Most Americans have no idea what they’re being charged for every month

NEW YORK — Nowadays, automatic recurring payments are a great tool to help people never miss paying the bills on time. From streaming services, to music, to premium shopping memberships, many Americans are choosing to set it and forget it — that is, until the credit card bill comes in. While it may surprise some consumers how fast these charges pile up, what’s even more shocking is that a majority of Americans don’t know what some of these charges are for.

A new survey of 2,000 Americans finds 58 percent admit there’s at least one charge on their monthly credit or debit card statement that’s a mystery to them.

If the average American decides to cancel a particular recurring charge in January, it often takes until April for them to actually follow through on that cancellation.

Put together by Chase and conducted by OnePoll, the survey also asked respondents more general questions about their monthly bills. Researchers find over three in four (78%) have at least one recurring payment set up. Over half of that group (57%) add just thinking of going through and organizing their automatic payments induces stress. Similarly, 55 percent honestly can’t say how much money they’re spending on a monthly basis with these automatic charges.

This may paint a fairly negative picture of recurring payments, but respondents actually seem fairly happy with the arrangement. In fact, seven in 10 believe recurring charges take the hassle out of many “life admin” tasks.

COVID-19 is changing purchasing priorities

Of course, last year threw most people for a loop. So it makes sense that 60 percent took some time in 2020 to reevaluate their recurring purchases. Among those deciding to adjust their spending habits, 53 percent said, “I realized there are more important things to spend money on.”

Other top reasons included pandemic-related budget cuts (52%), having more time to catch up on financial matters at home (50%), and needing to eliminate unnecessary or unused subscriptions (44%). Another 29 percent added their “priorities have changed since the pandemic.”

Two in three Americans (69%) say COVID-19 has made them more aware of where and how they’re spending their money.

“Spending is changing. It’s going digital. From automating payments to simplifying purchases, it’s ideal for customers to have the tools that provide them a clear picture of where their credit card information is stored,” notes Abeer Bhatia, President of Marketing, Growth and Innovation, at Chase, in a statement.

Considering how common data breaches are, 73 percent of respondents want more information about where companies store their financial information. Similarly, 62 percent say they are now more aware of where businesses store their data online. Nearly six in 10 people (59%) say it’s their long-term goal to better understand their “digital financial footprint.”

Even more Americans (60%) believe they would have a better handle on their monthly spending if they knew where companies stored their card information.