incorrect charges credit debit card switzerland guide
Accounts & Cards

Mistakes on Bank and Credit Card Statements

October 27, 2023 - Ralf Beyeler

Find out what to do when payments you did not make are charged to your credit card or debit card in this guide.

When you review your credit card statement or bank account statement, you may notice incorrect transactions that you did not make. This guide explains why incorrect charges may occur, and what you should do when you find mistakes on your card or account statements.

Why do incorrect transactions happen?

There are a number of situations that may result in incorrect or unexpected charges to your credit card or debit card:

  • The store, hotel, or restaurant accidentally charged the wrong amount.
  • Your card issuer charged you a foreign transaction fee for a purchase you made in Switzerland.
  • A merchant such as a rental car company or a hotel fully charged the required deposit to your account instead of simply placing a temporary hold on your card balance.
  • Fraudsters have gotten ahold of your card information and have used it to make fraudulent purchases or cash withdrawals.
  • Fraudsters have managed to recreate your card information using randomly generated data, and have used it to make purchases from merchants that do not require multiple-factor authentication.

Is the charge actually incorrect?

Just because you do not recognize a transaction does not necessarily mean that it is not correct. The following situations can often result in a false alarm:

  • You used your card to pay for a purchase from a certain merchant, but the money is charged to your card under a different company name that you are not familiar with.
  • You made a purchase, but have since forgotten that you made it.
  • You signed up for a free trial for a subscription, and the service provider placed a small hold on your card balance to check whether the card you entered for the subscription actually exists.
  • You used your card at a gas station, and the amount charged to your card is higher than the cost of the gas you put in. This can happen because many gas stations require advance payment when you pay at the pump, but the final cost of the gas is only known after you have tanked.
  • A merchant such as a hotel or rental car company placed a provisional hold on your card. This deposit can be several hundred francs.

The last three situations are the cause of many misunderstandings. For example, the mobile app linked to your credit card or bank account may show a charge much higher than the amount you expected to pay. However, your monthly statement will show the correct amount.

The reason for these misunderstandings is that card transactions are processed in two different steps. In the first step, your bank or credit card issuer reserves a certain amount of money for a payment. Transactions in this stage are often marked as provisional or pending in credit card and banking apps and online portals. The money is only permanently charged to your card in the second step.

Can using mobile apps from card issuers and banks help me avoid paying incorrect charges?

Many credit card issuers and some banks give you the option of receiving an alert every time a transaction occurs. Normally, you receive these alerts within seconds.

Depending on who issues your card, you may also have the option of specifying the exact kind of transactions that you want to be alerted for. For example, you can specify that you only want to receive alerts for purchases or withdrawals above a certain size.

The mobile apps from card issuers and banks can help you to find out about incorrect charges as soon as they are made, giving you a chance to react immediately. In order to avoid misunderstandings, it is important to check whether a transaction is only provisional or has been permanently charged to your card.

How can I recognize incorrect charges?

In order to quickly recognize incorrect charges, it is helpful to use the mobile app from your card issuer or bank. Set up alerts so that you are immediately informed about card transactions.

It is very important that you review your monthly credit card and bank account statements right after you receive them. When reviewing your statements, make sure to pay attention to smaller, less outstanding transactions as well. The reason for this is that fraudsters often make small fraudulent transactions that are likely to go unnoticed, but they charge these transactions to many different cards on a recurring basis.

How can I avoid incorrect charges?

There are a number of steps you can take to minimize the risk of getting into uncomfortable situations in the first place:

  • Always ask the merchant for a receipt. The receipt serves as proof and gives you a reference with which to compare charges on your statement. Tip: If you prefer not to collect paper receipts, you can simply photograph your receipt with your phone.
  • Always make sure that nobody is watching you when you enter your PIN code. Avoid using easily-guessable PIN codes (like your birthday, car license plate, or ZIP code), and do not share your PIN code with other people.
  • Do not click on any links in messages that ask you for sensitive personal information like your credit card number, as these could be phishing attempts.

What should I do if I find incorrect charges?

If you find incorrect charges, you need to react quickly, as they must be reported within 30 days. First, you should make sure that the charge is actually incorrect. Once you are sure that a charge is incorrect, you should take the following steps:

  • If you suspect that the charge is a fraudulent transaction, contact your credit card’s issuer or the bank that issues the debit card. The card will then be frozen, and you will receive a new one.
  • If there are mistakes in the way a charge was booked, contact the merchant from whom you made the purchase, and ask them to refund the money. Reputable merchants will refund the money immediately and without any hassles if it is obvious that the charge is incorrect. Tip: Ask the merchant to send you a confirmation (by email, for example) when the money is refunded.
  • If you are unable to contact the merchant, your Swiss card issuer will help you to do this.
  • If the merchant does not refund the money, you should immediately contact your credit card’s issuer, or your bank in the case of a debit card. You will normally be required to complete and submit a special form to dispute a charge and request a chargeback. The dispute arbitration process begins as soon as you submit the application.
  • If your card issuer or bank considers your claim to be unfounded, then you will not receive a refund, and in some cases, you will even have to pay an administrative charge on top. But if your card’s issuer rules that your claim is justified, then the money that was incorrectly charged to your account will be refunded.

Do I ever have to pay for incorrect charges?

There are situations in which you will have to cover the cost of incorrect charges.


  • If a transaction was authorized using your PIN code, then it is assumed that you agreed to the charge.
  • If an online transaction was authorized using multiple-factor authentication via an SMS or mobile app, then it is assumed that you agreed to the charge.

In these situations, the chance of successfully claiming a refund is smaller. But card issuers and banks may be accommodating, depending on the circumstances.

If you are not okay with covering the costs of an incorrect transaction, it is technically possible to pursue the dispute in a court of law. But this can be a risky and expensive process, especially if the transaction involved a party outside of Switzerland. Before attempting to take a dispute to court, you should first get legal consultation on the matter.  

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Expert Ralf Beyeler
Ralf Beyeler is the telecom expert at and also covers other areas of personal finance.
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