Pack of smokes? That'll be $23 quadrillion please


Anyone who thinks smoking isn't a costly addiction should ask Josh Muszynski, who went to purchase a pack of smokes at a local gas station and wound up with a $23 quadrillion charge on his debit card -- and a $15 overdraft fee to boot.

The 17-digit mistake didn't hit Muszynski until he checked his account balance online and found that he had gone so far in the red that he assumed someone had stolen his account information and, "bought Europe with my credit card."

After getting no help from the cashier at the gas station, Muszynski spent two hours on the phone with Bank of America but was still the world's most debt-ridden individual. Thankfully by the next day Bank of America had fixed the error and even refunded the $15 overdraft fee, returning Muszynski's accounts to normal.

Muszynski wasn't the only cardholder who found himself on the wrong end of a bank error. Another Visa cardholder reported that his teen age daughter also spent $23,148,855,308,184,500 during a stop at CVS on Monday which led to a suspended card and a $20 overdraft fee.

In a statement to CNN Visa explained that fewer than 13,000 transactions were affected, blaming the issue on a, "temporary programming error at Visa Debit Processing Services ... [which] caused some transactions to be inaccurately posted". Visa reports that all of the 23 Quadrillion dollar charges have been fixed and any overdraft fees refunded but just to be safe now; would be a good time to check your account balance.

This error only highlights the importance of checking your receipts and accounts regularly. If the bank can screw up this bad, how likely is it that a $14.25 purchase could become a $1,425 mistake, especially at retailers who require clerks to enter in credit and debit amounts manually?

Another way to stay on top of errors like this is to set up spending alerts so you know right away if a larger error happens.

If you can't set up mobile alerts for transactions over a certain amount at your bank, you should sign up for a personal finance service like Quicken Online that can send you large purchase and low balance notifications for free.