Unauthorized Debit Card Charges


Consumers often complain about unauthorized charges on their debit cards. Fortunately, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) allows you to dispute unauthorized charges. EFTA also limits your liability for unauthorized charges on your account. 

To learn how to dispute unauthorized debit card charges, continue reading this page. If you need help, or if you believe your rights were violated, contact BCJ Law. To speak with our credit report attorney, call 1-800-997-5561 or complete our contact form.

How can I dispute unauthorized debit card charges?

The EFTA gives you the right to dispute unauthorized charges on your debit card within 60 days of receiving the statement that shows the unauthorized charge. Your dispute should include the following information: 

  • Name and Account Number: provide your name, account number, and any other information that is required for the bank to be able to identify you and the account with the unauthorized charge.
  • Identify the Unauthorized Charge: identify the unauthorized charge, including its date and amount.
  • Provide an Explanation: explain that you did not authorize the charge, or why you believe the charge was not authorized.

While EFTA does not require disputes to be written, financial institutions often require written confirmation of disputes if they are made orally. Generally, it is good practice to visit your local branch office to complete a dispute form in writing.

What happens after I dispute an unauthorized debit card charge?

After you dispute an unauthorized debit card charge, your bank must investigate the dispute. The timeline for the completion of the investigation varies:

  • 10 Day Investigations: Investigations must be complete within 10 business days if there is no provisional re-credit of the unauthorized charge.
  • 45 Day Investigations: Investigations may be completed within 45 business days if the unauthorized charge is provisionally re-credit within 10 business days of a dispute and the consumer has full use of the provisional re-credit.

Once an investigation is complete, banks must determine whether a charge was authorize. The findings must be given to consumers as follows:

  • When A Charge Is Unauthorized: Banks must correct errors and re-credit unauthorized charges within 1 business day after the bank determines a charge is unauthorized.
  • When A Charge Is Authorized: When banks find a charge was authorized, they must, within 3 business days, provide an explanation for their finding, and allow the consumer to request all documents relied on in the investigation.

Consumers can request additional documents and explanations if banks deny their disputes. Ultimately, the burden of proof is on the bank to prove that a charge was authorized. If the bank doesn’t meet this burden of proof, you can sue to correct erroneous investigations.

Can I be held liable for unauthorized debit charge charges?

Your liability for unauthorized charges ranges from $0 to unlimited liability depending on the circumstances:

  • Your Card Was Lost Or Stolen: You're liable for unauthorized charges caused by a lost or stolen card only if the issuer required proper ID verification to use the card (signature, PIN, etc) and if the merchant accepting the card required ID identification verification. Even if these preconditions are met, liability is capped at: $50 if the loss/theft is reported in 2-4 days, $500 if you fail to report loss/theft within 2-4 days, and unlimited liability if unauthorized charges are appear on periodic statements and you fail to report them within 60 days.
  • Your Card Did Not Leave Your Possession: If an unauthorized charge occurred, but your card was not lost or stolen, you only are liable if you fail to report within 60 days an unauthorized charge that appears on a periodic statement.

What happens if a dispute isn't investigated or liability is imposed improperly?

The EFTA allows you to sue if a bank fails to investigate a dispute properly or if it holds you liable for an unauthorized charge without authority. The EFTA provides consumers with the following relief:

  • Actual Damages: these cover any monetary loss you suffered.
  • Treble Damages: this is available for any amounts that should've been re-credited.
  • Statutory Damages: these area available in an amount of up to $1,000, but not less than $100.
  • Attorneys' Fees and Costs: if you retain an attorney for EFTA violations, banks may owe your attorneys' fees and costs.

Hire BCJ Law to help!

If you’re having debit card problems, or credit report problems, contact BCJ Law LLC for help. To speak with our credit report attorney, call 1-800-997-5561 or complete our contact form.

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