New research finds that a huge number of millennials don’t bother looking at their bills, an oversight that could be costing them—and anybody else who’s in the habit of paying without perusing—in more ways that you’d expect.
In a survey of more than 2,000 adults under the age of 25 conducted on behalf of technology company Inlet, 32% of respondents said they don’t look over itemized bills before paying them.
One possible reason could be because so many young adults pay their bills electronically these days. “Millennials are digital natives and are accustomed to living their lives on mobile devices and social networks,” Inlet points out in a release accompanying the results. The survey finds that fewer than 25% use paper checks and snail mail to pay bills, while about 10% get email reminders and 5% get text reminders when their bills are due.
But this convenience can have a downside if it leads to carelessness. If you don’t check your bills, here are some potentially costly outcomes that can result.
You might be paying for a service you don’t use. Maybe you signed up for a premium cable channel you no longer watch, or for a data plan that far outstrips your mobile usage. Maybe you signed up for a subscription — anything from a gym membership to movie-streaming site access—that you don’t use anymore. If you don’t look at your bill, this could slip your mind and cost you money.
You could miss out on savings. Sometimes, companies will offer money-saving options on your monthly bill that you won’t know about if you just look at the the total and tap a few keys or write out a check. For instance, you might be able save a few dollars if you opt for paperless statements or electronic payments. Expenses like insurance premiums sometimes can be a few bucks lower if you pay your annual premium in a lump sum rather than spreading out your payments over the course of the year.
You might get ripped off. Maybe you signed up for a cable package at a promotional rate, or were promised a discount on a purchase. The only way to make sure you’re getting what you’re entitled to is to check your bill. Glitches and mistakes do happen, and it’s up to you (not the company!) to be sure you’re not paying more than you should. In the case of credit or debit cards, you’ll also want to verify that you get the refund you’re owed if you return an item, and that you’re not overcharged at places like restaurants.
You could be a fraud victim. Hopefully you’d notice if someone went on a spending spree using your account information, but sometimes, small discrepancies can give you an early warning. When thieves steal a cache of credit or debit card information and sell it on the black market, the buyer will often make a small transaction—maybe a dollar or even less—to see if the stolen digits they just bought are still “live.” Catching an unfamiliar transaction that otherwise might go overlooked could save you a much bigger headache later.