Some of us carefully scan our credit-card bills to ensure errors or hidden fees don't sneak in between the lines. Others simply opt to take one look at the total owing and make a payment. The problem with being in the second camp is that errors on bills aren't uncommon – a subscription you thought you'd cancelled, two charges for one taxi ride or, in the case of Julie Harnum, interest charges more than 10 per cent higher than they should be.
Ms. Harnum, who works in finance in Toronto,says she's diligent about paying her credit-card bill in full, but last month, due to a typo, she accidentally paid $1,019.54 instead of her full balance of $1,109.95.
She left $90 sitting on her card. When her bill arrived this month she noticed interest charges of $27. She did a quick calculation and realized that if she was expected to pay $27 in interest on a $90 balance, she was being charged 30 per cent interest for one month. This mistake jumps out because she's not used to paying interest, but if you carry a balance it can be easy to miss errors. A quick check of your bill can lead you to discover increased interest rates or extra fees you don't understand.
The interest fee was waived after Ms. Harnum made a call to her credit-card company. Don't hesitate to ask yours for an explanation of unexpected fees and the removal of charges you are not okay with. Scanning your bills for errors also applies to your Internet, cable and especially cellphone bills. I need more than two hands to count the mistakes I've discovered on mine. A few minutes is all it takes to ensure you're not paying your providers more than you need to.
Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at globeinvestor.com.