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This is embarrassing to admit for someone who thinks about personal finance a lot, but I have been overlooking a recurring charge on my credit card for about 10 years. The charge always appears as "Payment Protector Premium" and there is also a charge for a "Payment Protector Premium Tax." I always assumed these charges were simply a part of the fee for the Aerogold Visa my husband and I jointly share. I should have known better. This week I noticed a phone number next to the charge and called to learn more. I reached an insurance company and was dismayed to discover that I have been paying for credit card insurance coverage.

If you own a credit card, chances are you have been asked at some point by the company if you would like to add insurance. It may be at the time you sign up for the card, activate it, or later on by a telemarketer. Sometimes the insurance is offered on a trial basis that continues unless you cancel it. While most insurance plans require a lot of paperwork and even medical tests, your commitment to credit card insurance is made with a simple "OK" over the phone. After accepting the insurance product, you will receive a certificate of insurance in the mail and have 30 days to cancel.

The insurance is designed to cover your monthly minimum credit card payments in case of loss of income due to job loss or extreme illness, or pay your balance in the event of death. However, this is why many of us already have disability insurance and life insurance.

While credit insurance may be right for some people, if you have substantial life and disability insurance policies, it's likely that you have enough coverage. Even if you don't already have these policies, you need to carefully consider a credit insurance policy before signing up as it may not meet your needs.

For example, you need to be employed for a certain amount of time for the insurance to be effective. In any case, the unemployment and disability insurance will only cover your minimum payments on the card and only for a short period of time. Also, if you have several credit cards, you would need coverage on each one and it is likely more cost effective to have a traditional insurance policy that would be a better fit.

My husband first signed up for the insurance when he got an Aerogold Visa in 2000, before we were even married. My husband, of course, has no recollection of verbally committing to the insurance 10 years ago.

We really have no need for credit card insurance. We don't carry a balance and already have the insurance products we require. Yet we have been paying $0.89 in insurance premiums for every $100 I spend on my credit card each month. Over time, we have given thousands of dollars to this insurance company - a shameful and regretful lapse in attention to our credit card statements.

When I called the insurance company to cancel, I was given a tough time by the sales representative. First, he had trouble finding my file because it was under my husband's old telephone number - the one he had when he was still living with his parents. The representative finally agreed to look it up under my husband's last name. He kept me waiting on hold for several minutes before coming back on the line to give me a drawn out sales pitch on the product. I told him I was sure I wanted to cancel it and he informed me that clients never cancel because the insurance comes with so many benefits. I have to wonder if many clients don't cancel because they don't know they're even paying for it.

It pays to check your statements and make sure you're not incurring any charges you don't fully understand. As with any insurance product, it's important to make an informed decision.

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