Credit card companies are some of the very worst offenders when it comes to "fee-ing" their customers nearly to death. For instance, I've caught some of my (former) credit card merchants attempting to tack unauthorized fees right onto my statement, counting on my charge-happy habits to camouflage their subterfuge. Other merchants have sent me reams of online paperwork, with no-nos like "annual fee" notifications carefully submerged right in the middle of all that text. Hah. No dice. As if. Now I have a list of fees I won't pay, and I consult it before opening a new line of credit. I hope this list will help you the way it helps me!
1. Annual Fees
When it comes to the dreaded annual fee, there’s simply no excuse good enough to justify paying a credit card merchant to do what so many are willing, eager, slobbering at the mouth to do for you for free. Cancel those suckers ASAP.
2. Late Fees
The easiest way to avoid paying late fees is to set up calendar or online banking alerts to ensure you are never late with a payment. This serves you in two ways: 1) You don't have to call your credit card merchant up and haggle for removal of the late fees, and 2) You never have to worry about impact to your credit report. It’s also worth mentioning that some credit cards now offer first time forgiveness (Discover card waives their $35 late fee for first time offenders) or even "no late fees" promotions (Citi Card Simplicity is the newest entrant here) in attempts to attract new cardholders.
3. Over-Limit Fees
The only possible way your credit card provider can charge you for going over your credit card limit is if you have first authorized them to permit you to over-charge against your limit. So the next time you contact your card provider, be sure to ask about this and remove any authorization that may be in place.
4. Credit Card Interest Fees
If you’re carrying a balance from month to month on your credit cards and you’re not protected under a 0% interest promotion, you’re paying interest fees that increase your unpaid balance month after month. Yikes! While this topic is rich enough for a completely separate blog post (speaking of which, see here to read about how to avoid ever paying interest fees) one thing you should know now is it’s high time for some financial management. First, contact your credit card merchant and ask for a lower interest rate. Next, call around to your other credit card merchants and ask about 0% interest balance transfer options. Finally, sit down and make a plan to pay those balances off! This is the only sure-fire way to ensure you never again pay credit card interest fees.
5. Foreign Transaction Fees
While you might think you’ll only encounter these fees while traveling internationally, in this increasingly global e-commerce world, it’s easier than you might think to shop online and end up paying in converted currency—incurring foreign transaction fees on your credit card as you do so. The best way to safeguard against ever paying these fees is to know what your card merchant's policy is on foreign transaction fees (FYI: Capital One, Bank of America, Chase and Barclay Bank now offer credit cards with no foreign transaction fees).
6. Balance Transfer Fees
The balance transfer is one feature of carrying plastic versus cash that I personally love. I can’t tell you how many times my ability to cash in on a 0% interest balance transfer promotion has saved my butt after unexpected medical expenses or a car accident that landed me in financial jeopardy. But while a 0% interest balance transfer does give you a grace period to pay off the principal of your debt, free from interest charges, you will have to pay a "transfer fee" at the time you initiate the balance transfer. This fee is typically 1%-3% of the total amount of the balance transfer, and the fee is tacked on to the total amount of the transfer to be paid off over time as part of your debt. So you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of getting out of financial trouble versus paying an extra fee to do so.
7. Cash Advance Fees
Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be any more credit card fees to watch out for, along comes the cash advance fee. This is the fee your credit card merchant charges you when you decide to take advantage of those offers they’re always sending you—tempting you to withdraw cash against your remaining credit card balance. Beware, they’re not just offering you this feature out of the kindness of their hearts! You can expect to pay up to 3% of the total amount transferred, with a minimum payment. Also, you don’t get a repayment grace period (so take care not to take a cash advance during the last days of your card cycle) and your interest rate is typically higher on repaying this amount than on your existing debt.
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