When Robo Calls, Be Careful

Dear Mary: I did a very stupid thing. I got a robo-call from the bank that issued one of my two credit cards. It said I was late on the payment (I was; don’t ask; earlier stupid thing), and would I authorize a payment from my checking account? Hey, sure, one more thing I don’t have to take care of.

I blithely rattled off my checking account number, the bank routing number, a check number and the amount I authorized.

After I hung up, it hit me: An anonymous robot had called me, and I shared all the information someone would need to clean out my checking account. Before I closed my account or stopped payment on any and all drafts, I called the bank. Fortunately, the call was legitimate, and the payment was being processed. But I will NEVER be that careless again! Please warn your readers. — Bonnie, Texas

Dear Bonnie: You just did. Thanks!

Dear Mary: As usual, my husband’s New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get in shape came and went. We go through this every January. But he now wants to sign us both up for gym memberships. I’m wary he will stay committed. What should we consider when joining a gym? I don’t want to get stuck with high fees and an unbreakable contract. — Robin, Georgia

Dear Robin: Good for both of you! Before you sign anything, check with your employer or health plan. Some offer discounted memberships for selected gyms. Most clubs offer one or more free workouts or trial memberships.

Be sure to visit the gym at different times during your trial period to try the equipment and see when it’s crowded. It sounds like you’re a good shopper, so you know how important it is to compare prices and contracts. Ask what your options are for ending the contract early if you aren’t happy. Many gyms offer month-to-month memberships. Do your homework, choose a gym, and then stick with it no matter what.

Dear Mary: Every year my mom starts a Christmas club account in January and contributes to it each month. She swears by it and says that it makes her holiday shopping much easier because she doesn’t have to charge anything on her credit card. I think it would be wiser for her to put that money in a savings account, let it earn some interest and then use some of it to buy the gifts. Who’s right? — Sandy, Arizona

Dear Sandy: You’re both right. I love the concept of a Christmas Club because of that automatic feature. Face it, we just don’t miss money we don’t see. Banks and credit unions that still offer Christmas Club accounts have no minimums or fees. While these accounts pay interest, it’s not much. She could easily create her own “Christmas Account.” Why don’t you suggest that she do some research, looking at online banks where she can boost her interest rate, not incur fees and easily link a savings account with her current checking account.

Do you have a question for Mary? Email her at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “7 Money Rules for Life,” released in 2012. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.