Tuesday, September 16, 2008

OK, You Blew It -- But If You Ask Nicely, It Can Probably Be Fixed

Awhile back I wrote a post for Wise Bread called, "It Pays to Call and Ask," in which I explained that everything from finance charges to home prices can be reduced or removed if you just asked.

That has really rung true for me this week. I guess I've been biting off more than I could chew, because I made a bunch of financial mistakes this month. I found myself being charged for monthly fees for two different services for which I had signed up for free trials. Then today, I realize that I had allowed my checking account to go negative!

Now, I wasn't able to take away ALL the repurcussions of this sloppy bookkeeping. The worst of it is that I have to face the staff of my daughter's new preschool and give them a new check because one I wrote to them bounced. Or maybe the worst is knocking on my neighbor's door to tell him the check I wrote for his kid's charity fundraiser needs to be replaced! And I haven't yet found out if I'll get hit with fees by those two organizations for writing them bad checks.

However, I WAS able to avoid paying the two monthly fees, and I got $68 worth of overdraft fees taken off my checking account. I simply emailed both companies whose products I had been trying, and explained that I was (in both cases) one day late trying to cancel. One of the companies, eMusic, tried to convince me to stay on for the full month, but a second email convinced them to let me off the hook. The other company, The Grocery Game, was very kind and let me off the hook right away.*

And at my bank (Citibank), I didn't even ASK for the fees to be removed, I just called to clarify which checks had been paid and what each fee was for. Now, I don't love it that they were charging me a whopping $34 for each check that my account couldn't fund, but still, the total damage was reduced to one $34 charge.

And by the way, I took the customer service agent's advice and opened a money market account linked to my checking account, in which I am keeping a stash of cash at a low interest rate. I don't write that many checks -- the checks that caused my overdraft were for $85, $15 and $10. So now that I have this linked account, if I ever have insufficient funds again when a small check comes in, it will be paid and I will be spared the embarrassment and possible fees from the payee. I'll still pay a fee to the bank, but it will be only $10.

From now on, I'm pledging to keep my eye on the ball, and also go back to my policy of not signing up for free trials because I am obviously not responsible enough to remember to cancel. However, it's good to keep in mind that if you do slip up, you can probably get a break if you ask nicely.

* I DO recommend The Grocery Game after trying it out -- it's a good way to save time and find out about unadvertised deals, especially if they cover all the stores where you shop. But I decided not to continue my membership at this time because it only covers one of my local stores. I might re-up in the future, though.


Anonymous said...

Signing up for and "overdraft line of credit" is one of the best things my husband and I ever did because the check clears, and I have 24 hours to move money from savings to checking to pay it off before they start charging me interest. Even if I don't discover it in the first 24 hours, then the interest rate is very low - I'm talking like 5 cents per $100 or something like that - per day. And there is no fee at all for this because we hold a checking account, savings account, and mortgage with this credit union.

*Hippie* said...

I hate when crap like that happens... but I have been able to get most of my fees removed by calling as well. I always say "it never hurts to ask!" I did have overdraft protection but I got it taken off. With the overdraft protection on, it would still let me use my check card even when I was in the whole, so Id get charged $35 for each time I used it (thinking I was in the positive!) only to find out that some strange company took money from my account putting me in the hole!!! I can't wait until the days of living paycheck to paycheck are behind us!!!