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Fees Don't Have to Ruin Your Life

July 27, 2014

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I'll say it right off the bat: fees are the worst. My big battle right now is ATM fees—I found out I was paying not just at the ATM, but to my bank as well.The following is a guest post.

I’ll say it right off the bat: fees are the worst. Life costs a lot of money. When I think about what I pay for rent, public transportation, groceries, the bagel I just ate because I didn’t have time to make my groceries into an actual meal, the quarters I put into the washing machine, the quarters I put AGAIN into the washing machine because they got eaten the first time…all added up? It can be a lot of money.

So fees on top of that are a real pain. My biggest battle right now is with ATM fees—I recently found out I was paying a ton of money not just at the actual ATM, but through my bank as well. So that’s double the fees, double the trouble. I can’t believe I didn’t know how much I was paying in the first place.

But fees are everywhere, from bank overdraft fees to late library fees. They may be a terrible fact of life, but they don’t have to ruin your life.

Speak Up

If you get charged an unexpected or unfair fee and don’t say anything, it’s definitely not going anywhere. As annoying as it is, you might need to make a phone call or send an email to dispute the fee. My friend’s cable bill just unexpectedly went up an extra $20 a month, so she had to call her provider and figure out what all the little extra charges actually meant. Then she did the classic “I’m thinking of canceling my service, so let me know what you can do to convince me to stay” move, and they knocked the fees back down pronto.

Same thing with an unexpected fee popped up on my cell phone bill a few years back. Verizon was saying I was using one of their premium features—I think it was something like watching television directly on your phone—and I definitely wasn’t, so I had to battle that one off my bill.

It can be tough to stand up to big companies, but big companies also will usually go to great lengths to keep you as a customer. (Sometimes a little too far, as evidenced by a now infamous Comcast customer service call). So make the call and speak up!

Be An Artful Dodger

Back to the ATM fees. I wasn’t quite ready to switch my bank entirely, so I thought to myself: how can I avoid these fees myself?

So far, I’ve been trying to plan ahead with when I’ll need cash, making more of an effort to actually go to my bank branch to withdraw money, and also using my debit card instead of cash whenever possible. Also, getting cash back at CVS or my grocery store has worked well so far. I’m training myself to see an out-of-network ATM and say – You! You’re going to cost me $6 for the pleasure of taking out more money! That’s insane! Get away from me! And then I remember that I have legs and an ATM doesn’t…so I walk away instead. Fee free is the way to be.

Shop Around and Use Your Tools

Fees, like sunburns, are preventable! When it comes to sun exposure, all you need is sunscreen. When it comes to fees, all you need are a few tools to help you choose the best service. Any side-by-side comparison tool is great for comparing fees; when I was searching for a credit card, I used Credit Karma to filter out options that had annual fees.

And I’m definitely biased because I’m the community manager for FeeX, but when it comes to investing fees, FeeX will show you which of your investments might be packing on the fees (like expense ratios, which can take a massive chunk of your money and are hard to find in a statement) and give you suggestions for funds to switch to.

The more you know, the more you can beat fees before they even get a chance to ruin your life. Don’t let them get you down!


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7 responses to “Fees Don't Have to Ruin Your Life

  1. Threatening to leave is a great strategy. In the last three months, I’ve lowered my cable, garbage, and propane bills this way.

  2. My credit union reimburses all fees from using out of network ATMs. I was so excited when I first realized it.

    1. That’s amazing! I feel like credit unions might be a good alternative to a larger bank. Seems like the people I know who use them are generally happier with their banking experience.

  3. When I had television service through a big company, it seemed like every three months, my bill was getting higher and higher. After calling them and trying to do the usual, “I think I will look elsewhere….” they did nothing. So after that, I really did cancel-mainly out of spite. It felt good to finally cut that tie, even though I sometimes miss the television I used to get.

    1. I haven’t canceled my TV service (yet). I did call and get my rate lowered today since this month’s bill went up $25! (My “savings” rate for 12 months had run, despite the fact that I haven’t had TV for 12 months…explain that one!) They agreed to reinstate the discount for 6 more months, which is fine except that it put me over my budgeted amount this month 🙁

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