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I paid off my credit card that had a balance of over $5,000. I sent a one time payment for the total amount, about $5,100 to be exact and my credit card company received the payment and reflected it on my balance to show $0. I called them and they did in fact receive the payment but the money never left my checking account. It’s been nearly two months and the money is still in my bank account and the card is paid off.

I called my bank and they said they do not show a payment on my account for that amount ever but the credit card company received a payment from my bank. What should I do? I’m afraid to spend the money now. Should I just wait a few more months?

EDIT: Thanks for the responses. For clarification, I had been making payments on this credit card for over a year with the same account and all of those payments were fine. I never changed my bank information on Discovers website and made this payment with the same account like always, Discover received it, but it never came out of my account.

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    Did you pay by telling the bank to send the money or by telling the CC company to take the money? And are the bank and CC different institutions? – DJohnM Jan 11 at 19:19
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    @RonJohn You never heard of a bank having a "pay my bills" feature? – David Schwartz Jan 12 at 11:47
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    @DavidSchwartz I was thinking more of telling in the form of calling up your bank and telling them to pay another bank's CC. But bill pay and ACH certainly do exist. – RonJohn Jan 12 at 14:33
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    So that's what Monopoly means when they say there was a bank error in your favor. – DonQuiKong Jan 12 at 21:07
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    @Fattie that's quite an overstatement. – jcaron Jan 14 at 14:45
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Don't be afraid, but definitely leave the money in your account!!!

It's spent money; the other bank just doesn't realize it yet.

I'd probably call the CC bank and ask them what account they think the money came from. That may be the problem: they took it from the wrong account.

EDIT: if your bank has Overdraft Protection via linked savings accounts, an idea is to move that $5100 to the savings account so that the $5100 doesn't "clutter" your checking account; when they finally come for the money, it'll get pulled from the savings account.

EDIT2: If you use ODP and they charge you for it, call and politely (but firmly) say you want it reversed because you're such a good customer. If they balk, explain the circumstances.

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    If you're lucky, the 'wrong account' was from a Mr. Bezos or such, and he will never realize it... – Aganju Jan 11 at 23:26
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    Overdraft protection typically has fees attached. Relying on it seems like a bad idea. – user2357112 supports Monica Jan 12 at 1:53
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    Better to go on-line with the bank, and ask them who they think was the source of Transaction #xxx. You did record the number for the transfer from your account to the CC when you made it. right ? – DJohnM Jan 12 at 4:25
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    @user2357112supportsMonica while that is often true at US banks, if you ask for "overdraft sweep", or whatever your bank calls it, that should be free. You may need to use the specific name before your bank will admit to offering that service. – Colin Young Jan 12 at 14:09
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    @user2357112supportsMonica Through some banks (say, Bank of America), overdraft protection through a linked account automatically debits the linked account for an overdraft without charging you, as long as both accounts combined have enough funds to cover the transaction. – jpaugh Jan 12 at 19:38
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The reverse happened to one of my kids. A payment for a credit card bill that wasn't theirs was made from their bank account. They notified their bank, and worried that the account had been hacked. During the investigation a second payment was made. Only then did the bank realized that another customer had fat-fingered their 16 digit bank account number, and the credit card payment had come out of the wrong account. The money was returned.

It is possible that something similar happened in your case. You miss-entered the account number but it was still a valid number. Eventually the owner of the other account will notice.

I have no idea how much notice they will give you before pulling the money from your bank account. Therefore you should keep the money there in case they remove it before they tell you.

Generally the bank has a time limit that starts when the statement is generated. The other party has to report the strange transaction before the window closes, but if the statement is quarterly, it is possible that the clock didn't start until a few days ago.

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    This is what check digits are for. Credit/Debit cards have them, and ever since I learned about them, I've never understood why bank account numbers don't have them. – RonJohn Jan 11 at 18:39
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    Hold on, you're saying by simply knowing a valid account number someone could get money off of it without any security whatsoever? – htmlcoderexe Jan 12 at 9:58
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    Here in the UK they only recently started checking names on the account the money is sent to. The trouble is that people have slightly different names on different accounts. E.g. "John Smith" versus "J M Smith" versus "John Michael Smith and Marlene William Smith". This makes name matching hard. – Paul Johnson Jan 12 at 10:01
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    See also "Falsehoods programmers believe about names". kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/… and "Living by Numbers" youtube.com/watch?v=viOAiUH0T1Q – Paul Johnson Jan 12 at 10:05
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    @Christian The ways people make mistakes aren't uniformly random and check digits are usually designed around that fact. E.g. for IBAN neither changing one digit nor flipping the order of two of them ever produces a number with valid check digits, so you'd have to make two of those mistakes at the same time to even have a chance at having the same check digits. So, yes it is still possible to have a collision, but the chance should be far below 1%. – mlk Jan 12 at 10:44
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Couple of points:

  • "Extra" money doesn't just appear in the bank out of thin air. The transferred money came out of somebody's account.

  • Your bank can't trace the transaction without the transaction number since the transaction isn't tied to your account. (Theoretically they could search for payments to your credit card company within a date range that correspond to the exact payment amount which you know. But that would almost certainly take more data access privileges than any normal bank employee would have.)

Just calling and talking to "someone" leaves you in a vulnerable position -- no auditable trail that you tried to fix the problem. Write the credit card company explaining the error and ask for written conformation as to what information they have about the transaction. Then send that written information to your bank explaining the error again and ask them to fix the mistake.

Again the whole point here is to create an auditable record that you have tried to fix the problem.

The credit card company would at least have the transaction number for the money transfer. I'm not sure that if they would get your bank account number too. But with the transaction number then your bank could trace the account number from which the funds were taken.

Now as was suggested offset your bank balance by the $5100 and leave it there. Sooner or later someone will come looking for the money. This isn't like finding a penny on the street.

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    "Sooner or later someone will come looking for the money"... that is not always the case, even for amounts of this size. There are plenty of cases where something like this is never corrected. Banks have a certain tolerance for non-reconciliation and a process to give up investigating it and cover the discrepancy from their own operating funds. There are also cases where they never even see a discrepancy because the loss came from a customer at another bank and they either never complained or the complaint was never followed up on properly. – Bart Jan 13 at 20:36
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    +1 for having a paper trail that you have found the error and tried to fix it. It should help you avoid interest and fees if/when the problem is discovered. – Polygorial Jan 14 at 9:13
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You made the 2 calls. I'd not touch the money in your account. For a very long time. At some point, say 3 years, you'd be all set.

I'd bet the bank catches the mistake soon, within a few months from now.

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    I’d suggest 6 years. Lots of things take six years to run out. Obviously if you are not asked for three years it’s unlikely anything happens, but after six years someone might have lost their legal rights to your money. – gnasher729 Jan 12 at 10:21
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    If you check your bank's T&Cs you should find the number of years in there. But you might to better to ring them and the credit card company again and tell them both about the discrepancy. Better to have it sorted out than possibly years of uncertainty. – Paul Johnson Jan 12 at 11:14
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    I wouldn’t mind six years of uncertainty if I can kept $5,000 in the end. – gnasher729 Jan 12 at 12:08
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Banks did not get rich by losing a few pounds here and there on a customer's account!

The bank will notice this problem at some point and they will rectify it by debiting the amount from your account.

Do not spend this money, instead consider £5000 as your new zero.

Given that the bank have done nothing after you contacted them, then, depending on where you live, you may get some joy by contacting your banking regulator. Your bank have made a mistake somewhere along the line and you may possibly be eligible for some compensation or at the very least an apology.

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  • An apology/compensation for not having money taken away? How do you figure that one? – Lio Elbammalf Jan 12 at 14:25
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    Please, give me 5000 dollars in my account and I will also accept an apology! – vikingsteve Jan 12 at 15:08
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    Your bank has messed up your account (positively or negatively, it's still bad) and it's taking your time and effort to rectify the situation. As the credit card company claims to be paid, it seems likely that some other schmuck is down 5k on their account by accident. These are the sort of things that financial regulators tend to be unhappy about. – Paddy Jan 12 at 15:25
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    @LioElbammalf, this is definitely something a customer has the right to complain about. The bank is responsible for processing transactions correctly and in a timely manner. I understand that it's a much worse problem the other way around, but this is not something I would ever ignore or give up on. – Bart Jan 13 at 20:32

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