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Credit Cards

Can You Dispute a Credit Card Charge for Bad Service?

Updated Mar 10, 2023   |   7-min read

When you trust someone to provide you with a service, it can be very disappointing when they don’t live up to your expectations. Unfortunately, this happens far too often, whether you get a bad meal at a restaurant, a carpenter doesn’t properly build the shelves you paid for, or your accountant botches your tax return.

When you have a problem with a service you received, the best way to deal with the issue is to work with the service provider directly to come to a resolution.

Unfortunately, this is not always possible. In fact, there are many times when you pay for a service, don’t get what was promised, and the provider refuses to give you back your money.

So what happens if you pay with a Visa, Mastercard, American Express or another kind of credit card? Can you dispute a credit card charge for bad service?

In circumstances when this occurs, you may want to dispute a credit card charge for bad service. Whether you can depends upon the nature of the service received and whether you have proof that there was a big problem. If there is a significant problem, you may be able to deal with the credit card purchase with the merchant, or with the card company.

It’s important to realize that the personal finance topic of a disputed charge is different from a fraudulent charge or unauthorized charges, however. A credit card dispute is also different from something like a billing error that might show up in one of your billing cycles.

What to Do When You Want to Dispute a Credit Card Charge for Bad Service?

If you have a problem with service that’s performed, the first thing that you should do is let the merchant know. Resolving the problem with the merchant is going to be easier than trying to prove to your credit card company that the service wasn’t performed properly and that the charge should be reversed. In some ways, this can be similar to taking advantage of a retailer’s return policy if you purchase a product, instead of a service.

Not only is coming to a resolution with the merchant when you dispute credit card charges a simpler and faster approach to deal with the problem and to get your money back, but you’re actually required to make a “good faith” attempt to obtain a satisfactory resolution to your issue with the service before you dispute bad service on your credit card.

If the merchant is unwilling to work with you to resolve the problem or if you can’t come to a compromise with the merchant that leaves you satisfied, the Fair Credit Billing Act and federal law do give you the right to dispute charges for transactions that you’re dissatisfied with.

You’ll need to contact your credit card company directly within 60 days of the transaction posting on your credit card bill in order to dispute a charge for service you’re dissatisfied with.

The easiest way to do this, in most cases, is to sign into your online account and provide your account number. Once you’ve signed in, you can usually find an option to dispute charges under the Account Services or Account Options menu. This is where you’ll start the dispute process with the financial institution.

If you can’t figure out how to initiate a dispute online, you can also call the number on the back of your credit card to find out how to initiate a dispute. Your request to challenge a charge will need to be in writing, but your card’s customer service professionals can give you the address to send your dispute to or can walk you through the process of disputing charges online.

Disputing a Charge for Bad Service

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explains the specific requirements in place for disputing a charge because you’re dissatisfied with the service you received. To dispute a credit card charge for bad service:

  • You must have made a purchase of more than $50 on your credit card
  • The transaction must have taken place within your home state or within 100 miles of your current billing address, unless the transaction took place online
  • You must have made a good faith effort to resolve the dispute with the service provider before initiating the dispute with your card issuer

The credit card company is not just going to take your word for it when it comes to the dispute either. You need to have a legitimate claim that the service was not satisfactory, and you should have some type of evidence to back up your assertions.

The person or company you did business with is also going to get the opportunity to respond to your dispute and argue that the service they provided was adequate and they should be paid for it.

The credit card company conducts an investigation when you’ve initiated a dispute—which can take several weeks—and will ultimately decide whether your allegations of improper service are credible or not based on the information both you and the service provider offer.

If your credit card company is not sure that your dispute is a legitimate one, they may ask for more information before continuing the investigation. If you can’t provide what the card issuer is looking for, your dispute won’t be a success.

When Can You Successfully Dispute a Charge for Bad Service?

When it comes to determining if a charge for bad service can be successfully disputed or not, the card issuer considers whether your allegations of inadequate service are reasonable.

If you paid for services that were not rendered, this will almost always result in a successful dispute and you’ll get back your money as long as the transaction was large enough and you meet the geographic requirements. However, if the service simply didn’t meet your standards, it’s a more difficult case.

Credit card companies won’t typically give you back your money when there was a minor issue with service received. For example, if a waiter took a long time to bring your food, you can’t successfully dispute the cost of your meal. But, if you got nothing you ordered and ended up with food poisoning from the meal that was served to you, you’d have a much stronger case.

The more clearly egregious the lapse in the service quality—and the more documented evidence of problems you have—the more likely it is that you’ll be able to successfully dispute charges. Providing ample proof of good faith efforts to work out the issue with the servicer will also help your case, so be sure to document all communications with the service provider in detail.

Know Your Rights as a Consumer

The Fair Credit Billing Act protects your rights as a consumer to dispute bad service, and you shouldn’t be afraid to exercise your rights if you didn’t receive a service you paid for or if the service provider didn’t meet your expectations.

However, if there are fraudulent purchases or an unauthorized purchase of goods and services, the steps you need to take are different than the dispute process. In serious cases of identity theft, this could require a police report and a new card so ensure that you’re clear on the steps to take if you are the victim of fraud.

>> Read More: How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Fraud

Just remember, not all disputes are successful, so be reasonable when deciding if adispute is worth initiating – and make sure you have lots of evidence to back up your claims.