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When it comes to credit card mistakes, don't forgive and don't forget

When the first of the month rolls around, many people are hesitant to approach their mailboxes. That's because it marks the start of a new billing cycle, meaning statements for everything from mortgages and utilities to car payments and, of course, credit cards will begin arriving once again.

It's often this last item that people look forward to receiving the least, as credit card statements not only serve as a sobering reminder of how much has been spent, but how much is left to pay. Indeed, it's not uncommon for people to remit the minimum payment online or via check, and dispose of the statement without much thought.

While this is understandable, experts indicate that it might also prove to be costly in the long run, as credit card companies are notorious for making billing mistakes, such that you may be unwittingly paying for their errors.

As alarming as this is, the good news is that there are ways for consumers to protect themselves from mistakes in their credit card bill.

Make the effort to review

First and foremost, consumers are advised to resist the temptation to simply tear up or delete their monthly credit card statement. Rather, they should make a concerted effort to review the charges, comparing the starting balance with the previous month, and looking for anything that doesn't belong, including "add-ons" or other charges for fee-based products they never authorized.

Make the effort to call

If any sort of mistake or discrepancy is discovered, experts urge consumers to call the credit card company to report the problem as soon as possible, as putting the matter off until later could limit options.

Make the effort to follow up

Once the call has been made, experts indicate that it's even more urgent for consumers to send written notice to the credit card company at the address listed for billing disputes no later than 60 days after receipt of the erroneous statement in order to preserve their rights.

In addition to your name and address, the written notice should also include both your account number and a concise explanation of the issue.

We'll continue this discussion next week, examining the legal obligations of the credit card company once this written notice is received.

In the meantime, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if you have concerns about a credit card company harassing you over debts you know you don't owe.  

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