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The only thing more annoying than paying your bills? Seeing all those weird, random fees on the bottom of your statement. (What on earth is a “minimum transaction convenience charge,” by the way?)
But while some surcharges are here to stay, some are complete baloney.
Check out our list of the sneakiest hidden charges--from airline booking fees to cake cutting fees--and learn how you can avoid paying them.
Most banks will penalize you if your balance drops below a certain amount--typically $1,500. Keep your money in your pocket by knowing your limit and setting up direct deposit so you always stay above the magic number.
Checking in before 3 p.m. can cost you $10 to $50, depending on the hotel. Even worse? Some properties will charge an extra $5 to restock the already overpriced snacks in the minibar. The best way to avoid these fees is to ask if such perks come free--or to sign up for a loyalty program that waives them. (Kimpton InTouch rewards, for instance, actually gives you a $10 minibar credit every time you stay at a participating hotel.)
For some reason, you can call an airline’s customer-service number and have a three-hour conversation with an agent without paying a dime. But when it comes to actually reserving a flight, you can expect a $25 booking fee if you do it through said agent. In other words, do yourself a favor and book that trip to Majorca online.
Scour the invoice for your new car line by line. Dealerships are notorious for including all sorts of completely bogus hidden fees, like a totally unnecessary $200-plus VIN etching (which you can do yourself with a $25 kit anyway). You’ll also want to watch out for “paint protection,” “advertising” and anything else that seems suspicious. When in doubt, check Consumer Reports’ list of questionable (and negotiable) closing fees.
Before you bring that swirl-tastic cake to your friend’s birthday dinner, call ahead to make sure the restaurant doesn’t charge a cake cutting fee just for having an “outside” dessert. (We know. It’s dumb.) If they do, save your masterpiece for the after party.
Swiping with plastic abroad is way more convenient than schlepping to a currency exchange. But this convenience comes at a price. Most credit cards charge a transaction fee on every purchase made out of the country, which is especially annoying when the conversion rate is crappy (ahem, Europe). A handful of cards make an exception, so call ahead and ask if yours is one of them. We like Capital One and Discover because they always let you swipe as much as you like, gratis.
Prepaid credit cards might seem like a good idea (especially for a kid who’s not quite ready for a “real” credit card). But buyer, beware: Most come with activation fees, swipe fees, reloading fees and monthly maintenance fees. Check the fine print before you get--or give--one of these puppies.
That daily horoscope text could come with a subscription service, especially if you didn’t even sign up for it. Check your wireless bill to make sure third-party texts don’t lead to unwarranted sneaky charges. Text “STOP” to make them go away right now. Remember: The newspaper has free horoscopes!
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