If you use more than one credit card and you have a pulse, you need to sign up for BillGuard.
Last week I met with the company’s CEO, Yaron Samid, and CTO Raphael Ouzan in New York.
I was politely sceptical, until about five minutes in when Mr. Samid pulled out his laptop and logged into his own BillGuard account, which had already successfully flagged a fraudulent transaction on one of his cards, saving him money.
The first thought that popped into my mind: “Everyone will sign up for this within the next couple years.”
The second thought: “I should sign up my credit cards for this when I get home.”
What it is and why it matters:
— BillGuard is a free service that uses crowd-sourcing and advanced algorithms to detect potentially fraudulent transactions on your credit cards. These include “subscription services” you signed up for, but forgot about months or years ago… subscription services you NEVER signed up for, small fraudulent charges for $2 or $3 (often used by card skimmers to test if a card is valid), and shady fly by night merchants who open an online business, charge a bunch of numbers, and then close up shop before you can stop them.
— Customers get hit by this stuff far more often than they realise. Already BillGuard has identified fraudulent transactions for 20 per cent of its users, saving their users about $300,000 thus far. Not bad for a service that just launched two months ago.
— A figure often batted around in the card industry: only about one-third of fraudulent transactions are detected by your card company or bank. BillGuard is a second line of defence, and potentially a better one since its algorithm uses the collective results of ALL its users to improve the service. Its similar to how Gmail’s anti-spam tool gets “smarter” over time.
— Aside from the main benefit of keeping an eye on your card transactions, BillGuard’s user interface is very attractive and simple to use. All transactions are batched into three risk categories: OK, Unsure, and Flags.
Flags are transactions that are likely fraudulent. It also breaks down your transactions by categories, such as fees, recurring bills, online purchases, and so on.
I like it even more than Mint.com’s user interface.
— The average credit card user has something like 4.2 active card accounts; I have 8. For someone like me, being able to see all of your recent card transactions in one centralized location is extremely useful. I simply don’t have the time to login to each of my 8 accounts and scan through for purchases that don’t belong.
— The service currently supports more than 5,000 types of credit and debit cards; chances are your cards (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, etc.) will work with it!
Bottom line: The service is still quite new, but I was — and am — thoroughly impressed. If you’re a plastic aficionado, BillGuard is an absolute must-have.