savings

5 Sneaky Fees and How to Avoid Them

Ship your bags and buy tickets through the box office.

1. Airline luggage fees. You know you're going to get socked with fees for checking bags -- unless you fly Southwest (two free bags) or JetBlue (one free bag). Before you lock in airfare, use the fee-comparison tool at Farecompare.com to see which airfare is really cheapest after adding in checked-luggage fees.

Skipping baggage claim and shipping your bag through UPS or FedEx could be cost-efficient, especially for overweight bags. For example, a 60-pound bag shipped from Los Angeles to New York City using FedEx's Home Delivery service costs about $67. That same bag would cost $115 to check on a major airline (the $25 checked-bag fee plus a $90 overweight charge). The table at Airfarewatchdog.com compares shipping with baggage-check charges for common travel plans.

2. Event tickets. Online ticket sellers, such as StubHub and Ticketmaster, tack on a "service fee" or "connection fee" in addition to shipping charges. For example, admission to a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy show in New York City recently cost $25 on Ticketmaster -- plus a $7.75 convenience charge, a $2 facility charge and $2.50 for shipping. Try purchasing tickets through a discount site, such as Goldstar.com, which charges service fees but compensates by selling tickets at half-price. Or go old-school and book through the box office, where convenience fees, if any, are much lower.

3. Car-dealer charges. When you buy a new car, you're stuck paying the fees listed on the factory invoice because those are charges that the carmaker passes along to the dealer. But you shouldn't pay fees that are part of the dealer's cost of doing business, says TrueCar.com, an automotive information site. They include floor-plan fees (the cost to hold inventory at the dealership) and vehicle-preparation fees (for cleaning, removing plastic and checking fluids). If a fee doesn't show up on the factory invoice, don't pay it.

4. Banking fees. Banks are continually concocting new rules -- and related fees -- to boost revenues, and free checking accounts are a popular target. Last year, banks charged an average of $13.04 for each customer who dipped below the minimum balance requirement on a checking account, according to Bankrate.com. You may be able to switch to an account in which fees are waived if you, say, switch to direct deposit or agree to get your statement online. If nothing else, you may be able to negotiate a better deal if you threaten to take your money elsewhere.

5. Directory assistance. Verizon and AT&T charge wireless customers $1.99 (plus airtime) when you call 411. Next time you need digits, text Google at 466453 and it will send back a text with the number. Or call 800-BING (800-246-4411) or 800-FREE-411 (800-373-3411). If you have access to the Web, you can get free directory assistance at Free411.com and similar sites.

SEE OUR SLIDE SHOW FOR MORE SNEAKY FEES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM.

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