What Is This Charge On My Credit Card? (2024)

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It happens to everyone. Your credit card statement arrives and for the life of you, you don’t remember the purchase. Before you assume your card was hacked, know that there are other potential reasons you may not recognize the charge. We’ll outline them below.

Merchant Names May be Different on Your Bill

Some charges will come through as an alternative trading name for the company or list the location where the company is headquartered, rather than the location of your purchase.

Also, the naming conventions that try to offer clarification may be more challenging for some vendors. According to Visa’s Merchant Data Standards, the name must convey both the name most prominently displayed by the merchant and the merchant’s “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. While the chosen name may make sense at the moment of purchase, when your bill arrives 28 days later, that food truck purchase at Señor Burrito can show up on your statement as parent company ABC Incorporated.

Another issue is that transaction data is limited to 25 characters. For most merchants this length should be sufficient, but when it’s not, some interesting abbreviations come into play. Some transactions may also require that supplemental data is included in those 25 characters. Sometimes websites that redirect you to a different payment processor may include a combination of both companies. While both names help contextualize your order, not all purchases are that clear.

What You Should Do If You Don’t Recognize a Charge

Try Online Research

A quick online search of the merchant’s name exactly as it appears on your statement will likely generate some clarity. Chances are good that if you didn’t recognize a transaction, others had a similar experience. You can often find enough information from an online search to identify the merchant in question, including their phone number.

If you still need more information, log into your account. Some credit card providers offer additional information online or within their apps. Chase, for instance, offers expanded merchant details on the transaction line within your recent activity. You may find the website and phone number of the merchant.

While you’re reviewing your statement, check the category assigned to the charge. A $4 transaction titled simply “Wagon Road” may not make sense, but in conjunction with the category of “Travel” could remind you it was for a parking garage.

Check Your Calendar

Often the most challenging element of identifying a purchase is due to the amount of time that’s lapsed since you made the charge. Look at the other transactions from that same date and check to see what else you did that day. You may be able to identify the purchase by putting it in the context of your schedule.

Ask Anyone Who May Have Access to Your Card

Check with any authorized users on the account to see if they made the purchase. Ask if there’s anyone in your household who may have borrowed your card. Life is busy, they may have even asked for permission and you forgot the conversation. The purchase could be an accident as well. If you share a computer or ordered items on a website before, your payment information may be saved as the default payment method.

Contact the Merchant

If you’re still stumped, reach out to the merchant by phone. Some cards include the merchant phone number right on the transaction line of your statement. To save room, the hyphens are often removed, so it may simply appear to be a string of 10 numbers.

Similar to the online search, if you’re confused by the merchant name, it’s likely people have called before. Mention that you do recognize the purchase on your card statement and ask if they can tell you more about their company and what they sell.

If you don’t see a phone number on your bill, call the number on the back of your card and ask them for help getting contact information for a merchant.

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How to Dispute a Transaction

The Fair Credit Billing Act protects you against unauthorized charges and billing errors. Depending on which issue you have, your first step may be different.

Contact the Retailer

If you were double billed or you suspect a math error, contact the merchant directly and explain the issue. In many cases, the merchant can correct the mistake. If they can, your problem will be resolved quickly.

If the merchant is unwilling to correct the issue, you can reach out to your card provider for support.

Contact Your Card Provider

If you still don’t recognize the charge after investigation or if you identified a fraudulent charge, contact your card provider to request a chargeback and begin the dispute process. You can initiate a transaction dispute online or by calling the phone number on the back of your card.

For most card providers, this action will be enough, although you will need to provide additional information and may be asked for supporting documentation. The Federal Trade Commission also recommends providing a written letter disputing the charge to cover your bases.

All major card companies offer zero liability protection for unauthorized charges, so you can rest easy.

How To Stay on Top of Future Charges

Track Your Expenses

It’s not only useful for budgeting, but if you have a record of all your spending you can easily reference what you bought on a given day. This can save you a lot of time and hassle the next time you don’t recognize a purchase.

Take Steps to Protect Your Card

If your card was accessed by someone you know, without your permission, take a few extra steps to protect your card information. Remove your credit card info from any electronic wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay. Change your password for online payment processors or remove your card as a saved payment method

If you choose to remove an authorized user, you can call the number of the back of your card and initiate that process.

Review Your Statement Regularly

It’s a good idea to review the transaction history on your statement each month. In most cases, you have 60 days from the date of the bill to report fraudulent activity. Reading your credit card bill each month will ensure you catch any mistakes right away.

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Bottom Line

It may not be cause for concern if you don’t recognize a particular charge on your billing statement. Do a little research to determine if you actually made the purchase. If it’s a billing error, contact the merchant to resolve the issue. If you believe the charge to be fraudulent, you should contact your card provider to begin the dispute process.

What Is This Charge On My Credit Card? (2024)
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