How Your Credit Card Can Protect You

More than a convenient way to pay, it also comes with valuable consumer benefits.

(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Disputing an error. When you see a mistake on your credit card bill, don't delay: The law gives you 60 days after an error appears on your statement to take it up with your card company. Many issuers will encourage you to try to resolve the problem with the merchant first. Also, make sure the charge is a mistake and not an unfamiliar name for a legitimate charge. To enjoy the benefits of the Fair Credit Billing Act, including a temporary credit to your account for the amount in question, you will need to contact your issuer. And if you suspect fraudulent activity, contact the issuer immediately.

You will likely have the option of registering the dispute online, by phone or by mail. Writing to your issuer preserves your billing rights, and you can more easily document the dispute as well. Remember that even though you don't have to pay the disputed amount during the investigation, you must pay the remainder of your balance. Whether or not the dispute wraps up in your favor, be sure you receive a written explanation from your issuer. And if your claim is rejected, you may have to pay any interest that accumulated on the charge.

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Miriam Cross
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Miriam lived in Toronto, Canada, before joining Kiplinger's Personal Finance in November 2012. Prior to that, she freelanced as a fact-checker for several Canadian publications, including Reader's Digest Canada, Style at Home and Air Canada's enRoute. She received a BA from the University of Toronto with a major in English literature and completed a certificate in Magazine and Web Publishing at Ryerson University.