Ordered by Mistake? What to Do With an Accidental Credit Card Charge

Fear not — there are steps you can take to fix a credit card error.
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Written by Sara Rathner
Senior Writer/Spokesperson
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Edited by Kenley Young
Assigning Editor
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Nerdy takeaways
  • First, if possible, try to resolve the issue with the merchant directly. If that doesn't work, consider a chargeback.

  • Chargebacks allow consumers to reverse a disputed charge directly through their credit card provider.

  • Chargebacks can protect you from erroneous charges and credit card fraud, but also from poor quality products and services.

  • Chargebacks are easy to initiate and are often successful, but they don’t cover all scenarios.

Online shopping mistakes happen all the time. You accidentally select the wrong color or size of an item from a drop-down menu, or click “add to cart” or “submit order” twice because you didn’t think it worked the first time. You may notice it immediately when the final price on the order confirmation is much higher than you expected, or when duplicate or incorrect items arrive on your doorstep.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be stuck with two identical ill-fitting sweaters in whatever color puce is, when you actually wanted one flattering sweater in plum. Here’s how you can back your way out of a mistaken purchase.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Before you try to reverse the error, it’s important to know what isn’t considered a mistaken charge. You’re still on the hook for charges made by your authorized user. Similarly, if you forget to cancel a free trial subscription before the fee kicks in, the charge is annoying, but not an error. You can call the service to see if they’ll refund your money, or let you cancel the service early.

Work with the merchant first

If you hit “order now” in haste and immediately notice your mistake, you may be able to cancel the order for a brief period of time. For example:

  • Amazon.com and Target.com purchases can be canceled if they haven’t shipped yet (for Amazon purchases through third-party sellers, that’s typically one business day, but it can vary).

  • Macy’s gives you 30 minutes to cancel online shipped orders, and 15 minutes to cancel online orders to pick up at the store.

  • Saks Fifth Avenue grants you 20 minutes to cancel an order.

Point being, the moment you notice you messed up, act fast. Once the cancellation window closes and your item ships, the next option is to return it for a refund. While you wait for the package to arrive, review the merchant’s return policy so you know how long you have to send it back, and where you have to drop the package off. Initiate the return process so you can get the shipping label ready to go.

Some purchases, like items marked for final sale, aren’t refundable. In this case, you can try selling the item, or save it to regift to someone who would look better in puce.

When to dispute a charge with the credit card company

Whenever possible, request help directly from the merchant before you dispute a charge with your credit card company. If you were the one who made the purchasing mistake, working with the merchant may be your only course of action.

But if the merchant charges you the wrong amount or the item you bought is defective, disputing the charge can be another way to resolve your issue. However, there are some rules when it comes to credit card chargebacks.

If you were billed the incorrect amount, you have 60 days to dispute the charge. Your credit card company must investigate within 30 days of your complaint, and resolve the dispute within 90 days.

You may also want to request a chargeback if you’re not satisfied with the quality of the item you bought. The rules surrounding this type of issue are a bit more complicated. First, your rights to dispute the charge with the credit card issuer can depend on state laws where you live — if your state allows you to sue the seller, you can also dispute a charge with the credit card issuer for a defective item. Also, the item must have cost more than $5, and you must have made the purchase in your home state or within 100 miles of your current billing address. You must have tried to resolve the issue with the merchant first, too.

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