How To Protect Yourself From Being Short Changed

There are many ways in which you can find yourself short changed, and I’m not just talking about mistakes at the checkout.

A recent study from Paymentsense kicked up some interesting regional results.

It would appear we’re a trustworthy bunch up in the North, with a third (34.5%) of those surveyed saying they would feel too guilty walking away if they had been undercharged.

However, make that same mistake as a cashier in East Anglia and you’d be lucky to see a penny of it returned as 80% of the region said they wouldn’t return to pay the difference.

But what if you’ve been short changed, not under charged?

If you don’t check you bank statements and receipts, there is a good chance you could get short changed and never realise it.

Here are a few examples of times you could be short changed and how to avoid it.

Contactless cards

Probably the easiest way to get short changed.

My local pub have a habit of leaving the card machine on the back of the bar and asking if they can just tap the card, I always politely decline.

I’m not suggesting that anyone would deliberately overcharge, however, the only way to be certain you are paying the correct price is to see it for yourself.

No matter what shop I’m using my contactless card in, I always ask to see the machine and I also ask for a receipt.

You should always ask for a receipt to use in the Receipt Hog app too, where you can earn vouchers or cash direct to your PayPal just for uploading them.

You can read more about Receipt Hog here.

Special offers

I have brought this to the attention of cashiers many times.

I’m a Creme Egg addict, and when Easter time comes (or should that be New Years Day) you will often find offers like three for a pound.

However, always make sure you check that offer is recognised by the till before you pay.

Quite often the offer you see on the shelf hasn’t been programmed into the till properly and you can end up paying full price.

Again, the easiest way to make sure you don’t get caught out is to ask for a receipt.


This is where a lot of people get caught out.

If you have signed up to a special offer for three months at a heavily discounted price, once that three months comes to an end the full price of the subscription will be charged.

A good example of this is the Taste Card offer which gave three months membership for just £1.

Many people were caught out as they didn’t cancel the subscription on time and ended up paying the full membership charge of £40.

It is vital you are aware of the terms and conditions of any such special offers to ensure you don’t end up out of pocket.

For instance in this case the deadline to cancel was four days before your offer ran out and not the actual date itself, catching many people out.

Other classic examples of this happening are taking a free month with Experian and forgetting to cancel it before the 30 day trial period is up, if you forget the full subscription charge kicks in.

The same applies with Amazon Prime, once your 30 days trial are up, you pay full price.

Make a note of the offer end dates and set yourself reminders to make sure you don’t forget.

TV Packages

Every now and again your TV subscription provider may try and entice you to take on extra channels by giving you a six month free period.

However, once that free period is over the full cost of the package kicks in.

This also applies if you have called to cancel some channels and to tempt you into keeping them they offer them for free, usually for a six month period.

If you don’t call again to say you have decided you definitely don’t want them, the full price will start to be charged again.

Set yourself reminders to make sure you are not caught out and end up spending more than you intended.

Gas and electric

You may have raised an eyebrow to this one so allow me to elaborate.

I used to sell gas and electricity contracts and I was the go to person when my friends finally realised they wanted a cheaper deal.

One of those friends in particular was almost £1000 in credit, that money could have been in a high interest saving account earning him more money, so effectively he had been short changed.

To avoid this make sure you give regular meter readings, or better still, ask your supplier about fitting you with a smart meter which uploads the meter readings daily ensuring you only ever pay for what you use.

Not renewing your contract or switching suppliers at the end of your present contract is also short changing yourself.

When you come to the end of your agreement with your energy supplier they instantly transfer you to the standard variable tariff, meaning you are charged a much higher rate than your previous contracted price.

In accordance with Ofgem regulations, your supplier must send you out notice that your agreement is coming to an end between 42 and 49 days before the end of your plan.

At this point you are free to arrange a new agreement with your supplier, or a different supplier, whichever you prefer.

Scanned twice

I have noticed this a few times over the years and it is easily done.

Sometimes if a cashier is rushing due to a large queue, they can scan your item twice at the checkout by mistake.

Keep an eye out what is going through as best you can and always check your receipt.

Wonder drugs

You may have seen adverts for life changing diet pills and the like.

I had a friend caught out by this a while back.

The advert will usually offer you a free 30 day trial of a two tub diet pill combination, you just have to pay £4.95 for the postage.

At the end of that 30 days period, if you have not returned the pills (even the empty box) the card you used to pay for the postage is charged for the full subscription charge.

In this case that charge was £100 per tub, every month!

When I checked out the terms and conditions it was all there in the small print.

The subscription isn’t legally binding and if you get caught out by anything like this you will need to cancel your card, but you cannot claim the money back.

The rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

Credit card interest free period finishing

Another common way to short change yourself.

If you took up a credit card to take advantage of the interest free period you must make sure you have either cleared the balance in full, or have made a note of the offer end date to make sure you can shop around and do the same again to prevent getting landed with interest charges.

Set reminders and if there is anything left still to pay, look at transferring it again to another provider.

Would you return to pay the difference if you was undercharged? 

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An image to show how easy it is to get short changed

Thinking Thrifty

Thinking Thrifty

David Naylor is the editor of the Thinking Thrifty blog. An award winning personal finance and lifestyle blogger, he shows how it is possible to live extremely well for less.
Thinking Thrifty
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