I’m just going to come right out and say it. I don’t review my credit card statements as much as I should. A company, or my card issuer, could be charging me for something extra (or bogus) and I probably wouldn’t catch it. Apparently this does happen – see these 10 potentially problematic charges.
This is where BillGuard helps. BillGuard reviews and automatically monitors your credit card and debit card usage for bogus fees and unusual transactions. They do this by crowd-sourcing your data with the data of thousands of other BillGuard customers.
For instance, if you have a charge from Old Navy on your credit card, BillGuard looks at the amount and other factors and compares them to what they are seeing with other Old Navy transactions across all their data to determine if the charge seems appropriate. If not, they flag it and ask you to investigate and clear the charge before moving on.
BillGuard is free to track the first three cards. And if you refer a friend to the service you can track even more cards for free. BillGuard does have some premium services (i.e track 10 cards at $79 a year) for the hard core credit card user or business.
How I Use BillGuard
To get started with BillGuard, just create an account and connect your credit and/or debit cards by entering your banking credentials. I check them out last night and connected my Chase Freedom card, my British Airways card, and my Capital One 360 debit card. These are our most active accounts.
My accounts had 418 transactions across the last 90 days. Three items showed up as “unsure”, meaning BillGuard wasn’t familiar with the transactions and could not make a determination on their legitimacy. I checked them out, cleared them, and now the next person who has a similar charge is more likely to get an okay from BillGuard.
BillGuard also provides a way to help you review your transactions. Within the BillGuard dashboard you can sort your transactions by those that are recurring, fees, made online, or made by new merchants. I found this very helpful for reviewing the necessity of my purchases. I actually picked up on a recurring charge that I’ve been meaning to cancel.
Improvements and Safety
Some things I’d like to see BillGuard improve: 1. allow for sorting by transaction amount (according to the service forum this in the works), and 2. guard my individual cell phone and TV service bill line items (i.e. take “bills”, not just card transactions).
BillGuard is also committed to the safety of your credentials by providing bank-level security:
“BillGuard utilizes bank-level AES 256bit encryption for all communications and all data processing is performed on servers isolated from direct access to the Internet. The company’s systems are monitored by its own security staff 24/7 and audited daily by Verisign and McAfee HackerSafe. Regular penetration testing is performed by Security-Art.”
Don’t feel comfortable with another online “connection” service? Wait around a while and you won’t have a choice. BillGuard will soon likely be offered within your bank’s online account system, giving you the BillGuard protection without leaving your online account.
BillGuard has stated this is their revenue goal (sell to the banks), and I don’t see why banks wouldn’t take them up on this. Since they are not charging you, they need to make their money from the banks who will offer their service to you for free. So there you go.
BillGuard also integrates with Apple’s new Passbook feature (like Google Wallet), which lets you store credit card information for paying by phone.
I like what the creators of BillGuard have done here. Seems like a win-win for the banks and consumers. It’s an exciting time we live in where our collective data can help improve our financial lives and allow us to feel better about having not looked at our statements in a while.