How a $26 meal turned into a $5,475 credit card bill


In no universe does a meal costing less than $30 warrant a $5,448 tip. Such a transaction is almost certainly a mistake, and that’s the argument of a family that was charged $5,475 for two burgers and a wrap, plus tip. Still, months after the transaction went through, the family is still trying to get a refund, WJLA in Washington, D.C., reports.

Pallavi Srivastava, her husband and her son ate at a gym cafe after touring the facility in Reston, Va., for which the total was $26.47. The employee apparently entered his ID number instead of the tip amount when completing the transaction at the register, resulting in the $5,448.69 tip.

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Watch your monthly statement closely

This happened in April, and the refund process has been messy, according to the ABC report. By the time the family tried to dispute the charge, the deadline for doing so had apparently already passed, and the gym said it couldn’t issue a refund. The Srivastavas contacted ABC7 after getting nowhere with their credit card company or the gym, and the family will now reportedly receive a refund.

In the meantime, the cardholders have been dealing with late fees and interest charges over the $5,500 meal. In the months since the transaction appeared on the credit card statement, the cardholders may have suffered credit damage. The charge likely increased the credit utilization ratio (credit card balances relative to credit card limits), and if the bill went unpaid, that would hurt credit scores, as well. You can see how your credit card use affects your credit standing in many ways, one of which is to get a free credit report summary every 30 days on

This sort of thing isn’t unheard of — once wrote about a pizza bill that hit $300,000 because the cashier accidentally entered the debit card authorization code to the end of the bill total — so this story is a good reminder to frequently review your card activity for errors or signs of fraud. The sooner you see something wrong, the less likely it is to damage your finances. At least, it should be easier to fix if you catch it quickly.

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