By Elizabeth Naumovski
Typically, many are afraid to read their monthly credit card statements because they are afraid of how much money they owe. So, when that credit card statement does arrive, it gets stuffed into a drawer, or the email gets deleted.
You know that the credit card balance will never go away, even if it is hidden or blocked in your brain and moreover, it will end up costing you more in the long run if you just ignore it. Denial never works so the best solution is to deal with it. Today. Right after you finish reading this, go look it up, find it and read the entire statement.
Maybe you are not anxious because you pay your credits cards off every month, but I'm here to tell you that it's crucial to pick up that credit card statement and look at every single purchase on it every single month.
First, you want to find any fraud before the fraudsters steal all your money. Having a lot of available credit gives them a lot to steal.
A girlfriend recently told me that she never looked at her credit card statement and just paid it off every month… until one month when she actually looked at it, she realized that she was paying for three monthly charges that were not hers. She said she never signed up for them and maybe she didn’t, but that doesn’t matter because she was paying a few hundred dollars worth of monthly charges without the benefit of a subscription or product. That’s real money out the door and no longer part of your savings.
Note, this can happen to anyone. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, I had two credit cards compromised. It's not like I was going anywhere or doing a lot of on-line shopping, but I always check my statements even if I didn’t use the card and that’s when I noticed that there were a few charges that didn’t belong to me.
The second important reason to read your credit card statement every month is because it’s a real-life ledger, concrete data, about your own spending habits. As an immigrant’s child, I am a firm believer of understanding where every penny goes. The feedback is invaluable so read it and learn from it because every penny counts.
This summer, I was listening to one of our local radio stations driving into the office. The radio hosts were asking each other whether they knew how many monthly subscriptions they had on their credit card. One of the guys on the radio show said, “I subscribe to a lot of things, but honestly I don't know how many different subscriptions or what my monthly payment is.”
So, ask yourself: “How many subscriptions do you have right now?” Write that number down and go to read your credit card statement to see if you are correct. We are now living in a very instant quick gratification society, and everyone easily puts different monthly subscriptions on their credit card without thinking twice. These monthly subscriptions quickly add up: cell phone bill, cable TV, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Apple TV, insurance, pet insurance, magazine subscriptions, exclusive subscriptions, alarm company, storage locker, car payments, gym membership…the list goes on. Did your number change after reading the short list above?
Allow me to ask a follow up question: “Of all the subscriptions payments on your credit card right now, how many have increased their fee since you signed up? Write that number down next to the first number. After you read this month’s statement, go back a year and check the old statement to determine how many have actually increased. I bet you it’s more than one. You’ll be surprised.
Finally, have you cancelled a subscription in the past year, are you still being charged on a monthly basis? I was talking my neighbour and she was telling me that she purchased products online and cancelled the product but was still being charged an ongoing delivery fee. Read your statement.
The bottom line is that you won't know about your fees going up, being charged after you cancelled a service or any other miscellaneous charges that doesn’t belong to you, if you don’t look at your credit card statement.
Now here’s the next step. Make a list of all of subscriptions you are receiving and call all of the monthly fee service providers and ask for a discount. At the beginning of COVID-19, I decided to shake things up. I called up my alarm company service and told them that I was cancelling their service. I told them that I have been a customer for 20 years and their monthly charges have almost doubled from when I signed up with them. They confirmed that I have been a loyal customer and offered to change things to keep me on as a customer. I renegotiated with the alarm company and after a few conversations, not only did I get a brand-new alarm system, but my monthly costs came down to almost half. I then negotiated the monthly charge of a media subscription for a savings of $30 per month. I also canceled my home phone, and that’s another story for another article. The point is that every service and subscription adds up month after month. And this is my money and I want it to stay in my pocket. You can easily do the same.
Call it investing in your future because these are real returns. Now that you will have extra cash per month, you can pay off that credit card balance in full, put it towards savings or an emergency fund. Saving that monthly interest fee will be huge.
The moral of this story is don't just glance at your credit card statement or hide it, read every single solitary purchase every month. Was it your purchase? Did you cancel something and are they still charging you? Has the monthly subscription price gone up and you weren't aware of it? Did that refund go through? Did you call and ask for a discount?
Always advocate for yourself. This way, you'll keep more of your money and you'll be able to invest in your future.
Elizabeth Naumovski, CM
Host, Producer of Finance is Personal
Financial Literacy / Female Empowerment Advocate
Elizabeth Naumovski is a multi-award winning financial literacy advocate.
Elizabeth is the recipient of the 2021 and 2019 Wealth Professional Wealth Professional IFSE Institute Award for Financial Literacy Champion. She was also the finalist for the 2020 Mackenzie Investments Award for Female Trailblazer of the Year.
Elizabeth Naumovski has worked on Bay Street for over 20 years and is a well-respected Financial Literacy advocate and a champion for women’s issues.
Elizabeth is passionate about Financial Literacy & is the host of Finance Is Personal, a half-hour YouTube show on Financial Literacy for Women. LEARN MORE