The first and most important rule of avoiding common hidden charges is knowing where they are found and generally, that means reading the dreaded fine print. Financially, there are very few things worse than making a very careful budget, selecting what you need to buy and finding a pile of extra costs appear. Don’t end up paying more than you bargained for by watching out for some of the most common hidden charges.
1. Renting a House
You are shown around the house and told the deposit and first month’s rent costs and you are happy. You then discover that you are the one who has to pay an extra fee for the estate agency/letting agency to set up the paperwork between you and the landlord. As well as these common hidden charges, there are also other little tricks they get you with, such as insisting that you have home insurance on your rented home, or charging a fee for administration costs. The costs of admin should be covered in the fee the agency charges the landlord – tackle them head on about this.
2. Airline Luggage Fees
This is the fee you pay if your luggage is over the allowed weight. It is one of the more common hidden charges that people forget until they get to the airport. Remember that you cannot make up for your heavy luggage by taking items on as hand luggage, so instead you should buy a lighter suitcase. Better still, you can simply take fewer items in your luggage and then it will not weigh as much and you will not be stuck with a hidden fee. Always pack under the weight to allow for fluctuations in home scales vs airport scales.
3. Hotel Fees
The most common unexpected charges will appear on your hotel bill, such as a service fee or an automatic tip, but hotels have been known to sink to all kinds of tricks such as a "safe warranty fee" for the fact your room has a safe, or the "resort fee" because it has a gym or swimming pool. They will even do nasty little things such as insisting you use their towels and then charging you for them, or having you use their lockers but not returning the money when you are done. The only way to avoid these charges is to fully understand what the room tariff includes and ask about other charges before booking.
4. Mortgage Fees
There are always costs associated with a mortgage. The arrangement cost is the most obvious cost you will incur, but they are happy to tag on other costs just to rinse more money out of you, and some of these costs can and will run into the hundreds. Some of the more common surprise costs are closing costs and application costs. You might be able to negotiate on some of these fees but if not, shop around for who has the lowest level of charges.
5. Prepaid Card Activation Fees
A prepaid card is one where you have to put money into its online account and you may then use your money in your day-to-day life via your card. If they are going to charge you to make withdrawals from the account online (i.e. not using the card) then that is fair enough, and other non-essential fees may also be okay. Charging for things such as loading money onto the card is diabolical, and is nearly as bad as charging an activation fee for the card. It costs them nothing to activate your card, and most banks allow you to do it with just one phone call to an automated device. Therefore the activation fee is one of the charges you should avoid at all costs. Check consumer reviews and recommendations before you choose a prepaid card as these will usually highlight the common hidden charges.
6. College Student Fees
These are fees that are tacked on to your college fees or to the fees that you are paying as a parent for your child student, and they are very hard to avoid. There are also times when a college will increase student fees as a cover for the fact that they have increased their fees in total. For example, they may charge a campus fee, student union fee, activity fee, and even a pedestrian and parking fee where even pedestrians are charged a yearly fee for walking on their sidewalks. Unfortunately, there’s no real way of avoiding these fees so it’s a case of checking the finance requirements of every college on your wish list.
7. Hidden Fees in Your Wedding
There are a lot of them, so you have to be very careful. If you have a planner then you can expect a lot of hidden charges. The common ones include buying your dress and then being told you need to pay a fee to have it altered, or a fee if your caterers have to cut up your wedding cake into slices. There are also extra fees for if any staff, such as barpersons or the DJ, has to stay longer than expected, and there are always cleanup fees and damages fees to expect. This is most definitely a case where the golden rule of avoiding hidden charges comes in – read the minutiae of every contract before signing.
There’s no surefire ways of avoiding even the most common hidden charges, but the more we wise up to them and the more we fight them, the more transparent the companies charging them will be forced to become. Have you ever been surprised by hidden fees?