My embarrassing bill-pay confession
Readers can learn from my mistake.
A nasty upper respiratory virus recently laid me low. During this time I discovered, to my chagrin, how easy it is to overspend with a debit card when you're not feeling good.
I'm about to blame illness for yet another personal-finance gaffe: the Big Bill-Pay Snafu.
It turned out to be correctable, but it was a boneheaded error. Here's hoping you will learn from my mistake.
Pay early, pay often
A small credit card bill arrived over the weekend and I went online to pay it. I'd paid my other bills on Jan. 30. After typing in the amount, I happened to glance to the "last payment made" column on the right. It showed that this bill had already been paid, on Jan. 30.
In fact, it had been overpaid -- by about $750.
I dug my check register -- yep, I'm a Luddite -- out of a drawer and quickly discerned the error. A few days earlier, I had typed the amount owed for credit card A into the payment box for credit card B.
What I'd done, basically, was give credit card B an interest-free $750 loan. And I still had to pay credit card A.
The Homer Simpson noise was invented for moments like this.
Can I have it back?
Normally my bills aren't very high, even though I charge everything I can in order to earn airline miles. (I'm donating them to my daughter and her fiancé for their honeymoon trip.) This month, the bill for credit card A was a lot bigger than usual because of a recent trip to visit family and because of some car-related expenses, including getting the trunk latch repaired and buying a new battery.
Fortunately, my mistake was fixable. I called credit card B and asked if there was any way to get a refund on the overpayment. The agent couldn't have been nicer. She said this sort of thing happens fairly often and that after the payment cleared I could simply call back and request a refund. This was a pleasant surprise.
Of course, the refund will take 10 to 14 business days. This was not a surprise.
What I learned (and you can, too)
The most obvious lesson is to be very, very careful when paying bills online. Make sure your payees and amounts match up before authorizing payment.
This snafu is another good argument for an emergency fund. Having that savings cushion meant I could move money into checking, pay the second card in full and avoid an interest charge. That's because I'm a Luddite and a deadbeat -- "deadbeat" being the credit industry's nickname for those who don't carry balances from month to month.
Most of all, I've learned that illness and financial transactions don't get along. I've been paying bills online for almost four years and never had a problem.
Until now. D'oh!
Published Feb. 6, 2008
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Buy a new refrigerator, and you could see your utility bills drop because of new energy-efficiency standards.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
BLOGS WE LIKE
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'