Credit card alerts: keep your card reminders if you go paperless


Canadians (and the rest of the world) are increasingly going paperless - trading books for tablets, regular mail for email, and, of course, cash for cards. Although going paperless has its benefits - it's good for the environment and is more convenient - it's not without its downsides.

"We're bombarded today with electronic messages, whether it's email, text messages or Facebook messages," Brenda Hiscock, certified financial planner at Objective Financial Partners, said in an emailed response to questions. "This makes it easy to miss something important, like your credit card statement due date."

However, it's possible to go paperless and get important alerts. Here are some credit card notifications and alerts worth setting up on your smartphone and email.

1. Spending notifications.
Do you ever look at your credit card statement at the end of the month and wonder how you spent so much? Or worse - do you log in each month, pay your bill and never even skim your statement for fraud?

To avoid overspending on your credit card and keep an eye on suspicious charges, it helps to set up spending notifications. For example, if you receive a text message for a purchase you don't recognize, you can report it right away to your credit card issuer. Or, if you get an alert each time you use the card, it may be a subtle reminder at how much you're spending and how quickly your small purchases are adding up.

Additionally, if you have an authorized user on your card, a spending alert can let you know exactly where you stand in regard to your limit each month.

"That way you don't have to worry about going over your limit and being dinged with a higher interest rate or service charge," said Hiscock.

"It's also a helpful way to monitor the spending of your adult child if you give them a credit card for emergencies," she said. "That way, you'll know they're using the credit card as it was intended."

You might not want to set up notifications for every single purchase - that can be annoying. But you can opt to set up alerts for purchases over a certain amount to keep an eye on bigger spending.

2. Statement due notification.
It can be easy for things to slip when all your statements are digital. When you don't get a physical copy of your bill, you might take an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality and before you know it, you've missed a payment.

One missed payment might be excused by your issuer, but more than that, and you might not be so lucky.

"The last thing you want to do is pay your credit card statement late," said Cane. "Not only can it lower your credit score, you'll likely have to pay penalty charges and could face a higher interest rate."

To avoid this, set up a credit card statement due notification.

"To avoid forgetting to pay your statement, it's a good idea to set up a notification a week before your statement is due," Judith Cane, money coach, said in an emailed response to questions.

But don't wait until the last minute to pay your bill. Even in today's electronic society, it can take a day or two for the payment to post.

You also can add a notification to let you know when your payment posts, though this might be less necessary.

"If you share a credit card with someone, it can be a good notification to set up for peace of mind to know that they paid the statement on time," said Hiscock. "But if you're using a credit card on your own, setting up a notification to tell you that the payment is made adds little value and can be annoying."

3. Credit limit notification.
Even if you're using credit responsibly, it's possible to get close to - or exceed - your credit limit. Perhaps you charge a flight, forgetting that you made some large purchases earlier in the month (as this reporter recently did). Or maybe your authorized user had to charge something pricey in an emergency, and you decide to splurge the same day.

That's when credit limit notifications can help.

"A credit limit notification lets you know when you're approaching your credit limit," said Cane. "If you're not in the habit of checking your spending daily or even weekly, you can easily approach your credit limit without even realizing it."

"It also comes in handy at expensive times of the year, such as back to school and the holidays, when you can be approaching your credit limit without even realizing it," said Cane.

You can go paperless and stay on top of your credit card responsibilities. See which notifications your issuer offers, how they offer them (text or email) and choose the ones that best suit your needs.

See related: Credit file alerts Canadian equivalent of U.S. freeze, Cashless in Canada: Managing invisible money
Published September 29, 2017

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