The charge on your credit card statement that you don’t recognize could be a charge from an unfamiliar merchant, a fee charged by the card issuer, a mistake of some sort, or an unauthorized credit card transaction.
In many cases, unfamiliar charges are simply the result of the cardholder not recognizing the merchant name on their statement, or not expecting a previously scheduled purchase. But even if the charge on your credit card statement ends up being fraudulent, all major credit cards give users a $0 liability guarantee for unauthorized charges.
It’s still best to report unauthorized charges quickly, however, and to take other steps to make sure you don’t become a victim of full-blow identity theft. This should include changing passwords and reviewing recent transactions on other financial accounts, at the very least.
How to look up a charge from your credit card statement
When you don’t recognize a charge on your credit card statement, the first thing to rule out is the possibility that you simply don’t recognize the merchant name from the statement description. Charges from merchants on a credit card statement may look confusing or unrecognizable - sometimes even to the person who authorized the charge. Some merchant names are more cryptic than others - especially small businesses that may use the business owner’s name as a merchant name rather than the name of the business.
There are a few ways to look up unfamiliar credit card charges:
- Use a search engine to look up the words in the description of the charge on your statement - exactly as it appears.
- See if your card issuer has its own merchant search tool by calling the number on the back of your credit card.
- Contact any merchants you did business with on the date of the charge, and ask them how their business shows up on credit card statements.
With all the credit card transactions that happen every day, it’s inevitable that mistakes will happen, too. But cardholders have some recourse for mistakes that end up on their credit card bills: You can dispute charges you don’t recognize.
Just realize that the credit card company will investigate the charges, so it’s a good idea to retrace your steps before you dispute the charge. Go through all receipts from that time period to make sure you didn’t simply forget about a purchase you authorized. If you come up empty-handed, call the merchant - it could be an honest mistake, and the merchant can reverse the charge. If it’s not a mistake, it’s time to call your card issuer to dispute the charge.
However, you may find out that the charge is from your credit card issuer, not a merchant. If you suspect that your card issuer has mistakenly charged you a fee, you should take it up with a customer service rep at your credit card company.
What to do if you didn’t authorize the charge
If you’ve tracked down the merchant responsible for the unrecognizable charge, but you did not authorize the charge, you may be a target of credit card fraud. You should report it to your card issuer immediately by calling the number on the back of your card or logging into your online credit card account. Your card issuer will likely cancel your credit card and send you a new one. You won’t be responsible for paying the unauthorized charges.
With all the credit card fraud in today’s financial environment, finding an unfamiliar item on a credit card statement can be alarming. But reviewing your credit card statement every month, or keeping track of charges as they post to your online account, is an important step in protecting yourself from fraud.