Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Give Me My Money

Scott says…

Lately I’ve been using a lot of my negotiating skills to get my money back. For some reason Marie and I are finding that we are being overcharged more, fined more, penalized more and just being plain old ripped off. I’m spending about 35% of my personal finance time just trying to get back what is owed me. Here are some key tips to help you get back what is due.

1. Keep watch over your accounts. Marie and I watch our bank statement closely and always question any charge that we don’t understand. Most of the time it is just a charge that one of the two of us made and didn’t bring the receipt back for the file. Other times it is an incorrect charge or a bank fee. Make sure you know where your money goes and question any charge, no matter how small. $5 per month in unknown fees is $60 per year!

2. Fight! We made a rule here at our household that no one takes money from us for goods or services we didn’t receive. I will go after any amount regardless of the size. When I opened up a new on-line money market account and made my first transfer, they executed the transfer twice by accident. Since it was for a large sum, it wiped out my bank checking account and caused it to bounce. I received a $50 fine from the checking account bank and another fine from the MMA for not having the funds, even though I did nothing wrong. I started with the bank first and spoke directly to the bank manager. After finally threatening to withdraw all my accounts immediately they reluctantly gave my $50 back. Then I began to argue with the MMA and did get my $50 credited after several phone calls and emails. My time to do this was well over the $100 that I was charged but it is important to let banks know that you won’t let them steal from you.

3. Make your utility companies explain their billing until you understand it. Recently we found out (when comparing bills with our neighbors) that our water bill was much higher than theirs. I examined the bills and they seemed logical but I didn’t understand everything. The water company was very nasty when I questioned them, but I held my ground. They said they would investigate but that they would charge me $50 to do so. I took the risk and agreed. We found out that our new water meter was defective and after a few more weeks of fighting got over $700 in refunds from the water company.

4. Don’t use credit cards. I’m finding that now that we’ve gotten rid of all our credit cards I don’t get accidentally billed all the time. There for about a year I got one incorrect charge each month on a credit card. Reoccurring fees that I didn’t authorize and “membership renewals” were the worst. Now that the cards are gone, life is much easier. If you still use cards, be sure to change your card numbers once a year.

Tenacity is the key to getting your money back. Use supporting documents, negotiate face to face when possible and document any promises and problems. Doing this helps your family save money!


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