Yes, You Can Dispute Debit Card Charges — Here's How

BANKING - CHECKING ACCOUNTS
An unwanted debit card charge can be stressful, but these steps can help you get your money back.
Updated July 24, 2023
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While many people are familiar with disputing credit card charges, it’s also possible to dispute a debit card charge. For the most part, the process is similar. First, contact your bank immediately if you believe you shouldn’t have been charged for something, which happens with even the best checking accounts.

When you contact your financial institution, provide as much additional information as you can about the charge. Depending on its findings, it will investigate the change and may reverse it. We’ll guide you through the reasons to dispute a debit card charge, how to dispute a debit card charge, and tips for avoiding incorrect or fraudulent charges.

In this article

Can you dispute a debit card charge?

A chargeback is a customer's dispute with their bank related to a specific charge. While chargebacks are often associated with credit card transactions, you may be able to dispute charges to your debit card as well. When a customer initiates a chargeback, the bank will investigate the disputed transaction. If the bank determines the claim is valid, it may reverse the charge. In addition, the merchant may be responsible for a chargeback fee.

Reasons to request a chargeback

There are many reasons a customer may initiate a chargeback. Some common reasons include:

  • Never receiving goods or services: If you ordered something and never received it, you might initiate a chargeback.
  • Fraudulent charges: You might initiate a chargeback if a criminal gets a hold of your debit card or card information and uses it to make purchases.
  • Defective goods: You might be able to dispute a debit card charge if you used it to purchase goods that turned out to be defective.
  • Billing errors: In rare cases, you might find there is a charge on your debit card statement for something you never purchased. In this case, you can request a chargeback.

If any of these apply to you, you could request a chargeback.

How to dispute a debit card charge

Each card issuer might have different steps for disputing debit card charges. However, you can generally dispute a debit card charge by following these steps:

  1. Contact the bank: Contact the bank as soon as possible, regardless of the reason for the dispute. Some banks have a timeframe within which you must report the charge, such as 60 days. Beyond this threshold, you could be held responsible for the charge.
  2. Provide relevant information: Be prepared to give the bank as much relevant information about the charge as possible, such as the date and the amount of the charge, the reason for the dispute, and the merchant's name and location.
  3. Keep relevant documents: Keep anything you have related to the charge, like receipts, your bank statement, and any other documents that show details about the charge.
  4. Fill out dispute forms: Your bank may require you to fill out a dispute form or provide a written statement describing the issue.

These are general steps for the dispute process, but each bank will have its own processes and may require different steps.

What happens after disputing a charge?

Once your bank receives the chargeback request, it will open an investigation. It should generally do this within 10 business days. During this time, it will review the details you provided, including any supporting documentation. This will likely be the lengthiest part of the process, as the investigation may take several weeks.

In some cases, the best banks may offer you temporary credit for the transaction while it completes its investigation. This will help ensure you are not financially burdened during the process, especially since the investigation may take some time.

At the end of its investigation, the bank will reach a resolution. At this point, it will either reverse the charge or determine that the charge is valid, providing you with its reasoning. Note that you have a right to see the results of the investigation. From start to finish, the entire process can take several weeks or longer.

What if my debit card dispute is denied?

Even if your claim is denied, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are stuck with the charge. If you disagree with the bank’s decision, you can follow up and ask if there is an appeal or escalation process. Ask the bank about its specific procedures, as it may have additional steps or requirements for you to follow.

In addition to appealing the claim with the bank, you can report the incident to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or Federal Trade Commission (FTC). There’s no guarantee this will result in a reversal of the charge, but it’s one step you can take in an effort to get your money back if you feel you have been wronged.

How to avoid incorrect or fraudulent transactions on your debit card

While incorrect or fraudulent transactions can leave you in a difficult position, there are many steps you can take to prevent them:

  • Regularly monitor your account: Monitor your account periodically by checking bank statements, transaction history, and your online bank statement.
  • Set up transaction alerts: Banks often let you set up alerts for certain categories of transactions, such as withdrawals or large purchases. These alerts can help you quickly identify unauthorized transactions.
  • Keep your card secure: Use caution when sharing your card details, and share them only with trusted merchants. In addition, don’t leave your debit card unattended or accessible when in public. Don’t write down information like your PIN; memorize it instead if possible.
  • Use secure ATMs and card readers: Watch for signs of tampering when using ATMs and card readers. These might include loose parts, unusual devices attached to the card slot, or hidden cameras.
  • Exercise caution when making online purchases: Only make online purchases from reputable websites. Look for “https” in your address bar to ensure you are using a secure connection when making a purchase online. Also, avoid entering your card details when on an unsecured public Wi-Fi network.
  • Use extra security measures: If possible, use additional security measures like two-factor authentication (2FA) or biometric authentication to give your account an extra layer of security.
  • Regularly update passwords and PINs: Change your online banking passwords and PINs regularly. Use strong, unique passwords that are difficult to guess and don’t contain common combinations of letters or numbers.
  • Be wary of phishing scams: Phishing scams are one of the most common ways criminals gain access to victims’ accounts. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or providing sensitive information in response to unsolicited requests.
  • Report suspicious activity: If you notice any unauthorized charges or notice anything suspicious related to your checking account, report it to your bank immediately. It can help by blocking your card, investigating the issue, and issuing a new card if necessary.

FAQs

Can I dispute a debit card charge that I willingly paid for?

In some cases, it might still be possible to dispute a willing debit card charge. For example, you can dispute a charge if you receive products or services that are not of satisfactory quality. However, you will likely have to prove that the product or service was not delivered as promised.

How long do I have to dispute a debit card charge?

The amount of time you have to dispute may vary by bank. However, many banks require you to dispute the charge within 60 days of reporting the issue. Therefore, you should report it as soon as possible to ensure your bank can investigate the issue and resolve it.

How do I contact the bank for help with a debit card charge?

The easiest way to contact the bank is to contact customer service; go online to find a support email address, chatbox, form, or phone number. Your debit card should also have a number printed on the back you can call with any issues.

Bottom line

If you have an issue with a debit card transaction, contact your bank immediately and provide as much detail as possible, including supporting documents. Your bank will then investigate the charge and may reverse it if the bank deems your claim valid. However, you should also be proactive with your bank account. Regularly monitor your statements, update passwords, use 2FA, and be wary of phishing attempts. By following these steps, you can help prevent issues before they start.

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Author Details

Bob Haegele Bob Haegele is a seasoned personal finance writer, leveraging his bachelor's degree in information technology from Marquette University to dissect complex financial topics.

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