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Avoiding Hidden Fees

By Sarah Collins

Fees, fees, and more fees. Less like a grizzly bear and more like an army of termites, they're the hidden predator that tears through your bank account and severely dings your bottom line. The Bellingham Herald has an enlightening piece on the most common hidden charges—and how to avoid them. Here are the most relevant ones for recent grads:

3. Utilities, cable and Internet providers now commonly charge as much as $15 for making a payment over the phone what Mierzwinski calls a "pay to pay" fee. These fees are often waived online, so set up your accounts on the company Web sites in case you have to make a last-minute payment.

5. Cell phone companies will charge up to $200 in "termination fees" if you cancel a contract early. Some prorate the fee to reflect the time left on the contract, but check your end date before switching services. If riding out your plan isn't an option, check out a contract trading service, like Celltradeusa.com, ReCellular.com or Cellswapper.com, where someone else may bid to take over the remaining portion of your contract.

13. For years, savvy travelers have known using a credit card overseas could help save on exchange rates and fees. But credit card companies now typically add a foreign currency conversion charge of up to 3 percent. Lytle, of Frommers.com, said a strategy that will save on fees is to use a credit card only for large purchases, and use ATMs to withdraw cash infrequently for minor spending.

14. Banks charge $10 to $38 for overdrafts, with the median about $27, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data says. These fees are getting more common as debit card use grows. So be keep your account register current, and be mindful of debit card spending, ATM withdrawals and any automatic payments that you have set up.

20. Annual fees are less common than they used to be. Now appearing mostly on rewards cards, the size of the fees has risen to $50 to $150. If you pay an annual fee, make sure you're getting a worthwhile return from your rewards. If you're not, ask to have the fee waived or try to switch to a no-fee card.

Aim that rage against the corporate fee machine [via The Bellingham Herald]

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