Like it or not, some fees are unavoidable.
But others are excessive, egregious and just plain obnoxious. You certainly don’t have to like them — and you don’t have to pay them either.
Here’s a look at fees you should never need to pay.
1. Coin conversion fee
As paying with cash has become less common, it’s gotten more expensive to turn your change into bills.
Many banks used to have coin-counting machines that accountholders could use for free. Now, those that have them generally charge for the service.
And, of course, many of us don’t physically visit banks anymore — so the only coin counters we encounter are the ones operated by Coinstar in grocery stores.
Coinstar charges a whopping 12.5% service fee plus a 50-cent transaction fee for the pleasure of sitting through all that whirring, clanking and feeding of a few stubborn coins through the machine multiple times.
However, you can avoid this fee in two ways. First, you can redeem your change for an eGift card from a wide variety of retailers and services including Amazon, DoorDash, Home Depot and Southwest Airlines.
Second, you can do the coin sorting yourself. Your bank might still give you coin wrappers for free, or you can find them at the dollar store.
If sorting and rolling coins doesn’t sound worth your time but you still hate the fee, you can strike a middle ground by buying your own coin sorter —
this one's a bargain for the one-time, flat fee of about $26 on Amazon.
2. ATM fees
Want the privilege of accessing your own money? That’ll be $4.73, please.
That’s the average amount for fees on a transaction through an ATM not run by your bank, according to recent research. It accounts for the fees both the ATM owner and your bank hit you with.
The good news, from the same study, is that banks have been increasingly ditching the practice of charging customers who use out-of-network machines. So keep complaining, and use one of the roughly 40% of banks standing on the right side of history. We name several in “6 Banks That Waive or Refund ATM Fees.”
If you’re not willing to make the switch, you can make liberal use of your debit card to get small amounts of cash back alongside many retail transactions, or be sure to always use your own bank’s ATMs.
3. Foreign transaction fees
Traveling out of the country can be exciting and fulfilling — but it can also be a logistical challenge juggling currencies, languages, transportation schedules and more.
Credit cards are supposed to solve part of that problem, bringing abroad the same ease of payment you’re used to. Unfortunately, some of them charge extra to do the same thing in a new place.
It’s called a foreign transaction fee, and it can be as high as 3% every time you swipe.
Avoiding this fee is as simple as having a credit card that doesn’t charge it. Fortunately, you’ve got options. (We can help you find one.)
4. Certain other credit card fees
Few industries are more fee-happy than credit cards. Annual fees and cash advance fees are just a couple of the most common.
Many can be avoided with a little diligence. For instance, be sure to compare fees when you choose a credit card — they don’t all charge the same types.
You should also always know how close you are to your credit limit, what your full statement balance is and when the due date is — that’ll avoid three of the big fees we lay out in “6 Credit Card Costs You Should Never Pay.”
5. Late fees
We’ve probably all faced a late fee at some point — sometimes from simply not having the money to pay on time. So “never” in this case might be a stretch.
But assuming you have the means to pay what you owe, there’s no reason not to always do it on time. Most bill payment can be automated through your bank or scheduled in advance through the billing company.
6. Hotel Wi-Fi fees
Paying to use something many airports, coffee shops and other businesses give you for free seems a little unreasonable, doesn’t it?
Sometimes joining a hotel’s loyalty program provides free in-room Wi-Fi as a perk. You can also bring your own Wi-Fi hotspot — although that might mean you’re just paying a fee to your phone provider instead.
We have more ideas in “11 Tips for Avoiding Ridiculous Hotel Fees.”
7. Late checkout and early check-in fees
Once upon a time — a recurring theme, you might have noticed — hotels were happy to cut you slack about check-in and checkout times. Now, they’re often only willing to cut you a deal.
Early check-in requests can incur a fee of as much as $75 while late checkouts can cost you as much as $150, The Wall Street Journal reports. Even loyalty members can run afoul of this fractious fee.
The key to avoiding it is to never assume the hotel is flexible on time. Make sure you know the hotel’s policy and plan around it.
Of course, the unexpected happens and delays are common. (Don’t you wish you could charge airlines a late fee?) One potential workaround is to ask the hotel to safely store your luggage so you can wander off until the appointed time. Some places still do this as a courtesy. Others may charge a fee, but it’s probably cheaper than the alternative.
8. Resort fees
Of course, Wi-Fi is only a piece of the hotel fee puzzle. You may never riddle out why hotels want to charge you for a pool, gym or business center you don’t use, a breakfast you don’t eat and a newspaper you don’t read, among other mysterious amenities.
But you don’t really need to understand resort fees — the common catch-all name for this type of nonsense — to avoid them. Going over the fine print before you book a room is the very first strategy we cover in “11 Tips for Avoiding Ridiculous Hotel Fees.”
9. Bank overdraft fees
Most overdraft fees are paid by people living paycheck to paycheck — the very people who can least afford to pay them. They’re a blight, and thankfully, some banks are doing away with them.
So one way to avoid this kind of fee, also called an insufficient funds fee, is to switch banks.
Another is to tell your bank you’re not interested in paying about $25 every time you don’t have $1 to spare — federal law allows you to opt out of this kind of “protection” from banks. Just be aware that opting out means your card will be declined at the register if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a charge.
10. Mutual fund sales fees
Mutual fund sales charges, also called load fees, are “like commissions,” according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. You can be charged this type of fee in various situations, depending on the fund:
- When you buy shares (a front-load fee)
- When you sell shares (a back-load fee)
- When you hold on to shares (a level load fee)
They’re a load of something, all right — these fees are a percentage of the amount you invest. That means they’re proportionate to the amount of work you put into making the money, not the amount of work some broker puts into moving it.
One way to get around paying these hefty fees is to invest in no-load funds. Money Talks News founder and former stockbroker Stacy Johnson explains how to do it in “How Do I Invest in a Mutual Fund?”
11. Baggage fees
Believe it or not, flying without paying for your luggage isn’t a lost cause yet. Fight the good fight. There are several ways to minimize bag fees and maybe avoid them entirely.
As we explain in “7 Ways to Avoid Paying to Check Bags When Flying“:
Perhaps the most galling of these airline fees is the one travelers now must pay to check luggage — sometimes $75 or more for a checked bag. But if you plan ahead, you can avoid those fees and pocket the cash.
One strategy? Fly an airline that doesn’t automatically charge them, like Southwest.
12. Seat selection fees
When we fly somewhere, it’s pretty much assumed we’re going to pay for where we park our car, our luggage and our posterior. But airlines have also started trying to charge for the privilege of picking whichever remaining corner of the plane you want to cram yourself into when you book a flight.
The way seat selection is presented in the process may make these charges seem inevitable — but there’s generally a link or button somewhere on the page to skip picking a seat and simply let the airline assign one for you.
Another option is to fly on an airline that doesn’t mess around with assigned seating. Southwest doesn’t.
13. Credit report fees
Now, everyone can enjoy nearly unlimited free access to their credit reports from all three major credit bureaus. Originally, these free reports were a holdover from the pandemic, but credit reporting companies recently announced that they will continue offering free weekly reports indefinitely.
So that’s one fee you should never have to pay again.