I don’t know anyone who devours their credit card statements at the cottage, on the beach, or on the subway. Novels have a reputation for being more gripping and entertaining. However, looking at your last month’s purchases line-by-line can be as scary as a well-crafted thriller that pays off.
Sebastian, who was not used to reading his announcements, could attest to this. In April 2022, he terminated his contract with Bell for internet and residential telephony. He returned his devices and received confirmation of their receipt. In May of this year, an e-mail from Bell surprised him: he was told he owed $404.
That’s how he found out the company didn’t stop charging him. But the last two payments bounced because the due date on his credit card changed. In total, he overpaid by $1064.21.
Naively, Sebastian thought he would be immediately repaid by Bell realizing his mistake. “I was called four times to catch myself,” Sebastian told me.
This is a classic case of the right hand not speaking to the left. But Bell wanted to negotiate a deal without repaying the full amount. He was initially offered $400. Then $600. The former client wanted all his money back, though he admitted he was “nono” for not seeing his statement.
We are really taking a risk by neglecting this good habit that only takes a few minutes a month. Unnecessarily. About Unauthorized Withdrawals. But also as a victim of fraud.
This happened to Patrick, who found on his MasterCard statement that he had ordered dozens of meals on Uber Eats in previous months. Total bill: $1200. However, it was not in his habits. He was “in a panic” contacting his credit card. The Montrealer learned that food was bought in San Francisco and Amsterdam. He did not step there.
His bank reimbursed him almost all of the fraudulent amounts, which went undetected because of their smallness, between $20 and $60. Patrick looks at his balance before paying, but doesn’t look at every expense unless the amount is more than usual. “$1000 or $2000 of fraud, it looks like, but a small $40 here and there, it goes under the radar”, sums up Patrick. Some transactions made more than 90 days ago were not refunded to him as per the standard deadline for chargebacks. He has a lesson!
To end Sebastian’s story, he ends up paying back in full. The process only took a few days, but it still took more time than reading monthly statements. And this story frustrated him enough to tell me about it.
According to two consumer lawyers I contacted, there is no case against the telecommunications giant. He became unjustly wealthy and, though stretched out for almost a year, was unable to hold his former client responsible for his misfortune due to his negligence.
This is good to know in case someone tries to blame you because of your carelessness.
If Sebastian solves the story quickly, it will be difficult to recover his dues. Pierre wrote to me about Spotify. Even though he canceled his subscription, the company continued to bill him. His first instinct was to ask American Express to stop paying for the streaming music service. His request was denied.
I naively thought, as I imagine most people do, that I was in control of the payments I made. Unfortunately, American Express explained to me that they cannot change this payment without the merchant’s agreement.
It is understood that the contract entered into with the merchant is binding on this merchant. Joining Spotify became complicated because you had to go through an account… an account Pierre no longer has. The website finally hides another way to communicate, but again these steps take time.
There’s another good reason to read your statements (and watch the movements in your bank account): to learn about your more or less necessary expenses, which can be reduced. Also, how many people pay for subscriptions they forget about, like my colleague Karim Benessai who saved $1400 by doing one hour of cleaning.1 All services and games are free for the first month too, free before we even think about cancelling.
I’ve been a big fan of pre-authorized payments for at least two decades. All my recurring bills (except for Hydro-Québec) are automatically transferred to my credit card and the entire balance of my credit card is debited from my bank account. This limits my potential costs and saves me from having to read my ad systematically and line by line and manage the paperwork.
While we all know it’s dangerous to pay for something without seeing it, vigilance is a habit that some people find difficult. It’s like dental floss, I imagine. We know what is good for us, but prefer to spend our time elsewhere.