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4 tips to avoid mistaken, unwanted credit card charges

Make an appointment to check credit card accounts

Make an appointment to check credit card accounts online weekly to monitor for unwanted charges, an expert advises. Credit: iStockphoto by Getty Images

One thing you don’t need help with is increasing your credit card bill. Mistaken and unwanted credit charges are a growing concern. In a recent Capital One Second Look survey, 52 percent of credit card users said they were more concerned about these charges than a year ago.

With good reason: These so-called “gray” charges cost credit and debit cardholders $14.3 billion in 2012, according to BillGuard. That “free trial” can turn into a recurring charge, or a gym membership or magazine subscription you canceled long ago can keep appearing. Anything automatically renewed can be problematic.

Here’s how to fight back.

  • Use tools: Second Look, a free service from Capital One, looks for duplicate charges, auto-renewing subscriptions and increases in recurring charges, and alerts you via email of anything questionable. BillGuard’s app helps you track spending across all accounts and alerts you about suspected wrongful charges.
  • Be a hawk: “Pick a certain day each week to check transactions. Send yourself a calendar invite,” says Nicole Lapin, a Manhattan personal finance expert who partnered with Capital One. “If you see anything out of the ordinary, immediately tell your credit company.”
  • Seize control: Your credit card number is all that links you to the company that keeps putting unwanted charges on your account. If you can’t get them to stop, “call your credit card company and ask for a new card with a new number,” says Matthew Coan, who runs the financial website But note you’ll have to notify other companies with whom you have legitimate recurring charges.
  • Don’t get duped: Warns Lapin: “There are a lot of sketchy websites. If something looks weird, check with the Better Business Bureau. I’ve seen customers get trapped into sites that were untrustworthy and couldn’t get anyone from the site on the phone to dispute charges.”

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