15 Things That Used to Be Free but Now Cost Money

Photo (cc) by Betsssssy

If you feel as though you’re being nickel-and-dimed by businesses nowadays, that’s probably because you are.

Of course, pricing varies from region to region, but in the video below, Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson lays out a few of the items that used to be free but now commonly cost you money. Find out what Stacy has to say, and then keep scrolling for more. And don’t forget to leave a comment below with any other formerly free items we may have missed.

1. Hotel amenities

You’d think if you go to a hotel advertising a pool and Wi-Fi, those items would be included in the room rate. But apparently not.

According to Travel+Leisure, hotels started tacking on resort fees in the late 1990s to cover the cost of everything from “complimentary” newspapers to maintaining the on-site gym. It doesn’t matter if you don’t swim, don’t have a computer or don’t care about current events. Many hotels assess resort fees no matter what.

At some properties, the number of additional fees tacked onto the room rate has gotten a bit crazy, as this article shows.

2. Drink refills

You used to be able to go into any restaurant, virtually anywhere, and get free refills on drinks such as soda pop and coffee.

However, reports have started surfacing that free refills are being phased out in some areas. One man was even slapped with a $525 fine for helping himself to a free refill. (Subsequent reports indicate that fine was later revoked.)

Where I live, free refills are fortunately still the norm, and Cheapism has a list of 12 chains that may still offer them near you.

3. Extras at restaurants

Speaking of restaurants, I used to get a free handful of dipping sauces when I asked for extras at our local McDonald’s. Nowadays, if I want more than two, I need to fork over some extra cash.

McDonald’s isn’t alone. The pizza place no longer gives free extra cheese, and I was at a burger joint last week that charged a $1.25 fee to share a meal with a friend. Really, I asked? Really, they said.

Eatocracy over at CNN has a list of eight other restaurant surcharges you probably never had to pay in the past.

4. Water

OK, water is still free in many places, but some apparently prefer to pay through the nose for the bottled variety even though it may be the same as what comes from the tap.

And our willingness to pay for bottles seems to have led some restaurants to decide that water will no longer be a freebie for diners.

Going back to McDonald’s (yes, we eat there entirely too much), my non-pop drinking daughter always orders water. I used to be able to get free water in a cup for her, but now I’m charged for a bottle of Dasani and told the free cup is not an option.

5. Airplane-everything

Oh my. Where shall we start with this one?

In the olden days, you would buy a plane ticket, check your bags and maybe enjoy some free in-flight entertainment via a movie projected on a wall. The attendants would give you peanuts, a drink and maybe even a meal if you were on board long enough.

Today, you buy a plane ticket and then find yourself shelling out money for everything from your checked bag to your boarding pass to an in-flight blanket. A 2013 study from IdeaWorksCompany found that airline ancillary revenue (read: mostly fees) has increased 1,200 percent since 2007.

6. Returning a rental car

Airlines aren’t the only ones getting a little crazy with their fees. An article on U.S. News & World Report notes that rental car companies have also found ways to tack on extra charges to the base price of their vehicles. Most egregious seems to be the early-return fee.

Hertz says its $11 fee is “to compensate us in part for our inability to rent your vehicle during the time reserved for your use.”

7. TV

Like water, you can still get TV for free. Unfortunately, we seem to have hit the point where paying for our on-screen entertainment seems to be a given for many Americans.

However, we’d like to suggest you can stop paying for cable TV now.

8. Air

Oh, sure, the air you breathe is still free … for now. But the air you put in your tires? Now, that’s an entirely different story.

Once upon a time, every gas station in my town had a free air pump. Today, I need a dollar. On the positive side, at least one station’s pump takes credit cards, so I no longer have to hunt for quarters in the change jar.

As with other items on this list, you can still find freebies if you know where to look. FreeAirPump.com maintains a user-generated directory of free pumps. The site also says California and Connecticut drivers are entitled by state law to free air at service stations (free in California with a purchase of gas).

9. Checking accounts

Not long ago, every bank and credit union offered free checking. Then the CARD Act came along. It limited bank profits from credit cards, and government regulations ended the banks’ practice of automatically enrolling customers in so-called overdraft protection, another moneymaker for financial institutions.

As a result (and as Money Talks News predicted), free checking accounts dried up. You can still find them, but you may need to jump through some hoops first.

10. ATM service

It’s interesting to read this 1998 Bankrate article, which says that KeyBank actually paid its customers 25 cents for using an ATM rather than dealing with a teller.

Boy, are those days long gone. ATM fees hit a record high this year, clocking in at an average of $4.35 per out-of-network transaction.

11. Bill payment

There’s nothing quite like being charged a fee for the privilege of paying a bill. And yet, that’s exactly what some companies do now. It seems as though, in the past, they were just happy to get your money, without making you pay more in order to hand it over.

I seem to run into these convenience fees most often if I try to pay on the phone, but they occasionally crop up online as well. At least it’s still free to send a check in the mail.

12. National parks

Entrance fees didn’t become a fixture at more than 100 sites administered by the National Park Service until the 1980s. However, you can still visit most national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for free.

13. Directory assistance

Remember when you used to pick up the phone, dial “0” and ask the operator to connect you to a number?

You can still do that by dialing 411 or 555-1212. However, while the service used to be free, most companies now charge.

For example, AT&T says directory assistance costs $1.79 in my area, while U.S. Cellular charges $1.99 per call plus standard rates.

14. School sports

Back when I was in middle and high school, school sports typically didn’t cost families a penny. Those schools that did toy with the idea of a “pay-for-play” model were met with outrage from both the community and parents.

Today, it’s not unusual for schools, both public and private, to charge those who want to participate in sports.

According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, more than 60 percent of children who play sports today pay for the privilege. In my home state of Michigan, schools responding to a survey conducted by the Michigan High School Athletic Association charge a median participation fee of $85 per sport.

15. Information on the Internet

In the early days of the Internet, almost everything online was free. Now granted, it wasn’t exactly the same caliber of content you’ll find nowadays, but you couldn’t beat the price.

Today, membership sites aren’t uncommon. You may have to join to post on a message board or view content or download reports.

Luckily for you, Money Talks News remains your totally free source of personal finance news and information.

So what did we miss? Leave a comment below or head to our Facebook page to tell us what else you remember that was once free but now charges a fee.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

This Is the Best Time of Day to Take Blood Pressure Meds
This Is the Best Time of Day to Take Blood Pressure Meds

The right timing can help you prevent a big — and possibly fatal — mistake.

12 Easy Ways To Make Make Money Online Without Leaving Home
12 Easy Ways To Make Make Money Online Without Leaving Home

If you’re hanging around the house a lot these days — and who isn’t? — use your time to make some extra cash.

How to Get Rid of 6 Hard-to-Sell Things
How to Get Rid of 6 Hard-to-Sell Things

Find out where to sell, donate or recycle items — and feel good about it.

Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer
Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer

Earn cash by reading emails, taking surveys, playing games, shopping and signing up for offers through this website.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.