Bank statements don't provide much information about the source of each transaction.

Sometimes the description is clear, like for example "UBER" for a trip with Uber. Other times it's hard to identify the source, as they use the name of a company that doesn't match the brand or they use shortenings. For example, Post Office internet subscriptions use to have "PO LTD Telecoms" in the statement. Not easy to identify at all.

Other times we buy something online and it's hard to identify which product we bought at that particular time. Other times we subscribe services that we completely forget about and we continue to pay them for years, without even using them.

I found in my statements hundreds of transactions that I have no clue about, every single month.

Is there any simple way to dig in and find more information about the single transactions?

  • I recommend that you check your account much more frequently. Don't just look at your statements, but log into the bank's web site and monitor your transactions. Record it all if you have to, etc. Yes, it's a pain, and yes it's extra work, but that's the cost of convenience.
    – RonJohn
    Dec 27 '19 at 2:06

The easiest way I have found is to simply Google the transaction description, or at least the most unique part of it. Googling "PO LTD Telecoms" gives the UK Post Office phone/internet "contact us" page as the first result. Google is sometimes really smart at figuring out what appears to us as a random collection of characters.

Beyond that, there are a couple more things you could try:

  1. Look back more than one month and see if any transactions are recurring -- If you have a charge every 5th day of the month for 8.99 from NTFLX, then it's probably Netflix! The recurring transactions for the same amount should be the easiest to Google and figure out. Try and find any transactions that have a pattern and use that to help you figure out who is charging you.

  2. Check your email around the day that the transaction occurred -- If you signed up or bought something online, you probably got an email receipt. Unless you have the bad habit of not providing even a burner email for that...

  3. See if your bank has more info -- My bank's paper statement will often shorten the description, but give all the information on the online portal. For example, the paper statement might simply say "Mcdnld" whereas my online account will give "Mcdnld 56428". Turns out that "56428" is the restaurant number for a specific McDonald's in my area (Google will find it). Then I know exactly where the card was used.

    Failing that, you can call the bank and ask if they have more information on the transaction. Although unlikely, they might have more back-end information to help figure it out.

  4. Dispute the transaction -- If you truly don't know where a transaction is coming from, you can dispute it and tell your bank as such. If the charge gets rejected, pay close attention to your email. Usually a legitimate vendor will send you a "We had a problem processing your payment" notice.

    If the dispute is rejected and the charge stands, your bank will give you justification as to why it was a legitimate charge.

    If you get no emails or phone calls, the transaction is refunded, and your Netflix wasn't suddenly canceled, congrats! you're not spending money on something you don't need anymore!

Bottom line

Keep track of your money! The sheer number (hundreds?!) of unrecognized transactions every month either means you have posted your credit card details on Facebook or you really have no idea where your money is going. In either case, keep track of all the legitimate transactions and strike those off the statement. Anything left over should be looked into. Once you have everything sorted out, get on a budget and double-check all transactions a few times each month.


Doubtful, as the bank can't give you what they don't have.

Many businesses have their credit card agreements running under slightly different, misspelled, abbreviated, or outdated names, and don't bother to ever change them. I know many mom-n-pop shops where the credit card charges appear under the name of the business that closed fifteen years before in the building they are in.

So if you eat in 'Joe's Taco Shop', and he charges you as 'Jim's Bike Repair' (or 'JBR INC'), because he got the machine from that shop a decade ago, the bank never knows where you ate [this can be quite troublesome when the previous shop was a 'gentlemen's club', and you are on a business trip - personal experience...].

You could dispute a transaction, and chances are that the business complains, so you know who it was, but it is going to cost you fees. Otherwise, the only option I found is to track all your spend with timestamps, and match it when the bill comes.

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