When dining out, it's convenient to pull out your rewards credit card to pay for the bill.
It's was a great meal and a great time, until a few days later when you notice your credit card account history is showing a significantly higher transaction amount than expected.
There could be many reasons for this:
- You accidentally tipped the wrong amount.
- The restaurant charged you incorrectly for your meal. (Maybe you missed the extra beverages listed on the bill.)
- The waiter entered the wrong amount, whether accidentally or intentionally.
If your credit card is overcharged by a restaurant, there are a few things you should do.
1. Call the Restaurant
The first action you should take is to call the restaurant that overcharged your card.
Restaurants are incredibly busy places and it’s very easy for a mistake to cause your card to be charged incorrectly.
You should call as soon as you notice the incorrect charge.
Ask to speak to a manager and explain the situation. Provide as much information as you can, including when you visited, what you ordered, the amount you expected to be charged, and how much you were actually charged.
Most restaurant managers will be happy to help you sort out the issue.
If you can’t reach a manager over the phone, or feel like you’re getting the runaround, visit the restaurant in person.
It’s harder to avoid a conversation in person, and you can offer to show the manager a copy of the receipt to support your case.
This can improve your chances of getting the overcharge refunded.
2. Contact Your Credit Card Issuer
If you’re unable to resolve the issue by working with the restaurant, contact your credit card issuer.
Because of how common restaurant overcharges are, card issuers are willing to help you deal with the problem.
Explain the situation to the card issuer’s representative and make sure to mention the efforts you made to resolve the issue with the restaurant.
Your card issuer will probably require that you work with the restaurant yourself before stepping in on your behalf.
Once you contact the card issuer, they will reach out to the restaurant on your behalf to figure everything out.
Though policies differ by card issuer, many will refund the disputed amount without much trouble. Other issuers will require that you produce a copy of the receipt to get a refund.
Informing your card issuer is an especially effective way to get the overcharge refunded.
3. File a Police Report
If you feel you were overcharged fraudulently, meaning that the restaurant did so intentionally with the hope to make more money off you, file a police report.
Filing a report creates an official record that you feel that you were wronged.
This can help your case when you’re working with a card issuer to get a refund.
Another benefit of filing a report is that it creates a paper record of the overcharge.
If a pattern of card overcharges at a specific restaurant emerges, the police may take notice and investigate.
What If You Tipped Incorrectly?
If you’re charged more than you expected because you accidentally overtipped, the process is a little different.
Overtipping, such as by adding an extra zero to the tip amount, isn’t hard to do, so you should double check every time you fill out a receipt to make sure you’re tipping the right amount.
You can contact the restaurant and explain your mistake, and ask for a correction.
Depending on the amount you tipped and how friendly the restaurant manager is, this can have mixed results.
Make sure to call as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get a refund.
Tips to Keep in Mind
If you want to reduce the possibility of being overcharged, and be prepared for it if it happens, keep these tips in mind.
Many people will simply write the tip on one of the receipts and leave both at the table, or throw their copy out as soon as they leave.
This makes it very difficult to prove your case if you’re later overcharged.
Write your tip amount and the total you expect to pay on both receipts and make sure to keep your copy.
Keep them until the end of your credit card statement period so you can compare the amount you wrote down to the amount you were charged.
If you do get overcharged, you have paper evidence that shows what you intended to pay, making it easy to get a refund.
Wait for the transaction to complete
When you log in to your online credit card account, you can see a list of all of the pending transactions and all the cleared transactions.
This is a great way to keep track of how much you’re spending on your card.
When you eat at a restaurant, remember that the pending charge that shows up on your credit card might not match the amount that will clear once the restaurant submits it to the card issuer.
This happens because your card is run before you decide how much to tip.
Usually, the pending charge that shows up will be for the pre-tip bill. The cleared charge will include both the price of the food and tip.
If you’re concerned about being overcharged, check your card regularly to see when the charge clears. Once it clears, you can make sure the amount you were charged is correct.
Try checksum tipping
When people tip at restaurants, one of the most common things to do is to round to a full dollar amount.
So, if you get a bill for $20.73, you might just round the bill to $25, leaving a $4.27 tip. This is easy to do but makes it hard to remember whether you were overcharged since the restaurant could easily charge you $26, $27, or even $30.
One way to easily notice when you are incorrectly charged is to use a practice called checksum tipping.
A checksum is a math and computer-related term that describes a number or series of numbers. You calculate these numbers based on a separate series of numbers.
This sounds complicated, but can be illustrated like so:
You eat a meal at a restaurant and are charged $63.27.
You want to tip roughly 20%, so you will tip about $12. This brings the total to $75.27.
Calculate your checksum by adding the two digits before the decimal place.
So, your checksum is 12.
You place your checksum in the cents field, so you fill in the total line of the bill with $75.12. In total, you tip $11.85.
When you look at your card statement, you can quickly make sure you were charged properly. Look at the charge and add the digits before the decimal.
This strategy can be complicated but is a relatively fool-proof way to make sure you are charged properly for your restaurant meals.
If you’re really concerned about being overcharged, try this trick so you can easily check your card statements for incorrect charges.
Because of the way restaurant tipping works, it’s possible to be overcharged for your meal.
When this happens, work with the restaurant and your card issuer to get your money back.
Keep a close eye on your card statements if you’re concerned about being overcharged since catching the issue early can make it easier to resolve.