There are certain lessons I’ve had to learn and re-learn several times over the course of my life, as I’m sure most people have. One bit of hard-earned wisdom I think I’ve finally grasped is that ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away—in fact, it makes the problem worse when you eventually have to deal with it!
And in my experience, that’s particularly true when it comes to money. If you ignore where your money is going (or even fail to pay close attention), hidden fees and charges can wreak utter havoc on your balances. And money is usually tight enough without adding hidden fees to the mix!
So in order to help us all expand our awareness of where our money is going, today I’ll be sharing 9 hidden fees that are all too easy to overlook. By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly how to avoid these fees and keep more money in your pocket! :-)
9 Hidden Fees You Didn’t Know You Were Paying
1. Prepaid Debit Cards
There’s no denying that prepaid debit cards have their advantages. While standard debit cards are connected to a traditional checking account, prepaid debit cards are funded either at the time or purchase or on an ongoing basis, making them useful as gifts, as an emergency fund for younger kids, or even as an alternative to mainstream banking.
But these prepaid cards aren’t without their drawbacks, many of which come in the form of hidden fees. Prepaid cash cards often have activation fees, swipe fees, or monthly maintenance fees that are deducted automatically from the balance loaded onto the card.
To learn more about the benefits and downsides of some of the most popular debit cards currently available, check out this helpful article from NerdWallet.
2. Airline Points/Miles
Most major airlines offer a rewards program of some kind, which incentivizes loyalty by rewarding customers with points or miles every time they fly on their airline. As a member, you can redeem the points or miles you earned for upgrades, status perks, or even free or discounted travel, but don’t be surprised if you end up getting charged a fee for doing so!
Make sure you read the fine print before redeeming your airline miles or points so you don’t get blindsided by those fees. And don’t be afraid to call the customer service line to ask about fee waivers. (It never hurts to ask as long as you’re polite about it!)
3. Annual Banking Fees
Does your bank charge you an annual fee for using their services? If you’re not sure, do some research online and find out! You could be paying an annual banking fee every year without even realizing it.
But on the bright side, many banks who charge annual fees will waive them for those who meet certain criteria. For example, some banks won’t charge you if you have both an active checking and savings account, while others may waive their fees if you get paid regularly via direct deposit.
Call your bank to find out if they charge an annual fee, and if there are requirements you can meet in order to avoid paying them.
4. Ticket Sales
How much are you willing to pay for the convenience of buying tickets for an event online? (If your memory is hazy, “events” were those occasions where crowds of people would gather in one place to watch live music, theater, sports, etc. Remember those?) ;-)
Well, judging by the increasingly huge fees they charge, it appears that many major ticket vendors believe you’re willing to pay just about anything to use their services! When you arrive at the checkout page to buy your tickets, it’s not uncommon to see the price nearly double due to added service fees, processing fees, and other surcharges.
So the next time you buy tickets for an event (hopefully sooner rather than later!), try seeking out other ticket sources to avoid paying those exorbitant fees. You can usually save quite a bit of money by buying your tickets at the box office instead.
5. Luggage Fees
Even if you’re prepared to pay the fee to check a bag on a flight, you could be charged even more if your bag exceeds the airline’s weight limit. Know the airline’s baggage rules before heading to the airport, and weigh your packed bag if you think it might be close to the limit.
You can use your bathroom scale to weigh your luggage, or you can get a simple digital luggage scale online. (I got mine on Amazon for under $10!)
6. Paper Statements
There are plenty of good reasons to ditch paper statements and bills if you have the option. Not only can it make checking your mailbox a lot less depressing, but it can actually save you some money too!
Today you can get the majority of your monthly bills and statements delivered via email, and most companies even offer a small discount for “going paperless.” That means you’ll pay slightly more if you continue to receive paper bills, so why not make the switch and save yourself some money?
If you’re still receiving monthly paper statements from credit card companies, utility providers, insurance companies, etc., call or log onto their website to find out if you can sign up to receive electronic statements.
7. ATM Fees
When you use an ATM that isn’t associated with your own bank, the fees can add up fast! The owner of the ATM will likely charge a few dollars for the convenience, and on top of that, your own bank may charge you an additional fee for using an out-of-network ATM. Ouch!
Call your bank or visit their website to learn more about their ATM policies. Some banks will even refund ATM fees for account holders, while others offer tools or apps you can use to locate in-network ATMs near you.
8. Hotel Charges
You know how some budget airlines will charge a fee for everything from seat selection to in-flight drinks? Many hotels operate in a similar way, offering low nightly rates while charging fees for anything from shifting items in the mini bar to asking for extra towels.
Either when you make your reservation or check in, it’s a good idea to ask about fees and charges so you know what to expect. It’ll be much easier to avoid paying a fortune in fees if you actually know what they’ll charge you for beforehand!
9. Retirement Plan Fees
The fees we’ve discussed up to this point, while each costly in their own way, can seem minuscule in comparison to the ones associated with your retirement plan! According to a 2019 publication by the U.S. Department of Labor about 401(k) plan fees, a mere 1% difference in fees and expenses could reduce your retirement account balance by nearly 30% over a 35-year period.
Check your 401(k) plan’s summary plan description (SPD) to make sure you know exactly what your plan provides and the fees and expenses associated with it. If you have questions or concerns about those fees and expenses, your plan administrator should be able to address them with you.
Stay Informed With Notifications!
- Looking for a quick and easy way to stay informed about where your money is going and when?
- Open your banking app on your smartphone, go to the notification settings, and turn on notifications for ALL transactions.
- Once you do that, the app will notify you right away of any charges that are made to your accounts.
- I’ve personally found this to be extremely helpful. I’ve been able to successfully dispute several suspicious charges thanks to timely notifications, and I’m now much more aware of fees and other surcharges too!
What other hidden fees should we be aware of?