Be Alert for Unintended Charges on Your Debit or Credit Cards
With the increasing amount of fraud and identity theft, most consumers are justifiably worried about sharing financial information. But sometimes consumers forget or overlook the details regarding charges they may have approved. These “unintended charges” can be costly because in many cases the consumer remains financially responsible for them.
Examples of unintended charges include:
- A subscription that was not cancelled. This often happens with offers that are “free” for the first 90 days or six months, then begin charging at the regular rate.
- Cancellation fees or non-refundable reservations. Particularly in the travel industry, offers commonly include penalty clauses in exchange for locking in low prices.
- Giving a credit or debit card to a family member or friend who makes large purchases without telling the cardholder. Stories frequently appear in the media about this situation, sometimes involving a child who has obtained a family member’s card and charged thousands of dollars for online games.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, the first step is to contact the merchant from whom the purchase was made. Many retailers will provide at least partial credit (if not a full refund), particularly if merchandise is returned.
If the situation cannot be resolved through the merchant, contact the card issuer to discuss what your options may be. You can also review the terms of your card agreement to see what additional options you may have.
The good news is, unintended charges are largely preventable. Here’s how to protect yourself:
- Check your accounts frequently and set alerts. With online options, including mobile apps, it’s easy to see a list of your most recent credit or debit card transactions. You can also set alerts to receive a notification when a transaction takes place. This allows you to identify and address any problems right away.
- Read the rules and regulations thoroughly before agreeing to any regularly occurring charges to your card. If it’s a subscription with an expiring offer, make a note on your calendar to check it. If it’s a non-refundable deal, read the fine print before agreeing to it.
- When possible, use a credit card for online transactions. If you encounter a problem, credit card providers have a dispute procedure already in place and the process can go more quickly. While handy, your debit card is likely connected to your checking and/or savings account, which makes those accounts more susceptible to fraud and abuse.
- Do not loan or share your cards, even with family members. There are many convenient ways to transfer money to help family or friends without handing over your debit or credit card.
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the same way, a few easy steps taken right now can save you from costly and unintended expenses in the future.