Saturday, May 29, 2010

Protection perks,nix billing errors,unauthorized use,shoody goods-4 ways to get money back from credit card purchase

The Credit CARD Act that recently kicked into high gear this year is often hailed as one of the more consumer-friendly legislations passed on credit card reform, but it’s important to give due credit to the giant shoulders it stands upon. The Credit CARD Act is, in essence, an upgrade for the Truth in Lending Act, which has been on the books working for you since 1968. One of the best things that the Truth in Lending Act, which has been amended and revised several times throughout the decades, does for you is protect you from purchases, credit card charges and other transactions that you shouldn’t be responsible for. But in order to cash in, you have to know the law. Check out some of these common federal gotcha’s that can get you out of a credit card charge:

Nix Billing Errors with the Fair Credit Billing Act

In 1986, the Fair Credit Billing Act joined the fray in protecting you rights by making it illegal for credit card companies to charge you for mistakes made by the card issuer or the vendor. This includes:

* Clerical errors resulting in charges in the wrong amount
* Duplicate charges
* Charges for goods never received
* Calculation errors
* Late fees levied because a statement was mailed to the wrong address

The key to getting your money back from a billing error is catching it within 60 days of receiving the statement with the mistake on it. You must send a letter into your credit card company which includes your name, your account number and a written statement notifying them of the error (including the dollar amount in question and the reason for dispute). After that, the credit card company must launch an investigation which must be resolved within 90 days or two billing cycles (whichever comes first). Meanwhile, you can withhold payment for the amount in question – but you still have to make your minimum payment. If you win your dispute, the erroneous amount deducted will be credited to your account.

Get Paid Back for Unauthorized Use

There’s some debate over how much you’ll owe the credit card company if someone nabs your identity and goes on a spending spree, but the range is squarely between $0 and $50, thanks to federal law. For credit cards, you are automatically absolved for any charges that occur after you report the card as lost or stolen. For fraudulent charges made prior to that, you may be liable to pay up to $50, which really ain’t bad. Either way, it’s in your best interest to call that number on the back of your card ASAP. (But wait, if your card’s been stolen, how can you look at the back of the card? I’ve always wondered that. Anyway, the number is on their website or in the phonebook, too.)

Debit cards don’t have the same protections, however. You only have two days to report your card as lost or stolen to protect yourself from liability from fraudulent charges. So, if someone steals your debit card on Monday, goes out and buys $50,000 worth of Bacon Salt on Tuesday and you don’t get on the horn until Friday, then you’re out of luck. Watch those statements closely.

Disputes Over Shoddy Goods

There are numerous reasons to pay with plastic even if you have cash, but here’s one more. If you make a purchase in your home state or within 100 miles of your home address and the quality isn’t as advertised or the product is an obvious sham, you can dispute it through your credit card issuer. How? Call them up and tell them to stop payment. This protection is also part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, so the process is much the same. Oftentimes, your credit card company will do a chargeback or cancel the transaction if you win your dispute. They do appreciate it if you try to resolve the issue directly with the merchant first, however, and may even request to see evidence of your efforts. So, next time you’re worried that a product is a ripoff and there’s no moneyback guarantee, get some insurance and pay with your credit card.

Purchase Protection Perks

This last one isn’t a federal protection – it’s actually a perk offered by most credit card issuers. We’ve talked about price protection and extended warranties here at MYC before, but these can’t be overlooked in a rundown of convenient ways to get your money back from your credit card company. As a service, credit card companies will often protect your purchases from theft or damage within 90 days of purchase. They’ll also protect you for a certain amount of time after the manufacturer’s warranty expires in case your gadget goes kaput. In fact, if you buy a nifty gizmo on Tuesday and the price drops on Thursday, you can even file a claim to get the difference back. Not bad.

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover all have their own online portals for activating this protection, but in most cases, you don’t have to. However, registering your products beforehand will streamline the claims process if something happens.

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