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Money Pros’ Top 5 Tricks to Dodge Sneaky Fees Could Save You $500+ a Year

Plus, how to get your money back if you've already been charged

Frustrating, but true: The average American is paying a whopping $596 in extra charges every year due to out of control “fee-flation.” That’s because more and more retailers and services are tacking on bonus fees that can often come as a surprise to you the consumer. The good news? It is possible to dodge sneaky fees and keep more money in your wallet. Keep reading for the top five expert tricks that can help you save.

1. Avoid hotel ‘resort’ charges

It’s a common problem: Many hotels advertise a low room rate, then tack on “resort” fees (which cover services like Wi-Fi and pool access) at the end of the checkout process. And these last-minute charges add up quick! According to a new NerdWallet analysis, resort fees cost on average $42 per night (and sometimes per room guest), inflating your bill by about 11%.

The federal government is currently working to pass the Hotel Fees Transparency Act that will force hotels to disclose resort charges upfront. But for now, you can find out if a hotel includes these sneaky fees by visiting ResortFeeChecker.com. Or pick up the phone! “You can always call a property and ask for those details before booking,” says Henley Vazquez, co-founder of the travel advisory company Fora. Also smart: Select a no-frills lodging option. “Most resort fees cover the amenities of the hotel, like a gym, pool, etc.,” explains Vazquez. “If you stay at a smaller property, you’re more likely to avoid additional fees.”

Related: You Could Make $20 an Hour Working From Home for Marriott — No Degree Required

2. Dodge sneaky fees at the bank

Surprisingly, there’s good news to report about bank charges: “Many banks are phasing out certain fees, like overdraft fees, due to growing public scrutiny and competition from online banks,” says Taylor Kovar, Certified Financial Planner and CEO of TheMoneyCouple.com.

In some cases, banks have eliminated certain fees for all accountholders, such as Citibank, which nixed overdraft, returned check and overdraft protection charges. But it’s not like that at every financial institution! At other banks, to avoid a fee, you’ll have to enroll in a program, open a special account or request that a fee be removed.

For example, US Bank offers a “Smartly” checking account where you can request an “Overdraft Paid Fee Waiver” that removes an overdraft fee when you replenish your funds before 11 pm ET on the day you were charged. Visit your bank’s website or talk with a bank representative to find out if they’ve removed fees or have programs that help you avoid them. Also smart: “Set up account alerts to notify you of low balances or other triggers for fees,” advises Kovar. This way, you can get a heads-up, helping you avoid them altogether!

3. Sidestep new restaurant service charges

How to save money on travel: Hands with bill, food service and people in restaurant, customer with receipt and payment with cashier or waiter. Fine dining, dinner and check at cafe, catering and hospitality with finance
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Stunned by how big your bill has gotten when visiting restaurants lately? The high cost of food isn’t the only reason dining out is more expensive. More and more casual and fine-dining restaurants are charging new service fees that inflate your bill by 3% to a whopping 25%. But finding out about them before you finish your meal can be tricky! That’s because they may not appear on a restaurant’s menu or website. Instead, they could just show up on your check under various names, such as “health”, “sanitation”, “operating costs” or simply “surcharge.”

“So, not only are restaurants adding these charges, but they’re also not telling customers what they’re doing, so we’re getting sticker shock,” says Izzy Kharasch, president of the restaurant consulting firm Hospitality Works. His advice for avoiding them: “Call ahead or when you walk in the door, talk to the host. Ask, ‘Are there going to be any additional fees on my check besides gratuity?’ If they say ‘yes’, ask what they are and how much they cost.” Then request they be removed. Many eateries will waive these service fees when asked.

Also smart: Bring money! Many restaurants are passing along the 3% to 4% credit card processing fee to diners, which they’ll deduct if you pay with cash.

4. Dodge sneaky fees on airline baggage

Found a great price for a flight only to end up paying an additional $30, $70 or more because of checked luggage fees? Of course, there’s one way to avoid them: “Pack light,” advises Kyle Potter, executive editor of the travel and flight deal website ThriftyTraveler.com.

“Aside from budget carriers, most airlines allow you to bring a carry-on bag onboard for free.” But what if you need to check bags, say, because it’s a long trip? Fly Southwest, recommends Potter. “They’re the only airline that still offers free checked luggage (not just for one bag, but two) on every ticket. That’s $60 or much more in savings on every roundtrip flight.”

No Southwest flights going to your destination? Then pay for your checked luggage when you buy your airline tickets rather than at the airport, he urges. “The longer you wait to pay for a bag, the more many airlines charge,” Potter explains. “On airlines like United and JetBlue, it’s often just a difference of $5 or so each way. But for Spirit and Frontier, waiting to pay for that bag—be it a carry-on or a checked bag—can mean you wind up paying double.”

Related: Hitting the Road (Or Skies) Soon? Read These Travel Tips Before You Do

5. Skip the passenger usage fees on flights

Love the bottom-dollar prices of budget carriers, like Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit? You can lower the price even more by skipping the “passenger usage fee”, which is a charge of about $35 per ticket for buying your airfare online. “Just purchase your ticket in-person at the airport,” advises Potter. “If you live near the airport or know a ticket you want to book while you’re already at the airport for a different trip, it’s an easy way to save.”

Related: How To Get Money Back on Flights When You Didn’t Buy Trip Insurance (And Other Airline Tips)

Bonus: How to get your money back

If you paid a fee that you feel you shouldn’t have been, you might be due a refund! Many class action lawsuits have been won against a wide variety of companies (such as airlines and banks) who charged customers unfair fees. If you’re among them, you may be able to apply to receive part of the settlement, which will cover the fee and possibly more! Visit ClassAction.org and search for “fees” to find out if you qualify.


For more saving tips, click through the links below!

5 Ways to Save Money on Health Care in 2024 — Prescription Discounts, Eyeglasses + More

Turn Your Clutter Into Cash — 5 Easy Ways to Get Paid for Recycling Unwanted Items

The Best Time to Buy Home Appliances So You Can Save 40% or More: Savings Experts

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