When your spouse is deployed, and you are the only one using the credit card, the statements should be a lot less cluttered and easier to read. Mine is mostly used for gas and groceries. And online purchases. And mailing care packages. And…well, apparently a lot of other things! On a recent statement, I discovered almost $65 in charges I didn’t recognize!
You should always keep an eye on your credit card bill, whether or not your spouse is deployed. It’s good to check for fraudulent charges. But usually when I see something from iTunes or Playstation or Amazon, I assume they are my husband’s charges. I might not know exactly what they are, but I know they don’t represent credit card fraud. However, if my husband is gone and doesn’t have Internet access, I suddenly start to wonder what all those little charges are.
Most of the time, small payments that you don’t remember are some kind of automatic fee, like a monthly membership charge. Or perhaps you linked an account to auto pay from your credit card. And that’s fine, as long as it’s something you actually want to keep paying for! But sometimes they turn out to be fees you DON’T want to pay, like a ‘free’ membership that automatically enrolled you in a payment program, or an app that has an automatic monthly fee to earn ‘credits.’ You might even be paying for something from a previous duty station that you forgot to cancel. It turns out that my husband was paying monthly for a game that he doesn’t even play anymore, as well as an app that neither of us uses anymore. If you find charges like these, here’s what you can do:
- Don’t contact the credit card company. Since it technically isn’t a fraudulent charge, they can’t adjust it or cancel it for you. Somewhere along the line, you agreed to these charges.
- Contact the vendor directly. On the credit card statement, each charge has a name and a short description. Most also have a contact phone number listed on the same line. This is the customer service number for the company that charged you. You have to call them to learn more about the charge and to possibly cancel it.
- Log into your account to get details about a charge. Is it a recurring fee? Annual or monthly? What benefits is the payment giving you?
- Ask details about the charge, providing date and amount info. Find out if it is a recurring fee, how often it is deducted, and what specifically it is for.
- Have account info available. You may need to know your service member’s account info to make a change if the charge or account was originally in their name. This includes user name, password, screen name, and (in video games) avatar names. Hopefully you know most of this, or your husband wrote it down before he left. That’s why there is a page in my Deployment Guide to help you gather passwords and login info before the deployment.
- Don’t cancel anything important, but you can suspend accounts and payments. If you can’t communicate with your spouse, don’t cancel anything right now. They could lose music, videos, or progress in a video game, so don’t cancel those charges without asking. But there is no harm in suspending payments for a few months on something you both aren’t using. Then you won’t lose any more money, and you can always cancel it later. (As long as you remember! ) If a company gives you a difficult time about suspending an account during a deployment, refer to the Servicemember Civil Relief Act. This protects service members in financial situations during deployment, and can save you additional money on credit card and mortgage rates.
- Write down any changes, dates, and former charges. You will want to follow up the next month by checking your statement to see if things were actually cancelled or refunded.
So, with some research and some phone calls, you can save yourself a decent amount of money on credit card bills. It’s also smart to check your bills during deployment and find ways to save on phone bills and auto insurance by temporarily removing the service member. Stop paying for services you didn’t want and things you don’t need! Then enjoy your new, streamlined credit card statement.