There are hundreds of millions of credit cards in circulation in the United States, and their usage is proliferated throughout virtually every sector of the economy. With many people using their credit cards for every day purchases, it is common for our credit card information to fall into the hands of many different companies and payment processors. Sometimes, you may find unwanted charges on your credit card that you either do not remember authorizing or have appeared as a result of free trials and other gimmicks. Regardless, these gray charges can add up over time and affect millions of people each year. Below, we will discuss how this occurs and what you can do to eliminate them.


What Are Gray Charges?

Unwanted credit card charges can take on many forms, but these gray charges are usually the result of various companies with which you have done business applying unwanted or unexplained services and products to you. In many cases, you may not even be aware that you are receiving these services – long distance packages were a common add-on in previous years. Cumulatively, these charges added up to nearly $15 billion in 2012, spread out over roughly one-quarter billion separate occasions. Research shows that one in three cardholders currently have a gray charge on their account, with most not aware of them. Two out of five gray charges originate from free to paid services, meaning that you initially signed up for a trial and forgot to cancel before the trial was over.

How to Cancel These Charges

Most credit card companies want their cardholders to be proactive when it comes to eliminating gray charges. It is fairly simple and almost always reversible via the credit card company in question. Gray charges that appear on credit cards are far more likely to have a swift resolution than those that appear on debit cards. If you believe that you are the victim of gray charges, then be sure to take the time and inspect your credit card statement for any irregularities or unrecognized charges. You can then call up your financial institution with a list of the charges in question. While it is usually not possible to obtain credit for these charges, they will be more than happy to prevent their recurrence.

Preventing These Charges

The easiest way to prevent gray charges from occurring is to avoid providing your information to companies for a free trial or limited evaluation of a product. If you must do so, then keep a record of each interaction and document when you begin being billed for use. Sometimes, this is enough to deter the accumulation of potential gray charges in the first place. It also helps to avoid providing any personal information in sweepstakes and other promotions, as this information can ultimately wind up in the wrong hands and result in unnecessary and sometimes fraudulent charges.

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