Watch Your Bills

photo © 2011 eyeliamI recently found issues on my two monthly utility bills that required calls into the customer service centers for both companies. Had I not kept a close eye on my bills, I could have lost a lot of money.

The Comcast Situation

I cancelled my Comcast account a couple week back to save money on something I don’t use.  The day I closed the account, I drove by the Comcast office to drop off my two cable boxes.  According to my understanding when I closed the account, I would have to pay a pro-rated rate for the days of service I had in the current billing cycle.

I got a bill in my e-mail (and paper mail a few days later) with a total owed of $190!  My monthly rate was only $67 with tax and I was not expecting an early termination fee.

So, what did I do?  I called up Comcast to ask what was going on.  It turns out that $185 of the $190 was for unreturned equipment that had been returned.  The Comcast customer service rep on the phone was able to find a record of my return and credit my account.  Crisis averted.

The Qwest Situation

I made a few changes to my Qwest account over the last couple of months to optimize my cost for what I use.  Part of that was cancelling auto-pay and part of that was upgrading my internet speed to a better service with a lower monthly rate.

The service upgrade was reflected in a funny way on my bill, but that was explained to me ahead of time and I was expecting it.  I also used to work in billing at that company, so I understood how the systems worked.  No big deal.

What was a big deal, however, was that my bill showed that I had paid twice for my monthly bill.  I paid the bill through the Qwest website manually using my credit card the day that I cancelled auto-pay on my account.  My goal was to change auto-pay from my bank account to my credit card, but that takes a month to set up.  What I didn’t realize was that it was too late in the month for the system to cancel the bill.  My account was debited and my bill was paid twice according to my statement.  My full billing amount showed up as an adjustment several times.

The billing statement was confusing and I picked up the phone to find out what was going on.  It turns out everything had worked out okay, but the system was so complex that they could not make my bill show correctly and I did not have access to the detail.  When I checked things over again on my bank and my credit card statement, I had only paid once.  However, if someone who used to work in billing at the company had a concern and was confused, I could imagine what other people would think in that situation.

No crisis, but I felt better after making the call and comparing my statements with their explanation.

My Doctor’s Insurance Story

Yesterday I was at my doctor’s office and he shared a funny story with me.  For the last six month, he had been paying insurance for a car that he did not own.  I know doctors are paid well, but are they paid well enough to throw away hundreds of dollars every month?

He did his apparently semi-annual check of his statement and was shocked to see that he was paying for an Acura that his family did not own.  He called the insurance company and they gave him a credit for the error, but that is something that should not have happened in the first place.

Had he not looked, the insurance company would have happily kept taking his money.

The Moral of the Story

Take a few minutes every month and look over your statements.  If something looks wrong, call the company.  It is not rocket science and can save you a ton of money.  If you keep your statements, you should be able to go back and find errors easily.

Have you ever caught someone billing you for the wrong amount?  What did you do?  Please share in the comments.

8 thoughts on “Watch Your Bills”

  1. A long time ago, I was in the hospital. To make a long story short, they took my blood twice! The second time was unnecessary (no Dr. orders) and should not be billed. They did, we caught them and I ended up with the refund ($150). Not bad for a few minutes of effort and a phone call. BTW, this was at the most famous hospital in Los Angeles.

  2. Glad you got your money back! And never pay your CC bills without at least giving it a scan. Numerous times I've been charged by shady companies. One I can't forget is reservation rewards! They had been charging me regularly for 6 months!

    That company that stealthily signed me up? EBags! They should change their name to DBags.

    1. Eric - Narrow Bridge

      I wish I had a like button for your DBags comment. EBags is actually headquartered about ten minutes south of where I live. Should I give them a visit for you?

      1. 🙂 Thanks, won't be necessary! This was a while back, I do not know if they are still pulling such shenanigans. I simply refuse to do business with companies like ebags.

  3. It seems like the errors are rarely in favor of the consumer. Maybe it's just my biased observation, but it sure seems that way!

    Totally agree that it's worth looking over bills. Big expenses could slip by on a credit card statement, or medical bill if not paying attention. Actually, it's always a good practice to check on what you're paying for. We're often busy and we don't have time, but that's where we get lazy and give away money.

    Small but recent example – had dinner recently at a nice place where one particular entree was listed at $14.95 on the menu. When the bill came, it showed up at $16.95. I told the waiter, he protested, brought back the menu to prove his point, and froze up when he realized he was wrong. I saved $2. Not that $2 is a big amount of money, but it was an overcharge.

    1. Eric - Narrow Bridge

      I was once charged extra for cheese on a cheeseburger and went back for my .35 cents. I don\’t judge.

  4. Dont you just love comcast? It's nice that they gave you your money back either way, but not paying attention to things like that can really hamper your progress. A friend of mine joined a gym when he moved, then moved away a year later (not really using the gym) and found out months after he'd moved that they were still drawing on his account, even though he was sure that it was cancelled.

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