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Why I Don’t Set up Autopay on My Credit Cards

June 19, 2018
4 min read
African American woman laying in bed online shopping with laptop.
Why I Don’t Set up Autopay on My Credit Cards
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I have a lot of credit cards — by last count, my "number" was somewhere in the ballpark of 40, but I've since closed a few, including The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express, and added several more, such as the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card. As you can imagine, I have an awful lot to keep track of each month.

I'm an obvious candidate for AutoPay — always staying on top of due dates with a handful of issuers is no easy feat — but despite my beefy roster of accounts, I still comb through my statements transaction by transaction. I'm a stickler when it comes to accounting, and I often come across discrepancies — a $5 charge for a water bottle I never actually took from a hotel, or post-checkout Wi-Fi charges that shouldn't apply to an elite. With AutoPay set up, I'd likely miss some of those unexpected charges — we're only talking about a few dollars here and there, but it does add up.

There's another important reason I like to check my statements before paying a bill, though: fraud. I've only experienced credit card fraud perhaps a half dozen times in my 14+ years as a primary cardholder, but most of the time it was up to me to catch unauthorized usage. I've never encountered fraud nearly as pervasive as what I came across this month on my Chase Sapphire Reserve, though.

As I explained on Twitter, I spotted 38 fraudulent transactions on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. All were for small transactions made in person in Mexico — ranging from 5 cents to $10.43 — with a handful of small charges at gas stations in the state of Veracruz. Two 5-cent transactions actually hit my June statement, which I paid in full — had it not been for the continued usage, I would have missed the fraud entirely.

Now, the good news is that as a cardholder, I'm not responsible for any unauthorized transactions. I called the number on the back of my Reserve card and was transferred to a fraud specialist, who ordered a replacement card and credited me for the fraudulent charges right away.

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Since there were so many to deal with, she simply flagged all of the transactions in Mexico as fraudulent. After all, I've never traveled there with my Sapphire Reserve, and I don't have any authorized users on my account. Except for one reason or another, the agent flagged my legitimate charges in Norway as well, and even a car rental in San Francisco from this past weekend. In total, that resulted in more than a $1,000 in legitimate swipes being reimbursed, but Chase was more than happy to add those transactions back on my account once I pointed out the discrepancy.

Ultimately, this experience validates my decision to leave AutoPay off for all of my accounts. I log in to each bank's website roughly every other week, instead, and always pay my current balance in full. As a result, I've never had to pay a late fee or even a cent in interest charges in my 14 years as a primary account holder. Logging in to each website or app is a pain, sure, but it's let me catch fraud far more quickly than I otherwise would, not to mention the unexpected charges — primarily from hotels — that I've avoided in the meantime.

Featured image by Getty Images/Blend Images

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