How to Dispute Credit Cards Fees – and Win

Information verified correct on September 29th, 2016

Don’t sit back and think you’re forced to pay an unjustified fee – dispute it with your bank.

The only thing more irritating then being caught up in a credit card dispute or transaction that wasn’t your fault is being charged a fee for it. Why should we be subject to an error imposed by our banks and be charged a two figure fee for it?

If you truly were charged a fee which was unjustified, then disputing it will be fairly easy. Even if the fee was due to your carelessness or wrong doing, your bank may make an exception out of goodwill and customer loyalty – to an extent.

What course of action do I need to take in order to get my money back?

Find all details, evidence and related information you can about your dispute. It won’t help when you contact your bank with something vague like “I was wrongfully charged and I want my money back”. Do them and yourself a favor by compiling a short summary of the situation, with all the relevant account details and transaction amounts. Next, you can choose what method of approach you wish to follow:

  • Branch. You may directly go to your bank branch and request a manager or someone with the power to revert your fees. While this approach generally takes the most effort, it’s easiest to go through details and the nuances of your dispute scenario. Higher level of success have been reported from face-to-face disputes.
  • Phone. You may choose to call your bank’s customer service line. However, it’s general knowledge that financial customer service can be frustrating and slow. If your customer service representative is outsourced out of Australia, sit down with a snack and a magazine as it may take a while.
  • E-mail. You may contact your bank about your issue via email. This method gives you an opportunity to lay out all the necessary details, and while it’s the quickest way to file a dispute, it may take up to 3 working days to receive a reply.

What tone should I use when discussing the issue?

No one likes to be yelled at or demeaned in any fashion. If you’re aggressive with your customer service, they are more likely to be bitter right back to you, and while it’s your banks responsibility to make an effort, being aggressive will trigger them to be less inclined.

Remember that your customer representative has no monetary incentive to decline refunding your fee. It also wasn’t their direct fault for your scenario.

They are there to take each case up on its merits, giving benefit of the doubt and leeway to customers.

That being said, you should adapt a modest yet firm approach to your dispute. Act as professional as possible, but not condescending.

Some examples of successful credit card fee disputes

The following case studies have been both submitted by our readers and experienced first hand by our staff.

Jennifer wrote to us on 2/02/2009:

Jennifer's email content

One night I’d gone to buy some fast food (I won’t name who, but they’re the biggest take-out franchise to say the least) and when it came to pay, I paid the $14.20 amount on my credit card. When I went to enter my PIN, I saw the amount was $14.20. When I received my receipt, it stated $14.20.

A few days later I was browsing my finances via internet banking and noticed my credit card had a more significant amount spend on it than I imagined. Looking through my recent transactions, one of them caught my attention: ” GLB 16/10/2008 – $87.45” What? I was charged $87.45 for takeout for myself?

I knew there was no other explanation, I’d been excessively overcharged. The next working day, I contacted my bank and explained the situation. The woman on the receiving end was fairly understanding, and explained that situations like these aren’t uncommon, and you’ll most likely get a result for your transaction in roughly 8 weeks.

I explained that I wasn’t happy waiting 8 weeks, and she said that in the meanwhile, my money will be refunded regardless.

9 weeks went past, and to my benefit, I not only got refunded the excess $73.25, they’d given back the entire $87.45!

While it was a positive result for Jennifer, unfortunately she refused to tell us which bank she was dealing with.

Mark sent an email to his bank, Commonwealth Bank on 23/04/2009:

Mark's email content

Whenever I make a purchase on eBay, I pay via PayPal. My first line of payment is my MasterCard (xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx) and my backup source is my Streamline account (xxxx xxxx xxxx).

When making a payment, the *fine print says

“*If the required funds aren’t available from your primary account, your backup source will be used”.

I made a $150 payment, and I had only several dollars available on my credit limit. I checked my transaction account today and found my credit card balance was $2684.72, $184.72 more than my credit limit.

My recent transactions hasn’t been updated yet, but I’m assuming this is the $150 payment plus some sort of two figure fee for exceeding my credit card limit.

Why has my credit card had the funds taken out of it? I always make purchases on eBay in identical situations, and my main bank account is the only source of payment used when my primary account has insufficient credit in it.

Thanks,

Mark

Mark received an email on the next business day apologizing for the situation. The representative stated that while the ‘terms & conditions state that if you exceed your credit card limit a fee will be imposed but out of goodwill they will refund the fee.

So how can I guarantee winning my dispute?

From these 2 cases, we can see that the banks tend to pass discretion and the benefit of the doubt towards their customers. They would much rather lose $15-50 paying back a fee then risk an angry customer spreading to their friends and family how awful their bank is, or even potentially losing a customer completely.

Other than the tips listed here, getrichslowly.org have listed some of their tips on resolving fee disputes.While there’s no guarantee your dispute will be won everytime, the following methods and mentalities will skyrocket your chances:

1. Contact your Bank A.S.A.P

Banks frequently advise to contact your bank as soon as an issue arises. There are countless tales of people travelling internationally who have their credit card stolen or are charged an unauthorised purchase. Those who leave the dispute till they get home a month later more often that not cannot get their dispute resolved.

Likewise, if you contact your bank ASAP, they can cancel your credit card and issue you a new one. Depending on your issuer and level of fraud security, they will generally not hold you liable for any unauthorised purchase made.

On your part, you’ll have to check your recent statements and credit card recent transactions every few days in order to respond with haste if an issue should arise.

2. Don’t be Aggressive or Offensive

As mentioned previously, being angry will either get you nowhere, or take a lot longer to get to a resolve. Sometimes it’s near impossible not to turn aggressive out of frustration with a customer service representative you can’t understand, but remember that they are there to help you, not fight you or defend the bank.

3. Facts and Figures, not Farce

You know (or should know) your own finances better than a customer rep who may only have limited access. Use precise figures, account numbers, time and dates and anything relevant. It will increase your credibility and help your banks dispute team work faster to resolve the issue.

4. Be Patient

Some disputes can take months to resolve. If you’re fortunate like Jennifer, you’ll be refunded your money in the meanwhile. If not, you can contact your bank and be persistent but in the experiences we’ve read, the time involved pursuing doesn’t compensate for a quicker resolve.

I had/have a dispute with my bank …

If you would like advice or to share your story for the benefit of other Aussies, please contact us at mike@creditcardfinder.com.au with your story.

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2 Responses to How to Dispute Credit Cards Fees – and Win

  1. Default Gravatar
    Irene | August 19, 2013

    What is the law on late payment fees on Credit Cards. I thought it was changed so banks could not charge this fee. Please refer me to the governing body, laws, legislature. Thanks

    • Staff
      Jacob | August 19, 2013

      Hi Irene.

      Here’s our page on the credit card and banking reforms where you can find information about the banning of over-limit fees and the allocation of credit card repayments to name a few of the changes. Late payment fees were not amended as part of the governments reforms.

      Thanks for your question.

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