I don’t know anyone lugging around their credit card details to gobble up a cabin or at the beach or on the subway. Novels are known for being more interesting and entertaining. However, looking at your last month’s purchases line by line can be as intimidating as a well-crafted thriller…plus, it pays off.
Sebastian, who is not used to reading his statements, can attest to this. In April 2022, he terminated his contract with Bell for Internet and residential phones. He returned his equipment and received confirmation of receipt. In May of this year, an email from Bill triggered him: he was informed that he had $404 owed.
That’s how he found out that the company never stopped charging him. However, the last two payments have bounced because the expiration date on his credit card had changed. In all, he paid $1,064.21 plus.
Naively, Sebastian thought he would be immediately redeemed by Bill, who had realized his mistake. “They called me four times to stop me,” Sebastian told me.
It’s a classic case of the right hand not speaking to the left. But Bell wanted to negotiate a deal rather than pay the full amount. He was first offered $400. Then $600. The former client wanted all his money back, even though he admits to being a “nono” for not looking into his statement.
By neglecting this good habit, which only takes a few minutes a month, we are already taking a risk. Unnecessarily. That unauthorized withdrawals. But also that he was defrauded.
It happened to Patrick, who discovered on his Mastercard statement that he had ordered dozens of meals from Uber Eats over the previous months. Total bill: $1,200. However, she is not at all in his habits. “In a panic” he called his credit card. Montrealer then learned that the food had been purchased in San Francisco and Amsterdam. He never set foot there.
His bank paid off almost all of the counterfeit amounts, which went unnoticed thanks to their small size, between $20 and $60. Patrick looks at his balance before paying it, but doesn’t go through each account unless the total is higher than normal. Patrick sums it up: “A $1,000 or $2,000 scam, it seems, but it’s a little $40 here and there, and it goes away.” Some transactions, made more than 90 days ago, have not been refunded to him due to standard refund deadlines. He got his lesson!
To wrap up Sebastian’s story, he ends up getting full compensation. The process only took a few days, but it was longer than reading monthly statements. This story depressed him enough to tell me about it.
According to two consumer law attorneys I consulted, the telecom giant never had a case. He became unjustly rich and could not hold his former client responsible for his fate because of his negligence, despite the fact that it lasted for nearly a year.
It’s good to know if anyone is trying to blame you for your negligence.
If Sebastian’s story is settled quickly enough, getting back what he deserves could be even more painful. Pierre Lee wrote about Spotify. The company continued to bill him, even though he had finished his subscription. His first instinct was to demand that American Express stop paying for its streaming music service. His request was denied.
I innocently thought, as most people would imagine, that I had control over the payments I made. Unfortunately for me, American Express made it clear to me that they could not alter this payment without merchant approval.
One can understand that the contract signed with the trader must be broken with that trader. Having said that, joining Spotify turned out to be complicated since you had to go through the account… an account that Pierre no longer had. The site has finally hidden another way to communicate, but again, these steps took a while.
Another good reason to read your statements (and watch the movements in your bank account): to be aware of your more or less basic expenses, the ones that can be cut. And how many people paying for subscriptions have forgotten, like my colleague Karim Benaissa who saved $1,400 on an hour’s cleaning.1 There are also all those first month free services and games that stop being free before we even think about canceling them.
I’ve been a huge fan of pre-authorized payments for at least two decades. All of my recurring bills (except Hydro-Québec) are automatically transferred to my credit card, and the entire credit card balance is debited from my bank account. This limits my potential expenses and saves me managing paperwork… apart from reading my statement methodically, line by line.
Although we know very well that it is risky to push anything without looking, vigilance is a habit that some find difficult. I imagine it looks like dental floss. We know what’s good for us, but we’d rather spend our time elsewhere.
“Music guru. Incurable web practitioner. Thinker. Lifelong zombie junkie. Tv buff. Typical organizer. Evil beer scholar.”