How To Save Money: Billing Mistakes (Part 1)

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How to Save Money: Billing Mistakes (Part 1)

You work hard for your money. Or, at least I hope you do. If you are stealing money, scamming people or just inherited $100,000, then you’ll most likely blow it anyways. But for those of us that really value a hard-earned dollar, don’t you hate it when someone over-charges you for something? That’s the worst. And not just the mistake, but the hassle of correcting that mistake just leaves a sour taste in your mouth (or maybe you just ate a warhead…). Whatever the case, it stinks.

I’ve noticed over the past few years that I am always fighting tooth and nail to keep our money. Companies and people seem to always be after it in subtle ways. I swear most of the just hope I don’t notice and want to walk away clean with my cash. I used to get a headache going through this process of recovering my heard-earned cash money, but now I just realized it’s the norm.

So, based on my experience, here’s a list of 3 areas that you need to watch out for and how to keep more of your money:


1.       Medical Bills.

After having a baby, we started to have the medical bills pile in. Luckily, my insurance paid for most everything, but there were some bills that were not 100% covered. As they came in, I had noticed that a few of them were not billed to insurance. Come to find, my insurance didn’t believe that my son was covered under my insurance plan, but under my wife’s old plan. I had already told them several times that he was never covered under her plan, but they kept reverting back to that and not paying. I finally sent a formal complaint via email attached to one of the bills through their site and they emailed back saying they could resolve this. We’ll see when the next bills come in.

We also noticed that the insurance would be billed and they would reject payment, but if we waited a month or two, they would then approve payment. Since they don’t usually throw you to collection until about 6 months of delinquency, we waited on most of the bills, and actually saved a few hundred dollars because the insurance finally approved some payments. Medical billing is so jacked up, I don’t get it.

Savings: About $800 so far

2.       Cable/Internet Bill

If you are not in the habit of checking your cable/internet bill, you definitely should be. Especially for those of you who have cable. There are so many little fees and charges that make up your bill it’s hard to know what you are really paying for. We have internet only, but they would jack up our rate every 6 months. I would have to call and ask them to lower it every time. It got to the point where I had to follow the phone prompts to get to the “cancel my service” option before I was able to get it changed. Of course, I always had a backup service that I would jump to if they actually wouldn’t budge and cancelled my service, but they never did.

Most of these companies have an entire department dedicated to “customer retention”, because though there little fees and rate hikes don’t show it well, they do realize the cost of losing a “lifetime customer”. So they will usually resolve any billing dispute in your favor. If you haven’t questioned your cable/internet bill lately, or just think you are paying too much, I suggest you give them a call, let them know that you are not happy with the rate you are paying and negotiate a better deal. Or you can switch providers and save with Megapath. You can probably just ask what “promotions” they have going on and tell them you want that price.

Savings: $35 a month

3.       Cell Phone Bill

Another technology bill, another place for companies to screw up. I’m not sure what the correlation is, but there seems to be an awfully high percentage of mistakes with technology bills. Whatever the reason, your cell phone bill is another place that you need to scrutinize. There are many fees and charges that make up your bill, so I’ll break ’em down real quick.

  1. Plan Charges: This is the charge for your monthly minute plan. If you have multiple lines, usually the first line costs the most, and all other lines are $10 a month.
  2. Voice Charges: This is usually covered in the plan, but if you have long-distance (does that exist anymore) or roaming charges, they’d show up here.
  3. Messaging Charges: This is your text messages. Most companies offer pay-per-text or unlimited with nothing in between. It’s really become a ridiculous monolopy and a lack of options, but it is what it is. If you have a LARGE messaging bill, you should be able to call and have them adjust your plan so you don’t pay for overages. You should be able to convince them to waive any “overage fees” as well.
  4. Data Charges: This is where all cell phone plans are making money these days. There are very few (if any) truly “Unlimited” plans, and if there are, they cost like $70+ a month! GROSS! Most give you 2GB or 3GB for about $30 a month, but seriously, I have personally see this rate change 3 times in the past few months. So if you are paying a ton for data, you may want to look at the usage here
  5. One-Time Charges: This usually includes activation fees and such. When I used to sell cell phone, I was able to waive these pretty regularly, so see if you can convince them to waive these if you are buying a new phone. I bet you can!

We have added a few lines to our plan recently, and I had to comb through all of these to make sure I wasn’t overcharged. I caught one activation fee (clerk said it wouldn’t be there) that I called out and they fixed it on the next month’s bill. I have also lowered our minute plan a few times in the past to save about $10 a month or so.

Savings: $36 fee + $10 a month

More to Come

These are just a few of the areas I have had to fight to keep our money. It is becoming a constant battle and really is starting to serve as a second job. So be very wary of just writing a check or plopping down your credit card info to pay these bills without giving them a once-over. And since some of these are recurring charges, you could be wasting hundreds of dollars a year! I’ll have a Part 2 and Part 3 of this series on how to save money on bills in the coming weeks.

Comments:  Do you check your bills before paying them. Have you caught any mistakes that have saved you hundreds? What is it with billing departments that always makes mistakes in their favor? Do you think they do it on purpose? And why do they keep advertising the medal winners in the Olympics just before showing the pre-taped event for the first time here in the U.S.?


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Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

54 thoughts on “How To Save Money: Billing Mistakes (Part 1)”

  1. I’ve caught a mistake on the cable bill where I was charged extra for a service I didn’t want. I got it fixed. But you do have to double check your bills.

  2. I’ve had so many issues with AT&T that I keep the old bill until the new bill comes in–they can’t fix my online bill viewing for some unknown reason which really irritates me. And if I call their online support, I get “there is no such account here”. The last few months I haven’t had to pay anything because they overcharged me in the begining–it took awhile but it was eventually fixed. And it was only fixed after I asked how much the “get me out of this insane contract you made us sign” fee was after they had accidentaly charged us a $125 service fee. I say accidental because no one came out to do any service on our house. Instead, they serviced a house in a different STATE that had the same town name (but not the same address) but they charged our account by mistake. I love the service but I hate the trouble with the company.

  3. I hate how unethical some companies are with their billing practices. The problem is that in some industries they pretty much all do it. So you just can’t escape it. It makes you wonder if the owners of those companies made some kind of shady agreement over a round of golf or something.

    I recently had my dentist pull something like this. When I got a filling, I asked for the price difference between using silver or composite. The assistant looked it up and quoted one price. When I went to go pay, they charged me the higher price even though I went with the cheaper option. I tried arguing it but they wouldn’t budge. So either they were willing to charge me 50% more than I should’ve been or their prices had increased that much compared to the price list the assistant checked. Either way, I don’t think I will be going back to that dentist.

  4. I think you make a great point. And it seems like bills get increasingly complicated. I have a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an MBA-Finance, and I’m unable to decipher our telecom bill well enough to judge whether we’re being billed properly! Something’s wrong here. I believe part of reason billing has become more complex is that it makes it nearly impossible for consumers to make an apples-to-apples comparison of providers in highly competitive industries.

  5. I get a screwed up medical bill from Kaiser at least once a month. My wife is covered under my insurance, but they somehow don’t see that, and send us a bill for the full, uninsured amount, every time she visits. I have to call and get it fixed everytime. It is so annoying!

  6. I have gotten so many incorrect bills that it makes my head spin. It is so imporant to check bills for errors! Customer service has gone down the tubes and I don’t even believe that companies try to be ethical anymore. It makes me crazy.

    • You’re right. No one seems ot care about the lifetime customer anymore. Cell phone companies lock you in with their “cancellation fees, telecom companies are sometimes your only choice in the neighborhood, and medical billing is just horrible.

  7. This is one of the unintended consequences of our family meeting. We started checking each bill as a family (just to make sure that our whole family knew how much every bill was). Imagine my surprise when we started finding mistakes all over the place. We divided the job of calling to get our money back because it would just overwhelm one person.

    • Gah! i can’t believe everyone is experiencing this. My question is: How are we ok with this? I thought I was just getting screwed, but it sounds like everyone accepts this as a normal practice from their service providers. Interesting…

  8. I just saved $50 by calling my utility company after seeing their great introductory offer. I knew that my contract had expired. As you’ve said, these companies won’t offer you any savings unless you fight for it.

  9. I agree with you on double checking the bills. Also, if your no having a hardcopy of the bill and the communication is verbal, always double check.

  10. GREAT point about medical billing, Jacob.. This seems to be a constant source of frustration for my family… We get medical bills ALL the time for hundreds of dollars.. But I never just blindly pay them.. More often than not, the administrative side of things just hasn’t worked itself out as of yet..

    I typically file the bills away when I receive them, and if I get a second one– then I call my insurance company to ask what is going on. On more than one occasions, the healthcare provider didn’t file the claim correctly (or missed some other technicality). However, since I called– they reach back out to the provider and get it sorted out.

    I wonder how many people there are out there that just blindly pay these type of bills.

    • I’m in the middle of a dispute right now. I need to call my insurance company, because I emailed them, and they sent me a canned response which I had already read on the bill. So frustrating, but it will save me hundreds if I can work it out.

  11. I’m totally one of those keeners who pays my bills as soon as I get them or when a charge is put on my credit card. I hate oweing money I guess! I definitely agree with the health insurance. It frustrates me so much that sometimes my plan through work covers my prescriptions and randomly some prescriptions it doesn’t cover. Or with my upcoming dental surgery it covers only 40% which means I still gotta pay a couple grand. So frustrating!

    • I wait on medical bills because they are so slow at getting insurance billed. Seriosuly, I’ve saved thousands already by just waiting.

      Bummer about eh 40% coverage, hopefully it’s not TOO expensive.

  12. Just cancel that cable and be done with it! There are enough options online and elsewhere, not to mention that you can free up time for more meaningful things!

    I’m still trying to figure out how to cut the wireless bill though!

    Great post!

    • We haven’t had cable in 4 years. BUT, our internet bill used to fluctuate, so I had to keep calling on it. I finnaly lowered the speed (still fast enough to stream movies) and we’re happy with our rate 🙂

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  14. You would be surprised how many medical offices don’t know how to bill anything. Lots of them farm out the service to a billing company who may not even be in the same state. The biller just bills what the doctor’s codes are based on services. So if you go in for a physical, which is probably covered, but the doctor finds out you have asthma, they still need to code it as a routine physical. If they use the code for ashtma, it gets subject to your deductible. The best thing is to study your insurance, know what you are going in for, and make sure you tell the office to bill it as a routine or problem visit. They will still probably do it wrong, but I also wonder how many people just have no idea and pay it anyway.

    • I didn’t know about the billing. That’s unfortunate. I still have to call on a bill that was “not covered” recently, even though it was a pretty routine test. I hope I can just get it resolved and not have to fork out another $400!

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  16. I’ve gotta say, I’m pretty great at bill negotiation. I, too, have been on “six-month promotions” for my internet for about four years. I’ve just now hit a snag because my backup service isn’t offered in our new neighborhood, so I need to find a new threat! We just went up to $70 a month, which IMO is crazy for just internet without phone/cable…

    • It’s a bummer when you only have one internet provider in your location. Not much billing wiggle room there. If it’s Comcast, I would opt for the 3MB plan. We did and it’s still fast enough to stream shows, but is a steady $40 a month with no fluctuations ever.

      • I’ve been wondering just how fast is fast enough. Out of curiosity, what do you use to stream shows? Do you watch in HD? Our most-used setup is watching Netflix in HD through the XBox 360, and I’ve wondered if 3MB would be enough to do that with decently quick load times and no lag…

          • Wow, well it’s definitely worth a shot if that’s the case. If it’s laggy, we could always upgrade — and maybe get another promotion? 🙂

          • Yup! I was actually told by the customer retention lady to switch to the slow speed for a month and then re-upgrade to get the promotional pricing. You can pretty much do that forever…

            We’ve stuck with the slower speed because we haven’t had a problem with it yet.

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