Your Monthly Bills: Watch Out For Hidden Fees


looking over statementSometimes banks use deceptive advertising that encourage people to open a new bank account. Unfortunately, when people open new accounts, they aren’t always given all of the information needed to fully understand potential charges or fees. There are also reports of banks withholding certain bank accounts from certain groups of people, or some consumers who are not provided with the same services and benefits as others with the same account type at the same bank.

Other deceptive bank fees are related to overdraft charges. In the past, customers have complained, saying they were enrolled in overdraft protection without their knowledge and not warned that a purchase would overdraw their balance – and this resulted in excessive overdraft fees. Some banks also reorder the transactions so all of the withdrawals are done before deposits on the same day to ensure the bank gets the most money from overdraft fees as possible.

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Credit Cards

senior man looking at billThe credit card industry used to be overflowing with deceptive practices, including changing payment due dates to increase the chances that customer payments would arrive after the due date (and result in late fees). Other sneaky tricks included increasing interest rates retroactively, lowering credit limits below the balance of the card, and charging over-the-limit fees.

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 made many changes to the billing practices of credit card companies, but if you’re not watching your statements closely, you could still discover unexpected fees or charges. Keep an eye out for credit card insurance programs you didn’t enroll in, and make sure they are removed from your bill if you do not want them.

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house homeThere have been a variety of reports from homeowners over the years for deceptive practices in the mortgage industry. Some feel they were charged excessive fees they were unaware of when getting their mortgage; others say the home was appraised higher than its actual value to get the loan to close.

If you are considering a different payment arrangement for your mortgage, perhaps bi-weekly instead of monthly, make sure you are not going to be charged an extra fee to set up the program.

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Memberships and Subscriptions

gym workoutIf you use the internet, you’ve no doubt seen various companies advertising free trials, free memberships or free products for a certain number of days. If you every take advantage of any of these memberships and subscriptions, pay attention to the fine print! Most of these free trial offers are simply a way to get people signed up, and if you do not cancel within the stated number of days, you will automatically be billed for the full cost of the product, membership or subscription.

When buying anything online, pay attention to “add-on” orders or extras that are added to your shopping cart during the last few stages of your payment process. You might order a sports item and the order form could include a sports magazine subscription with the box already checked indicating you want to order it. If you’re not paying attention, you could miss the fact that you have to uncheck the box in order to avoid ordering the magazine subscription.

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Rising Costs

confused about billAnother deceptive or hidden fee to look out for is simply the kind keeps going up month after month. You might see these on cell phone bills, cable bills or anything you pay for on a monthly basis. Compare the bills each month to make sure there are no charges or fees that are increasing without explanation.

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