15 Fees You Don’t Have to Pay (But Are)

Financial fees can be expensive and sneaky, but there are plenty of ways around them.
Last updated Sep 29, 2020 | By Dori Zinn
Man pulling cash out of his wallet to pay fees

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Managing your money is already complicated — add on unnecessary and expensive fees, and suddenly you’ve got less cash than you started with.

Trivial fees are often assessed by even the best banks, and can pop up anywhere, from traveling to credit cards to your checking account. Here are the most common fees and how to avoid them.

15 fees you should never pay

Have you ever seen an extra charge or two while reviewing your bank activity? Perhaps you’ve seen a random “maintenance fee” pop up on your account statement?

Thanks to loopholes and fine print, you can be charged for seemingly random actions, even when you think you’re following the rules. Watch out for these common expenses.

1. ATM fees

When you’re charged: These types of fees pop up when you withdraw money from your account using an ATM that’s out of your network. It can be at another bank or a machine you used at a grocery store.

How much it costs: $2.50 to $5.

How to avoid it: Stick with ATMs in your network and plan ahead for the times you’ll need cash. If your account isn’t at a big institution, see if they waive ATM fees when you take money from an out-of-network machine.

2. Foreign transaction fees

When you’re charged: If you use your credit card out of the country and the transaction goes through a foreign bank, you could be charged a foreign transaction fee. You may also see a charge if you buy something online through a foreign retailer.

How much it costs: Around 3% of your total purchase.

How to avoid it: Review your current credit card policy to see if it’s implemented. Many travel-related credit cards don’t charge this fee, so if your current card has one, consider applying for one that doesn’t.

3. Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application costs

When you’re charged: Both of these programs offer expedited security screening benefits while traveling — and both charge a fee when you apply.

How much it costs: TSA Precheck is $85 and Global Entry is $100 for a five-year membership.

How to avoid it: While you’ll pay this fee upfront when you apply for one of these programs, many credit cards offer a fee reimbursement or a credit to cover the costs. Check with your credit card to see if it’s offered. If it isn’t and you travel a lot, you may want to find another credit card that offers this benefit.

4. Checked or overweight baggage fees

When you’re charged: Baggage fees occur when an airline charges you to check a bag. Overweight baggage fees happen when your luggage exceeds a certain weight limit — often, there’s a 50-pound maximum.

How much it costs: It varies by airline. For example, American Airlines typically charges $30 for your first checked bag and $40 for your second one, and it costs $100 to check bags between 51 and 70 pounds.

How to avoid it: The easiest way to avoid these fees is to not check a bag or fly with an airline that doesn’t charge you to check luggage. But if these options aren’t feasible, certain rewards cards or credit cards offered by airlines can help you avoid baggage charges entirely.

5. Airport lounge entry fees

When you’re charged: If you’re trying to avoid the busy terminals, you can hit an airport lounge for a fee.

How much it costs: Different lounges charge different amounts. Some allow you to purchase a one-time pass, while others may require an annual membership fee.

How to avoid it: Many travel-specific credit cards will give you free access to certain airport lounges.

6. Checking your credit report costs

When you’re charged: You can get free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com once a year. If you’d like to view your report more often, you can — but it’ll cost you.

How much it costs: The cost varies by outlet, but you can get a three-bureau report from Experian — one from each of the three major credit bureaus — for $40.

How to avoid it: Head to AnnualCreditReport.com to access all three major credit bureau reports for free. If you want to check your credit report more often, try downloading one report every four months, rather than all three at once.

7. Late fees

When you’re charged: If you’ve ever made a late payment on a loan, credit card, or even a utility bill, you might have been charged a late fee.

How much it costs: It depends on the institution. Credit card companies and loan providers may charge a flat fee or percentage of the total amount owed.

How to avoid it: Not all places will charge you a late fee if you miss a payment. Check to see if your current loan, credit card, or utility company implements these. If you’re trying to avoid making late payments with your current bills, set up calendar reminders or sign up for autopay.

8. Paper statement fees

When you’re charged: If you can’t access your statement online or through a mobile app, someone needs to mail you your statement — but requesting printed billing statements will cost you.

How much it costs: Typically $1 to $5.

How to avoid it: Opt out of paper statement fees and check your statements online. If you need to keep copies of your records, start a folder on your computer dedicated to your statements and save them as PDFs.

9. Overdraft fees

When you’re charged: If you’ve withdrawn more money than what’s in your account.

How much it costs: Around $35, depending on your bank.

How to avoid it: Keep tabs on your account. Some banking apps will send you notifications or emails when your account drops below a certain dollar amount, which can help you keep track of when your account is getting low.

10. Minimum balance fees

When you’re charged: Some banks will charge you if your balance drops below the minimum amount required for that account.

How much it costs: It’s different for every institution. Bank of America charges $14 if your checking account dips below $1,500 and you don’t meet other requirements.

How to avoid it: Your bank may waive the fee if you stay above the threshold, have direct deposit set up for your account, or meet a number of other conditions. Read the fine print to see how you can waive this fee.

11. Credit card interest charges

When you’re charged: If you carry a balance on your credit card, you could be charged costly interest.

How much it costs: APRs vary based on the credit card and your credit score, but expect to pay somewhere between 14.24% and 29.99%.

How to avoid it: Pay off your balance every month, and you’ll be able to skip out on paying interest. If you must carry a balance, consider a balance transfer credit card that offers a 0% introductory APR for a limited amount of time. This can help you pay down the debt without paying interest.

12. Cash advance fees

When you’re charged: If you borrow money from your credit card, you’ll get charged a fee.

How much it costs: A flat fee or a percentage of your advance, plus interest on the amount you borrowed.

How to avoid it: Avoid taking a cash advance on your credit card whenever possible. See if you can make the purchase using your credit card directly, rather than paying in cash. If that’s not an option, consider other ways of borrowing money, such as asking family or friends for a short-term loan.

13. Inactivity fees

When you’re charged: If your account is inactive for a period of time — anywhere from six months to two years — it could cost you. This fee could also kick in if you have a very low amount of transactions in your account.

How much it costs: It varies by institution, as well as what type of account you have.

How to avoid it: Setting up some small recurring payments to come from your account could help you avoid this fee. If you aren’t using an account at all, consider closing it.

14. Account closure fees

When you’re charged: Closing an account shortly after opening it, usually 90 to 180 days.

How much it costs: Anywhere from $25 to $50.

How to avoid it: If you don’t want to keep the account, make sure to close it after enough time has passed, according to the terms.

15. Card replacement fees

When you’re charged: You lost your banking or credit card and need a new one.

How much it costs: $5 to $25, depending on the institution and how fast you need the card.

How to avoid it: Keep a card that’s linked to another account on hand so you don’t have to pay for expedited shipping. Make sure your personal information is current, including a new address if you’ve recently moved, for example.

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