Clark Howard

10 hidden fees that could be costing you thousands

Many products and services we regularly pay for are laden with hidden fees that we don’t often find out about until the bill is due. Those “gotcha” fees add up to a big chunk of change when you consider them all together.

Let’s look at some of the hidden fees we pay on common items and services and how to avoid them, if possible.

Hidden fees you’re probably paying

Extra charges are nothing new to American consumers. It’s just that companies are finding more and more creative ways to hide tacked-on fees and avoiding transparency.

Hotel resort fees

Money expert Clark Howard says that hidden fees  are rampant in the hotel industry. They can be found on your bill by looking for words like "administrative fee," "amenities fee" or "resort fee."

"You'll be told the rate would be $175 a night, but then you get there and there'd be another $20 a night to pay for the amenities of the place, like the fancy pool or whatever," Clark says in his podcast.

Here’s Clark’s advice when it comes to resort fees:

"Take one extra step with any hotel you're thinking of booking. What you want to know is if there are any junk fees."

More hotel junk fees to look out for:

  • Mini bar
  • Extra towels
  • Bottled water
  • On-site parking

Satellite TV surprise charge

One charge that can rightly be considered a hidden fee is when cable companies, especially satellite TV providers, bill you for channels you didn’t agree to add.

The way it works is that a company will make available some premium channels for two or three months, informing you almost clandestinely that they will charge you an extra $30 a month after that introductory period ends unless you proactively cancel.

Make sure to examine your bill closely to make sure you’re only paying for the channels you’ve ordered and nothing more.

Cable modem fees

Speaking of TV, if you have cable, you may be charged around $10 or more monthly to lease a modem from your provider.

What they don't tell you is that many cable companies let you use your own modem. Read more about how to save here.

Home closing fees

Let’s face it: You can’t get around home closing fees, but you can manage some of them by negotiating. Some charges that you can ask for cheaper alternatives for include:

  • Title search fee
  • Appraisal
  • Courier fee
  • Home inspection
  • Pest inspection

Notice: None of these fees typically go to the lender. You may be able to suggest cheaper alternatives if you get ahead of the process. See more in how to buy a house in 9 steps.

Gift card fees

We can hear you saying, "Wait — gift cards have fees?" Yup. Some Visa gift cards even charge a monthly maintenance fee for inactivity after a while. See other reasons Clark generally dislikes these gift cards here.

Airline fees

We all know that when you see airfare online, there are usually going to be a few fees attached when it comes time to pay. But the airline industry has other fees they hit you with, as well. One of the worst is baggage fees.

Most of the major airlines usually charge around $30 per checked bag, but travelers can be inundated with even more charges like:

  • Cancellation fees
  • Over-the-phone booking fees
  • Seat assignment fees
  • Fee to use Wi-Fi

Read up on an airline’s policies before you book to avoid being caught off-guard. Here’s some info about a few of the biggies:

ATM fees

You may like the convenience of using an ATM wherever you are, but it often comes with a surprise charge: An out-of-network fee.

The out-of-network fee kicks in when you use an ATM outside of your bank's network. These fees can run as high as $5 in some places. Ouch! Here's how to avoid them.

Credit card fees

Speaking of the banking industry, one of the most prevalent fees people pay are credit card fees.

Many of them aren’t negotiable, but it’s always a good idea to go over your bank statements with a fine tooth comb. That way, if something’s amiss, you can spot it early.

Check out these credit cards with no foreign transaction fees.

Cruise fees

The prices you find on those cruise sites are really just there to lure you in. There are a gazillion fees that come with sailing the high seas. If you book a cruise, expect to pay extra for:

Concert & other event ticketing fees

Online ticket vendors are making a killing on sporting events, concerts and other ticketed happenings by charging processing and service fees. Some even charge delivery fees.

While there’s little you can do about many charges, you can usually buy direct from the venue and save money.

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