Hidden fees can cost you a ton of money if you're not careful. Stephanie AuWerter, Contributing Editor for SmartMoney.com, has the top five fees to watch out for.
Some hidden fees occur while you're away from home at places like the airport or in a hotel. "Over the past year, most domestic airlines have either increased their baggage fees or rolled out new ones," says AuWerter. Overweight bags can cost up to $150.00 extra to check them. "Before you leave for the airport, weigh your luggage," says AuWerter. Also, keep your eye out for airlines that charge lower fees - or none at all. AuWerter adds that Southwest still doesn't charge you to check your first bag.
Hotels can also charge extra fees. Some hotels charge a bag storage fee if you leave your luggage with a staff member. Many travelers do this if they arrive too early to check in or have to check out long before they have to head back to the airport. While these fees are often small - roughly $1 to $5 - they can add up.
Hotels can also charge fees for using the mini-bar in your room. In addition to paying for the food or alcohol you consume, some hotels tack on a restocking fee. A good rule of thumb is, if you know you're not going to use the mini-bar, politely refuse the key when they offer it to you at the front desk. Many mini-bars are now equiped with sensor systems so that if an item is moved, you will be charged for it, even if you didn't consume anything. "Carefully review your bill at checkout," says AuWerter. "Many managers will be willing to waive these smaller fees if you do ask politely."
Fees can crop up for other items, too. If you've ever tried to get out of a cell phone contract, you've likely encountered some hefty charges. "The early termination fees can be $150 or even $200," says AuWerter. Companies also charge a porting fee if you choose to transfer your phone number as well. However, there is hope. "Some companies do prorate the early termination fee, so the longer you're with the company, the smaller the bill will be," says AuWerter.
There is also a loophole. If your carrier changes your contract in any way, they must give you at least a 14 day period where you can opt out of your contract. AuWerter suggests screening any mail from your cell phone company very carefully to watch for changes.
If you're buying a home, there are added costs here as well. In addition to financing your mortgage, you'll be hit with closing costs. Between attorney fees, application fees and inspection fees, these costs can really add up. "You really do want to shop around," says AuWerter. "When you're choosing a lender, ask for a good faith estimate. This will include details on the expected closing costs." This will give you a guideline. If your closing costs add up to a significant amount more than the estimate, you'll know you're being charged too much.
Finally, watch your bank account balance. Some banks are now charging around $34.00 if you overdraw your account. "Consider banking with a credit union," says AuWerter. "Here, the fees to be lower and the savings rates tend to be higher." This can save you a ton of money in the end.
For more information on hidden fees, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Petrun