The Hazards of Autopay

By on October 1, 2017

Autopay. It saves so many headaches when it comes to taking care of bills you know you’ll need to pay anyway. But beware! Autopay also has a sneaky side! Today in the COD annals, learn from our mistakes. Let’s review what to do and what NOT to do to avoid the hazards of autopay. 

What TO do:

  • Set up automatic payments for things like regular bills–garbage pickup, electricity, credit cards (at least the minimums, if not the full balance). If this helps you avoid late fees and ensure that all bills are paid promptly, then go for it. 

What NOT to do:

  • Leave payment information saved in any electronic devices that children may be using!!!!
  • Save payment information in places where you are most likely to overspend or spend spontaneously on non-necessities (I’m looking at you, Amazon Prime!)

We learned this $27 lesson last week when Junior COD decided that Minecraft looked “so cool” and he “just clicked buy”. Conveniently, he neglected to mention this to me or ask me about it until after he had already gone through the buying process (which was just clicking “buy”). 

Junior COD on his first day of preschool

Junior was supposed to be playing (and learning, of course) on abcmouse.com the other day while Mini COD was napping and I read on the porch just one room away. However, after ten minutes or so, he ventured onto the porch with me and told me what he’d been up to. 

He plays abcmouse.com games on my laptop, which Mr. COD also had connected to his XBOX account as we sometimes watch movies through that. In the few weeks since signing up for abcmouse.com, he has always been perfectly well-behaved. I guess, like many other parents before us, we hadn’t thought to sternly outline the rules with him beforehand: 1. Abcmouse.com is the ONLY thing you are to do on this computer, nothing else. 2. Do not click on anything with a price or the word “buy”! 

I remember I used to worry one of the boys would pick up my Kindle and inadvertently purchase expensive books no one would ever read since I had it connected to “buy with 1-click”. That never happened, probably due to the fact that we never allowed them to watch shows or play games on my Kindle, so it was rather uninteresting to them. They’re also fairly good about our phones. Occasionally we’ll let them play the “okay Google” game with the phone. They love to look up photos and information about dinosaurs and other creatures using that feature, and have never accidentally wandered into the realm of purchasing via autopay. 

Mr. COD attempted to cancel the Minecraft transaction, but alas, it was too late. Junior COD is now prohibited from playing the game for at least one week as punishment for buying something without permission. We explained to him that $27 is not a trivial amount of money to us, especially for entertainment. Plus, we had never approved his playing of the game in the first place (he only knew of Minecraft from watching his older cousins). We also informed him that this purchase will be considered a part of his Christmas. 

Now, let’s be real here…Christmas is three months away, and in toddler-time, that might as well be an eternity. We’re not going to stand there on Christmas morning and tell him, “Sorry, kid, all you get is a pair of socks because of that time you bought Minecraft!” We’ll probably get him the same amount of presents we would have anyway. However, we won’t feel a bit guilty for selecting presents primarily from Ollie’s Discount Store or Bargain Hunt.

Fixin’ Things For The Future

So the night after the Minecraft autopay debacle, we went into our accounts that had automatic payments saved. It was really just Amazon and XBOX; thankfully, we don’t have a plethora of store credit cards or accounts. Now, we’ve made it more difficult to purchase because you must enter the password. It’s a pain, especially with the XBOX which has one of those ridiculous passwords that’s 47 characters long, which is why we had it saved in the first place. Certainly, this makes buying stuff more of a hassle overall (NOT a bad thing). Spending money should be a pain, much of the time. 

Building in a Waiting Period

We do enjoy our Amazon Prime membership, especially with two kids and a house out in the boonies. It cuts down on our driving time for errands and simplifies buying necessities, like parts to repair our 12-year-old van. Regardless, shouldn’t we always think a bit before we click “buy”? This builds in a little of that crucial wait time so many recommend for spending less. (See Mrs. Picky Pincher’s account of beating her Amazon obsession for more on this!) I know I’m a tad less likely to buy something spur-of-the-moment if I have to go through that extra step of entering my account information and password. I go through the added “pain” of searching for my credit card and typing in the information, which makes me pause. More often than not, I’ll decide not to buy that nifty gadget after all. 

I’m just thankful this was only a $27 mistake! Kinda forgot about those autopay hazards. We meant to lock up those accounts a long time ago, so we’re lucky Junior COD stopped at one game and didn’t buy, like, a plasma-screen TV or something. Now we’ll return to buying the old-fashioned way…ya know, by manually entering our payment info when we actually need to buy something! 

What kind of faux pas have you made with kids and money?