Correct Credit Errors Caused by Shopping Trips

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For many Americans, going to the local shopping mall can be a real hassle. Between long lines in cramped stores, scrounging in bins for merchandise, and fighting to get out of the parking lot, even a simple trip can lead to a lot of aggravation.

In some cases, however, the aggravation can extend for months, especially when a consumer's receipt doesn't match the charges on their monthly credit card bills.

If left unchecked, these charges could harm the shopper's finances. While such concerns can affect any shopper, the millions of Americans who are living paycheck-to-paycheck often face the biggest risk, because they may not have the reserve funds in their accounts to cover these extra charges.

As a result, a simple billing error like this can quickly turn into a delinquent payment, which can then lead to inaccurate information on the consumer's credit report and subsequent credit score damage if not corrected in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, as many as two-thirds of all Americans don't check their credit reports annually. These reports — which credit bureaus use to calculate the credit scores that help lenders assess loan applications — contain a consumer's comprehensive financial record. Those with good reports typically receive better interest rates on mortgages and credit cards, as well as more affordable insurance premiums.

On the other side of the coin, those with poor credit scores may have more difficulty getting access to lines of credit, and even when they do, they typically pay more for such privileges. Higher interest rates can lead to thousands of dollars in higher payments over the course of a lifetime.

Those who think they may have experienced a serious billing error from a merchant should check to see if the item is on their credit reports. Consumers can obtain a free copy of their report from each of the three credit bureaus every 12 months.

However, before doing this, consumers should review The Fair Credit Billing Act, which provides rules for billing error disputes. It also contains information about how to handle unauthorized charges, math mistakes, and instances when promised items aren't delivered.

This may mean going back to the local shopping center and talking to the manager or supervisor of the establishment and explaining the error. Consumers should also make a detailed record about their visit for use in future claims, a move that can also be integral in removing the charge from a credit card statement.

Once an error is verified, consumers should contact their financial provider to inform them of the mistake. Consumers can do this by first contacting the bank or lender on the phone and then sending in copies of the receipts that contain the errors.

Corrections take about 30 to 45 days to appear on a credit report after a dispute is registered. However, consumers may still have to contact their merchant at a later date to make sure the improper payment has been waived.

Consumers who experience an improper charge have 60 days to dispute the item with their credit card company. Typically, lenders will ask for copies of receipts, written agreements, or other documents to get a charge removed from the company's records.

This may seem like a lot of effort to get rid of an improper charge, but by proving that a delinquency was caused by a merchant error, consumers may be able to avoid significant damage to their credit scores.

In addition, by successful ridding themselves of credit errors, consumers can help maintain their financial well-being and help optimize their household budgets, not to mention save more for long-term goals such as a child's college fund or their own retirement.


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