MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: Avoiding grey charges

MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: Avoiding grey charges

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You could be paying an extra $356 a year in charges you don't even realize you're paying - and that's just the average!

90 percent of us only skim our bills, leaving us at the mercy of "grey charges." Ever get a charge on a bill you didn't recognize?

"These are legal and they're getting away with it," said Douglas Alexander of Alexander Financial Services. "Charges that are being hidden in the fine print of our bills and our statements."

First, there's unknown subscriptions. On page 7 of one phone bill we checked, a $10 charge for premium messaging through This consumer never knew he'd signed up.

Then there's zombie subscriptions. Sometimes, even when you cancel these services, they show up again a few months later.

'When you do find it, go ahead and call the company, typically they'll reverse the expenses," said Alexander.

Three years ago, a nice young man came to my door selling magazine subscriptions. I ordered Consumer Reports and paid for one year. Which brings us to the third grey charge: automatic renewal. I'm still getting it with no way to contact the company to stop it.

Most reputable companies will send you a notice that a renewal charge is coming. My charge came in March with no warning. And then I experienced grey charge number four, cost creep. When I bought this subscription, it was $30 a year. In three years, that cost has crept up to $40.

Many internet sites offer freebies, but beware. If they ask for your credit card information, you will eventually be charged for something. Even Alexander got stung by the "free-to-paid" grey charge by letting a 14-day free trial lapse on

"So I called the company and they were nice enough to reverse it," said Alexander.

Alexander says it's easier to recoop grey charges when you pay using a credit card. He's got more details about fighting these charges on his site here:

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