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BillGuard Monitors Your Credit Card Statements for Unwanted Charges

This article was written by in Credit. 8 comments.


Hundreds of Consumerism Commentary readers have written in to this website to complain about FreeCreditReport.com. Many customers believed they were signing up for a free service, but the fine print indicated that accessing one’s credit report for free led to automatic credit card charges that were difficult to reverse.

A new service promises to monitor your credit card statements to spot charges like these, in addition to often-missed expenses like automatic magazine renewals (which often come at a higher price than the first year discounted price) and other surprise fees. If you’re willing to provide your banking online access information — your user name and password — to a third-party website, you can delegate monitoring your statements for tricky items.

BillGuard takes your account information and, like Mint.com, will be able to see your account balances and activity but will not be able to make any changes to your account, including transfer money or updating your personal information. BillGuard analyzes each line item against an algorithm based on user feedback that will rate and color-code each transaction (green, yellow, and red) to bring your attention to potentially unwanted charges.

(The graphic to the right is a sample report; apparently who ever designed this lives near me and frequents the same Chinese food take-out establishment as I do.)

Finding time to review every line of a credit card statement can be a pain. Tools like Quicken make this easier, but many people just don’t want to go to the trouble to review, much less reconcile, their spending activity. Outsource your financial review to a site like BillGuard, and it might be easier to get into the habit of ignoring your finances unless BillGuard decides to apply a red flag to a transaction. There are times when it’s good to have a hands-off attitude, but if you’re in danger of finding unexpected fees and surprise charges because you enter your credit card information online for free trials and answer calls for subscriptions of various types, you would be better served by reviewing your finances yourself.

For some, providing yet another unrelated company with access credentials for your financial accounts is enough to cause concern about security. This is now an industry-standard practice, but you should always take care to evaluate the risk before handing over your usernames and passwords.

Published or updated June 2, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Andrew

This makes me crazy. If you’re responsible enough to use your credit cards and pay them off, you’re responsible enough to review your bills. You don’t even have to wait for it to come in the mail, most companies allow you to log in and view charges the same or next day.

For personal accounts, I have a hard time believing someone is using their credit card so much that they can’t eyeball their statement for unapproved charges.

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avatar SteveDH

“…you would be better served by reviewing your finances yourself.” Bully for you! Each morning, Tuesday through Saturday, Quicken and I have a quick cup of coffee as the PC downloads transactions. On the single occasion when someone made a charge using my credit card number I was on the phone to VISA and the card was being replaced the very next day. It’s a lot easier to review daily transactions than plod through a monthly statement – and you can get it done before you can finish that coffee. [Bully was the favorite acclamations of Teddy Roosevelt – not that I’m old enough to remember – but I read the book]

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

bully indeed! i am more of an afternoon guy myself, as being out the door at 5.30 am demands it, but i do this as well. of course, we are all people who visit this site, so i would expect many here would.

i have a hard time remembering what it was like before i did this. those dark, dark times.

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

I have a hard time believing there is anyone out there who couldn’t find the time to review their credit card bills, even if to give a cursory glance over the the list of charges to ensure there aren’t any fraudulent ones. It doesn’t take more than about 5 minutes.

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avatar Krantcents

I believe in personal responsibility too! I use my credit almost exclusively and it only takes less than 2 minutes to review my statement. I prefer to check the statement myself because it could be a legitimate charge and still a problem.

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avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

I echo the sentiments of everyone else. I go through each transaction when I receive my credit card statements as well as the interest rate information. I also check transactions online and over the phone.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

Like every one else I go through every transaction on our credit card and reconcile with the receipts. I do this with our debit card also. I am surprised at the number of times I hve found mistakes, ie: a restaurant charge on there twice, higher charge than on the tab, not giving me a refund or return credit. Taking care of it quickly while you still have the notes, receipts, and what happened fresh in your mind is the best. Plus, it is hand to have receipts in case we need to return items. But we did use service at one time. A big waste of money. My sister used FreeCredit Check and said it was horrid and kept charging her.

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avatar qixx ♦1,880 (Half-Dollar)

I think Mint.com has made this process much easier. I log into Mint at least once a week to review charges. The service might be worth it if it (i know it is free) had tips and tools to help reduce and reverse the charges.

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