Buyer Beware: Grey Charges

You just opened your credit card statement. “What’s this charge?” may be your first thought when you see a small charge on your credit card statement that you can’t figure out. This is known as a “grey charge” and there are several types of grey charges you should be familiar with:

  • Unintended subscriptions. You thought you made a onetime purchase, but it was really a subscription.
  • Zombie fees. Membership fees that you had cancelled, but charges still appear on your statement.
  • Free trial to a paid subscription. When a free trial is over, the seller converts it to a paid subscription.
  • Negative option. You bought one product, but did not realize that you were buying others at the same time.

What can you do to protect yourself from grey charges?

  • Before you buy, read the terms of service. Disclosures about fees may be hidden, so read the entire document.
  • Mark your calendar as a reminder to cancel free trials by a set date.
  • Read your credit card statements carefully. Pay attention to the names of companies and charges for small amounts.
  • Contact the seller to have the grey charges removed.
  • Dispute the charges with your credit card company.

For additional information on grey charges go to:

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students check their credit card statements to discover any grey charges.
  • Have students make a short presentation with a summary of actions that might be taken to avoid grey charges.

Discussion Questions

1. What are several reasons to check your credit card statements?

2. What can you do if grey charges appear on your credit card statement?


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