Hello, class. Let’s conduct an experiment, shall we? By a show of hands, how many of you analyze your statements before paying your bills every month? Hmm… that’s funny. I don’t see any hands? It could be because I’m not actually looking at any of you right now, but if my unofficial calculations are correct, approximately 0.01% of humans break down their charges to see WTF they’re paying every month before they actually shell out their hard-earned cash. And companies have been taking advantage of this fact by ripping off their loyal customers for years and literal billions of dollars as they blissfully go about their lives with their auto-pay turned on and their bank accounts robbed. Well, not any longer if we can help it! Neatly organized by the type of bill, here are some of the dumbest hidden monthly bill fees that would REALLY piss you off if you knew about them… which you’re about to. You’re welcome.
1. High Area Utility Usage And Delivery Fees
Did you know that if you live in a busy area, you’ll probably get a higher utility bill for OTHER people’s usage? Yup! Ken Pedotto, CEO of solar energy information and resources company Solar Simplified, says that we’re charged for things on our utility bills that are out of our control all the time, like “congestion caused by high usage in your area, administrative costs, new asset construction, etc.” Awesome. Some gas companies will even charge delivery fees on top of our regular usage rates. “The fact that they’re passing this cost of doing business onto the consumer in such a direct way is nuts. Just bake it into the cost and we’d feel a lot better,” says Kevin Panitch, founder of personal finance website Just Start Investing.
But according to Pedotto, there’s an even worse hidden fee associated with using less sustainable energy sources. “In 2005, the U.S. Congress found that the effects of burning fossil fuels cost the United States over $120 billion. This ‘environmental cost’ is the most hidden fee of all—it isn’t even considered when calculating energy bills.” Deep AF, Pedotto. That was way deeper than I wanted to go here, TBH, but I guess the truth hurts. Good thing millennials are too broke to afford homes anyway!
2. Landlords Overcharging For Their Own Profit
Wait, you’re rich enough to afford your own place? Congrats! As a successful adult, do you check what your monthly rent covers? Because Stacy Caprio of coupons and freebies site Deals Scoop warns that apartment complexes charge a set fee for “utilities” without truly breaking down the costs. “My apartment’s monthly plan is $85 a month for cable and internet, and they use Xfinity that charges a minimum of $29.99 a month for cable and internet packages… with no package that sits at $85 a month. I don’t even use cable, only internet, so I’m being charged way more than I should be in this instance.” SMH.
3. Renting An Internet Router Or Cable Modem
According to Teel Lidow, attorney and CEO of consumer advocacy company Radvocate, many internet service providers require you to rent their routers but don’t disclose that rental fee in their base rate. Jonathan, founder of finance site Centsibly Frugal, notes that some of these fees include HD technology fees, broadcast TV fees, regional sports fee, universal connectivity charge fee… basically nickel-and-diming us to death. “A cable/internet package of $80/month looks great until you realize that it actually costs over $100 when you add all of the mandatory fees.”
Certain cable companies are NOTORIOUS for hiding fees. Helen Back, editor-in-chief of the cord cutting site Kill The Cable Bill, says that the price quoted when you sign up is almost never what you end up paying. “In fact, we put out a report last year showing that Comcast is pulling in as much as $2.64 billion a year charging customers for local channels they can get for free with an antenna.” OVER TWO BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR? Comcast, I don’t like to name names, but you definitely deserve to be put on blast. How can we fight this conspiracy? R.J. Weiss, Certified Financial Planner and founder of the personal finance site The Ways to Wealth, suggests buying your own modem for around $60 to skip extra rental charges every month.
4. Literally Using Your Cell Phone
I know I personally contact Verizon every other month to refund me for making up imaginary data overage charges, but that’s not what this is about. We’re getting charged more for just connecting to the damn phone network. Isn’t that, like, the whole point of the phone bill??? “In addition to paying for the data for the phone(s) on your plan, you are required to pay an additional $20 per month per device just to be connected to the network. On top of that, there’s an additional $3.56 on my monthly bill for “Surcharges,” but no explanation on what these charges are actually for,” adds Jonathan of Centsibly Frugal. THIEVERY.
Then there are people like Ashley Patrick, founder of Budgets Made Easy and The Money Mindset Podcast, who get overcharged for years without even realizing it. “I was being billed for service and 911 fees for three different counties and two states for over 10 years.” Her phone company only credited her back a year and a half once she discovered it. Whhhhaaaattt even goes on?
5. Bank Maintenance Charges
Shannon McLay, founder and CEO of “personal finance trainer” company The Financial Gym, always sees maintenance fees on her client’s bank statements. “I’ve seen countless clients forget they have to maintain a minimum amount in their accounts to avoid a monthly fee up to $12. In the case of a checking account, this can be avoided by having your paycheck set to direct deposit.” Who knows this firsthand better than my MOM??? Lori Mandriota, the vice president and CFO of tree care company Platinum Industrial Equipment, signed up for a business account at a popular bank (*cough* Chase) but was never informed there would be a monthly fee of any kind. “Just recently we looked at our account online, and they’ve been removing $30 a month to ‘maintain’ our account. Hundreds of dollars later, we fought and finally got those charges removed.” Great job, ma! Good thing I didn’t learn my finance management skills from you.
6. Going To The Gym
It’s almost time for that “new year, new me” vibe! Let’s all sign up for the gym to get fit… and while we’re at it, let’s get charged some BS fees. “One thing people don’t realize is that on top of the monthly pricing, some gyms charge application fees, activation fees, and for those who sign up for the year-long plan but quit after five months? Cancellation fees,” says McLay. Cool. As if getting off our couch isn’t hard enough, this is our bonus punishment for trying to get fit.
7. Getting Print Bills Instead Of Electronic
And for the Ice Age dwellers who prefer paper statements instead of electronic ones, there are printing fees. “Since companies prefer you to have online billing, they’ve started introducing fees if they need to mail you a paper bill. Depending on the company, this bill can be substantial,” says Logan Allec, a CPA and owner of personal finance blog Money Done Right. To avoid this environmentally smart, yet still dumb hidden fee, he recommends making sure all of your bills are paperless. Save the environment AND your wallet? No-brainer.
8. Insurance “Agency” Fees
WTF is an agency fee, you ask? Great f*cking question. “This is a fee that an agency charges on top of the commission that they’re already paid to service an account,” says Elena Thormahlen-Conforti, Vice President of Meridian Insurance Services. She claims these fees usually hide in the original proposal and don’t even show up as an additional line on invoices. “I deal with people who think they have a great rate elsewhere who don’t realize the true cost of their insurance. It’s infuriating, and frankly, a bit slimy.” Super slimy! Thanks for keeping us safe while you kill our wallets, insurance companies.
Moral of the story? CHECK YOUR DAMN BILLS AND MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT GETTING OVERCHARGED FOR STUPID SH*T EVERY MONTH. You deserve to keep the hard-earned cash you worked for. Don’t give it away to the corporations. Take the power (and money) back into your own hands. Me for President 2020!