What’s this charge on my credit card?

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The charge on your credit card statement that you’re unsure about could be from a merchant you don’t recognize, a fee from your card issuer, a mistake, or an unauthorized transaction.

Often, unfamiliar charges happen because you don’t recognize the merchant’s name or forgot about a scheduled purchase. If it turns out to be a fraudulent charge, major credit cards offer a $0 liability guarantee for unauthorized transactions.

However, it’s important to report unauthorized charges promptly and take precautions against identity theft, like changing passwords and reviewing your recent transactions on other financial accounts.

How to look up a charge from your credit card statement

When you see a charge on your credit card statement that you don’t recognize, it’s essential to first consider the possibility that you may not be familiar with the merchant’s name as it appears on the statement.

Credit card statements often display merchant names in a way that can be confusing or hard to identify, even for the person who made the purchase. This is particularly common with small businesses, which might use the owner’s name instead of the business name as the merchant name on the statement.

To find out about a charge on your credit card statement that you don’t recognize, follow these steps:

  1. Check the Merchant Name: Make sure you’re not overlooking the charge because the merchant name is unfamiliar. Sometimes, even if you authorized the charge, the name on your statement may not match the business name you expect. This is especially common with small businesses that may use the owner’s name.
  2. Use a Search Engine: Take the description of the charge exactly as it appears on your statement and search for it using a search engine. This can often lead you to the actual business or service associated with the charge.
  3. Check with Your Card Issuer: Look for a contact number on the back of your credit card and call your card issuer. Many card issuers have their own merchant search tools to help you identify the source of the charge.
  4. Contact the Merchants: If you remember making a purchase on the date of the charge, get in touch with the merchants you did business with. Ask them how their business name appears on credit card statements. This can help clarify the charge.

By following these steps, you can typically identify and understand any unfamiliar charges on your credit card statement.

When dealing with credit card transactions, errors can occur. If you notice a charge on your credit card statement that you don’t recognize, you have the option to dispute it. Here’s what you should do:

Before disputing a charge, check your receipts and records from the relevant time period. Ensure that you didn’t forget or overlook a purchase you authorized.

If you can’t identify the charge and it appears unfamiliar, contact the merchant first. It could be a genuine mistake, and they might be able to reverse the charge.

If the charge isn’t resolved with the merchant or if you discover that it’s from your credit card issuer, get in touch with your credit card company’s customer service. They can help you investigate and dispute the charge if necessary.

What to do if you didn’t authorize the charge

If you come across a charge on your credit card statement that you didn’t authorize, it could be a case of credit card fraud. Here’s what you should do:

First, determine which merchant is responsible for the unfamiliar charge.

Get in touch with your credit card issuer right away. You can do this by calling the phone number provided on the back of your credit card or by logging into your online credit card account. Inform your card issuer about the unauthorized charge. They will likely take steps to cancel your current credit card and issue you a new one for security purposes.

Fortunately, you typically won’t be held responsible for paying unauthorized charges made on your credit card. To protect yourself from credit card fraud, make it a habit to review your monthly credit card statements carefully. You can also monitor your charges as they appear in your online account. Staying vigilant helps you detect and address potential fraud early on.

Disputing the transaction

When you want to dispute an unauthorized charge on your credit card statement, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises you to write a letter to your credit card issuer. You can use this sample letter provided by the FTC for this purpose. However, it’s crucial to send your dispute letter to the billing inquiry address, not the one used for making payments.

You should ensure that your letter reaches your credit card company within 60 days after they sent you the first statement with a billing error. Additionally, it’s a good idea to send your dispute letter via certified mail. This way, you’ll have proof that the card issuer received your dispute.

How to read charges on your credit card statement

To read the charges on your credit card statement:

  • Review the Statement: Each month, carefully examine your entire credit card statement.
  • Transaction Order: Most credit card companies list transactions in the order they occurred. Some may group them by user or transaction type.
  • Line-by-Line Check: Go through each charge one by one. Ensure you recognize the merchant and the dollar amount.
  • Identify Unfamiliar Charges: If you come across a charge you don’t recognize, follow the steps mentioned above to try and identify it.
  • Dispute Invalid Charges: If you believe a charge is incorrect or invalid, take steps to dispute it with your credit card company.

This process helps you stay informed about your spending and ensures that you only pay for legitimate charges on your credit card.

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Where small charges come from and when you should worry

Small charges on credit cards, typically ranging from $1 to $5, can have two main origins:

  1. Pre-Authorization by Merchants: Some businesses, like gas stations, hotels, rideshare platforms, and rental car companies, often place small charges on your credit card. These charges are pre-authorizations, meant to ensure that your card is valid and has sufficient funds for a potential larger transaction. When the actual transaction occurs, the pre-authorization charge should disappear.
  2. Scam or Unauthorized Activity: Occasionally, a small charge on your credit card may signal a more serious issue. Scammers might make small charges to test if your card is active and whether you or your bank will notice the unauthorized activity. If these small, fraudulent charges go unnoticed, the scammer may proceed to use your card for more significant and unauthorized purchases.

It’s crucial to keep an eye on your credit card transactions for any suspicious or unauthorized charges. If you spot such charges, it’s advisable to report them to your bank or credit card issuer promptly to prevent further unauthorized use of your card.

How do you cancel a credit card transaction?

To cancel a credit card transaction, follow these steps:

If you want to cancel a transaction for goods or services, start by getting in touch with the merchant. Their terms and conditions will determine if cancellation is possible. This approach is also helpful for resolving issues like overcharges or waiting for a refund after returning an order.

If you don’t recognize a transaction on your credit card statement or have trouble canceling a recurring membership, contact your credit card issuer. They can initiate a dispute process to investigate and resolve the issue.

In summary, canceling a credit card transaction involves communicating with the merchant and, if necessary, involving your credit card company, depending on the specific circumstances.

What if I see something unfamiliar on my credit card statement?

If you notice something on your credit card statement that you don’t recognize, here’s what you can do:

  1. Review the Transaction: First, check the date of the transaction and try to recall what you were doing that day. Sometimes, you might have made a purchase and simply forgotten about it. For example, you might have stopped for an unexpected lunch.
  2. Check with Authorized Users: If you share your credit card account with family members or authorized users, ask them if they made the transactions in question. They might have used the card without informing you.
  3. Consider Scheduled Purchases: Think about whether you scheduled any purchases in advance that are just now appearing on your statement. Sometimes, there can be a delay in charges showing up.

By following these steps, you can often clarify unfamiliar charges on your credit card statement and determine whether they are legitimate or require further investigation.

How long do you have to dispute a credit card transaction?

You have 60 days from the time you receive your credit card statement with a billing error to dispute the charge. You must inform your credit card company in writing within this period, even if you are in discussions with the merchant about the issue. The 60-day time frame does not stop during these negotiations.

How do I find out who charged my credit card?

If you see a charge on your credit card that you don’t recognize, follow these steps to find out who charged your card:

  1. Check for Abbreviated or Shortened Names: Sometimes, the business name on your credit card statement may be abbreviated or shortened, making it hard to recognize. Look for any clues in the name.
  2. Search Online: Use a search engine to look up the name from your statement. It may lead you to the actual company or service related to the charge.
  3. Investigate Parent Companies: Some businesses appear on statements under the name of their parent company. If you find such a name, research the parent company to determine the source of the charge.
  4. Payment Processors: Payments can also appear under the name of the payment processing service the business uses. Search for the payment processor’s name to identify the associated business.

By following these steps, you can usually identify the source of the charge on your credit card statement. If you still can’t determine the origin, consider contacting your credit card issuer for assistance in resolving the issue.

How can I protect my credit card from unauthorized purchases?

To protect your credit card from unauthorized purchases, you can:

  • Keep Your Card Secure: Don’t let others use your credit card, and always keep it in a safe place.
  • Avoid Sharing Information: Never share your credit card details through email, text messages, or on social media.
  • Shred Documents: Dispose of documents containing your credit card information by shredding them.
  • Don’t Leave Cards in Vehicles: Avoid leaving your credit cards in vehicles, as this may make them accessible to thieves, whether the vehicle is locked or not.
  • Report Loss or Theft: If your credit cards are lost or stolen, promptly report the incident to your credit card issuer to prevent unauthorized charges.

Following these practices can help you safeguard your credit card information and minimize the risk of unauthorized purchases.

Why are merchant names different on my credit card statement?

Merchant names on your credit card statement may appear differently due to reasons like using a DBA (doing business as) name or their parent company’s name. This variation in names can be confusing and make it hard for you to recognize a charge.

Before disputing a charge, it’s advisable to contact the merchant for transaction details. This way, you can confirm if you remember the store and what they sell. A simple phone call to the merchant, along with some online research, can often help you identify a charge even if the name on your statement doesn’t seem familiar.

The bottom line

Regularly reviewing your credit card statement means checking it on a routine basis, like every month when you receive it in the mail or online. This helps you spot any charges that you don’t recognize or didn’t make.

If you believe a charge on your credit card statement is a mistake, it’s crucial to contact your credit card company and dispute it within 60 days of the transaction. This time frame is important because after 60 days, it might be more difficult to resolve the issue.

If you suspect that a transaction is the result of credit card fraud, it’s a good idea to report it immediately. Additionally, you should consider locking your card to prevent any more fraudulent charges from happening.