How To Spot Hidden "Grey" Credit Card Statement Charges

November 16, 2015, Written By Bill Hardekopf
Asian businessman shock with a credit card and statement isolated on white background

Examine your credit card statement closely, and you may be shocked to see that you are paying “grey charges”. These are generally small transactions that are easy to miss, probably because they are often for goods and services you may not remember purchasing.

While the average grey charge is $61, the total costs are much higher. According to a 2013 study from BillGuard and the Aite Research group, grey charges cost consumers more than $14.3 billion in 2012.

According to the report, one in three cardholders are being charged for an unwanted service or product. Over 40% of these charges come from free-to-paid products, which is when a consumer is offered a free trial and is then charged if they do not cancel within a specified timeframe. While these charges may be irritating, they are legal as long as they’re mentioned in the contract.

Other types of grey charges include automatic subscription renewals for things like magazines or video game access, recurring memberships and automatic renewals.

The key to avoiding these charges is to remain vigilant. Check your credit card statement at least once a month.

If you do discover a grey charge, take steps to cancel it immediately. Contact the vendor so they know you are canceling the automatic payment. Put your notice of cancellation in writing and continuously check your statements to make sure the charges have stopped.

Other ways to stop grey charges include:

  • Use credit cards instead of debit cards. While most grey charges are legal, it will be easier for you to dispute a fraudulent charge if you use a credit card. Also, make sure you know how to dispute a charge on your account.
  • Read the fine print of any contract. Grey charges are often hidden in the small text.
  • When you’re signing up for a free promotion, do not provide your contact or personal information.
  • Put a reminder on your calendar to cancel a product or service before the trial period is over. But keep in mind, if you have to remind yourself to cancel a service, you may not want to sign up for it in the first place.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of November 16, 2015. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.