Stop Unwanted Bank Charges

Surprise Mail
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It always hurts a little when money leaves your account. But if those charges are unexpected, it’s especially troubling: you might feel powerless to stop the transfers out, and you might not even know where the money is going. Transactions might be for long-forgotten subscriptions or fraudulent charges.

So how can you stop charges from hitting your bank account? With debit and credit cards, it’s a bit easier – there’s an expiration date that will eventually put an end to things.

If merchants use your bank account information to hit your account directly, you’ll need to get proactive to prevent further charges.

Fraudulent Charges

If a transfer out of your bank account is clearly fraud, the solution is simple: contact your bank and let them know you suspect fraud. The bank should resolve the issue or (at least temporarily) replace the money within 10 days. To get full protection, you need to notify your bank within 60 days – after that you might have to live with the charges (the time limit is two days for debit card transactions). For more details, read Your Protection against Electronic Banking Fraud and Errors.

Merchants Won’t Stop

Sometimes you know where the money is going – and you even gave a merchant permission to pull funds from your account – but you want to prevent additional charges from hitting your account. Perhaps you’ve changed your mind about which account to pay from, or you no longer use the service that you’re being charged for.

The first step is to contact the business and ask them to stop charging your account. Any reputable outfit should be happy to stop billing you. If a phone call or online request doesn’t work, send a request in writing, and track delivery of the request. Keep copies of all correspondence with the merchant – you might need to document your efforts later.

Sample Letter to Merchant

You don’t need to get too fancy with these requests. Be polite, brief, and to the point. If they don’t honor your request, it’s rarely because you were unclear – it’s a matter of whether or not they’re willing to stop charging you.

[DATE]

[VENDOR NAME]

Please cancel my subscription and all future payments effective immediately. My account number is ########. I am revoking any authorization to charge my bank account at [BANK NAME]. Please send any outstanding requirements to me by mail.

Thank you,

[SIGNATURE]

Work with your Bank

If vendors refuse to stop charging your bank account, have your bank prevent those payments from going through. Just like you stop payment on a check that’s gone lost, you can stop payment on electronic payments.

To do so, contact your bank at least three days before the payment hits your account. Provide information about the biller, and request that the transaction be denied. Explain that you no longer authorize those charges, and that you’ve notified the biller in writing (with no success). You might need to provide documentation, which is why you should keep copies of everything and track delivery (with certified mail, UPS, FedEx, etc.).

There might be a fee for making this request. Your bank might also require that you send an official request in writing. Ask the customer service representative what is required to ensure that no further charges will be made to your account. They might require a specific form or a simple letter to complete your request.

If all else fails (or if billers keep charging your account over long periods of time – which makes it hard to stay on top of things), you can always close your account and open a different one.

Sample Letter to Bank

To instruct your bank to stop charges from hitting your account, either use a form provided by your bank, or change the text below to fit your situation.

[DATE]

[BANK NAME]

Regarding account ########.

Please stop payment on (or prevent) any future payments to [BILLER NAME] from my checking account. I do not authorize [BILLER NAME] to make withdrawals from my account. I have notified this biller that no further charges are to be made [reference attached documentation, if applicable] and any previous permission is no longer granted.

Please let me know if anything else is required to satisfy this request.

Thank you,

[SIGNATURE]

Avoiding Trouble

It is convenient to pay bills electronically – especially if your biller does all the work and pulls money out of your account when the bill is due. However, things can go wrong, and providing your checking account information gives a lot of power to your biller.

If you want to avoid problems in the future, see if there’s a way to pay your bills electronically – but only when you decide to make the payment. Your bank’s online bill payment system might allow you to set up automatic recurring payments to a merchant, and you can easily cancel those payments anytime.