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.
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 themoneyfinder.ca. “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.