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Can You Dispute a Debit Card Charge?

If you notice a fraudulent transaction or an error on your debit card statement, you can dispute the charge with your bank. Here’s how.

May 5, 2022

As part of consumer protections, individuals can dispute charges put on debit cards and credit cards. 

This essentially means that you can challenge the charge if you believe it’s fraudulent or an error. If the bank sides with you in the dispute, you could get your money back. 

The process is well established for credit cards, which often have increased protections. But can you dispute a debit card charge, as well? 

Can you dispute a debit card charge?

In general, yes. 

A debit card dispute is often called a “chargeback.” This process is requested by the customer and reviewed by the issuing bank or credit union. 

A chargeback occurs when an individual requests that a bank review a specific transaction. If the bank sees a valid reason for the dispute, it can reverse the charge and refund the customer’s money. 

The initial refund is usually temporary, while the bank reviews the dispute and contacts the merchant. The merchant will then have a chance to respond or provide evidence. 

Eventually, a formal decision will be made (usually within 10 business days). If the customer “wins'' the dispute, their money is refunded. If the merchant “wins,” the temporary refund will be reversed and the original charge remains. 

For fraudulent transactions (such as those occurring as a result of debit card theft or identity theft), the bank and/or an insurance provider may step in to cover the cost instead of the merchant. 

Reasons to dispute a charge

Can you dispute a debit card charge for any reason? Technically, but you’ll have no chance of success if there’s no real reason for the chargeback. 

The most common valid reasons to dispute a debit card charge include

Fraudulent transactions: If you notice transactions on your account that weren’t authorized by you or an authorized user of your account (like your spouse), you should contact your bank immediately. These charges will be disputed and entered into a fraud prevention protocol. Your debit card will likely be frozen and you’ll be sent a new one. 

Double charges: If you made a purchase but were charged twice, that’s a good reason for a dispute. For example, if you bought a $42 gift at a gift shop, but notice two separate $42 charges, you should ask the merchant to resolve the issue. If they refuse, you could dispute the charge. 

Incorrect charges: If your card was charged for an incorrect amount, you may wish to dispute the charge after contacting the merchant. For example, if you have a receipt showing a purchase for $50, but you were charged $70, that charge could be disputed. 

Purchases that weren’t delivered: If you pay for something and it’s never delivered, that could be a reason to dispute the charge. However, the first step should always be to contact the merchant directly. 

Purchases that were damaged or mis-advertised: If you receive goods that were damaged in shipment, and/or mis-advertised (a used item sold as new, for example), that could be a reason for a debit card dispute. 

Returns without refunds: If you return an item but are never issued a refund, you should attempt to resolve the issue with the merchant first. 

Contact the merchant first

For any transactions that you did authorize but still need to dispute, it’s always best to contact the merchant first. 

If you aren’t satisfied with a purchase or an item never arrived, contact the merchant to explain. They may be willing to refund the charge or work with you to find a solution. 

Disputing a debit card charge should typically be your last resort. 

How to dispute a charge on a debit card

Can you dispute a debit card charge online or do you need to call? In most cases, you’ll need to contact the bank directly — although some banks do have an option to start the process online. 

To dispute a charge, follow these steps:

  1. Contact your bank’s main customer service hotline

  2. Explain that you’d like to dispute a charge

  3. Identify the charge(s) that you’d like to dispute

  4. Explain whether these were fraudulent transactions or simply charges that you are disputing with the merchant

  5. Provide any proof that you have, such as receipts

  6. Follow the instructions provided by the bank representative

  7. Follow up with a letter (see below).

Each bank will have a slightly different procedure for handling disputes. It also depends on whether the transactions were fraudulent/unauthorized or not. For fraudulent transactions, the bank will likely cancel your debit card and mail you a new one. 

Writing a follow-up letter

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that consumers send a written notice to the issuing bank after disputing a charge. 

This letter must be sent within 60 days of the date that you received the first statement with the disputed charge on it. 

It should include the following:

  • Your name

  • Your account number

  • The date of the disputed charge

  • The amount of the disputed charge

  • An explanation of why the charge is incorrect

  • Copies of any proof you have (such as receipts)

The FTC has a sample letter that you can use to draft your own notice. 

How long do disputes take?

Once you notify your bank, they have 10 business days to review the dispute. If your account was recently opened, they may have up to 20 business days. 

Once reviewed, the bank has one business day to correct the error, and three business days to notify you of its decision. 

If the transaction can’t be resolved within the 10 business day limit, the bank can extend the review period, but they typically must issue a temporary credit to your account for the amount of the transaction (minus up to $50).

For certain disputes and those for which the bank requests a follow-up letter, the process could take up to 45 days. 

For foreign transactions, debit card point-of-sale transactions, and transactions conducted within 30 days of opening the account, the review process could take up to 90 days. 

Bottom line

Can you dispute a debit card charge? Yes, if you’ve got a valid reason. 

However, it’s always best to contact the merchant first to attempt to resolve the issue. If that doesn’t work (or the charges were fraudulent), a dispute may be your best option.

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