Can you get overpayment back if you paid card balance in full by mistake?

Issuers will refund you the amount over the minimum payment due -- but they're not always required to

The Fine Print with Fred Williams

Fred O. Williams is senior reporter for CreditCards.com. A business journalist since 1987, his work has appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, the Buffalo News and USA Today.

 

After paying the full credit card balance by mistake, can I get the overpayment back?

Card issuers generally say they will refund the amount over the minimum payment due, although they are not required to – and the refund may take longer than you would like.

Expert Q&A

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

It’s easy to pay more than you intended on your credit card account.

Online payment screens feature a menu of options including "pay statement balance" and "pay minimum payment." Click the wrong one and suddenly you're out of debt – and out of money.

"My husband mistakenly paid one of our credit cards' full amount due instead of the minimum payment like he meant to," a card user named Melanie wrote in a question to CreditCards.com. "This has caused our bank account to go in the negative and caused many overdraft fees because of the mistake."

What are your rights?

See related: 5 mistakes you should avoid after paying off credit card debt

What the law says about card overpayments

Under banking law, card issuers must return payments that are over the balance due.

  • If you have a credit balance of more than $1, it should be refunded to you seven days after your written request.
  • A credit balance means that, instead of owing the card issuer money, they owe you.
  • A credit balance can be the result of a mistaken overpayment, or the reversal of a fee or purchase that you've already paid for.

When you don't have a credit balance, card issuers are under no obligation to refund a mistakenly large payment.

But a spot check of several large issuers found that they are willing to make a refund in this situation.

The key point is, they will refund only the amount of the payment that is over the minimum payment due. That ensures you meet your minimum obligation for the month. 

How to request a refund on a card overpayment

"In general, customers who have made a payment error can call customer service to request the payment be reduced to the minimum payment amount," Bank of America representative Betty Riess said in an email interview.

Discover also will refund the amount paid that was over the minimum due. "Our standard method is check, however, a cardmember can always request an expedited refund," representative Brittney Mitchell wrote in response to questions.

Once the payment has cleared, meaning the funds have transferred to Discover, the company can refund the amount back to the customer's bank within 48 hours via the ACH bank-to-bank payment network, she said.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, one of the largest U.S. credit unions, indicated it will work with cardholders who overpay. "In cases of true error, we are committed to placing priority on member experience and would work within our system’s capabilities to ensure the member’s situation was resolved as an exception," said a statement from Eric Bahl, senior director of  product and channel development.

Card overpayment refunds may take longer than you think

Based on complaints to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, however, prompt refunds are not always forthcoming.

One California consumer said they overpaid a card issued by store-card specialist Synchrony Bank by $1,200 after a stop-payment request to their bank was not processed in time.

"They said I had to wait 10 days for the overpayment check to clear and another two weeks to process reimbursement to me," the cardholder wrote in a complaint. "I don't understand why a financial institution would take two weeks to process reimbursement." The complaint was "closed with explanation," meaning no refund or other form of redress was offered.

In another complaint, a card user from Texas said they requested a refund of an overpayment by check from US Bank. But the bank sent the refund to the consumer's bank's bill payment processor instead. "Now I'm out $680," the person said. That complaint also was "closed with explanation." US Bank elected not to provide a public response to the complaint, according to the CFPB.

Tip

Tip: If you want to see how much it will cost to pay off a balance using minimum payments, CreditCards.com's minimum payment calculator can help you crunch the numbers.

Of course, it is more profitable for the card issuer to let you carry a balance – and costlier for you.

  • The bank may refund your overpayment now, but you'll have to pay that money back eventually – with interest.
  • A $500 balance carried at the average interest rate of 15.5 APR will take 24 months and more than $82 in interest to pay off, at minimum payments of $25 a month.

But if paying the full balance is going to cause overdrafts in your bank account and late fees on other bills, it may be cheaper to get the amount of the mistaken payment back.


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Updated: 10-17-2018