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I Was Charged Double for a Purchase, What Do I Do?

If you notice a double charge on your account, you’ll need to dispute it. Here’s how to dispute a credit card charge and get your money back.

January 25, 2022

Have you ever looked at your card statement and felt like you’re seeing double? It’s an unsettling feeling, to be sure.

What should you do about the double charge? Whether it’s a credit card or a debit card, you should have some options to get your money back. 

This guide shows you everything you need to know including:

  • How to dispute a credit card charge

  • What happens when you dispute a charge

  • How long you should expect the process to take 

Check if it’s a pending authorization hold, or a true double charge

In most cases, if you see a double charge on your account, you didn’t actually get charged twice.

What you’re likely seeing is called an authorization hold, or pre-authorization charge. 

When you make a purchase using a debit or credit card, the payment system will automatically run a pre-authorization check. The system checks to verify that your card information is accurate and that there are sufficient funds (or a sufficient credit limit) to complete the transaction.

At this point, the charge will show up in the pending transactions category of your account. However, the money hasn't actually been transferred to the merchant yet. 

Then, one to three days later, the funds for the transaction are actually transferred to the merchant. From there, the transaction should show up in your online account records and will be moved from pending to transactions. 

Pending transactions that look like double charges

In some cases, the transaction will go through and the pending transaction may still show up in your account.

For instance, if you make a $100 purchase, you will immediately see a pending transaction for either a small amount ($1, for instance) or the full amount ($100). A few days later, you will see a $100 transaction in your account record. 

Sometimes, it takes a while for the original pending charge to disappear. In this case, you may see a settled transaction (the actual charge) and the pending transaction, which can make it look like you were charged twice. 

In this case, it’s best to just wait. The pending charge will disappear eventually. 

On the other hand, if there are two transactions that show as settled (not pending), then you may have actually been charged twice and may need to proceed with disputing a charge. 

How to dispute a credit card charge

If you have verified that there are two settled transactions on your account, that means you were actually charged twice and you may wish to dispute the charge. What does it mean to dispute a transaction? 

Disputing a transaction basically means that you report the issue to the appropriate party. This is usually the merchant where the transaction occurred, as well as the card issuer. 

For instance, if you made a purchase at Sam’s BBQ with a credit card and were charged twice, you should contact Sam’s BBQ first. In some cases, you may also need to contact the credit card issuer. 

Here’s the full process you should follow.

Credit card dispute process

  1. Start by contacting the merchant directly

The merchant should be able to verify if the transaction was incorrectly charged twice. 

For online purchases of a tangible object, the merchant will check their own records to see if two items were actually shipped; if so, you may have to return the duplicate. 

Be polite and respectful while talking to customer service — they really are there to help the customer. If the first representative is unable to help you, ask to speak to a manager. 

If the merchant is able to fix the issue, they should issue you a refund for the duplicate charge. It may take up to several weeks for this refund to appear in your account, however. 

2. Contact the card issuer, if necessary

How do credit card disputes work if the merchant is unable or unwilling to resolve the issue? In this case, you’ll need to talk with the credit card issuer or bank. 

Start by calling to explain that you’d like to dispute a credit card charge. The issuer will walk you through their specific process and requirements. This may include filling out a form online or submitting a letter with the details. 

3. Complete card issuer requirements

Next, follow the instructions that the card issuer gave you. In most cases, this includes either submitting a form online, or drafting a formal dispute letter. Use this sample letter to draft your complaint or use a template that the card issuer provided. 

Under the terms of the Fair Credit Billing Act, individuals must submit a formal complaint in writing within 60 days of receiving the bill on which the disputed charge is found. 

4. Wait for a reply

The card issuer will open an official dispute and begin their process of reviewing the charges. They must respond to your complaint in writing within 30 days of receiving the complaint. And within 90 days, they must give you a resolution to the dispute. Exactly how long to dispute credit card charges does vary — some banks are faster than others. 

Debit card dispute process

The process for disputing a debit card transaction is similar. However, keep in mind that debit cards don’t necessarily have the same legal protections as credit cards. For this reason, credit cards can actually be safer than debit or cash, in some cases. 

You should start by contacting the merchant. In many cases, the merchant can resolve the issue directly. 

If that doesn’t work, contact your bank and ask them about their dispute process. Banks will have a variety of policies for debit card disputes, as they aren’t regulated by the same laws as credit card companies are. 

Wrapping up

Now that you know how to dispute a credit card charge, you’re well on your way to resolving the double charge issue. 

In the meantime, now is a great time to learn more about how your credit card works. Here are some resources:

If you have credit card debt that you want to pay off, Tally† may be able to help. Tally is a finance app that may help qualifying applicants pay off their credit card debt faster. 

†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. Based on your credit history, the APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% - 29.99% per year. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.