Most of us, on average, examine – really examine – our credit card statements four times a year. Usually, most of us open it up, check to be sure our last payment was posted and glimpse at our balance. We then roll our eyes, pray for the kind of self control that allows us to resist adding to that balance and then we promptly lay it aside and go about our business. Ah, but there are very good reasons why we should be doing a bit more than just giving it a passing glimpse. And those reasons could cost you if you don’t notice them for awhile. Here’s what they are, what they’re not and why the credit card companies are hoping you’ll overlook them.
These reasons are all about unexpected charges that you didn’t want, didn’t request and don’t recognize once they hit your statements. BillGuard CEO Yaron Samid calls them gray charges and says,
I am surprised by the amount of legitimate companies – well-known companies – that have repeatedly confused and deceived customers into paying.
He also says it’s a multi-billion dollar business for companies. There are five prevalent ones you should be on the look out for.
Appear and Disappear
When’s the last time you used dial up internet? Mid-1990s? There are three million AOL customers who are still paying for this antiquated method for surfing the web – on top of what they’re paying for high speed or dsl. How does this happen? Simply stated, we forget we’re paying. Usually, at some point, most of us discover this overlooked fee and then promptly cancel it and forget it. Unfortunately, there are many times when the fee will kick back in at some point. And even more unfortunate for AOL, customers are bailing on the company in droves. It’s the inconvenience that has cost the company profits. These automated payments are the kiss of death not only for the internet provider but other companies as well.
These days, companies know that if they’re going to offer automated payments, they have to kick in something extra that’s going to keep the frustration level down – both for their customers and their customer service reps. Ancestry.com is one company that’s got it right. While it offers auto renewals for its customers each month, it also submits a reminder in the form of a notice sent by PayPal or the credit card companies that reads along the lines of, “You have authorized a payment to Ancestry.com” and it then gives the details of how much will be deducted in the coming days. It’s convenient and it gives its customers a head’s up.
Another frustrating addition to credit card statements are zombie payments or subscriptions. They’re described as those services you cancel, but come back to life – much like the AOL charges above. You cancel and three months later, there they are again. You can find yourself in this vicious little cycle for months. One consumer told us they had to threaten to complain to the Better Business Bureau before a company finally removed the consumer from its database.
Remember that free add-on you were talked into the last time you changed your cell or internet service? Maybe when you renewed your gym membership? You figured you’d never use it, but it’s good to have – after all, it’s free, right? What you might not have been told was that it was free for a limited time. And now, that freebie might be costing you every month. The worst part is it might not even be detailed on your credit card statement – it could be that you’re just paying more now for that initial product or service each month.
Increase and Increase Again
That was a great bargain for that extra insurance that costs only $2.99 month, right? When’s the last time you checked it? You could be paying significantly more for it these days. Better check that invoice.
So you’ve paid diligently for twelve months on that new treadmill. That was the agreement – twelve monthly payments and you’re the proud new owner. So why were you charged two additional fees for a total of fourteen months? Companies are hoping they can sneak those extra charges to the end of the contract and call it consumer insurance or some other vague name. This is another reason to check your fine print – and here’s why: If you signed a contract and those two extra hits were part of your agreement, your credit card company won’t be able to help dispute the charges because your signature tells them it was legitimate. Read the fine print! Now read it again – it’s the only sure way to know.
While it’s not likely those charges are going to break the bank or your budget, you should know they can add up quickly. In fact, one estimate says it could cost several hundred dollars a year depending on what you’re being hit with. A few minutes doing a quick audit is the difference between you and your money.
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