Editorial Policy

Lesson Learned: If Someone Steals Your Card Info, Double-Check Your Auto Payments

Kristin McGrath

March 9, 2012

Two Mondays ago, I was doing my weekly bank account check-up — to monitor for fraud and, admittedly, to monitor my own spending. This time, however, I wasn’t the only one draining my account.
Between the debit charge for a dance class and an impulse junk food buy, there was a charge for $1.60 at a craft store on Saturday — a day I most definitely did not go to a craft store. While I mulled over calling my bank, my phone rang. It was my bank. And they thought the charge looked suspicious too. Thieves often make small , innocuous charges first to makes sure the card is active, the customer service rep explained. He promised to close my card and issue me a new one (but not before the thief spent $800 at Walmart — but that’s another story).
When I hung up the phone, I realized that it was the end of the month. Online payments and automatic payments have saved me lots of time over years. But that convenience becomes a hassle — and a race against time — if your debit card info gets stolen right before the first of the month, when all the bills are due.
I made a list of all the people I owed money on March 1. I called the phone company, landlord, electric company and cable company to cancel my automatic payments — and wrote out checks instead. I had canceled my gym membership, NetFlix subscription and newspaper subscription months ago, so I figured I was good to go. Until March 2, when I got an email from my storage facility. I store junk there I’ve long forgotten about, so I also forgot they charge me $29 on the first of the month. Luckily, the facility waived the late fees and let me pay by credit card over the phone.
The moral of the story: I should have taken the time to scroll through my entire account history and search for all automatic payments. Automatic payments give you the luxury of forgetting to pay your bills — so don’t assume you can rely on your own memory.
With being proactive about your finances in mind, here are some of the best personal finance blog posts of the week:
MoneyCrush shares the dangers of turning a blind eye to your finances.
Young Cheap Living discusses the advantages of actually writing down your goals.
Money Ning gives some tips for escaping the supermarket with your wallet intact.
Budgets are Sexy challenges readers to think about the cost of the outfits they’re wearing.
MoneySmartLife warns about five expensive decisions that can affect the rest of your life.
MyDollarPlan dissects the process of refinancing a mortgage.