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Credit Cards - Did I Charge That?

Complaints involving unapproved credit card charges continue to be one of the most common consumer complaints received by the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Team. Problems with these charges can be avoided or resolved if recognized and addressed quickly. Many unapproved charges go unnoticed for several months. Most cardholders do not frequently review their statements. Early detection is crucial.

That unrecognized charge on your credit card statement could simply be a charge from an unfamiliar merchant, a forgotten credit card fee, or a previously scheduled purchase. Some cards have annual fees. Because they occur once a year, these fees are easily forgotten. On rare occasions, you may even find an error by the card issuer. But remember: the charge could also be an unauthorized credit card transaction.

To spot unauthorized charges, pay close attention to every transaction on your credit card statement. This should be done no matter how big or small the charge. To best monitor charges, create an online account for that credit card and view the online statement frequently rather than waiting for your monthly billing statement.

Here are some tips to keep your credit card safe:

  • Guard your credit card information. Telemarketers or vendors may place unauthorized charges on your credit card if they get your number. In some instances, financial institutions or retailers you do business with may share credit card information with other companies. The other companies use this information to make unauthorized charges to your card.
  • Find out your credit card company's information-sharing policy. "Opt out" of credit card contract terms that allow the card issuer to share your account information with third parties.
  • Don't provide credit card information over the phone unless you placed the call. This is especially important when dealing with telemarketers or persons claiming to be from your bank or credit card company. Don't provide credit card information as “verification” or a means of identification.
  • Don't provide credit card information in exchange for a product or service that is to be provided on a “trial basis.” Such offers may contain easily overlooked conditions. These conditions may permit ongoing charges to your credit card for an automatic subscription purchase at the end of the trial period.
  • Check your credit card statement frequently. Millions of credit card numbers are stolen each year. This accounts for billions of dollars in illegal purchases. Don't pay for charges you did not authorize!
  • If you notice charges on your credit card statement that aren’t yours, call the credit card issuer immediately. Report the charges and consider canceling the card. It is possible that your card number was picked up by someone at a business where you shop. The fraudulent charges could have also been made online. Or your card could have been cloned.
  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies to get a copy of your credit report. This way, you can be sure about what has been compromised. If you find suspicious accounts on any of your reports, contact the credit reporting agencies. They can place a “fraud alert” or “freeze” on your credit. For more information on credit freezes and fraud alerts, go to the Michigan Attorney General’s Credit Freeze; Fraud Alert; and Credit Monitoring consumer alert.
  • Avoid surprise charges, fees, or disputes before they arise. Read all the small print on credit card offers before agreeing to accept a new card.
  • Watch for mandatory "memberships" with credit card offers. This can also be an automatic purchase of some other product automatically charged if the card is accepted. For example, this might be a magazine subscription.
  • Find out how long low, introductory finance rates last. Also, ask about the finance rate after the introductory period ends.
  • Ask about binding arbitration in contracts. Some credit card contract terms have binding arbitration or information sharing provisions with other companies. You should “opt out” of this this.

The good news is that consumers are not typically responsible for the amounts lost in cases of credit card fraud. The Fair Credit Billing Act limits the liability to $50. Often, there's no cost at all.

Billing Errors And Disputing A Charge

Credit card companies sometimes make billing errors. These errors should be addressed immediately. Credit card company errors can range from posting the wrong date of a transaction, math mistakes, and failure to post payments or other credits. Billing errors can also include instances of overcharging, double-billing, or where you didn’t receive what you ordered. You should contact the company to dispute the issue.

To dispute a charge on your credit card bill, contact the card issuer. The issuer’s number is usually found on the back of your card. You can also log into your online credit card account. Ask for the “Billing Department” and explain the billing error. You may be asked to send a written billing error notice to the card company. The company must receive this notice within 60 calendar days after the charge appears on your statement.

Other complaints about something paid for with a credit card may also be made in writing to the card company, such as issues regarding the quality of items or services purchased with a card. To be considered for a reversal of those charges, the following must be met:

  • you made a good-faith effort to resolve the issue with the seller;
  • you made the purchase in your home state or within 100 miles of your home address;
  • the price of the item was more than $50; and
  • you have not yet fully paid for the item.

Be Vigilant

  • Check credit your card statements frequently.
  • Create an online account with each credit card and log on weekly to help keep track of charges.
  • Immediately contact the card issuer if you suspect fraud. It is never fun to have to deal with unauthorized charges, but it is best to deal with them quickly.

Report Fraud

If you have a general consumer complaint, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Team.

Consumers may contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Team at:

Consumer Protection Team 
P.O. Box 30213 
Lansing, MI 48909 
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll-free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form