It can be a nightmare scenario for a lot of people – you’ve had a good night out, you bought one or two drinks, and then you go to check your account the next day and find that you’ve been charged twice. It can be especially worrying when you are living close to your means and cannot afford to have any funds wrongly taken from your bank account.
Once something like this has happened, you still have a lot of ways to fix things. Let’s look at what you can do.
First thing first
The first thing to do is to stay calm. You will be able to fix problems much more easily as long as you remember to stay calm. While it can be upsetting to have incorrect charges on your credit card, panicking will not help.
Check that the charge is wrong
We have all had incidents when we think we have been scammed, but it’s actually a simple misunderstanding. You should make sure that the charge is incorrect before jumping to action. Remember that sometimes a pending charge can be a type of holding charge that a company never actually takes. Alternatively, if you went to the same bar on two days in a row, you might find that both charges go out on the same day and could look fraudulent. Alternatively, try to remember if each transaction has a tip added to it – you should be careful and check every charge before you approve it, so the signed receipt should show you what the charge should have been.
There’s no harm in having a look to make sure that the transaction needs to be addressed before looking into it.
Check that your bank account and card are secure
If you have had incorrect charges applied to your account, it is important to first check your bank accounts and credit card to make sure that they are secure. You can do this by looking through your account and statement in order to check for any other wrongful charges. If anything else stands out as an error or if you see potential fraudulent charges, you should contact your bank and cancel any credit cards and debit cards that you think could be compromised. The same goes for if you find that the credit card or debit card you used is missing. However, make sure that you have some way to buy essentials like food and gas while you are waiting for new cards to be issued – it is always smart to have a small amount of cash or money in a different account in case you have an incident where you cannot access your accounts, as canceling cards can cause problems with day-to-day purchases and can stop regular payments.
Of course, if you only see the one double charge, this may mean that your credit or debit card is not compromised, so you may not have to do this. If in doubt, you can contact your bank or your card issuer for advice.
Gather proof from card statement or online banking
Once you have made sure that your finances are safe, you can start to figure out what to do about the double charge. A good first step is to gather any relevant proof you can, such as your bank statement. This means that you can prove exactly how much the bar or other venue has taken out of your account that you did not authorize.
Find your receipt
If you keep your receipts from nights out, it could also be beneficial to get these ready as well. If you tend to throw them out at home, you may be able to find them. Getting the receipt is useful as it will help show you a few basic details of the night – for example, what time or which day you were in the bar. This can be very useful if the incorrect charges are from a different day or time. The receipt can also help show how much you should have paid for the total bill, especially if you filled out the tip amount on the tip line and the total on the total line.
Am I at risk of identity theft?
It is unlikely that you have been charged twice due to identity theft or identity fraud. There are many more likely reasons why you got charged twice. However, you should not fully rule out this possibility. You should check your statements from any banks you have business with, and you should check your credit score for any unauthorized searches. If you are in any doubt, you should contact your banks and explain what happened. You can also contact a financial advisor to get advice.
Contact the bar directly
Once you have made sure that you are not at further risk, you can look at correcting the incorrect charge. The best way to start this is by contacting the bar directly. Be sure to explain what happened – whether you were charged twice, or whether the final amount on your bill was different from the actual charge they took off your debit card.
It is always worth getting in touch with the bar or merchant when you have this kind of problem and asking them to rectify the duplicate charge. While it is natural to assume that a charge for the wrong amount is a fraudulent charge, it can very easily be an honest mistake. In cases like this, where you get a double bar or restaurant charge by accident, they will usually be keen to correct it and refund you the difference.
While some people are skeptical, wait staff are often overrun and mistakes can happen easily when they are busy. However, speaking to a manager of the bar or restaurant should help you get your money back.
If the manager of the bar or the restaurant seems hesitant to refund the cost that they incorrectly put on your credit card or debit card, then you may need to show them the proof you gathered earlier – the receipt and bank statements. This can help to show the amount you agreed to pay, including tips and any gratuity fee – showing this can help to clear up any confusion, especially if the charge was for more money than expected.
Take it further up
If the manager of the location refuses to refund you, you could always look at contacting someone higher up. If the bar or restaurant is part of a chain of bars, you may find that they have a dedicated customer service team who can help make sure that their customers are happy, and they may be more willing to deal with a problem arising from the same transaction being charged to your debit card or credit card more than once. Again, you may need to show them proof of the issue – point out the amount on the bill, the amount on your bank statement, and other figures that back up your case.
Contact your credit card company
If the manager of the business or the customer service of the chain cannot – or does not want to – help, you may need to escalate this dispute to your card issuer. Most major banks and card issuers have dedicated customer support helplines for issues like this. You will generally find that fraudulent charges are refunded to your card quickly by the bank – whether that is two charges for the same transaction or a charge that is much higher than it should have been.
Can my debit card issuers help?
Whether you have a debit card or a credit card, the company will often be able to help you. Debit cards have many of the same protections as credit cards, though there are some expectations.
How can I avoid this issue?
No one wants to get fake or fraudulent charges on their debit card – it can be stressful, even if you manage to get it sorted out relatively quickly, and even more stressful if the dispute lasts a while – you might have to explain the situation to the restaurant or merchant, the manager, your debit card company, and potentially multiple customer service representatives.
So how can we avoid getting charges on a card?
This is probably the most simple way to avoid getting charged twice for an evening out. Paying cash means that you can easily keep track of how much you have spent so there are no nasty surprises in the morning. Paying cash can also be a great way to make sure that you do not stray over your budget. You can tie this into any of your budgeting mantras and only take the amount of cash that you are willing to spend.
Fill out the bill properly
You no doubt will have heard that you should read anything fully before you sign it – the same principle applies here. Make sure that you read your bill and fill out all the sections before you sign it. While very few table staff, bar staff or managers try to commit fraud, some will, so you should make it harder for them to do so. For example, if you pay tips in cash, you should write on the tip line of the check stating this, or at least cross it out – this means that no one can add a tip value onto the total and make it look like you approved it. If they do add this in once you have already signed it, it can look like you agreed to a higher charge.
Similar to paying in cash, you could use a pre-paid debit card that does not allow you to go over a certain amount. If you find the right kind of card, this means that if a second charge is added, it will simply be rejected.
Use a daily spending debit account
Having a level of separation from your main band account is always sensible in case of fraud or in case your card gets stolen – and it is very much possible to have a debit card stolen from a bag or a car. It can also help in case you happen to swipe your card in a card skimming device since the data the thieves obtain would be less useful. Ultimately, you should always make sure that the card you carry does not have access to the majority of your finances. You should make sure that most of your money is in a savings account, and your card can only access a small portion that you use for daily spending, which can be topped up when needed by online banking apps.
However, you need to make sure that you get the right kind of account. If the account allows you to go overdrawn, having a separate account will not help as much, since you will still need to get the charges reversed. Ideally, you should have an account that refuses transactions that would send you into an overdraft.
Save with friends for nights out
Another way to make sure that your card is not at risk from fake charges is to join with the friends you plan to go out with and make an account for your trips out. This means that no one person is going to bear the brunt of fraud, and it means that you can help keep yourselves to a certain budget as well. Saving with friends can be tough if you disagree on financial matters, but it can be very useful for people who get on well. It also gives you the chance to save up for certain big events like weekend drinking trips to a different city.
It can be jarring and ruin your day when a business takes more money than it should, but you should remember that most of the time the extra charge is simply an error, and most people will be quick to try to rectify the problem for you. A quick conversation with the bar manager is usually all that is needed to fix a problem like this, but you can rest easy knowing that your credit or debit card company will almost always have your back and be able to reverse any illegal charges. However, if you want to enjoy an evening out without worrying about the What Ifs, there are also many things you can do to protect yourself from these problems.