I recently was interested in purchasing a motorcycle from a dealer but I was about to be out of town for a few days for a vacation. I called him and said I can make a deposit on the bike for $500. He agreed and I gave him my credit card # over the phone and it was charged $500 shortly thereafter.

When I returned from my vacation turns out he had sold the bike. He would not refund me my deposit but instead he said I could put the money toward another bike. I'm not interested in buying another bike from him and want my money back. I never signed anything with him and the transaction was done over the phone. Can I dispute this charge with my credit card company?

  • 27
    Are you certain that this is a real dealer? Having defrauded you out of $500, could they simply be trying to bilk you out of even more money, for example by turning around in a few days and offering you an unbelieveable deal on an even better bike in return for an additional "deposit"...
    – Valorum
    Apr 24, 2018 at 17:01
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    I know I'm playing devil's advocate here, but was there an agreement on how long he'd hold the bike for you? If you agreed on say... 2 weeks, but you came back 6 months later, then that's a different story.
    – user19035
    Apr 24, 2018 at 18:50
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    From where i belong, if the seller backs out of a deal after taking a deposit, he/she has to return twice the deposit amount Apr 25, 2018 at 4:22
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    @gbjbaanb AxiomaticNexus asked where there was an agreement on how long the dealer would hold the bike for, not how long the OP was actually gone for. For example, perhaps it was agreed that he would hold it for 24 hours.
    – JBentley
    Apr 25, 2018 at 13:07
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    @JBentley: In the absence of a written agreement, it would seem implausible the prospective buyer knowingly agreed that failure to purchase the bike within 24 hours would have any effect beyond allowing the dealer to nullify the agreement (waiving any prospective rights the buyer might otherwise have to demand specific performance, but also releasing any dealer claim to the money). If the dealer had waited a week before selling the bike, and could show that he had foregone earlier chances to sell it because he was holding it for the customer, then that might represent...
    – supercat
    Apr 26, 2018 at 15:08

7 Answers 7


Yes, you can dispute the charge. The deposit was to secure a particular bike. The point of that money was to ensure that you were an earnest buyer, or that he would have some money for his trouble if you backed out. You didn't back out, he did; so he owes you the money back.

If there was a written agreement, he would not have sold your bike. I would tell the dealer that if he doesn't refund you promptly, you will dispute the charge and leave a bad google review. That should be enough to convince him to do the right thing and avoid the hassle of disputing the charge.

The fact that you did it over the phone and the card wasn't present makes it even easier for you to dispute the charge. The dealer knows this and is just trying to bluff you into coming back to buy another bike.

  • 1
    With any disputes that I've made in the past, the card issuer has always required that I made a good faith effort to resolve the issue with the other party before they move forward with my dispute. It sounds like the OP has not already done that because he hasn't demanded is money back (yet).
    – Travis
    Apr 24, 2018 at 17:23
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    @Travis the OP said "He would not refund me my deposit" that tells me he asked for the money back and the dealer refused.
    – Ukko
    Apr 24, 2018 at 17:33
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    Some information about what to say when disputing the charge might be useful - for instance, should they be as honest as possible, or simply provide the information needed to file the dispute?
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 24, 2018 at 20:33
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Apr 25, 2018 at 14:45

My experience is with Visa and Amex. The companies both will tell you to check your statement and if there is any question, immediately call the card contact number and "dispute" the charge. That will protect you and put a hold on the vendor's account until a resolution is investigated and resolved. Never delay. IF you delay past the card agreement, you will have little or no chance of a dispute recovery mechanism which is as simple as a phone call.

In your case the dealer has no invoice, no agreement, no bill of sale, no contract and no charge slip. This is a no-brainer. Call, dispute, get your money credited on your account almost immediately and that will be the end of the matter. If the card company asks for a written explanation, prepare a factual summary with the dates, times and your clear understanding and submit that.

Money refunded as it should be. Always use a card for these types purchases, it is one of the benefits to help prevent being victimized by lousy vendors and cheats.


The magic phrase is "Then you'll have to process a chargeback". In credit card terms, disputing a charge with a credit card company is called a chargeback and vendors hate them. Chargebacks are worse than refunds. He will get charged money just because you ordered a chargeback, and then he'll lose the $500 on top of that if he can't prove to the credit card company that he delivered (yes, he's guilty until proven innocent here).

If he's smart, he will turn straight around and refund you. I've done this successfully, when I ordered something on a gift card and they charged it to my credit card. When they said that they couldn't fix it, I told them that they'd have to process a chargeback (I received the goods, but I never authorized them to charge my credit card). Within five minutes, they put the money back on my credit card and took it off the gift card.

  • 1
    Amazon, right? They love to pull this trick. Apr 27, 2018 at 15:35
  • 1
    Also, acquirers (the bank that his payments are deposited into) get into trouble if they have too many chargebacks, which means that they tend to get annoyed at merchants with chargebacks. Apr 27, 2018 at 16:49

Yes, you can dispute it. But don't worry about bringing your credit card company into it yet. He knows that no court will believe you paid a deposit on an unspecified bike. He's bluffing.

  • 62
    Disputing it with the CCC is waaay easier than trying to go through the courts. Apr 24, 2018 at 17:54
  • 47
    You should consider amending this post to clarify that the dealer will return the deposit because he knows it's a losing case. Right now it reads as though OP should sue the dealer instead of calling his CC company. Apr 24, 2018 at 18:17
  • 4
    @MartinBonner You're correct - in America we also have a small claims court, and $500 would be under any state's limit. It's still a large pain in the ass relative to 1) Telling the dealer they'll waste time and lose in court 2) just telling your CC company that you dispute the charge. Apr 25, 2018 at 12:56
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    @Acccumulation I don't think this answer is suggesting actually going to court. He says "He [the dealer] knows that no court will believe...", implying that the OP is in a strong position to go back and negotiate for the return of the deposit before disputing the transaction. Note also the word "yet" in relation to the credit card company. The answer could be improved by explicitly stating this.
    – JBentley
    Apr 25, 2018 at 13:18
  • 4
    @MartinBonner Having been through both credit card disputes and the small claims procedure in the UK, I can confirm that the former is a lot easier than the latter. It is also less risky. If you lose in the county court, you will at a minimum lose your court fees.
    – JBentley
    Apr 25, 2018 at 13:21

As others have said, dispute it immediately. The dispute process exists for exactly this situation.

You may also want to contact your state's attorney general. This behavior is illegal, and it may even be a crime.

You have no way of knowing how this dealer is treating other customers, but the AG's office can investigate if they see fit.


This answer brought to you by the word "Contemporaneous".

When you dispute a charge, it costs the merchant $10-$100 depending. As such, it is a common courtesy to warn the merchant of your intent to chargeback, to give them a chance to reverse the charge willingly for free. This shop has passed the point where you owe them that courtesy.

Of course, the shop can also lie, and say you did take merchandise, or even claim that their standard deposit agreement makes the deposit nonrefundable. Most likely Visa will side with you, and AmEx is famous for siding with customers.

In the future, there are better ways to handle this.

James Comey famously said that right after he met the US president, he sat in his car and write down careful notes from the meeting. Something felt "wrong", and he felt that he would need those notes in the future. He did this note-taking immediately, while the meeting was fresh on his mind -- trying to assemble such notes later is very difficult and widely found to be unreliable. The word for immediate action is called contemporaneous. Similarly, if you are trying to take a mileage deduction off your taxes for driving, the IRS prefers seeing contemporaneous logbook entries in a variety of inks and styles, rather than a log obviously filled out at the end of the year. Hence, the verb to Comey: to write down a verbal thing immediately afterwards.

And then we take the next step: follow it with a letter.

Dear Mr. _____ (salesman),

This letter confirms our phone call today. [date is already stated above] I gave you my credit card details via telephone and authorized a $500 charge as a deposit on the 1949 Indian, VIN ABCD1234, as shown in your photo ad, copy attached. I intend to pick up the bike when I return from vacation around (date).

If any of this is incorrect, please let me know immediately.

Sincerely, Your Name

Have the letter capture the pertinent points of your discussion. Stuff an envelope, lick a stamp, 50 cents, keep a copy on your computer, and you've locked it in.

A few neat things happen now. First, the salesman is probably not the guy who opens the mail, so more people see it than just him, so he can't sly a deal by management. You also have impact; 99% of customers do not do this, so it establishes you as someone not to be trifled with. You have contemporaneous paper to wave around in court, instead of just his.

The last bit gives it more teeth; the judge would ask "If you disagreed with what the letter said, why didn't you object at that time?"

Then, when he (by voice) refuses your deposit return, follow with another letter referencing the first. For an extra kick, send it certified mail with the camo-green reply card. (the bright green "web code" to look up delivery confirmation isn't much use in court). Having to sign for your warning letter denies them the ability to claim they didn't get the message.

All this paper makes short work of the credit card appeal, and will be a useful counter in court to their contemporaneous notes, which could be anything.

  • 3
    +1 for all but the certified mail bit - that stuff is expensive and overkill for a situation like this. The chargeback threat/action is plenty enough.
    – CactusCake
    Apr 27, 2018 at 21:06
  • It's only $6... and I only do it when I need to deliver a wake-up call. Apr 27, 2018 at 21:10
  • Never mind, I was thinking registered. I always get them mixed up. That one is more like $15
    – CactusCake
    Apr 27, 2018 at 21:34

Yes, you can dispute it. In principle, you can dispute any charge which did not result in any product or service being rendered.

The principle is the same is if you paid in cash. A cash transaction in which the payer received no consideration is in fact not a transaction. Legally, to take someone's money and not give them anything is just like stealing the money. With cash, it is difficult to definitely assert that the money was paid or to recover it. However, with credit card this is made simple with the process of disputing.

So yes, you can dispute it, and in principle there is nothing wrong with doing so.

  • 2
    Legally, to be given someone's money and not provide anything in return is just like receiving a gift ;) Of course the key point is whether the understanding was that something would be provided in return - sometimes you have to prove it but usually it is assumed so disputes are easily resolved in cases like these. Yay! Apr 26, 2018 at 15:30
  • I'm sure the dealer provided a "thank you" in return for the cash.
    – iheanyi
    Apr 27, 2018 at 19:55

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