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Like practically everyone else I know, my family has dispensed with checks and does most of our shopping with credit and debt cards. These cards are amazingly convenient to shop with and help keep all that nasty paper clutter under control.
Of course, it was too good to last. With so many people overextended and filing bankruptcy or renegotiating their revolving consumer debt, these costs were bound to trickle down to the rest of us consumers. This latest rash of credit card fees are downright sneaky.
Where to watch for sneaky credit card fees.
Over the past several months, I’ve been watching fees turn up in unexpected places. Called “processing fees” or “convenience fees,” these surcharges range between 2-5% and will catch a consumer by surprise if we aren’t paying attention. Here are just a few of the places to watch for these sneaky new credit and debit card fees.
At the cash register. While using your debit card at the register is still free, some stores are now charging a convenience fee to customers who ask for cash back. Dollar Tree is the first store I’ve seen that nicks the customer for a couple bucks for this service; I think we can expect to see more of this in the future.
Cell phone stores. Prefer making your payment in person with a debit, check, or credit card? Cell phone shops like Cricket charge a $3 processing fee for walk-in payments. Sign up for an automatic credit card payment plan and the fee is waived.
Three party processing centers for utility, insurance companies, and school tuition. Everyone seems to be getting into the act of using a third party processing center for online credit or debit card payments. While it’s certainly convenient for businesses, consumers get hit with a 3-5% processing fee to use the service. You can get around this sneaky third party fee by setting up a bill pay plan or paying the old fashioned way with a check in the mail.
Membership fees. Talk about being sneaky AND no fair. Banks such as CitiBank and Bank of America are now charging membership fees on selected credit card accounts. Before signing on the dotted line read the fine print to determine if your new credit card is “fee free” or comes with dues.
Bank debit card and credit card statements. Gone are the days where account holders used to get free debit checking services. My teen’s bank now charges debit checking and savings account holders $36 a year for monthly paper statements. The fee is waived for customers who opt to go “paperless.”
Dormancy fees. Don’t use your credit card often enough? Fifth Third Bank charges an annual $19 fee on inactive credit card accounts. To avoid the fee, the card holder must use the card at least once every 12 months. Fifth Third Bank may be the first to charge these types of fees, but I suspect other banks won’t be too far behind.
More articles by this contributor:
How to pay off a credit card in a tough economy.
How to get a lower interest rate on your credit card.
10 ways to mismanage your money..