Ever see a charge you didn’t think you deserved?
Of course you have — you’re a citizen in a mature capitalist system, so it comes with the territory.
It could be a late fee that’s not your fault… an interest charge that was made in error… or a hidden charge you never agreed to. It might be charges attached to a home that came due before you bought it… or were charged after you sold.
It could also be a cable company bumping up your monthly rate without your consent — and without notification.
Whatever the case, we’ve all seen surprises on bills that simply shouldn’t be there.
Most people think you don’t have a lot of options in that situation. Sure, you can call up the company and argue your case… and you might win. (Indeed — it’s amazing how often a quick call can get you the result you want.)
But if the company isn’t cooperative, you’re out of luck, right? So the thinking goes.
But the thinking is wrong.
The truth is companies are hoping that you’re scared of racking up interest charges or late fees. So you’ll hold your nose and pay out their little pound of flesh — unhappily feeling extorted, but unable to do anything about it.
Let’s turn the tables, shall we?
Here are three ways you can tell the company to get lost — starting with the most obvious…
Screw You, Company – Option 1: Always Ask
In many cases — maybe even most cases — companies will back down as soon as you confront them.
Even if they feel like their extra charge is entirely justified, it often makes more sense for them to agree with you. They’d rather keep you a happy, paying customer, instead of picking a fight over a relatively small amount of money.
And in cases where the company is trying to pull a fast one, they’ll usually back down quickly, before it has a chance to escalate and turn into a much bigger deal with potential legal liabilities.
It’s helpful to know you don’t even necessarily have to justify your dispute. Often, simply saying, “I’d like this fee waived,” will do the trick.
Of course, that’s not always the case. Just look at the nefarious ways the Wells Fargo account fraud scandal played out. It took multiple complaints, multiple investigations (by folks like the FBI, the CFPB and Congress) and multiple lawsuits before Wells Fargo paid for its bad behavior.
Still, making the call to challenge a charge is a good first step.
When that doesn’t work…
Screw You, Company – Option 2: You’ll Take What I Give You and Like It!
If a company isn’t budging from a questionable charge, you don’t have to just grin and bear it.
Instead, you can put them in a bind — using something called a restrictive endorsement.
Whether you know it or not, you probably already use restrictive endorsements. When you deposit a check online or with an app, you may write something like “For deposit only,” followed by an account number.
That’s a restrictive endorsement; it prevents someone getting ahold of your check and cashing it for themselves.
However, when you’re dealing with an unscrupulous company, you want to use a special kind of restrictive endorsement.
Write them a check to pay off your bill — minus whatever charge is in dispute.
Then on the back you’ll use a restrictive endorsement that says something like “In full payment of account.”
This creates an interesting dilemma for the company. They can accept your check, deposit it… and that’s usually considered a legal close to the matter. They are waiving their claim to the disputed charge.
The company can challenge this in court… But it’s costly and the courts usually side with the consumer in these cases. It depends on exactly what the charge is and the circumstances surrounding it, but in almost all regular cases, acceptance of a check with a restrictive endorsement is seen as a legal way to void disputed charges.
Of course, the company can also refuse to cash the check and continue to go after the disputed charge. That’s their prerogative.
But it’s much harder for them to charge late fees or finance charges as the dispute plays out. And it becomes much easier for you to fight any extra fees as you attempt to pay on time.
Basically, a restrictive endorsement puts the shoe on the other foot — the company has the tough decision, not you.
Screw You, Company – Option 3: Stop the Charge Before It Starts
As you can see, there are several ways to fight bad fees. But one of the best is to avoid them in the first place.
I’m not talking about staying on top of your accounts, making sure you’re never late and all the other maintenance that, hopefully, you’re doing anyway.
I’m talking about using a free service that monitors your accounts for charges that you shouldn’t have and expenses you can cut down.
Our favorite is Personal Capital. Here’s how it works…
You link up your credit card and/or bank accounts. Personal Capital then watches them closely, alerting you to any large or unusual purchases.
It looks for changes or large fluctuations. If you spent $2,000 last month and $20,000 this, the antennae go up.
If there’s anything that looks out of the ordinary, Personal Capital will ask you if it’s legit.
If it’s not, you can immediately contact your bank or credit card company to put a stop to any charges before they go through.
Personal Capital also tracks all your fees and service charges and puts them all in one place. So you can see how much you’re spending… what’s worth it… and what’s not.
Fixing useless fees and unauthorized charges is a great way to cut down on overhead. And the more overhead you save, the more money you have to do fun, lucrative things.
That, after all, is what Unconventional Wealth is all about.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...