So You’ve Been Double-Billed … Now What?

If you get double-billed, just remember that advice you received in couples counseling and communicate!

Paying your bills is such a pain, isn’t it? You know you have to do it, but you still don’t want to. Maybe you could try to live in the woods to avoid paying any bills, but that comes with some major downsides. You’ll need to either avoid the wolves or make an alliance with them. The trees only offer partial cover from the rain. And let’s not even get into the various natural toilet paper alternatives, each of which leave a lot to be desired.

So you’re probably going to want to pay at least some bills, even though it isn’t any fun. But paying the same bill twice? Not only is that twice as unfun, but you won’t even get any extra benefit from it. And yet it can happen! With all of the computers and automation and malfunctioning robot accountants these days, getting double-billed is a real risk. So what can you do if it happens to you, and how can you prevent it?

First, keep an eye out.

You can’t handle double-billing if you don’t know it’s happening. Many people are already checking their various financial accounts as much as possible, but if you’re one of those people who doesn’t, you might want to become one of the people who does.

You should be checking your checking and credit card accounts at least monthly, but weekly is even better. If you have auto-pay options set up, you can check your accounts after the payments to make sure they actually went through properly—and only once.

If your bills aren’t being paid like you had thought they were, you could rack up late fees and your credit score could take a hit. If your bills are being double paid, you’ll have less money than you’re supposed to, which is obviously not so good and can lead to overdraft fees. Even if you have the money to pay your bills, you may not have the money to pay twice your bills.

So what do you do if you’ve been double-billed?

Make some calls (or emails or whatever).

Once you’ve noticed that you’ve been double-billed, it’s time to spring into action!

“We recently had the issue of double-billing occur with one of our vendors,” recounted Nathaniel Barker, director of business development for Kolibri Games (@KolibriGames). “In this case, the vendor (and HR software company) billed us once via our credit card and once via a bank transfer (the latter of which we initiated). We were able to resolve the issue by contacting the company directly, and navigating to their head of finance via the company phone tree.”

In addition to talking to the company or individual that double-billed you, as Barker explained, you should also contact your bank or whatever financial institution handles the account that was double-billed. That way you can either try to get the additional charge canceled or refunded if necessary.

But that’s just for this time. Can you prevent it from happening in the future?

How to prevent being double-billed in the future.

You can’t always prevent getting double-billed. After all, it’s really a mistake on the part of the entity that’s billing you. But there are steps you can take to limit the chance that you’ll be double-billed.

“The solution, going forward,” explained Barker, “is to ensure that merchants are only given one method of payment to keep on file, and that if they ask for things such as pre-payments (as was the case here), they are directed to use the on-file payment method instead of an ad-hoc method (like a bank transfer initiated by us).”

While that advice is obviously about a business, the same can apply to an individual. For example, imagine you have auto-payments set up with a certain credit card or bank account and you want to switch to a new account. Many payment systems allow you to keep information for multiple accounts in their system and just select the one you want to use for payment.

Rather than leaving multiple accounts in there, however, you should delete any information that isn’t currently necessary for the payment option you want. That way you’ll lower the odds of mistakes on either your end or the other end.

Double-billing probably isn’t the biggest financial obstacle you’ll face. As long as you’re using legitimate financial institutions and vendors, you should be able to fix any mistakes that may happen as long as you’re staying vigilant. But it’s still a pain to have to deal with. No one likes spending time on hold, waiting to speak to a customer service representative, after all.

When it comes to getting your financial home in order, every little bit can make a difference. And the same sort of behaviors that will keep you from suffering the consequences of double-billing, like keeping an eye on your accounts, will help you prevent other drags on your finances as well.

Getting billed isn’t quite as bad as getting stuck with a short-term no credit check loan like a payday loan, cash advance or title loan, but it could still drag down your finances, especially if overdraft fees get involved. To learn more about how you can protect your financial future, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:

What other worst-case money scenarios do you want us to write about? Let us know! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Nathaniel Barker is an unabashed mobile game enthusiast—from selling the first game-laden smartphones to developing games (both AAA and indie) to evangelizing mobile platforms. He is currently the director of business development for Kolibri Games (@KolibriGames).

The information contained herein is provided for free and is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. We are not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law and we do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit. Articles provided in connection with this blog are general in nature, provided for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized professional advice. We make no representation that we will improve or attempt to improve your credit record, history, or rating through the use of the resources provided through the OppLoans blog.