Since January I’ve boosted my bank balance by £600. This isn’t down to tricks or being thrifty. Instead, it’s thanks to paying attention to my finances – and it’s all money I would have missed out on if I’d simply “not bothered”.
For anyone who thinks checking bank statements or complaining about poor service is a waste of time or too much effort, the post will hopefully change your mind.
I’ve found errors, missing refunds and even evidence of fraud by keeping an eye on payments in and out of my bank account. I’ve also claimed money back for broken items, delayed trains and poor service.
With most of this money, it’s actually money I was owed or should never have been charged in the first place. The rest of the cash could easily have been lost out on by not taking any action.
Though it might feel a chore to look for these errors or chase missed payments, for me the scale of the money you might be missing out on makes it worth the time taken.
Here’s a little more detail about the six ways I found and received some of the key refunds and compensation.
Check your payments
We all know to check for payments you don’t recognise, as I had once when my credit card was cloned. But do you look for missing payments?
In March I realised the Direct Debit for my energy bill hadn’t been taken for a couple of months. It turned out when I switched bank there had been an error changing my payment details and the Direct Debit was cancelled.
Seeing as I get a discount for paying this way, not only was I not paying my bills (potentially damaging to my credit rating if left that way), I was being charged more. It was quickly sorted with a call to EOn, a new Direct Debit set up, and £10 compensation for the mess up.
TIP: If you’re not going to open your statements, check payments via a banking app.
Watch for larger than expected payments
Even if there aren’t any missing or extra payments, you might be charged too much – or even twice!
On one occasion, the TFL website kept rejecting our cards when trying to buy a Travelcard for the tube. Rather than the problem being with our cards it was actually due to their system. However, we later found we’d been charged on three different cards!
This was a little harder to solve as each card provider has its own investigations process, which can take some time. We eventually got all our money back, but I had to complain again when Halifax refunded the £170 odd to my card, but took my Direct Debit for the full balance the same day – leaving my credit card in with a minus balance but my bank account overdrawn! Again, an error I wouldn’t have spotted if I hadn’t been keeping an eye on things.
TIP: Keep receipts to compare to the amount you are finally charged.
One big billing mistake I spotted in January was a mobile bill for over £70. Now, as you know I’m pretty savvy, so I’ve managed to get my bill down to £11 a month, and my use isn’t excessive enough for an overspend to add sixty odd quid.
I called Three and it turned out when I changed tariffs the new deal didn’t kick in for close to a month, meaning I’d been using more than my allowance. However, I was confident that I was told differently when I spoke to the Three call centre at the time of switching.
It took a few weeks for them to listen back to call recordings, but they came back very apologetic and credited my account with the amount I’d overpaid as well as a small compensation.
TIP: If you spot something that you know isn’t right, don’t be afraid to challenge it.
Chase missing money
It’s easy to assume that when you return something or are owed cash that the money will be sent through. After all, you pay your bills on time don’t you?
Well, I knew from experience that when you switch suppliers you sometimes have to chase for any money owed on your account. This proved the case with TalkTalk, who I’d battled with for months to leave early without a penalty payment.
I kept an eye on statements to see if it had been repaid, but as I expected nothing arrived. It actually took a few calls and online chats before the £78 I was owed arrived in my bank – months after my switch to BT happened.
TIP: If you’re owed money, make a note in your diary to check a few weeks later that it’s been sent.
Return items that aren’t up to scratch
If you’re a music fan, chances are you get through headphones pretty frequently. It’s for this reason, I don’t spend more than £20 on a pair – when I tried expensive ones they broke too, even though I took good care of them.
However, rather than chuck old ones in the bin, I’ll return them for a refund. Electonic purchases should be fit for purpose and last 12 months. If they don’t last that long you’re entitled to a replacement or refund. I buy them “Fulfilled by Amazon” to make the returns process both transparent and fast.
TIP: Check your guarantee or warranty to see if you’re entitled to a refund or repair.
Complain about poor service
Slightly different to the others in that any money gained here won’t be money that was yours in the first place – but if you’ve paid for something that doesn’t deliver what you expected it’s fair to seek some form of compensation.
I’ve claimed refunds or discounts for delayed tubes, being sent the wrong calzone (I could only tell after a few bites!) and being unable to use a Spotify gift card with the student discount.
OK, these can be small amounts, but I believe you should get what you pay for.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask for compensation if something isn’t up to scratch.