What to Know
- Experts say the best way to dispute a charge it to try and work it out with the merchant first.
- If you win a dispute through your credit card company, the merchant can still pursue what it thinks you owe.
- Experts say your choices at that point are to pay the bill or fight it legally.
Matthew Cohen was planning a long weekend getaway to Chicago, and rented a car in advance through Dollar. But when he showed up at the counter, Cohen said Dollar told him the car he reserved wasn’t there.
“The rep said there were no cars available. And we’d have to wait two hours for cars to show up at the level we had purchased,” he said.
But Cohen said Dollar offered him an upgraded car for an extra $75 a day.
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“I asked the rep if they could waive the upgrade fee. And she said no. I thought that was inappropriate. Because usually they would offer us a free upgrade if they have no cars at the rate we purchased. But we were rushing and had no choice, so I just signed it and would fight it later on,” he said.
And Cohen did fight it later -- with his credit card company. He disputed the extra cost of the upgrade, about $380, and his credit card company sided with him and refunded the money.
So he was stunned when Dollar later sent him letters telling him to pay up or it would turn the issue over to a collections agency. It also suspended his rental privileges.
“I was a little nervous. I don't like getting in trouble with not paying bills or invoices,” said Cohen.
Kevin Brasler with the consumer advocacy site checkbook.org told the I-Team you should first try to work out your complaint with the merchant before filing a dispute with your credit card company. If you don't get anywhere, then you can file a dispute. Brasler said consumers overwhelmingly win disputes, but the decision isn’t set in stone, and, while rare, the merchant can still try to collect what it thinks you owe.
If that happens, Brasler said you have two choices: pay up or continue to fight, which could mean hiring a lawyer. But if you do choose to fight, Brasler said the fact that you won your dispute will help your case.
“If you do need to go to small claims court, if you have been reported to a credit reporting agency, it helps your case to say -- look, this was already decided by the credit card company,” said Brasler.
Cohen didn’t have to go that far. He reached out to the NBC4 I-Team instead and it reached out to Dollar. The company said, in part: When a reserved car isn’t available, it’s standard practice to provide an upgrade at no additional cost.
It said it would no longer pursue Cohen for the cost of the upgrade.