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How to deal with the 31 worst fees in America


Fees might seem unavoidable because they’re everywhere. Whether you’re traveling, taking money out of your bank account, having dinner at a local restaurant or visiting the doctor’s office, you’ll likely be hit with some type of annoying fee.

But luckily, the trick to avoiding fees is easy — you just need to be aware of them.

So read on to learn more about the 31 worst fees in the U.S., and take the necessary steps to avoid them so you can keep more of your hard-earned money.

1. Worst Bank Fee: Overdraft Fees

Why: Spending or withdrawing more money than what’s in your checking account will trigger a hefty overdraft penalty from your bank, even if you were short by just a few cents. Typical overdraft charges range from about $25 to $35.

The fix: The best way to avoid overdraft fees is to simply become hyper-vigilant about your account balance and monitor your finances at all times. If you want to keep your current bank, you can try to get the overdraft fee waived: Appearing in person at your bank branch is helpful, as is remaining polite and courteous. Emphasize that the overdraft was just one error in an otherwise exemplary banking record.

2. Worst Bank Fee: Teller Fees

Why: Did you know that going to the teller might cost you money? For example, Wells Fargo charges $3 per teller transaction when you withdraw money with your debit card at a non-Wells Fargo location. And, Bank of America might hit you with an $8.95 monthly maintenance fee for eBanking if you use a teller for deposits and withdrawals instead of an ATM or online banking.

The fix: Obviously, the easiest way to get around this charge is to abide by the rules; don’t go to the bank teller. For example, you can avoid Bank of America’s monthly maintenance fee for eBanking if you use only self-service options for deposits and withdrawals instead of the teller, plus use paperless statements or enroll in its Preferred Rewards program.

3. Worst Bank Fee: ATM Fees

Why: Because banks prefer their customers to stay within their network, there will likely be a fee tacked on to a withdrawal you make from a different bank. But the worst part is you’ll probably be charged two fees for using an out-of-network ATM — one by your bank, and the other by the bank whose ATM you’re using.

The fix: Avoid ATM fees by staying in-network. If you find yourself constantly searching for a nearby ATM, find a local credit union that offers access to a shared network of ATMs or switch to a bank that offers some type of ATM fee reimbursement — many online banks such as Ally, Bank of Internet USA and EverBank will do this if you meet certain requirements.

4. Worst Bank Fee: Checking Account Fees

Why: Many banks put pressure on consumers to maintain a minimum monthly balance in their checking accounts; fall below the amount they specify — for example, $2,500 — and you could be charged a fee, anywhere from a couple bucks to $20 or $30.

The fix: Protecting yourself from this fee might involve finding a bank account with lower requirements. Account holders of Capital One’s 360 Checking, for example, don’t have to pay any fees or minimums.

5. Worst Bank Fee: Early Account Closure Fees

Why: Many people also don’t realize that their bank will require them to keep their savings or checking account open for a minimum amount of time (often 90 to 180 days). Closing it before this grace period could subject them to an inconvenient fine — as much as $55, according to a 2012 study by advocacy group Consumers Union.

The fix: If you have regrets about opening an account and you’re dead set on closing it, minimize your activity and keep the account alive for as long as it takes to avoid being penalized.

6. Worst Bank Fee: Statement Copy Fees

Why: If you want a copy of a bank statement to dispute a strange charge on your account, you can ask the financial institution to give you one — but it will likely cost you money. Some banks might charge you as much as $25 for a statement with check copies and deposit reconstructions.

The fix: A transaction must be pretty important if you need to go back a long time to find it, and sometimes your bank is the only source. In the future, try syncing your accounts to an app like Mint. Or, just make your own copies of each bank statement you receive.

7. Worst Bank Fee: Paper Statement Fees

Why: More and more banks are charging customers if they want to keep receiving paper statements — and some are giving account holders certain incentives, like higher interest rates, for going paperless. If you find you’re being charged several dollars a month just for receiving a monthly statement in the mail, it might be time to re-evaluate how important that piece of paper is to you.

The fix: Your best, most modern solution is to sign up for paperless, electronic statements. You’ll save money, help the environment and have better access to your money 24/7.

8. Worst Bank Fee: Debit Card Replacement Fees

Why: Losing your debit card is a headache, but adding insult to injury is the fact that you might have to pay to replace it. What’s more, the cost usually goes up the quicker you want a new piece of plastic.

The fix: Like the insidious overdraft penalty, the key to avoiding a debit card replacement fee is to keep careful watch of your debit card and not lose it. If you do, try to take out cash through a teller and be patient until your replacement card arrives.

9. Worst Bank Fee: Money Transfer Fees

Why: Back in the day, some bank services used to be free of charge, and a wire transfer was one of them. Today, it’s yet another utility with a fee attached to it, usually between $15 and $35, depending on the bank and where the money is going. Foreign wire transfers can easily pass the $50 mark.

The fix: If time isn’t an issue, alternative payment methods like PayPal, or the old-fashioned paper check, are fee-free ways to send money. Your only cost would be waiting for funds to clear, which could take several days.

10. Worst Bank Fee: Deposited Item Returned Fees

Why: Now you see some money, now you don’t — and now you’ve been charged a fee for it. A deposited item returned fee penalizes the recipient of a check when the check writer doesn’t have enough funds in his account to cover the transaction. It’s a pernicious cost that blames you, the recipient, when you’ve done nothing wrong.

The fix: The best recourse you can take to bypass this fee is to contact the check writer first to verify that he has enough funds to clear the transaction. Should you be charged this fee in the future, try to negotiate with your bank, much like you would with an overdraft. Some financial institutions might realize you weren’t really at fault, especially if you have a good track record with them.

11. Worst Bank Fee: Investment Fees

Why: You might stand to earn some money on that new investment, but you’ll also lose some in fees, too. “Most investors remain blissfully unaware that they are paying hundreds, if not more than $1,000, in investment fees each year,” reports CNBC. According to Forbes, investors are typically charged 1 percent each year on their first $1 million being managed, but this can go higher in certain cases.

The fix: Cutting your costs and fees might be as simple as comparison shopping for a new advisor with cheaper rates and a different investment approach.

12. Worst Travel Fee: Ticket Change Fees

Why: Changing or canceling your airplane ticket at the last minute can be so expensive that the price you paid for your flight might seem like pennies compared to what you’ll pay in fees. For example, Delta Airlines might charge you $200 if you have to change your ticket.

The fix: Planning your schedule ahead of time minimizes the chances of a ticket cancelation fee. But in the event that your itinerary is prone to spontaneity, seek out refundable tickets or ticket insurance. Or, choose an airline that doesn’t charge ticket change fees, like Southwest Airlines.

13. Worst Travel Fee: Baggage Fees

Why: Airlines across the board impose fees for bags, and many raise those fees for extra and overweight luggage. It’s not just checked baggage, either; some airlines charge for carry-on bags as well. Frontier, for example, charges $35.

If you’re checking bags, size does matter. Expect to pay $100 for bags between 50 and 70 pounds if you’re flying American and $200 for bags that are between 71 and 100 pounds.

The fix: Unless you can find a way to travel with only the clothes on your back, pack light to reduce your fees. Items like toiletries and other essentials that weigh your baggage down can easily be purchased once you reach your destination.

14. Worst Travel Fee: Rental Car Fees

Why: Loss-of use fees, early return fees, multiple driver fees — it’s hard to pick the worst rental car fee because there are so many. Arguably the worst — and most expensive — offender is the one-way charge. For example, a price comparison on Hertz.com found that if you rent a Toyota Corolla in Los Angeles for two weeks and return it in San Francisco, you’ll pay around $365 per week. But if you were to return it in Los Angeles, you’d only pay around $165. This fee can really feel like a slap on the wrist because it limits where you can drive.

The fix: Get around this by planning your trip so that you’ll return the car in the same place where you picked it up.

15. Worst Travel Fee: Wi-Fi/Internet Fees

Why: While that cross-continental trip might be the perfect opportunity to get some work done, prepare to pay for your internet connection. American Airlines and Delta, for example, both charge $16 for an all-day pass.

The fix: If your business is that imperative, take care of your computer time while waiting at the terminal. Alternatively, book your flight with an airline that’s offering a free Wi-Fi promotion.

16. Worst Travel Fee: Pet Travel Fees

Why: We want our pets to travel with the same comforts we have, and airlines won’t let us spare any expenses. Depending on your airline, pet travel fees can cost more than $100. United Airlines, for example, charges $125 for in-cabin pets each way. Plus, there’s an addition $125 charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the U.S.

The fix: Is it possible to leave your pet at home with a family member or friend while you’re away? Look into options at home before you bring your pet with you.

17. Worst Travel Fee: Unaccompanied Minor Fees

Why: Even the most well-behaved, low-maintenance children aren’t exempt from the high unaccompanied minor fee. Pass over American and United if you don’t want to pay a $150 fee.

The fix: Do your research before booking. As always, price compare airlines to see which one offers the lowest fees.

18. Worst Hotel Fee: Room Wi-Fi Fees

Why: Wi-Fi connectivity is a luxury even at a luxury hotel. Depending on where you stay, you could possibly spend an extra $15 or $20 for Wi-Fi.

The fix: Research the hotel chains you’re interested in, compare their in-room internet prices — and aim lower.

19. Worst Travel Fee: Resort Fees

Why: The dreaded resort fee is one of the worst — if not in cost, then in principle. Ranging as high as $50 or $60 at some hotels, resort fees are especially annoying because you’ll still incur them even if you don’t take advantage of the hotel’s amenities, such as Wi-Fi or the gym.

The fix: Call ahead to any hotel you’re considering and ask if it charges a resort fee. If the answer is yes, pass on staying there.

20. Worst Travel Fee: Mandatory Gratuity Fees

Why: What once was optional is now becoming expected. “A few hotels, mostly resort properties, already add mandatory gratuities on top of resort fees,” reports CNBC.

The fix: Don’t pay twice in gratuity. Always check to make sure whether your hotel charges a mandatory gratuity fee before leaving extra cash out for housekeeping.

21. Worst Travel Fee: Restaurant Obamacare Fee

Why: In the aftermath of the passing of the Affordable Care Act, a number of restaurants around the country protested by tacking fees onto the bill to cover their employees’ health care. As a result, some diners have to pay a 1 percent or 2 percent surcharge on their check.

The fix: If this fee is simply unpalatable to your finances, steer clear of eateries that charge it.

22. Worst Health Care Fee: Facility Fees

Why: Visits to the doctor’s office or hospital can be pricey, even if you have insurance. But another expense, known as the “facility fee,” could jack up the price of your medical bill even more. These fees are used to cover hospital stays, lab tests, X-rays and more.

The fix: Protect yourself from the possibility of incurring a facility fee by looking up the medical centers in your area. Their websites should provide information on the services, costs and fees they charge. Also, double-check with your health care provider to see if it covers these fees under your plan.

23. Worst Cellphone Fee: Early Termination Fees

Why: If you want to buy a new cellphone, you might have been stalled by the ominous early termination fee (ETF) you’d have to pay on your old plan. These fees depend on how much time you have left in your current plan, but can be substantial. AT&T, for example, charges $150 or $325 if you leave the plan early. However, you can subtract $4 or $10 from the fee for each full month of completed service commitment, depending on the device.

The fix: The Federal Communications Commission suggests finding out as much as you can about a carrier’s ETF, how much it costs and if it’s prorated. Also, ask about trial periods, which typically allow customers up to a month of service without any ETFs.

24. Worst Cellphone Fee: Activation Fees

Why: You’d think that the cost of upgrading a cellphone would only include the new device and any contractual differences — think again. Refuse to pay the “activation fee,” and you’ll have a new iPhone in your hands that doesn’t work.

The fix: Check with your cellphone provider about any fees before you make changes to your plan. And don’t forget to look into other, more affordable plans you might be overlooking.

25. Worst Education Fee: College Application Fees

Why: It’s no secret that attending college is expensive, but prospective university-bound students should keep in mind that they’ll be paying for their education even before setting foot on campus. Apply to several schools on your short list, and application fees can really add up.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Stanford, Columbia and Yale all charge fees of least $80 and as high as $90. Typically, the better the school, the costlier it is to apply.

The fix: Schedule times to visit the colleges you’d like to attend, and make appointments with admissions counselors to see if their school would be the right fit for you. Don’t apply to a school you wouldn’t want to go to. By narrowing down your list of favorite colleges, you’ll reduce the number of applications and save money.

26. Worst Education Fee: Student Exchange Fees

Why: Studying abroad can be a valuable experience, but it’s also an expensive endeavor. According to ExchangeStudentWorld.com, the cost of a year-long exchange typically ranges between $9,000 and $10,000.

The fix: If your heart is set on an exchange program, look into alternate funding methods. Look for groups that sponsor local students, and don’t forget to look into scholarship offers that can help ease the financial cost, too.

27. Worst Education Fee: Test Registration Fees

Why: Attending graduate school takes a lot of time, effort and money. Getting into grad school is all about the testing, and those fees alone are enough to send anyone into the red. To take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), you’ll pay a $205 fee. Register late, and pay an extra $25; change your testing location, and tack on another $50.

The fix: These fees are as standard as the test itself, but they’re also only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to paying for graduate school. Undergrads who are serious about continuing their education should start saving up for the inevitable test — and take studying for it very seriously.

28. Worst Education Fee: Greek Fees

Why: For many, joining a fraternity or sorority is part of the college experience. But before rushing, remember that pledging isn’t cheap. Depending on the organization, you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars in fees.

The fix: Really ask yourself if Greek fees worth it. If the answer is yes, there’s not much you can do to avoid it. But, by picking up a part-time job and learning how to budget, you could afford to pay them.

29. Worst Personal Fee: HOA Fees

Why: HOA fees are like the resort fees of homeownership. Residents of gated communities, condominiums and the like typically belong to a homeowners’ association (HOA) and owe between $200 and $400 per month for neighborhood, building, pool or tennis court upkeep, landscaping, safety and other amenities, according to Investopedia. The more exclusive the community, the higher the fees.

The fix: When house hunting in an HOA community, find out what your monthly dues are. It’s also recommended to ask for a record of community HOA fees over the last several years to track how they’ve increased over time.

30. Worst Personal Fee: Patent Fees

Why: If you’re a budding Thomas Edison or a Steve Jobs-in-the-making, don’t assume that when inspiration strikes, it costs next to nothing to unveil your idea or invention to the world. Put on your thinking cap and try again: Patent fees are crazy expensive.

The cheapest method is to fill out your own patent application, which can cost about $900, according to PatentFile.org. But if you hire a registered patent attorney, expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000.

31. Worst Personal Fee: Mortgage Junk Fees

Why: Nothing is worse than making the investment of buying a new home and being saddled with a bunch of ancillary costs, colloquially known as “junk fees.” These can include application and inspection fees, processing fee, courier fees, broker fees, and even email and “commitment” fees, according to Realtor.com.

The fix: Know your GFE — that’s the “good faith estimate” your realtor is required to provide you, which includes all the fees and costs associated with buying your house. Scrutinize this list, and see if some fees can be knocked off.

From GoBankingRates.com: 31 worst fees in America

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