What ever happened to "Fly the Friendly Skies?"
In addition to the infamous baggage fees, airlines now charge for bags of peanuts and rubber-chicken meals; pillows and blankets; and seats with a smidgen of extra legroom. No doubt we'll soon pay extra for the flight attendants' emergency instructions.
Airlines aren't the only culprits when it comes to aggravating add-on fees. Seemingly every business from banks to bakeries charge additional fees that have customers beating their heads against convenient walls. Some of these extras are minor irritations: Others are so severe they can nearly double an advertised price.
The standard excuse is that businesses need these fees to stay afloat. Not just a few, however, are using hidden or semi-hidden charges to make unseemly profits. In 2009 alone, the banking industry reaped $36 billion, or more than half of its revenues on checking accounts, from overdraft fees. Arrrgh!
Here are 11 fees that drive consumers round the bend.
1. Ticket Nazi
Anyone who has used Ticketmaster knows they pile it on with service, facility, processing, shipping, will-call and convenience fees. Plan on parking your car? That $20 fee isn't per card, it's per person per vehicle.
An entirely unscientific poll of 7,000 Ticketmaster customers found 82 percent were extremely dissatisfied with the monolithic monopoly's service. Want to avoid Ticketmaster? Ha! Ticketmaster recently merged with LiveNation, because the thought of consumers being able to buy tickets from more than one company apparently causes a breakdown in the fabric of the space/time continuum.
2. Paper Billing
Want a physical copy of your bill, bank balance or insurance policy? That paper will cost you extra. What do people without computers do? Sometimes I'm tempted to send these people a ream of paper each so I can get a free copy of this information.
3. Currency Exchange Fees
Think again before you use your credit card overseas. Most cards charge a two-headed currency exchange fee for all foreign transactions: One by the credit-card brand and a second by the holding bank or institution. Because there's no way to know what exchange rate you'll get on the transaction, you could easily go over limit and incur additional fees.
4 Income Tax E-Filing
If you meet certain income and filing requirements, the IRS doesn't charge a fee for e-filing with their Free File Program. Some Electronic Return Originators or software providers, however, charge a fee for electronic transmission of your state return. In other words, they're charging you to click a mouse button. TurboTax, one of the more popular tax software packages, charges a $19.95 fee for e-filing personal state taxes.
5. Unlisted Phones
It's absolutely fascinating that phone companies charge consumers extra to NOT provide a service. An unlisted land-line phone number can cost roughly $1.75 per month, or $21 per year.
6. Mortgage Junk Fees
There's a reason real estate closings are so traumatic. Mortgage junk fees pile up faster than linebackers on a quarterback. There are fees for administration, application, appraisal, commitment, credit reports, document prep, etc., etc., etc. Most companies claim these junk fees are necessary to cover overhead, but how much headroom do these companies need? If you're about to close on a property, check out a comprehensive list of junk fees on LenPenzo.com.
7. Low Balance Charge
Most banks have stopped charging a fee for accounts that fall below a minimum balance. However, brokerages charge low-balance fees for non-IRA accounts below a minimum balance. Leave a small investment untended and, by the time you remember it, your money may be gone.
8. Bounce Fees
Financial institutions have inflated their overdraft fees faster than the cost of living. New Federal regulations, effective July 1, crack down on some practices that have raised the hackles of their depositors. One rule requires banks secure their customers' consent before charging overdraft fees of $25 to $35 on ATM and debit-card transactions and provide them with the option of refusing to complete the transaction. In other words, you'll receive notification at point-of-purchase or withdrawal if you're about to overspend your account.
9. Arbitration Fees
If you've ever lodged a complaint against a business, landlord or service provider and ended up in arbitration, you've likely been hit with fees for administration and arbitration. Even if you win you can get stuck with a fee; thus providing you with an incentive to keep your mouth shut and just go with the flow.
10. Hotel Charges
Hotels have always offered their share of unreasonable fees, for everything from $7 bottles of mini-bar water to $1 a minute telephone charges. Lately, however, hotels and resorts have upped the ante with a host of fees for everything from extra pool towels to the formerly free airport shuttle. The most irritating hotel fee: Charging customers for the privilege of using their in-room safes; whether you use it or not.
11. One Last Airline Fee
It's bad enough airlines charge a baggage fee (God bless you Southwest) but, last time I looked, United and US Airways charged "valued" customers an additional $3 per bag fee for paying the original fee at the airport, instead of online. Yep, that makes it a fee for paying a fee.