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15 Little Life Hacks

Spend less than 1 hour per week on your finances: Handling credit-card receipts

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As I’ve written before, I spend less than 1 hour per week on my finances. One of the ways I do it is by chunking my tasks, like keeping an eye on my credit-card bill. Here’s how I do it.

I pay with my credit card as much as possible. This lets me automatically download my transactions and categorize my spending. Plus, I get travel points and extra consumer protection (like a free additional warranty for any electronic device — all credit cards offer this).

But I do like to keep an eye on my credit-card charges whenever there’s a human involved. So I keep my receipts whenever I go to restaurants and store them in a folder on my desk.

Laiola receipt

Every Sunday night, I open the folder and spent about 5 minutes comparing my receipts to what my credit card’s website says. I just do a “ctrl-f” for the amount (“$43.35”) and confirm that it’s correct. For example, if I wrote down $43.35 as the full amount, but instead saw that the restaurant had charged me $50, someone’s trying to make a quick buck off me. And in that case, you need to ask yourself one question:


What Would An Indian Do?

A quick call to my credit card company will resolve this.

The most important thing is keeping your receipt folder on your desk. If you have to get up to get it — even a few steps away — that’s a huge barrier to getting this done consistently.

[Update]: This is also good if you frequently find bar receipts from the night before that you don’t remember

[Update 2]: Some great comments on this post. One of my favorites: “I also turned this into my paperless rule–unless I would absolutely need the receipt to prove my purchase I deny/throw it away. I don’t need a credit card receipt AND a transaction receipt from McDonalds’ drive through. Immediate recycle.”

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  1. Enrique,Tallahassee,Florida Link to this comment

    Cash always work. I make myself a budget and if I spend that guess what? I stay home.

  2. Ramit, Ive been reading your site since the beginning of time. Ok, ok, more like a couple years and I don’t think Ive ever posted a comment….until now.

    This Halloween I was part of a party a club and my total bill was somewhere in the range of $220.00. The server was mediocre but I tipped her 25%…well in my slightly alcohol fogged brain I thought it was 25%. So two days later I take a look at my bank account….I was charged $380.00. Luckily I kept my receipt and I checked…sure enough I left $60.

    Thats right, she ADDED a ‘1’ in front of my 60. Unbelievable eh? Im not an Indian (though I do work in software 😉 ) but I agree…I can’t stress how important to keep your receipts….especially when out drinking!
    -Jesse (

  3. I also got burned by a waitress adding a tip to a receipt (in this case, I had left cash on the table instead of putting it on the card). The management refused to do a refund for the $10 difference, so I did a chargeback for the entire amount through my credit card company.

    Now I write “cash” in the tip line if I leave cash on the table, and always save my credit card receipts until they post to my account.

  4. “WWAID” … Hilarious!!

    I’ve just started reading through your website in the last week. Great stuff!! Thanks!

  5. The added bonus is that by doing that, you go over your spendings. Especially your going-out spendings. I sometimes look at our receipts and think “what we were thinking?”.

  6. Great blog!
    I’ve had this happen to me a few times too, though the difference was usually a dollar or so. The credit card company added a few extra dollars for tip, automatically, if I left the tip as cash. Fortunately, the problem would fix itself and the credit card company would credit me back for the extra dollars it charged. And this was without me having to call up the card company. It was weird, and I wonder if this practice is widespread. I have since canceled that card.
    As for finances, I list everything everything I spend on Excel, categorizing method of spending as cash, check or card. Then at the end of the month, I categorize the expenditures as bills, car expenses, etc. This has worked well for me, hope this gives some tips to other people too.

  7. Many credit cards do put a “hold” for an amount greater than what you tip, because for some reason, it takes awhile to properly charge a tip. this usually will only show up when a charge is “pending” though. I don’t think it is unusual or unethical.

    But placing a 1 in front of $60? Wow.

  8. I have a smartphone with my budget spreadsheet in Excel. Everytime I make a purchase, I enter it into my spreadsheet in the appropriate column so I never need to keep receipts.

    I also notice that my credit card company adds money to some of my purchases at bars/restaurants. But, this only happens in my pending charges. Once they post to my actual transactions it is always correct. I do check my account very often to make sure waitresses don’t add tip to my card, though. I’ve heard bad stories about that…. it’s a good habit to pay attention to that!

  9. i recently stumbled upon your site, and its funny, informative and creative, keep up the good work bro.

  10. I use cash all the time. That way I don’t even have to worry about being cheated by a restaurant weeks after the fact.