I call it “bill creep.” Most of us have experienced it. It starts with the bills you pay automatically, every month, without really taking the time to examine each and every one. Then one month you take a closer look at them, and you realize two things. First, the amount you’re paying now is a lot more than you remembered it being. And second, there are all kinds of things on those bills that you don’t even understand, let alone remember ever agreeing to pay.
This week during the “Check Your Bills” challenge we’re encouraging you to do just that: look carefully through all of your monthly bills, bank statements, etc. and call the issuers to get your questions answered and see if you can save some money in the process. Maybe you’ll discover an error in a bill, or some service charge you can get waived, or even decide that you’ll discontinue a service or move your account to another provider.
Earlier this week I called our bank about a new $7 service charge that showed up on our statement last month. The bank told me it started charging fees for checking accounts with an average daily balance below a certain amount, which typically would be the case with one of our accounts. The bank assured me customers were informed of this change in a letter they sent out two months ago. I managed to dig the still unopened letter out of the pile on my desk while I was on the phone with them, and, upon opening it, I assured them that my eyesight was far too bad to read all that small print.
The agent on the phone laughed, and agreed to waive last month’s initial fee. I agreed that with a little better planning on my part, maintaining the minimum balance in that account shouldn’t be too difficult. I still have a hard time accepting the idea that most banks now charge you for keeping your money — and I may very well transfer that account to another bank if I can find one without fees or account minimum — but for the investment of about 10 minutes of my time, I recovered $7 in fees (hey, that works out to $42 per hour!) and avoided unintentionally racking up more fees going forward.