How to Contest Debit Card Charges

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When you use a debit card to pay for a good or service, this is simply the electronic equivalent of writing a check or handing over cash--which is why debit cards are also called electronic fund transfer (EFT) cards. It's important, however, to note the distinction between credit cards and debit cards. Namely, laws governing debit card charges fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, rather than the Fair Credit Billing Act. If you don't act quickly to contest debit card charges you believe are the result of error or theft, your liability for unauthorized charges may be substantially more than the $50 liability established by the FCBA for unauthorized credit card charges.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Envelope
  • Stamp

Handling Debit Card Errors

  • Notify the financial institution of the charge you wish to contest within 60 days of the date of your statement that reflects the charge. You'll most likely want to telephone the institution directly, but the Federal Reserve Board states you can also write the institution and inform them of the charges you wish to contest.

  • Provide the financial institution the following information: your name, account number, the dollar amount of the contested charge, the date of the charge and the reason why you wish to contest it.

  • Give the financial institution 45 days to look into the charges and resolve the issue. The FRB notes that if your account was opened within the last 30 days or for foreign and point-of-sale transactions, the institution is given latitude to extend the amount of time to investigate the charge to 90 days.

  • Anticipate one of two outcomes. Either the financial institution will recredit your account or will tell you in writing why it believes no error occurred.

Tips & Warnings

  • According to the FRB, your liability is limited to $50 if you notify your financial institution within two days of discovering your debit card has been lost or stolen. Typically, your financial institution will put the charged amount back into your account if it takes more than 10 business days to investigate and resolve a contested debit charge, or 20 days for accounts opened in the past 30 days.
  • Contesting debit card charges within the 60-day window is extremely important. If, for example, a thief steals your debit card and makes small charges you don't notice within the 60-day window, you may risk losing everything in your account if the card is used by the thief past that time.

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