How to get a refund from your credit card

You’ve just returned from a Mexican vacation and there are hotel charges on your credit card you don’t recognize. Here’s what you need to know to wrangle a refund from your credit card company.



From the February/March 2012 issue of the magazine.


You’ve just returned from a Mexican vacation and there are hotel charges on your credit card you don’t recognize. Or maybe that blender you ordered over the Internet never arrived. Can you get your money back? Here’s what you need to know to wrangle a refund from your credit card company.

1. Goods not satisfactory?

Your first stop in any dispute over credit card charges must be at the store or service you dealt with in the first place. Your credit card company will usually abide by the return policy of the merchant in question: if a store only allows returns within one week, for example, you’re unlikely to get a refund from a credit card company 60 days later. Remember, it is the merchant’s responsibility to provide paperwork or other proof that you got the goods or services you’ve been charged for, even if it’s a disputed day on the Mexican Riviera. Your odds of winning your dispute will improve significantly if you have all your original receipts.

2. Thirty days and counting

If the merchant doesn’t solve the problem, your next stop is the credit card company. “People really need to check their credit card statement carefully every month,” advises Andy MacPherson, VP MasterCard at President’s Choice Financial. You have 30 days to complain about a problem. However, for items that were never received, down payments on custom orders and online purchases, the clock typically starts from the expected delivery date. Where there’s an obvious explanation for your problem, the credit card company may fix it over the phone. Detailed investigations may take four to six weeks to resolve. Keep records of all interactions with customer service agents, as this will help if things get complicated.

3. Escalation

If you still don’t have results, it’s time to escalate your case. “Keep in mind that it may be the job of the first person you talk to on the phone to say ‘no,’” says Stephanie Holmes-Winton, a financial adviser and blogger at “If that’s the case, you need to talk to a supervisor.” Holmes-Winton recommends being polite but forceful as you pursue your complaint up the ladder. In a lengthy dispute with a credit card company over travel insurance, she demanded the firm listen to the tape of her initial phone call. Her claim was immediately vindicated, and she received a $1,000 refund cheque by courier. Preparation and confidence pay off.

4. Final solutions

If the regular chain of command can’t solve your dispute, you still have several options left. First, check your credit card company’s ombudsman policy. The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments represents many credit cards and can arbitrate settlements up to $350,000. You can also complain to the federal government’s Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Another great way to motivate the credit card company to solve your issue, according to Holmes-Winton, is to make your case using Facebook or Twitter. “I’ve found many companies will respond a lot quicker to an online posting than if you just phone to complain,” she says.

4 comments on “How to get a refund from your credit card

  1. I had an incident where a motel double charged me for a room. My final escalation was writing the CEO of BMO, where it was finally resolved and credited back to my Credit Card.


  2. Hello.

    Great tips! And i completely agree with you and I am so glad i read this blog…

    Thank you


  3. Sure, you can scrutinize each and every item in your credit card bill to make sure that there aren’t any erroneous charges and pay as much as you can over the minimum payment due before the due date, but do you know what the best way to save money on your credit card bills is? Use less credit. Having only one or two cards for express use on emergency expenses will net you a good chunk of change that would otherwise go to membership fees, interest, et al.
    Save enough money for emergencies, put away cash to save and invest, and spend only the money that you have, not what your credit limit allows you to charge. Kinda hard to implement at first, but it is literally and figuratively worth it to, as the saying goes, live well within your means.
    Go through your monthly budget and look at how much you’re shelling out for peripheral charges on your credit cards. Plus, you’ll practice lots more discretion when you transact and buy with cash as opposed to credit.



  4. I wonder what happens if a traveller pay for a vacation condo using their credit card 6 months in advance (to receive a discount) and the traveller gets to his vacation destination only to find out that the previous owner has sold the condo since? If the condo is paid for in full using the credit card – is there any recourse?


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