From Banks to Airlines – How to Avoid Fees
From banks to hotels and just about everything in between, consumers are being nickeled and dimed to death. Here are some of the offenders, and your best defense against them:
Granted, banks were unable to get away with charging us a monthly debit card fee, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop the madness. After all, they stand to lose over $6.5 billion dollars a year due to the new regulations that limit what they can charge merchants every time we swipe our debit cards to make a purchase. As a result, they’re going to continue to find new sources of revenue from consumers, but they’re going to go about it more subtly. For example, expect to see things like hikes on existing fees, higher minimum balance requirements, and even a push to get us to switch to credit cards. Why? Because banks can make money – at both the point of purchase (There are no restrictions on credit card interchange rates.), and on our balances, which about half of us carry month-to-month.
Your best defense: You have two options. You can either play by the bank’s rules or take your business elsewhere — for example, to a small, regional bank, a community bank, or to a credit union, which, BTW, brought in about 40,000 new customers on Bank Transfer Day alone, according to the Credit Union National Association. To find one near you, go to www.culookup.com.
It started with fees for snacks, pillow and blankets and quickly moved to fees for booking over the phone, fees for checked luggage, preferred seating and more. One airline just demanded that passengers cough up extra cash for fuel!
Your best defense: Research and compare airlines to see who charges the least and is the most flexible (JetBlue and Air Canada, for example, give you the first checked bag free; Southwest gives you two free bags!), make sure your carry-on is within the legal limits, keep all your bags below the weight limits, bring your own snacks, and remember: paying an annual fee for a credit card can pay off handsomely. For example, Delta’s SkyMiles-branded American Express card allows you and up to eight others on the same reservation to each check a bag without charge.
Following in the footsteps of the airlines, hotels are starting to charge for everything under the sun, from gym access to pool fees to charges for wi-fi to fees to hold your luggage in a storage room to charges for rollaway beds.
Your best defense: Prioritize your amenities and then look for hotels that include these “perks” as part of the nightly rate. Don’t book your room until you know the actual costs, and read reviews of the property (a great website for this type of information is TripAdvisor.com). Finally, always double check your bill to make sure there aren’t charges for things you didn’t use – like a safe in your room, for example, or newspapers you didn’t order. If you ask kindly, you might be able to have these charges removed.
When you apply for a mortgage, you are going to have to pay your lender fees to process, approve, and make the loan. And these mortgage fees are not only extensive – from origination fees to credit report fees to appraisal fees and more — but they’re also on the rise. In fact, this year, origination and title fees on a $200,000 purchase are averaging over $4,000, nationwide. That’s about 9% higher than what closing costs totaled last year.
Your best defense: Finding the right lender may take time and energy, but in the long run, the extra work will likely pay off in terms of overall savings. Zillow Mortgage Marketplace allows you to research your options, read unbiased consumer reviews, and get quotes.
Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.