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Paying Our Bills Via Electronic AutoPay
Back in early March 2022, I opened my internet/phone/TV provider’s bill.
A bill that had previously been a mere $141 was now some $265.
Immediately, I called the company.
“Well,” the service rep asked, “had I not gotten the mailed notice that the cost for the cable TV service was going from $55 a month up to $145 a month?”
No, I confessed, I hadn’t. The problem with our media company is that like all other big companies in the MegaVerse, each month numerous postcards, coupon mailings, and other items are sent to us. Almost always these go right into the circular file.
And that means that every four years when an actually significant mailing is sent out, I’m lost.
Anyway, I was able to cancel the cable TV part of the bill. That brought us to a new $152 a month fee.
But if we had been on some auto-pay plan, it could have been several months before I noticed.
Then some 19 months later, my little “pin money” bank account started getting a “Google Play” debit of some $7.98 a month.
I went to the bank and asked what this was.
The very polite bank teller replied: “It has to be something you signed up for.”
“No, I don’t use your bank to sign up for anything. So could you tell me what company is charging me for what product?”
“No, I can’t do that. We have no way of knowing. Other than the service you are billed for is connected to Google.”
Much later once home, I would remember how when banks first “suggested” we forget about old-fashioned checks that use up paper made from our national old-growth forests and instead allow for digital conversion of all banking transactions, then nothing intrinsic to our banking needs would be altered.
We could all convert to digitized bank record processing, save the birds, squirrels, and old-growth trees, but still know what was going on with our monies.
Except of course, now it is 12 years down that road. The result of this “pleasant” conversion is that something I did not do has somehow arranged for an auto-pay of eight bucks a month.
If the payment had gone though via check, I could have determined which company was doing this, and could also scream, “forged check.”
But the thief did this digitally, so…
I had a further discussion with the very helpful bank teller. The one thing she could do would be to delete the debit card which the mystery firm was now using. Although that would mean I’d be out the debit card for 10 days, once a new card was issued, Google Play would be out of luck. In November, when it went to debit me, the charge would be rejected.
Of course, the bank had no way to reinstate the eight bucks I had lost.
I agreed to cancel the old card. But I was still perplexed.
I asked my final question. “We do know this auto pay came from something called ‘Google Play.’ So does that help in any way to figure out what is going on?”
She grinned. “Google owns YouTube, so do you use YouTube?”
“Yes, guilty as charged.”
“Do you ever notice that when you go on YouTube, an ad for a subscription to YouTube comes up with the first month being for free?”
“Sure, and I always decline.” I got a little red in the face. “Of course, it could be that one time when I rejected the offer, I hit the wrong button.”
“No, I doubt it. Because after all, if you hit the wrong button, then you would be asked for a credit or debit card, user id, and more, so that after the month was up, then they could bill you. And you’d remember doing all that, right?”
I nodded yes.
She continued. “But what Google has been known to do is to create subscribers by using credit card info it has on hand, in your shared history with Google. Then Google gives itself permission to “subscribe” you to YouTube. It uses the stored debit or credit card info to build up its YouTube subscriber base. Probably that is what was done in your case.”
Suddenly I remembered deciding to rent a movie from YouTube some months before.
On that one evening, I couldn’t find the usual debit card and had used this bank’s debit card. So apparently, Google then reached back into its records and took that data. Now I had some subscription, possibly to YouTube. This was most unfair, especially given that I had not agreed to this, and I would never have a way to even use the monthly service. After all, I had never created an account with a known user ID and password to let me do that.
Anyway, now some five months after the Google Play brouhaha, I have just canceled my oft-used debit card with my credit union. I had to do this as two other Big Time Players are deciding to charge me. One is a computer anti-virus service, which I had tried to have canceled by contacting them three times. The other is possibly a hack job of some “computer cleaning” program I have never heard of.
So much for digital conversion being a really great thing.
Oh, and about the save the “old growth” forest movement, which the banks had told us were the whole reason behind getting rid of checks?
The same institutions now send me at least four separate offers each month for life and car insurance in great big honkingly oversized manila envelopes containing at least 15 pages of paper.
Sorry about that, old-growth trees!Published in General
Never, ever, ever, EVER use a debit card on the internet. For anything
Use a credit card. You have so many more protections.
A debit card draws money directly from your bank account. If you get hit with something fraudulent, you’re out the money until you can (maybe) get it fixed.
If there’s a fraudulent charge on a credit card, it’s the credit card issuers problem.
Plus, you can earn cashback or mileage points. All the cashback from our cards goers into my kids 529 accounts.
Like some 700,000 other households in 2019, a medical emergency brought about a bankruptcy which precludes our ability to have a credit card. Unless we want an interest rate of 22%.
This occurred even though we thought we had excellent health insurance.
There are benefits to credit cards, I will grant you that.
But one of the bad things about the credit card situation in the USA is that a lot of people now think they are doing fine as long as they still have some scant wiggle room on their cards.
We have an entire generation of people who think it is okay for rents, utility bills and taxation on the working class to be so sky high that buying one’s groceries on plastic is a normal thing.
Take that interest rate, and pay it in full each month so no interest charges are incurred. This will rebuild your credit history and provide you the credit card protections.
First of all, if I apply today for a credit card, it will be two years before I get approved. (If it is through a legit Master Card/Visa/American Express card situation.)
Right now, some of the biggest scam outfits in the world are those purporting to “help you build up your bad credit.” The payments you send in are held back til a date when the account can be hit with a late fee. If you call to check with customer service, you are dinged an additional ten bucks for making that call.
It is a situation of one step forward, two steps back.
Worst of all are the reports by consumers of how these companies sell your info – possibly to people in their inner circle – so that fake identities using your info can buy a car or equipment.
Second of all, I have no idea that should my rent, utilities and grocery bills continue to wipe out the little bit of retirement savings I have been attempting to build up, that I will be here two years from now.
Stress is a killer.
There are Secured Credit Cards that allow you a line of credit exactly as large as the cash you’ve put down. It lets you go from no credit to some credit quickly.
Yeah. We need a way to give money to other people without actually giving other people that money so we have a chance at withholding things.
Debit cards are security-death. They ARE your money (as much as your money in a bank is your money). A credit card isn’t your money, but an expression that you’re good for the debt.
I buy my groceries, gas, flights, computers, utilities, car maintenance… all on plastic. All taking on debt. Which in good months, I pay down when the statement comes in, making it a short term 0% interest loan with various cash-back kickbacks besides.
Temporary debt isn’t so bad.
I still have a few autopay things on my debit card which I oughta change. But I use my AmEx Delta card for everyday transactions and earn miles on everything. I pay it off every month. All my credit cards are paid in full each month.
Do you have a link? I would be interested.
Also do you know if these legit cards have an approval process that would have me up and running within six months?
For many years our cards were too.
But med expenses are often the end of the days of semi-glory.
I have no idea what you meant by the above statement.
(Was it meant as a definition of credit cards?)
We have never used a debit card for anything. The only auto-pays we do are mortgage (same bank as our checking account), the lodge in our community (restaurant, merchandise, events, etc.), and our HOA dues. I pay all the monthly bills (utilities, credit cards, etc.) on-line manually each month. Takes about 15 minutes one or two days a month. We’ve been lucky enough to never have a credit card balance that’s not paid off each month.
And we still had a credit union account hacked last month and over $10,000 pulled out. It’s all been restored, but I filed a police report. One of the withdrawals was a forged check, and I was able to give the police a bunch of leads from what was basically a 10-minute internet search.
Sorry you went through the problem of getting hacked. It must have been a relief to get the 10K restored, which I guess most banks will do if hacking can be proved.
It will be cool if the police can catch the perp and charge him (or her.) And let them have a trial followed by lockup.
These critters ruin real lives.
I have come to the conclusion that all corporations are evil.
I’ll add another tentative recommendation for credit cards, if you can swing one. They provide an additional layer of security for your money, and can (sometimes) get you a little bit of savings with cash back rewards and the like.
That said, credit cards are basically betting that you’re better with money than most people, since the whole industry is built around people who don’t manage to pay things back on time.
(As for the trees, recent years have really highlighted for me how convenient it is that things are found to be ‘environmentally dangerous’ just when they get successful. It’s a distracting moral argument to avoid admitting the other party won’t actually get much from the reason you want something.)
A guy I worked with several years ago, every time he made a purchase on his credit card, he’d enter it in his checkbook as if he’d written a check, and eh was careful not to “overdraw” his account. Then when the CC bill came he just had to write a check for the balance due.
Back in the days of The Greatest Generation, a generation that lived through the Great Depression and then went on to fight the Second World War, these things were understood:
One) Rent or mortgage payments would entail no more than 15 to 25% of one’s take home pay
Two) Groceries needed to sustain life and normal appetites would entail the costs of no more than 16% of a paycheck
Three) Taxes were 12 to 15% of a middle class worker’s take home paycheck
Four) Utilities and health insurance costs were minimal
Although many in this generation lacked a college education, at least not until the return from war to a normal society where community colleges and the GI Bill allowed for college education, almost everyone in this group understood basic finances.
The above 4 societal “norms” regarding a household budget have now all been thrown out of whack. Even in the late 60s, when Baby Boomers got restless they could leave home at age 17, 18 or 19, because rents for nice apartments in good neighborhoods were only 90 to 110 bucks a month.
Now people with kids in their 20’s find that they move back into their homes after college, as housing costs are exorbitant. A 3 bedroom apartment in a so-so neighborhood in San Francisco can go for a “mere” $ 3500 a month, should you be lucky enough to find one. (Hm, maybe the collapse of SVB will mean a decline in rents in SF, as one thing pushing the rents up has been the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.) Other large cities have similar housing costs.
Utilities now are taking some 16% of my monthly income. Last year’s Jan 15 to Apr 1st cost was $ 463. This year Jan 15th to Feb 15th was 499! (Even tho much of that month was a 2 week thaw.)
If our biz didn’t pay 1/2 the utilities we’d be without utilities.
Comics joke that Social Sec checks will soon ALL be consumed 100% by costs of MediCare
https://www.nerdwallet.com/best/credit-cards/secured The list here is all of real cards from real banks.
Chase has one https://www.chase.com/personal/credit-cards/education/build-credit/how-to-establish-credit-with-secured-credit-card
BofA has one (this was my wife’s first credit card) https://www.bankofamerica.com/credit-cards/products/secured-credit-card/
When my wife with no credit history got a card we walked into a bank branch and she had her card within a week (I forget if it was that day)
At least so far, by law the annual increases of Medicare cannot exceed the increase in Social Security benefits. (That’s in $, not %.)
And you had a much more capable bank teller than I’ve encountered in ages.
A paper company that buys old-growth forest wood to make paper is paying way too much for its raw materials. If it owns the forest and it’s using that wood for paper-making, it’s missing out on a money-making opportunity.
I confess that I was going hyperbolic for a sake of a joke. I doubt that any old growth redwoods would be turned into matchsticks, bank statements or paper bags.
Oh it’s okay. Those dollars are worth much less than they were.
My beef is with the utilities (electric and gas) providers who solicit in stores, by phone, and door to door. They offer lower rates than the utility companies. They are 10% lower for about three months then go up about 30% higher than what the utilities are offering unless you call them and ask them to give you the lower rate for another 3 months. They don’t send out reminders, you need to mark it on your calendars or you get burned. After being burned, I went back to the utility companies. At least they have to warn you when they are applying for a rate hike. The paperless billing option only makes it easier for one to miss the three months limit.
(An accompanying annoyance is that many offer “green” energy for a slight premium. If there was one that promised me that their electricity would be provided by natural gas, coal, and nuclear with a corresponding discount, I might be interested.)
Not exactly the same problem as the credit card situation, but similar. Don’t mean to misdirect the thread, but I just had to vent.
I do this with Quicken. Each credit card purchase is recorded daily as a split transaction under the appropriate credit card entry.
Yes, but the cable companies are worse than most, probably because so many towns grant them a monopoly.
All of the good pricing is one or two year deals. When the term ends you have to call and tell them that you want to cancel. They will then transfer you to someone who can give you a better price. Unless you threaten to cancel, they will give you, a loyal customer, a price much higher than what they charge new people. The key is, you can’t do it online and you can’t just ask for better pricing. You have to ask to cancel some or all of your service.
Same thing happens with home-delivery newspaper too. A neighbor in Phoenix used to get it for free, I suppose just because the paper wants to keep their “circulation” numbers up for the advertisers; any time they said it was time to start paying, he’d tell them to cancel and then they’d keep giving it for free.
I didn’t have the patience to deal with that.
Actually the type of problem that you are pointing to is exactly why I posted the OP to begin with.
We do the best we can whenever we are solicited by providers of whatever services we need. We think we make wise choices only to find out – if we pay attention to our bills – that the same old con of “bait and switch” was being used to fool us.