Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Step to Control – Review your Bills


A strong first step for you to take to control your finances is to review all of your bills.  Gather a month’s worth of paper or online statements.  Get settled in a comfy chair with a shredder highlighter and your stack of papers (or computer with electronic statements). 
Here are some things to look for:

1.   Look at whose name(s) are on the account – is there an ex who shouldn’t be?

2.   Is the address right so you don’t miss any statements?

3.   What kind of fees did they charge you: over limit, late payment, payment processing

4.   Does the balance appear to be correct

a.   What is the minimum payment?  How much will it take to pay off in three years? They are required to provide that information on your statement.  Pay Off Loan Calculator

b.   What is the due date? 

c.   Review the interest rate(s) for the balance(s)

5.   Review all transactions every month

a.   You typically have 60 days to dispute an error with the card issuer and have the charge removed

b.   Credit card fraud sometimes starts with a very small charge to see if the card number is valid – catch it quickly and report

6.   Ensure your most recent payment recorded correctly

7.   Review the special messages section to see if they are increasing any interest rates, or making other changes to your account

The point of this review is to help you control your finances, and not every action step requires throwing money at it to make it go away.  One of the big things this review does is ensure you are not a victim of credit fraud, a lingering ex using your card, or a processing error by the credit card company.  Prevention and early resolution of errors will save you from the larger crisis that looms around the corner.