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tl;dr: Is there any definitive guide to the allowed timeframe for disputing CC transactions? The answers seem to vary widely. Does everyone need to call their bank for any specific transaction to find out?

Motivation for this question: I purchased an item on Jan 30, 2021 that is shipped in 2 parts. Part 1 was shipped immediately and I received it a few days later. I then asked the merchant about the status of the other part, and they informed me it was backordered and I could expect it by the end of Feb. Nearly 2 months have gone by and today (late March) I asked them for a status update and they said the new expected time window is the first week of April. I figure at some point I may give up and request a refund, possibly returning part 1 which is useless to me without part 2. I don't expect to have an issue either way, but in the back of mind I know that I could eventually dispute the charge with the CC if there ever was an issue. But now that the CC charge will surely be more than 60 days ago, it got me wondering if there is a time limit on disputing credit card transactions.

A quick search seems to reveal answers all over the board. It might differ between Visa vs MasterCard, and I see some claiming the time window is 60 days, 90 days, 120 days, and even over 500 days. I've also read that it could be dependent on the type of transaction, and it's possible there may even be a distinction between purchase date, and promised receipt date, before the counter starts ticking.

I called my bank to ask (this is for a MC) and I was initially told 6 months. Then a few sentences later it sounded like he was reading something and he said 120 days, then paused, then corrected to say 180 days with a hint of doubt in his voice.

Is there a documented standard for how long you have to dispute a CC transaction?

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There is a document the describes this. You need to review the terms and conditions for that particular credit card. It could also be called the cardmember agreement.

The protections could even depend on the state you live in, because some states have stronger consumer protection laws.

The terms and conditions will describe the timelines, and methods to dispute a change.

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  • This seems right to me. I find it odd that so many reputable(?) websites throw out the number 60 days like it's some sort of standard, despite evidence to the contrary. – TTT Mar 26 at 17:18
  • I just checked my particular CC agreement and it wasn't very helpful. It said 60 days for errors or unauthorized charges, but no time period was specified for "dissatisfied with your credit card purchase". And, the language used for that section seems very outdated. It talks about purchases made in your home state and within 100 miles of your current mailing address, and also unpaid portions of a service. I suspect it was written before online purchases became the norm. According to the language in the agreement you could hardly dispute anything that you purchased online and didn't receive. – TTT Mar 26 at 17:49
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In US the legal minimum is 60 days from the date the card issuer bills you (not the date the charge is posted); this is set by the Fair Credit Billing Act, see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0221-billed-merchandise-you-never-received and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Credit_Billing_Act . The card issuer (and/or brand) can by their own policy allow more time, and it sounds like your bank does. Note that billing for a product not delivered is by definition an 'error' not just 'dissatisfaction'.

As the FTC page notes, the company probably violated their merchant agreement with the acquiring bank or processor, because these agreements generally prohibit them posting the charge before they 'ship' (although this is often defined fairly liberally, like printing out the pick order in the warehouse) (and of course there are special cases like magazine subscriptions which must be spread out over a year). Reporting this might get them penalized, although it probably won't help you directly.

They definitely violated the MOTO rule when they missed the originally stated shipment date (or the default of 30 days) without proactively notifying you and giving you an opportunity to cancel for refund; see https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/business-guide-ftcs-mail-internet-or-telephone-order .

BTW the special provision for purchases in same state OR (not AND) within 100 miles are also due to FCBA, which was enacted in 1974 -- when there not only were no online purchases but literally no Internet: in that year ARPANET had about 100 systems connected.

Also I have one nitpick with the FTC page: a certified-mail return receipt does not (and never did) prove what was delivered, only when. And it is now functionally obsolete; for several classes of mail including certified USPS provides electronic tracking including delivery for free, whereas return receipt is $2.85 on top of the $3.60 for certified.

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You have 60 days, according to WalletHub.com, Link here:https://wallethub.com/answers/cc/how-long-do-you-have-to-dispute-a-credit-card-charge-2140664120/#:~:text=You%20have%2060%20days%20to,re%20enrolled%20in%20paperless%20billing).

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  • Are you suggesting my bank is wrong? – TTT Mar 26 at 16:06
  • No, I am not suggesting your bank is wrong, I am saying that i had found this research off of a website and was simply citing it. Now it does say that you have two months before its too late – Joseph Casey Mar 26 at 16:08
  • OK. I've seen many such citations (for 60 days in particular), and some others for (90 and 120 too). Either that site or my bank is wrong, or they are talking about different things (which seems unlikely). – TTT Mar 26 at 17:21
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You normally have 60 days after the item appears on your billing statement (see https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/credit-cards/disputing-credit-card-charge/), which is the minimum period permitted by law, but some card issuers may choose to allow dispute periods which are longer than 60 days. For instance, at one point in time, Amex was allowing disputes beyond 90 days, although that no longer is the case.

The only way to know for certain is to review your cardholder agreement to understand not only the timeframe given but the actual process of disputing a charge as well as what you can dispute. For example, you can't generally dispute charges just because a merchant gave you poor service.

Under federal law, the credit card issuer must resolve your disputed issue within 90 days of your claim.

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