- Scenario: You enroll in a trial membership that's only free for a limited time.
Solution: This often happens with service websites like FreeCreditReport.com or Amazon Prime. Remember to set an alarm on your phone or jot down a note in your calendar reminding you to cancel the service before it expires. You don't want to pay heavy fees on something that could be entirely free.
- Scenario: You're searching for the cheapest flight on search engines that only show you the ticket price.
Solution: These days, traveling comes with its own set of pesky fees, but escape surprising checked baggage charges by refining your search method. Use certain sites like Kayak that give you an option to choose "Add baggage" as a filter for flight fares.
- Scenario: You need cash right away but can't find your bank nearby.
Solution: Avoid an ATM usage fee by heading to a convenience store like Walgreen's, buying a pack of gum, and asking for cash back. You'll spend less than you would on the fee and get something useful in return.
- Scenario: You are eating or staying at a restaurant or hotel that automatically includes gratuity.
Solution: Make sure to check the policy of the place. Many restaurants, for example, charge a 15-percent tip for large groups and only place the notice at the foot of the bill. You might really like the service you're getting, but there's no reason to pay twice.
Banks seem to find a way to add extra charges to their online services. Kiplinger has put together a list of banks where there are no fees to cringe over.
As banks attempt to bolster their bottom line, many customers, especially at big banks, are getting stung by fees for formerly free checking accounts. The assault of new fees wouldn't seem so onerous if banks were paying more on deposits. But the average yield on savings was recently 0.22 percent and on checking accounts only 0.14 percent, according to the online bank-comparison site DepositAccounts.com.
However, these seven online banks (including one credit union that anyone can join) offer free checking accounts, charge fewer fees than big banks, and tend to offer higher rates. Because these banks lack dedicated ATMs, they usually reimburse you for other banks' ATM charges. You'll have to rely on direct deposit to put money in your account, although some banks allow you to deposit checks via your smartphone. As with traditional institutions, up to $250,000 per account is protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the National Credit Union Administration.
Ally lets you open its Interest Checking account with just $1 and promises 24/7 access to its customer-service representatives by phone, email, or online chat. The account has no monthly maintenance fee and offers mobile banking and free bill pay. Plus, it rebates all ATM fees nationwide. It also offers free person-to-person payments through Popmoney.
The account pays 0.4 percent interest on balances up to $15,000 and 0.75 percent on balances over that amount. By the end of the year, you will be able to use an iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry mobile device to deposit checks, transfer funds to accounts at other banks and pay bills.
Bank of America customers will now have to pay an additional $5 a month just for using their debit card, reports Bloomberg. This amounts up to an extra $60 a year in debit card usage fees.
Apparently, the banking giant needs to cut its debit card losses from the Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank financial act. The amendment basically ruled that debit interchange fees be reduced, and BofA plans on making up for its losses by tacking on an extra fee for debit card holders. This new fee will be rolled out early next year.
Those who don't use their debit cards or who only use their card for ATM withdrawals will be exempt from this fee. This is just a sign of the times, and consumers should start expecting more fees from their banks. However, take note that Citigroup has said that it won't be charging debit card usage fees when restructuring its accounts to make up for the loss of profits.
Bankrate has some great advice on what to do if your bank starts charging a debit card fee: "If your bank begins charging a debit card fee and you don't want to move your checking account, you can always go back to carrying a credit card. As long as you pay off your balance every month, credit cards can have advantages over debit cards such as rewards programs and better protection from fraud liability."
We're thrilled to present this smart Kiplinger story here on Savvy!
It's easy to overlook fees when they're just a couple of bucks. But even the small ones quickly add up. However, most of the time you can avoid being nickle and dimed. With the help of BillShrink.com — a free cost-savings site — we created a list of ten fees you can escape. Be sure to tell us which fees annoy you most in the reader comment box below.
- Free checking fee. Some banks are starting to attach more strings to their free checking accounts. That is, you'll have to pay a monthly fee unless you meet certain criteria (see Free Checking Is Tougher to Find). However, several online banks and community banks and some major banks still offer free checking without all the requirements to qualify.
- Balance-transfer fee. Some credit-card companies now charge up to 5% for balance transfers. So before you transfer a balance from one card to another with a low or 0% introductory rate, you should do the math to see if the amount of interest payments that you save with the introductory offer outweighs the balance-transfer fee that has to be paid immediately. See Are Balance Transfers Still a Good Deal?You might find that you'll get a better deal by negotiating down your rate on your current card.
- Retailer credit-card fees. The new credit-card rules make it harder for retailers to extend credit on the spot. However, that doesn't mean you'll no longer hear "Do you want to save 10% on your purchase today by opening a card account with us?" The discount is tempting, but these cards usually come with higher interest rates than traditional credit cards. If you don't pay your bill in full, that discount you got will quickly be wiped out by the high rate you'll be paying on your balance.
- Credit-card late fees. Although the new credit-card rules prohibit card issuers from charging $25 for a first-time late payment, issuers can charge $35 if you're late a second time within six months. To avoid these fees, sign up for payment alerts from your credit-card company. You'll receive an e-mail or text message several days before your bill is due.
Turns out I'm not the only one who is worried about the AT&T and T-Mobile merger. About 71 percent of you said in a recent poll that you had concerns, and many of you chimed in with your misgivings. Here's what some of you said:
- "I left AT&T quite a while back thanks to their horrible service (customer and tech both) to move to T-Mobile, and have never regretted it. Until this week. Now I guess I need to look at Verizon." — z0rkzer0
- kindo1313 I have been with T-Mobile for many years. Whenever I have tried another carrier I have always been disappointed and end up coming back to TM. Not even the iPhone managed to make me stray and so I am really scared to see how this merger is going to affect the quality of service I have come to expect with TM." —
I'm right there with you readers. My worries for how this move will affect the quality of my wireless carrier got me thinking about whether I can switch out of T-Mobile before the merger takes effect. According to an article from Forbes, it still isn't clear if T-Mobile customers will be charged a termination penalty if they decide to leave the carrier before their contract is up. But something you might be relieved to find out is that it's illegal to change the terms of any prior contract with T-Mobile even after the firm joins AT&T. If you find a "materially adverse" change, such as a price increase, you can dispute that with the carrier and perhaps even break your contract without paying any fees.
The merger won't go into effect until a year later and I'm pretty glad that my contract ends January next year. Hmmm, is it just me or does the iPhone from Verizon look quite tempting all of a sudden?
If you don't want to bother with the hassle of checking in your luggage, being charged baggage fees, and potentially losing your bags, consider an adaptable carry-on. If you're wondering what that is, it's a flexible luggage that has bags attached to it so it'll still be counted as one piece since they are all stuck together. These adaptable bags are measured to easily fit into the cabin storage space. If you're keen on getting one, check out the Balanzza Truco ($199). Remember, you can always make the most of your carry-on by using vacuum bags!
When I first talked about the Kim Kardashian MasterCard aka the Kardashian Kard that debuted last week, 80 percent of you thought the idea was baffling. Turns out, SavvySugar readers have great instincts and were totally on the ball with this one. One of the biggest downsides to the prepaid debit card is that activating it will cost you $50 or $100. Another one is the endless list of fees that happen after activation: $8 monthly fee after a certain time period, $1.50 ATM withdrawal fee, $2 bill pay fee, $1 for adding money to the card, $1.50 to talk to a customer rep, and more.
TrèsSugar recently shared five secrets to Kim's success, and although no one can deny the reality star's influence in the media and fashion world, maybe she shouldn't dip her hands in the finance pot. I think reader Suzanne Leung made a valid point when she commented on the SavvySugar Facebook fan page saying, "Maybe it's just me, but an image of the Kardashians doesn't quite say 'fiscal responsibility' to me." The girls live decadent lifestyles — buying designer clothes, wearing expensive jewelry, and driving premium cars. I'm asking: do you think the Kardashians serve as good role models for managing personal finances?
Fees are going up, up, and away, according to a Bankrate study that was released today. Consumers need to be aware of these fees, especially during the holiday season, a time when there is an increased amount of spending. Managing your money is going to be even pricier, so users will have to be more aware of their budgeting practices and keep an eye on the sneaky bank fees. Here are some of the increases you should watch out for:
- ATM fees: The ATM fees have risen to $2.33 from the previous year, an increase of five percent. If you're using an out-of-network ATM, you'll be charged an average of $1.41. That's seven percent higher than last year.
- Minimum balance requirement: Note: This applies to accounts that require minimum balances. This year, the average minimum balance requirement to avoid monthly fees in a noninterest checking account has risen to $249.50 from $185.75 last year. For the case of interest-bearing checking accounts, it has increased to $3,883.40 from $511.22.
- Bounced checks: If you bounce a check this year, you might be paying the average of $30.47. This compares with last year's average bounced-check fee of $29.58.
Last year, American banks made over $20 billion on debit and ATM overdraft fees alone. Remember a good way to avoiding some of these bank fees is to check out online accounts such as ING or SmartyPig. As for ATM fees, make sure you have enough cash on hand, and withdraw money only at your bank's ATM machines or get cash back at grocery stores. Stay alert, Savvy readers!
Sending in a mail-in rebate takes a lot of dedication: saving the box, cutting out the UPC code, filling out forms, finding a stamp/envelope/post office. And with more and more companies issuing rebate debit cards over checks, getting the money promised to you is now even tougher. Rebate cards, like some debit gift cards, have many hassles, including monthly fees, trouble splitting charges, or holding funds by authorizing a transaction for more than the cost. Consumers end up losing dollars that they just can't seem to extract out of the little plastic cage, which means your money just goes back to the company. I found this out when I received my first Verizon rebate card after I bought a new phone and took myself on a mini shopping spree. The first purchase went smoothly, but afterward, the rebate card kept getting declined; turns out I needed to know exactly how much was remaining on the card in order to use it. But did you know there's a way to make sure that you get all of the money that's rightfully yours? To find out what it is read more
The last stage of the Credit Card Act of 2009, passed in Congress last May, finally takes effect this week. Here are some of the important changes that savvy consumers should take note of.
- Penalty Fees: Your late fees can't exceed more than $25 of the minimum payment on your credit card. However, this only applies if you're not a repeated violator.
- Inactivity Fee: You can't be charged for an inactivity fee.
- Interest Rate Hikes: Any interest rate hikes from January 2009 will have to be reviewed by your bank every six months. If the evaluation says you deserve a lower rate, the company has to comply within 45 days of the review. Issuers now have to inform you why your APR has risen.