Correcting Bank Account Errors — November 2012, reviewed January 2013

Do you check your bank account and credit account statements regularly?  Do you go through a process to verify their accuracy?  What do you do if there’s a problem?

We have consumer rights to correct account errors. The Fair Credit Billing Act and Electronic Fund Transfers Act establish procedures for resolving mistakes on credit account and bank account statements.

When many customers find a mistake on their bill, they pick up the phone and call the company to correct the problem.  This is good to do but just telephoning doesn’t trigger the legal safeguards under the law.  To be protected, you must send a separate written billing error notice to the creditor.  Your notice must reach the creditor within 60 days after the first bill containing the error was mailed to you.  This rule generally applies to ‘open end’ credit accounts, such as credit cards or revolving charge accounts, such as department store cards.

The Electronic Funds Transfer Act applies to electronic fund transfers in transactions using ATM’s, debit cards, and other electronic banking transactions that can result in the withdrawal of money from your bank account.  Under this law you again have 60 days to notify your financial institution of the problem.

However, if you misplace or lose a debit or credit card and do not report the missing card within two days of realizing it’s gone, you may lose from $50 to $500.  Not reporting an unauthorized transfer or withdrawal within 60 days of the statement being sent to you puts you at risk for unlimited loss.

The word to the wise is to watch for and check your account statements, whether from the bank or a creditor, to safeguard your money.