By Cameron Huddleston, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine
Awareness and smart planning will help you avoid these unnecessary charges (and save your money for things you can’t get for free, or at least for less).
It’s easy to overlook fees when they’re just a couple of bucks. But even the small ones quickly add up. However, most of the time you can avoid being nickel and dimed. With the help of BillShrink — a free cost-savings site — we created a list of 10 fees you can escape.
1. ‘Free’ checking fee. Some banks are starting to attach more strings to their free checking accounts. That is, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee unless you meet certain criteria. However, several online banks and community banks and some major banks still offer free checking without all the requirements to qualify.
2. Balance-transfer fee. Some credit card companies now charge up to 5% for balance transfers. So before you transfer a balance from one card to another with a low or 0% introductory rate, you should do the math to see if the amount of interest payments that you save with the introductory offer outweighs the balance-transfer fee that has to be paid immediately. You might find that you’ll get a better deal by negotiating down the rate on your current card.
3. Retailer credit card fees. New credit card rules make it harder for retailers to extend credit on the spot. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll no longer hear “Do you want to save 10% on your purchase today by opening a card account with us?” The discount is tempting, but these cards often come with higher interest rates than traditional credit cards. If you don’t pay your bill in full, that discount you got will quickly be wiped out by the high rate you’ll be paying on your balance.
4. Credit card late fees. Although the new credit card rules prohibit card issuers from charging $25 for a first-time late payment, issuers can charge $35 if you’re late a second time within six months. To avoid these fees, sign up for payment alerts from your credit card company. You’ll receive an email or text message several days before your bill is due.
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5. Rewards card annual fees. An increasing number of rewards cards charge annual fees. However, there are cards with great perks and no fees. BillShrink recommends Capital One No Hassle Miles Rewards, Chase Sapphire Card, and Pen Fed Visa Platinum Cashback Rewards.
6. Directory assistance fees. Calling 411 can cost $1.25 or more. You can get free directory assistance by calling 1-800-BING-411 (Bing is owned by Microsoft, the publisher of MSN Money) or 800-FREE-411 (you’ll have to listen to an ad first).
7. Baggage fees. Unless you fly on Southwest or JetBlue, you’ll probably pay a fee to check a bag. If you’re flying with any of the other airlines and have to check a few bags, you might find it cheaper to send your luggage to your destination by FedEx, UPS or U.S. Postal Service ground shipping.
8. Airline booking fees. Don’t even think about picking up the phone to book a flight — unless you don’t mind spending $15 or more for the privilege of talking to a booking agent. Book your flights online to avoid this fee.
9. Cellphone early termination fees. You can face a termination fee of $200 or more if you cancel your service before your contract is up. You can avoid these fees by signing up for prepaid service (and save money because these plans usually are cheaper).
10. Roaming fees. Make sure you understand how your cellphone roaming and international charges work. According to BillShrink, some roaming rates are $2.49 per minute. And, some carriers will even charge you to access your voicemail (a charge of $4.99 for a missed call) even if you don’t pick up that call while you are roaming. If you send a video while roaming, you could be charged up to $7.