Double Take

I’ve had an account with a credit card company since 1990. In September 2006, I was charged twice for car services. On the September bill from the car services company, I was credited for the first transaction and only charged for the second transaction. Therefore, I sent documentation to the credit card company proving I was charged twice for the same work. How do I clear this up?–T.D. Inman, Via the Internet

Building and maintaining a positive credit history is challenging, so do not ruin what sounds like a long credit history based on the principle of not wanting to be charged twice. If left unpaid, the balance could reflect negatively on your credit report. The solution is simple: Pay the bill and then dispute it.
Although you sent documentation, you must file a dispute with the credit card company. Send a letter by certified mail to the “billing inquiries” address. Technically, according to the Fair Credit Billing Act (, you should write the letter within 60 days after receiving the first bill containing the error.

While the bill is in dispute, you may “withhold payment on the disputed amount (and related charges), and the creditor may not take any legal or other action to collect the disputed amount,” says the Federal Trade Commission. Under these circumstances, your credit should not be threatened. If your bill does have an error, the creditor must explain, in writing, the corrections that will be made to the account.

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