Companies are happy to take our cash, but when they owe us, it’s a different matter – especially if we’ve moved our business elsewhere. The problem is, if you don’t check your final bill you might never realise they’ve kept your money.
We’re in a switching society. It’s so easy to change supplier, whether mobile phone or pay TV. Great! But there’s something about switching that’s not so simple – and it could end up costing you cash.
I’ve found most times I switch it takes a while to get the final bill – and when it does, it’s usually not what I expected.
Here are three things to look out for on your final bill.
1. Have you been overcharged?
Last month I left Three and moved to SMARTY, as part of my search for the perfect lockdown SIM. Well, the final mobile bill arrived this week – and they owe me money! £2.42 in total! Ok, so it isn’t much, but it is still my money.
The same has happened when I’ve left other providers including Sky, TalkTalk, NPower and other utility providers. Each had a positive credit left on the account where I’d overpaid. This is quite normal as you usually pay a little in advance.
The issue with each of them is I had to phone them to get a refund. Yes, they were happy to take my cash, but less inclined to automatically give it back to me.
Some have got better and will process the payment – but as my bill from Three showed, some will still ask you to claim.
Yet how many people bother to check their bills to see the final totals? I’m sure there’s a ton of cash sitting with Three and other companies that by right doesn’t belong to them
So if you don’t check your final bill, or chase the company after leaving, that money will just sit there. Go check your old accounts and make sure you aren’t owed money too.
The same thing happened to me when I left Three a previous time (back in 2017), as I spoke about in this short video
2. Have you underpaid?
Of course, there’s also a chance you end up owing the old company. This is most likely with energy bills as they’re estimated each month, but it could easily happen if you buy extras through your mobile network or rent movies via your TV provider.
This happened to us a few years ago when we switched from EOn to EDF. It turned out our direct debits had been VERY low, and our final bill was £100. We had enough to cover this, but if you didn’t expect it and that money just disappeared from your bank account (they’re still happy to take this money), you could get hit with overdraft charges.
You can mitigate this, with energy bills at least, by providing regular meter readings. Or in theory smart meters will mean bills are accurate and not estimated.
3. Are you still paying?
Sometimes when you think you’ve cancelled, you haven’t. Direct debits and standing orders could keep coming out, and if you don’t check you won’t know.
The main offenders are subscription services you stopped using or forgot you had, things like Netflix or Spotify. The monthly cost is pretty low so you might not notice them on your bank statement – but over a year they can add up, especially if you are signed up to multiple ones.
My advice with streaming services is to cancel every month as soon as you sign up. It won’t take long to sign up again in 30 days time if you want to keep using the service – you might even get a discount to come back!
Of course, mistakes can be made too that mean bigger bills keep getting charged, especially if you’ve just stopped your contract rather than switched. It’s not uncommon for old mobile phone accounts to still be running along even though the phone is buried in a drawer and you thought you had cancelled.
Plus, watch out for some of the biggest bills you probably didn’t even remember you had. Annual insurance policies on your car, home or travel can be very expensive and often roll over if you don’t stop them.
The easy way to check this is to get your bank statements or open your banking app and look for the standing orders and direct debits. If there are any regular payments coming out, check they are things you should be paying for.
I always did this with the families I helped as part of Channel 5’s Shop Smart Save Money and in one episode I spotted the household was paying two lots of Council Tax! They’d moved three months before but hadn’t told the previous council about it. They were able to get a refund, but that won’t always be the case.