Check your Credit Card Statements
Aging Matters

If you use a credit card to pay bills, you need to log into your online account to check the balance regularly. But how often? A good rule of thumb is once monthly, the very least.

It's crucial to go over your statement each month to make sure all the charges are valid and in the correct amount. Just yesterday, I checked my online statement and it showed a $5.00 increase to a restaurant charge. My receipt showed $23.27 and the credit card charge showed $28.27. Only a five dollar discrepancy but that's not how I see it.

You need to save receipts for all items charged. That makes it easy to verify accuracy. Then look over your credit card statement to make sure nothing looks amiss. In my Facebook group, frequently members report a dispute. And the overcharge doesn't come from small businesses like local restaurants and grocery stores.

I'm talking large big box retail stores. I'm sure it's an honest mistake by the billing department, but who knows. That's why you need to keep track of the receipts and compare them to statements. If it doesn't match, call the merchant.

Remember, after a purchase, the charge will be pending for a few days before it's posted. Many online accounts will remind you not to dispute charges that are pending. If the incorrect amount lists as a posted transaction, then you can take action.

Follow these tips to safeguard your credit cards and identity

  • Check credit and debit card statements at least once a month (I check more often.) Notice any charges to companies but you know you haven't done business. This is the test that scammers use.
  • Call your credit card bank immediately if you see something amiss. Start a fraud investigation, the sooner the better.
  • When shopping online, use a credit card, not a debit card. Credit cards come with better consumer protections against fraud, and a capped liability of $50. Many cards also have zero-liability policies, so you're even more protected.
  • When it's time to enter your credit card information, make sure the page's address starts with https:// rather than http://. The extra 's' indicates the site uses an encryption system to scramble information.
  • Never give away your credit card number, PIN number, and password over the phone unless you have initiated the phone call with your credit card provider.
  • Only use one card.
  • If the card gets caught up in a hack like the one at Target, take advantage of the free credit monitoring service that is offered.

Avoid being blindsided. A former co-worker was turned down for a house mortgage due to an unpaid balance on a credit card which was issued in her name but which she never applied for or received.

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Carol Marak, aging advocate, She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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