Consumer Comeback Blog

5 Reasons to Check Your Statements Every Month

Written by Jeffrey Trull

bank-statementMany of us rush to pay credit card bills and get the task over with as fast as possible. We simply check the amount due, send in payment, and we’re done.

Bank statements might not get a look at all, heading straight for the filing cabinet instead.

While you might not realize it, checking your statements can turn up surprises you wouldn’t discover otherwise. Missing the little details can lead to big costs if you’re not careful.

Before automatically sending payments or filing your statements, check over the charges and other details due to the following reasons.

1. Well-disguised fraudulent charges

Credit card fraud isn’t like it used to be. Some credit card thieves don’t try to max out your card before you report the unauthorized charges. Instead, they may make small purchases with stolen card numbers and hope you don’t notice.

These charges may be just $2, $5, or $10. The merchant’s name may sound legit, like “Adele Services” in Melville, N.Y. While it sounds real, there’s no such business as this. But Adele Services was making unauthorized charges of 25 cents on credit card customers’ accounts, according to the Boston Globe.

The idea: These charges will go undetected or unreported. Cardholders that don’t scrutinize bills won’t notice the charges. Others that do might not bother to dispute such small amounts.

Oftentimes, when the fee is unreported, the thieves don’t stop there. They may try again, potentially with larger amounts since they know their chances of success could be higher.

To prevent this from happening, look over all charges. You’ll likely recognize and remember many of the purchases right away, but if you don’t, investigate further. If you suspect you have an unauthorized charge, call your card issuer and dispute it right away.

You can also report the fraud to the FTC’s Complaint Assistance and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), both of which track and investigate such cases.

2. Check interest, fees, and payment dates

The top of your credit card statement might show just the statement balance, minimum amount due, and the due date. But there are terms and other information you should check on, too, including:

  • Late payment information. Here you’ll find what’s in store when you make a late payment. You’ll typically be subject to a late fee of up to $35 as well a penalty interest rate. Don’t forget there are other costs to late payments, like credit score damage, too.
  • Minimum payment information. This box tells you how long it will take to pay off your debt by only making the minimum payment. It also shows how much interest you’ll pay. Both are designed to inform (and hopefully discourage) you from making a minimum payment.
  • Interest charged. If you pay off your statement balance every month, there shouldn’t be any charges. If you’re surprised to see there are, find out why.
  • Fees charged. Again, you’re looking for a “zero” here. Look into your bill more closely if it’s anything but.

The good news is most of this information is easily found on your statement, so there’s no need to waste time scanning and searching.

3. Check up on spending

Checking in on your statements may provide key insight into where your money is going. Budgeting software and financial apps can be helpful, but they’re not always correct with how they categorize transactions.

In these cases, go straight the source. Online accounts for banking and credit cards will have all this information updated within a few days of when the transaction occurred.

4. Look for unnecessary monthly charges

While it’s not fraudulent, the costs from credit monitoring services can be similar. Some card issuers offer credit monitoring services that charge a monthly fee, which cardholders sometimes end up paying unknowingly.

Although USA Today reports card issuers are phasing out credit protection services, some are still around. These services are likely not worth the cost, as shown by Credit Card Forum.

Several banks have been accused of deceptive marketing practices used to sign up customers for these services. Some, like Capital One, have even been forced to pay settlements to those who may have been misled by their marketing.

No matter what the situation, the best defense is to look out for these charges on your statements. Many of these programs are recurring monthly charges, which means the costs can add up.

5. It’s easy

Finally, the obvious: checking your credit card statement really doesn’t take too long. It can take less than five minutes, especially if you have good recollection of your transactions.

Spend a few minutes to look over your statement before you pay the bill. If you have online accounts set up, you can check recent transactions regularly to make sure everything looks okay and dispute anything that doesn’t.