If I paid $800 for a cab ride, I would expect the car to be encrusted with diamonds and the back to include cashmere seats and cup holders made of pure gold. Also, that would have to be one really long cab ride. But unfortunately for one woman in Chicago, the $800 she paid for a cab was only a mile-long ride and cashmere seats were nowhere to be found.
Becky Siegel, a 20-year-old college student, was running late to meet friends for dinner last December. Siegel caught a cab to speed up her commute and when the driver asked if he could charge her credit card through the mobile payment device Square, she agreed. Siegel didn’t think about the situation again until days later, when her mother called about a mysterious $787.33 charge on their monthly statement. The only explanation for the hefty expense was the cab ride.
Between Siegel’s story and the recent Target credit card breach, now more than ever is the time to start practicing credit card safety. Learning how to handle sticky situations and prevent overcharges can save you both money and time – and ensure you never pay for an $800 cab (unless it’s diamond-encrusted).
The first step to credit card safety is prevention. According to Kali Hawlk, a finance expert and founder of CommonSenseMillennial.com, saving and checking receipts is a necessary step to ensure all charges to your card are legitimate.
“To avoid situations where your card was charged the wrong amount, get in the habit of checking your receipts before you leave the store,” says Hawlk. “If you find an error, simply return to the cashier and explain that there’s been a mistake.”
Since credit card mishaps occur even when the cardholder is present, a proactive approach to credit card safety is essential. Take Siegel’s situation: she was present when the driver overcharged her, but because she was preoccupied with running late, she signed the receipt without a second thought. Hawlk suggests estimating the total beforehand to avoid incorrect charges.
“Try to keep a rough estimate of how much your total purchase will be before you get to the point where you need to run your card, and check the total before swiping,” says Hawlk. Make it a habit to pause and review charges before signing, even if you’re in a rush. Just a minute of focus in the moment can save you hours of worry later.
If you do notice something is off, speak up.
“Don’t be afraid to politely ask the vendor about prices,” Hawlk says. “You can simply say something like, ‘I’m sorry, I thought it was going to be X amount, did I misunderstand the price on one of my items?’ You don’t want to be accusatory or rude, but there’s nothing wrong with making absolutely sure your card will be charged the correct amount for your purchase.”
HELP! I was preventive and proactive but something still went awry. Now what?
“If a mistake does slip past you, or your monthly bill contains some other type of error, contact the credit card company immediately,” says Hawlk. Most banks have a 60 day limit to dispute a charge, so bring attention to the issue as soon as possible.
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