James Walker: Ways to save cash will be music to your ears

It is often difficult to tell where a continuous payment authority comes from or what it is for. Picture: PA
It is often difficult to tell where a continuous payment authority comes from or what it is for. Picture: PA
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If you’re worrying that you might have overspent this Christmas, don’t panic. There are lots of tips on things you can do if you need to save some cash or manage your finances in the new year.

Here are four things you might not have thought of that can save you cash – and could mean you could claim back some money too.

◆ Crafty debits: It’s a standard “sorting out your finances” tip to go through your bank statements and cancel or question any payments you don’t recognise. This will certainly help you spot any old insurance policies or magazine subscriptions you don’t need. However, in recent years, a new form of payment – the continuous payment authority (CPAs) – has taken over and allows retailers and businesses to dominates our debits. These payments are harder to spot as they might come off your credit card as well as from your bank account. Often, it’s hard to tell where they’ve come from or what they’re for. The good news is a CPA must be cancelled as soon as you tell your bank or card provider to do so. They can also help you identify where it’s come from – and you can claim back the money if you’ve not authorised the payments.

◆ Clouds and streams: We pay loads of cash each month for virtual goods. You might not think you have any, but chances are if you’ve got a computer or smartphone, you’re saving your photos and music to a cloud service. Save some cash by going with the free versions. As for paid-for music websites. £14.99 a month is £180 a year! Is it worth it?

◆ The price of loyalty. Just before Christmas, the Competitions and Markets Authority announced that a range of firms across sectors, from insurance to broadband, had been overcharging customers who stayed loyal and let policies or services automatically renew each year. If you’ve not moved provider for a few years, chances are you’ve been charged more than a new customer. So check online to see what you’d get if you were, then make a complaint. The rules aren’t clear about whether the firm has to give you a refund. But you have every right to ask for your money back if you have been overcharged. And don’t forget, there’s a free ombudsman for insurance, financial services, communications, broadband, mortgages and more.

◆ Auto-renewals: Whenever I see goods or services advertised for free – or the dreaded “free trials” – I ask myself “Why do you need my card details then?” The fact of the matter is, if a firm has a way to debit cash from you, it probably has you poised to be signed up to a service that costs money. So watch out for auto-renewals.

Big companies like Dropbox and Amazon take a crafty approach to these services, billing you in one hit for the year ahead. This larger sum might be spotted by some people, but most of us are more likely to spot one of the 12 monthly instalments of a regular payment rather than a yearly fee. Remember, if you’re not using the service, you can prove you had no intention of ever wanting it – so ask for your money back plus interest.

If you’re disputing money that a business has debited from your account, ask them to prove you’ve authorised it. This must be in writing or in the form of a telephone recording. If they can’t prove it, they can’t take it.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk