Download your electronic statements before they disappear

Are you paying too much for your phone service, cable bill, and Internet service? What about your car, home, and health insurance?

Unless you know what you’re currently paying and how much you’ve paid in the past, it’s hard to determine if a service provider is increasing your rates substantially each year or how much you could save by switching to an alternative provider. One trick some providers might use to reduce the chances a customer will evaluate rate options is to place a tight limit on how long statements are archived on their websites. This limits the ability by those who receive electronic statements, and forgets download them, to evaluate their costs.

As an example, a company releases an annual insurance document in March (beginning of the insurance term) and drops it from its website at the end of the year. Unless customers download the statement or elect to receive paper copies, and keep them where they can find them, it can become problematic to compare a new premium to a previous year’s premium when it comes up for renewal the following year. This makes it easier for a company to increase rates by 10 percent, 15 percent or more each year without receiving pushback from customers.

Never let a service provider extract more cash from you than you need to pay.

Always keep a copy of your statements in your files to review later. The best way to do that is to save the documents on your computer, print out electronic copies or elect to receive paper copies from the company. Create a folder in an electronic or physical file that keeps these documents in an easy to locate storage area where it won’t take a forensic expert to find them. Then, as your contracts come up for renewal, compare the old rates to the new ones. If you’re unhappy with the new cost structures, it’s your right to shop around and compare rates with those of other companies.

You are under no obligation to stay with a particular service company, and your loyalty to a service provider has little if any weight in whether or not that company increases your rates. You owe it to yourself, and your financial future, to shop around and get the best deals possible. Then, instead of spending the money you save by switching companies, add that cash to a savings or investment account and watch it work for you.