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Published August 7, 2023
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Are You Checking Your Credit Card Bill Often Enough?

Checking your credit card statements at least once a month can help you spot fraud and curb debt spirals.

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“Digging into the nitty gritty of your finances can be a snoozefest. But a little effort pays off,” said Nick Kembel, a 41-year-old travel blogger from Edmonton, Alberta, in an email. By checking his credit card statement regularly, he was able to catch a trial subscription he forgot to cancel. “That so-called ‘free’ subscription could’ve been steadily inflating my credit card balance,” said Kembel. 

But how often do you need to get into the nitty gritty details, and what should you look for?

Aim for once a month

To keep on top of your finances, you should do “a quick scan of amounts and categories on every statement,” as well as “a detailed review (line by line) every three months or so,” Sandi Martin, a Certified Financial Planner based out of Muskoka, Ontario, said in an email.

Even if you have a card that’s just for emergencies, monthly checks are worth it. “Consistent monitoring enables you to recognise trends, catch abnormalities and keep your spending under control,” Bader Chowdry, founder and CEO of Insight Accounting, based in Ontario, said in an email. 

In some cases, a more frequent check may be necessary. For example, if you use two cards on a daily basis for nearly all of your purchases, checking your bill once a week may make sense. Weekly checks can also help lighten the lift — instead of trawling through a month’s worth of data, you just have to look at the last seven days.

Financial apps can help you view and categorize your transactions on your smartphone, making it easy to filter through the charges and spot unusual activity. “For individuals who prefer a more straightforward approach, using technology can simplify the procedure and make financial management less intimidating,” Chowdry said. 

Look beyond the total balance due

Nearly 90% of Canadians who have a credit card say they check their balance at least once a month, according to the 2023 Canadian Consumer Credit Card Report from NerdWallet. But just checking your balance may not be enough to mitigate fraud or curb debt spirals. 

Here are four key things to look for when checking your bill:  

1. Simple errors

Martin suggests starting with the simple stuff, which can include returns that didn’t happen, duplicate charges or subscriptions that didn’t get cancelled. “Finding these usually means getting money back, and who doesn’t like that?” she said. 

2. Spending habits

Credit cards are becoming increasingly easy to use — you can buy almost anything by tapping your card or clicking a button. This can lead to runaway spending in a particular category, like food deliveries. When you check your statement each month, you can see your spending trends more clearly and adjust them if they start to get out of control.

3. Fraudulent charges

In 2022, 3% of all consumer transactions originating from Canada were suspected to be fraudulent, according to a TransUnion 2023 State of Omnichannel Fraud Report[1]. Depending on the terms of your credit card contract, you may have to report fraudulent activity within a set period of time or be responsible for the charges. By keeping a close eye on your credit card bill, you can identify mysterious activity quickly and take the steps to correct it. If you spot a fraudulent charge, change your account password and notify the credit card issuer immediately. You may also want to check your credit report for any unusual credit applications.

Routinely checking your credit card statement can also help you keep tabs on purchases made by an authorized user. Since you’ve already approved the person’s access to your account, possibly even giving them their own credit card, any spending they do can’t be reported as fraudulent — even if you’re unhappy about it. So catching financial infidelity quickly and revoking the person’s access to your account is crucial.

4. Unexpected fees

Over-limit and cash advance fees can easily slip under the radar. As the name suggests, an over-limit fee (generally around $29) occurs when you go over your credit limit. Without looking at your bill, you may not be aware it was charged. If you’re seeing this fee on a regular basis, you may need to tighten up your budget or request a credit limit increase. 

Cash advance fees can be equally as sneaky and often unnecessary. If you purchase lottery tickets, order wire transfers, withdraw cash from an ATM or buy travelers cheques using your credit card, you’ll likely be charged a cash advance fee. Switch to a debit card for these types of transactions. 

Make it a habit 

Diving into your finances doesn’t have to feel intimidating and time-consuming. “Consider it an act of self-care and mindfulness rather than a duty,” Chowdry said. He believes that by adopting this attitude, you can strengthen your relationship with money and make better financial decisions.

Article Sources

Works Cited
  1. TransUnion, “2023 State of Omnichannel Fraud Report,” accessed August 1, 2023.


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