Ignorance Is Not Blissful When You’re Slapped with a Hidden Fee

While pricing cell phones recently, a friend was told by one salesman that his competition would give her a “free” phone, but make up for it by charging a higher monthly rate. Are you on the lookout for hidden fees? Hidden fees can cost you a lot of money over the course of a year.
Consider the following:

Banks: We’ve all been hit with unexpected charges from a financial institution. Have you ever noticed prices posted anywhere in a bank? Yes, they have brochures and web disclosures, but you have to look. Common non-disclosed fees at banks involve overdraft charges.

Phone companies: BBB receives regular complaints from people whose phone company has allowed a third party company to attach mystery costs to their bills by “cramming.” If you haven’t already, call your phone service provider and tell them to “turn off third party billing.”

Food manufacturers: Has your cereal box gotten thinner? According to the website Alternet and Consumer Reports, companies have reduced their package sizes by as much as 20 percent while keeping the price the same. Buy in bulk when possible and always read the “per unit” price.

Cable and satellite TV companies:  Watch out in case that “$25 per month” plan turns out to be for a limited time – and/or that it has lots of fees in the small print. BBB sees many complaints on this as well.

Airlines: They charge for checking bags, for “memberships,” for rebooking a flight – even for in-flight snacks. Gone are the days of free meals and free drinks. Now we weigh our bags in line and hope we aren’t penalized for exceeding limits.

According to MSN’s Money Matters, some of the worst fees from the past year were:

  • Debit card fees – bank fees to use your debit card. Fortunately, public outcry forced banks to reverse this unpopular move.
  • Boarding pass fees – Spirit began charging $5 to print a boarding pass out at the airport
  • Early termination fees – leaving Fios TV early could cost up to $230
  • Cash deposit fees – something some financial institutions charge for handling their commercial customers’ large deposits.

What you can do: 

  • Always read the fine print.
  • Let the company know and lobby for change – either through legislation or your own grassroots network. Word of mouth and social networks can be influential. The debit card fee was dropped – you can make a difference.
  • Report problems, like improper sales tactics and misleading advertisements, to BBB.
  • And remember, reward fair business practices, good service and honesty with praise and most importantly your repeat business.

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