If you are a heavy user of credit or debit cards, it can be easy to miss questionable transactions. Those transactions could be errors, charges from unwanted services or fraudulent charges. This is where BillGuard comes in. According to the BillGuard website:
BillGuard is a free personal finance security service that alerts you to unwanted and unauthorized transactions on your credit card and debit card bills.
It reminds me of the Mint.com service which can be used to automatically monitor your financial accounts. Like Mint.com, BillGuard is free for users. As this TechCrunch article mentioned, BillGuard just became completely free. Previously, it was free for just the first card.
BillGuard provides a How it Works page, but it doesn't mention a few important details. This NetBanker post has a better description of how it works. Here's an excerpt:
1. Register at the site with just your email address and ZIP code
2. Enter your username and password for a credit card account into the Yodlee-powered aggregation engine
3. The past 30 days of transactions are immediately downloaded and analyzed for potentially fraudulent or unwanted charges
When you register a card with BillGuard, you provide our servers read-only access to your credit/debit card statements online.
I'm not sure how it can ensure read-only access if the financial institution doesn't provide a read-only login password. The only institution that I know about which has started providing read-only access codes is ING Direct (see my ING Direct Access Code review).
Nothing is 100% safe. It's always a question of tradeoffs. Do the potential benefits of using the BillGuard service outweigh the potential risks? According to the TechCrunch article:
BillGuard has actually saved its beta testers over $200,000 in refundable bad charges found in only the first month and the service found unwanted and unauthorized charges on 20% of its beta tester’s cards.
I have a feeling most of the regular readers of this blog may not see the same amount of savings. Those who are active reward checking account users have likely always been regularly monitoring their debit card purchases to ensure they meet the monthly requirements.
Thanks to the reader who emailed me news of this service.