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Reader Question – I Overpaid a Bill, What Should I Do?


I received the following question from Mandi about overpaying a bill.

While waiting for my cell phone company to correct an over $500 error, that took 4 months, I was paying what I should have owed, @ $130 a month. This month I look at my balance online and it shows $0.00 due. Great it’s almost fixed, they over credited my account. I paid the $130 and called them this morning to let them know about their error, again. No error, I have a credit of almost $82.00 [now on my account]. (the $130 sent will bump the credit balance up to $212.00).

My question for you and your readers would be:

Do I pay $30.00 to stop payment [on the $130 check sent] and use the $100 for other bills, or let them keep the credit [and use it towards your monthly fees in future months], and save $30.00 in the process?

I’ve only issued a stop payment on one check in my life. It was to the state and was for a few hundred dollars and the check never made it to its destination. I dreaded the stop payment fee, but I run my checkbook very low and I couldn’t take a chance that the check would show up and they would cash it. Not to mention that I would have a credit with them for a full year. So, I issued the stop payment and cut them another check.

In Mandi’s situation, I probably would let them cash the check and leave the credit on the account. Seeing as I’d use up the credit in two months, that isn’t too bad for me. I’d probably think of other things I could use that money for this month, but at least next month I won’t have to worry about paying that bill.

What about you? What would you do?


  • Reply Ashley |

    I would keep my $30 for something else. She’ll have to end up paying that $130 eventually; so just don’t pay that bill next month.

  • Reply Renee |

    I would go ahead and leave the money with them. If it’s a bill you know you have to pay anyway, you just lucked out and got the bills for the next 2 months paid in advance. I wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle (and cost) of stopping the payment. The only exception would be if I had an emergency expense and needed the $100 immediately for something vital, or if I would owe a late fee over $30 on something else that I could avoid if I got the $130 back and paid anotehr bill.

  • Reply Tricia |

    I just thought of something else. In this case, the cell phone company already made a $500.00 error that took four months to fix. That’s a huge error.

    If I were in that situation, I may be considering a new cell phone company so I’m not sure I’d want to give them more money and have a huge credit on my account.

    More food for thought…

  • Reply Jim |

    Just let it go as a payment for a future date. Last I checked they will still bill you the following months but because of a credit nothing will be owed. I had a credit with a phone company for some billing mistakes and didn’t have to pay a phone bill for a few months, which was nice.

    The only real reason you would probably want to do a stop payment on a check is if you don’t know where the check went. I have never had to stop a check from cashing either. Stopping a check to a phone company might flag you for writing bad checks because it won’t clear, that is not good either.

  • Reply Jaye |

    I think Tricia’s right…you need a new phone company! Of couse, you’d better wait until you have a $0 balance–it doesn’t sound like they would get you a refund in a timely manner. In the meantime, don’t throw away those $30! Just hold tight and enjoy not paying your bill for a few months.

  • Reply Mandi |

    I suppose I should explain how we come up with the $500 error.

    Our contract was up for three months and we didn’t want to renew, even though we could get a better rate. The only way to get a better rate to to accept a 2 year agreement.

    We were offered the “free phones” that work better on both networks and new plan that was twice the minutes that we currently had at $50 less than our current payment. With a two year contract, though.

    We did it. We were saving $50 a month and got better phones (ours were rough, but still good). The phones arrived and I attempted to activate them, and they won’t work in our area!!! (Wait, that would be a different blog, we don’t complain here, we’re positive.)

    I sent the phones back and got out of the contract because they had told me several times that the phones would work, and they didn’t. It took four months to fix the amount due from the “purchase” and “return”.

    So the “error” was a combined effort on my part and the cell company. The credit was because I made sure I sent what I was supposed to pay, because I refused to send the $500.00 and some where in the contract changes there was a credit that I hadn’t banked on.

    I hope that makes sense. I guess I should have sent that to you as well Tricia.

    Personally, I wish there were more payphones in my area, we wouldn’t need a cell at all then.


  • Reply Nelson |

    I agree, why waste $30.00? Especially since that bill will come due again very soon. It’s not like in Tricia’s case where she would have to wait a year.

  • Reply D |

    Mandi, I still say, even with your additions, to let the money ride. Use the future payment dollars to pay down other debts. The cost for the limited time of credit do not make it worth it for a stop payment fee.

  • Reply Patrick |

    I had a similar situation with my cell phone company. I paid on-line so I didn’t have the option of doing a stop payment. It also wasn’t worth $30 to do so.

    What I thought was weird is that my cell phone company refused to refund my money to me and kept the money to apply it to my next month’s payment. I guess because I was on contract and would have to pay the money anyway, they felt they could keep it for a month. It was only $40 which didn’t kill my budget, but I didn’t think it was fair they could hold my money like that!

  • Reply Rich |

    I paid a bill twice to my cell phone company once, and also to my credit card company. I called customer service and they sent me a check for the overpayment the NEXT DAY! You might want to call and see if they will do that for you. Saves you the $30 AND you get your money back in the account!

    Let us know if this works for you!

  • Reply Chris |

    Let the payment sit. If you stop the check, the phone company will likely cash it, it will come back to them as stopped and they will charge you a fee.

  • Reply Engineer |

    Before on-line bill payment became available, I would often pay a month or two in advance to save the hassle of writing another check, and the postage I saved made up for the interest I lost. I still pay my water bill several months in advance. It’s usually about $30 a month. Paying an extra month in advance is like being able to invest a small amount of money for over 12% interest tax free and my money is tied up for only a month. The real value is not having to write the check next month. My bills come showing a credit balance.

  • Reply Jaci L |

    I work for a department store. When people have credits on their bill they can have the credit card company cut them a check if it is a big enough amount. I’m not sure how long it takes to get the check so in the case of a phone bill it probably will not be a good idea and i’m sure its too late now for you but something to think about for another time.

  • Reply Deby |

    I once mailed in a check to my electric company, and then paid them on line as well. I really needed the money, so I called and asked if they could refund the overpayment. The rep was confused at first, he had never heard of that before. But after he talked to his supervisor he said it was unusual, but they could do it. I got the check a week later.

  • Reply Eva |

    I wouldn’t stop payment. That will cost you money. Either let the overpayment sit on the account and get used up or request a refund. And if they give you a hard time about the refund, ask for a supervisor – it’s your money, after all!

  • Reply Mandi |

    I decided to not ask them to refund it to me. It would have taken 3-5 months and that is just too much time in limbo for me. I did let it sit. I had already budgeted the funds for them for the month, and really wouldn’t have noticed it being gone at all. I will just put the $130 away next month for our vacation fund which stands at $60.00 right now. After the last several months we need one any way.

So, what do you think ?