Many of us will start the new year with the best of intentions (maybe even a resolution or two). Yet January also brings a sense of nervous trepidation, because that’s when we have to face down our finances and check what we’ve spent over the festive season.
But did you know that lurking in all that spending on your plastic cards, could be hundreds – even thousands – of pounds in things you’ve been billed for that you neither want or need? And best of all, you can claim back cash on anything you haven’t authorised.
Claiming back cash
There are two main categories when it comes to cancelling and claiming:
Things you haven’t authorised or should have been cancelled: This can include things like old insurance policies for a mobile phone you no longer have but didn’t realise you were paying for. Or packaged bank accounts, where you didn’t want or need the extras. When you cancel these, you can seek refunds if the firm has taken your money when it shouldn’t have done or if it sold you something unsuitable.
Things you don’t need any more: This can include subscriptions, memberships and services that you aren’t taking full advantage of, along with ‘disputed transactions’ – free trials that you might have signed up for that started charging you after a few months.
So how do you get started? Our guide gives you lots of tips on where to look.
Errors and mistakes
Going through your bank account is no fun but there may be a surprising number of mistakes and errors lurking there. Sometimes transactions go through in error – particularly when you’re paying by contactless and are distracted. Other payments can be incorrectly applied to your account instead of someone else’s.
Finally, you may find that you’ve been signed up to services you didn’t want or ask for. All of these can be cancelled and claimed back. Bear in mind that some businesses have different names on your account bill than they do in reality though.
Subscriptions and subscription traps
Legit subscriptions: If you head back to your email inbox (if you can bear it) you may find many messages from the various services you subscribe to. Many will be offering you deals to not cancel your regular payments. Take a bit of time to look them over – there may be some deals that are pretty good for keeping the monthly payments going.
But ultimately, if money is tight – or you’ve just reached the point when you want a clear out – you’re usually able to cancel most subscriptions these days with around a month’s notice at most. Gyms used to be a nightmare for this, but things have improved significantly. However, if you feel you’re being significantly penalised financially and you were misled when you took out the agreement you can pursue a formal complaint.
The traps: Lurking on your statements may be one-off payments or sneaky monthly subscriptions. You may have signed up to free trials and forgotten to cancel or tried out a service but you simply don’t use it. These payments don’t appear on your ‘regular payment’ lists, so you have to trawl through your accounts to find them. Go back a year and one month, which will allow for every annual payment to be tracked down. If you didn’t authorise these payments, weren’t told you were going to be debited or you think you’ve been scammed, your bank can cancel them right away – and you might even get a refund.
Some contracts have significant penalties for pulling out of mid-term, such as with your broadband and mobile phones provider. Insurance contracts also catch people by surprise as they are an annual contract where there’s one price each year that is split into twelve chunks. No-one really gets why this is, but it does mean that you’ll have to pay a variable fee to bail early. Beat this by saving the renewal dates in your diary a month in advance so you’ve got time to shop around and jump ship.
However, if you’ve been overcharged by one of your providers as a result of staying loyal – compare your current payments to what you’d be charged as a new customer (without the initial offers). You may be able to claim back quite a bit of cash.
We use and stream so much data without fully understanding the technology – so many of us panic and just click to accept pop up ads for cloud, streaming and other digital services.
You don’t want to lose all your photos in a tech failure, but you only really need one cloud storage service. The same goes for music streaming services, which are also often duplicated.
With streaming sites charging around £15 a month and other services such as internet security sites not far off, you’re wasting loads of cash. If you’re paying for two cloud services and two music streaming services and you reduce that to one each, you could save up to £400 a year.
Millions of us are paying for insurance policies that we don’t use or need.
Check your regular payments and debits from your bank account – you may be surprised to spot a mobile phone insurance policy for a phone you’ve upgraded years ago that you’re still being charged for. Or you might find an expensive gadget insurance policy is much cheaper if you update your home insurance.
You could be able to claim back if you’ve been overcharged despite you asking for an insurance policy to be cancelled. If you have a packaged bank account and you’re over 70, then your insurance is unlikely to cover you so you might get some cash back.
Utilities and overcharging
Most of us have been persuaded to drop paper statements from utility companies. The same goes for mobile phone services. Chances are you might not need the full package you’re on and could instantly save by reducing it.
Phone bills also hide a range of charges you might not have been aware of. These can include data roaming charges that you might not have realised you were paying when on holiday, premium rate text services (up to £5 each) after you agreed to let a firm send you notifications and other disputed charges. Have a scoot through the bill and flag up anything you haven’t authorised. The Phone Paid Services Authority can help if you aren’t happy with the response from the firm.
Switch and save
Even though energy switching is off the menu for a lot of us right now, you may still save by switching your insurance, broadband, mobile phone provider and more.
Many of us might not realise our contract period has ended and we’ve been dumped on to a lower value, more expensive plan instead. If you don’t feel you were sufficiently warned you can ask for a refund for the difference between the plan you’re on and the better options on the firm’s website.
If you encounter a problem with a firm that won’t refund, Resolver can help you raise a complaint for free.