We talk a lot around here about monitoring your spending for your wallet’s sake—but it’s a security thing, too. Sometimes, errors happen by accident: the store clerk entered the wrong amount before swiping your card, for example. Other times, it’s flat out fraud by a thief who has gotten their hands on your credit card number. No matter how or why it happens, you-know-what does happen—so here are 7 ways you can spot the charge and report it right away before it becomes a bigger headache:
1. Be a hawk: While it’s wise to check your transactions periodically, it’s impractical to do it constantly and still lead a normal productive life. So set a schedule to check your statements. Say it’s at a certain time every week: send a calendar invite to yourself. Keep a close eye on your statements. Work with your partner. If you see anything out of the ordinary, call your credit card company right away.
2. Be proactive when traveling: Before you jump on a plane, call your credit card company to avoid any red flags. Calling in advance avoids the risk of cancellation as well.
3. Use tools: Use your bank’s app to monitor your statements on the go. There are also services like BillGuard or Second Look that literally gives you a “second look” at duplicate charges or mistakes by alerting you if something looks fishy.
4. Watch your subscriptions: It’s easy to sign up for a free trial and forget to cancel, ending up with recurring charges for subscription services. Make a note to yourself by marking it in your calendar when the free trial period for the app is up so that you aren’t hit with surprise charges when the real subscription kicks in. And I get it’s all “hello, Captain Obvious!” but read the fine print so you know exactly what you’re signing up for!
5. Don’t get duped: There are a lot of sketchy websites out there, so if something looks weird, check on it. The Better Business Bureau has easily accessible reports on almost half a million companies. Search the site you might be signing up for on there, or try Rip Off Report from the Complaints Board. Don’t get trapped as a member on a site that is untrustworthy and end up never getting anyone on the phone to dispute the charges.
6. Don’t be a debit devotee: Yes, there is a time and place for debit cards. But, credit cards offer much more consumer protection. If you’re shopping online or buying something you have doubts about, always use a credit card!
7. Watch your tips: It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes waiters and restaurants unwillingly (or, sadly, willingly) mess up the charge on your ticket. Watch your statements to make sure they have charged you the right amount including the tip you actually left. A few dollars off here and there can really add up.
If you do find a questionable charge, follow these steps on Handle a Credit Card Dispute Like a Pro.