It’s easy to pay more than you intended on your credit card account, but card issuers will generally refund the amount over the minimum payment due — but the refund may take longer than you’d like.
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. And that can cause your bank account to go negative and be subjected to overdraft fees.
What are your rights in this situation? Keep reading to find out.
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 issue a refund in this situation.
The key point is that 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 senior vice president Betty Riess says.
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,” former public relations specialist Brittney Mitchell said.
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,” Eric Bahl, senior director of marketing, said in a statement.
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.
Card overpayment refunds might go to the wrong place
In another complaint, a card user from Texas said they requested a refund from U.S. Bank of an overpayment by check. 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.” U.S. Bank elected not to provide a public response to the complaint, according to the CFPB.
Of course, it’s 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. For example, 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.