth a try. Filing the complaint will at least get your case reviewed and credit card companies take these complaints seriously.
How to win a credit card dispute
A credit card dispute is a valuable tool when a merchant doesn’t honor the terms of a purchase, but it doesn’t automatically decide in your favor. To maximize your chances of success, here are some tips on how to dispute a credit card charge:
- Get as much evidence as you can to support your claim. Photos, screenshots, tracking data and any other concrete information prevents your dispute from turning into a “he said, she said” situation.
- Try to resolve it with the merchant first. Disputes are meant for when a trader won’t budge, it’s not a first choice.
- Submit your dispute in a timely manner. You usually have 60 days, and if you miss that window, your card issuer may not honor your dispute.
- Consider calling to file your dispute, or follow up by phone if you submit online. It’s often easier to explain the situation that way, and you can offer to send whatever evidence you have.
If you do all of that and your dispute is valid, there’s a good chance you’ll get your money back.
My situation was slow to resolve, but it made me appreciate what consumer protection organizations like the CFPB can do. And while I was definitely not happy with Chase, he worked things out in my favor after my complaint.
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