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What happens if you overpay your credit card bill by mistake?

If you have a negative balance on your card account, the law says you can ask for a refund of the excess money

Summary

What if you find that you have accidentally overpaid your credit card bill? If you have an excess, or negative, balance on your card, the federal law offers ways for your issuer to address the situation, including crediting you the amount of the overpayment.

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When times are tough, people like to hold on to their money. With the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, this is one such time.

What if you find that you have accidentally overpaid your card bill? That’s an easy mistake to make, particularly if you hit the wrong keys during an online payment.

The situation could also arise if you are refunded some money for a returned purchase, for instance, and also made the full payment on your bill. Luckily, there are ways to get this overpayment back.

See related: What’s the penalty for going over my credit limit?

What happens if you have a negative credit card balance?

If you have an excess, or negative, balance on your card, the Truth in Lending Act offers ways for your card issuer to address the situation.

  1. It could immediately credit the amount of the overpayment to your account.
  2. If the issuer does not take action and you send in a written request to your card company asking for a refund of the money, the issuer should follow up on this request within seven days of receiving it. You could also put in an electronic or oral request to have the money refunded.
  3. In case you haven’t taken any proactive steps, the issuer could also make a good faith attempt to refund to you any part of the overpayment that is still outstanding after six months. It could issue you a check, for instance, or credit your bank account. If the bank cannot locate you from your last known address or telephone number, it need not take any further action.

See related: Is it legal for a bank to place a hold on my card payment?

How to request a refund of a credit card overpayment

This sounds simple enough. For instance, the American Express online help center has a response to the frequently asked question of “how do I request a refund of a credit balance?”

According to the issuer, “You can request a refund for an overpayment through your online account. After you choose the account you made the payment to, select ‘Open a Payment Dispute,’ then choose ‘I have a credit balance on my account’ and click ‘Continue.’”

And Capital One advises online that if your issuer doesn’t automatically refund your excess payment, you can write or call it to get it back. Also, “If you prefer to leave the overpaid amount in your account, it’s like having a credit in your favor. Any new charges, up to the amount you overpaid, will be covered.”

There could be slip-ups

However, it seems getting a refund isn’t always straightforward. According to a complaint that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received last December, a consumer overpaid their balance on a BBVA credit card.

Although the balance on the card statement was only $21, they paid $170 more. When they called asking for a refund, the customer service agent assured them that they should get a check in seven to 10 business days.

When they followed up, BBVA said the money had been credited to their checking account electronically through an intermediary, considering that was the way BBVA received the money.

BBVA advised the customer to follow up with their bank. The representative also mentioned that this happens all the time. According to the CFPB database, this complaint was ultimately resolved with an explanation to the complaining consumer.

See related: How can I cancel an auto-billing if I can’t contact the sender?

Can I cancel a credit card payment if I change my mind?

What happens if you paid your card balance in full, rather than just the minimum amount due, and have second thoughts about it? That does not fall under the Truth in Lending Act legal protection for an overpayment.

In these cases, it is up to the issuer’s discretion on how to act if you request a refund of the money you paid above the minimum due. Issuers Bank of America, Discover and American Express did not respond to queries asking about how they are handling such situations today.

Talk to your issuer and see if it will refund you any money you paid over the minimum payment due. It is in the issuer’s interest to let you carry a balance so that it can collect interest charges, so you might find that issuers are willing to accommodate such a request.

And if you need the money to make other payments and find that paying interest on the balance you carry is less expensive than raising the money from other sources, this could work in your favor too.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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