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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keep track of those wedding expenses

If you're like me, you probably just want to forget about what you've spent as soon as you've spent it. I've been resisting this urge, and boy am I ever glad that I routinely doublecheck all expenses and track the budget. And here's why.

Two days ago I discovered a few fraudulent charges on my debit card. (I'd had this "brilliant" idea that if we didn't have the cash to pay for something, it wasn't necessary for the wedding and had been setting out to pay for everything in cash.) With all the wedding expenses, I'd gotten in the habit of checking my account balances and credit a little more often than usual (between two to three times a week). First thing Monday morning, going through the weekend's wedding purchases, I noticed a few charges from stores I hadn't visited in a couple of years, for services I hadn't used, and for charities I didn't support.

While it sucks that this happened, I'm so glad it didn't happen at the end of September/beginning of October. If I had to handle last minute payments/expenses with no access to cash (just my checkbook), I'd be one crazed bride.

What I've learned from this experience...
  1. Check credit/debit card and account activities at least once a week, if not more frequently. If you get in a habit of checking first thing Monday morning and there's a problem you can have a resolution by mid-week.
  2. Just because your credit/debit card is in your possession doesn't mean the number as well as security code isn't in someone else's possession. The first question my bank asked was whether my debit card was stolen. Nope, it wasn't. It was (and still is) in my possession.
  3. The minute you notice a fraudulent charge - even if it's still pending - call your bank. My bank was able to immediately reverse those charges (not all banks will do this but it never hurts to ask). They were also able to credit my account for the fraudulent charges that already had gone through. (As an aside, while my bank's support people were amazing, the customer support people at NewEgg (where the largest fraudulent charge occurred) are really rude. I last did business with them in 2008 and I definitely won't be doing business there in the future.)
  4. Most importantly, don't use your debit card in place of a credit card or as a substitute for cash. Depending on when you notice the fraudulent charges you aren't going to have access to those funds for 24 to 48 hours. If you don't have cash reserves you might end up bouncing rent checks, etc. Also, if you're traveling, you won't have access to the checking/savings account tied to the card until you get your new card.
  5. Having two credit cards is not such a bad thing. One credit card should be balance free - use that credit card rather than your debit card for monthly expenses that you plan to pay off. Neither credit card should be close to their limit - if your zero balance credit card is the one that gets stolen/phished, you may need to use your other credit card.
Have you been a victim of credit/debit card fraud? Was it easily resolved?

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