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Capital One debit card users charged twice for purchases

Pedestrians walk past a Capital One ATM outside of a bank branch in New York.
Capital One customers who saw double were not imagining it. With a technical error causing debit transactions to post more than once to accounts, some customers were reporting negative balances due to the error. Thursday morning, Capital One said in a tweet that the issue has been resolved and account balances should now be accurate. A spokeswoman also told CNBC that the problem was limited to some bank branches.
“Customers are being notified when they sign in to their accounts or contact us that their balances should now be accurate,” said Amanda Landers, a Capital One spokeswoman. “Customer accounts have been credited for any inaccurate postings related to this issue.”

 

While the error apparently is resolved, the episode is a good reminder to consumers that monitoring your bank account for odd or incorrect charges is important.

“You should have online access to your bank account and check it on a regular basis,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action.

If you see something amiss, contact your bank immediately to resolve the issue.

Sherry said that for online purchases, it can be better to use a credit card instead of a debit card. Not only do you get fraud protection (which also typically comes with unauthorized debit charges) but it does not come straight out of your bank account the way a debit charge does.

Additionally, if you are able to sign up for overdraft protection — linking your account to a savings account or having an overdraft line of credit — you have backup cash in case something like this happens.

 Having overdraft protection also protects you from being charged for bounced checks. Sherry said banks typically charge $30 or $35 for each overdrafted item. If many come through in a day, you could owe hundreds of dollars in fees.

“It’s not free, but it saves you from the larger overdraft fees,” Sherry said.

Of course, you either need to have enough in your savings account to serve as a backup or you need to qualify for a line of credit, which means having a decent credit score.

The other option offered by some banks is called courtesy overdraft protection, which is when the bank will front you the money to cover a transaction that otherwise would be rejected. But you’ll be charged for it — again in the $30 to $35 range — and still need to replace the fronted cash.

“This won’t let things overdraft, but you’ll be charged big fees,” Sherry said.