Every so often a charge shows up on my PayPal account that’s from a transaction I authorized weeks or months ago. Pretty sure that I’m signing up for a one-time payment but somehow it’s turning into a subscription or recurring payment. How can I find all the PayPal transactions that are actually subscriptions?
That’s an interesting question because I can’t imagine that there are too many companies with the temerity to ask you to verify a one-time transaction but actually enter it into the system as a recurring subscription of some sort. That’d be quite fraudulent and if you can clearly document how on the site it says “one time payment” but actually injects a subscription into your account, I am sure that the PayPal fraud team would be most interested to hear about it!
More likely is that there’s some confusing wording that’s going on, or that it’s a one time transaction that can be converted into a subscription so the company is requesting a zero-recurring subscription authorization. I’ll show you an example where GoDaddy did that on my own PayPal account, but isn’t actually billing me on a recurring basis. Confusing? Yes. Illegal? Probably not. 🙂
The other wrinkle is that PayPal recently went through a redesign so if you get information from a merchant about how to check or cancel your subscription on the PayPal side, it’s likely going to be wrong. Ah, the fun of the always-changing Web.
So here’s the scoop as of summer 2013. Start by logging in to your PayPal account — and I strongly encourage you to set up 2-step verification on your PayPal account too. Learn how here: increase PayPal account security through 2-step verification — and look for “My Settings” on the pull-down menu:
You can see it near the bottom of the menu options. Choose that and you’ll see a summary of your name and address info. Take a second and confirm it’s all accurate while you’re here. As with all financial data, it’s super important to keep it up-to-date!
On the left there are four major sections to your settings:
As I’ve highlighted, you’ll want to choose “My Money”, though feel free to explore the other areas too, of course.
In this section look closely at the different options and about half-way down you’ll see this:
That’s the one. We call them subscriptions and recurring payments, but PayPal calls them “preapproved payments”. A rose by any other name, and all that. 🙂
Click on “Update” and you’ll see a list of every merchant with whom you have a preapproved payment configured. If you’re like me, you’ll doubtless be surprised at how many are on this list:
The real question at this point, of course, is “who are these people?” Also note that some of these never seem to go away. Woot, Inc., is a good example: I bought something from the site back in November of 2010 and they’ve been sitting as a preapproved merchant every since, even though I haven’t spent another dime on the site. Hmm… Shouldn’t these just expire out after six months of inactivity?
What’s also surprising on this list is that it shows status (note you can filter by “Active” status on the top left too) and last billed amount, but it doesn’t show when that last transaction occurred. If I’m not paying attention, for example, that Woot entry could be anxiety-provoking, except it’s from almost three years ago.
I can see that I have GoDaddy as a preapproved merchant, but there’s no need for that. I can manually make any payments needed with the company, so I’ll cancel that recurring payment subscription authorization.
To do that, I simply click on the merchant name “GoDaddy.com, LLC”. More information about the relationship we have shows up:
They can bill me up to $500/month? What the deuce??
Fortunately, I can lower the monthly billing limit if I’m worried about GoDaddy (I’m not) or I can simply change the status from Active to inactive by cancelling it. Notice, however, “Total Billed This Cycle” is $0.00 USD. This means that while the authorization exists, in fact they haven’t billed me so it’s not anything I need to worry about.
Still, let’s cancel its active status. Easily done by clicking on “Cancel” on the Status line. A confirmation pops up:
That’s what I want to do. A click on “Yes” and the preauth is now set to “inactive” and GoDaddy (or PayPal) will need to explicitly request my permission before they can just take money out of my account for a recurring or other transaction. Probably safer that way.
So that’s the scoop. I’d go to this area on your own PayPal account and carefully step through each and every merchant listed. Remember you can open another window onto PayPal that’s your transaction history and search for that merchant too, an easy way to see when the most recent non-zero transaction occurred. Good luck!