Editorial Policy

How to Complain About Your Credit Card

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By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.
January 2, 2013

What do you do if your credit card company is doing something you think is unfair and isn’t responding to your requests? Maybe it’s ignoring a billing dispute, or sneaky terms in your contract are costing you a bundle.

You do have options.

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 has done much to clean up the credit card industry, according to a recent report from the Center for Responsible Lending. Terms are clearer, and consumers are better protected from fees and rate hikes.

However, problems can and do still occur.

Here’s how to make your voice heard.

1. Call your credit card issuer
In many cases, a simple call to your card issuer can be enough to resolve the dispute. Card issuers generally want to keep good customers, and if you’ve had your credit card a long time and have been making payments on time, your issuer will likely want to fix the problem.

If you don’t get results with the first person you speak to, ask to speak to a supervisor. If that still doesn’t help, call back later and try again. While credit card companies have certain basic policies, they are implemented differently by different customer service reps.

2. File a complaint with the CFPB
If talking to your card issuer doesn’t get you anywhere, the next step is to file a complaint. With the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), this is now easier than ever. The CFPB began accepting credit card complaints in 2011 and, in June 2012, established a public online complaint database, where consumers can submit disputes related to any financial service product, including credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, student loans and credit reporting.

Making your voice heard may not just help resolve your specific issue — it makes a difference in the long run by helping the CFPB pinpoint common issues consumers encounter with credit cards and other banking products. The information gathered helps the CFPB set priorities for its future enforcement or rule-making activities, and it creates greater transparency in the financial services market.

To file a complaint, go to consumerfinance.gov/complaint, and choose the relevant financial services product. If you prefer to file your complaint by phone, you can call the CFPB  toll-free: 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).

Once submitted, your complaint is assigned a tracking number. If you have not already contacted your card issuer to resolve the complaint, the CFPB will direct you to do so. It will also direct you to other government agencies if they are a better fit for your issue. Once the CFPB accepts your complaint, your credit card company will have 15 days to respond — and 60 days to resolve it (unless it’s particularly complicated), according to the CFPB.

If your complaint remains unresolved, the CFPB will then look into the dispute to see if any laws were violated and if any action is needed. If your complaint is resolved, but not to your satisfaction, the CFPB will continue to act as an intermediary between you and your credit card company. You can follow the status of your complaint by using the tracking number assigned to your case.

Which are the complaints most commonly filed? According to the CFPB’s quarterly reports, the most common credit card issues are disputes about billing inaccuracies. In many cases, consumers don’t realize that they need to notify card issuers of billing errors or billing disputes within 60 days to have a claim honored. Similarly, many consumers don’t realize that card issuers won’t stop recurring credit card charges and that they have to contact the merchant directly to stop them.

Other common complaints involve interest rates, as well as identity theft and credit card fraud.

Other options for filing a complaint
If you feel your issue warrants additional attention, you might avail yourself of other avenues for filing a complaint. These include:

  • Your state’s attorney general. While your attorney general won’t look at your individual case, the AG’s office will look into the matter if it gets a lot of complaints about the same issuer or company, so be sure to lodge complaints about dubious business practices. Simply look up the attorney general’s website for your state and follow its instructions for submitting a complaint.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC does not take up individual consumer complaints. Instead, it keeps track of general consumer complaints against companies, business practices and identity theft. Filing a complaint will help the FTC detect patterns of wrongdoing and may lead to investigations and prosecutions. In particular, if you have complaints about debt collection practices, credit repair companies or debt settlement services, it can be useful to file a complaint at FTCComplaintAssistant.gov.
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB). Sometimes the issue is not your credit card issuer, but the merchants with whom you do business. If a company has been making unauthorized recurring payments to your credit card or is making it unusually difficult to cancel the recurring payments, in addition to disputing the charges with your card issuers, you should also consider filing a complaint with the BBB.  Be sure you have a complete record of your correspondence with the company you’re complaining about. To submit a complaint, use the BBB’s online complaint form.