Fees are everywhere. It seems like no matter how carefully you spend your money, you’re always getting hit with some superfluous surcharge.
We’ve compiled a list of the most expensive, egregious, unexpected and just downright unreasonable charges.
BANK OVERDRAFT FEES
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. In 2014, the average U.S. overdraft fee was $30, according to a study by Moebs Services. That can go even higher; NerdWallet has clocked in some of the industry’s worst at $36, charged by BB&T, PNC, SunTrust and U.S. Bank.
The best way to avoid overdraft fees is to simply become hypervigilant about your account balance and monitor your finances at all times. Conversely, consider switching to a credit union or online bank that offers free checking products or opt-out practices. 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.
BANK TELLER FEES
Did you know that bank tellers can charge you for their time? According to CNBC, a growing number of banks have adopted teller fees in an attempt to encourage customers to make use of online-only bank accounts and features. These include PNC’s Virtual Wallet account, which charges a $7 monthly fee if account holders want access to in-branch banking, and Bank of America’s eBanking checking account, which assesses an $8.95 monthly maintenance fee unless the account holder uses only self-service options for deposits and withdrawals.
Obviously, the easiest way to get around this charge is to abide by the rules; indeed, banks are making it easier and easier to never have to enter a branch these days, with remote check deposit, mobile apps and plentiful ATM access. There are also usually other ways to waive a teller fee; in the case of PNC’s Virtual Wallet, you can get around the monthly charge by maintaining an average balance of $500, receiving a $500 direct deposit each month or meeting the requirements for Virtual Wallet Student.
There is nothing stopping you from using a Chase ATM with your Wells Fargo debit card, but because banks prefer their customers to stay within their network, there will likely be a fee tacked on to that withdrawal. And financial institutions are cashing in on it, too; The Associated Press reports that ATM fees are on the rise. 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.
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 refunds ATM fees (many online banks, like Ally, Bank of Internet USA and EverBank, will do this if you meet certain requirements).
TRAVEL FEE: BAGGAGE FEES
Airlines across the board impose fees for bags, and raise those fees for extra and overweight luggage. It’s not just checked baggage, either; according to Hopper.com, some airlines (including Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit) are beginning to get wise and charge for carry-on bags, too. (Spirit will charge non-members as much as $100 for a carry-on.) If you’re checking bags, size does matter: Expect to pay $100 for bags between 50 and 70 pounds if you’re flying American, United or Delta, and $200 for bags that are between 71 and 100 pounds.
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.
HOTEL ROOM WI-FI FEES
Wi-Fi connectivity is a luxury even at a luxury hotel. “High-end hotels may be the last place left on Earth where you have to pay for wireless internet connections,” writes Scott McCartney of The Wall Street Journal. “For in-room connections, high-end hotels typically charge $10 to $20 a day” — though some run to $30.
Research the hotel chains you’re looking to stay at, compare their in-room internet prices — and aim lower. “Price-sensitive chains have made free Wi-Fi a perk to attract customers, and all want to stay competitive,” McCartney writes.
CELLPHONE FEE: ACTIVATION FEES
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 fee is applied to any new line of service opened with a subsidized phone on a two-year service plan,” according to product comparison site WhistleOut. AT&T’s activation fee, for example, is the most expensive at $40, and that charge skyrockets when you’ve got more than one phone to activate.
“While $40 for a new phone line might seem affordable, if you’re moving a family of four or more to a new carrier, costs quickly add up,” the site notes. “To open an account with four new devices and lines of service will cost you an extra $160 or more on top of any upfront costs for your handsets, as well as the monthly cost of the plan itself.”
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.
EDUCATION FEE: COLLEGE APPLICATION FEES
It’s no secret that attending college is an expensive proposition, but prospective university-bound students should keep in mind that they’ll be paying money toward 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, Stanford University’s nonrefundable $90 application fee tops the list. Other schools, including USC and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will charge you upwards of $80 to apply. Typically, the better the school, the costlier it is to apply.
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 amount of applications and save money.