Monday, November 05, 2012
I put $800 into the checking account the other day, planning to use it for little details like keeping the lights on and making a mortgage payment. Looked in the account today, and $450 has vanished! WTF?? Turns out that Directv stole it.
It seems that any time you give your debit card number to someone, it's a tacit agreement that if you owe them money, they can just reach into your account and take it - it's considered "a purchase." There is no way you can block this from happening or prevent it from happening again, other than getting a new debit/credit card with a new number (with my bank, that's a $35 charge...and besides, I've already memorized my card number.)
So if you make a payment online or over the phone to an ongoing account, such as a satellite subscription, using a debit card, then they've got your number, literally and figuratively. You prefer to pay by writing your own check? Too bad - they've already grabbed whatever they want without telling you, and there's not a darned thing you can do about it except rearrange your banking tools and habits. I'll be doing that rearranging very soon.
It works differently for things like buying shoes - that's a one-time purchase, and if they charge you twice, it's a "mistake" and the bank can rectify it, so debit cards are still good for that. But companies that you have a monthly charge from? Forget it. The company has total control.
Don't believe me? I wouldn't have either. Ask your bank - they don't like to point this out, because it discourages debit card use for recurring payments, but it's all true.
EDIT NOTE: I never authorized auto-pay or direct payment. What happened was, a little more than a year ago, I came home from visiting the kids for a while and discovered that the tv had been shut off. I called Directv, and they said it'd been shut off for non-payment, and would I like to make the one-time payment via debit/credit card? I said sure, and it went through and I thought we were done. Turns out they kept my debit card number on file, "...in case I wanted to use it again."
I do pay online - I love online banking - but I never authorize auto-payment, because my income is agriculturally rather than fiscally based. I get lump sums at irregular times, rather than the weekly or monthly incomes most people have,and I don't always align perfectly with big companies and their predetermined billing cycles.
And, yes, I am going to get a new card.