Issue #93: Home is where the bills get mailed

plus a giant squid + Winston Churchill
Money
Dollar Scholar
Hi y’all —

I am annoyed, tired and sitting in a sea of cardboard boxes. Yes, that’s right — I just moved.

After spending a year WFH in our tiny apartment, my roommate and I decided we needed more space. We embarked on an exhaustive hunt, touring probably two dozen units in our Brooklyn neighborhood, and ultimately ended up moving six blocks away. Our new spot is much bigger than the old one, and I’m so excited to be here.

But, man, moving sucks. And if I thought packing was a lot of work, it doesn’t even compare to the herculean task I now face: changing my address on every website ever.

I’ve had to update the shipping on my Olivia Rodrigo T-shirt, my preorder of People We Meet on Vacation, my Verb energy bars and my monthly nail wraps subscription. I’ve had to change the billing on my bank, Ally, Amex and Apple Pay accounts, plus fix my profiles on sites ranging from Amazon to Squarespace. It’s a colossal pain in the butt, and every time I think I’m finished I encounter yet another place it needs to be corrected.

This all has me wondering... what’s the point of having different billing and shipping addresses? Is it possible to have TOO many addresses?

I asked Kelley Long, a Certified Public Accountant and member of AICPA’s Consumer Financial Education Advocates group, why billing and shipping addresses are even a thing. She said online retailers have customers provide a shipping address because (duh) items aren’t always going to the person who’s paying — like when I’m ordering a gift for a friend.

But the reason they require a billing address is to prevent fraud. In card-not-present transactions, which occur any time I’m not physically at a store buying something, merchants typically use something called the Address Verification Service. The service, abbreviated AVS, cross-references the billing info a customer enters with the data their card company has on file. 

“It really is to make sure you are the cardholder, assuming if it were a stolen card they wouldn't have that information,” Long adds.

This is less for my protection than it is for the merchants’. Long said when a retailer accepts a credit card from a customer, they’re generally taking on responsibility for the transaction. If that purchase turns out to be fraudulent, they’re going to have to deal with the chargeback. It’s in their best interest to verify that the card I’m using is legit mine before agreeing to sell me something.

 
just bought myself flowers and they called me to make sure I was certain that the shipping and billing address are the same and I’ve never felt so roasted
According to fintech company FIS, AVS checks the numbers I enter for my billing address, running my zip code and house number to see if there’s a match.

To avoid hitting any snags where I forget and put in the wrong info, Janet Alvarez, executive editor of personal finance blog Wise Bread, recommended I keep my accounts up-to-date with my current address.

That brought up another issue for me. 

When I first moved to New York after college, I spent about a year subletting apartments from strangers. Because I was ping-ponging around from place to place, I felt my most permanent, most secure address was my mom’s house in Florida. So even though I didn’t technically live there, I kept her address on my accounts at various financial institutions.

I asked Alvarez if that was frowned upon, and she offered a cautionary tale born out of her own experience. Moving around the country in the early stages of her career, she used her “home” address in Texas as her primary residence. That was fine for store offers and such, but once she had a bill end up in collections because she never got it.

As long as I have a system like mail forwarding set up to avoid that situation, Long says it’s a matter of convenience. I may also want to set up a P.O. box.

“[Use] whatever would ensure that you get the mail,” she adds. “If you have a nomadic life, hopping from Airbnb to Airbnb or sublet to sublet, particularly in today’s pandemic lifestyle, it’s probably best to keep one address as your official mailing address for important things like your bank just to keep yourself sane.”

Another reason to keep all my addresses current is so that the IRS, old employers, 401(k) providers and other entities I don’t think about regularly can reach me in a timely fashion. 

It’s also important for planning purposes. Say I have a life insurance policy and something happens to me. If my family is trying to communicate with the insurer, they may have trouble finding statements and such that verify my identity if there’s old data on file.
THE BOTTOM LINE
(but please don't tell me you scrolled past all of my hard work)

Billing and shipping addresses do serve a purpose, as annoying as they may be. I should update them all if possible. And if I need to use a permanent address, I should be careful.

“It can be a bad practice to have too many addresses in that, if somebody goes looking for you, they might have the wrong address,” Alvarez says.


Looking
via GIPHY
RECEIPT OF THE WEEK
Rihanna
via Instagram
Angelina Jolie recently sold a piece of art her ex Brad Pitt gave her — an $11.5 million painting by Winston Churchill. The work was owned by President Franklin Roosevelt before it landed in Pitt’s possession. Fame aside, the fact that Jolie offloaded the painting before even being fully divorced makes me think she’s Salty about the breakup.
INTERNET GOLD
five things I'm loving online right now
1 A town in Japan got a bunch of money from the government for COVID-19 relief and… spent a large chunk of it on a statue of a squid. Intended to jumpstart tourism, the $274,000 statue is 13 feet high and nearly 30 feet long. Also it looks ridiculous. Reactions online are mixed, ranging from “a mighty waste of money” to good investment imo.” 
2 Bo Burnham is coming back, which means it’s time to rewatch the masterpiece that is his 2013 special “what.”
3 I love this story in The New York Times about cellists who are putting on concerts for cows in Copenhagen. It helps both the musicians and the animals relax. Plus, it’s fun. “It’s actually nice playing for cows,” one performer said. “And they have preferences. Did you see how they all left at one point? They’re not really Dvorak fans.”
4 F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby entered the public domain on Jan. 1, meaning people are free to use and build upon the classic novel. And build upon it they have — aside from the viral push for a Muppets remake, Florence Welch just announced she’s writing a Great Gatsby musical. Our roaring ‘20s are finally here, folks.
5 Bear in bathtub.
401(K)ITTY CONTRIBUTION
send me cute pictures of your pets, please
Roxanne
via Teddy Alfrey
Meet Roxanne, a blue tortoiseshell-point ragdoll cat who doesn’t care what her address is as long as it’s nowhere near the doghouse.
And the unpacking continues...

See you next week.

Julia

P.S. After last issue on President Joe Biden's plan to raise taxes on Americans earning $400,000+ a year, Scholar Vicki reminded me of the benefits of his proposals, including free education, affordable child care, paid leave and more. Scholar Joe pointed out that when capital gains taxes went up in 1986, there was some market volatility but no lasting impact. Scholars John, Jim and Steve all pointed out that corporations may increase product prices to offset their higher taxes, which could drive up my cost of living. I just have to wait and see what happens.

P.P.S. Do you have different billing and shipping addresses? What’s your dream Great Gatsby project? If you were a cow, what would your favorite song be? Lemme know at julia.glum@money.com or tweeting @SuperJulia on Twitter. Moo.
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