Money

Are You Losing Money on Your Bills? Look Out for These Common Mistakes

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Even minor mistakes on household bills can end up costing thousands! Here, pros reveal the most common bill blunders so you can avoid losing cash on…

Medical Bills

A frequent error made by both hospitals and doctors’ offices? Billing you before invoicing your insurer, says Patient Advocate Foundation’s Caitlin Donovan. “Before paying a bill, always confirm with your explanation of benefits that your insurer was billed first,” she urges. Another mistake? Going for a covered wellness visit and being charged for a medical visit because the provider used the wrong code for services. If something looks wrong, call your insurer and ask what the codes on your bill mean to ensure they’re correct.

Cable and Satellite TV Bills

Cable or streaming bill higher than it should be? “You could be getting billed for channels or services you previously canceled,” says Phillip Swann, editor of TVAnswerman.com. “For instance, if you canceled HBO in March, there may be a partial fee to cover the portion of the subscription that extends into April. But if you’re still getting billed for HBO in May, call your provider.” And check for extra equipment fees. Providers sometimes charge for boxes that you don’t have. Also helpful: Look for channels you’re getting billed for, but don’t receive, such as a regional sports station.

Utility Bills

One reason for inaccuracies in electric, gas or water bills is a mistake made by the person who set up your account, says Courtney Lopez, director of auditing for the utility cost recovery firm TriStem. “For example, you may be getting charged tax when you shouldn’t because you live in an area that only taxes businesses for utilities.” Also to blame: mechanical problems with your electric, gas or water meter, resulting in an incorrect reading. If they find the equipment is faulty, you’ll likely be refunded or receive credit for extra money you paid.

Phone Bills

If the fees for your landline or mobile phone have mysteriously gone up, you could have “cramming” charges on your bill—a scam where outside companies charge you through your phone bill, says Heidi Miller, founder of TheFrugalGirls.com. “They could be for services or ring tones you never purchased labeled as ‘Member Fee’ or ‘Subscription.’” If you spot a charge you don’t recognize, ask your provider to remove it and block that company from billing you again. And if you signed up with discounts through your company or AARP, check to ensure they’re being applied.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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