15 Most Hated Fees
From checked-bag costs to retirement plan expenses, the editors of Money Magazine tell you how to stand up to the pesky charges that bug you the most. Here we highlight four of the 15 annoying fees they profile at CNNMoney.com. These are the ones that really get under our collective skin at WalletPop.
Being charged for not charging
What it costs: $--$$
What you're mad about: A few credit card issuers have started levying annual fees on less active users to encourage them to spend. Citibank, for example, slaps a $60 fee on certain cardholders unless they charge $2,400 within a year. (Spokesman Samuel Wang blames it on the "increasing costs of doing business.") And US Bank Visa Platinum dings you $40 if you don't use your card during a 12-month period.
How to fight back: Happily, such fees are the exception, not the rule. So vote with your feet, says Curtis Arnold of CardRatings.com. Look into switching to a card issued by a credit union (findacreditunion.com). Credit unions typically charge fewer fees than big banks do. By Ismat Sarah Mangla
Paying to use your frequent-flier miles
What it costs: $--$$$
What you're mad about: Can it really be called "reward travel" if you have to pay for the reward? Apparently. To redeem your miles for any flight on US Airways, you must pay a $25 to $50 fee. ("It's an effort to recoup a portion of the overhead of the program," says spokesman Todd Lehmacher.) American, United, and Continental, among others, usually make you pony up $50 to $500 one way to use miles for upgrades.
How to fight back: Stick to one airline, and try to achieve gold or platinum status (which generally involves flying at least 25,000 miles a year). That way you'll escape redemption fees, says Randy Peterson of WebFlyer.com. Don't travel that much? Consider a credit card that lets you earn miles -- specifically "elite qualifying miles" -- such as Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express (800-223-2670). Just be sure to weigh the annual fee against the benefit you'll get.
Paying to shut a brokerage account or IRA
What it costs: $$--$$$
What you're mad about: No matter how unhappy you may be with your broker, you seem even more unhappy to discover that you'll have to shell out to sever your relationship. Many of the major firms -- such as Fidelity, Schwab, and WellsTrade -- charge transfer fees, generally between $50 and $200, if you close your account and move your money to a different firm. Reader Eric Nix finds it "outrageous" that he had to lay out $50 to switch brokerages. Benjamin Poor of Cerulli Associates, a financial services market research firm, agrees. "It's like having a bad meal at a restaurant, then being charged to leave the building."
How to fight back: If your current brokerage is holding you hostage with its fee, appeal to the company where you want to move your funds. Many will reimburse you. To prevent these problems down the road, when you first sign up at a brokerage, ask that it waive such fees. "These things are negotiable, especially if you have a sizable account," says Mason Dinehart, a securities expert witness. (Sizable means six figures.)
Plunking down to hang up on your cell carrier
What it costs: $$$
What you're mad about: Agreeing to a cellphone contract is sort of like signing over your soul to the devil: You know there will be hell to pay if you break your end of the deal. In this case you'll owe $200 to $350. Such fees usually subsidize the cost of the handset you bought at a low price, says Bob Sullivan, author of Stop Getting Ripped Off.
How to fight back: Try to talk your way out of the fee, mentioning examples of poor service you've received (keep records and cite them). Customer rep won't budge? If you can stand it, stick with the carrier a while longer. Termination fees are generally pro-rated, so the longer you hold out, the less you'll pay. Next time consider a prepaid phone, which doesn't require a contract. It's generally a good deal if you use it less than 400 minutes a month during peak hours, says Sullivan.
Wait, there's more! If one of the above fees doesn't get your blood boiling, surely one of these will. Click the following link to see the complete list of 15 Most Hated Fees -- and what you can to do to beat 'em.