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Are Automatic Payments Secretly Costing You Money?

I opened up my credit card [1] statement the other day and was surprised by one of the charges that I saw: $115 from AT&T. We get our high speed internet and cable from AT&T and have been quite happy with the service. The cost normally did not bother me because my husband’s company reimburses us for our internet connection (he works in IT), and so the cost to us for internet and cable is much lower than this; however, $115 seemed about $10 higher than usual. In fact this was not the first month that the bill was $115: last month it had been this high as well but I assumed that it was because we had somehow used an extra service and things would go back to normal in the next billing cycle.

Check Your Payment History

Over lunch one day at work I took a few minutes to check my payment transaction history on our AT&T account and the results were shocking. From the time that we signed up, over a one year time frame, our bill had increased by $23 for the same services!

As you can see from the chart below, the change in pricing did not happen all at once, and so it had been unnoticeable to me until it reached the price point of $115. At $115, I knew that something was wrong, but at $96 or $108, I had failed to notice the difference. If it had not reached a price point that I knew was too high, then my auto pay would have continued to suck an extra $276 out of our account over the coming year.

Date Payment Method Amount
04/09/2011 CREDIT CARD $115.82
03/12/2011 CREDIT CARD $115.82
02/07/2011 CREDIT CARD $108.05
01/08/2011 CREDIT CARD $108.05
12/08/2010 CREDIT CARD $108.05
11/07/2010 CREDIT CARD $108.05
10/09/2010 CREDIT CARD $108.05
09/08/2010 CREDIT CARD $108.05
08/07/2010 CREDIT CARD $108.05
07/09/2010 CREDIT CARD $108.05
06/07/2010 CREDIT CARD $108.05
05/09/2010 CREDIT CARD $96.02
04/09/2010 CREDIT CARD $96.02
03/12/2010 CREDIT CARD $96.02
02/07/2010 CREDIT CARD $92.56

Contact the Company

I immediately called an AT&T service rep and explained to her the $23 price hike in a little over a year’s time. She sympathized with me, and was more than willing to check my account to see if there were any promotions she could offer to help reduce this cost. She was able to give me two options: a faster internet speed with the same cable package for $100 instead of $115, or bump us up to the next cable size package for a three month promotion, which would bring our total to $94 until the end of those three months (at which point the cost would be $120 per month). I chose option number one, and told her I was very satisfied with the service and her help. The $15 per month savings was on our portion of the bill (the cable portion), and it was going to net us a savings of $180 over the next year. While this did not make up for the entire price hike, it certainly brought it down to a reasonable price in my mind.

Keep an Eye on Automatic Payments

The lesson I learned is that auto pay is a fantastic service, but we still need to check our recurring monthly payments every six months or so to make sure that our service provider has not increased their rates.

Has this ever happened to you?