Sirius Refunds Customer’s Money But Bank Can’t Explain Why Payments Were Appoved In The First Place

More than a year ago, a man in New Jersey entered his PNC Bank debit card information into the Sirius website so he could sample the satellite radio company’s service for a month. Unfortunately, he only realized in recent weeks that the free trial had auto-renewed into a paid subscription.

He admits to the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column that, had he been paying better attention to his checkbook, he would have noticed the $15/month going out the door.

“Ultimately the onus is on me,” he says.

He did contact Sirius to cancel the subscription and find out some more information regarding his account. That’s when he realized the while Sirius had his correct credit card number, the on-file expiration date was dead wrong. Not for an old card; just plain old incorrect.

Trying to figure out how his card could have been charged for a 12 months in a row with an incorrect expiration date, Bamboozled contacted PNC Bank, where a rep would only say, “Our policies are consistent with other banks.”

It was time to contact those others, all of whom said a transaction with an incorrect date would not go through.

So how did this man’s card get charged over and over again?

The bank told the customer it could only investigate the matter if he disputed the charges. Rather than dispute all of them, he filed a claim on one charge to see what could be learned.

So far, the bank hasn’t come up with any explanation, reports Bamboozled. However, Sirius did elect to refund the man 9 months of his subscription.

“It comes as a bit of a surprise,” he says. “They really didn’t have to but it’s nice.”

Let this man’s story stand as a reminder to everyone that a “free trial” that requires you to enter a credit/debit card will almost certainly turn into a paid subscription at the end of the trial. So be sure to mark on your calendar when that trial ends — and end it at least one day early so you can’t get hit with questionable “your request didn’t get processed in time” claims. Or, even better, just don’t sign up for the trial.

In the meantime, feel free to take your guesses — educated or otherwise — as to how this man’s debit card was charged, even with the wrong expiration date.

Bamboozled: Resolving Sirius problem with satellite radio raises questions about bank []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Vox Republica says:

    If I had to venture a guess as to how this could happen: elves.

  2. dush says:

    “entered his PNC Bank debit card information into the Sirius website”

    Why do people do this?

    • deadandy says:

      The real question is: Why do people do this without realizing that the company is going to start charging their card after the trial period?

      • BurtReynolds says:

        Pretty much this. Nothing new here. If they didn’t intend to charge your card at the end of the trial, they wouldn’t ask for your card.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Never mind the fact that trillions of these transactions occur without any issue.

  3. Coffee says:

    I’m guessing that his card’s expiration date happened to match the bank’s default cc expiration password.

  4. Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

    Appoved????? (quoted below in the hopes they’ll fix it):

    Sirius Refunds Customer’s Money But Bank Can’t Explain Why Payments Were Appoved In The First Place

  5. Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

    Weird!! Sirius wouldn’t run auto-debits because they said my card had expired even though it hadn’t.

    I had to call in every month and update it after I would get a nasty email about my payment not going through.

  6. Tech Support says:

    Sirius & other recurring billing Companies are simply enrolled in Visa and Mastercard Auto Update service.

    Visa Account Updater (VAU) and MasterCard Automatic Billing Updater are programs developed by the card associations that enable the exchange of updated account information electronically among participating issuers, acquirers, and merchants that process recurring billing for subscription sales, online memberships, web continuity programs, health club memberships, utility payments and account-on-file transactions such as preferred customer travel and entertainment programs. Participating issuers, acquirers, and merchants are able to obtain seamless updates of “card on file” account information.

    In the Visa Account Updater program, issuers provide Visa with changes to account numbers and expiration dates resulting from product upgrades, acquisitions and mergers, account closures, and MasterCard-to-Visa portfolio conversions. Merchants submit inquiries via their acquirers regarding accounts with which they have ongoing relationships, and responses are returned from Visa through the acquirers and back to the merchants. Merchants are then able to update their customer databases with the correct account information prior to authorizing transactions. Potential declines are avoided, authorizations are limited to one pre transaction, and the merchant avoids increased customer service costs and potential interruptions in service resulting from the need to contact the cardholder to obtain updated account information.

    In the MasterCard Automatic Billing Updater program participating issuers submit MasterCard account changes to the Automatic Billing Updater database. Registered merchants can submit account number queries to their acquirers, who then pass them onto the Automatic Billing Updater database. Account queries are matched to issuer submissions and the matches are returned to the acquirers, who in turn forward the matches to the specific merchants. Merchants can then update their billing files with the changed account information. Merchants avoid declines, decrease processing costs, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce customer turnover. MasterCard Automatic Billing Updater supports account changes for portfolio sales, portfolio flips, expiration date changes, card upgrades, re-issued cards, and lost or stolen cards.

    Visa Account Updater and MasterCard Automatic Billing Updater simplify and secure recurring billing and account-on-file transactions and ensure uninterrupted service for cardholders and uninterrupted payments for merchants. Authorization approvals are increased while decreasing declines and the customer service costs associated with contacting cardholders to obtain updated information due to an interruption of the payment relationship. Uninterrupted payment results in increased sales and revenue flows and higher customer retention rates.

    • castlecraver says:

      This is pretty eye opening; I had no idea such a program existed. If I’m understanding correctly, merchants can receive updated billing information just by matching customer and past billing info with Visa/MC.

      This makes me wonder what kind of checks are in place to ensure the merchant indeed has an ongoing relationship with the customer who’s agreed to the recurring charges. Do they just take the merchant’s word for it if they can provide the right customer info?

      • Tech Support says:

        I deal with both sides of this programs effects.

        It has its good and bad points to it, the bad points is the Auto renewal you don’t want but that’s simply solved with my company by just refunding the amount and disabling auto renewal then reviewing their account to make sure things they want are kept on auto renewal and things they don’t are set to Not Auto Renew.

        The good point is when Joe Public’s business and online portfolio are dependent on a charge going through and they didn’t update their info.

        In the end its your bank account, your money and your responsibility to read and understand what you are agreeing to when you sign up for any service.

        • castlecraver says:

          I see.

          Is it common practice for companies who auto-bill to have language written into their customer agreements that allows them to go directly to Visa/MC and find new valid billing info without the customer’s participation? I don’t ever recall seeing this in a merchant T&C, or is this part of the customer’s cardholder agreement?

          • Tech Support says:

            You can certainly find it in their Universal or General terms of service.

            Its usually known as “Recurring Billing Programs” or “Account Updater Services.”

            Its a service that’s offered from the bank & credit card company to the merchant. Which is why you may not find easily in your agreement with the bank because its not between you and the merchant rather the merchant and the bank / CC.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            They need no such language.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      I can’t believe I read that whole post.

  7. who? says:

    This guy’s experience is absolutely consistent with what I’ve seen from both siriusxm and PNC bank.

    About a year ago, my satellite radio was stolen. I called siriusxm. They made me a really good deal on a new radio, but somehow managed to just add the new radio to my subscription, and not cancel the stolen one, so I was paying for 2 subscriptions instead of one. I didn’t notice for 10 months. When I called, I didn’t actually expect to get all 10 months refunded, because it took me so long to notice the problem, but they were very nice about it, refunded all of the extra charges, and gave me a $10 discount for my trouble.

    PNC bank on the other hand. I had a PNC card. The first and only time I used it was to buy furniture for a new house. Everything I charged on the card, at multiple stores, got double charged. So when I got the bill, I had been billed for 2 dining room tables, 2 bedroom sets, etc. When I called PNC, they refused to see the problem, and made me dispute each individual charge. So I disputed the charges, canceled the card, and promptly forgot about it. A year later, they accepted a charge for something that I hadn’t authorized. I’d moved in the meantime, and since I didn’t have an account with them anymore, I hadn’t given them a forwarding address, and I didn’t get a bill. I only realized that I had an outstanding balance because I was checking my credit report nine months later, and they’d dinged my credit. This time, it was past time to dispute the charge, so I had to go directly to the company that charged the card, and get them to reverse the charge. Once I did that, PNC reversed all the interest and fees “as a one time courtesy,” and I cancelled the card. Again.

    • dullard says:

      PNC should remove the ding from your credit report as having been reported in error assuming, of course, that they accepted a charge on a card that had been cancelled.

      Whenever canceling a credit card you should obtain written confirmation either by way of regular mail or email.

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    How does one not notice $15 debits, every month, from a checking account? I mean, not paying attention means maybe a month, or two could go by, but 12?

    I’m so tight with my money I’d notice 15 cents was missing, and it wouldn’t get by me for more than two weeks at most.

    As to how he was billed to a card with an expired date, I’m a little baffled by this, as I’ve received emails from Netflix reminding me to update the expiration date on my credit card so the auto billing can continue.

  9. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    I guess you have to assume that “Free Trials” that require a credit/debit card are going to be hard to shake once the trial is over. Had the same thing happen to me with music service, but they were pretty good and corrected it right away.

  10. awesome anna says:

    I still… I know, I know… have a columbia house DVD membership that I just decline every month because I’m too lazy to call and actually cancel. I purposefully let the CC expire and never updated it, it expired at least 2 or 3 years ago. I was thinking even if I forgot to decline the monthly option they couldn’t charge it. Surprise surprise when I logged onto to pay my bill last month and they had charged and shipped it! I sent it back and was credited. But how were they able to charge an expired credit card? It was capital one, I didn’t bother to call and find out because I got it back. But still, super curious how they can charge an expired card to begin with.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      “But still, super curious how they can charge an expired card to begin with.”

      Greedy banks.

    • elangomatt says:

      That was my experience with Columbia House too. I actually managed to get them to cancel my membership via email though because I basically told them I was never going to update my credit card info, I was not interested in ever purchasing another DVD from CH, and that I thought it was really stupid that you have to call and get through the barrage of up sells in order to cancel your account. I haven’t gotten an overpriced monthly option for a few months now so the really did cancel my account!

  11. longfeltwant says:

    Things that are free don’t require credit card information. When I am offered something free, then asked for a credit card, I *never* provide it, no matter how appealing the offer (usually not very appealing). Furthermore, I assume that the offer is an outright illegal fraudulent scam and have, on occasion, complained to somebody about the scam.

    I will accept free things. I will pay for things with my credit card. But I will never EVER accept a free thing and at the same time give out my credit card. I would consider that to be begging to be ripped off.

    • JJFIII says:

      How was the OP ripped off? You mean the fact Sirius did EXACTLY what they said they would do, if he did not cancel in time?
      I don;t give two fucks about what you would do, but the world does not revolve around a douche bag who thinks they know more than anybody else. Get over yourself you pompous asshole.

  12. scoosdad says:

    This is why you find yourself a credit card that offers the use of one-time account numbers that expire after so many months, so many uses, or when the dollar amount is used up. My annual subscription to Sirius is done with one of these and it’s for good reason.

    Every year after I negotiate my exceptionally cheap renewal rate with them, they try to auto-renew it the following year at the current rack rate. Not being able to charge the first month of the next new year to that card (which by then has expired) has stopped them dead in their tracks every time. They contact me for an updated credit card number (they just assume it’s expired), and I speak with their retention department (the only ones at Sirius who can offer discounts, by the way– don’t waste your time with the front line CSR’s), and I negotiate the new year’s renewal rate and give them a new card number.

    Mine comes with my BofA Visa card, called ‘ShopSafe’. Other card offer them as well.

    • bkdlays says:

      Aren’t you going to share the rate with us?

      • scoosdad says:

        “Exceptionally cheap” is all I’ll say. What’s this ‘copyright’ payment? Pffffft. Online listening for free? Of course. Half price? Sounds good to me.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      This is quite nearly the sole reason I still have an account with BoA.

      • scoosdad says:

        Me too. Their latest trick they pulled on me was to suddenly add a $25 a month account maintenance fee to my checking account because they changed the rules about how to avoid the monthly fee (without saying anything to me, of course). So I downgraded the level of my account to one where I would easily avoid the fees, and for that, all I gave up was a piddling $5 a year in the paltry interest they paid on my checking account.

        One thing the CSR offered to waive the fee was if I had my mortgage through BofA. I laughed out loud and said, “would be a cold day in hell when I’d let BofA administer my mortgage willingly.”

  13. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I thought the CVV number was the validity check.

    Is the expiry date also a validity check or just check that the card is still alive?

    If the date the OP entered is greater than today or the the actual expiry date will it still get charged?

    • jholdaway says:

      A little background info. A validation check, and authorization can use CVN/CVV if the billing entity uses it. However they don’t have to (you may see some web forms do not require it).

      I type in credit cards all day long, All require the credit card number to be valid however when authorizing a purchase or a recurring subscription (I do both) it sends the billing info (card number and exp date and often zip code and CVN/CVV) and the bank will authorize or decline.

      The banks validation is based on risk management. for example chase has some cards issued that if the correct credit card number is used all other info can be fake/made up (except cvn/cvv but again the business doesn’t have to use that if it doesn’t want to). It has other cards that the exp, cardholder last name and zip code must match.

      High risk cards get validated strictly while low risk (high income) do not. This is so that preferred customers have less issues such as misspelled information, Unable to use the card after moving to a new zip code, or a valid card failing to work after a exp date change.

      Again the credit card number and CVN/CVV are the only ones required to be perfect always no matter the banks policy or the billing system. (however CVN/CVV hasn’t been adopted by everyone)

  14. NorthAlabama says:

    probably the same way Consumer Reports got another year of their online service out of me, even though my card had expired: they changed the date to a bogus future date, and ran the charge for approval anyway, without my permission.

    most expiration dates are only verified to see if they are expired, not to see if they match a certain date printed on the card. so, if you don’t change card numbers, and the ccv2 number is not requested, just any old future date will work. it’s been that way as long as i can remember.

  15. kbsparky says:

    I always use a virtual card for such deals. IF they don’t want to charge you anything now, but need a valid card to enable a “free” trial, then I set the limit to a dollar. Any attempt to charge more than that, the transaction is declined.

    I’ve saved gobs of time by not having to “call to cancel” by using this method.

  16. central_ny_dude says:

    SiriusXm is one of the few companies I’ve never really had to fight with. If you need something, they are helpful, and sometimes will go beyond what you would expect. Even if its something that is completely your fault, they will often fix the bill to keep you happy. I suppose having a subscription with them for about 8 years now, and up to 4 radios in my name with them helps. I’m not surprised that they would refund part of the service. If only some other companies would take a page out of their book once in awhile…

  17. Crusso says:

    I frequently order off late night tv (I know..). I know my Amex # by heart but for some strange reason can never remember the exp date. I always just make one up 2 years in the future, they are only month and year. I have never once had a transaction turned down using this method.

  18. mikedt says:

    This is pretty much the sole reason I keep a Bank America credit card. They allow you to generate a one-time-only card number and you place a dollar limit on it as well as a time limit. Perfect for those transactions where you can’t be sure the other party will limit himself to one dip into your wallet.

  19. AtlantaCPA says:

    Somewhat related: yesterday at Publix I was checking out and realized I’d bought the wrong item. I had swiped my card and it was asking for a signature. I hit cancel and it just charged me anyway. The cashier said it goes through before you sign. I asked what’s the point of making me sign then? I had to do a return.

    Anyone know about this situation with CC’s? Is that kosher to charge me when I haven’t signed?

    • Laura Northrup says:

      How big was the total purchase?

      • AtlantaCPA says:

        $4 – now that you ask that it reminds me that some stores don’t have you sign for purchases under $50 if I remember correctly. So if it isn’t required for small purchases they just do it to CYA?